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Posts Tagged ‘fear of commitment’

The girl sitting across from me on the subway was an exact replica of me at fourteen years old: chubby face, disobediently curly hair, a slim body struggling to develop and a slightly rowdy innocence that would one day cause some trouble. She looked so much like me I had to do a double take, convinced a miniaturized version of me was within arm’s reach.

I may have gone on without giving the matter much thought, except that there was something even more me-ish about the girl than her plump cheeks. She was pining away over a boy who apparently was giving her the run around. Moreover, she was testing the limits of friendship by giving the pal next to her every minute detail of their last conversation.

Me much?

The boy had told the girl to stop calling him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. He wasn’t replying to any of her texts or returning her calls. Every so often, she’d call late, sometimes after midnight, and was surprised when he wasn’t home.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me was confused. Older Me knew there were only a few causes for such behavior and they all revolved around other girls, lack of interest and overall jerkiness.

“He says he can’t handle a relationship right now,” the girl told her friend. “He’s worried about his mom and he has to get a job.”

The girl lifted her chest and proudly said, “And I was like, ‘you expect me to wait for you?’”

Older Me hoped either the guy fell to her feet in tears or she gave him the grand heave ho.

“’He told me, ‘no.’ So I asked, ‘do you want me to?’”

It took everything in me not to take the girl by the shoulders and shake her senseless. “Get some strength in those knees and stiffen that spine. You cave to this creep and you’ve got years of male crap to put up with. Get out now!”

“Honestly, Mary, I don’t know,” the girl continued. “I was like, ‘I can be your girlfriend and support you through this.’”

No, you can’t, I thought, trying to use mental telepathy to communicate with her. You can’t because he doesn’t want you to. Or someone else is his support. Or he doesn’t have a problem, he’s just making up bull malarkey because he’s afraid to cut the cord.

“I was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for your call.’ He didn’t call me, so I called him.”

You just earned another year of lessons from the Relationship School from Hell.

“He was on the phone with his cousin.”

Yeah, right.

“He kept crying and crying and I was like, ‘I’m right here for you.’”

Man, was this girl tugging at my heart strings. How many times have I begged some big wounded boy to let me love him? In fact, nearly every female I know has blubbered to me about some damaged soul who won’t let her heal his pain. Few things are as confusing to women as men who turn away love and support.

I wasn’t angry at the apple of Fourteen-Year-Old Me’s eye. Sure, guys like him can be selfish and plain mean. But they’re just snot-nosed little boys and it’s up to the women who adore them to cut their losses when the writing’s on the wall.

Unfortunately, it can take decades before a woman learns to stop hanging on to dead end love. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, but will confess to making tons of stupid decisions, dating scads of nincompoops and coming face to face with lots of not so pretty truths about my own inner workings. Most importantly, it took the real love of a couple good men to show me true connection isn’t something you have to beg someone to share with you.

I wanted to tell Fourteen-Year-Old Me to let this cad go and avoid love she has to wrestle to the ground. Spare her the agony of heartbreak or an on/off affair with someone who only kinda likes her. But like every hard lesson, you’ve got to learn it on your own.

All I could do was give her a smile that said, ‘you’ve got a long, hard journey ahead. But you’ll get there.’

She probably didn’t grasp my message. But maybe she will in twenty years, when her own Mini Me sits across from her on a train.

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Women can fake orgasms.  Men can fake entire relationships.

This juicy tidbit marking the romantic distinction between males and females recently made its way onto my Twitter feed.  Enjoying a brief chuckle after reading it, I soon realized how closely this alleged truth hits home: my friend Jay is in a fake relationship and I’ve been wondering if I should tell the girl.

Jay is one of those good-looking, charismatic fellas who rarely have trouble finding a female companion.  A decade ago, he was madly in love with a special lady who dumped him after his ego decided to feed itself by convincing him to cheat.  Since then, Jay has steered clear of anything “too heavy,” opting instead for casual relationships with dippy bores or overly controlling kooks whose mania gives him the perfect excuse to jump ship.

But every so often, Jay wants someone to care enough to check in on him each day, someone for whom he can make elaborate dinners and buy gifts, someone to offer him regular sex and hold him in the middle of the night.  And so, Jay gets a “girlfriend.”

There was the pretty actress with whom he spent every weekend for nearly six months and the slightly neurotic realtor with whom he went on a Roman vacation.  Both of these women were mighty surprised at the end of their relationships to find out Jay was never really feelin’ it even though his actions suggested otherwise.

Then there was the Latin American gal who flew herself back and forth to the States whenever Jay reemerged begging for her company.  The night I met up with them, I watched him walk hand-in-hand with her down the street, introduce her to his friends and fill her imagination with daydreams about a shared future.  Jay’s behavior offered the kinds of clues every silly women’s magazine might say is evidence a dude is thinking long term.  Obviously, the Latin American believed herself involved in a long-distance romance.  But in fact, she was one of a handful of women satellite-ing within Jay’s orbit.

My friend may be an extreme but he’s far from an exception.  I’ve known many guys who’ve gone through the romantic motions with women in an effort to avoid loneliness.  I even know a guy who stayed with a woman for five friggin’ years, knowing every single day there was no way in hell he’d ever marry the chick.

My gut tells me no woman would ever do such a thing and not for any noble reason, like sparing someone else’s feelings.  I just think most women are too gung ho on finding Prince Charming to waste time on a peasant.  And I can’t imagine any woman being able to turn off her emotions or even worse, pretending to feel something she doesn’t feel.  If you’ve ever seen a Sharon Stone movie, you know how to fake an orgasm.  But love?

So, Jay has started up again with the Latin American and is even considering giving in to her demands to be more exclusive.  From the beginning of this relationship, he has said, “I don’t love her and know I never will.”  Meanwhile, his girl is fantasizing about lifelong love, marriage and family.  So is Jay…with some other woman he hopes to meet one day.

I only met the gal for the second time over a group dinner, when she indirectly expressed doubts about Jay’s intentions.  She dropped hints about being open to any insight those of us who are his female friends may be able to provide.  Whenever I considered cueing her in, I remembered how perilous it is to place oneself in the center of a couple’s battlefield.

However, I also wonder if sometimes all it takes for a man like Jay to finally make a commitment is to force himself into one.  If certain men tell themselves they’re not in love in order to make sticking around seem less confining.  In the end, can fake love ever become true?

What say you?

[Photo from the film Lars and the Real Girl, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment]

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At a party weeks back, my friend Angela fell for a handsome Brit named Al after he charmed her with tales of his off-the-beaten track existence traveling the world. The next evening, they talked life and politics over a steak dinner then agreed to meet again.

Al charmed Angela even more the next afternoon when he canceled plans with his buddies to join her on a trip to Verizon to get her phone fixed. After spending the afternoon and subsequent evening together, Angela thought she’d finally met a mature, baggage-less man with whom she could have a relationship. If only she knew.

During a dinner party the following Friday night, Angela reached for her phone to discover Al had called. Six times. Though a bit ruffled, she decided to make her way to the bar where he was drinking with friends. When she arrived, Al was completely hammered, saying things like, “I shouldn’t have called you, are you angry? It’s just I couldn’t get through and I thought maybe you were avoiding me. You don’t like me, do you? I know you don’t, why would you? You’re too pretty for me and I’m shit as a boyfriend, absolute shit. I don’t want to mess this up with you. I won’t get attached, I won’t get attached!”

Y’know, the kinds of things some guys think but neeeeeeever actually say.

After some reassurance from Angela, Al nixed the heart-on-sleeve talk and continued to enjoy the IV of pilsner stuck into his veins. End of the night at his place, Angela’s attempts at being intimate were interrupted when Al declared, “you’re too sexy. I’m shit in bed, absolute shit,” then passed out. Angela fell asleep beside him and was getting some good REM sleep when the bed started shaking. She woke up, looked across the mattress and…

Al was picking his nose…and eating it…in his sleep.

Unfortunately, Angela was stuck since it was 5 am and she was on the other side of town. The next morning, she made a lame excuse then bolted to my place to tell me the whole story and see if there was any reason to salvage things. Together, we broke it down to what worked and what didn’t. Pros: when he’s sober, he’s smart, funny and kind. Cons: he eats his own snot.

In the midst of our analysis, Al called and said, “I thought maybe you’d like to come over.”

“I’m with my friend,” Angela told him.

“But I thought it’d be nice if you came over.”

“My friend’s not feeling well,” Angela lied. “I should stay with her.”

“Look,” he said angrily. “Are we seeing each other or not?”

But before she could answer, the call dropped.

“Okay,” Angela told me. “This is sooo finished.”

But she didn’t even get the chance to end things. Angela was the dumpee. Sunday morning, Al left a message saying, “hi, um, yesterday’s conversation was discouraging relationship-wise, but you know, it’s hard to find good conversation, so maybe we could stay friends, go for coffee and talk about bollocks, and you know, that would be nice, and, well I’m shit on answering machines, so I’m just going to say goodbye now, so, okay, well, take care.”

The worst part for Angela was getting dumped by a neurotic booze hound who ate his own bodily fluids. The best part was she no longer had to date a neurotic booze hound who ate his own bodily fluids.

In the end, we hoped that Al, as friendly as he was, as funny and generous, wasn’t as much of a neurotic nosepicker as he seemed. In fact, we imagined it was all a game, a bet he made with friends to see who could self-sabotage himself out of a decent relationship in the shortest amount of time:

He’s an illustrator from London who enjoys hiking and badminton, his hobbies include using his inner demons to back himself out of relationships with pretty women and eating boogers. He’s got enough intimacy issues to sink a Russian sea liner, he’s Al, ladies and gentlemen, give him a hand.

Anyway, I’m fairly certain he won.

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Jack and I had our first romantic interlude on the 4th of July.  Back in college, going out with someone usually meant deciding to end up in the same place, so I wouldn’t have called it a proper date.  We met at Boston’s Charles River Esplanade, watched a couple bands and some fireworks, then Jack leaned over and said, “I dig you.”  The rest was history.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe relationships are meant to teach us how to relate authentically yet continue to be our most genuine selves.  Some folks need to learn selflessness, others intimacy, and some just need to learn to put the toilet seat down.

Kicking off my relationship life on Independence Day with Jack was hardly an insignificant twist of fate.  This first real love set me off on an endless quest to learn the meaning of freedom.  See, Jack already had a girlfriend.  Thus, our year-long liaison was an education in giving someone the space to have his own life outside of our shared life together.  However, I was too naïve to realize “space” might include time with the boys and creative pursuits, but probably shouldn’t include other girlfriends.

After Jack came a mostly happy marriage, until I discovered I’d built my world around someone else.  The whole enchilada was sure to crumble unless I made life more my own.  But the more fulfilled I became as an individual the less this particular person seemed to fit me.  Much as I loved my guy, I had to break free to survive.

After marriage, I wanted nothing even remotely close to a relationship.  I formed flimsy emotional bonds then backed out once things got too close.  To this day, I feel sorry for the poor fella who tried to hold my hand across the table on a dinner date only to have me freak out about feeling trapped.

Of course, I soon started wanting connection again but only came across sexy commitment phobes and men with life agendas that didn’t include me.  The subsequent disappointment always forced me back to self, where I had the choice between blubbering about lost love or making my own world even more interesting.  Choosing the latter may have been lonely.  But it also created a more enticing life for someone else to slip into or one to inhabit solo.

Maybe true love really is unconditional, maybe wanting someone to be fulfilled with or without you is the key.  If your woman or man needs to follow a path you’re not on, why not love ‘em anyway?  If love is real, you couldn’t stop anyway if you tried.  Nothing wrong with hoping the path leads back to you.

I’m thinking it’s not only me who needs to learn this lesson.  Maybe the next step we modern gals need to take is learning to balance drive and self-discovery with connection.  And maybe dudes need to learn to dig women’s independence.  Most importantly, we all have to learn to appreciate how much a relationship benefits from sharing it with someone who’s got a frickin’ life.

Happy Independence Day!

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For the second time this year, my friend Kim has had to tell a guy who offered to pay her for sex to get lost.

Though Kim is no bombshell, she’s certainly real-world hot.  Great bod, killer personality, enough sexual dynamism to ignite World War III.  Men write poems to her in European cafés, chat her up in bars despite the presence of their wives and girlfriends, and friend her on Facebook to tell her she’s still their “best” even if it’s been decades since their roll in the hay.

When Kim was younger, she liked being a sexual supernova.  No shame felt she for her wanton ways, her colossal lustiness, her stereotypically manly ability to separate sex from love.  She wasn’t a man stealer or desperate fool.  Kim was a healthy sexual being, as whip smart as she was sensual, as capable of meaty conversation as she was blowing minds in the sack.

Then all in the same week, stuff happened.  First, she had to tell the gentleman who wanted to pay for her services she wasn’t that kind of girl.  Next, she got propositioned by a married male friend with a new baby.  Then, a lover from the distant past re-emerged with an ill-timed, monstrously pornographic email.

But the real doozy was the text message from Matt, the one man with whom Kim had fallen deeper in love than any normal woman deserved.  For a year, she’d enjoyed a passionate but inconsistent romance with Matt until he picked up and moved to Hawaii for business.  Though Kim was trying to move on, whenever he contacted her, tiny red hearts poured from her eyes.  A month had passed without word, when all of a sudden, in the midst of this already strange week, she got a text.  Matt wanted to know what she was wearing.  All this time, Kim had been pining away.  Matt was only sporting a woody.

As she gets older, Kim wants love, a family.  However, she hasn’t wanted to shut off the erotic valve to suckle the Goody Two Shoes one.  But after this crazy, sexed up week, Kim came to a painful realization: the men in her life don’t see her as an intellectually gifted, emotionally sophisticated feminine force who just happens to like to get it on.  She’s a fantasy, and like all flights of fancy, she dissolves in real life.

My dear friend is suffering the Marilyn Effect.

Marilyn Monroe might have been the sexiest woman ever to have lived.  However, she was also the most notoriously heartbroken, bowling over everyone from dorks like Arthur Miller to superstuds like the Kennedys, yet being ditched as soon as these guys had their fill.  By the end of her life, the loneliness and rejection tangled with the reality of losing one’s charm to old age.  Legend tells us Marilyn just wanted a baby and a man to love her.  But no one could see past her intoxicating sexuality.

“People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person,” Marilyn once said.  “They didn’t see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.”

My girl Kim is tons healthier than Marilyn, though she’s starting to feel just as tragic.  She fears becoming the washed up floozy who one day turns into the unfortunate spinster.

It’s easy to blame men for being schmucks whose thoughts originate from the lower portion of their bodies.  Easy to blame a society for creating double standards.  But like every arrival at a crossroads, the question shouldn’t be, “how’d I get here,” but, “where do I go now?”

To imagine my friend no longer giving into her appetites is like imagining God turning off the spigot to Niagara Falls.  But that’s what Kim’s decided to do.  No longer will those of us who love her salivate over stories of sexual intrigue or envy her bawdy invitations from men.  Kim’s done.

Sure, it’s nice to know your booty is so good, dudes will pay for it.  Nice to find out an island of hula girls can’t distract a man from wondering what clothes you’ve got on.  But at some point it’s much nicer to be in love.

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Sandra Bullock’s hubby has been cheating on her with a tattoo model / porn star.  Hollywood studs cheating on Hollywood babes isn’t shocking.  What’s weird is how often we find ourselves saying, “seriously?  Her?” whenever we see photos of the other women.  Some of our finest looking dames have been made a fool by their better halves – Halle, Sienna Miller, even Angelina supposedly got cuckolded by Billy Bob.  Tiger’s wife looks like Venus emerging from the half shell compared to the silicone-injected Plain Janes he bagged on a regular basis.  Boggles the mind.

One theory suggests men coupled up with women who outshine them beef up their egos by schtupping lesser females.  Hence, the male partners of A-list actresses bedding B-list bimbos.  However, it seems equally possible career-obsessed folks, whether male or female, are too obnoxious and neglectful to make their partners feel loved.  You don’t become a megastar like Sandra Bullock by spending a lot of time stoking the home fires.

Though I don’t know Sandra Bullock personally, I’d see plenty to commit to if I were her man.  All I’d think of when looking at his “Bombshell” mistress is dirty sex.  And therein lies the rub.  Chicks who work so hard to be sex objects – fake boobs, surgically enhanced lips – will probably do anything a guy wants, for as long as he wants and will buy his BS about his (non-existent) divorce and how his wife no longer gets him.  Unfortunately for these gals, men probably see them as little more than blow up dolls come to life.

Maybe the wife isn’t the person with whom you do certain sex acts, so you find “a bad girl.”  Maybe you and the wife are regularly apart, so you screw some brain-dead hottie who won’t threaten your relationship.  Are these desirable solutions to relationship challenges?  Probably not.  But I can imagine this Jesse person thinking Sandra Bullock is the greatest thing since sliced bread yet still screwing some gal he doesn’t give two shits about on the side.

Of course, these are famous people.  They’re vain enough to want the entire planet to know their names, believe themselves deserving of $25 million pay checks and have an endless line of tail offered to them on a daily basis.  Famous people are aberrations and nothing like us.  Drawing conclusions about relationships based on the behavior of celebrities is like basing financial decisions on what the Rockefellers might do.

But what’s unsettling is how often I hear normal men call their own gender out as canine.  “Men are dogs,” some of my male friends say.  “We’re basic, weak, can’t be trusted.”  The other night I heard a dude at a bar say, “Guys will always go after other women.  We’re men, that’s what we do.”  Last Tuesday, I saw a Henry Rollins show.  He said men would even screw trees if they had breasts.

And there’s the sinking feeling every woman suffers.  The fear that no matter how loving and supportive we are, no matter how much we stimulate men’s minds and ravish their bodies, no matter how much freedom we need for ourselves and thus are ready to give them, there will always be some chick with a nice rack he’ll cast us aside to bone.

So, if, as Chris Rock says, “a man is only as faithful as his options,” what are we supposed to do?  Decide the dog myth is true and become bitter and suspicious?  Decide it’s not true and risk being naïve?  Decide it doesn’t matter and turn a blind eye?

I kinda don’t believe it.  I’ve known plenty of men who’ve turned down hot, easy ‘tang because they’re devoted to their main squeezes.  I also appreciate the inevitability of temptation so rarely let it get my panties in a twist.  I even think I could get over my man admitting to a meaningless fling, even if the girl was a tattooed, former stripper, porn star, fetish model who poses in Nazi gear (really, Jesse?)

But the last thing any of us should do is blame bad behavior on anything other than choice.  We aren’t animals, none of us are dogs.  If we’ve got seemingly unquenchable desires mucking with our ability to form healthy relationships, we may want to work on them.  If you’re a career freak who neglects relationships or a booty hound who can’t keep it in his pants, you should probably do something about it.  Relationships are good things.  The people we let into our lives are decent folk with fragile hearts who are just trying to love us.  Why not put our egos aside every once in a while and try to love them back?

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I love my mom.  But I think I’m going to have to cut her loose.  Apparently, she’s destroying my love life.

Lots of women have mothers who nag them about their figures, wonder aloud why their daughters haven’t found a decent fella or tsk disapprovingly about the way they raise their kids.  Not mine.  For the most part, my mother leaves me to my own devices.  Or so I thought.

According to a study by the University of Western Australia, the overt ways mothers try to influence their daughters’ personal lives don’t hold a candle to their more dire biological hand-me-downs.  Scientists studied the DNA of 150 college students and found “the more varied [her] genes…the more boyfriends a woman was likely to have,” the assumption being genetic variation leads to attraction.

The study was cited in an inspiring online article called “Still Single?  Not as Skinny as You’d Like?  Blame Your Mom.”  While few activities are more satisfying than condemning others for your own personal failures, the article is misleading, considering any person’s genetic makeup depends on a mother and a father.  Still, the theory is this: if your dumb mother mates with a man whose genes are too similar to hers, dudes aren’t gonna dig you.  Conversely, if she’s sharp enough to breed with someone from the other side of the genetic fence, well, attach a revolving door to your bedroom.

I’m no scientist, but this theory has lots of holes.  How does having more boyfriends necessarily ensure commitment and marriage?  I know at least five women from my high school who married, and are still married to, the guys who pinned carnations to their dresses at senior prom.  They’ve only had one “boyfriend” during their entire adult lives.  On the other hand, I know tons of women who’ve gone through men like Tiger goes through porn stars, yet still cry themselves to sleep each night because no guy presents a ring.

The study, or more accurately the article based on the study, suggests women with a melting pot for a genetic code should have men beating down their doors with marriage proposals.  But if you believe other stats, most marriages in the US are still made up of people from like backgrounds.  People may wade across the gene pool while dating, but unfortunately, they seem to go back to their side of the tank come settlin’ down time.

And here’s poor Jennifer Aniston again, the go-to girl in any discussion about women relationship-hunting men avoid like the plague.  The article uses her to prove its point that uninteresting genetics doom one to singledom.  But further research shows Aniston’s dad was of Greek heritage and her mother was Scottish and Spanish.  Thus, she should have lots of boyfriends.  And well, hasn’t she?  Why, come to think of it, she’s also had a husband.

Comparing oneself to Jennifer Aniston feels like romantic suicide, but admittedly, there are similarities between us.  I’ve got a genetic mix, too, with African, Italian, Irish, English and German blood coursing through my veins.  I suppose I should thank my mother for her procreative wisdom.  And, like Jen, I’ve had a marriage, and a handful of relationships intermingled with periods of romantic drought.  I’d say that’s par for the course for most people.  In fact, I’d say Jen and I have had fairly robust romantic lives thus far.  Is this because of or in spite of our blend of DNA?

I think universities and magazine writers just want to create controversy, so come up with flimsy facts and build worlds of truths around them.  I mean, I just disproved this DNA theory in seven hundred words.  Where’s my six-figure research stipend?

So many reasons are blamed for the state of our relationships: feminism, genetics, male psychological dysfunction, women in the work place, the advent of birth control, economics, education gaps.  It’s hard to accept we’re having so much trouble making relationships happen.  Love may be about scientific truths and social realities, but it’s also about luck and just following the natural course of life.  Ultimately, we’ve got to accept this, ignore the research and leave poor mom alone.

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