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Posts Tagged ‘non-commital’

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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There are two important truths to glean from this past week’s news: women are slowly taking over the world and movie stars are idiots.

Ladies first.

The University of Texas has released the results of yet another study destined to make women want to heave themselves off the Empire State Building.  Previous research done by the school suggested curvy women never marry and beautiful women cheat.  Now, they’re rehashing the “successful women have fewer mates available to them and thus will end up sad and alone” baloney.

Nowadays, the study says, women far outnumber men in American colleges by 57 and 43 percent respectively.  When they enter the workforce, women also make more money.  This has created a “boy crisis” and an “imbalance that tips relationship power in the direction of the men.  Instead of men competing for women, today women feel like they must compete for men.”  Since all men supposedly want is sex, young gals are offering easily accessible booty to bait them.  Consequently, men aren’t buying the cow when they can get the milk for free.

But wait a minute.  There are more women in college than men?  Ladies are the ones bringing home the bacon?  Maybe the hidden gem in this maddening study is that the balance of power has shifted.

I can’t wait to see girls sipping beers and surrounding the dance floor at nightclubs while men dance around hoping to get noticed.  Imagine groups of women describing how their husbands complain about girls’ nights out and spend all their money on Xbox games.  The times they are a’changin’.

The other insignificant but fun piece of news is Ricky Gervais getting into deep doo after making fun of celebs at the Golden Globe Awards.  I didn’t see the show because, frankly, there hasn’t been an interesting star in Hollywood since Clooney made it out of ER.  The last time I watched an award show, Nicole Kidman could still move her forehead.

Oh, how very Gervais of me.  Usually though, I’m against blatant meanness.  But with a few exceptions, I found lots of Gervais’ gibes to be spot on.

Celebrities, and we as their fans, suffer the illusion these people are special.  Indeed, some of them are extraordinarily talented, attractive and sometimes even kind.  But they are not above reproach or even ridicule if, while under our watch, they choose to make fools of themselves, abuse others or do their jobs half-assed.  If you get to make $20 million every time your mug’s in a movie for ninety minutes and we all have to pay $12 to see it, you better work your pretty little tails off to make it a decent flick.  If not, Johnny and Angelina, Ricky Gervais gets to make fun of you.

If you’re a pampered individual with several homes and enough money to take daily baths in champagne, best not be an anti-Semite drunkard who abuses every woman he comes across, from police officers to gold digging wives.  Mel.

Charlie Sheen isn’t some tragic figure trying not to end up on the street while battling an addiction.  He’s a spoiled party boy from Hollywood “royalty” who makes $2 million per episode of his show.  Then he blows it all on thousand-dollar call girls when he hits a rough spot.  Gee, poor Charlie.

How many sad saps out here on unemployment or in soul-crushing jobs, struggling to pay medical bills or put their kids through college, wouldn’t kill to live in multi-million dollar mansions while making a living doing what they love?  I, for one, am tired of superstars shoving their luxuries down our throats, including the luxurious ways in which they suffer and fail.  If they choose to invade our living rooms and our lives, they should show some level of decorum and gratitude considering the great blessings the universe has bestowed upon them.

My guy Gervais, whether intentionally or not, told these folks, “your vanity is offensive.  You’re the most admired people on the planet.  Step it up a notch.”

If Gervais is hosting next year, I just might watch.

[Photos from itsmsnikkitoyou.blogspot.com and tunai.sripengantin.com]

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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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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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Couples therapyRecently, I met up with a couple old friends, a married woman and a single gal enjoying the fruits of a new romance.  I told them about all my turbulent relationships, joking about the slackers and bad boys, the commitment-phobes and jerky alpha-males who’d come into my life since we’d last seen each other.

“Oh, I’ve been there loads of times,” my married friend said after I described my most recent run-in with a sexy, relationship-shy stoner.

She’d been there loads of times?  Shocking.

Married women, especially once they’re moms, seem to me so organized and fulfilled, it’s hard to imagine any of these poised individuals knocking around with losers.  But once I thought about it, I remembered all the other married women I know who’ve admitted to the same sordid pasts.

My friend Sonya’s husband is a successful TV producer with a taste for fine wine, classical music, and most interestingly, fidelity.  But before she met him, Sonya was chasing after an egomaniacal actor who was two-timing her with a co-worker.  My friend Jane married a well-to-do marketing exec who’s the most loving, mild-mannered husband in human history.  Before him, she dated a series of flakes, most notably, a lunatic with an addiction to crystal meth.

The other intriguing comment from my married friend was in response to my single pal’s confession that she thought her new flame was “super nice,” but her “heart didn’t skip a beat” when he walked into a room.

“Never mind that,” my married friend said.  “The man you feel passionate about is not the one you should be with.”

So the good news is single women who constantly meet up with commitment-phobes and jerks can rest assured they’re not aberrations on the dating landscape.  Apparently, it’s normal to meet a bunch of meatballs before you find the good man you’ll call your own.

The other side of the story is how so many of my wifely friends admit these meatballs made their hearts go gaga and their loins lava hot.  On occasion, some of them even miss the beloved jerks who made them so loony, reminiscing about the roller coaster ride that added kick to life, the emotional depths they found themselves swimming through, and of course, the fantastic sex.  But these wives also seem glad to have been saved by their husbands.

Since the end of my marriage, probably ninety-five percent of the men I’ve dated fueled my engine, but were certainly not stars on which to hitch my wagon.  The “nice guys” who’ve entered my world always become friends while the not so nice become much more.  Maybe it’s because I’m a writer or because I bore easily and dig emotional extremes.  I’ve always preferred the roller coaster to the merry-go-round.

Of course, passion fades over time.  Unfortunately, even the most constant love can, too.  Both scenarios leave one numb.  So I’m wondering about this passion thing.  What is it anyway?

A skim through the dictionary will tell you passion is all about lust.  It also describes the most amorous love, the deepest hate and every overpowering emotion in between.  But the word comes from the story of Jesus, referring to the pain the man endured before he was nailed to the cross.

Thus, passion is really about suffering.  And, well, I’m tired of suffering in relationships and tired of deprivation.  You get to a point where the inner turmoil of loving a maniac loses its romantic sparkle and you want something that sticks.

Still, I am who I am, and I want to be as hot and bothered by a man, as I am comforted and contained.

Rather than finding someone who stirs my passion, maybe the point should be to find someone who has his own passion, so our two fires can fuse together and spark a volcano.  Rather than connecting myself to someone who lets me know through suffering how deeply I can love, the goal should be to find a person who doesn’t consider sharing and intimacy a death sentence.

A man can be a maverick without being a loser, and his intensity can be unwavering instead of chaotic.  He can be hot-blooded and also able to commit himself, self-assured without forgetting to be kind.  The challenge for a woman is to be emotionally ready for such a unique individual.

And be lucky enough to find him.

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Scary BirdA few years ago, I saw a BBC documentary about phobias in which an adult woman was being treated for her lifelong, incapacitating fear of birds.  Now, fear of heights, closed-in spaces, lawn mowers, I understand.  But who’s ever ended up in a hospital or morgue after suffering an aerial assault from a band of militant pigeons?  In Ohio where I grew up, flocks of geese were shot every spring because they crapped everywhere and ate berries out of old ladies’ gardens.  Not because of the frequency with which they were implicated in human maulings.

The doctor on the BBC show attempted to cure the woman’s bird phobia by forcing her to sit in the room with him while he placed a feather on the table beside her.  And not one of those colossal, menacing monstrosities of a tail feather from a peacock or even an ostrich.  The doctor put beside her a teeny feather that was so ridiculously small it had to have either been plucked from a baby bird or the underbelly of a duck.  Still, the woman writhed in her chair, limbs flailing, brow dripping with sweat, screaming, “make it stop,” as if two horses were strapped to either side of her body and preparing to run in opposite directions.

I couldn’t imagine how something so unthreatening could provoke such terror in a grown woman, just as it’s always been difficult to believe anyone could ever be “afraid” of something as harmless as love.

The documentary had me thinking about a relationship I was in at the time.  Mike and I saw each other off and on over the course of a year.  When things between us were light and frothy, we were “on.”  When things got too intense, we were definitely “off.”

Only years later when our relationship had long been kaput, did Mike admit how deeply he’d felt.  He blamed an icky childhood and rotten divorce for his tendency to spaz out around intimacy like a bird phobe surrounded by chickens.  I accepted his explanation, but never quite understood.

Until recently when I saw The Hurt Locker, a film about an American soldier who disarms bombs in Iraq.  The soldier lives every second of his life teetering on death’s slippery edge, surrounded by a dismal desert and relentlessly confronted by how cruel the human race can be.  The soldier has a beautiful wife and child back home, but he prefers to be in this war zone.

Talk about intimacy issues.

The last thing anyone should be contemplating during a film about war and catastrophe is how it relates to one’s love life.  However, there was a moment during the movie where I thought, this guy is like Mike and all the other dudes I’m usually into – über-masculine, rebellious and completely unavailable emotionally.  What a dream.

Of course, this was only a film.  But during the brief moment when I stopped thinking about war and catastrophe and thought of romance, I recognized the soldier’s inability to feel satisfied with the love he got from his woman or even his child.  Yep, I thought, there really are people who are cut off from their feelings.  Some people truly are incapable of love.  Some folks do fear it.

On the other hand, soldier boy was a bit of a wacko.  Thus, part two of the realization was that healthy people don’t turn away from love.  Healthy people aren’t afraid to relate.  They know how.  They let feelings flow.  They can handle it.

Love is challenging and always a risk, but it’s also the most fulfilling experience on offer.  Some might even say love is the reason we’re here.  Marriage and family may not be for everyone.  But love?  What kind of freak show wouldn’t want some of that?

I feel for anyone who’s had such a rough go of it, they can’t be open to healthy relating.  But for those of us who can, there seems to be only one thing to do when we come across these poor souls.

Make like a bird and fly away.

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bride-and-groom1This week, my friend Adam got an ultimatum from his girl: marry me or I’m out.  I’m on Adam’s side on this one and not just because he’s my friend.  Adam isn’t ready.  After years of navigating the peaks and valleys of romance, I finally get what this means.

 

“I’m not ready.”  One of the most mystifying sentences in the English language.  If you’re about to jump out of an airplane with a busted parachute, or you’re a scallop that hasn’t been cooked all the way through, then by all means, you’re not ready.  But not ready for love?  Not ready for the comforting bonds of relationship?  What kind of horse poo is that? 

 

For most women, love is not something which requires preparedness.  Love pours down from the heavens out of the blue, nullifying anything else in life that holds meaning and merging the lovers in the highest state of existential bliss, of which a committed relationship is the ultimate expression.  Who wouldn’t want this? 

 

But guys have to be “ready.”  I finally understood this last year, when Matt the Moody Chef hit me with an unexpected “I’m Not Ready” after a prolonged period of becoming intimately enmeshed.

 

“Relationships don’t work out for me,” he said the night of our romantic demise.  “This is too intense.  I can’t do it right now.”

 

Later, after chugging an entire bottle of Chianti, I got to thinking.  Matt had signed his divorce papers less than six months before we met.  His apartment was a barren crypt, stripped by his ex-wife of any furnishing that might make it seem like a home.  Entering into another relationship then would’ve been like sticking his tongue back on an icy flag pole ten seconds after he’d yanked it off.

 

A few months after separating from my own ex, I dated a sexy lawyer who in every way was a super catch.  But once he started asking how my day had been and stroking my cheek, I recoiled as if he were a slobbering bulldog licking my face.  A relationship was not something I could handle.  I needed to heal, needed space, needed my life to become mine again after giving it over to the entity that was my marriage. 

 

I wasn’t ready.

 

Indeed, love comes whether we have braced ourselves for it or not.  But commitment offers a choice, tapping us on the shoulder to say, “sorry to bother you.  Is this a good time?” 

 

Adam has never been married but wants to be one day.  And he loves his gal.  But his finances are in the crapper, his job is shit, life isn’t matching up with his goals and he just wants to flush the whole thing.  Wherever he ends up, Adam wants this woman there with him.  He’s just not sure where “there” is. 

 

We gals always make men the nucleus around which the rest of our lives float.  But a man wants to invite a woman into a life that has already been made whole without her, perhaps even, in anticipation of her arrival.  “I’m not ready” doesn’t always mean, “I’m not ready to stop chasing tail and playing beer pong with my buddies.”  Often it means, “this table has not yet been set for two.”

 

And sometimes it means bigger questions are being asked.  Am I ready to drop my defenses and let this other person see me warts and all?  To feel so profoundly concerned about someone else’s well-being and allow this person’s presence to become necessary to my happiness?  To surrender to love and risk losing it?  

 

While Adam considers this ultimatum, I hope his girlfriend sees how his mulling it over demonstrates the depth of his feelings.  I hope she understands she’s not only asking for a wedding ceremony, she’s asking for a lifetime.  And mostly, I hope she doesn’t push.  Like jumping out of an airplane or eating seafood, if you act before the time is right, you’re only going to puke. 

 

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