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What Women Want (Minus Mel Gibson)

January 31, 2010 1 comment

Once we live through teenage-hood, and our early 20s, and in some cases, our late 20s, women get easier to understand, I swear. We play less games, we want less drama. In fact, at a certain point, we start knowing exactly what we want in a man, or at least in a relationship.

I can’t speak for women everywhere. But I believe it comes down to four basic needs: purses, shoes, jewelry, and chocolate.

Purses

We carry a purse everywhere we go. Its contents support us in our daily life. And just like we need our wallet, our cellphone, Advil or our favorite lip gloss, we want our man there when we need him. We want him to support our career choices, and stand by us through bumps in the road with our family. We need him to kiss our foreheads after a rough day. I don’t want a man who fixes my problems for me. I recognize no good can come of someone else doing your dirty work in life. But don’t leave us in our weakest moments. I know it seems like we have a lot of them, but I swear one day, you will need us back, and it will have been worth carrying us along.

Shoes

My closet holds 38 pairs of shoes (I just counted). High heels, mini-high heels, seven pairs of boots (including fake Uggs, Wellies, two pairs of the same flat leather boots in different colors, and three pairs of high-heeled boots), running sneakers, hiking boots, ballet flats, and flip-flops. They all serve a purpose, or represent good memories. The best ones, the favorite pairs, I have spent a lot of time with. And just like my favorite pair of shoes, I like to spend quality time with my favorite man. It’s not because I want a monopoly on his free time, or because I don’t have a life of my own. It’s because I love being with him. It’s that simple. I’m safe and comfortable with him, just like my favorite eight-year-old black flip-flops, that have formed to the shape of my feet.

Jewelry

We love jewelry. We especially love jewelry from our man. It’s shiny and pretty, and completes an outfit. It makes us feel special when someone compliments a necklace and we can say it came from “him.” Wearing it reminds us we are loved. And we need to be reminded, often. Reassurance can come in many forms: words, hugs, stolen kisses, a hand on a leg, a note, an email, a good night text message, flowers, and on and on. All the small stuff together matters just as much as the big. The more you remind us we are loved, the easier your life will be. Because when we feel shiny and pretty, just like our jewelry, it’s hard to be in a bad mood.

Chocolate

You love beer. Some of us like beer. You love sports. Some of us like sports. You like chocolate. We love chocolate. Chocolate gets us through the worst times of month, and year. It’s shared with girlfriends, or while watching Dirty Dancing for the 1,00oth time. Life’s sweetness can be found in a good box of chocolates, or in a great round of sex. It often comes across, on TV, or in a group of friends, like sex is something women reward men with. But for most women I know, including myself, we crave sex just as often, or sometimes more often than our men do. Of course the sex we crave is equal sided, and ends sweetly for both parties.

So it’s that simple gents: purses, shoes, jewelry, chocolate…aka support, time, reassurance, (good) sex. I promise, unless the girl is a little cuckoo, you provide our four favorite things, you will have a happy girl on your hands. And what dude doesn’t love a happy girl.

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Categories: Dating, Love, Men, Women Tags: , , , ,

Not Yet Ready for Boarding the Marriage Train

October 4, 2009 1 comment

A Washington Post conservative columnist who I had never read before wrote a piece on September 16 titled “Lost in a World Without Courtship.”

While most of the column was somewhat infuriating to me, the segment that hit closest to home goes as follows, “Later marriage has been one of the reasons for declining national divorce rates. But this does not mean the later the better. Divorce rates trend downward until leveling off in the early 20s. But people who marry after 27 tend to have less happy marriages — perhaps because partners are set in their ways or have unrealistically high standards. The marital sweet spot seems to be in the early to mid-20s.”

I’m 27, so according to Michael Gerson, I have to be married before I turn 28 (sometime in the next 7 months) in order to have a happy marriage. Here’s the problem with that argument, what if you don’t find someone you want to marry before your late 20s? Or what if you find someone and he doesn’t want to marry you? Is this writer telling me that I should have married the boyfriend I was with in my early 20s? Because I can guarantee him, with 100% certainty, that would not have worked out well.

My point, I think, is despite statistics and trends, I’m don’t believe there is a science to what makes a happy marriage, or to what makes marriage, or any relationship, fail. Every relationship I have been in, and every relationship I’ve been around is very different from the other.

To make judgments on a friend’s relationship based on your own experiences doesn’t end up working because his or her relationship will inevitably be different. The dynamic, the chemistry, the background of the individuals in the relationship, the pet peeves, the likes, the dislikes, all these things won’t ever be the a mirror of another relationship. Similarities abound, and it’s why we can have highly paid therapists, advice columnists, and talk show hosts. They all serve a purpose, but all the great advice in the world doesn’t always save a relationship.

So just like judgments don’t work on a friend-to-friend level, I don’t think they work to generalize segments of the population by age and success rate. We live in a time when the media love to use polls, charts, trends, statistics, and on and on. And that works, for crime and politics, and what TV shows are being watched. But when it comes to something like marriage, it seems to me that using numbers to make people feel bad about when they do or don’t decide to make a huge, life-altering decision doesn’t seem fair, or even morally right.

I know I don’t want to be convinced my marriage is doomed to unhappiness because I decided to live out my late 20s working, dating, and spending time with friends, most of whom, like me, aren’t jumping on the marriage train yet either. And for those friends who have walked down the aisle, they did it because they were sure it was right, not because they thought it was about time.

And while Gerson can argue that I will have it tougher because my partner may be “set in [his] ways or have unrealistically high standards,” I can argue back, that I want to be with someone who knows what he wants, and who he is. In my early 20s, I did not know a man or woman my age who had all of that figured out.

Categories: divorce, Love, marriage

Love is Selling Online

August 24, 2009 2 comments

One of my best friends, and an avid supporter of my blog, sent me the link to this fairly amusing Advertising Age column Love for Sale: What Marketers Can Learn From Online Dating by Matt Brennock.

Brennock’s introduction includes the following paragraph.

“Those looking for love online may be lacking in fancy marketing degrees…and, more than likely, a healthy sense of reality. But give them due props for going about the business of selling with a similar acumen to most seasoned marketers. We can all learn a thing or two from the brave and the crazy, riding down, down into that cyber tunnel of love, for roughly $18 a month, or about $3 a whack job.”

I don’t consider myself crazy, or brave, for taking the very small leap necessary to join an online dating site. And while the writer’s arguments about how marketers can learn from people like me are intriguing, I’m not sure the best way to go about starting the column is to insult the thousands of people who don’t think it’s so very strange, or unrealistic, to find a date online.

Brennock follows up his introduction with a bullet point containing this line, “The vast majority of people out there are hurting, confused, bitter, uncertain, cynical and, yes, crazy. So, once you’ve weeded out those potential targets, you’re left with only a small percentage of people who are at their keyboards with arms wide open.”

I’m guessing he isn’t spot on with this one. The friends I have who have successfully, or unsuccessfully, tried online dating have gone into it believing it was one more way to find a booty call, a date, or a relationship. I would not have described the online-daters who are friends or friends of friends as any of the six adjectives Brennock lists above. I don’t disagree that some people who online date fall into those categories, I just don’t think, without evidence, the sad, pathetic group should be claimed the “vast majority.”

Further down the page, the writer started to make a bit more sense to me. I am fully aware that when it comes to my online profile, a man’s first impression is based on the nine photos I have posted. And I agree that knowing the argument for why that is can help marketers.

On this subject Brennock writes, “We are all biologically programmed to be ‘about looks.’ Apple has built a small empire based on its remarkable aesthetic.”

I work online. I often hear co-workers gripping about the low quality ads that appear on sites they frequent. A close-up of belly fat or a dancing hot dog don’t do the trick with my 20 or so cubicle mates. You’d think good marketers would start taking some lessons from Apple and clean up their look.

Brennock nears the ends his strange ode to online dating with the following: “Forget metrics and science and whatever else they teach in business school. While the tools of communication change, the truth will always come down to this: We are just people trying to connect with other people in the same way we always have, whether we’re selling love or linen sheets.”

And on that point, I can agree.

The New Normal

August 23, 2009 2 comments

My college best friend told me on the phone I sound like me again. Yesterday my roommate said I seemed much happier lately. And I have caught myself frequently singing in the car (to happy songs!)

I woke up three weeks ago hungover and sad. I had hit the latest “bottom.” As cheesy as it sounds, I sat in bed and gave myself two options–wallow in self-pity or push off the bottom and start making my way back to the surface. I didn’t know how much further down the “down” could go, but I didn’t want to find out.

I went on yelp.com and found out where to take beginner yoga classes in Silver Spring. I joined an online dating service. I started this blog. I began eating healthier. I found joy in being with my girlfriends. And I started going out on Friday nights with co-workers or Bocce teammates who introduced me to their friends.

This morning when I was reading Modern Love, my favorite column in the Sunday New York Times, the exact expression I had been looking for to describe my rise was written in a single line, “This was the new normal.”

The column’s writer was dealing with a break-up and a bout of breast cancer. In my case, I have been dealing with my parents rocky divorce and my own break-up. And though our pain was different, Judy Smith of Seattle and I had come to the same conclusion. We needed to accept our “new normal.”

My parents are leading separate lives. For the first 26 years of my life my mom and dad were together. They aren’t anymore. When I call my mom at the house, I can’t reach my dad. And some years, at Christmas, I’m going to have to pick. But I still have both my parents, and my little brother, and they still love me and want to spend time with me.  The time spent together has just taken on a new form.

I am single. I don’t have a last call of the day or someone to wake up next to. My best friend is out walking the world on his own, and I don’t get to know what he’s doing or if he’s okay. He’s not my best friend anymore. But I get to spend time with old friends and make new ones. And I get to write this blog, which means I get to write, something I didn’t even know I missed.

I will get to have butterflies again some day. And experience the wonder of falling in love.

My “new normal,” compared to so many others’ “normal,” is fairly fantastic. Buried beneath the sadness and pain of the last year, I found “me” again. It’s nice to be back on the surface. It’s easier to “be” up here.

Romance Novels v. Real Life

August 11, 2009 6 comments

I read my share of romance novels in high school and early college. My collection consisted mostly of Nora Roberts paperbacks, which were on the bestsellers lists and could be read in public without shame.

The basic formula Roberts used worked for me. Strong, career-driven female meets pesky, but very attractive man who challenges her basic way of life and makes her realize she doesn’t want to go it alone. There are fights along the way that only ever lead to two things: hot, makeup sex or romantic grand gestures. And there was never once an unhappy ending.

But here’s the problem, fights don’t always end in great sex or grand gestures. Happy endings seem to be fairly infrequent. And at the ripe old age of 21, I figured that out. So I stopped reading romance novels and I never looked back.

Last fall a friend I respected told me I had to read the Twilight series. I was clued out of what the books were about, and so when she told me that she could guarantee I would think vampires were hot after I read them, I thought she had hopped on the crazytown express.

Turns out I think vampires are hot and Twilight is really four romance novels disguised as pre-teen vampire novels. Except the happy ending lasts forever because the vampires live forever. Romance novels on steroids.

Here’s the catch about reading romance novels three years into a rocky relationship, they remind you of something important–it’s okay to want big love.

I won’t find a hot vampire who turns me into a vampire so I can be with him for all of time and have sex all night every night instead of sleep (because according to author Stephanie Meyer vampires don’t sleep).

But I can do better than someone who is never sure and won’t hold my hand.

Post-Twilight I have not returned to reading romance novels. I don’t want to believe I have to wait for the perfect man to sweep me off my feet (literally and figuratively). If I thought that’s how it worked, I wouldn’t be online dating.

Cheesiness aside though, romance novels do deliver an important message. We all deserve big love. We don’t all find it. But it can’t hurt to try.

Update August 13, 11:31 am: Looks like they have turned a classic hottie, Mr. Darcy, into a vampire, or should I say “vampyre.”

Categories: Books, Dating, Ex-Boyfriend, Love