Friday, September 29, 2006

About that wandering eye ...

I just want to second that emotion from 'Lisha's last post. She was trying to be all polite about it, but let me say it again, in stronger words:


Case in point: A good friend of mine is dating a new guy. She's trying to decide if she'll pursue something serious with him. One night he's over at her pad, and in passing, she shows him a picture of her younger sister.

Let me pause at this point of the story to say that there's no way men will ever be as smooth as women when it comes to checking out attractive members of the opposite sex. After a single, covert glance at a fine man, a well-trained woman can tell you if he's wearing a wedding ring, if he has thick, curly eyelashes and what color socks he's wearing. She doesn't make a big production out of it, she just assimilates the information and moves on. What can I say? It's a gift.

Most men, on the other hand, are such visually-oriented creatures that if a gorgeous woman passes by, they could lose their train of thought and be reduced to stuttering monosyllables. C'mon, guys! Pull yourselves together! Be cool about it!

Which brings us back to my friend, and the guy she's dating. Was dating. She showed him a picture of her younger sister, and I know the girl, so I can tell you she's very pretty. But this dude takes the picture and all but drools over it as he shouts -- shouts -- an appreciative "DAYUM!"

So not cool. You can guess what her reaction was to that.

Men, take it from me: the sooner you learn to appreciate beauty without making an ass of yourself, the better off you'll be. 'Cause there's nothing wrong with looking -- as long as that's all you're doing, and you're doing it with class.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We all have a 'wandering eye' for beauty

Many sets of eyes are on you. And why shouldn’t they be? You’re beautiful. You’re tall, trim and tan. Your smile lights up the room.

But is it really OK that my husband’s eyes are on you ... and, well, the eyes of all the men in the room? Married, single or even homosexual, there’s no discrimination because your beauty is that breathtaking.

To answer the question: Yes, it is perfectly acceptable for those glances to target you. It’s in our nature. We want to gaze at masterpieces of beauty; just ask Rembrandt.

This affliction does not single out gender – women are just as prone to gawk. Of course, there are levels to which some take their stares; mouth open, prolonged ogling can be distracting as well as disrespectful if you’re with someone.

I don’t understand those people who catch their partner looking at someone, and then all of a sudden emotions from the deep abyss of their stomach broil over into anger, jealousy and annoyance. Relax. It’s a voyeuristic world, and curiosity often gets the best of us.

As long as married folks don't turn their staring into something more, and as long as someone isn’t being rude by watching a stunningly beautiful person, let’s not worry about the wandering eye.

Let’s all partake of the beauty before us.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

10 things men should know about women

1. If you're single, don't judge the next woman you meet by the last woman you met. Sure, the next chick might be crazy (or worse, married), but what if she's not? - Deirdre

2. Don't tell us if you dated a stripper. The constant comparison in our heads will drive us crazy. - Alisha

3. Most women want good sex just as much - if not more - than you do. If you find a women who wants it as often (or as little) as you do, keep her, because sexual compatibility is a glorious thing. - Deirdre

4. Tell us (nicely) if we look fat in these jeans. You're right; there's no good way a guy can come out on top with this question. However, there is a way to be honest so we won't go out of the house looking like a house. - Alisha

5. Little things go a long way. Opening doors, carrying coats, walking on the side closest to the street - we notice. And we like it. - Deirdre

6. Girls don't want to date duds. TV, sports and the couch cannot make up our lives seven nights a week. - Alisha

7. No woman deserves to be hit. EVER. Just get out of the relationship ... and remember No. 1 on this list. - Deirdre

8. It's a man's world and we're trying to change it. You acknowledging our efforts means more than you might think. - Alisha

9. We love you. And we hate you. Often at the same time. It comes from the long, complex history men and women share, and communication is the best way to keep the emotion you want at the fore. - Deirdre

10. We're jealous. We really do wish we could pee while standing up. Nuff said. - Alisha

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sorry, no Sugar Mamas here

I stopped at my local gas station a couple days ago to fill up and grab a Cherry Coke. As I walked from my car to the store, I passed two guys standing at a car, talking. I could feel their eyes on me as I passed, and I heard mutterings that sounded like a running commentary about my derriere. Since I'm sensitive about my derriere right now -- it's been awhile since I visited the gym -- I walked a little faster and yanked open the store's door.

As I headed back to my car, the guys were still there. I heard a
" 'Scuse me!" and I glanced over in reflex, cursing myself in the split-second I did so. I've grown more polite since I moved back to the South, and sometimes it works against me.

"How you doin'?" said one of the guys with a wide grin. Dude looked about 20. I responded "pretty good" without breaking stride and got in my car.

I thought about the incident all the way home. Didn't that kid know I was old enough to be his ... er ... big sister? And didn't he know that even if I was closer to his age, yelling at a chick in a gas station parking lot isn't the way to get her digits? And didn't he know that openly leering at a chick's booty as she walked by, AND THEN yelling at her in said parking lot was guaranteed not to get him the digits?

Then I remembered a recent "Cheaters" episode I stumbled across while watching TV with a friend. "Cheaters" is a like a car wreck; when you pass it, you have to at least slow down to see what's going on. Anyway, in this particular episode, a guy, about 20, was cheating on his live-in girlfriend, who was about my age. His reasoning? Sleeping with women was his job, and in return the women let him live rent-free and they bought him anything he wanted. With chicks that stupid out there, no wonder some men think they can trip like that, right?

So I thought about the "Cheaters" episode and wondered: Did that guy think I looked like the type of older woman who would take care of him in exchange for sex? Since the dude was a critter, I shudder at the thought. But now I'm curious: have I reached that age where I'm Sugar Mama material?

If so, a lot of guys are going to be disappointed to find out this mama only takes care of herself.

Friday, September 22, 2006

How to be a gentleman, GQ style

So I picked up the current issue of GQ magazine because it has a fetching photo of my husband, actor Clive Owen, on the cover. (In an alternate, Deirdre-centric universe I have several lovely and adoring husbands. Isn't that right, Denzel?)

But I bought it, not only for my Clive fix, but also because a certain headline caught my eye: "Split the Check? Date a Friend's Ex? Break Up via E-mail? Modern Manners for the 21st Century."

The article, written by GQ's Style Guy, Glenn O'Brien, has some great advice on when and where to use cell phones and PDAs; e-mail and iPod etiquette; how to dress and act on airplanes; how to treat gay people; what the rules are on wedding gifts and other relevant topics. I strongly recommend it for guys and gals. Some examples of Glenn's wisdom:

E-vites: The sole domain of 18-year-old girls who drive lime green Volkswagen Beetles, or perfectly acceptable? For casual events and save-the-dates, an e-vite is fine. For retirement parties, weddings, engagement parties, Bar Mitzvahs, and other non-evanescent events where tangible mementos are called for: Christ, no.

Can you bang your friend's ex-girlfriend? Or do you need his official blessing first? When a man fancies the ex of his pal, he should give notice of his intentions. But permission is not required.

How about flirting over e-mail at work? Flirting over e-mail is unacceptable; it may even be sexual harassment. And hard drives are subpoenaed every day of the workweek.

Is there anywhere I can't wear my jeans these days? Jeans are acceptable only on informal occasions. I beg to differ with Ralph Lauren on the aptness of dungarees with a dinner jacket.

BTW guys, the issue also has some great tips on what to look for when buying a suit, actress Amanda Peet in her underwear, and an article about how to build the perfect (baseball) batter. And gals -- the issue smells yummy (if you like cologne), has several interesting articles about music, books and movies, and the NFL preview mostly consists of two hot players (Reggie Bush and Troy Polamalu) shirtless. Very nice.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Who are you, again?

"A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked." -- Bernard Meltzer.

They say family will always be there for you. They say friends come and go. They say blood is thicker than water.

Here's what I think: I say you can't always depend on family. I say friends often exit your life, but their imprint is everlasting. I say blood and water can coexist.

I’m so thankful for the friends I have, but there is one thing that bothers me about the intrinsic nature of friendship. Many don’t realize it’s a two-way street.

You know the kind. The friend who never e-mails, never calls, never visits, never does anything except expect you to maintain the vitality of the relationship.

Don’t get me wrong; I'm not perfect. We’ve all had busy times in our lives where the line of communication is temporarily out to lunch. Eventually for most people, though, the CLOSED sign is flipped back over to OPEN.

But it’s time some folks realize it takes energy to keep up a friendship and the responsibility shouldn’t be all on one person.

I can’t decide what to do with a particular friend. Do I continue to take up the slack for our friendship, and just figure one day she’ll come around to caring about what’s going on in my life once again? Or do I just leave our friendship in the past, and move on with my life? I mean, how many more times can I hear, “Yes, I’ll call you, I promise”?

What would you do in my situation? And what have you done with friends who fail to understand the importance of two-way communication?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's National Singles Week!

Actually, it's officially "Unmarried and Single Americans Week" (an acknowledgment that many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word "single" because they are parents, have partners or are widowed) but National Singles Week has such a celebratory twang, doesn't it? Makes you want to go out and be single and mingle.

In honor of the week, I'd like to share some interesting and eye-opening singles stats, courtesy of our friends at the Census Bureau. Impress friends and family with your knowledge.

89.8 million: Number of unmarried and single Americans in 2005. This group comprised 41 percent of all U.S. residents age 18 and older.

54%: Percentage of unmarried and single Americans who are women.

60%: Percentage of unmarried and single Americans who have never been married. Another 25 percent are divorced and 15 percent are widowed.

14.9 million: Number of unmarried and single Americans age 65 and older. These older Americans comprise 14 percent of all unmarried and single people.

86: Number of unmarried men age 18 and older for every 100 unmarried women in the United States.

904: The number of dating service establishments nationwide as of 2002. These establishments, which include Internet dating services, employed nearly 4,300 people and pulled in $489 million in revenues.

29.9 million: Number of people who live alone. These persons comprise 26 percent of all households, up from 17 percent in 1970.

12.9 million: Number of single parents living with their children in 2005. Of these, 10.4 million are single mothers.

4.9 million: Number of unmarried-partner households in 2005. These households consist of a householder living with someone of the opposite sex who was identified as their unmarried partner.

36%: Percentage of voters in the 2004 presidential election who were unmarried.

82%: Percentage of unmarried people age 25 or older in 2004 who were high school graduates.

23%: Percentage of unmarried people age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or more education.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Wait 3 days before calling?

Deirdre: I was chatting with a close male friend about a chick he was about to start dating, and I said something I never thought I would.
Alisha: Let's set up a dating profile together online? [smile]
Deirdre: Ew. NO.
Deirdre: He had talked to this chick and he was gonna call her the very next day to set up a date. I blurted out, “No way! You can’t call her the next day! It’ll look like you’re desperate.” I never knew I was a follower of the Rules when it comes to who calls whom, and when.
Alisha: Oh boy, I can see where this is going. What rules? Where's Moses and his 10 Commandments of Dating? Why do we need rules to govern our heart? So when did you tell your friend he should call her? Let me guess ... three days later?
Deirdre: No, I told him to wait two days.
Alisha: By then, your friend's hot girl will have found another beau to kiss on.
Deirdre: Dang, it’s only two days! If she found another dude that quick, maybe he doesn’t need to get with her. But my reasoning: One day you look desperate; three days you look like you don’t care. Two days is juuuuuuust right.
Alisha: So, you meet someone. You two hit it off. The conversation is great. The chemistry is right. The butterflies in your stomach can't stop fluttering. You part ways. And then, you're telling me you have to wait two looooooong days just to talk with that person again? Why delay the inevitable?
Deirdre: Girl, why you always gotta make it hard for me? It’s not that simple. If it happened the way you just described, I would be bummed if he didn’t call the next day. If the chemistry and connection are that strong, neither one of us should be able to wait to talk to each other again. But the two-day thing -- that’s safe.
Alisha: Picking up the phone is harmless. I say you both know if you hit it off and there shouldn't be restrictions. This three-day, two-day, once a lady crap is just that: crap.
Deirdre: Tell us how you REALLY feel, Alisha.
Alisha: You're telling me that two people are going to know exactly when and what time to call each other -- exactly two or three days later? Why complicate matters?
Deirdre: Actually, I’m making it simple. Calling within the first few days is totally acceptable -- and in the game that men and women, and men and men, and women and women play, you’re not showing too much of your hand, so to speak, if you call within that time frame. It’s when you mess up and wait more than a week that matters get complicated.
Alisha: That's the truth. Gosh, the difference between two days and seven days is an eternity! Bottom line - if you're digging someone and you're fairly certain they dug you, then pick up the phone and tell him or her that. Life's too short to be put on hold just because some silly rule says you should.
Deirdre: Um, but don’t act too fast, or the other person might think you’re a stalker. It’s a fine line. Even you can see that, can’t you?
Alisha: Yes, I see that, accept it and understand it. Doesn't make waiting two or three days gospel. Do you think a man or a woman came up with that asinine rule?
Deirdre: Well, it had to be a man, because for the longest time men were the accepted dating aggressors. Now, though, many women wouldn’t even blink before asking a guy for his number. And this is where it can get interesting: the phone number. Which number did you give out when you and your hubby started dating? Your home or cell phone number?
Alisha: I gave him my home number. And even my real name, believe it or not.
Deirdre: Thank you! I’m all about giving the home phone number if I really click with a man. You can give any critter your cell number just to get him to go away (and a fake cell number at that). But I think there’s a level of intimacy that comes with giving a person your home phone number. Unless you don’t have a land line, of course.
Alisha: Finally, something we agree on: Home phones = serious potential flame. Cell phones = possible, if the stars and moon align right, then you might get lucky.
Deirdre: Think back to when you were dating. If you gave a guy your number and he didn’t call until a week-10 days later, would you still give him a chance?
Alisha: You know how long it's been since I was single? Going on seven years! Let me think. If he called 10 days later, sure, I'd still talk with him if I was interested. And I'd also wonder why he took so long.
Deirdre: Sister, a man would have to do some serious talking to get me interested again! I have to refer to “He’s Just Not That Into You” when I say that if you’re really interested in someone, you will make the time to talk to them, no matter what. After a week, I’m thinking dude just ain’t all that interested.
Alisha: Evidently there's a common denominator between 10 days and 0 days for you, and that's um, what, two days? Silly rubbish if you ask me. If you're into someone, call them when the mood hits. Don't wait.
Deirdre: Heh. You’d better NOT wait.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Whitney is free at last!

And I know what most of us are thinking: "It's about @!%#$& time!" Right?

(Don't know what I'm talking about? Read this.)

This is a photo of Whitney Houston with her soon-to-be-ex husband Bobby Brown at one of his many court hearings for vulgar stage behavior, or violating parole, or some fight or some car wreck or some drug-related incident. Whatever. (Dude probably has his lawyer's number tattooed on a bicep, so he'll never lose it.)

I sat down to write a scathing entry about Whitney's wasted years, about her descent into appearing (and probably being) cracked-out and crazy, but as I look at this photo, all that venom just drains away. Because you know what? Even though it took her 14 years, the sister finally got away. She grabbed her purse and her child and went to California, where she's working on a new album. If her voice ain't totally shot from all the years of her doin' whatever she's been doin', she might have a chance at comeback success.

Ultimately, I think what got Whitney into this mess was something a lot of chicks struggle with: The allure of the Bad Boy. Let's face it, few guys are as bad as Bobby baby-daddy-uncontrollable-pelvis-too-good-for-New-Edition-ever-sweating-King-of-R&B (Not!) Brown. And once she hitched herself to his downhill-careening wagon, she did what, again, lots of chicks would do: She stood by her man, stubbornly refusing to see what a mess he really was, even when he reportedly hit her.

She made a lot -- A LOT -- of bad decisions. She refused the help of friends and family. She brought up her child in what, from our viewpoint, looked like sketchy conditions that probably would have gotten a regular kid snatched away and put in foster care. She allowed anyone with a strong enough stomach to watch "Being Bobby Brown" know that he helped her with particularly difficult bowel movements.

In other words, she shamed herself -- and her momma, and her cousin, Dionne Warwick.

But now ...

She's extricating herself from a jacked-up relationship. She's hopefully seeing a therapist and getting herself clean. She's trying to get her career going again.

At the base of it all, Whitney Houston is a woman who did a lot wrong that she is trying to make right. I'm willing to send her good vibes and hope for the best.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lesson in love found at the cafeteria

Once a week I take my grandmother to dialysis, and then four hours later, I pick her up. As a treat for her going through such an ordeal and because she’s often too weak to cook, we have a weekly stand-in date at the K&W Cafeteria.

If you’ve ever gone to the K&W and the median age of the clientele is 25 years older than you, then you’re obviously at the K&W way too early in the afternoon.

So Tuesday’s dinner date was a lesson in love – geriatric style.

In the middle of digesting my watermelon, I saw a couple at a nearby table. She was dressed in a purple cardigan with red roses, he in khaki shorts and black socks.

Something caught my eye. It wasn’t the pyramid of coffee creamers stacked five deep or the matching pill organizers – in yellow no less. What caught me off guard was this loving couple, enjoying a 4 o’clock meal while holding hands under the table.

The image of their wrinkly hands gripped together ever so slightly while the world passed them by was so pure and so sweet.

Simple lesson for the day: Love endures, and it shows in the smallest of gestures.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Let's talk about sex

Alisha: Last week, I interviewed Lisa Terrell, a certified sex therapist, marital counselor and owner of Lydia's Loom Counseling in Charlotte. She told me about an interesting concept.
Deirdre: Let's hear it.
Alisha: Charlotte Sexual Health is hosting a weekend getaway for couples, Sept. 22-24. It's designed to renew passion, and to facilitate learning more about each other on an intimate level.
Deirdre: Cool idea, if people can get their spouses to go along with it.
Alisha: Why wouldn’t they be interested?
Deirdre: I think the majority of people think their sex lives are meant only for their bedrooms.
Deirdre: In the dark. At night. Under covers. When the kids are asleep.
Alisha: But, there won't be any kids at this retreat, and this getaway will not be a group of people trying out some funky Kama Sutra-type of group exercises. It's about learning how to keep up the spark.
Deirdre: But I think lots of people are skittish about talking about sex, don't you? Even with their partners.
Alisha: It's a good idea to break out of our comfort zones. Most of the "therapy" will be among a small group of people who are there for similar reasons. Who wouldn't want to spend three days focusing on their sex life?
Deirdre: Ooooh, I'm not down with the group therapy thing. It's hard enough for people to open up to a therapist on their own. But then you add your spouse and some total strangers, and you're expected to candidly discuss your sex life? I think that's too much to ask.
Alisha: You wouldn't find it comforting to know other people have some of the same problems you have? You know, wives who are "never in the mood," or husbands who suffer from rapid ejaculation or couples whose kids sleep with them more than they sleep with each other? It would definitely make me feel less isolated.
Deirdre: If anyone does any research about their issues (or just reads the Cosmo headlines) they'll find other people suffer from the same problems. So that argument doesn't fly with me.
Alisha: Who has time to do research? If you and your partner take the time to get away from the kids, the office, the in-laws, etc., then you're facing your sexual problems head-on. And, there’s an important point: Often, one partner has an issue, and the other doesn't see it or chooses not to recognize it. All the research in the world can't change the state of things, unless you actively do something about it.
Deirdre: It doesn't take long to visit a library, do an online search, read a magazine article or ask your doctor during a physical. It's about priorities. Then again, that's what I like about this seminar: It's concentrated time for couples who have made their sex lives a priority. I'm just saying the group part might be uncomfortable for some, that's all.
Deirdre: Did Lisa say if most people come to her sessions as preemptive strikes -- couples looking to strengthen an already strong sexual relationship -- or when couples have agreed they're in trouble?
Alisha: She said it's a mix of both; however, she said once many couples' sexual crisis is over, they are not as interested in more counseling.
Deirdre: Couples don’t take the next step of learning how to make what's good even better?
Alisha: Face it, it's easy to fix an issue and then forget about it because, well, it’s no longer a problem. For many, sex isn't a priority.
Deirdre: Why is that, do y'think, old married lady? (wink)
Alisha: Time+work+kids+stress+life=No sex. Geez, sounds like a future Woody Allen film.
Deirdre: But our culture is so sex-drenched. Is it possible we're becoming bored with sex?
Deirdre: Or is everyone reading this choking on Coke or coffee as they burst out laughing at the absurdity of that statement?
Alisha: Bored isn't the word.
Deirdre: Desensitized?
Alisha: To some, it's no longer important to cultivate intimacy. Some think, “Hey, I've got the ring, I've got the house, I've got the hot husband. Why do I need to learn how to have better sex?”
Deirdre: Uh, to enjoy the hot husband even more? If you're going to be together for years, why not learn how to enjoy each other?
Deirdre: People who get bored may stray. Or be miserable. That's a big chunk of your life to give up on.
Alisha: When you marry, you commit to be with that person forever, and it's hard to tell the one you love, "Hey, sex with you is boring and lifeless," without hurt feelings or perhaps more serious repercussions. This is one reason why the sexual health weekend is a great idea. Two people can discuss their sex lives openly and honestly in a neutral environment.
Alisha: It takes two people to have sex. And, it takes two people to solve the problem.
Alisha: I would love to go on this sexual health weekend with my husband, but the price is a bit steep for those of us on a limited budget. The basic weekend package is $495 (cheaper options are available, though).
Deirdre: Girl, therapy doesn't come cheap.
Alisha: We did say it’s all about priorities, right?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Let the past stay past

Readers, I did something I never thought I'd do.

I Googled the One Who Got Away.

Surely I'm not the only one who's done it -- Googled an old boyfriend, an ex-lover, a high school crush, just to find out where they are. What they're doing.

If they're single.

Not that we would do anything with that information, of course. Except I almost did. His address and phone number came up, and for a few long seconds, I considered calling him.

But wait. The One Who Got Away also happens to be The One I Made a Total Fool of Myself Over, in addition to being The Jerk of the Universe. Don't most of us have one of those in our past? The guy or gal who treated us so bad, yet we still hung around, thinking they'd change (they never do) or they'd realize the error of their ways (never happened) and beg our forgiveness (only in our dreams)? They had such an impact on us that every now and then we still think about them, and wonder where they are.

Well, mine popped into my head unbidden, and my fingers typed his name almost by reflex. He wasn't that hard to find; within seconds I had his address and phone number (scary, but true). I looked at the phone.

And I remembered.

I remembered that I'd had more bad times than good with him. I remembered the friendships that ended because of him. I remembered the woman I was when I was around him -- she was a woman I did not like. She was a woman I haven't been in a long time.

So I clicked off the Google screen and continued web surfing. Some people are better left in the past.

Friday, September 08, 2006

It's me or the TV, buddy

Ladies, it’s time to go shopping.

Is 1 p.m. on Sunday good for you? We can go to SouthPark or perhaps Concord Mills. Let’s make it an all-day affair, what do you say?

You just can’t go home. It’s lonely there. The nachos and beer will receive more attention than you will. Resist the temptation.

Why, you ask?

Sunday marks the first full day of the 2006 NFL season.

[Cue the 100-watt light bulb] Ah, now you get it! It’s all clear.

You should just tell your remote control you’ll see it again sometime midweek when Paula Deen and her boys are cooking. Kiss the kids on Sunday, and tell them the kiss came from Daddy – he’s just a little preoccupied, um, the entire day (and possibly Monday at 9 p.m.). Oh, and don’t forget to bring the credit cards for our little shopping spree, because he wouldn't notice you strutting around the 55-inch TV wearing a see-through negligee, much less the card bill.

Almost nothing preoccupies a day in a man’s life like that of pro football on Sundays.
It amazes me, and I’m a sports journalist. I can sit in front of the tube and watch six to seven hours of football, but then I need a little break. My husband? I have to check to see if he's growing moss as he sprawls unmoving on the couch.

Is it a heavy strain on our relationship? No, not really, but I can relate. It’s frustrating when I’m staring at a sink full of dirty dishes that never seem to get washed if it's the day after Saturday. Also, I never get to hold the remote.

For some relationships, one person’s addictive habit for television sports or daily Oprah-watching (men aren’t all to blame – as much as we’d like to think so) is a divisive issue that oftentimes leads to couch therapy for a lucky contestant later that night.

How do you deal with a partner who accidentally calls you Suzy (as in Kolber)? What do you say to the wife who tells you that if you love her, you’d sit and watch every episode of “Laguna Beach” with her?

You have two choices. You continuously fight back and resist your partner’s passion, hence causing constant unhappiness, or … you go shopping.

So, is Sunday at 1 p.m. good for you? I’ll buy the first caramel macchiato.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Love them, love their kids

Right before I moved to Charlotte a year ago, I was strolling down a sidewalk in Oakland, Calif., headed for the door to my gym. Now, I'm not one of those chicks who tries to look cute during workouts; I wear faded T-shirts, beat-up leggings and I usually don't even comb my hair. So imagine my surprise when I heard a "Yo, 'scuse me. 'Scuse me!"

I glanced over in surprise to find a guy piloting his car slowly down the street, keeping pace with me. "Yes?" I said, assuming he wanted directions.

"You got any kids?" he asked.

"What?" I answered, thinking I must've misheard him.

"Sons," he said loudly. "Do you have sons?"

"Uh, no."

"You got a good memory?" he responded.

Where was he going with this? "Sure," I said.

"Then remember this," he said, and proceeded to give me his phone number. After he had me repeat it back to him and I solemnly promised to remember it (riiiiight - the number was forgotten by the time I took my next step), he sped up and headed off.

After I got over the fact that I had just been hit on as I headed to the gym on a Sunday morning ("He shoulda been in church," my mom would've muttered), it hit me what had really happened.

Dude didn't want to know if I was married. Dude didn't even want to know my name. Dude just wanted to know if I had kids. And when I didn't, I was suitable for a hook-up.

I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences where you were immediately accepted or discarded, depending on your child status. And I will admit that I used to be one of those people doing the accepting and discarding.

"I will NEVER date a man who has a kid," I vehemently swore for years. It was the ultimate deal-breaker: parenthood. No way would I ever have children, I told myself. I hated kids, and kids hated me right back. Babies cried when they took one look at me. I didn't have the patience for youngsters and their endless questions, and as only child, didn't have much experience.

But then I started going out with a man who was cute, fun, clever and never failed to make me laugh. He was divorced with weekend custody of his 8-year-old daughter. A voice inside kept telling me not to get involved with a man who had a child, but we had such a great time together that I kept seeing him. We fell for each other ... and I fell for the kid, too.

In the process, I learned a lot about myself. While it's true that I don't want children of my own, I was lying to myself when I said I hated kids. In reality, I was afraid of them - afraid of their boundless energy (how could I keep up?) and those endless questions (what if I don't know the answers?). Babies cried when they saw me because everything about me - facial expression, body posture, the tone of my voice - screamed "KEEP AWAY!!" But that little girl, with her open, honest face and love of sports and pink nail polish, quickly won me over.

I no longer see that guy; in fact, he has remarried and now has two kids. But you know what? Babies love me. They reach for me and gurgle at the goofy faces I make. I can have conversations with elementary schoolers and laugh at their corny jokes and accept their spontaneous hugs. And I would have no problem dating other dads.

For all of you out there who still have children on your list of deal-breakers, I totally understand. I'll be the first to say I'd rather be with a man who doesn't have kids. But in this day and age, with the steady divorce rate and rising number of single moms and dads, it would be pretty easy to miss out on an awesome person simply because they also happen to be an awesome parent.

Words of wisdom, if that's what you want to call it

There’s giving advice and then there’s knocking you over the head with it.

If you’re married, you know what I’m talking about. We married folk are inundated with words of "wisdom" throughout the engagement, the big event and the first year of wedded bliss.

Don’t get me wrong – advice is good, and where would we be if we didn’t learn from other’s mistakes and experiences?

However, some “advice” is silly, outdated and just plain stupid. If you take a few minutes to look back on what your family and friends said before you got married, you would laugh at some of the absurdity, too.

For the sake of this blog, I went through the hundreds of cards my husband and I received pre-and post-wedding, and I’d like to share a few. Card writer’s names have been withheld to protect the innocent and ignorant – including my single girlfriend who wrote in a wedding shower card that she hoped my husband and I have sex every night for as long as we’re married. Ha! That’s some funny stuff!

Five that stood out:

Card 1: “Happy Engagement! Now you get to plan: the dress, shoes, tuxes, flowers, churches, dinners … or you could just elope!
Me: Not sure if you know my parents, but eloping after I just paid a couple thousand for the photographer was NOT an option.

Card 2: “You’re wedding is gonna rock. We can’t wait!”
Me: Um, you didn’t even bother to show up! And what, exactly, is your idea of “gonna rock?” Last I checked, Lynyrd Skynyrd wasn’t booked as the wedding band.

Card 3: “Best of luck.”
Me: Hey honey, help me remember – did we get married at the Bellagio in Vegas? She might as well have added “break a leg.”

Card 4: “I chose Target instead of Dick’s Sporting Goods in selecting your shower gift. We hope that’s OK, and you can find use for this.”
Me: Yeah, because there’s a big difference between a dart board from Target and a dart board from a sporting goods shop? We’ll take it.

Card 5: “Richard, after this big recipe shower, Alisha has no excuses for not putting a home-cooked meal on the table every night! (Alisha – just kidding!)”
Me: I don’t believe Richard ever saw the “just kidding” part. Thanks … thanks a lot!

Readers, did you receive any words of wisdom that seemed silly at the time – or heck, just dumb?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Do we have soul mates?

Deirdre: Let's talk about soul mates, since our society is so into them right now. If you watch TV at all, it's hard to escape those eHarmony commercials with that creepy-looking dude pushing his site as the place to find your soul mate. I will admit those commercials are seductive -- even to me, an avowed online-dating avoider -- but their emphasis on finding a soul mate is unfair and misleading, I think.
Alisha: How is it misleading? You can find your soul mate anywhere, even online (gasp!), but it's that stupid song eHarmony uses that really grates on my nerves!
Deirdre: The site is telling people if you use it you'll find your soul mate -- when in reality it's a dating web site like all the others. And a person can have many soul mate-type people in their lives, don't you think?
Alisha: So, are we discussing the merits of eHarmony or do we want to get down and dirty on the topic of soul mates? ... If it's soul mates, I say there are different types of soul mates out there, as well as many people who could fit the definition of a soul mate. I have married someone I consider to be mine, but I also think everyone has a few people in this world they could call their soul mate.
Deirdre: Let's save eHarmony for another conversation. I'm just worried that as a culture, we're too concerned with finding that one soul mate when we have people in our lives who we have a deep connection with. It doesn't have to be that one person. Talk about pressure!
Alisha: Please, someone stop the David Bowie music. Seriously though, people should still seek out that perfect someone. Isn't that what we dreamed of as little girls? Someone who trusts us, who longs to grow old with us and live life hand-in-hand?
Deirdre: That's my point! We're programmed to believe Prince Charming is going to come along and sweep us off our feet, and we'll live happily ever after. And we'll never fight or never have a bad day or never outgrow one another, or never have a problem in the world.
Alisha: Certainly no one informed us Prince Charming could suffer from alcoholism or that Charming's mother never taught him how to balance a checkbook. That doesn't diminish the fact that Mr. Charming could still be our soul mate.
Deirdre: But why do we have to have soul mates? Can't we just have indispensable people in our lives? Why must there be a ... category, for lack of a better word?
Alisha: Indispensable? We're talking about people here. A category helps delineate between friends and lovers. A category, such as a soul mate, gives depth to that relationship. It's no longer about just "hanging out with your friend," it's about "sharing your life, day in and day out" with another person.
Deirdre: That's where we disagree. I don't think that just because you have a strong connection with someone that you have to share your life with them, day in and day out. I would consider my friend Kara to be a soul mate, even though in the past we've gone weeks, if not months without speaking or e-mailing. But when we do talk, it's like a day hasn't gone by. We care about each other and are in each other's thoughts, and we know that. I know we'll still be the best of friends when we're 80, because we have that connection.
Alisha: I view soul mates as lovers, not friends. I have best friends like your friend Kara, but I don't consider them to be soul mates; they're my lifelong friends.
Deirdre: That's why I question why there has to be a "title."
Alisha: Soul mates = lovers. Friends = friends.
Deirdre: Soul mates = people you connect with who stay with you, even when they're not "with" you. Why is there a delineation for you?
Alisha: It gets down to the essence of lovemaking when you give everything you have to the person you're with. The physical connection isn't the same over a cup of joe and Wi-Fi with your best friend at Starbucks.
Deirdre: So you think a physical connection is as strong a component as a mental and emotional one.
Alisha: It all plays a part. Wikipedia's definition of soul mate: "Soul mate is a term sometimes used to designate someone with whom one has a subjective, emotional feeling of deep affinity, friendship, love, strong intimacy or compatibility." Physical, mental, emotional all play into connecting with your soul mate.
Deirdre: So if you connect on all those levels with someone, except you're both straight and don't get physical, in your mind you're not soul mates.
Alisha: Right on.
Deirdre: I offer Wikipedia's definition of the soul: "The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is a self-aware ethereal substance particular to a unique living being. In these traditions the soul is thought to incorporate the inner essence of each living being." So really, to be soul mates, the physical isn't so crucial. Which is why, to me, a person's essence, and my connection with that essence, is what makes that person my soul mate. I feel I have several -- and am physically intimate with none of them.
Alisha: Deirdre and I will have to agree to disagree. I say soul mates are people you connect with on a multitude of levels, and they're more lovers than friends. She says you can find many soul mates in life, be it friends or lovers. Readers, what's your definition of a soul mate, and is there more than just one out there for you?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Good for J.Lo!

Here's Jennifer Lopez with her hubby of two years, singer Marc Anthony, at the MTV Video Music Awards last night in New York.

Now, disregarding the fact that J.Lo is A) wearing what looks like a sequined pillowcase on her head, B) sporting thigh-high boots which, like leggings, should have stayed in the past and never come back and C) in general looks like a drag queen version of herself, I have to say I'm impressed with this duo. Given J.Lo's track record, I never expected them to stay hitched this long. (Especially when you remember how they got together -- they married, like, hours after his divorce from a former Miss Universe was final.)

But since she's been with Marc, our Jennifer has calmed down -- not so many tarted-up tromps down the red carpet, not so many US Weekly covers, not so many pseudo-songs on the radio airwaves and in the clubs. She seems to spend most of her time with Marc, working on projects -- recently, filming the movie "El Cantante" -- and squealing like a teenie bopper when he sings to her during his concerts. The most shocking rumor she's had to deny is that she's pregnant with her husband's baby. (But with the current Hollywood baby craze, I fully expect that to change.)

All in all, this seems to be a marriage that agrees with La Lopez. I approve.