Friday, December 28, 2007

Good places for married-couple dates

Happy holidays to everyone! I hope your holiday has been and will continue to be filled with family and friends and lots of love and happiness.

My husband and I spent part of our Christmas visiting the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. I had never toured the Biltmore House (pictured) before, and I'm super happy we went during Christmas - all the lights, the cozy fireplaces, the aroma of cinnamon and the soothing sound of holiday melodies made it an experience to remember.

One thing that struck me during our Candlelight Evening tour was the number of couples in attendance. I was expecting more families, but instead there were a bunch of married folks walking arm-in-arm up the spiral staircase and hugging while standing in front of the triple fireplace. It was so romantic.

I commented to my husband my surprise at all of the couples, and he noted the Biltmore was definitely a good place for people who are more committed to each other because why else on earth would you spend $130 (tickets alone) on a first date?

He makes an excellent point. Unless money is no issue for you, I'd be hard-pressed to drop that kind of coin on a guy who I'm just getting to know.

So what other places, within a decent driving distance of Charlotte, would make good winter dates for married couples?

Here are a few more of my ideas:
  • Rent a cabin at Lake Lure or Lake Norman
  • Spend a weekend at Appalachian Ski Mountain
  • Indulge yourself at The Fearrington House Country Inn
  • Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Watch the realityspeak!

    This week I watched the finales of two popular reality dating shows: "I Love New York 2" and "A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila." (Haters, don't bother dissing me for watching. How does that song go? "If you don't know me by now/You will never never never know me/Oooohhhooooooohhhhoooooohhh.")

    Yes, New York dodged a bullet by not picking the foxy-but-shady Buddha, and there's a league of women out there, gay and straight, who have girl-crushes on Dani, the adorable lesbian who got dumped by Tila. But what I couldn't get past was all the realityspeak -- the words that have become shorthand for what passes as liquored-up "feelings" on these shows.

    It's amazing how, ever since the first "Bachelor," reality shows have built a language for their reality emotions. My fear is the phrases are going to start slipping into everyday folks' conversations with their lovers, spouses and online hookups.

    Here's a typical example of realityspeak, tears optional: "We've been on this roller coaster of a journey together, full of adventure, and I feel like I've made connections with all of you. But I'm determined to find the right person for me and I'm about to make the most important decision of my life."

    (Turns to one person, usually a viewers' favorite, so you know they're going home.) "We've built a trust, and this is so much harder than I thought it would be! You got me to open up on a level I never have before, and you really put yourself out there. You're awesome, you make me laugh and every time I see you, you brighten up the room. But there's someone here I've made a stronger connection with. I love you .... but I'm not in love with you."

    Translation: "I'm just not that into you." But simply saying that would leave a lot of dead airtime.

    I hope my friends pop me upside the head if they ever hear me talk of "connections" or "journeys" or "roller coasters of emotion" when discussing some new dude in my life. And if someone ever tells you they're looking for their "soul mate," tell them to buy some Marvin Gaye or Mary J. Blige or Earth, Wind & Fire. They're soulful enough.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007

    Ever been stood up?

    Deirdre: Let's talk about something I think a lot of people can relate to: being stood up. From agreeing to meet friends at a bar and not showing up to totally whiffing when weekend plans have been made, it's just not a cool thing to do. And yet, people do it all the time.
    Alisha: (Raises my hand) Count me in as one of the unlucky to be stood up. You're right - people do it all the time and they don't think twice about it. Did their mamas not teach them anything about respect?
    Deirdre: I know, right?! I've been stood up as well, and it's a nasty feeling. You find yourself making all kinds of jacked-up excuses, like, "well, maybe he got in a car crash, or someone he knows got really sick, or there was a big, last-minute project at work and he didn't have time to pick up the phone."
    Alisha: That's the thing. The person left alone, waiting, wondering, and working up to a stay of pissed-offedness shouldn't be the one making up excuses. How hard is it to tell someone you just aren't interested?
    Deirdre: I think most people want to avoid confrontation at all costs. If they really aren't into a person, and yet they've allowed themselves to be roped into plans, then not showing up and not calling is a clear, final message of non-interest. It's cowardly, but effective.
    Alisha: Effective at hurting feelings. Have the guts to be upfront and honest.
    Deirdre: Word.
    Alisha: I wonder if the whole online dating scene has cultivated more "stand-ups" because you might not be as invested in the relationship since it's just e-mail versus face-to-face interaction?
    Deirdre: Oh, I'm sure it has. One of the reasons I'm anti-online dating is that it's so ephemeral -- people float in and out of each other's mental space. When there's no flesh-and-blood person to answer to, yeah, you're likely to flake. Also? I'm sure there are plenty of people who never want to take a relationship offline, and not showing up is a way to do that.
    Alisha: Even though I'm a strong proponent of online dating, it does perpetuates the idea it's not "really" standing up someone because you never "met" them in the first place.
    Deirdre: Hurts just as bad. Still just as rude.
    Alisha: I'd like to know if people plan this or if it just happens. Are there adults out there who set up a date and then purposely say to themselves, "I'm so not going to meet him on Friday at 8 p.m."? I surely hope we grow more mature with age instead of setting out to hurt people on purpose.
    Deirdre: Yeah. It's bad for the karma, too.

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Let's talk about double dating defines double dating as "a date on which two couples go together."

    To me, that definition feels so 1957, when there were dating parlors and more rigid rules of courtship, but the parameters for 2007 seem to be completely different. For example, we don't date with other couples -- we call it hanging out with them.

    In an effort to gain more insight into what other folks think about the concept, I asked six co-workers to describe their thoughts on double dating in today's society.
    Here they are, in no particular order:

    • "Double dating means it's a date with four people where at least one person is not well acquainted with the others ... I've never had a double date in my life." -- Male, 24

    • "I just think we've transitioned from the term 'double dating' to 'hanging out' because a) that can include friends who aren't coupled up and b) 'double date' sounds more official and implies more planning than probably what went into it in the first place." -- Female, 25

    • "Is it old-fashioned? Yes, but after you're married, it's hard to have a legitimate social life without some form of double-dating ... A lot depends on how outgoing a couple is. If a married couple is naturally outgoing, it actually energizes them to go out with other couples. Introverted couples may have the opposite mindset." -- Male, 32

    • "Not into it. I like one-on-ones, myself." -- Male, 36

    • "Double dating is for insecure people. If a couple can't carry a conversation by themselves, then they probably shouldn't be together. If someone introduced them, then doubling on the first date might be OK to break the ice. Anything after that is just being chicken or shows a lack of compatibility." -- Male, 47

    • “I think dating has come to involve a ritual 'putting yourself out there' to see if you and the other person are a good fit. Maybe not for the first couple of dates, but after that, double dating would be good, to see how you as a couple react and respond to other folks … Dating has a different connotation for married folk. They are not being evaluated anymore. It's hard enough to put yourself out there for one person to judge; who wants three?” -- Female, 40

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    A kiss isn't just a kiss

    When I was out at the bars last weekend, I noticed a maybe-not-so-welcome reminder of the season: mistletoe.

    It's one thing to see it strategically placed at a house party, where you can maneuver the hottie of your choice into position; another to see it pinned to the lopsided Santa hat of a drunk 23-year-old on Tryon Street.

    Since we're likely to engage in more smooching the next few weeks, I'd like to share this: A study recently published in the scientific journal "Evolutionary Psychology" found that 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women said they've been in the position of being attracted to someone ... until they kissed them.

    Singles, can I get a witness?

    "At the moment of the kiss, there's a very complicated exchange of information ... that may tap into underlying evolved mechanisms" cluing us in on whether we're genetically compatible, explains Gordon Gallup, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. "A kiss can be a deal-breaker in terms of whether a relationship will flower or flounder, so to speak."

    The research also suggests men and women have different agendas when it comes to kissing. For men, kissing is more often used as a means to an end -- in other words, to get laid. Women use kissing as a mate-assessment technique, and to monitor the status of the relationship. (Not devouring you with smooches like he used to? Could be he's losing interest.)

    Other gender differences in the research:

    • Men show a greater preference for tongue contact and open-mouth kisses.

    • Men are more willing than women to have sex with someone without kissing, as well as to have sex with someone they are not attracted to or consider to be a bad kisser.

    • Women place more importance on kissing throughout a relationship, whereas men place less importance on it as the relationship progresses.

    Either way, better get out the breath spray.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Top 10 worst gifts for new relationships

    Kristen Sasser, Yahoo! Personals' online dating expert, has put together a list of the top 10 worst gifts for new relationships.

    Click here for the story and full list.

    Most notable is No. 9: "Forget clichés, such as boxes of chocolates or flowers. They show little thought or effort."

    A new relationship needs coddling and it should be easy to figure out ways to put your own personal touches on the clichéd gifts. Maybe you find a way to give her sunflowers - paper-mâché perhaps - in the middle of the winter, or you purchase a teddy bear that is decked out in Carolina Panthers gear (his favorite team).

    Let's put a positive spin on this and ask, what are your ideas for good gifts to give your new partner?

    Friday, December 07, 2007

    Christmas letters lack hint of truth, reality

    In all my years of sending holiday cards, I've never written a Christmas letter.

    You know what that is; it's the annual catch-me-up letter bragging about the family's charitable deeds, Dad's new job five miles from the house, Timmy's soccer championship, Mom's Pampered Chef success and Rhonda's 3.8 GPA at Clemson University.

    But I gotta ask: Whose life is truly that perfect? Seriously.

    Why is it common practice to portray our lives, especially to those who love us and care for our well being, as a kiddie roller coaster - you know, life without interlocking loops, steep hills and unanticipated drops.

    These letters tend to gloss over the bad times and that's a shame, because let's face it, life isn't always peachy but we still have to endure and bounce back. When was the last time you read one that detailed the complete truth, such as a messy divorce or the ramifications of a relative's arrest?

    In this year's letter, describe in detail the volunteer award, job promotion, and college acceptance letter, but also be sure to mention how you will persevere following the death of a family member, the bad car accident, or the break up of a long-term relationship. I'd rather know how you're hoping for a better 2008 because of the challenges you faced in '07 than to believe in a pseudo reality.

    As the saying goes, just keep it real.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    My stripper stash

    I was in "purge" mode this weekend, going through a box of papers and old notebooks, when I stumbled across a pile of stripper photos. I wasn't kidding before when I said my friend Trouble and I were male stripper connoisseurs. There were photos of men in G-strings dancing, autographed posed shots, photos of dudes surrounded by dollar-waving, liquored-up women that made you wonder if the guys made it out alive.

    I actually blushed as I flipped through them. I flashed back to the time my mom found a Polaroid of me at one of the shows -- I was sitting in a chair surrounded by men in tiny denim shorts, with a blond hunk on my lap. My smile in the shot is nothing short of beatific. "Were you drunk?" my mom exclaimed, offering me an excuse. "Nope," I admitted. It was the truth. I was totally at home with a pack of near-nekkid, sweet-smelling, tousled-haired men pressed against me.

    Hmm. I hope I still have that Polaroid somewhere.

    The photos remind me I'm not the girl I was 15 years ago: hard-drinkin', barely-sleepin', spending my money on strippers and club outfits while the credit card bills went unpaid. Now I'm nearing 40, a homeowner who drives an SUV and has a retirement plan.

    And yet ...

    The remnants of that girl live inside me. I came of age with raves and rap, so I have to go out dancing periodically to stay sane. (If I get too old for the clubs, I guess I'll start having house parties. Rob Bass and Lords of Acid will not be denied.) I still like alcohol, but I've stopped going for the drinks designed to get you the drunkest, fastest. The girl has matured into a woman who likes to have a good time, but knows there's more to life than the next good time.

    However ... I do have a framed, autographed picture of a porn actor smiling at me here in my home office. He goes in a drawer when mom comes to visit.

    Some habits are hard to break.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    What's in a (married) name?

    I’m not afraid to get this in print; my husband is well aware and I’m pretty sure my in-laws know, too.

    My married name -- I’m just not a big fan of it.

    No, I’m not a hardcore feminist, and no, I’m not usually disrespectful of historical English customs.

    It's just that I spent 25 years getting used to my maiden name, Puckett, and then all of a sudden, I have to sign checks, use a different monogram and answer to Hord. Talk about an identity crisis.

    Oh, and I don’t like the asymmetry of my first name being longer than my last. I know -- it’s a weird reason, but hey, we’re talking about my name here.

    Married women and some radical-thinking husbands nowadays have tough choices to make. There are so many options: keep your birth name, take your married name, hyphenate the two family names, make your maiden name your middle name … the list goes on.

    I’ve listened to friends struggle with the decision. Everyone seems to have their reasons – some cite professional motivations for keeping the maiden name, others say their partners would refuse to marry if the married name wasn't embraced once the honeymoon’s over.

    My husband falls into the latter. He wanted me to be honored to have his name; I am, and I was OK with the decision because I believe our marriage is about compromise.

    Puckett will always be a part of me. He knows that and I know that. And, honestly, Hord is slowly (slothlike, I tell ya) growing on me.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    A friendship rediscovered

    Over the past few weeks I've been getting to know someone who used to be very important to me: My best friend from high school.

    It began on a whim. I was on the phone with a friend who has kind of served as the historian of our group (he got a master's in library science, along with a law degree -- yes, he's very handy). He's kept up with the marriages, kids, surgeries and job changes of our loose gang of band nerds. I asked if he'd come across information about my best friend, and he said he had. He even had a phone number for her, and he e-mailed it to me the next day.

    When I saw the number I picked up the phone and dialed. I didn't even think about what I would say. She answered on the third or fourth ring.

    Instead of a hello, I heard an exclaimed "Deirdre?" in a voice I remembered well. She always sounded as if she was on the verge of a giggle, and it was wonderful to hear that hadn't changed.

    "Yeah, hi!" I responded as soon as I got over the shock. Caller ID, I reminded myself. We chatted for a few minutes, and it was as if a long weekend had passed, not almost 20 years.

    We've been catching up on each other's lives via e-mail. In her first note to me she attached some photos she'd found in a high school yearbook. There was a school portrait we'd taken together, both of us wearing overalls and red-and-white striped T-shirts. There was a photo of us in a chorus line of friends doing a Rockettes-style kick -- well, all except for me, the brown string bean in the middle with huge glasses and an unmistakable expression: "No. I will NOT kick." Meanwhile, she was on the end, grinning huge and captured mid-kick -- the short white girl with the mop of unruly black hair that earned her the nickname "Frizz." While we were alike in many ways, physically, we were different as could be.

    My friend wrote that she married the guy she brought to meet me during freshman year, before the distance of attending different colleges drew us apart. She and her husband run an animal rescue operation. She still lives in Alabama and sometimes sees people we went to high school with. She's still got that tart sense of humor that revealed itself as she mentioned former friends who still live with parents, and those who married for status, or money or both. She says she's happy, and that makes me very happy.

    My friend talks about us getting together. The mutual pal who gave me her phone number has been saying the same thing. Next year is our (gulp!) 20-year high school class reunion, which would be a perfect time to gather the old gang. Or maybe I'll just drive down to my friend's corner of Alabama and spend time with her and her husband, play with their rescued animals and see if this feeling of suspended time lasts.

    Either way, I'm glad I made that phone call.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    He 'forgot' he's married

    I recently answered a question from a reader and she e-mailed me with an update. A lot of women will be able to relate to her latest dilemma.

    I decided to take your advice and get over Mr. New York. I met a guy that was handsome and seemingly available. He calls often (several times a day since we met). He recently opened a bar and invites me to hang out with him while he is working. I really like him and spent time with him as recently as yesterday. His phone kept ringing and he told me that he had something to take care of. Well, around 1 a.m. I received a text from his number and it read, “Just wondering do you know that man that you are so ready to see is my lying husband or r u the type that doesn’t care.” I was shocked and didn’t respond.

    Why the hell is my luck sooooooo bad when it comes to men? Am I a loser magnet? And also, how could I not know that he was married? Why are men such inconsiderate pigs?

    Women who have asked yourselves,
    "why the hell is my luck sooooooo bad when it comes to men?" raise your hands.

    See? You're not as alone as you might think!

    You've got to change your way of looking at the situation. You are NOT a loser magnet. You are a man magnet. You're attractive and vivacious and you have that something that makes men want to know you better. The law of averages means there'll be some losers mixed in with the keepers. Just weed 'em out and keep going.

    As for this dude, the reason you didn't know he was married was because he didn't tell you. (I think all married people should be required to wear a ring.)
    Some people have no scruples when it comes to using others, whether it be for sex, or to get ahead at work, or just because they get off on being manipulative. What he did was low-down, and it was not your fault. Let me repeat: IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. You took him at his word, and his actions -- the phone calls, the invitations to hang out -- led you to believe he was available. Just be glad you didn't get more involved and move on.

    About that text message from his wife -- why did she have to turn this into a "Cheaters" episode? It pisses me off when wives attack the Other Woman when they should be aiming that rage at their husbands. It's her man she has a problem with, not you! The fact she was on his phone lets us know he's done this before. Just send her a silent "thank you" and hope she drops the jerk.

    You've gone through the wringer lately, so I suggest you take a dating break. That doesn't mean camping out on the couch and eating Ben & Jerry's while watching DVR'd episodes of "A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila." Go to all the holiday parties looking fabulous. Flirt as much as you like, but don't stress about getting the digits of the hotties you meet. From now until the end of the year, just enjoy your friends and enjoy meeting new people and enjoy being you. There'll be plenty of time next year to play the dating game.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Is your husband or wife gone all the time?

    After reading some various dating and relationship community forums, I came across one topic we haven't discussed in We Can Relate: Spouses who are gone all the time.

    Maybe he travels on business Monday through Friday, or she's a big-time executive who puts in 100 hours at the office or maybe he's in the Navy and is on a ship for a six-month stretch.

    Either way, it has to be difficult to feel like you're in a true partnership and to handle a household when your spouse just isn't around. I think it's important to learn from others -- the lessons gained as well as the mistakes made.

    So, let's hear how you handle your significant other being gone. Does it get any easier after years of dealing with the absence? Do you blame their job as a reason for your divorce? Have you had to make life-changing decisions to repair the relationship because he or she is never at home?

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Is he your 'type?'

    Deirdre: I was at a party recently and was immediately drawn to one of the guests. He was funny, smart and sexy as hell. I'm looking for something serious, and he made it clear he's playing the field. So why couldn't I stay away from him?
    Alisha: It's obvious. His "type" screams fun, spontaneity and danger. Did anything come of the encounter?
    Deirdre: No, because I circulated like crazy until he left the party. Otherwise, I might've cornered him on the patio and done something I regretted (sort of). And that's what I mean -- I don't want a fling. I want a relationship! He was totally unsuitable for the latter.
    Alisha: Typecasting can be unfair and hard to judge. What if that "player" at the party really isn't a player at all? I think it needs to be said not everyone totally fits into one "type," either. You have to get to know the person beyond the surface level.
    Deirdre: Agreed, but if you are attracted to a certain "type" and you get to know them and you keep getting your heart broken, you know you're going after the wrong type.
    Alisha: It's funny how we sometimes seek out the "types" that aren't really our "type." For example, I spent majority of my college days going to the beefcake dance clubs (ahem, BAR Charlotte) because I was attracted to the hot, Ken-doll types, but, I knew I'd never marry that type.
    Deirdre: So what did you change when you were ready for something more ... concrete? Or did you change nothing and your man just sorta happened?
    Alisha: You have to come to the realization if you're ever going to be satisfied, you need to seek out your type and stop chasing after the ones who just aren't.
    Deirdre: What do you mean, "seek out your type"? You immersed yourself in Ken dolls! What did you do different?
    Alisha: You have to be honest with yourself in what you want. I enjoyed looking at the Chippendale carbon copies, but that's all I wanted to do - look at them. I never really wanted to date or be in a long-term relationship with one.
    Ah, I see what you mean. But my problem is, I keep meeting guys who have qualities I desire -- smarts, great sense of humor, confidence, consideration for others, and did I mention sexy? -- but they seem to be missing the commitment chip. So I guess the question would be, if you like a certain type, and it's not the marrying type, how do you turn your brain (and parts below the neck) in the other direction? Why do we keep trying to make people who are obviously not suited for long-term commitment into ... long-term commitments?
    Alisha: Well, that and why do we desire those who are not our "type" if we know what our type is in the first place?
    Deirdre: Yeah! Why? Why, Alisha? Oh, married one?
    Alisha: Got me!

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Tribute to the families of the military

    Let's not forget about Veteran's Day.

    Now, let's also make sure we honor those who are the significant others of the men and women who are overseas serving our country. I cannot imagine my husband being gone for months on end, but every day there are thousands of wives who are feeding their kids in an empty house and thousands of husbands who spend countless holidays alone.

    Sadly, it's easy to forget about those special loved ones left behind. Their personal battle is much different than their counterparts wearing combat gear, but it doesn't make the battle any easier.

    Let's remember to honor the significant others of our servicemen.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    A reader's dating dilemma

    A reader writes:

    I had been dating a guy from New York -- I met him in Charlotte and he has visited several times since we met a couple of months ago. On his last visit a couple of weeks ago, he brought a friend with him and asked me if I could “hook” his friend up with one of my friends. I did this, but the two friends did not get along. The friend that I invited was rude, very demanding (so was his friend) and neither I nor my date enjoyed the weekend. After he left he began to criticize the relationship between my friend and myself, telling me that I let her run over me and that she did not have the right to act the way she did. I told him that I was just trying to keep the situation calm because her and his friend already didn’t get along. He acted like it was all my fault and we haven’t really been the same since.

    My question is, at what point do you take responsibility for someone else’s actions? How can he blame me for what she did? I have been single for a long time and I really like this guy, but I don’t know if it is worth it if he is already starting to play mind games with me. What do you think?

    I think ... the two of you are done. And I think you know it as well.

    Now, it could be that this dude is tired of springing for airfare and is looking for an excuse to end it with you. But let's assume that he isn't, OK?

    Here's the thing: When people are starting to build a relationship -- when it's going from "this person is fun to hang out with" to "should I clean out a drawer and let them leave a toothbrush?" -- they take harder looks at each other. They start to think about how this person will fit into their life.

    You ask how the dude you're dating can blame you for your friend's actions (and we'll get back to her in a minute). It's called "guilt by association," sister. It shouldn't be that way, but there it is. But keep in mind that it works both ways -- you said his friend was rude as well. If your dude expects you to take responsibility for your pal, he should take some responsibility for his. Putting it all on you is a manipulative thing to do, and I'm so glad you recognize that.

    As for your friend: What a crappy wingwoman she turned out to be! Never use her again, because she doesn't know how to behave. There are so many ways she could have handled the situation gracefully and she (and his friend too, for that matter) chose to act immaturely. While the dude you've been dating had no right to comment on your relationship with her, you have every right to examine your friendship, and decide if you are getting what you need out of it.

    But let's get to what I think is the crux of this situation: "
    I have been single for a long time and I really like this guy." I believe many women are willing to overlook problems in relationships because A) they convince themselves they're overreacting, or that they're the problem, B) the guy is hot, or rich, or good in bed, etc., and they don't want to give him up, or C) they'd rather have a man than be alone. Women are often so worried about doing what they can do to make the man like/want them that they aren't thinking about if they even like/want the man in question.

    Bottom line: He dissed your friend. He dissed you for having her as a friend. He's thinking you might not be such a good fit in his life. So why try to force him into yours?

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    It's OK to feel lonely

    Lonely, definition by Merriam-Webster
    1 a: being without company : lone b: cut off from others : solitary
    2: not frequented by human beings : desolate
    3: sad from being alone : lonesome
    4: producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation

    “One” by Harry Nilsson
    One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
    Two can be as bad as one
    It's the loneliest number since the number one

    "No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world." – Aristotle

    Loneliness is a feeling we’ve all encountered, and if you haven’t, well, you’re just plain lying to others and most importantly, yourself.

    There’s a misconception that only single people can be lonely. You don’t have a date this Friday, you don’t have someone to call when you’ve had a bad day, you’re without a partner to throw the football to in the backyard, you go alone to the emergency room at 3 a.m. and you curl up in bed at night next to your dog.

    But just because you have a significant other in your life who will do all of the aforementioned things, does not mean you cannot feel alone at times. You’re human. Admitting you’re lonely does not mean you’ve got problems in your marriage or that divorce is imminent. And it can be a fleeting experience or one that you carry for many years.

    Obviously, there are varying levels. It’s hard to compare the feeling of being at home for the night while your spouse is out of town to the feeling one might get when your spouse believes you should handle the daughter’s punishment differently.

    It all comes down to communicating to your spouse your feelings and then how you proceed to handle the issue together as well as inwardly.

    Bottom line: It’s natural to feel lonely every now and then, no matter if you’re single or married.

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    Obviously, age isn't just a number

    The Observer had a story a few days ago about how Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue has fibbed about her age for more than two decades, reportedly because it was important to her first husband.

    Beverly Perdue was older than Gary Perdue, alright. But we're not talking about years here. The difference was in months. Perdue was born Jan. 14, 1947, but she has often listed the date as Jan. 14, 1948. The change allowed Gary Perdue, born Oct. 6, 1947, to appear older.

    "At the time, in the early '70s, that issue was important to her husband and to the marriage. That's why she did that," said Perdue spokesman David Kochman.

    This situation illustrates three points:

    1. We've come a long way, baby. I spent a hour on the sofa yesterday watching a special on the 25 hottest celebrity "cougar" matches. Of course, the beauteous Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, with their age difference of 15 years, was the No. 1 couple. Today, a lie about an age difference of eight-and-a half months just seems silly.

    2. Speaking of silly -- man, we do silly things for love! If seen through the eyes of love, perhaps such a request would seem romantic, and not as a salve for an insecure man's pride.

    3. A "little" lie can come back to bite you on the booty years later. So why bother?

    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    She says I'm 'sweet' -- now what?

    Here's a dilemma, from a male reader, that has got to rear its ugly head with almost every single guy out there:

    If a woman I'm interested in is telling me I'm "sweet" and considers me an "absolute sweetheart" when we talk, does that mean ...

    a) Thanks for being nice but I'm destined to be just a friend
    b) She is giving me a "green light" to ask her out
    c) Get lost, loser

    This is a tough one for me to answer because I think guys who are really sweet are total keepers, but I do know women who will turn down a guy in just this manner, "He's so sweet, but he is such a slob and we'd never work out."

    Your thoughts?

    Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    What your costume could say about you

    Alisha: There are tons of challenges to finding costumes for children, but what about those pesky problems when searching for a costume at age 32? You have to take into account size (not many shops carry Troy plates for a 52-inch chest) and quick escapability (hey, if you find a cute security guard at the party, you don't want to spend 20 minutes peeling off your Wonder Woman outfit).

    But most importantly, what costume you choose says a lot about you as a potential mate. Let's examine some costumes men and women might select this Halloween. Men first.


    Deirdre: The crux of this is how good the costume is. If it's detailed and fits well, the guy not only wants to be a hero, but he might be straying into comic book convention territory (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). If the costume is cheap, he's probably going for Jack Black-type humor, but he'll come off as a loser.
    Alisha: If a guy wants to be Superman or Captain America, then I'm betting he's a good kisser and is quite passionate -- they always want to savior the moment.


    Deirdre: Ghost costumes tend to involve full-body covers, which screams SHY to me. Zombies would imply someone creative (because of the makeup and "acting" abilities necessary), but also someone who gets their jollies off scaring people.
    Alisha: If it's just a guy in a white sheet, I'm not impressed. But a white sheet with black holes in it, Charlie Brown style, shows a desire to be different - which is a good quality when picking out a mate.


    Deirdre: A man who likes to be in charge! And what woman can resist a uniform? Not original, but still a smart move.
    Alisha: Screams authority issues. But maybe that's a good thing if you're wanting a man who takes control in the bedroom.

    Now for the women.


    Alisha: Can you really take home a girl who wants to be Firecrotch for Halloween? Come on now.
    Deirdre: HA! Or the chick who wants to flash everyone getting out of the car? Classy. It's also a cop-out, because it's a great cover for when they start drinking.


    Deirdre: Name one fairytale where the chick doesn't need to be saved. It might be a turnoff for dudes who like strong, independent women, and depending on the amount of body glitter used, it might make for a messy make-out session.
    : Fellas, if you see a woman dressed up as Cinderella or Snow White, I sure hope you have a large savings account. That wedding is going to rival Princess Diana's, I guarantee you.


    : I picture the librarian types choosing cuddly animals as their Halloween costume, and of course, I immediately think those are the quiet, demure types out in public and the spontaneous, wild types at home.
    Deirdre: Why do so many women go hoochie with it, though? "Sexy" kittens and Playboy bunnies. How obvious is the "touch me" message? And guys, how many men besides you have taken them up on it?

    Readers, what are your ideas for costumes and their hidden meanings?

    Monday, October 29, 2007

    'Crazy in love' taken to a new level

    Yesterday afternoon a friend and I watched an unnerving documentary, "Crazy Love" (released on DVD couple weeks ago).

    It's about Burt Pugach and Linda Riss, a couple whose story started when they met in the '50s. Burt spotted the lovely Linda and decided instantly he had to have her. The two dated for years, and when Linda finally spurned him (I won't tell you why, but she was well within her rights), Burt went over the edge. He did something horrible to her (I won't tell you what, but it was despicable), and for it, he spent almost two decades in prison. When he got out he was as obsessively in love with Linda as ever, and continued to try to win her over.

    HE DID. They married. They're still together.

    My friend and I spent most of the documentary shaking our heads in wonder. "Uh, I'm OK not dating right now," I murmured as the story took its dark turn. Singlehood never seemed so ... safe.

    The unsettling fact is that you really don't know who you're getting involved with when you start seeing someone. We all take a chance when we let someone new into our lives. Much of the time we're lucky, but in some cases, what begins as love mutates into something more sinister.

    Also at the heart of the documentary is the knowledge that relationships work because the people involved are getting what they need out of it. What may seem kooky and ill-advised to us on the outside looking in may be perfectly natural and necessary to the folks who live it every day.

    Ugh. The story of Burt Pugach and Linda Riss is scary enough for me this Halloween season, thank you very much.

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    This company offers 'sex lessons'

    “Company bosses say giving their predominantly male employees lessons on the menopause and foreplay gives them a healthy sex life, which in turn makes them happy, productive workers.”

    Now that’s a statement you don’t hear every day when you’re at work, eh?

    An Australian coal mining company has decided to offer classes on, well, bottom line: Understanding women.

    My husband keeps chiding that one day he’s going wake up and he’ll know all there is to know about women, and then, all of a sudden, he'll die. If you don’t get the joke, ask a man to explain.

    But truth of the matter is, if the employees are expressing a desire to learn more about why their wife just might not be in the mood when experiencing hot flashes, then good for them. I’m glad to see this company -- albeit one that’s thousands of miles and two oceans away -- deems such lessons as important to the well-being of its workers.

    Not sure about your company, but The Charlotte Observer has a group of people who come up with ideas and ways to keep its employees healthy, such as weight-loss classes, a massage therapist, sessions on nutrition and yoga classes (all of which are not free before you think it).

    Suggesting the group looks into a class on sex, relationships and marriage sounds like a mighty fine idea. If men need to learn more about effective foreplay for their spouses, then women sure could use some tips on listening to their husbands. Um, so I hear.

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Speed dating: The straight story

    A reader sent me an e-mail after my recent post about a speed dating event I attended. I thought others might have the same questions, so I got her permission to answer her here. She wrote:

    "I've been trying to get friends to go speed dating with me, but it was a no-go. I'm 31, but I like men who are a little older than me. I'd love to know more about how much it cost, where it was held, was it weird being there with no wingman, and the types of questions you were asked."

    Let's get the basics out of the way. The event was $35 (it's usually in the $30-$45 range), and sponsored by I found out about the event -- held in a nice, public Charlotte wine bar -- from a friend, but you can find them easily enough with a Google search or through singles organizations.

    Now, onto the more interesting question of the wingman/wingwoman. I'd recommend going to a speed dating event alone. Why? A woman confidently striding solo into such an event is sexy, no? Plus, once you get started you'll be in one-on-one conversations with men, so whether you're there alone or with friends won't even matter. (If you're worried about your safety going it alone, you can always tell friends where you'll be and have set check-in times on your cell. But I can tell you I've never felt uncomfortable or threatened in any way.)

    The last time I went speed dating, a few years back in San Francisco, I was with two girlfriends. I found if you're with someone you know, you tend to stick together and avoid meeting other people. Last week, I had such a good time laughing and exchanging stories with some of the women that we wound up swapping phone numbers. New friendships may develop!

    And something important to think about if you go with a wingwoman or two: there's a good chance participating men will say "yes" to all of you. Then what do you do? I've known that to happen several times, and while no cat fights ensued, it did make things awkward.

    As for the questions I was asked, there were some basics pretty much everyone wanted to know: Had I ever been married, did I have kids and what did I do for a living. Because Charlotte natives are few and far between, I was often asked where I was from. Keep in mind some speed dating events have rules forbidding people to ask about careers or salaries (to keep people from discriminating against those in the "wrong" tax bracket, and to deter stalker-types by limiting information, I suppose), but there was no such restriction at my event. Each chat lasted about six minutes, and the conversations veered in all directions. For example, with one guy I talked about the first marathon I completed. A different man got the story of my first (and last) attempt at snow-skiing. With another I discussed my trip to Tokyo; with yet another I had a lively discussion about the most recent movies we'd seen and books we'd read. A couple guys told me the brief histories of their failed marriages; several discussed their kids; one dude was really into ballroom dancing and the lindy.

    In all, it was a fun time -- but then, I wasn't trying to discern my soulmate during six-minute conversations with strangers. What I'm saying is, don't put all your eggs in the speed dating basket, but use it as merely one of several ways you have of meeting dating possibilities. As one guy I briefly dated from my first speed dating experience put it: "I met nice people that night. But they were people I could've met anywhere."

    He was right. Such events are great for people who are shy, or who have been off the market for awhile, or who just want to work on their conversation and flirting skills. And there's always the possibility that you will have strong chemistry with someone and want to see them again.

    That brings me to what comes after the event. You say "yes" to people you genuinely want to see again. Don't pick them just to be nice or because you feel sorry for them; that's not fair to them and ultimately, it would be a waste of everyone's time. And if you get less "yeses" than you expect or a person you really liked doesn't respond to you, I know this will be hard, but DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Just because you're not what they're looking for doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It just means you're not what they're looking for. It's a hard lesson to learn -- in fact, I'm still learning it -- but it'll save you a lot of angst and therapy bills if you do.

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Adventures in speed dating

    I figured the meet-and-greet segment of my dating game could use some work, so I went speed dating the other night. I hadn't been in years. It's good practice, plus the age range was 35 to 48, and I was curious to see who would show up.

    The event was held at a wine bar, and when I rushed in, late, almost everyone was bellied up to the bar, buying liquid courage and checking each other out. The wine bar's other patrons watched us curiously, wondering what was going on. Once I cooled down and had a glass of wine in hand, I surveyed the scene. I was the only black chick there. Out of 22 participants -- 11 men and 11 women -- there was me and one Asian guy. I wasn't uncomfortable, but I was hoping there'd be more diversity. Also, I felt like a giantess. I think I was the tallest person in the bar. But those are my issues.

    Let me hit the high (low?) points of the speed dating itself. And by all means, e-mail me (just click my name there on the right) if you're considering speed dating and want to know more.

    Here's how the event worked: The women sat at tables and every six minutes (a bell would ring to signify the time), the men would get up and move to the next table. You're given a card so you can take notes on everyone you meet; I wrote stuff like, "ugly necklace," "really intense," "raunchy!!" "wife had mid-life crisis" and "nice, but no chemistry." You also decide if you want to see the person again, because after the event, you log onto the speed dating site and click "yes" or "no" next to their name. You then receive an e-mail when someone gives you a yes.

    The event was for ages 35-48, but listen, fortysomething guys -- if you want to date but are unclear about where to find women your age who aren't cougars, try speed dating. The women at this event were attractive, professional, intelligent, well-groomed without being hoochie (in fact, I fastened an extra button on my shirt so I wouldn't be the hoochie one) and they seemed to have their crap together. Also, I found out from the guys that several women were like me: no kids.

    • And fortysomething gals -- the men were polite, very nice and in search of serious relationships. Their clothes matched their shoes. None of them seemed outwardly crazy or stalkerish. The group included an accountant, a couple guys who worked for banks, a couple mechanics (I, for one, would love a mechanic. So handy!) and several techies (software, IT, sales). All could carry on a conversation and only a couple spent too much time talking about psycho ex-wives. Most had at least two kids.

    Here's the sad part: while there was a waiting-list for women (remember when I told you there's millions more of us?), not enough men signed up. The organizer had to bring in two guys from a younger group. The difference was startling. One of the younger dudes had his shirt unbuttoned way low (to show off his pelt of fluffy chest hair) and his first words were -- I kid you not -- "come here often?" The other, when I asked why he was there, responded, "to drink!" Niiiiice.

    Again, fortysomething men: YOU ARE MISSING OUT.

    After we finished, there was more mingling and chatting, but many rushed off to pick up kids and relieve babysitters. I rushed off because I felt like I'd just done 11 job interviews and was exhausted. I went home, logged onto the site and clicked "yes" next to only one guy's name. (One of the mechanics.)

    So I bet you're wondering if any of the guys clicked "yes" next my name. The wait was agonizing. I wasn't excited about any of them,
    but logical thought flew out the window. To get no "yeses" would be wonderful (Whew! We agreed there was no chemistry!) and horrible (What? None of them thought I was pretty or funny or charming?).

    Over the next couple of days, I got e-mails. Three said yes (the dude I picked wasn't among them). Yay! And boo!

    Oh, well. My meet-and-greet game is much tighter now.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    He said ‘I love you’ – after one week!

    A man and a woman meet for their first date. Sparks are flying. There’s a connection, something neither have felt in many months. He was in a new place, not exactly knowing where to look for women. She was busy with school and work, not exactly enough time to find a mate.

    The date was a hit. They part that evening, with 100 miles separating their lives, and they can’t get their minds off of each other. They talk every day on the phone and make plans to meet one week later.

    That date finally arrives and it’s a magical evening of dinner, a movie and holding hands.

    Then, out of nowhere, it happens. He says: I love you.

    Whoa, horsey … I love you? After one week? What? Are you kidding me? How does he know? One week! Are you talking to me (as she looks over her shoulder)?

    She feels strongly for this guy, but … wow … to utter that special phrase is a big step. You don’t just throw that around like it’s nothing, buddy. She’s taken aback, flattered at the same time. She manages to say she’s fallen for him but using the big ILY is moving just a tad fast.

    Two weeks later, she realizes this is the guy for her and it isn’t so hard to say. It felt right. It was meant to be. He just knew it before she did.

    Who says there’s a true timetable on using those three words?

    Besides, it only took Alisha three weeks, and her husband one.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    Long-distance love sure isn't easy

    Deirdre: You've written about how you and your husband often don't see each other because of conflicting schedules, but what if you hadn't seen each other because you lived far apart -- do you think you still would've gotten married?
    Alisha: He lived north of Greensboro when I first met him and I went to UNC Charlotte, so for three months, we did long-distance dating and it wasn't easy. If we had to date like that for years, gosh ... I don't know.
    Deirdre: I've never been in a long-distance relationship. I attempted the early stages once, but with the wrong guy. He was a wannabe player and couldn't be trusted. Who knows what he would've been doing when I wasn't around!
    Alisha: I admire anyone who has successfully pulled it off. It does require a lot of trust, tons of patience and a willingness to try phone sex.
    Deirdre: HA! You cut right to the heart of it -- how do couples last without a steady level of physical intimacy? I think it depends on their personalities. And sex drives.
    Alisha: Yeah, kissing the phone good night is not my idea of intimacy, though sometimes it is comforting to at least have someone who cares and can be there when you need to vent. It makes me wonder if some couples function better when there's distance rather than being on top of each other all the time.
    Deirdre: You just made me think of a former co-worker. She and her man were a great pair long-distance, but as soon as he moved to be with her, their relationship crumbled. When you're apart, there's mystery and romance. When you're together for an extended period of time, the flaws are inescapable.
    Alisha: So, is it really a relationship if you get together just a couple times a year?
    Deirdre: I think a relationship is whatever the people involved agree that it is. If couples feel their needs are met even though they only see each other once or twice a year, more power to 'em. You never know what's going on inside a relationship unless you're in it.
    Alisha: Amen to that. It's got to be challenging to maintain a marriage via e-mail, phone and trips home every couple of months. I'd like to see my husband take out the trash from 2,000 miles away!
    Deirdre: Well, that's just it -- you have to be comfortable living what's essentially an independent life. You have to have enough self-confidence and enough faith, love and trust in your partner to believe even though you're miles away, you're still crucial to each other.
    Alisha: There you have it, folks: If long distance works for you, congrats to you and yours. If it isn't, um, well, ever heard of online dating?

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Is love in the cards for me?

    So I was at the Renaissance Festival with some friends over the weekend. In between watching the jousting and the bellydancers, a couple of us stopped to visit a tarot card reader.

    I asked about my romantic possibilities, because isn't that, like, the psychic law? You ask about your love life and/or your professional life. After studying my palm and laying out the cards, the reader told me several interesting things. Most noteworthy: I had not yet met the love of my life, but he's coming. When I flat-out asked where he is, she replied that I'm looking for him in the wrong places. My guy is an "oddball" and "quirky" (doesn't surprise you either, does it?) and I have to change my location. When I told her I have no plans to leave Charlotte soon, she said I have to completely alter my strategy and start going to places I don't normally go to find a mate.

    Hmm. Many of these "experts" make their living off being able to read people, so whether this woman was for real or not could certainly be debated. And her advice was very common sense. If what you're doing isn't working, you have to try something else.

    Well, I'm going speed dating later this week; that's different. (And yes, I'll report back!) And on our way out of the Ren Fest a chick in wench garb incongruously handed me a flyer for an upcoming auto show. Ooh, was that a sign? Is my future beau a car fiend?

    Uh, I'm willing to try someplace different ... but only up to a point.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    An ad for adultery

    I was breezing through my e-mails when one of the newsletter roundups I receive stopped me cold. The topic: a billboard in Los Angeles that reads: "Life is short, have an affair."

    It's an ad for a dating site that caters to married people.

    WOW. Uh, aren't you supposed to stop dating after you get married?

    To me, this billboard is wrong on so many levels. Oh, I'm not saying the company should be forced to take it down. They paid for it, and it's on them if there's a backlash and they get no business from the ad. But c'mon -- this Web site is trying to make one of the crappiest things a person can do to another seem cool. Can you imagine driving along the freeway with your kid and they ask you about it? Who wants to have that conversation?

    Wouldn't it be interesting if someone put up an opposing billboard on the other side of the road? Maybe it could read something like ...

    -- Life is short ... why not admit the marriage isn't working and move on?

    -- Life is short ... why betray the one you love?

    -- Life is short ... especially when you give your spouse HIV after screwing some stranger you met on an adultery Web site.

    Readers, would this billboard bug you? Or are you about to go to the site and set up your first date?

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Trying to set up friends? Beware.

    We all have those special friends in our lives who are single for one reason or another.

    And every time you go out with them, you, as the happily-married person who wants your friend to experience the joy a relationship can provide, scan the room hunting for people who look like they have jobs, don't live at home with mom and aren't wearing a wedding band.

    And then it hits you that you have other single friends who have similar interests to this particular single friend, and Oh My Gosh! ... why not set them up? It's perfect. Both enjoy playing outdoor sports, reading Pat Conroy and listening to Rush, so they would naturally have to fall for each other. Right? Not necessarily.

    Have you ever really tried setting up two of your single friends on a date? I have once and it bombed. I thought I had matched them up perfectly based on their personalities, looks requirements and hobbies.

    Um ... where's that "Gong Show" bong when I need it?

    After the date was over, the not-so-happy couple called -- individually, of course -- to tell me: Alisha, it's the highest compliment to set up your friends because that shows you care and you know me well enough to try to find a suitable mate. So I appreciate you and your valiant effort. I do, I really do. But, Alisha, don't ever try setting me up again because that was the worst date I've ever been on.

    Maybe you've got a success story of setting up your friends?

    I sure hope so ... because I give up.

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Snuggle up and practice kissing

    Alisha: It's October and it's my favorite time of the year. One benefit of fall is cooler temperatures and that always makes me want to snuggle up to my husband and spend more time on the lost art of kissing.
    Deirdre: Aw, man, do you have to rub it in? It been far too long since I've been kissed!
    Alisha: That's a shame, because kissing is such a passionate endeavor. But, I do have to say, there are some guys who don't have a clue what they're doing. If I wanted my tonsils cleaned, I'd surely ask first.
    Deirdre: I know, right? They don't even do that for you at the dentist's! But it's about more than technique. A friend of mine is dating a guy who's a great kisser, but she isn't turned on by him at all.
    Alisha: That's a tough situation because anyone who really knows how to kiss well, they're a keeper. Some folks treat kissing as an appetizer to the main course, when they don't realize truly good kissing - when there's a connection - can be a full meal.
    Deirdre: So true! When I was younger, I had some hot makeout sessions with guys in clubs ... and then we went our separate ways. Sometimes, great kisses really are enough to hold you over.
    Alisha: Ahhh, the prelude to the kiss, you know, that time right before your lips touch and you feel each other's hot breath.
    Deirdre: And maybe they tease you a little and your lips don't actually touch, but they're soooooo close ...
    Alisha: I told a guy friend that kissing is a lost art. You want to know his response? "All women say that." I was taken aback. Surely women aren't the only ones interested in kissing?
    Deirdre: Bet you 5 bucks your friend's woman would say his kissing skills need work. People who enjoy the sensuality of intimacy -- the touching, the holding, not just the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am -- know kissing is integral.
    Alisha: That might be true, but I'd think it'd be difficult to tell someone he or she needs improvement if they're not willing to hone their skills. One thing I was thinking about: What about kissing when you get married. Is it appropriate to french kiss or should the happy couple just give a peck and move on?
    Deirdre: I think whatever the couple is feeling in that moment is appropriate -- including french kisses -- as long as the new hubby doesn't make a boob grab or something. Save that for the honeymoon.
    Alisha: It depends on the place of the wedding. Not sure I'd find it appropriate if a couple were french kissing in a formal and very religious wedding. Now, if y'all are in Vegas, let the tongue tussling commence!
    Deirdre: Good point! But back to what you were saying about telling someone they need improvement -- isn't showing better than telling? Or were you thinking tell them if they just don't seem to get what your lips are saying?
    Alisha: Everyone learns differently, so I'd think it depends on the person whether you need to keep kissing so they'll learn, or whether you should write out explicit directions. Maybe there's hope for born-again kissers out there?
    Deirdre: Hey, there's always hope for those willing to learn. And practice is so much fun!

    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Are you a 'pet parent'?

    The other night I came home late from a long work shift. As I pulled into my driveway I remembered: I was out of cat food and forgot to buy some.


    Screw it, I thought. I'm not going back out. As usual, my cat Jezebel was right there at the door to greet me and demand her dinner. I weaved and dodged her as I went for the food container and emptied the dregs -- pellets and crumbly fragments -- into her bowl. Jez took a sniff, then looked up, meowing. Clearly, she still expected dinner.

    "That's it. That's all you get tonight. Eat up," I announced, then headed upstairs, turning out all the lights. Then I sat in the dark, holding my breath and listening for the crunch of her chowing down. Silence. I risked a peek into the hallway and there she was, walking toward me. Pitiful meows. I went down and tried to talk her into eating. She walked away and plopped down dramatically in the middle of the floor, looking up at me with sad eyes.


    I trudged upstairs, put my shoes back on and grabbed my wallet. I explained to Jezebel that I would be right back, I was only going to get her some dinner. Then I went to the nearest open gas station and bought her some overpriced tuna.

    I recently wrote about relationship trends, and one of them was "pet parents": people who treat their pets as if they were their children. Now, I don't carry Jez around in a purse or dress her up in stupid outfits (have you ever noticed how dogs usually don't seem to care, but cats always have this trapped, "call the SPCA" look in their eyes? It's because cats know stupid outfits are very very WRONG). But I do kiss her and rub my face against her belly while making silly noises, and I talk to her all the time, expecting an answer. I squeal when I see cute toys and buy them for her. When my mother and grandmother call and get the machine, they often coo at Jez, telling her to let "mommy" know they called. And I never make her move, not even when she has stretched her sleeping length across the bed and I'm in some convoluted, cramp-inducing position to accommodate her, or when she's curled up on top of me and I have to go to the bathroom or I'm hungry or the phone is ringing, because she's just so damned cute.

    And I go out in the middle of the night to buy tuna fish because she won't eat what she has.

    Some of you are nodding in recognition, I just know it. Let's have it, you pet parents (and enablers) out there: what will you do for a furry loved one?

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    Married couples, single folks can be friends

    Scene: Two women are shopping at Carolina Place Mall on a Saturday afternoon. Both are in their late 20s and have been friends since college. One is getting married in a couple months to her high school sweetheart. The other is hopelessly single, but has received two winks on in the past week! We listen in on their conversation as the iced lattes are finished off and Macy’s is the next stop.

    Woman 1: Once you get married, won’t you drop all of your single friends because they won’t understand and you’ll run out of things, like, to talk about?
    Woman 2: Um, no. It’s not like that at all. Why would I stop hanging out with you?
    Woman 1: Maybe because being a third wheel is not my idea of a good time?!
    Woman 2: You know how John and I are, we love our friends, and there’s always room in our friendship for the single as well as married ones.
    Woman 1: I don’t know … just seems like we won’t be able to go to BAR Charlotte anymore or go cruising down Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. Instead, we’ll resort to talking about ya’ll buying a house, planning for a family and going to brunches instead of bars. All that married stuff.
    Woman 2: Girlfriend, hold off on the kid talk – you’re moving a little fast. Just because my priority is my soon-to-be husband and you might not fully understand the fact he doesn’t ever replace the empty toilet roll with a new roll -- it must be a guy thing -- does not mean we cannot hang out.
    Woman 1: I guess you’re right. I just hope it won't be awkward.
    Woman 2: Seems silly for married people to say "I do" to your spouse and "sayonara" to your friends just because they’re single.
    Woman 1: If you say so. We’ll see.
    Woman 2: We will … Whoa! Check it out; Macy’s has a sale on diamonds. Maybe John can upgrade my diamond for our fifth wedding anniversary?
    Woman 1: You just got your engagement ring! Aren't you moving a little fast?

    Note: The conversation and women are fictional, the problem being discussed is not.

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Singles, let's help each other

    I hear it all the time: there's nothing to do in Charlotte. It's hard to meet people in Charlotte. Where can I go to meet someone my own age in Charlotte? And so on, and so on, and so on.

    If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I try to think proactively about the dating process, rather than just whine and moan about how bad it is. So here's what we're gonna do: we're gonna use this blog as a dating resource. Every now and then I'll share some places and hopefully, you'll share some as well. We'll form our own singles community, and help up each other's game.

    OK, I'll start. I recently went to an event hosted by Club Blume, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center's social group for twenty-and-thirtysomethings who have an interest in the arts. It was a free screening of the original "Ocean's 11," starring Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack, followed by wine and yummy munchies, then a screening of the "Ocean's 11" remake with Brad Pitt and George Clooney. The turnout was so-so, but I think it depends on the event; newcomer reporter Leigh Dyer went the night they screened '80s faves "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" and the place was packed. (BTW, Leigh often mentions events for single newcomers on her blog, New Around Town, so it's a good resource as well.) Club Blume offers pre-show mixers, discounted tickets and more. In addition, the Blumenthal has Out on the Town, a gay and lesbian social club.

    I'm really gonna frontload this sharing process by including some singles stuff from our new Living Here magazine, which was in newspapers yesterday. (It's all online, too.) Here's a list of organizations for singles and places to meet singles. Here's a column by Denise Renfro, a single staffer who has more good advice. And here are Paid to Party columnist Tonya Jameson's nightlife suggestions of cool places to par-tay. If you can't meet folks by going to any of these places, we really need to talk about your strategy.

    Alright, readers, your turn. Been anyplace recently that was either A) super-fun, B) loaded with hot single people, or C) both? Do share!

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Couples sleeping in separate beds

    Deirdre: I saw an interesting comment on your last post. The reader said he and his wife have separate beds because of their different sleep schedules and preferences.
    Alisha: A 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey found 23 percent of couples sleep in separate beds, bedrooms, or with someone on the couch, so I'm not surprised. Are you?
    Deirdre: Actually, yes. But I think what surprises me is 23 percent admit it. (Enlightening story about the topic here.) We've been well-conditioned in the U.S. to believe a happy relationship includes couples sleeping together, all snuggled up.
    Alisha: Yeah, I think people want to believe the Lucille and Desi days are far behind us when they're really not. And why wouldn't you admit it? If your relationship is secure, and it's just a matter of one partner who snores too loudly or wants TV noise when you want dead silence, then why not fess up to the truth?
    Deirdre: Because of what it might signify -- if you sleep in separate beds, something must be "wrong." It's more acceptable now, but I still think it takes courage to admit to each other that one or both of you isn't getting quality sleep and that something has to be done.
    Alisha: Not sure I'd go too many weeks, heck days for that matter, getting little or no sleep and not speak up about it.
    Deirdre: Oh, I don't know. Sleeping with my last boyfriend was a challenge for both of us (he snored; I was always cold and he was always hot), but we still did it ... and often slept fitfully. Makes me wonder if it might've played a part in our breakup. With your conflicting schedules, how do you and your husband handle sleeping?
    Alisha: We sleep together, but we also have a king-sized bed. If we had anything smaller, I'm tellin' ya -- we'd have to look into separate beds. If you're miserable and tired, then that will surely affect the sex life.
    Deirdre: More than separate beds would, I'm sure! Honestly, I think sleeping separately could be good for a lagging sex life. When the person who used to sleep next to you is gone, I think you'd become more sensitive to their touch. Plus, if you're getting more sleep you might have more energy for foolin' around.
    Alisha: You can't go wrong with a more energetic sex life as a bona fide benefit to two beds.
    Deirdre: Ever notice how no matter what we're talking about, we usually wind up talking about sex? But I've gotta defend it. Physical intimacy is an important part of committed relationships. Get your rest so you'll be at your best!

    Monday, September 24, 2007

    When couples' work hours just don't jibe

    Your significant other leaves for work at 8 a.m. and returns home at 5 p.m. Your alarm goes off at 1 p.m., you’re at work by 4 and you walk in the door at midnight.

    To say scheduling some one-on-one time in your relationship is a tough task is putting it mildly. So how do couples reconcile incompatible work schedules?

    Let me tell you – it ain’t easy.

    My marriage operates on a whacked-out schedule; he works first shift and I work second. We often joke with friends that we’re like ships passing in the night. I come home and he’s asleep, he wakes up and I’m asleep.

    We try to make it work because of a few lessons we’ve learned along the way:

    1. Make the time you do spend together really count.
    2. It’s OK to say “I love you” by e-mail or notes left on the refrigerator. At least you know you’re on each other’s minds.
    3. It’s about give and take. Some times he goes to bed later or I wake up earlier so we can spend time together.

    Do you have any tried and true ways to weather opposing schedules in your relationship?

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    Trends: Late-breaking gays, Internet marrieds and more

    NPR junkie that I am, I was listening to "The Diane Rehm Show" on WFAE Tuesday morning. Diane had a particularly interesting guest, a guy named Mark Penn. He's a pollster who's best known for pegging "soccer moms" as a vital component of President Bill Clinton's '96 re-election campaign. (He's now Hillary Clinton's chief political adviser on her run for president.)

    Penn has co-authored what sounds like a cool book: "Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes." He hypothesizes that in today's splintered society there are all these social subsets that, even though they only make up about 1 percent of the population (that's about 3 million people), they wield a ton of power. A prime example: YouTubers.

    During the broadcast (you can listen to it here) Penn mentioned some fascinating microtrends in the realm of relationships.
    • Late-breaking gays: As you can probably guess, that's a group of people who come out as gay later in life, often after years of marriage and children. Penn puts the number around 2.5 million.

    • Internet marrieds: Almost 10 percent of people getting married met on the Internet. The wider range of choices people are exposed to online means traditional barriers have been broken down -- for example, interracial marriages have more than quadrupled.

    • Pet parents: People are getting married later in life, so many of them (along with empty nesters) have pets instead of children ... and they treat those pets as if they are their children, pampering them to the limit. (Don't we all know somebody like that?)

    • Sex-ratio singles: You're not just imagining it: there's a heckuva lot of single women out there. Penn said when he looked at the numbers, he saw several factors at play. When babies are born in the U.S. there are slightly more boys than girls. But by the time they reach their teens more boys have died due to car crashes, violence, drug overdoses, etc. Then when people declare themselves as homosexuals, gay men outnumber gay women 2-to-1. The result? There are about 9 million more straight women than there are straight men. It's a reverse of the Old West, when there were more men than women. Great.

    I guess this is as good a time as any to mention we're in the middle of Unmarried and Single Americans Week. Here are the staggering Census numbers; why we all don't just take over a city and have the best party ever, I'll never know.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Single men: Go to a wedding, now!

    Here’s a quick observation: If you’re a single man and you want to not only have a good time (open bar) but also be among hoards of single women, then you must attend a wedding.

    I spent the past week in Northern Virginia participating in all the parties, rehearsals and wedding hoopla a bridesmaid gets to take part in.

    The most glaring surprise was when it came time to throw the garter and bouquet. As the beautiful bride lined up to toss the flowers over her shoulder, there were at least 12 anxious women clamoring to get their hands on the bouquet. When it was the groom’s turn, only three single and almost reluctant men took part in the ceremonial tossing of the garter.

    Some might point out the single men didn’t want to participate because of embarrassment or they were too busy standing in line for the Sam Adams, or perhaps they didn't want to get trampled in the defensive line rush to snatch the garter. However, in a quick scan of the room, it became apparent there really weren’t that many single men in attendance. Most had dates or wives at their sides.

    I just don’t get it. If you’re a single man and you want a single woman, why aren’t you guys out buying suits, practicing your pickup lines and saying yes to those wedding RSVP cards?

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Breaking out of a relationship slump

    Alisha: The older I get, the more I realize life is about slumps and bouncing out of those periods of deterioration. Relationships are no different. Whether you've been married for one month and your sex life is lackluster or you've been dating for one year and you no longer get love notes, there are ways to break through. I'd define a relationship slump as a time when you're not feeling desired by your partner or you feel as though the passion has dissipated.

    What are your ideas to break through the doldrums of a slump?

    Deirdre: The first thing I'd recommend is to spend some time apart -- at least a week. I'd go so far as to say no phone calls or e-mails or texts, but if you're married with kids, that may not be possible. People often see things differently when they're away from the situation .... and absence really can make the heart grow fonder. But if that absence feels pretty damn good, then I think you know why you're in a slump. Maybe you shouldn't be together.
    Alisha: I'd suggest doing something to spice up the love life. Take photos of yourself in sexy lingerie. Get a hotel room for the night, even if it's two miles down the road. Go salsa dancing or to a club where you have to dance close.
    Deirdre: Our environment can contribute to the continuation of a slump, so I say change the scenery at the most basic of places: Your house. It could really up your mood. Paint a room a bold color. Rearrange the furniture. For the bedroom, splurge and buy really nice sheets. It'll make you feel decadent.
    Alisha: Interesting. Not sure I'd ever think about changing the ottoman out, but what could it hurt? If it's a particularly bad time, maybe it's worth going to a counselor because that bold of a move should raise flags the slump needs to end soon.
    Deirdre: I also think couples should revisit their hopes and dreams, what they want to accomplish together. If their plans for the future differ, that's a signal something is very wrong.
    Alisha: Taking a vacation is one way to jump start those loving feelings again, and a way to at least momentarily leave behind the everyday routine. My husband and I went to the lake for a one-day getaway and it really worked wonders for us.
    Deirdre: This should light some sparks: read erotica aloud to each other. Or on a workday, pick out each other's underwear. What a turn-on it could be, knowing that under your clothes you're wearing what your lover chose for you ... Rowr.
    Alisha: Write a letter to your partner. Tell something you have never said outloud before or list every detail of how you fell in love. And no e-mail. A real letter.
    Deirdre: Yes! And mail it! It's so nice to get something in the mailbox besides a bill. And I say revel in the senses. Get a couple's massage. Go shopping together for perfume and cologne. Blindfold your partner and feed them, a la "9 1/2 Weeks." (And if you've never seen it, rent it and watch it together!)
    Alisha: Try cooking dinner together and keep the TV, the crackberry, the Internet and the cellphones turned off. And strive to keep the relationship exciting!

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    A dating disappointment

    A friend recently met a guy she'd talked to on an online dating site. When she told me and some other pals this story, she prefaced it, just as I'm doing now, with an important detail: she has recent photos on her online profile. Full-body shots are included. So there's not much of a chance this guy had any illusions about her appearance.

    Now, the date. He was the first to arrive, so he was waiting when my friend walked in. "And when he saw me he had this look ..." She rolled eyes toward the heavens, then looked away and let out an exasperated sigh. We listeners simultaneously groaned in sympathy and horror. "It was a look like he was disappointed in what he saw. He couldn't hide it."

    This friend of mine is smart, funny and beautiful. She looks 15 years younger than her age. And yeah, she's a big girl; not hugely overweight, but no tiny thing, either. But look around. There are a lot of big girls -- the average American woman wears a size 14 -- plus, she didn't hide her size in her profile, but instead put it out there for all possible suitors to see.

    Frankly, I don't know if I could have gone through with the date if I'd seen a look of disgust on the guy I was meeting. However, my friend made a decision. "I guess it was my revenge," she said. "I went in there and I totally turned on the charm." They drank beers and talked for two hours. My friend demonstrated his body language for much of the conversation: sitting as far back as he could with one arm thrown over the back of the seat, legs crossed and his body angled to the side, away from her. Oy. But ... the conversation was interesting, and "I kept making him laugh," my friend explained. "Every now and then I would make him burst out laughing and he would suddenly get this look like, 'oh, wait, it's the fat girl.' "

    Rather than be mortified by the incident, my friend thought it was funny. I was outraged on her behalf. He saw her photos -- did he expect her to have miraculously lost 30 pounds before they met? If he could have concentrated on the fact he had a really good time, instead of the fact that she didn't look like a Pussycat Doll, maybe the two of them could have become friends. The thing about friends? They usually have other friends. Single and available friends. But no: After the meeting she sent the guy a noncommittal note, thanking him for the good conversation. His response? Something along the lines of, "yes, it was great conversation, but you have to admit there was no spark." I have to give him points for writing back. I think we all know people who wouldn't have responded at all.

    I commended my friend for not letting the experience make her bitter, or timid about dating. May we all have such fortitude!

    Friday, August 31, 2007

    You get mad. Where do you go?

    Well, me and my lady had our first big fight/So I drove around 'till I saw the neon lights/Of a corner bar, it just seemed right, so I pulled up… -- "The Good Stuff" by Kenny Chesney

    You can always find some life lessons buried in country music, in-between momma, trains, trucks, prisons or gettin’ drunk (thanks, David Allan Coe).

    One such example is Kenny Chesney’s "The Good Stuff." The opening lyrics talk about a husband who gets into a fight with his wife for the first time. He then escapes to a bar where the bartender reminds him of all the hidden jewels a marriage provides.

    Let’s face it: Even the strongest relationships endure arguments. Some are minuscule, many are pointless and a few kick off days of silence and separation.

    So, how do you handle the aftermath of a big argument?

    Every couple seems to confront them differently. Are you the one who spends the night on the couch? Do you follow the old adage "never go to bed angry," and you resolve all issues before falling asleep? Are you apt to write down your issues and then share them with your partner? Maybe you both drop the squabble and pick it up days later so you can discuss differences with level heads?

    My husband is the type who needs to leave the room for some time to cool off and then we can continue our discussion. I’m the type who, when really frustrated, will get in the car and drive for 20 minutes with the windows down just to gather my thoughts.

    No matter how you handle big fights -- because there definitely is no right or wrong answer here -- the key is to dig deep and remember all "The Good Stuff."

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    Why we want the taken ones

    I met up with friends at a sports bar Saturday afternoon. I noticed in the room next door a group of men sat gathered 'round a table. Had to be at least a dozen. Curious, I snagged a cute waiter and asked him what was going on. Turns out the group was engrossed in a fantasy football draft. Spreadsheets and stuff spread all over the place.

    Every now and then the group would take a break and some of the men would wander into our part of the bar. One guy in particular caught my eye. He was tall and fit, with salt-and-pepper hair, slightly craggy good looks and an easy grace about him. After he'd strolled by a couple times I decided to talk to him, invite him to join me and my friends for a chat. I was working up the nerve as he passed again, and that's when I saw it -- the glint of gold on his left hand.

    Married. Damn.

    You know what I said in my last entry about not getting involved with married men? I stand by it ... but that doesn't mean I wasn't cracking jokes with my friends, wondering aloud if that lovely man was happily married, and pondering slipping him my number in case he and his wife had problems. Oh, yes, we singles say things like that. Some are like me -- we talk a big game with friends, but would never actually follow through. But watch out, smugly marrieds, because some of us do follow through.

    You know what makes married people so attractive? Their security. They already have a mate, so they're not stressin' over dates or "does she really like me?" or "why isn't he calling me?" or any of that stuff most single-and-mingling folks do. There's a self-confidence that comes with being off the market, knowing you've got somebody at home, or someone beside you. Think about it -- how many times have you heard people say once they're in a relationship, that's when they start getting hit on left and right? Or that just when they stopped caring, that's when Mr. or Ms. Right came along? I think there's something to be said for the "air of desperation"; people really can sense it. But just as desperation is a big turn-off, confidence and self-possession are a big turn-on.

    You don't have to be married to cultivate such attributes; I think you just have to know what you want, be comfortable with yourself and be OK with being single. Because the second you decide you HAVE to have someone, you're desperate, and we can smell it all over you.

    Ah, but when you do cultivate those qualities, people will start checking out your left ring finger for that tell-tale glint of a wedding band. Imagine how excited they'll be when they find it bare!

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Best (or worst) breakup excuses

    It’s time for some Thursday levity.

    What’s the best (or worst in most cases) breakup excuse you’ve received?

    There’s always the: “It’s not you, it’s me” speech, or the “I love you so much I just think it’s best we’re not together” sad song. And let’s not leave out a classic: “We’re better off as friends.”

    Hopefully, after you get over your infuriation or possible disappointment, you can sit back and laugh at the absurdity of some of the excuses you’ve heard before.

    A friend of mine had to do just that recently -- “laugh or I’ll go insane” is how he put it. He said a girl recently broke up with him because she had too many distractions going on in her life. Her excuse for wanting to end the courtship: “I just want to lay low.”

    Oh dear! What does “laying low” truly mean, and do folks honestly think that's gonna fly as a reason to end a relationship?

    And for the sake of full disclosure, the worst excuse I heard was from a guy I dated for a month or so in college. He told me: “I’m way too poor for you, so I just don’t think this is going to work out.” Too poor. Yeah buddy. Next!

    So, let’s have it: Give us your lamest breakup excuse!

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    You're single. He's married. What do you do?

    I've put off writing this entry for awhile now. But I'm sitting here ... it's late ... I have my wine. I'm in the mood to talk about it.

    I was propositioned by a married man. We'd been on friendly terms and I knew there was a mutual admiration society going on. But you know how you think you know what's going on, and you think you're in control of a situation and then you suddenly realize not only are you NOT in control, but you've gotten in over your head? That's what happened to me. One minute we're joking, the next minute he's dead serious. He told me, in no uncertain terms, what he wanted to happen between us. Whatever you're imagining? That's probably what he asked me to do.

    And I almost said yes.

    Stay cool; nothing happened. But single people, can I get a witness? How many times have you started chatting with someone at a bar, in line at the grocery store, at a football game, anywhere -- and you're thinking, "wow, this is a really cool person and I think there could be something here" and then you glance down and see the wedding band? Or they casually say "yeah, my wife and I went there for vacation," or "my husband read that book and said it's awesome"? And you get that gut punch of disappointment, or you feel like a big ol' fool for not catching on sooner? Sucks, doesn't it?

    Or you find yourself in a situation like mine (and it's happened before, but I still didn't see it coming) where you're friendly with a married person you find attractive, but you know they're off limits ... and then, whoops, apparently they're not? What do you do?

    Me, I back the hell away. I don't share men. I'm no home-wrecker and I'm no time-filler for someone who's bored, or wants something "different." And to be honest, I believe in karma. How can I expect a man who'll be faithful to me if I'm willing to mess with some other woman's man? Then there's the mother of all reasons not to get involved with a married person: if they'll cheat to be with you, what makes you think they won't cheat on you to be with someone else?

    But my overarching reason to stay away: if you want a lasting relationship of your own, why waste time with someone who isn't available in every sense of the word?

    Oh, I know why. Being single can be lonely. It can seem hopeless and endless. Sometimes you think you can't bear another night alone in your bed. Or another day without a phone call or e-mail from someone saying they think you're the bee's knees. But more than likely, if a married person is filling those roles, they're doing it for themselves, not you. It's easy to romanticize, but bottom line, you're being used. (Heh. Makes me think of that Bill Withers song, "Use Me": I wanna spread the news that if it feels this good getting used/Oh you just keep on using me until you use me up. You're no help, Bill.)

    Look, I'm not here to judge. If you're living an R. Kelly song, hiding in a closet when someone's spouse comes home, well, that's your business. Duck, run fast and don't forget your underwear. But to the single people out there like me who want love and monogamy and domesticity and all that stuff, I say: hang in there and keep your eye on the prize. Tell married and sexy to go home to their better half. You deserve more.