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.