Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reese and Ryan -- saw that one coming

Well, another celeb marriage goes kaput. This time it's Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe, married for seven years and parents to Ava, 7, and Deacon (great name!), 3.

I've watched them from the beginning with interest, hoping they would make it, thinking they would probably not. They married young -- he was 25, she was 23 -- and when both were Hot Young Things in Hollywood. Only thing is, where Reese's career soared, Ryan's just kinda ... puttered along. We'll never know what really went on in their relationship, but to me, the biggest give-aways were their appearances over the years. In most photos (like this one --and it's his night, the premiere of "Flags of Our Fathers"), Reese was always composed but Ryan usually just looked stank, like he didn't want to be there, and he wasn't gonna smile if he didn't want to, and get the stupid cameras outta his face, especially since you only want to photograph his wife, right?

Anyway, I can't help but think of this in the form of the US Weekly feature, "Stars -- they're just like us!"

"He drinks too much and does inappropriate things!" (Ryan got smashed at this year's Golden Globes and gave Reese such a hard congratulatory slap on the back when she won for her role in "Walk the Line," he almost knocked her over.)

"She's a control freak who has to have things just so!" (Her production company? It's called Type A Films.)

"He's jealous of her success!" (The aforementioned bad attitude and surliness in public.)

"They married young and grew apart!" (Several reports mentioned recent bad rows in public -- uncharacteristic for la Reese.)

"They tried to work it out for the children!" (In fact, I bet she hung in there an extra year, out of pure stubbornness.)

I don't doubt that they'll both have solid careers after this mess. But my prediction? We'll see Ryan carousing it up with other single guy pals in the mags, while Reese will take the high road and be photographed lunching with lady friends and playing with her kids -- and she'll focus like mad on her career.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Charlotte's not that bad, people!

The Charlotte.com world was abuzz this week with lots of party/date-y talk, thanks to blogs by Paid to Party's Tonya Jameson (take a look at the comments) and New Around Town's Leigh Dyer (these too, while you're at it). Most of the talk centered around the fact that many respondents believe Charlotte sucks when it comes to the nightlife scene, and it's really hard to make friends here.

Alisha: Unless you're living in Podunk, N.C., night life and dating activities are what you make of them. It's ludicrous to think there isn't enough to do in Charlotte.
Deirdre: Amen to that! I moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area and was pleasantly surprised at what Charlotte has to offer. Sure, it's no San Francisco, but it ain't Podunk, either.
Alisha: The diversity of activities is here. Folks just need to be more creative when coming up with ideas for dates. There's more to do than the blah dinner and blah movie.
Deirdre: I think one's attitude is critical. It's easy to complain about the scene here; I've been known to do it myself. But unless you believe in reincarnation, we only have one life. If you aren't enjoying life the way it is, change it. Whether that means trying different places here or moving to a new city altogether, ultimately, you are responsible for your own social life.
Alisha: Yep, the onus is definitely on each person. If you want to be a couch potato, fine -- just don't say there's nothing to do in Charlotte because your perspective is only seen through your living room window. It takes imagination and an open mind to fill your spare time in this city. Why not pack a picnic lunch and meet your spouse or best friend at Marshall Park in uptown? Or break out of your comfort zone and go to a concert of a group that you have never even heard of.
Deirdre: Someone on Leigh's blog made an interesting comment: "Charlotte sounds like the very start of a new country, like New York was for many of our grandparents and parents going to Ellis Island." I say why not take advantage of that? Embrace the chance to learn from and enjoy people of various cultures, not alienate yourself from them. The world is becoming a smaller place.
Alisha: And this region is a great place to explore if you put your mind to it, and you open up your schedule. People act like Charlotte is in the country. You haven't seen the country if you think this is it. It's Charlotte, not Mayberry.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Our personal dating styles

I've read the comments on our post about online dating, and they highlight what I think should never be forgotten when we singles try to meet perspective mates: everyone has their own dating style, and we all have to do what's best for us as individuals.

Dating - especially when you're looking for a partner, and not just a good time - is hard. It's a commitment that takes a lot of energy and a willingness to open yourself up to new people and experiences. The search for a mate requires a level of emotional vulnerability that one can't take for granted, or take lightly. Whatever a person can do to make the experience more comfortable and less stressful, I say go for it.

I've dated guys I met on dance floors, in bars and through friends. I've dated co-workers, childhood friends all grown up, men I've met through speed-dating and dudes from the gym. I know a couple who "met" in a one-night-stand, a couple who clicked in a recovery group, and people who met online, on vacation, at the opera, in strip clubs and while swing dancing.

My point? In every situation just mentioned, two people met and there was a spark. Maybe the spark sputtered after a while, maybe it's now a fire that's still going strong. But most importantly, in that moment, both people decided to take a chance.

It doesn't matter where you choose to look for someone. It only matters how you feel when you're looking - I hope that's open, accessible, intrigued and ready, not inhibited, scared, disenchanted and desperate. Whatever dating method works best for you is the method that will give you the best advantage. If you're more comfortable with online dating, then that's where you'll shine. If you love whitewater rafting and that cute excursion leader has been giving you the eye, go for it! If you've recovered from a divorce and your best friend keeps talking about a chick at work who might be perfect for you, let him set you up.

We singles often hear dating is a numbers game, but I don't believe that's necessarily the case. I think that if you find the dating style that works for you (and that might involve a few bad dates, but those always make great drinking stories later), eventually you'll find the best person for you as well.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We tussle over online dating

Deirdre: I've been sick, but I know I feel better because I'm in the mood for a good fight. You ready to debate online dating?
Alisha: (Ringing the bell) Let's get it on! And it's about time, Deirdre.
Deirdre: Hmpf. Anyway, while I believe online dating would be a positive thing for some people -- say, the really shy/introverted who need to work on people skills, or folks who live in isolated areas -- on the whole, I am against the practice.
Alisha: Why? Online dating is safe. It's practical. It's free. It provides a safety net.
Deirdre: Online dating is NOT safe. It's that false sense of security that can get people in trouble. Online dating is NOT practical. Think of the hours people spend weeding out "matches" that are really nothing more than random names. Online dating is NOT free. Memberships to most services have fees. Online dating does NOT provide a safety net. Instead, it provides a thick curtain of anonymity for people to hide behind while they lie, cheat and steal.
Alisha: Does online dating scare you or do you think it's just a bad way to connect with a potential partner?
Deirdre: I'm not scared of it -- I don't trust it. In general, it saddens me that this is the direction our society is heading in when it comes to starting and building relationships. I'm not stupid -- I know online dating is here to stay, and I know some people are having success with it.
Alisha: I would much rather get to know a person through months of correspondence than to run into some stranger at a bar. Online dating also gives people confidence. You can chat with someone you likely would never approach in public.
Deirdre: The two main aspects that put me off online dating: 1) I believe in using all of your senses when sussing out if someone is a potential mate. That includes the sixth sense, if you will, where you get a vibe off another person. When you're online, you're restricted to what that person types. You can't see their eyes or read their body language or hear the way they say something. 2) The anonymity of online enables lying. Sure, people lie in person, but online, the lies come so much more fluidly, from little "10 pounds/5 years off" fibs to big whoppers, like people pretending they're of the oppposite sex.
Alisha: Online dating is the preliminary step to a relationship. You eventually will have to get up off of the couch and go out on a date. And, you're right -- there's nothing that can compare to body language and signals. As for the lying, that can happen whether you're online or not.
Deirdre: There's also a part of me that feels it's lazy. You could meet more dating possibilities if you spend less time on the computer and more time out among people.
Alisha: It's not about being lazy. Some people who were married for 30 years might suddenly find themselves single again after a divorce. Online dating is a great avenue for them because it's a way to ease back into the singles scene.
Deirdre: Or they could check out singles groups, or tell their friends to set them up, or join activity clubs that cater to older adventurers ... I think more and more people are looking to the Internet as their last hope, or their only hope. And that's just not the case.
Alisha: What if you're scared to ask for help or you're ashamed you're single? Online dating caters to that crowd.
Deirdre: But the majority of daters don't have to go online. I think it could turn from a curiosity-satisfier into a dating crutch.
Alisha: Online dating is just not as evil as you portray it.
Deirdre: It's not as evil as I portray it, but it's not Soulmate Central like all the commercials and ads portray it, either. That's all I'm sayin'.
Alisha: I don't doubt there are some happily married couples who gave online dating a chance. Speaking of chances, thanks for finally discussing why you think online dating is bad. I'm sure some folks will agree with you, and some will agree with me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Get this on record: I was wrong

I was wrong. I admit it. I screwed up.

Last week I was working overtime. I e-mailed my husband to ask if he would meet me for dinner. He replied to say he was too busy and he just couldn’t.

I pouted. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to eat dinner alone.

As my work day came to a close, I walked out the front door and there was my husband with a huge bouquet of autumn flowers! They were gorgeous, and I just melted. He was playing me the entire time. He wanted to surprise me and boy, did he ever.

So, he drove me to my car, and on the way, I dropped my keys on the floorboard and didn't realize it. We had decided to go to a nice restaurant – 30 minutes away – and I would meet him there. He drove off before I got to my car door. That's when I realized I didn’t have my keys.

I started to run after his car in my two-inch heels, the bouquet in my left hand, my purse and laptop clutched in my right. He must have had Metallica on full blast and the pedal to the metal, because he never saw me in his rear-view mirror.

To make matters worse, we don’t have cell phones. (I know, I know – everyone has a cell phone.) I was so upset. I went back into work, called the restaurant and left my number. He got there, called me back, and I had to give him the bad news.

When he finally got back to me, my frustration had turned into anger. I told him it was all his fault for leaving without checking to make sure I had gotten in the car, and for us not having cell phones, and for world hunger and the war in Iraq! (OK, not the last couple – but you get the point.)

I let my emotions overtake my desire to make the best out of the situation.

He realized I was frustrated and he didn’t say another word. I drove home wanting to put the blame for the night’s failure all on him.

I was wrong, and it took about two hours for me to realize it. Deep down, I didn’t mean to blame him for everything. There comes a time (or many times) when we have to admit we’re human and we overreact – or when we’re just plain wrong.

By the way: I apologized profusely and he now has this blog for proof. We ate together late that night at home, and my flowers are still alive to this day! A happy ending.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A not-so-practical license renewal

Let's start off the week with a light-hearted suggestion from a friend of a friend.

Here's her idea: "You know how once you get a driver's license, it expires and then you have to return to the DMV to renew the license? Why isn't there an expiration date on a marriage license? Couples should have to go through a renewal process every 10 years!"

My thoughts: While renewing your marriage license every 10 years sounds ideal and fun, three obstacles immediately come to mind.

1) The divorce rate likely could double because many couples would elect not to renew.

2) What would the equivalent of the eye exam and sign test be? A "honey, do this" check-off list and a reflex test for charge-card wrist?

And ...

3) Now you're relying on the guy to not only remember the anniversary date, but your marriage would really depend on his memory for the sake of the renewal. Uh-oh.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sick and single is fine by me

Sorry I've been out of the loop, but for the last week and a half I've been sick. (Two words: Stomach ailment. Trust me, that's all you want to know.)

And when I start paying attention to relationship goings-on again, what do I find? That goofy Runaway Bride in Georgia has sued her ex-fiance (I think she's just bitter because he dumped her crazy butt); Vince and Jen broke up (she was rebounding from Brad Pitt and Vince is probably better off without her); Madonna is in the process of adopting an African baby (????); and here in Charlotte we have a burgeoning swingers community (don't know what I'm talking about? You need to read Alisha's last post!)


Meanwhile, here at the McGruder homestead, I've spent most of my recent days in bed, curled in the fetal position. Which means I've had plenty of time to think -- and you know what kept popping into my mind?

Man, am I glad I live alone.

You'd think in a time of illness I'd want someone to take care of me, right? But it's been just the opposite. I'm glad I don't have a man here who has to handle my sour moods, my repeated doctor's visits, the general gnarliness of a stomach ailment. While I know that in marriage we vow to love each other "in sickness and in health," I'm glad I don't have a husband dealing with my fevered tossing and turning in bed, the crumpled and unglamorous "sick" pajamas, the unending bed head, the bland soup-and-saltines diet.

And ultimately, the aloneness has allowed me to concentrate on getting better, because I don't have to worry about anyone else. When I was at my worst, a close friend dropped off medicine and groceries, and when I got lonely, friends and family were only a phone call away. Also, my cat, Jezebel, has proven to be quite the sickbed companion. It's amazing how our pets pick up on when we need extra love; Jez has been by my side nonstop -- warm, purring and snuggled as close as she can get.

So now I'm on the road to recovery ... thanks to some concentrated "me" time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sex therapist: Four relationship trends in Charlotte

Every person has had a problem with a relationship, and if you haven’t, brace yourself because it’s bound to happen.

I was curious about what problems tend to affect Charlotte couples, so I sought out the advice of Lisa Terrell, a certified sex therapist, marital counselor and owner of Lydia’s Loom Counseling in Charlotte.

She has noted, below, four relational trends she’s encountered most often through her practice.

They’re quite interesting; two of them are almost a "no-duh" (Banker syndrome and affluent-za) while one surprises me a little (International flavor) because Charlotte doesn't feel like it's as diverse as Washington, D.C., or Atlanta.

Here's Terrell's four relational trends:

Banker syndrome
Individuals who work for one of the banks and are working so hard to facilitate their career that their personal relationships suffer. This could be singles, newly marrieds, and couples with children of all ages.

This may not just be special to Charlotte, but it's when a couple "has everything:" money, solid career, bright future, and yet they are unhappy together as a couple and with their lives as a whole. They think, "maybe we should split because we aren’t feeling it together; maybe there’s another person who will feel more exciting, etc."

The International Lifestyle Association asserts that 15 percent of couples in the U.S. have at some point incorporated swinging in their marriage. I have tried to find specific stats for Charlotte, but although there are many Web sites and groups for swingers I could not find hard data. I have seen a steady increase in couples or individuals seeking help. I moved here in 1999, and I did not get a swinging-related inquiry until 2003. Most recently, I am fielding one to two inquiries a month. This isn’t necessarily a scientific statistic, but it’s an indicator for me. Of course, I don’t come in contact with "swingers" seeking my services until something goes wrong.

20-30’s singles scene has a diverse international flavor
Young professionals are working here from all over the world.
CHOA (Charlotte Outdoor Adventures) is the place that people usually try at least once to check out the singles scene. Most singles or people who have recently been single have taken a trip through the CHOA activities.

Now Match.com and Eharmony.com are becoming mainstream with my single clients.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

We need more random acts of kindness

I went to the grocery store with a guy friend a couple weeks ago. He considers himself to be a solid 6, maybe creeping up to a 7, on the hotness scale. I bring up his looks because while we were in the store, a very hot brunette walked past us – I’m talking a 10+. She was carrying a bag of potato chips and a bottle of Merlot. As my friend and I are standing in line, he walks up beside the beautiful woman and says: “You know, I had chips and wine for lunch, and I can’t say I’d recommend it as much of a nutritional dinner.”

I thought the woman was going to rear back and slap him. On the contrary, she giggled and kept on till she could finally mutter a complete sentence. She thought it was cute, and my friend had just bravely approached a stranger without receiving any signals or eye contact. Their conversation ended with her telling him, “Have a great evening, and thanks for the kind words.”

Random acts of kindness or flirting – even if it is a cheesy pickup line that makes you laugh – are encouraged in my book. Every person wants to feel loved, appreciated and wanted – doesn’t matter if you’re single, married or divorced.

It’s a sweet gesture when someone goes out of his or her way to make you feel special. Who wouldn’t want to wear a permanent smile after someone was thoughtful enough to liven up your day? Even something as simple as a “hello” in the grocery store.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Real selling point of 'The Nine'

Spoiler alert: If you haven't seen the new ABC series "The Nine," but plan on catching a rerun of the pilot, you probably don't want to read this.

I just finished the premiere of the new series "The Nine," and I admit I wasn't going to watch it. Not only was I afraid it would be too much like the Spike Lee movie "Inside Man" (which starred my three favorite husbands -- Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Chiwetel Ejiofor, so you know I was in heaven), but I also have been trying to keep my new-series gathering to a minimum. However, I was sitting on my sofa, dabbing at tears of frustration about "Lost" -- will the Others ever leave those castaways alone? I mean, it's not their fault their plane cracked like a pinata in the sky -- and I didn't have the energy to change the channel.

What will probably keep me watching "The Nine" is not necessarily to find out what happened in the 52 hours the hostages were held in that bank. I want to know, of course, but the really fascinating part is how those 52 hours affected everyone -- hostages, hostage-takers, and the people outside who knew someone involved.

In the group of hostages, there's this total geek who received a new lease on life because of his split-second act of courage. I feel pretty sure there's a chance he'll leave his harridan of a wife, and you know what? Maybe it's time he did. The lone teenager in the group was so traumatized by the event, she's forgotten everything. Something seems to have transpired between the cop and the lawyer, and now they're looking at each other with achy longing. And there's the hot doctor and the hoochie bank teller (c'mon, did you see what she was wearing at the wake?) who had some kind of "moment" during the standoff, and now the doctor's girlfriend keeps looking at him with squinty-eyed suspicion. (Um, since there was some pseudo-pity sex between the doc and the hoochie bank teller at that wake, her instincts are correct.)

There's going to be a lot of looking at relationships with fresh perspectives, and a lot of "what am I really doing with my life?" introspection. I remembered that Sandra Bullock line from "Speed" where she tells Keanu Reeves that relationships that start under intense circumstances never last. This show will put that notion to the test, because the hostages, right now at least, seem determined to stay close. And, so far, "The Nine" seems to be setting itself up for some realistic portrayals of how people react in an intense crisis, and the lasting effects such a crisis can have. I'm hooked.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Celebrating 1st wedding anniversary

I love October. It’s my favorite month for several reasons: college basketball starts, the weather begs for jeans and a T-shirt, and it’s the month of my wedding anniversary.

I plan on writing more about my anniversary when the time draws closer because I’ve got plenty to share about my first year of marriage. (Hint: it’s a lot of hard work!)

But since the big day is a good three weeks away (Oct. 22), it’s time to think about how to celebrate. I have no idea what present to get or what plans to make. I mean, when you’re dating someone, you celebrate Day 37 by writing an “I love you” note or picking out a rose at the Harris Teeter. How do you express: hey, you put up with my snoring for a year, and goodness gracious, we’re not filing for divorce?! Yippee!

With some quick research, I discovered the first year’s traditional wedding anniversary gift is paper. Last I checked, my husband isn’t a big fan of origami, and writing him a love letter would be sweet, but wouldn’t an email be so much quicker?

I’d love to know what ideas you have: how should my husband and I celebrate, and what presents should we get each other?
Here’s a list of traditional as well as modern anniversary gifts.

Help me out by posting your ideas, and if I really like one, I hope you won’t mind if I use it?