Monday, March 31, 2008

Flirting: A refresher course

I was sipping my cocktail -- one of those "martinis" where the only thing martini-like about it is that it's served in a martini glass -- at a bar Saturday night when my friend announced, "I want to practice flirting."

Like many of us post-relationship, she's a little rusty on chatting up people in bars and clubs and such. So our night out turned into a fun little flirting workshop. And since she made some common mistakes, you get to benefit from her blunders.

Here's what out-of-practice flirters have to remember: Flirting is like dancing -- salsa dancing, really. When the girl steps back, the guy steps forward. When the guy moves back, the girl moves forward. It's a sexy push and pull, and you're working together. And women, this is the most important thing: while there are some fearless (or reckless, or clueless) men who will flirt with anyone at any time, most guys will wait and watch for some sign -- an invitation to dance, if you will -- that lets them know they won't be shot down if they approach. No one likes rejection.

Which brings me to my first lesson.

1. My friend claimed she was a master of the across-the-room flirt, which is mostly in the eyes. Look, look away, look back. I asked her what she did when the guy she was looking at finally came over. "I run away," she admitted.
The lesson here: "You have to commit," I told her. If you're using the sassy eyes on someone, you're telling them without words you're interested. People who do stuff like that, then bail, might be thought of as teases, and that could get you hurt. It's also rude. But more on this later.

2. Here's a snippet of our conversation:
Me: ... You have to watch body language. Remember the guy who was here next to me ordering a drink? His body language was open -- did you see how he was facing me, so all I had to do was --
Her: What guy?
Me: That really cute guy who was right here less than five minutes ago. He had positioned himself so that --
Her: What cute guy? I didn't even see him!
The lesson here: I think I say this in every blog about the dating scene, but that's because it's crucial: YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION. The father of my friend's children could have been standing next to me, and she missed him. You've got to be ON -- all the time really, if you're looking for a mate, but turn it up when there are a lot of available people milling around.

3. My friend set her sights on a man she wanted to practice on. He'd passed us earlier and when their eyes met, she smiled and he smiled back, holding her glance an extra beat. ("But he didn't stop!" she wailed. "You didn't help him!" I shot back. "He looked at you and all you had to do was say hi. You have to give him reason to stop." The dance, remember?)
In full wingwoman mode, when he passed us again I snagged him. In less than a minute he was sitting with us. But my friend had decided within the first couple of minutes she wasn't interested anymore. I wound up talking to him more than she did.
The lesson here: Back to lesson one: Commit, even if it's only three minutes before you use your escape strategy. You've done the work to get the dance going -- there's no graceful way out after only a couple of moves. I reminded my friend that she said she wanted to practice. You're not going to date every person you flirt with. OK, the person isn't who you thought they were going to be. Keep the stankface at bay and converse for a few minutes, then move on.

Another reason flirting is like dancing: you may step on a few toes in the beginning, but you become more proficient over time. My friend might have stumbled a bit, but at least she's back on the dance floor. You never learn if you never try.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I'm psyched for my reunion -- go figure

My 20-year class reunion is this year, and one of my best friends from high school got roped into tracking down members of our senior class. I called him to get the rundown.

Since I was hazy on the names he mentioned, we both went and got our yearbooks. We flipped through them as we talked.

"I feel like I should be drinking while doing this," he joked. No kidding. I was tempted to pour a glass of wine myself. The walk down memory lane dredged up memories good and bad.

I recall what I used to say in my early 20s about attending a class reunion. No way I would go back unless I was really skinny, and had an awesome job and a gorgeous man on my arm. I'd been a super-shy band geek in high school, and I thought I had something to prove. I skipped my 10-year reunion because I didn't want to shell out for the flight from California to Alabama -- plus I told myself I was still in touch with everyone I cared about from those days.

Now I'm within easy driving distance of a reunion, and my long talk with my friend made me excited about going. As I flipped through the color pictures of us smiling seniors, with bad haircuts, ugly glasses and goofy smiles, I found myself curious about how we all turned out. The guys I had crushes on -- would I still feel the same way, or wonder what drugs I was on? The people I thought were so cool and interesting, but I was afraid to talk to them -- would they be as interesting now?

And what would my former classmates think of me? I can't say I'm as concerned as I used to be. I'm not going to go on some crazy diet to lose 60 pounds by summer. I'm not going to lie about my job -- so what if I'm not a doctor/lawyer/media superstar -- and I'm totally comfortable going alone, and telling people I've never married.

I'm just going to be Deirdre ... because I like her just fine.

How about you guys? Did you go to your class reunions, or did you avoid them like Brussels sprouts? And why?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In right situation, cohabitation is way to go

I’m an advocate of cohabitation, and I speak from experience.

My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I met in January 2001 and in August 2002, we moved in to a two-bedroom apartment in Rock Hill. The decision made good sense at the time; we felt our relationship was aboard the train headed toward marriage, and it was a smart fiscal move because we were practically living together already, yet still maintaining two households.

We learned a lot from our time in our apartment, and now that we've been married for 2 1/2 years, we often look back on how it prepared us for a committed relationship.

For example, it's impossible to know your partner obsesses over the fact laundry cannot sit for more than 15 minutes once the machine is done, or that your future spouse cannot sleep without some type of background noise (preferably the TV), without having spent time living under the same roof.

It's like playing a preseason NFL schedule -- you can see the quality and potential of the players you've got out on the field, you've still got time to make some key adjustments, or a complete roster overhaul if necessary, and it's exhibition, so it goes in the record books but it doesn't affect the season.

I wouldn't suggest purchasing a home together if you're not fully committed to making the relationship longterm, but if the situation is ideal and you and your partner want to test the waters before taking the plunge, I do recommend cohabitation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bottom line: Marriage is hard work

A reader posed this question as a comment to a recent We Can Relate blog:
“What is the ‘work’ involved in a marriage, exactly? ... Getting along with someone, merging your finances, deciding who will clean the dishes or watch the kids? Doesn’t seem like all that much work to me. Sure seems easier than washing windows at the top of the Hearst building all day.” -- Female, 38 and single, Charlotte
It’s an excellent question, and one that deserves some discussion.

When anyone asks my opinion on matrimony, I often respond with “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s a lot of hard work.”

It’s cliché and it’s trite, but it’s the truth. The investment of time and commitment required are laden with much more responsibility than when you're single, and you won't fully understand until you tie the knot.

Any time you bring two people together, you’re going to have a clash of individuality meets conformity. As a single person, you only had to worry about numero uno. As a married person, your actions and decisions not only affect you, but they impact someone else – another person who also has his or her own motives, ideas and preferences. You don’t lose your individuality, but you gain someone else’s.

I’m sure there’s a variance of how hard a couple works at a marriage. Some will spend their entire relationship arguing and battling a Class VI river of life’s obstacles while others might bicker some, but will mostly float on down a lazy stream.

Is it a challenge? Yes. Does it require a job description? No - you just gotta wing it. But are the benefits good? Definitely.

We all know the old adage, “two heads are better than one,” but the hard work comes in when those heads don’t always agree.

Monday, March 17, 2008

'Don'ts' for husbands and for wives

I was flipping though the latest issue of Vanity Fair when an article about two books by Blanche Ebbutt, "Don'ts for Wives" and "Don'ts for Husbands," stopped me cold. The books, written in 1913, have been reissued by A. & C. Black, Ltd. in pocket-sized editions. ($4.95; available April 1, of all dates!)

I think they'd make fun gifts. What's interesting is how well some of the advice holds up -- it's hard to believe it's almost 100 years old! Some examples, courtesy of the article:

Don'ts for wives:

-- Don't let your husband wear a violet tie with grass-green socks. If he is unhappily devoid of the color sense, he must be forcibly restrained, but -- don't be sarcastic about your husband's taste in dress.
-- Don't let him have to search the house for you. Listen for his latchkey and meet him on the threshold.
-- Don't try to excite your husband's jealousy by flirting with other men. You may succeed better than you want to. It is like playing with tigers and edged tools and volcanoes all in one.

Don'ts for husbands:

-- Don't be surprised, or annoyed, or disappointed, to find, after treating your wife for years as a featherbrain, that you have made her one, and that she fails to rise to the occasion when you need her help.
-- Don't give up cricket, or football ... or whatever outdoor sport you have been accustomed to just because you are married. Athletics will keep you from becoming flabby.
-- Don't argue that a new hat isn't necessary because there is nothing visibly wrong with the one she is wearing. You probably have forgotten that this is its third season, but she hasn't.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What's your relationship status?

Have you ever stopped to think about where you are in your relationship?

It's easy to spout off if you're single or married -- those are pretty cut and dry descriptors. If you were to break it down to below-the-surface labels, how would you describe your current situation?

What if you're single and you know deep down you don't wish to ever get married?
What if you're married, truly unhappy and wishing you weren't attached?
What if you're dating and you're the happiest you've ever been?

These are questions that don't arise when talking about relationships in everyday conversation with friends and family. Most people ask if you are single or not. You answer yes or no, but rarely go into more detail. Sometimes the answer is too personal, and other times it's just no one's business. Either way, I find it important to take time to reflect on where you are in your relationship status, if not for anyone else's benefit but for your own.

If you feel inclined to share, tell us where you're at right now. The key is to be truthful. For the sake of full disclosure, I would describe my own marriage as, "We're very happy, but we're a work in progress." There are always things we can do to grow together as a couple.

Here are some possible scenarios:

  • Married - It's all a bed of roses and I'm blissfully happy
  • Married - I'm happy, but we're a work in progress
  • Married - We're on the rocks, and it ain't pretty
  • Separated - It's time to start anew
  • Divorced - Marriage sucked and it's just not worth it
  • Divorced - I'm hopeful I can find a new soul mate
  • Dating - Life is a supermarket and I'm having fun shopping
  • Dating - I've got someone and we're taking it slow
  • Dating - I'm serious with this person, but he/she isn't the one
  • Single - I can't picture myself committed to another person
  • Single - I'm ready to find someone, like, 10 minutes ago
  • Friday, March 14, 2008

    Sex is very unsexy to me right now

    In the past five days I've:

    -- Watched the Chinese movie "Lust, Caution,"which has gorgeous cinematography, fantastic acting and marvelous direction by Ang Lee (who directed "Brokeback Mountain." The man is a master of tortured love). It features a main couple who, for reasons too complex to get into here, have explicit sex in positions so convoluted, Chinese doctors warn against attempting any of them out of fear of bodily harm. I got hamstring cramps just watching.

    -- Read a story about how 1 in 4 U.S. teen girls has an STD. One in four. Good lord.

    -- Seen an episode of "Law & Order: SVU" that featured a 14-year-old boy who raped kids younger than him because he had seen so much sexual content on TV, he thought it was OK. I know it was fiction, but stuff like that really happens. The episode sapped all my energy. I just went to bed.

    -- Been bombarded by coverage of the Spitzer debacle and watched countless interviews with ex-hookers, madams, pimps, psychologists, police, men who've cheated, and women who've been cheated on. I've had conversations about leaving, staying, trusting, lying, hating, loving, setting deal breakers and just what can you get for $4,300, anyway?

    The final straw came as I was driving home last night and passed Uptown Cabaret. The parking lot of the "gentlemen's club" was overflowing. Dudes were out front selling drinks. "Ahhh, the guys in town for the ACC," I thought. But then I thought about the wives and girlfriends at home and wondered if they knew what their men were up to. And I thought about how people betray each other, and how sex is often the means they use to do so. And then I thought about ...

    You can see where this is going. I drove home with dark thoughts and a bad mood.

    Normally, I'm very pro-sex. Sex is great. I'm all for people enjoying the sex. Have as much sex as possible, I say. But sex isn't looking so hot right now. It's the source of a lot of drama and upheaval and hospital visits for people who don't heed the Chinese doctors' warnings.

    Celibacy has its perks.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Spitzer example brings out one's worst fears

    It was hard to miss the news yesterday: Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York, the former attorney general known as "Elliot Ness" and "Mr. Clean," is accused of shelling out big bucks for a high-priced call girl.

    We followed the case in the newsroom, of course. As I watched the governor's brief news conference I couldn't contain my disdain. "No way would I be up there with him!" I near-shouted as Silda Spitzer stood, eyes downcast, at her husband's side. I continued with a few choice words I can't repeat here -- enough for one of my co-workers to pause and look up at me. "Why are you so upset?" he asked.

    I opened my mouth to answer, but nothing came out. I couldn't encapsulate my feelings. But I've had some time to think about it, and here's why.

    Because the Spitzer scandal crystallizes my deepest fear: That I will entrust a man with my heart and build a life with him. And he will betray me.

    We don't know the ins and outs of Eliot and Silda Spitzer's 20-plus years together, nor should we. But this mess has made some aspects clear. The news that Eliot Spitzer might be a prostitution ring "john" came as a complete shock to those who know him. During the coverage I heard the couple described as having "a warm, loving relationship," "a real marriage, not a fake marriage." And yet, if the accusations are true, Spitzer spent thousands of dollars for sex ... and was a repeat customer. For a man with his reputation, this scandal is a spectacular act of self-destruction. His actions were not only enough to torpedo his marriage, but his career.

    is going on with him -- and judging from the dazed look on his wife's face at that news conference, he's kept her in the dark about it.

    That's what I fear.

    To me, marriage is a partnership of equals and best friends. While I wouldn't expect my husband to tell me every little thing in his mind, I would expect him to tell me if he is troubled, or if he has some need that is not being met in our relationship. The thought that my husband would, using the Spitzer example, pay for sex and then continue in our marriage ... I don't know what would hurt more -- the infidelity, or finding out something has gone so irreparably wrong that the infidelity is the outcome. To not be given the chance to fix the problem, or barring that, given the option to end on a respectful note.

    To not be trusted with the truth.

    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Study: Men + Housework = More sex

    Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco-area psychologist and author, said in a report released Thursday that equitable sharing of housework can lead to a happier marriage and more frequent sex.

    Read the Associated Press story here.

    For Heaven's sake! My response to Mr. Coleman's take is simply: Well, no crap, Sherlock.

    Does it really take a guy who spent years getting his Ph.D. in psychology to tell us that if two people are on the same level when it comes to doing household chores, caring for the children and maintaining a home that both partners might feel as though it's a true partnership, and will be more apt to express their appreciation for one another?

    I sure hope we're a smarter group than that.

    I'd like to see a report commissioned about how if women tell their husbands to watch football all weekend, then they're more likely to receive a bigger diamond for their anniversary!

    Sunday, March 02, 2008

    MTV's 'True Life' gets sexy

    I'd planned to go out Saturday, but after it took 20 minutes to get out of uptown Friday night (complete with dudes in the surrounding cars peering in, trying to get a good look at me), I decided I just didn't have the energy. So that's how I found myself on the couch, sipping a beer and watching an episode of the MTV series "True Life," this one entitled, "I Work in the Sex Industry."

    I've seen the "True Life" mini-documentaries before, and they've always been informative, if a bit shallow. Really, how much of a person's life can you cover when it's an hourlong episode and you're featuring three people? Still, I enjoyed the recent installment.

    Man, I thought I was having trouble with relationships! "I Work in the Sex Industry" features the relationship difficulties of a 22-year-old chick who works on the business side of porn (she can't get a boyfriend), a 23-year-old dude who says he's straight, but does gay porn for the money (he wants to tell his family what he does for a living), and a girl, 22, who parlayed her many sexcapades into fodder for a college radio show called "Sex on the Beach" (she has fallen in love and her co-host is afraid it'll ruin the show).

    My thoughts:

    The show serves as a reminder that sex is darned complicated. The girl from the business side of porn -- she does everything from file paperwork to scout for new "talent" to assist on movie shoots -- can't find a man comfortable with her career choice. Or, they're too comfortable and expect her to be a non-discriminating nympho. The chick who shares her sex life on the radio loses the man she's falling in love with because he can't accept her promiscuous past and is insecure about being a part of her monogamous future. And the porn star, well ...

    Guys who do gay porn and claim they're straight will never be believed. The porn actor's co-stars cracked me up, because they were looking at him like, "girl, please." I think human sexuality works on a sliding scale, from completely heterosexual on one end to completely homosexual on the other, so I also think it's possible for a man to have sex with other men and still prefer women for relationships. But I'm probably in the minority on that one. So I'll move on.

    When you're 22, anything seems possible, doesn't it? The decisions we make then affect the rest of our lives, and each of these people, in their own way, seem full of promise. I almost wish "True Life" would do a follow-up documentary about the lives of these three in 10 years ... but I guess then it would have to be on VH1, wouldn't it?