Thursday, May 28, 2009

No thanks to the last word

When it comes to relationships -- with spouses and significant others, siblings and in-laws, friends and colleagues -- the best lesson I've learned is this:

No matter how good it makes you feel at that moment, having the last word during a disagreement rarely is worth it.

In fact, I can't think of a situation in which having the last word did me much good in terms of relationship-building.

With a spouse or a significant other, it just makes you look overcritical (or nagging). With a friend, you come off as petty and possibly non-supportive. With colleagues or your boss, you just might be lecturing a little too much (or challenging in a not-so-constructive way). And with an in-law? Just choose any words you utter very carefully, and then let the issue lie. Quickly.

But that's just my experience. What's the best relationship lesson you've learned and why?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sticker shock

This Memorial Day, I have to share a sad commentary on how clueless and callous some people can be.

I was in traffic, sitting at a red light, when noticed the car a little ahead of me in the next lane. It had a big sticker on the trunk in the shape of a yellow ribbon, the kind people have to show they support the troops. I saw this sticker had words on it, and inched forward so I could read it. Someone's name? I wondered. A military battalion?

My jaw dropped. Support Pimpin, the sticker said.

When the light changed, I sped up so I could see the driver of the car. He was young, attractive guy who looked to between 18 and 22.

I'm probably turning into a grumpy, middle-aged lady, but that sticker, and that guy, disgusted me. What got me the most was that he didn't even realize the message he was ultimately sending. He probably thought he was cool as hell with that sticker. Nevermind that it was an affront to people who use those stickers to show their support for the military, or breast cancer survivors or other important causes. Nevermind that he's either glorifying a practice where a man makes a living by brutalizing women and forcing them to sell their bodies, or he's abusing women by sleeping around with many of them and living off their largesse.

That's not cute.

That's not sexy.

And that's definitely not cool.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Becoming a joiner, for the kids

As I sit here on a brisk morning, my kids watching "Barbie: Diamond Castle" and eating a second breakfast of pretzel sticks because they can't yet play outside, I contemplate what I have become because of them.

Today, I am A Joiner.

Before kids, I was happy to have a small, family-like circle of friends -- we relied on each other, we entertained each other, we needed little else.

But now, with two pairs of inquisitive eyes watching my every move -- and two little minds mimicking most of it -- I feel the need to be a better role model when it comes to socializing.

When I was a kid, I was timid around most everyone but my family. Extracurricular activities were excruciating. It took me an entire play date (though, of course, they weren't called that then) to warm up. I was reserved (shy?) well into adulthood.

I'm determined to help my kids get past that awkwardness much earlier in life, because I can see they both thrive on interaction with others ... even when mom doesn't.

So I have Joined -- a group of women who meet weekly to discuss the challenges of parenthood. I have Networked -- coffee, lunch, dinner, you name it. I have Signed Up -- classes, lectures, performances.

I have met some wonderful people -- even if I've fretted in preparation for most every meeting.

And my kids are learning that home is safe. Home is where the heart is. But maximum fun can be found when you venture beyond these four walls.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Elizabeth Edwards -- whose story is it?

Why, the critics of Elizabeth Edwards ask, would she write about her husband's infidelity in her new memoir, "Resilience"? Why would she discuss it with Oprah Winfrey on national television?

They scold her: Hasn't John Edwards put you through enough? Do you have to put yourself through the wringer?

"People feel they have license to tell me how I should have reacted and responded," Edwards told The (Raleigh) News & Observer on Saturday when she held a book-signing at a local bookstore. "This story I'm telling is my own and no one else's, and no one can decide how I should tell it."

So let's try these possible explanations for her very public disclosures:

She needed catharsis. Months of rumors and denials and admissions have caused her immeasurable stress, emotional and physical. Telling her story could lift that from her shoulders.

She needed confession. The chance to describe how she felt and what she thought would, she hoped, put an end to some of the questions about how she has handled her relationship with her husband going forward.

She needed to move on, because she has incurable cancer and feeling rancor about John Edwards' affair with a campaign staffer would not allow her to enjoy every moment she has left of her life.

The story of John Edwards' affair was told -- and continues to be told -- in the most public of arenas in the most repetitive fashion (none of them particularly sensitive to his wife and their children). Elizabeth Edwards is correct -- it is her story to tell. Why shouldn't she have her chance, on her terms?

After all, she (tragically) will not have to live long with the sadness and hurt her husband's affair has caused her, her children, her family.

Only her husband will have the chance to heal that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Husband Hunting Bra? This is just wrong.

C'mon now. This wouldn't even work as a gag gift.

New from the Japanese company Triumph comes "support" for "the women who don't have everything: the 'Husband-Hunting Bra.' " Yep, it's a brassiere with a nuptial timepiece (above) that the wearer sets herself.

"First you decide your target time or deadline till marriage and the countdown clock will start. Once you find your life partner and get engaged, you have to insert the engagement ring into the slot and the clock stops and 'The Wedding March' begins," Keiko Masuda of Triumph told Reuters.


Like other countries, Japan's marriage rate is falling and the average wedding age -- now 28 -- is rising. Fifty-seven percent of women under age 34 are single, and Masuda said they've become more aggressive in their quest to find a mate. "The roles have switched completeley," he said.

And how is this bra supposed to help? As if the pressure to get to the alter wasn't enough, some chicks now need foundation garments to remind them their biological clocks are ticking? Ugh.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

N.C. city made a booty call list

The Web site, has released its top 10 cities for booty calls, aka "sex with no strings that always seems to have 'em anyway." The site is for people looking to "connect with like-minded singles for casually dating." (Uh, is this like the scandalous personals on Craigslist where people keep getting arrested for solicitation?)

I tried to look at the site here at work and the Observer's filter sent me to the FBI homepage -- that's what we get when a site is too naughty for the workplace. A bad (or good, considering how you look at it) sign. Here's the site's top 10 cities for April:

1. New York City
2. Los Angeles
3. Chicago
4. Houston
5. Atlanta
6. Philadelphia
7. Jacksonville, N.C.
8. San Diego
9. Columbus, Ohio
10. Dallas

My guess? Jacksonville made it because Camp Lejeune is within spitting distance. Lots of young guys rarin' to do what young guys do, and the ladies luuuuuv a man in uniform.

I have fond memories of Jacksonville. I used to live in Wilmington, and when a girlfriend came for a weekend visit we drove up to party with the Marines. She hooked up with a Marine who became her husband. A weekend of hot hotel sex led to marriage. They're still together. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's OK to say Happy Birthday to Me

For many years, a friend of mine did the most delightful thing: She planned a week's worth of events to celebrate her birthday every year and dubbed the whole thing her "Fest" as in, [YOUR NAME HERE]fest.

She didn't depend on anyone else to remember her birthday amid busy schedules, and she gave her friends a reason to do something fun every night of the week -- at least part of the time on her tab.

I loved it. I have a hard time keeping track of my birthday and remembering my husband's birthday, let alone the birthdays of friends. So she helped me make sure I lived it up every year on her behalf.

Problem was, some other people didn't appreciate her celebration of self. They saw it as taking the attention away from others who had birthdays in the same month. They discouraged her from engaging in her fest.

She was confused -- for years, her friends had looked forward to her weeklong party. But she toned it down, so as not to cause more controversy. Then she stopped altogether.

And I still think, how sad. Can't we throw a little party for ourselves without incurring criticism?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Colleague stuck in junior high?

In writing this post, I have to confess a guilty pleasure. I might be addicted to watching "Celebrity Apprentice" with Donald Trump. (When I admitted this to a group of colleagues, the reaction was a solid groan, so I'm a bit sensitive.)

The reason "Celebrity Apprentice" makes good fodder for We Can Relate can be explained in two words: Melissa Rivers. She, with the help of mom Joan, has made the show's "workplace" -- and I use that term loosely -- a veritable junior high school cafeteria. (Melissa has even described it that way, though she blamed the other players, of course.)

Melissa always was miserable when she was on the job because she thought everyone was out to get her -- she complained they were talking about her behind her back, excluding her from projects, disregarding her ideas. So everyone else was miserable when she was around.

Haven't you worked with someone like that before -- a colleague who made your job more work than it had to be?

It made me think of N., an amazing reporter and passionate writer who spent most of the time at the office complaining about our boss and, well, everyone she came in contact with. They all interfered with her ability to create the best stories she could -- edited too much, asked too many questions, demanded she make deadline, and on and on.

Truth was, N. was the one creating all the drama. But you couldn't tell her that. And you couldn't spend too much time entertaining her tales of woe, because then you couldn't get your own job done.

So you had to cut her off as diplomatically as possible, or avoid getting tangled in her grip of drama -- again, as diplomatically as possible.

But that would feed her claims of being persecuted, and you'd get caught up in a round of questioning about whether you were mad at her and what she had done to make you treat her so coldly.

N. still works at the same place, but the cast of characters has changed dramatically. So has her behavior and her attitude, from what I can gather. She's happy and productive.

Good thing her boss wasn't Donald Trump. He showed Melissa Rivers the door for such behavior.