Red Alert: 5 Ways Your Dating Life May Be Driving Your Friends Crazy
Originally published on SexReally.com on June 6, 2011.
Friends are forever, but we often put more attention toward romantic relationships. Maybe you found the perfect guy—handsome, smart, funny, and everything you hoped he would be. Or, maybe you haven’t found a partner yet, but you are having a fabulous time flitting from date to date, then dishing to your gal pals about every glorious moment. Maybe you are starting to notice that your girls are acting a bit odd every time you start chatting about romance. What’s going on? Why are they tuning you out? Isn’t the point of having a group of girlfriends that they listen to every story about your dating life? You may be committing one (or more!) of the 5 rookie mistakes of the romance-friendship balance. Read on and, if you realize you’re doing any of this, get back on track before it’s too late!
1. You drop your friends.
You are in love, with a capital “L”, and want to spend every waking moment with your significant other. You are so smitten that your calendar soon fills up with movie nights, reality-TV evenings, and romantic day trips. Your friends don’t even have a chance to respond to your dating life anymore because you aren’t around to tell them about it.
If this is you: The e-card above was popular when the first Sex and the City movie came out. I got such a chuckle out of it because it exactly described what I observed happening to some of the women in my life. The ones who had completely abandoned their friends didn’t have anyone to see the movie with when their husbands/boyfriends/fiancés wouldn’t go.
It’s hard not to get sucked into the Love Bubble*, especially if you are experiencing your first taste of a real relationship. But always, always remember your roots. It’s important to keep up with the people you had in your life BPC (before Prince Charming). For one thing, if your relationship blows up, you will need those people. Otherwise you will be without your guy and without your old group of friends because they moved on when you weren’t paying attention.
Even if the relationship is The One and you will be with this person Forever and Ever, it’s still incredibly important to have a variety of people in your life. Friends enrich your life, bring you fresh perspective, and keep you true to who you are.
*Love Bubble [luhv buhb-uh l] noun, Invisible force field around two people who are in love that keeps them focused only on each other. Signs include spending countless days/nights together, googly eyes, pet nicknames, and inside jokes.
How to get things back on track: Your friends are your friends for a reason. Chances are they are wonderful, kind people who will forgive and forget, especially if you acknowledge your mistakes. Depending on how much time has been spent away, it may take some effort to rebuild bridges, but get started right away. Invite one of them out for coffee. Spend an evening just chatting. And shut up about Prince Charming—ask your friend how she is doing.
Also, in the future, make time for your friendships even if you are in the best relationship of your life. You had people you cared about before your significant other came along and a couple hours apart are not going to kill either one of you. It actually might help your relationship!
2. You are always scouting.
You are out with your wonderful gal pals having a night on the town. Or, maybe you are doing something tame, like having brunch on the weekend. No matter the location, you are always looking around for people you’re attracted to. Now, there’s nothing wrong with checking out a little eye candy. If you are out and the group goal is to meet as many attractive people as possible, that’s one thing. But using your friends as a means to continually scout potential partners is not only rude, it can be extremely frustrating to the people you are out with.
If this is you: This was the case with a friend of mine. Every time we went out together, while she pretended to listen she was actually looking around for her next boyfriend. It went a little further than that—she would pick tables, events, and places to stand and talk based on the proximity of an available man. I didn’t pick up on it at first, but it became more and more obvious based on how she was dressed. When we were out she was all dolled up. On the trip back she would put her hair in a ponytail, put on her glasses, and actually make conversation with me. It’s as if she switched on and off her persona. It’s okay if you want to get all divalicious, then relax when the night comes to a close. But if you are becoming two separate people within the course of one evening, something is wrong.
How to get things back on track: If you are going out with your friends, go out with your friends. It’s okay to run into someone new along the way or start a conversation with an attractive person, but don’t use your friends as a means to meet other people because you are insecure. Go out, have a great time, listen to your friends, and become engaged with their lives. Confidence and actually having a life will always be sexy.
3. You talk non-stop about your significant other.
Your significant other is amazing. He does 100 cute things a day, and you want to list them one by one to anyone who will listen. Here’s the big news flash: no one really cares. Okay, that sounds harsh, and it isn’t 100% true. Your friends do care about your relationships and they do want to know what’s going on in your life. But they don’t want to know Every. Single. Detail. The only person who has that minutia level of interest in your daily relationship life is you. That doesn’t mean you have to keep mum all the time. It just means keep things in check.
If this is you: If you are happy, chances are your friends are happy for you. Every now and then it’s okay to gush about the latest romantic thing your partner did, or a funny story about his work. Remember, though, that the world doesn’t revolve around your relationship. Your friends have stories they want to tell, too.
How to get things back on track: Ask your friends questions. It’s as simple as that. Every now and then the topic of conversation will be all about you, but make sure there’s a balance. It’s wonderful that you are happy! Don’t feel the need to hide that feeling, but take an active interest in other people. And don’t just wait for a pause in the conversation to make it all about you once more.
4. When you talk about your relationship, you only talk about the bad stuff.
No matter how much we love our partners, chances are one day they are going to do or say something really stupid. Or, the two of you are going to get in a fight…or fight about the same thing for the 300th time. When those things happen, you are going to want to talk about it. But if all you are doing is telling friends awful things about your significant other, guess what? They aren’t going to like him.
If this is you: Again, wanting to vent about your guy is natural and it happens to everyone. Check yourself, though. Are you only telling your girls the bad things? Your friends love you and want you to be safe and happy, so if the only thing you are telling them is that he’s the scum of the earth, they are going to believe (surprise!) he is the scum of the earth.
How to get things back on track: You have three choices. You can a) admit that even though your guy might drive you crazy sometimes, really the good things outweigh the bad. Tell your friends about the good stuff, too. Or, you can b) realize that you spend a lot of time complaining, regardless of subject, and make an effort to start watching what you say about other people in general. Or, c) if your stories are really bad, it might be because you are in a bad relationship. If so, get out. Life is too short and there are too many wonderful people out there to be miserable all the time.
5. You make stupid decisions without thinking about how they affect the people around you.
You had unprotected sex. Or are in a relationship with someone who is married. Or are dating someone who is actually dangerous. It is your life and you can make any decision you want, but remember your actions affect those around you.
If this is you: Everyone makes stupid decisions every now and then. Part of growing up is learning how to take responsibility for those actions. Your body is your body, and you really can do anything you want. But, people are invested in you and your life, so if you put yourself in a dangerous or difficult situation, it can influence their lives as well.
How to get things back on track: If you have had unprotected sex , get tested for STIs and pregnancy (and if it’s been less than 5 days, use emergency contraception). Then learn about your contraceptive options and invest in some condoms for STI prevention. If you are in a relationship with someone who is married , get out as soon as possible. If you are dating someone who is threatening you physically and/or emotionally, get help and get out. Basically, love yourself as much as your friends love you. You don’t always have to agree them, but if they are worried about you, listen to what they are saying. They may have a point.
Life is all about balance, and balancing work, love, and friendship will always be a bit tricky. But it is possible to have a solid relationship while cultivating your friendships at the same time. What are some of your strategies for balancing relationships and friendships? Have you ever had a friend do one of the above things to you? How did you deal with it?
Kaarin Moore is the owner of Closet Caucus, a fashion consulting company located in Washington, DC. Her goal is to help clients express who they are through the medium of clothing. You can reach her at www.closetcaucus.com or on twitter (@closetcaucus).
Anyone wanna take a look?
Reminds us of an old (2009!) post from Kaarin Moore of Closet Caucus on delighting in nice undergarments, even when you’re single. What do you think—do fancy skivvies require an audience?
Is It Okay to Keep Secrets From Your Partner?
Originally published on SexReally.com on August 9, 2011
“The secret to marriage is to lie,” a colleague once told me. “I hide how much money I spend on jewelry and my husband pretends not to notice.”
This advice was given to me, unsolicited, by a woman who has been happily married for over thirty years. It made me laugh, but it also made me think about secrets in relationships. Is it really best to keep some things to yourself?
I’ve collected and weighed in on 4 scenarios where people stumbled upon their significant other’s secret or kept a secret from their significant other. Are any of them doing the right thing by keeping a secret?
1. Secrets about Money
The Scenario: Carrie had been dating Kirk for over a month when she found out he was still living with his parents. “We kept going back to my place after dates,” she said, “and one night I asked if we could go to his place and he said no. He ended up telling me he was deep in debt and lived in his childhood home with his parents. Did I mention he is 40?”
Carrie dated Kirk for almost two years after that. She didn’t necessarily care that he had financial problems, but it did become an issue when, for example, Kirk had a boot put on his car. He couldn’t pay to have it removed and the car was towed and eventually put up for auction. Lack of transportation meant logistical problems with seeing each other. For the length of their relationship Carrie knew Kirk had financial troubles, yet he continually tried to hide them from her.
“I think it was just about pride,” she said. “I think it was hard for him to be that age and to not have money.” She then relayed some advice her mother gave her when she started dating: “Romance without finance is a nuisance.”
To Tell, Or Not To Tell: These days most people have debt and, in this economy, many are facing some type of financial difficulty. I think coming clean depends on the length and depth of the relationship. On a first date you may not want to mention that Mom and Dad are paying rent. But, if the relationship moves forward your partner is going to find out, so it is best to come clean.
If the relationship is moving even deeper into talks of, “Let’s go shopping for engagement rings,” there definitely needs to be a talk about finances. Do some soul searching about your financial expectations:
- Does your partner need to be debt-free?
- Do you plan to help your significant other pay off debt?
- Are you prepared to go into a long-term relationship with someone whose credit score is dismal?
If you are the one who is having a money flow problem, it’s best to think about your options before you get into a sticky situation. If you are dating it could mean talking with your significant other about what types of activities you want to do together (like packing a picnic versus going to a restaurant for a four-course meal). Basically, the deeper the commitment, the more open you and your partner should be about finances.
2. Secrets about Drug Use
The Scenario: Katie didn’t know her boyfriend, Brian, smoked marijuana until she walked in on him smoking up. Opinions about personal drug use vary, but for Katie involvement with someone who smoked pot was out of the question. And Brian knew it.
Brian didn’t flat out lie to Katie. Throughout their months of dating she never point blank asked him if he ever used drugs. His secret was omitting that particular part of his life.
“Was it lying? Yes, I do think it was a form of lying. It’s dishonesty,” Katie said. After Katie stumbled upon Brian’s secret he admitted to smoking up multiple times per week.
To Tell, or Not to Tell: Brian hid something that he engaged in on a regular basis because he knew Katie wouldn’t approve. Katie fell hard for him, but once she found out about his drug use she felt like she loved only a version of him that he wanted to reveal.
If you are like Katie and find that someone you love has been hiding their drug/alcohol use, there are numerous places where you can get help. Al-anon and Alateen are places where you can find support.
If you are keeping your drug / alcohol consumption a secret, it may be a sign of addiction. Let me be clear – it doesn’t make you a bad person. Many people struggle with substance abuse, and there are places where you can get help. Check out these signs of drug abuse and addiction and if they seem familiar, look into getting help (a couple good starting places are Narc-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous).
3. Secrets about Past Sexual Activity
The Scenario: At the end of Delaine Moore’s marriage she had an affair. Now divorced, she dates regularly but doesn’t feel a need to tell partners how her marriage ended. Even though Delaine keeps mum about her secret past, she is opening up about her dating life post-divorce in her new book, The Secret Life of a Newly Single Mom: A One-Year Memoir of Finding Sex & Satisfaction After Divorce.
To Tell, or Not to Tell: Your current partner doesn’t need to know every detail of your sexual past. Delaine made a mistake, owned up to it, and is trying to move on with her life.
However, if your sexual past is going to potentially affect the health of your current partner, you must open up. If you have an STI or are HIV+, it’s your ethical responsibility to inform potential partners about your status. In fact, withholding your HIV status is criminal in some states (find out the laws in your area.) Your partner(s) need(s) to be able to make an informed decision about their level of sexual involvement.
Not sure of your status? Then it’s time to get tested. Unsure of your partner’s status? It’s time to have a conversation about it. It may be a bit uncomfortable, but your personal health is first and foremost. (Check out the article, “So, Uh, Got any STDs I Should Know About?” for helpful hints on how to start that talk.)
4. Secrets about Current Sexual Activity
The Scenario: From the outside Megan appears to be a normal wife and mother. The secret she keeps from her husband is that she has sex with strangers when she goes out of town on business.
“I can’t believe I have done this…I’m ashamed of how I have acted and don’t know what to do about it,” she said. “What this says to me is that I shouldn’t be in a relationship with my husband. I’m not getting what I need out of it—attention, appreciation, love, and sex.”
To Tell, Or Not to Tell: Megan is very aware that what she is doing is wrong. Her secret could affect the sexual health of her husband and most certainly will influence the emotional health of her family. Right now Megan is living a dual life that isn’t fair to anyone involved. Her secret needs to come to the surface so she can deal with the reasons behind her cheating.
Everyone has information that they would rather keep hidden. Many times holding your cards close can be a good idea. You are allowed to have your own life and to make mistakes along the way, after all, and sometimes your partner really doesn’t need to know everything. But, when your secret could influence your partner’s life—especially his/her emotional and physical health—you need to fess up. There might be anger and hurt. And there is a possibility that your significant other may leave you. Sometimes, though, the weight of keeping a secret is worse then the secret itself.
When Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true,” he probably didn’t realize he was giving fantastic dating advice. But, he was on to something. You deserve to be fully yourself in a trusting relationship. If you are keeping secrets, think about your true reasons for not telling your partner. Is what you are holding back going to potentially endanger him/her? Then it’s either time to come clean or end the relationship.
If you are the one who was lied to, try to think about the reasoning behind the secret. Was your partner trying to protect you, or did he/she hold things back for their own self-interest? Was it truly an oversight of omitting information? If so, maybe it is time to exercise forgiveness. If the secret is putting you in harm’s way, though, it’s time to let go.
There are no hard and fast rules about secrets because relationships have so many gray areas. However, two basic elements of love are trust and respect. Do you trust your partner? Do you feel he/she is respectful when it comes to your heart and your body? Only you can answer those questions.
Kaarin Moore is the owner of Closet Caucus, a fashion consulting company located in Washington, DC. Her goal is to help clients express who they are through the medium of clothing. You can reach her at www.closetcaucus.com or on twitter (@closetcaucus).
Rumor Has It: How to Deal When the Hot Gossip’s About You
Originally published on SexReally.com on September 21, 2011.
Once upon a time, in college, I flew into a jealous rage and slashed the tires of a girl’s car. Or so the rumors said. That’s the thing about rumors – they tend to have a life of their own. But is it possible to control, or at least contain, a rumor?
Scenario 1 (My story)
I showed up uninvited to a beach vacation that included my ex-boyfriend, Mitch, his new girlfriend, Elizabeth, and 15 of their friends. I purposefully did this in order to taunt Elizabeth and ruin everyone’s vacation. We went out one evening as a group and halfway through the night I disappeared. The next morning Elizabeth discovered that her tires were slashed. Even though we were all at the same hotel she was the only person whose car was disturbed. Thus, obviously she was the target of an act of jealousy. When I slipped away during the evening I must have come back to damage her car, thus forcing her to purchase new tires and spend half of her vacation at the nearest garage.
One evening I ran into my friend, Kathy, and asked her how she was doing. She burst into tears. Her boyfriend of four years broke up with her the week before and she was a mess. She was trying to keep herself busy and said yes when a group of friends invited her on a last minute trip to the beach. She asked if I would like to come along so we could spend some time together while soaking up the rays.
The next day, Kathy and I arrived at the beach and went to check into the hotel where the group was staying. I walked into the lobby and felt my stomach drop to my knees. There was my ex and his new girlfriend standing at the counter. I didn’t know that Kathy and Mitch knew each other and shared many of the same friends. Talk about awkward.
That evening we went out for drinks as a group. Even though the situation was highly uncomfortable, there were enough people there that I could keep my distance from Mitch and Elizabeth. We went club hopping and, as the evening progressed, Kathy got more and more drunk. At 1AM I found her sitting on the bathroom floor of a club sobbing. So, I helped her up, took her outside, and grabbed a cab. When we got back to the hotel, I put her into bed and we both went to sleep.
The next day I found out that Elizabeth’s tires had been slashed and that I was deemed the culprit. I didn’t even know Mitch and Elizabeth were going to be there! I didn’t know what type of car Elizabeth owned! Did people think I carried knives with me to the beach? There were so many holes in the logic – how could anyone think I would do such a thing? But ultimately it didn’t matter. The rumor was way too juicy. I was the crazy ex who randomly showed up on a couple’s vacation and slashed the new girl’s tires.
Situation 2 (Anne’s story)
On the first day of Anne’s new job, she hit it off with her colleague, Chad. It was obvious that they got along fabulously. They started hanging out together and going out for coffee and lunch. One day Anne was seen coming back from Chad’s car carrying a gym bag. They were obviously sleeping together.
Anne did hit it off with Chad on her first day of work. They shared a similar sense of humor and got along like gangbusters. But, what people didn’t realize was that Chad was gay. He decided not to come out in his professional life because they worked for an ultra-conservative company. When the rumors first started circulating that Anne and Chad were together, they thought it was hilarious – how could anyone not understand what was going on?
The situation with the gym bag is what took things from being amusing to annoying. Anne did go to Chad’s car – to pick up a book that was in his gym bag. When people looked out the office window, they completely misinterpreted the situation, making for even more office gossip.
Anne ended up quitting her job nine months later to go to another company. The rumor mill reported she was leaving was because she was pregnant. Even though she told people that it wasn’t true, her office went as far as to take up a collection for her and the new baby. A year later, one of Anne’s former colleagues came to her house and asked about the baby. When Anne told her that there was no baby, her former colleague interpreted it as meaning she had terminated the pregnancy.
What’s a Girl to Do?
Rumors can be incredibly painful, especially when they’re about you. But is there anything we can do to protect ourselves when a rumor hits?
“Rumors can be a tricky thing to deal with,” says psychiatrist Dr. Soroya Bacchus. “There really is only one way to get through or around them without exacerbating the problem: brush it off and go with the flow!”
Dr. Bacchus explains that rumors need fuel to spread. “Our bodies need food, cars need gasoline, and rumors need validation. If you are the brunt of a nasty rumor, getting upset and angry will only validate the aggressor and make it more pleasurable for those not on the receiving end to keep going.”
Dr. Bacchus offers these tips on how to deal with a rumor:
- Dismiss it as irrelevant. It won’t be fun if people can’t get a reaction out of you.
- Don’t get upset or angry. It only makes things worse.
- Remind yourself that most people have a short attention span. People will soon move on to the next rumor.
- Understand that social media can be a vicious tool for spreading gossip. Remove yourself from the situation by taking a break from it.
- Try “thought stopping.” When a negative thought pops up, stop it and replace it with something positive.
Finally, I think being the subject of a nasty rumor teaches us empathy. We can decide not to pass on information when it comes our way. We can stick up for other people. We can remember what it was like to be at the center of negative attention and decide to take gossip with a grain of salt. Because the perception and the reality of a situation can be two very different things.
Have you ever been the subject of a rumor? What was it? How did you handle it?
Kaarin Moore is the owner of Closet Caucus, a fashion consulting company located in Washington, DC. Her goal is to help clients express who they are through the medium of clothing. You can reach her at www.closetcaucus.com or on twitter (@closetcaucus).
The Single Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays
Originally published on SexReally.com on December 22, 2010.
Ahh…the joys of the holidays. While visions of sugarplums dance in your head and Jack Frost nips at your nose, you may have a few other things on your mind. Like being single during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Which can include a variety of scenarios such as: big family dinners while you’re still carrying tissues around after a recent breakup, questions at the holiday party about that nice guy you brought last time, or pointed statements regarding your need to settle down in the near future.
Of course plenty of people are single by choice and perfectly happy. And then there are some who are quite brokenhearted about entering into the New Year without partner or prospect. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, seasonal gatherings can feel like a very uncomfortable game of Twenty Questions about your love life.
Has this situation ever happened to you? You attend some type of family function, everyone is sitting down for a lovely dinner, and your Aunt starts asking questions about your “prospects.” Or, your mother tells you that you aren’t getting any younger. Or, a cousin who has brought along her significant other asks if you have had any dates followed by the, “I’m so sorry” pity face when the answer is “no”. A friend once told me that at a holiday function with family, her 4-year-old niece came up to her and said, “Mommy and Daddy are praying for you because you don’t have a boyfriend.”
There are a number of reasons why our families are so darn curious about our relationship status, and why they make it fodder for conversation at seasonal gatherings. Understanding the reasons behind the questioning and having a plan of action for how to respond can make the holiday less stressful and more fun for you and your loved ones.
1. Your family still sees you as a child.
To some family members you will always be the 7-year-old angel running around the backyard wearing a tiara. It’s not based in malice or a desire to patronize you. Remembering those times may bring the people who have known you since birth immense joy. But if they still view you as a kid, it can be hard to enforce boundaries regarding your private life.
My friend Janine had this idea highlighted when her niece came up and said, “Aunt Janine, sometimes I think you’re not a grown up because you’re not married.” Even though it was a little one who voiced the opinion, there may be similar feelings involved in larger family dynamics.
If it happens to you:
You are an adult. You have the right to a private life and can decide whether or not to share information regarding your relationships or anything else. It doesn’t have to mean that you want to shut your family out of your life. A simple, “Thanks for asking, but I don’t feel like talking about it,” said without attitude and followed by a change of subject might be enough to shut them up. Be prepared, though, to try this tactic more than once if they aren’t ready to listen.
2. Talking about your relationship status may be the only entry point into your life that your family can come up with.
Just because your relatives are connected to you doesn’t mean that they truly know who you are. Thus, asking about your love life may serve as a conversation starter and a way to show they are interested in you. Even though you have lots of opinions and interests, it may not occur to Auntie to ask, “What do you think of Obama’s healthcare reform plan?” (Or maybe she thinks politics is a riskier subject!)
If it happens to you:
Families can be complex, and the inner workings of how different members communicate can be tricky to navigate. Just because they don’t know the grown-up version of who you are doesn’t mean they are opposed to learning. They may not know where to start asking questions. Also, they may be sincerely lost when it comes to, “what young people are doing these days.”
Give your Auntie the benefit of the doubt and see if you can start a conversation you’re comfortable with. If she asks about dates, you can respond, “You know, I haven’t been on a formal date in awhile, but I did take myself out to see Black Swan last week. Have you seen it? Do you like the ballet?” Talking to your Auntie about something you are interested in gives her a starting point and a clue to your inner life. and could lead to a deeper conversation.
3. Family members use your single status as a way to make you feel inadequate.
It blows my mind when people put others down because they are single. Being single can mean freedom, time for things that you want to do, and not having to answer to anyone. Singleness is an adventure.
So why are there always those annoying people who will nag you because you aren’t part of a couple? It is especially confounding when those lobbing hateful comments are family members. This happened to a friend who was point-blank asked by his cousin, “What’s wrong with you? You are the last one who isn’t married in the family.” He got a chuckle out of it and decided not to fire back a snotty comment about the cousin’s latest round of drama with her ex-husband.
If it happens to you:
Remember that being in a relationship doesn’t automatically mean life is rosy. When half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, coupledom is obviously a difficult road.
If a family member tosses out a comment about you being single yet again you can respond, “Well, are you happy?” It’s a cheeky comeback, and it puts the other person on the spot. But, you were put on the spot. The turning-of-the-tables may be enough to end the conversation.
If the offending party comes back with a quick, “Yes, of course!” you can always say, “Well, maybe yours will be among the 50% of marriages that make it!” Again, it’s a mischievous retort, but you have the option of being a bit sassy to that relative who just will not let it go.
4. Your family is sincerely interested in your love life because they think it equates to happiness. And they really want you to be happy.
This situation is tricky, because in this scenario your family is truly coming from a place of love. It also may touch a raw nerve if you genuinely want to be in a relationship but things aren’t happening on that front right now.
The thing to remind your family—and yourself—of is that a relationship does not necessarily mean total life happiness. A joyful life is much more multifaceted and intricate than purely your relationship status.
If it happens to you:
Take some time to think about happiness in a holistic way. What happened in 2010 that brought you joy? What went on with your friends, job, spiritual life, and creative endeavors? If you traveled this past year, take out pictures from your journey to recall everything you learned about yourself and others through that excursion. Think of your victories—those moments that made you feel proud and full of bliss.
Then, write all of those things down and put the piece of paper/collage in a place that is accessible. Better yet, bring it to your family dinner to share, or to leave in your back pocket as a reminder. That way if anyone starts down the, “Why aren’t you in a relationship?” road you can confidently state, “I’m not in a relationship right now, but I’ve had such a full year!” It’s a gentle reminder to your family that deep joy comes from a variety of life experiences.
All in all, remember your family is your family. You can’t get rid of them; they are yours forever. So this holiday season keep your sense of humor, give people the benefit of the doubt, and breathe deeply. Love, relationships, and sex are all normal parts of life that can be magnificent, but they are also matters that everyone struggles with (including married couples!). As 2010 turns into 2011, remember that the relationship that matters most is the one that you have with yourself.
The Ex Files: Are There New Rules of Engagement?
Originally published on March 14, 2011 on SexReally.com.
“The only time you should contact your ex is if you get engaged or you get a STD.” – Paul
My friend Jackie found out about her ex’s engagement in a very theatrical way: she read about it in The New York Times. She happened to be browsing online and stumbled upon Brian’s picture with his soon-to-be wife.
When Jackie relayed this information to me I was surprised. She’d ended her relationship with Brian only a year before and since then he’d managed to a) recover from their breakup; b) start dating someone else; c) become engaged to that someone; and d) marry her. My, what a difference a year makes. But, sometimes I guess that’s how love works. One year you’re ending a relationship and the next year you’re saying, “I do”.
Statistics show that women are waiting till later in life to marry. In the United States in the 1960s, the average age a woman got married was 20. As of 2007, that age was 26. With all that extra time, it makes sense that we’d be experiencing more relationships in our 20s. Getting married later means we have more time to date a variety of people and, hopefully, learn about love.
Yet more exes also means new questions about behavior and etiquette. For example, should we expect a phone call, email, or conversation over coffee when an ex gets engaged? Do they owe us one? Or, if you have an engagement ring on your finger, is there a need to call up the guy who you thought might be “the one” until things went sour?
I came up with four working theories on why an ex might be in touch about upcoming nuptials:
- 1. Out of courtesy. The advent of social media has changed the playing field in terms of how news gets around. Now all it takes is a change in relationship status on Facebook – one click of a button – and the whole world knows. Your ex wants to make sure you hear it from the source, rather than in such an impersonal way.
2. To rub it in. This scenario is likely to play out if the relationship didn’t end well. It’s the I’m-doing-so-freakin’-well-without-you call.
3. To see how you react to the news. Your reaction could be an indicator of how much the relationship meant to you. Or, it could be a way to gauge whether you still have any romantic feelings.
4. S/he is crazy happy and just couldn’t resist. Your ex is calling everyone s/he can think of because the joy cannot be contained.
In my own experience, I’ve received two phone calls about engagement. Jackie’s story made me think back to those conversations. Was I glad they told me? What exactly were my exes hoping to accomplish by letting me know? Is it better that I found out from the source rather than through the grapevine?
I had many questions about exes and engagement etiquette, so I decided to do something crazy. I called up one of my exes to ask why he’d called me about his engagement. Our conversation went like this:
Me: Thank you for letting me call to ask you questions about our past! I know it must be weird to know that it will be in a column for Sex Really.
Paul: (Laughing) That’s okay!
Me: When you got engaged you called to tell me your news. Why did you decide to call?
Paul: Part of it was because I thought it was something you were supposed to do. I was contacting people that I really liked and were friends. It would feel weird to tell everyone else and not let you know.
Me: Did you call any of your other exes? If so, what were the reactions you received?
Paul: Yes, I called two other people. Those two were married and I thought I would get a reaction like, “that’s great to hear.” But with you I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I was going to get.
Me: How would you describe my reaction?
Paul: Upbeat, positive, excited.
Me: What did you think of that reaction?
Paul: I wasn’t sure if you were putting on a brave face or not. Not that it would ultimately matter anyway. When I hung up with you I thought to myself, “I hope that is how she really feels, because that would be great.”
Me: I have some theories on why people call their exes to tell them about an upcoming engagement. Can you respond to each one?
Me: First – people call to let their exes know out of courtesy.
Paul: Yes, that was part of it. I really thought it was a thing you were supposed to do. Like, a social norm that had popped up around weddings. I’m not sure where I picked up that social clue. Maybe it was movies, or TV, or just having other friends do it.
Me: Next theory – people call to rub it in.
Paul: (Laughing) Well, for us that wasn’t part of the phone call. But, one of my friends, Tom, did call his ex to tell her that he was getting married. There was a bragging aspect of it. In his mind I think he got an emotional high from showing his ex how great his life turned out.
Me: Next theory – people do it to see how their ex would react to the news. Meaning, to see if they get upset.
Paul: For us I think it was more about gauging feelings. It’s about curiosity and how that person feels about you. But the reaction that you gave was one that I hoped for. With Tom he was hoping that it wouldn’t go over well. He was hoping that she would feel like she blew it with him.
Me: Final theory – that people do it because they are so happy that they can’t contain themselves.
Paul: I could really see that as being a reason why an ex would reach out, especially if things ended on good terms. When it comes down to it, I think you should only contact an ex if you get engaged or get an STD.
I’m glad Paul called and told me about his engagement. But it would have been okay if he hadn’t, too. It did make me laugh a little when he said that he hoped I wasn’t putting on a brave face. I expected him to get involved and get married at some point and, by the time his engagement happened, everything between us was water under the bridge.
Does etiquette revolve around timing, then? Paul and I had been out of a relationship for two years when he got engaged. Maybe that one-year mark that Jackie experienced makes the difference. Perhaps the new rule of etiquette should be that if you get out of a relationship and engaged to someone else within the same year, a phone call is in order?
The curious thing about relationships and breakups is going from knowing every nuance about someone’s day to knowing nothing at all. Maybe contacting an ex about your engagement is a way of harkening back, or paying your respects, to an era when your lives were tied together.
As for me, I don’t know if I would do it. My past is in my past for a reason. It’s not that those other relationships didn’t have their time and place, but when you are looking toward the future with a partner, all the other stuff tends to go fuzzy and the road ahead is the only one that matters. The visibility of exes on that road? That probably depends.
What do you think?
Why Save Sexy for Halloween?
Originally published on SexReally.com on October 28, 2010.
So, this Halloween are you wearing your naughty nurse costume or are you going out as a slutty schoolgirl?
A quick Google search of women’s Halloween costumes reveals something that surely you already know — on Halloween, women (and girls) are encouraged to be sexy. Even the marketing language is provocative:
Women’s Halloween 2010. Hotter and sexier than ever! Hey foxy lady! Strut your stuff this Halloween in a sexy costume…find the hottest Playboy costumes…the sauciest pirate costumes, and some very wicked witch costumes…just a few of the fantasies you can explore this Halloween!
A post on SexReally last Halloween asked some interesting questions, including whether the sexy costume craze indicates that women feel societal pressure to repress their sexuality in everyday life. As I continue to think about my own Halloween experiences and observe this year’s costume options, I’m particularly compelled by that concept — why do so many women take part in dressing provocatively this one time of the year? Seriously, when was the last time you went to a Halloween event with a significant number of women covered up by convincing ghost, ghoul, or zombie costumes? Women are selecting skimpy costumes for a reason.
I was invited to a Halloween party in college and purchased a gorgeous pair of fairy wings for the occasion. They were almost the length of my body and were a soft pink color with lots of glitter. On the night of the party I had my costume ready to go — a short black skirt, a black tank top, those fabulous wings, pink hair, and lots of shimmery makeup. Except that night was freezing. I stepped outside and hit the 40-degree cold air and instantly turned around. I went back inside and traded my black tank top for a sweater and put on a pair of dark pantyhose just so I could have something on my legs.
Once I got to the party I was lost in a sea of sexy cops, sassy cheerleaders, and slutty Disney characters. I was wearing far too many clothes and felt out of place. It’s not that I felt peer pressure in that moment to dress sexy. Instead, I felt like I was missing out on something. It was my one chance during the year to wear something super-skimpy and have it be socially acceptable. And what did I do? I wore a sweater.
The roots of the far-too-sexy Halloween dilemma are deep. It is really about language and sexual assumptions based on clothing. If you’re female and are in or survived high school, you know what I’m talking about. The girl who wears too-short skirts or cleavage-revealing tops instantly gets categorized by peers. And once the words “slut” or “whore” are thrown out it’s really hard to shake off that label.
I experienced a slice of that my senior year of high school, including one harsh name-calling encounter with a teacher. I attended a school play and during intermission one of my drama teachers walked up and told me that my clothing choice was completely inappropriate and that I looked like a slut. I had no idea what she was talking about — until I looked down and saw that a sliver of my stomach was showing. I sincerely had no idea that when I got dressed that evening in jeans and a t-shirt that I was showing any skin other than my arms. As it turns out I had either outgrown the shirt or it shrunk and I hadn’t noticed.
My teacher’s comments were like a slap across the face. Her use of the word “slut” was so cavalier, and my sexual experience was so minimal, that I instinctively knew that she was wrong in her assessment. But, oh no! I could be perceived as loose just by showing a quarter of an inch of belly. I look back on that situation and wish I would’ve had the wherewithal to tell that teacher to go fuck herself. But, that word “slut” is so vicious and sticky that I reacted instantly. I went to my car (where by chance I had an extra shirt) and changed clothes between acts.
Steering clear of that “slut” label might be part of the answer as to why women go for sexy costumes. Maybe, as Lindsay Lohan’s character points out in Mean Girls, Halloween is a free pass. It is a way for women to explore something, to try on a disguise and explore a fantasy without being subject to harsh criticism. Because, when it comes down to it, on November 1st most of us have to go back to wearing more modest clothing.
It’s no wonder that there are so many sexy costumes available. It’s like all that sexy energy and experimentation gets pent up for a whole year and then explodes one night in the form of kitten tails, bustiers, and fishnet tights. Not that it is right. But, hell, there is so much pressure to keep it together, to keep your inner freak under wraps, maybe it’s inevitable that it’s going to burst out one way or another.
Let me make this clear: I’m not advocating you wear as little as possible for Halloween. Nor that you buy into an entire industry that is attempting to sell teeny-tiny costumes. I just think there is something going on with the control of female sexuality on a larger scale that we should question. Halloween reveals a symptom, not the disease. It is an illusion to think that we have the freedom to wear whatever we want. Because there are always those harsh words — slut, whore, skank — that are the consequences of experimenting with clothing. We are told to vamp it up, to be beautiful, to be sexy — but, oh! Not too much!
Halloween is the one day of the year when a girl can wear lingerie and eat gobs of chocolate in public. (Is it a coincidence that two of the most hot-button issues of being a modern woman — how we look and what we eat — are allowed to come out and play on the same evening?) Maybe if some of those instincts were practiced in smaller and safer quantities throughout the year, we wouldn’t feel the compulsion to go overboard on Halloween night.
Public Parting: How Social Media has Changed Breakups
Originally published on June 22, 2010 on SexReally.com.
Once upon a time…say, in the late 90’s…one of the biggest post-breakup fears was running into your ex in person. If everything went according to plan, you could strategize the perfect “oh this old thing?” outfit that made him drool and suffer. The “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” episode of Sex and the City, which first aired in 1999, had Carrie thinking about her run-in clothing and her perfect post-breakup accessory—a New York Yankee.
My, how times have changed. Not only are people thinking about what to wear when they see their ex, they are rethinking their entire online persona. The advent of social media—and, by extension, the public outing of private information—has made the navigation of breakups more complex.
For example, you just broke up with your significant other. Do you:
a) Immediately change your Facebook profile picture to one of you looking saucy.
b) Break into your ex’s Twitter page (because you have the password) and announce his deviant behavior to the whole world.
c) Start to obsessively track where he is on Foursquare. That way you can “accidentally” run into him when you’re out with your girlfriends, looking fabulous.
d) All of the above.
Of course these options don’t represent the entire spectrum of how to respond after a breakup. They are examples of new options that can significantly affect what happens after a relationship falls apart. Regardless of how things go down, you (or your ex) can put a spin on what happened and tell hundreds of friends the entire scenario with the simple click of a button. Revenge, it seems, is a dish best served online.
And sometimes it is freakin’ hilarious. Consider what I read on Twitter this past week (names withheld to protect the innocent. Or guilty, depending on what happened):
“I’m officially the world’s biggest asshole.”
“Yeah, shit went down. I lied to her continuously, ignored her all the time, treated her like shit….what can I say?”
“Perhaps going out drinking and getting toked every night of the week was a bad idea.”
The thing that makes it hilarious is that the situation is completely transparent. It takes all of 10 seconds to understand the backstory—someone else wrote the tweets and they were ticked. And that someone was an ex.
In a matter of minutes the tweets were deleted and one of the accounts had posted this:
“Just got hacked by the ex on here. Wonderful. For those of you that saw, I’m sorry.”
Even if you aren’t a person who has 50,000 followers on Twitter, chances are you are connected in a public way to your immediate social circle. You don’t have to be a Britney, Miley, or Rihanna to know what it feels like to have your private life exposed. Social media has leveled the playing field and forced us into doing our own PR damage control.
My friend Carolyn experienced a taste of this when she broke up with her boyfriend of six years. It was a reasonably amicable separation—they didn’t leave on bad terms or fight it out until the bloody end. They just had an adult conversation and decided to go their separate ways. Their conversation ended at 11:30pm and by the time she woke up the next morning he had already changed his relationship status on Facebook.
“I thought it was a bit callous to tell the world online before I’d had a chance to tell my friends,” Carolyn said.
She also admitted that she went on to his Facebook page (since she had the password) and made the relationship status private so a “…big broken heart wouldn’t be in everyone’s newsfeed.” It’s also important to note that’s all she did. Once the relationship status was changed she left his Facebook page alone.
I talked to another woman, Annie, who told me how she changed her profile pictures once her boyfriend of two years dumped her.
“Put simply…it’s a way of putting on a brave face and showing how little you care. Even if in person you want to dissolve into tears every time you see him, your profile picture is still smiling away,” Annie said.
While there’s no doubt that social media is changing the way we deal with breakups, how those changes play out can vary greatly from person to person. There is a huge difference between taking back your power and getting dreadfully close to becoming the mayor of Crazyville. Putting up a new profile picture is a simple way of taking control of post-breakup identity. Spewing facts of how he cheated to everyone on Twitter is something else entirely.
However you deal with a broken heart, remember that what you put online can never be taken back. You might rightfully reveal that he is a complete scumbag, but you can cross the line to coming off as desperate and manipulative. Which is never a great way to portray yourself, even if you are temporarily feeling that way after a separation.
So take a deep breath. Talk to people who love you and can empathize with how you are feeling. Take yourself out for a pedicure, join a new club, finally start painting again, and reconnect with good friends from your past. But think twice about going public with your heartache. And, for goodness sake, change your passwords.
A Page from the Male Dating Playbook: The Napkin Metaphor
Originally published on SexReally.com on April 21, 2010.
Originally, I was writing an article about what men wear on first dates. The plan was to interview a bunch of guys to see if they purchased new clothes prior to a night out on the town. But I ended up getting much more information than I bargained for. I hit gold, my friends. What follows is a glimpse into the male mind when it comes to relationships. In fact, I would go as far as to say I got a sneak peek into the Male Dating Playbook. It started, like most good stories, with a guy and a girl at a bar, talking about sex.
The Napkin Metaphor
I met my new guy friend, Brian, out for a couple of beers to talk about sex, fashion, and dating. My big break into the Male Dating Playbook began with this question: “Do you know at the time you ask a girl out if it is someone you just want to sleep with or if it is someone you want to pursue a relationship with?”
Brian grabbed a paper napkin from the bar and unfolded it.
“Let’s say this unfolded napkin is everybody I would sleep with – if they wanted to sleep with me, of course,” he said.
“Okay,” I replied.
He folded the napkin in half. “Now, out of that group of women, this is the number that I would actually really consider dating.”
“Okay,” I replied again.
He folded the napkin in half once more. “Now here is the number of women who I would actually consider getting in a serious relationship with.”
Uhmmm…what? Before I get into it, let me clarify something: Brian is not a douche. He is actually someone that is highly datable – smart, funny, intelligent, cute. Your all-around normal, great guy. What makes him different, it would seem, is his complete candor when it comes to the male approach to relationships and dating. So, when he broke down the napkin idea, I simultaneously had the reaction of a) complete exasperation and b) knowledge that what he said rang true when it came to my own, and my girlfriends’, personal experiences.
If you didn’t quite catch what Brian said, let me break it down for you: According to him, when a woman goes out on a date with a guy, she has a 1 in 4 chance that he would consider a meaningful relationship with her.
Furthermore, when I asked Brian if he knew which category a girl was in prior to the date the answer was, “of course.” He went on to say that there are “borderline” cases – girls who teeter on one side of the napkin but might get placed within another section. However, those cases tend to be the exception instead of the rule.
What makes the last group of girls, that small section of the napkin, different from the rest? And how are we supposed to make sure, if we’re interested in the guy we’re dating, that we make it to that last quarter of the napkin? According to Brian, the women in that quarter are the ones that he would wait for. “When it’s someone who I want to pursue a relationship with I will wait if she isn’t ready to have sex. I will make an effort when it comes to dating.”
Blowing. My. Mind. Okay – let’s get this straight – this whole napkin thing isn’t to say that women are powerless when it comes to dating. Or to say that women shouldn’t purely pursue sex if that is what they desire. Or to say that all women want to have a serious relationship with every guy they go out with. It is more about the differences between men and women when it comes to dating – how women might see dating as a platform for possibility, while men know their intentions even before the girl answers the door on date night.
Of course all of this is generalization – not all men think this way about dating. But, the napkin metaphor sure as hell answers some questions. Namely, those that have arisen in conversations I’ve had with girlfriends over the years, such as, “Why didn’t he call? Where did he go? I thought our first date went well – why didn’t he want a second?”
The answer: You thought you were on one part of the napkin. He thought you were on another section of it entirely.
And, my lovely girlfriends, you deserve to be within that last segment of the napkin. You deserve to be wooed. To be fought for. To feel comfortable waiting to have sex until you are ready. You always have the power of choice. And if the guy you are on a date with isn’t showing you the respect that you deserve, know this secret from my playbook: the love that you are seeking is already within you. You just have to own it.
Why Victoria’s Secret Should Be Your Secret Too
Originally published on SexReally.com on December 4, 2009.
“I’m kinda in between boyfriends right now, so I don’t need anything sexy.” – Pam Beesly, while visiting Victoria’s Secret
Victoria’s Secret was prominently featured in a Season 3 episode of The Office entitled “Women’s Appreciation.” Fans of the show may remember Michael Scott’s misguided attempt to show his appreciation for his female employees when he took them to a Victoria’s Secret store and allowed each person to pick out one item as a present. Pam Beesly’s character, played by the lovely Jenna Fisher, chose a robe because, being single, she saw no need to purchase a pair of lacey panties or a push-up bra.
Pam’s quote continually ran through my head while viewing this season’s Victoria’s Secret Holiday Fashion Show. The event has become a staple of the holiday season, signaling the start of gift-giving and fulfilling men’s and women’s fantasies of tiny undergarments wrapped in pink paper under the Christmas tree. Let’s face it: the fantasy is hot. The products are hot. So why have they been relegated to the back of closets, only to be broken out when there is an audience present?
As a wardrobe consultant and stylist I see a practical disconnect between the sex that is on the runway and what is found in the depths of women’s boudoirs. Many people do own variations of the boustiers, slips, sheer nighties, and g-strings that are featured in glossy catalogues. The catch? These items are always, ALWAYS stuck in the furthest corners of the closet or underwear drawer.
Viewing this same situation time and time again has led me to conclude that women need to break those suckers out and make the fancy stuff a part of their everyday wardrobe. Our sexuality shouldn’t be turned on and off, or stuffed to the back of the drawer. Who we are sexually is part of who we are as people and we should acknowledge it regardless of our relationship status.
On a very practical note, the pretty underwear isn’t always comfortable. However, there are more options than ever on the market regarding style, shape, and material. Here are some realistic steps you can take to make sure your booty is both comfy and stylish during the day:
- Can’t think of wearing thongs? Clients routinely pick the wrong size. Go a size up or down for the correct fit. If you’re entirely convinced a thong isn’t for you, boy shorts can be a comfy and cute alternative…or if you’re feeling daring, you can always eliminate panty lines by going without!
- When is the last time you had your bra size measured? Statistics report that up to 80% are currently wearing the wrong size. Weight gain, weight loss, and hormone fluctuation can alter your size. Getting measured takes all of 5 minutes and can provide a world of comfort to women who feel as though they are being pinched, pushed, and otherwise fighting with their bra all day.
- Take your pretty undergarments out of their drawers and hang them up in your closet. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” even applies to underwear; if you see them on a regular basis you are more likely to wear them and incorporate them into your life.
The notion of having “good undies” used for “fancy occasions” is about as useful and fun as only using your favorite dishes when guests come to visit. Sure, people will be thrilled by the presentation, but don’t you want to delight yourself as well? Isn’t your life occasion enough to celebrate?
You deserve these small pleasures – with or without a partner. This isn’t about spending loads of money or buying into society’s ideal of what is sexy. Rather, it is about conscious decision-making regarding your style and your sexuality. The choice to pick up black lace verses Granny Panties isn’t going to change the world. But, it may change the framework of your day. It is a small choice that can be for you and you alone.
If I were to rewrite Pam’s quote it would go something like this: “I’m kinda in between boyfriends right now, but I have this nightie in 4 different colors and wear them all the time. I want another one, but this time in satin.”