Relationships

Dear Rick Perry, Being Gay is not a Disease

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Rick Perry, you really don’t understand homosexuality.  To quote you directly.

Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.

You also advocated for the widely discredited, reparative therapy for homosexuals.  To quote the Southern Poverty Law Center 

Conversion therapy – sometimes known as reparative or “sexual reorientation” therapy – is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation, literally “converting” from gay to straight. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

You might also think that homosexuality is a disease, but the medical community would strongly disagree with you.  To quote psychiatrytoday.com 

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association’s Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition (DSM II). The action was taken following a review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts in the field. The experts found that homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness.

I hate to break this to you but, gay men and women have existed in every culture on the planet, long before a few scant condemnations in the Old and New testaments of the Christian bible  Despite the importance some Christians have placed on the evils of homosexuality, Jesus Christ didn’t think it was worthy of discussion.

Rick, do you ever wonder what happens to gay men and women when they try to force themselves to live a lie?  Do you think that it’s just a matter of self-control?  Do you think once they get married, settle down and have a few kids that those urges and attractions will vanish?

Well Rick, I’ve got news for you.  Most mixed orientation marriages end catastrophically with both partners greatly damaged.  I was in one of those marriages.  I had no idea my husband was gay when I married him.  He was full of so much self-hate about his sexual orientation he thought he could change himself.  He was basically lying to me and everyone else close to him in his life for years.  He tried desperately to change, but realized he couldn’t.  He is gay.  He was gay before we got married, he was gay during our marriage and he’s gay now.  It’s a fundamental part him.  It’s not a weakness of moral character, it’s not a lifestyle choice and it’s not an addiction.  He lived in misery because he was desperately trying to be something he wasn’t.  Now that he is out and proud, he’s a much happier person.

His self-loathing and shame came from the false belief that being gay is a fault or shortcoming.  When I first confronted my ex-husband about his sexual orientation he would have given anything to change it.  Luckily for both of us, he has grown to accept and love himself.  We are both better off now living authentic lives and not trapped in a sham marriage.

There are millions of other straight spouses like me all over the country.  Most of these marriages leave a path of destruction in their wake.  I know women who have buried their husbands with full-blown AIDS, others who have contracted the virus from their spouse. I have heard of suicides and even homicides when these marriages disintegrate  Parents who lose access to their children, and children who now have to split time between two homes.  I’ve met damaged and broken men and women on both sides of these doomed partnerships.  I suffered from a massive depression, I was nearly financially destroyed, I’ve had to accept that I’ll probably never have my own children and at my worst I was suicidal.  It’s hardly been an easy road for me, and I know it’s a daily struggle for many of my straight spouse counterparts.

If our spouses were happier in their own skin, if they could envision a happy and healthy life for themselves, they never would have entered into these fraud marriages.  If you claim to champion family values, you would never encourage a gay person to try to force themselves to be straight.  You would never expect someone to try to change something so fundamental about themselves.  Rick, do you think you could force yourself to live as a gay man?  Do you think you would be happy if every day you had to live a lie?

Your words have consequences.  You lead a state with over 26 million people.  Every time you condemn homosexuality you reinforce the bullying, the discrimination and hate that leads to misery, self-destructive behavior and even suicide.  LGTB youth are more than twice as likely to try to commit suicide than their straight peers.  When you call for medical quackery like reparative therapy you cause more suffering.   Homophobia affects more than just the gay people you target.  The hate splinters out like broken shards of glass cutting into everyone around the intended target.  Relationships between parents and children are destroyed and families are torn apart, and all for something that cannot be changed.  My own life was greatly harmed by this nonsense and I’m not going to be silent when you perpetuate myths and misinformation.

Homosexuality is just another way of being human, and there are a lot of beautiful LGTB human beings in your state.  They just want to live their lives authentically and without shame.  They want to raise families and grow old with their partners.  They just want to live like any other Texan.  You can remain in the dark ages as states around the country legalize same-sex marriage and end discrimination against LGTB people.  I know not every Texan agrees with you.  Hopefully more and more of them will speak out against this bigotry.  Which side of history do you want to be on?

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Life After Divorce: The Fetishization of Marriage

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If I were to write a fairy tale for young children, especially young girls it would go something like this.  Once upon a time there was a young girl who lived in tiny beaten down shack.  She didn’t have a lot of money and her parents were poor.  She decided she was going to get out of her situation no matter what, so she worked hard and went to school.  Despite the obstacles she started her own company and employed a bunch of other poor kids to come and work for her.  It wasn’t always easy and she nearly lost everything several times but she kept working hard and survived.  At some point she got married, and the guy was alright.  She also had children and loved them with all of her might.  She taught he kids to dream big, work hard and try to do right by their fellow-man.  Her marriage didn’t work out and she got a divorce.  She continued to live as happily as with her children and company.  When she died she looked back at her greatest achievements – creating jobs for so many other poor kids, and her beautiful children.  The end.

It could be easily rewritten where she’s an employee but takes great pride and satisfaction in her work.  I could also re-write it where she doesn’t have kids, and gets fulfillment through helping others or by using her creativity. The example of fairy tales is a powerful one for me since I work with kids in my day job.  I can’t help but see how much influence our myths, legends and pop culture have on young impressionable minds.

Why are we only told one story our entire lives?  With a few exceptions there are few fairy tales or fables that do not include weddings as part of a happy ending.  Why are weddings mostly absent in fairy tales geared towards boys?  Why do so many of our fables END with a marriage followed by the phrase “Happily Ever After.”  Every married or divorced person knows that a wedding is not the ending, it’s the start of a new chapter.  A fairy Godmother does not descend from heaven and make everything magical on the day we say “I do.”  In many ways everything gets harder, as the stakes get higher.

If our marriages end in divorce we are not lesser than our married counterparts. We all know dysfunctional and damaging marriages.   Just because two people remain married doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a happy or healthy union.

The wedding industry is big business the US.  With some estimates being as high as $51 billion dollars spent annually.  Yet despite all the extravagance and hoopla fewer people are getting married.  The media decries this trend as some sort of crumbling of our social fabric.  Personally I think it’s a good thing.  Marriage is not necessarily the end all, be all of happiness. Not everyone thrives in marriage and it’s much easier to walk away from a relationship that’s not legally binding.

When I was 27 I gave up my job, relocated to New York City and left my friends and career behind for a man I thought I would be with forever.  From a young age, we’re encouraged that to sacrifice for love is not only acceptable but a nobel thing to do.  Now it’s one thing to stay with a partner in a time of crisis, staying with them during a prolonged illness, or supporting them in a time of crisis.  That is a beautiful thing and a testament to the human experience.  Our bonds with each other can reach such depths that we do want to sacrifice for the ones we love.  At the same time, the emotions I have for my family and friends are just as strong as what I could have for a romantic partner.

We need a new narrative.  We need to stop telling the same story.  Marriage isn’t the only recipe for happily ever after, and honestly happily after doesn’t exist.  We live, we love and go through a lot in our lives and for most of us it’s nothing like a fairy tale.  I’d rather have a life with ups and downs than some Disney fantasy anyway.

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Life After Divorce: Why I Hate Over the Top Marriage Proposal Videos

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I’ve sometimes wondered if social media has made us more self-centered, or is it simply revealing our true narcissistic tendencies?  We live in a time of people taking self-portraits ad nauseam. Social media feeds fill up with images with the same basic message:  Look at me, Look at me, Look at me I’m doing absolutely nothing interesting, but for reasons unknown to anyone I really want everyone to see it.  Some feel compelled to declare absolutely every action or thought.  Our world is on overflow of useless, mundane and tedious self-aggrandizing affirmations.

In the days of proclaiming completely irrelevant information, some go to extremes when it comes to major life events.  Pregnancies are publicly documented from nearly the point of conception, wedding announcements go on for pages and pages and a few have even shared their marriage proposals with a global audience.  People spend small fortunes, recruit dozens of volunteers, hire professional musicians, and then toil away for hours editing, all in the hopes that their declaration of love will go viral.  I don’t mind over sharing on pregnancies, and weddings have always been a big deal, but I cringe when I see the proposal videos.

I’m not just here to rain on their parade, I’m the tropical storm that shows up when the beauty pageant winners are riding in the backseat of a convertible.  I can’t help myself.  I’ve been to the dark side of a marriage gone wrong, and I’ll never view marriage in the same way again.  As a divorced person in midlife, I just don’t see the world through such a dewy-eyed prism.  Not only did my own “perfect” marriage disintegrate, I’ve witnessed countless friends get dragged through brutal divorce hellscapes.  When I watch an elaborate public engagements I don’t see a deep never-ending love.  Instead I see person with narcissistic tendencies and a completely delusional view of marriage.  The main focus in almost all of the videos is the guy proposing, not his bride.  So it makes me wonder, is this about his never-ending love for his love, or is it about his ego?

Of course there are exceptions.  If the circumstances of a couple were truly outstanding then I might understand why they might want broadcast such a personal highly emotionally charged moment.  If a partner had narrowly escaped death, returned from war, or a same-sex couple that has been together for decades and can now finally get married.  I understand why they might want to go all out.  In some instances I get it.

Marriage is not about the theatrics.  It’s about weathering the harshest storms life throws at you.  Marriage is sticking with someone when they get sick, go broke, or make huge sometimes extremely hurtful mistakes.  Marriages aren’t a Disney movie come to life.  They’re the every day grind.  Sticking it out for the long haul is about just trying to get along during those boring, tedious and stressful days.  It’s putting up with bad habits, compromising and trying to see the bigger picture.

A person has every right to have a blow out or elaborate engagement or wedding.  We all have different styles and tastes, but it certainly isn’t an indicator of the depth of someone’s love or commitment.  Because again, love in the long-term, multi-year extended version doesn’t survive at that intensity.  It changes, and the adaptations it goes through aren’t necessarily bad.  When I see these public extravaganzas I can help but think, when they are fighting about where to live, what to buy, or how to raise their kids, it won’t matter how many flash mob dancers appeared in their youtube video.

Marriage is also extremely fragile.  Our divorce rate is so high in part, because people grow and change as we get older.  Sometimes two people who made the perfect pair in their twenties, are completely incompatible in their forties.  Some spouses flip out midlife decide to start over, and there is very little the other spouse can do about it.  People get married for all the wrong reasons.  They get caught up in the excitement of wedding planning, picking the perfect dress, creating the most elaborate engagement and lose sight of why they’re doing this in the first place.

The latest viral engagement video stars a man who created it over a four-year period.  Apparently he knew after their first date, that his girlfriend was his partner for life.  The pair just graduated from college, which would make them about 18 years old when they met.  So this is probably the first major relationship for either of them.  Are they soul mates who just got lucky and found each other early?  Or are they two kids who have no idea what lies ahead of them?  Statistically people who marry for the first time under the age of 25 have a higher rate of divorce, but they could beat the odds.

Will we ever view marriage in a realistic light, or will we continue to promote an unattainable fairy tale?  Will some women start to resent a simple proposal over dinner?  Are obnoxious public declarations the new normal?   If videos like these warm your heart that’s great, and some are actually sweet. I just can’t help but see what will probably happen in at about half of these marriages.   Maybe the next trend will be dramatic divorce videos complete with flying dishes, lawyer co-stars and tear filled monologues.  I hope no one thinks that’s a good idea.

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Dating in NYC: How to use the Internet to Catch your Partner Cheating

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A few of my friends have criticized me for what they view as “creepy” cyber sleuthing habits.  Well, as I often say on stage, “My fairy tale is dead, my heart is black”, so yeah I’m not the most trusting person. For the purposes of this article, I won’t get into the specifics of my divorce but as the not so eloquent former President George W. Bush tried to say:

Here’s the actual phrase he was going for:
“Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice shame on me.” 

The truth is painful, and can hurt temporarily, but ultimately we are better off.  The key to catching a cheater was almost always technology: phone, email, twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media.  Since I’ve been divorced I’ve learned to find out as much as possible about a person BEFORE I get seriously involved with them.  The problem of course is that you can go too far, and misinterpret completely innocent things.

CAUTION:  I don’t recommend using any of these tactics unless you’re in a serious committed relationship, AND you suspect your partner is cheating.  Doing any of this for someone you are casually dating is total overkill and will just make you a neurotic mess. Cyber sleuthing is the nuclear option.  DO NOT do this with every guy or gal you go on a date with, if you do, you’ve entered a place called CRAZYTOWN.

GOOGLE

Google is your best friend.  You can find all sorts of stuff about a person with this search engine.  Of course you should search for his or her name, but then you can go further with it.  Search for blogs, images, videos, even news articles.  You’d be surprised what shows up.  I once found a blog that was in some ways a love letter to a guy I was dating at the time.  In his case, it was a ex-girlfriend who was still completely obsessed with him.  She lived in another city, but the way he reacted to my discovery made me completely certain that he wasn’t worth my time.  He was clearly still infatuated with her, and it explained a lot of his non-committal behavior.  There are other search engines such as Bing, or Yahoo, which are also helpful.

FACEBOOK

It’s an invaluable resource, as many users post an incredible amount of personal information on their profile.  But again proceed with caution.  If you have just started dating, then none of the following is a reason to worry, but if you’ve been exclusive for more than six months or so, consider any of these a red flag.

  • Does he/she post photos of you as a couple? – If he or she posts other personal information and photos with friends, it’s strange if they aren’t posting photos of you together.  Why are they hiding you?
  • Have they changed their relationship status or is it blank? – Again, not everyone is public about these things, but if it’s a serious relationship that has gone on for a extended period of time and there is ZERO mention of you…that’s highly unusual.
  • Do they have tons of photos of themselves with an ex on their profile? – Of course there are mitigating circumstances with this one.  If they share children with their ex, you should expect to see photos of them on their profile, especially if the kids are in the photo.  If it’s a former spouse, that’s also more understandable.  But if it’s a virtual shrine to some woman or man who is supposedly no longer intimately involved with them, that’s troubling behavior.
  • Are you ever mentioned in a status update?  Do they make any public declarations about you? – It depends on how often they post, and how public your partner typically is on social media.  If your partner is constantly posting, yet you’ve never been seen or spoken about…that’s cause for concern.
  • Do they have a separate album dedicated to a former partner?  – This is just the height of tackiness.  Now if you have just started dating, it’s no big deal.  But if you’re at a point where you’re exclusive and you’ve been dating for an extended period of time, it’s just disrespectful to keep that on social media.

Backdoor tips when using Facebook – If you type a person’s name in the part where you search for something and just hold it, you will get a pulldown menu below, one of the options is simply called Photos of (Person’s Name)  I’m going to use my own account to demonstrate this:

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If you select that, then you can search for photos the person has “liked” in the past year.


I won’t include any actual photos as to protect the privacy others.  But trust me, Facebook will show you quite a bit.

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Another option in the same pull down menu is “Photos Commented on by (Person’s Name)”

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Now of course, if your significant other is just liking another person’s photos that doesn’t mean much.  BUT if all of their likes are gorgeous, women or hot guys….you might want to keep digging.  The comments they make are even more revealing.  Again, one comment, or one photo is no big deal, but if you find an overwhelming pattern or hundreds of examples, that’s a reason to worry.  The handy thing about Facebook is that it dates nearly everything.  So an excuse about correspondence being ancient history, is easily debunked.

What I don’t recommend – making fake profiles and trying to friend people under false pretenses to find more dirt.  If you’re doing that, then you’re almost as bad as the cheater.  You shouldn’t lie and use other people to get information about your partner. You never know how you could unintentionally hurt someone else, and honestly you probably won’t have to go to such extremes.  Most people aren’t that skilled at hiding their philandering.

 

INSTAGRAM

Do a hashtag search of your partner’s full name.  Trust me, you’d be surprised what you might find.  I did this once with a man who was trying to hook up with me.  When I did the hashtag search I found a photo of him with another woman. They looked very much like a couple.  I clicked on the photo and then it was even more obvious that not only was this his girlfriend, but they had been dating for a fairly long time.  On his account, he didn’t have a single photo of her.  He had also neglected to feature her anywhere on his Facebook, or even mention her once.  I felt sorry for her, as half of her account seemed dedicated to this relationship.  When I confronted him about it, he admitted everything.

You could also hashtag nicknames, or search for the name of a person you think might be involved with your partner.  Some more savvy users could block you from their account, but they’re only going to do that if they suspect your looking for information.  In most cases, if your partner is cheating on you, the person he or she is sleeping with might not even know you exist.

TWITTER

Most people wouldn’t be this stupid, but former Congressman Anthony Weiner thought absolutely nothing of sending obscene photos to a user on twitter. You can scan through your partners tweets to find conversations he or she might have had with other users.  Twitter isn’t even remotely private, so most skilled cheaters wouldn’t think of having incriminating discussions on that platform, but it’s worth the look.  If you see the same user constantly engaging your partner, and you already suspect that person, it could just add to your pile of evidence.  Yes, Anthony Weiner was this stupid…he thought sending this photo via twitter was a good idea.

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EMAIL

Nowadays most people have passwords on their computers and other devices.  But the passwords usually take a few minutes to click in, if your partner just used his or her email you might be able to search it with no problem.  I don’t recommend doing this unless absolutely necessary.  Hacking into another person’s email is highly unethical but if you are 99% sure that there is infidelity going on, and you need solid proof, there might not be any other way.

INTERNET HISTORY

A more savvy cheater knows to hide their viewing history when surfing the net.  However, people get lazy and forget to do this all the time.  I’ve met countless men and women who found out their spouse was cheating simply by checking their internet history online.  Visits to dating or hook-up sites are especially difficult to explain, you might even find their profile.

*Anything online leaves a trail, all written correspondence is subject to screen shots and photographs.  So email, text messages, twitter, blogs, etc. are all proof your partner is not being honest with you.

Always when in doubt use common sense and logic when dealing with a possible cheater.  There’s another old saying:

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck” 

  • Your partner is not being forthcoming about your relationship – they never mention you on social media
  • You haven’t met their friends or family
  • They are overly secretive in general, they tell you very little about their background or personal life
  • They are constantly breaking dates at the last-minute
  • You never go out in public
  • They always have strange elaborate excuses for some of their behavior
  • They are hyper secretive about their phone, email use, or internet searches
  • They accuse you of cheating, or need to know your whereabouts at all times – cheaters often suspect their partners.
  • They have relationships with opposite or same-sex partners that seem too intense or obsessive for a normal friendship

These are all huge red flags, that you’re dealing with a cheating partner.  DON’T LIVE IN DENIAL!  Use the cognitive part of your brain to drown out the fluttery, irrational, romantic emotions and learn the truth.  Everything you love and cherish could be a stake, don’t let someone treat you like a fool.  From my own personal experience with this, I have no regrets about finding out the truth in my marriage.  Both my former spouse and I are better off, and now we can both live our lives authentically.

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Dating Online – Why a Young Cub is not always that attractive to a Cougar

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The day I turned 40, something completely surprised me on my online dating profile.  I thought that once I reached my midlife milestone birthday, the amount of email would slow down. I was surprised when I saw more traffic than ever.  The bulk of interest came from much younger men. Suddenly 19 and 20-year-olds were sending me things like,

“What’s up? U R Hot. Do U like younger guys?” – Always hysterical to me, since the young ones often use text speech and insane word substitutions that drive me crazy.

“I really love older women.  We should hang out sometime.  Let’s get a drink” – I’ve gotten these from men who aren’t old enough to legally drink alcohol.  So either he’s got a fake ID, or we’re drinking coffee.  I guess I could take the risk of being arrested for giving alcohol to a minor, that would be living life on the edge!  Maybe they are asking me out BECAUSE I can buy them liquor.  Who knows?

“I know you’re a lot older, but I’m really looking for a serious relationship” – I’m not kidding, I’ve gotten several emails like that one.  Are they serious?  I have no idea.  Do they have Mommy issues?  Probably.

“I’m going to start college in the Fall. I love to go snowboarding, and play video games.  Let’s hang out!” – I assumed he lived with his parents and was still in high school.  So technically he’s legal, but honestly who in their right mind would think that’s a good idea? Someone must have written a self-help book that advises young men to search for women 40 or older on dating sites.  After 40 we’re more desperate, we’ll pounce on a young eager kid.  When I’ve complained about this deluge of barely legal would be suitors, some of my male friends get extremely upset with me.  I hear things like,

  • Well I would dream of getting hot 19 year olds in my inbox
  • Score! You have teenagers hitting on you.  I’d tap that!
  • How could you complain about young guys?

Again I know this might sound shocking to some, but men and women are extremely different creatures.  Most women in their 40’s don’t want to date men over 20 years younger.  Of course there are exceptions and age and maturity don’t always go together.  If two people can find love in this world and they have a twenty year age difference, then more power to them!   But usually most of those 19 year olds I get in my inbox aren’t exactly “hot young studs”.  The really good-looking younger men, probably have a surplus of attractive, hot young women.  And I’m not talking about a 30-year-old with a 45-year-old.  At that point both parties are adults, and although the age difference is great, it’s not the same as a 19-year-old man hitting up a woman who could be his mother. Even though a 19-year-old is legally an adult, most are basically children.  I have theories about why I keep getting these requests, the younger men think an older woman could:

Teach them about Sex – Some women might get off on this, or think this could be a lot of fun.  Personally I don’t want to train anyone. The thought of having awkward or bad sex with someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing is not exactly my idea of a good time.

Take care of them Financially – Some don’t even hide this, and will say it openly.  My favorite was from a 29-year-old.  He somehow just assumed I would was rolling in it because I was a whopping 11 years older than him.  If only being 40 magically brought financially stability. In his case we discovered he was better off than I was.

Take care of them Emotionally – Mommy issues.  Some guys really do feel more comfortable dating someone who takes on a more maternal role in their lives.  To each his own on this one, but not every woman is going to WANT that arrangement.

Need to be Dominated – This is true of men at any age, but the power dynamic does get a bit skewed with a large age gap.  An older woman is probably going to have more life experience and more relationships under her belt.

Drawbacks to younger men

  • Aren’t financially secure
  • Immature
  • MIght live at home or with multiple roommates
  • Have totally different interests and lifestyles
  • He might not get along with your friends, you might not get along with his
  • Probably won’t want kids right away
  • Less likely to stick around long-term
  • Text speak, totally different communication skills – The younger ones don’t call, they text, tweet, IM and Skype.  It’s a whole new world of abbreviated speech that can be a bit unnerving to women who write in full sentences.
  • Porn educated – Sorry boys but this one is so true.  I’ve found with men closer to my age that sex is far less influenced by pornography.  Younger men don’t seem to understand that porn is a FANTASY and that most people don’t try to reenact porn scenes every time they have sex.
  • Lack of sexual experience

Of course age is just a number and emotional maturity and numerical age do not always go together.  I’ve met plenty of immature men in their 50’s and 60’s.  Some May December romances work out beautifully and there are no hard rules to what makes a relationship work.  I have several female friends who are older than their partners. The older two partners get the less an age difference matters.  A 30-year-old with a 45-year-old is something else entirely than a 19-year-old with a 34-year-old.  Once a person is well into adulthood, they know who they are, what they want and have a reasonable level of maturity.  A kid who is 19 or 20 however is just trying to figure these things out, they could be so easily manipulated and crushed by an older partner of any gender. I wish my male friend’s fantasies were true, and the hot young 21-year-old men were lining up in my inbox, but that’s just not the case. Regardless, I want a partner who is an equal, and it’s difficult to see a kid in college as a peer.  So until then, much to the disappointment of my male counterparts, I’ll continue to turn down the young ones who hit me up.  I would rather not be the cougar who devours willing cubs.

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Don’t make your Crazy Boyfriend your Job.

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We all want to receive and give love.  It’s a universal human need.  As social creatures we seek out acceptance and affection.  Some of us will do nearly anything to get it.  I’ve held onto relationships far too long, overly romanticized partners, and dedicated far too much of my energy into my romantic endeavors. We will go against all common sense and logic and cling to completely hopeless situations.

I’m writing this from a woman’s perspective, women tend to fall into this pattern more than men.  We’re simply conditioned to view men as projects to fix, or as people to save. Our culture encourages women to put the needs of their partner ahead of their own.  We mistakenly view a relationship, as a more noble cause than our own happiness and well-being.  Some men will fall into these bad patterns too, but it seems more culturally acceptable when a women subjugates her own needs for the sake of a relationship.  I’ve been incredibly guilty of this in the past, but being on the wrong side of a bad marriage has given me tremendous perspective.  Recently, I turned to a friend and said simply:

If you were in college, your major would be your crazy boyfriend.  Just think what you could accomplish if you put all of this energy into yourself.

Although it briefly upset my friend when I said this, she eventually agreed with me.  She was spending all of her waking hours devoted to a totally lost cause.

It was the classic story of boy meets girl, only to have the boy blow up at the girl in a controlling rage.  Then the girl breaks it off, only to have the boy beg her back.  The same inane cycle became stuck on repeat ad nauseam.  She pretty much was breaking up with him, the minute they started dating.  Three then four months went by with no change.  Small details of possible infidelity, a ray of hope of changing behavior, maybe a brief vacation from the madness, but the chaos would return.  Another knockdown, drag-out fight complete with name calling, insults, slurs, and it would all start over again.

My friend stopped everything in her life.  She stopped working, because her boyfriend didn’t like her job.  He paid her bills and her rent and she became completely dependent on him.  He resented her for being so needy and she blamed him for putting her in a dependent situation.  She felt like she couldn’t completely break it off with him since was financially dependent.  It was a simply ridiculous situation. Becoming financially dependent on a partner completely throws off the entire power structure.  It literally makes it next to impossible for the dependent partner to leave.  Some partnerships work well in this dynamic but it’s generally a bad idea to give up everything for the sake of a man.

Some of use fall in love with an idea or a romanticized notion of another person and despite EVERY red flag blowing in the wind we refuse to see reality.  Sometimes what we think of as love is just a form of narcissism.  A person looks so good on paper, we think they should work out.  Or we like some superficial quality about them, and it gets us hooked.   They might have a great job, a wonderful apartment, or drop dead gorgeous but they are still completely wrong for us and we won’t let go.

As a person who has been there and back, I can tell you that if you aren’t living with a person, you’re not married and you don’t have kids, then absolutely nothing should keep you in a bad relationship.  Living on top of one another can create all sorts of problems and tensions, marriage puts an enormous pressure on a relationship, and children are like miniature nuclear weapons of chaos wrapped in high-octane emotions.  You probably won’t agree on how to handle every conflict or situation your kid present, and despite loving them with all your heart, those little ones will push you to your limits.  So, if you’re just dating and it’s taking all of your energy to simply function – BREAK UP NOW!  If you haven’t been together long, and you are working so hard at keeping it together you’re simply incompatible.   Of course relationships take work, and they aren’t always easy but they shouldn’t take over your life.

When I look back at the sacrifices I made for my doomed marriage I want to grab myself by both shoulders and shake some sense into my head.  No one is perfect and we’ve all made these mistakes, but after losing everything in a brutal divorce I will never go back there again.

We all want and deserve love in our lives, but that love should not come with such a great cost.  Ultimately we can only rely on ourselves and if another person is creating such havoc and grief, they aren’t worth it. No one should dictate what we do for a living, where we go, or how we spend our time.  No matter how beautiful they might be, or how much we want them as a partner, no one is worth giving up our own hopes and dreams.  Jettison a toxic partner and move forward, the perfect match could be waiting for you, and you won’t have to go through hell to have them in your life.

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Dating in NYC: Dating in the Land of Zero Effort

 

Online dating profiles reduce humans to commodities.  Instead of nuanced individuals with provoking personalities, we transform into a collection of photos and vital stats such as: height, age, body type, diet preferences, religion, political views and our favorite books and movies.  In New York City online dating profiles should just include a few photos and a zip code, because honestly that’s all that really matters for so many singles.  If you live in Brooklyn, trying to date a person in Queens could be considered a long-distance relationship. Staten Island and the Bronx might as well be in other states, and New Jersey is the vortex.  It seems much easier to get into the Garden State then it does to get back.  Even though over 19 million people live in the New York City metro area, commuting via subways, buses and cramped highways is challenging.  Even when I meet men offline, most conversations start like this:

Guy: “Where do you live?”

Me: “Brooklyn”

Guy: “What neighborhood?”

Me: “Flatbush”

And then I see the facial expression that says everything I need to know.  Their eyes will squint, their brow will cease and it looks like they just smelled some week old Indian food.  No one has ever lit up and smiled after hearing it.  Some men have actually broken off the conversation after the word ‘Flatbush’ and walked away.  They’re hardly subtle about their complete disdain for my section of NYC.  On online dating services, things are much worse.  One man went so far as to indicate on his profile, he was only willing to consider ladies who lived on the “L” train, or within a short biking distance.

According to the latest census estimates here is how the city breaks down

  • Brooklyn     2,565,635
  • Queens       2,272,771
  • Manhattan   1,619,090
  • Bronx           1,408,473
  • Staten Island   470,728

Given the odds, I should have the easiest time of it.  The problem is Brooklyn is huge and the subway system doesn’t easily connect every neighborhood.  So to get to Mr. L train, I would have to jump on the Q train, take it into Manhattan, then transfer to the L train and take it back into Brooklyn.  My journey would last an hour maybe 45 minutes, which is just too long for most folks in this metropolis.  The Bronx and Staten Island are like different countries to me, and my commute to some parts of Queens could take over two hours.  When a guy hits me up and lives in New Jersey, he’d better live in Hoboken, Jersey City or another part of NJ that is easily accessible via public transportation.

I’m not a huge fan of my neighborhood as it has a higher crime rate than others and is a bit farther out from Manhattan, but my rent is much cheaper and my apartment is larger than most.  By most Manhattanite standards, my ‘hood is the middle of nowhere.   From what I’ve found the most ideal location is Manhattan, as its central location makes it easier for anyone in the outer boroughs.  Although anywhere above 125th Street is the mysterious hidden borough called ‘Northern Manhattan’.  Just as it’s more difficult to get furniture delivered to neighborhoods like Washington Heights, Inwood and Spanish Harlem, it’s also harder to get anyone to travel to the far reaches of the Island.

I guess I just magically need to make more money so I can afford to live in one of the most expensive places on earth.  I’m not expecting much, I just get sick of always being stuck at home with my cats watching “House of Cards” on Netflix.   In my neighborhood I’m mostly hit on by teenage drug dealers.  I’m not speculating on their illegal activity, I’ve seen them openly sell drugs right in front of me.  The average age of the guys who yell “Hey Baby” at me is about 16.  Since Flatbush is hardly hip, most of the age appropriate men who live here are very much married or living with someone.  I just don’t find a lot of single men age 35-45 anywhere, but I especially don’t run into them in my part of Brooklyn.

I think this is why those hook-up apps like tinder are so popular.  They really do take away all effort completely.  Want free sex from a somewhat attractive female who is easily accessible, in more ways than one?  Just swipe right and hope she does the same.  I still refuse to get that desperate, until then I will remain in Flatbush and hope that somehow a guy might want to ride the train for more than 20 minutes to see me.  Or maybe I’ll get a job managing a hedge fund tomorrow and move to a mansion in the Hamptons. When I live in my sprawling estate I can pick up guys at the local tennis court, or while riding the ponies in a co-ed polo match.  Anything is possible I guess.

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Dating After Divorce: Becoming Comfortably Numb

 

I wondered when it would happen, then a few months ago, it hit me.  After countless bad dates and a dating scene that feels like a wasteland, I’ve finally become comfortably numb.  It’s not what I expected.  I thought I would be more negative and more jaded, but it’s honestly somewhat comfortable.  My expectations have just hit rock bottom.

When I first left my marriage I was completely unprotected.  My heart was overly sensitive, my mind ravaged with depression and my instincts set at high alert. I needed to calm the beast, or I never would have survived. I used to cry after bad dates, usually on the subway home.  As soon as I would just sit down, I’d mildly lose it.  I don’t think I had unrealistic expectations.  Multiple bad dates had trained me not to think beyond the first encounter.  Then on the rare occasions I had a second date, I taught myself not to get too excited.  I’ve only made it to three dates with one man.  We had hardly gotten serious, we hadn’t had sex yet when he had a slight meltdown.  In his case, I don’t think it had anything to do with me.  From what he told me, he had some seriously unresolved issues with his ex.  Unresolved issues with exes is just a reality for people over 35.

Some guys would rather remain virtual.  I sort of “dated”  a guy who just wanted to email.  He claimed he wanted to see me, but then created countless obstacles.  I lived in Brooklyn and he lived in Manhattan, so it shouldn’t have been that difficult.  He also wasn’t over his ex, and I suspect was still trying to get back together with her.  I’ll never understand why I kept talking to him, or what was going on in his head.  I found out months after I gave up, he found a good match and they are inseparable.

I’ve had a few casual flings.  I forced every jealous atom inside of me to stay cool.  Hooking up with guys when I knew they had other women in their lives, wasn’t easy.  It really took Herculean strength to not react, to tell myself that it didn’t matter, we weren’t serious, this won’t lead to anything. I managed to stay calm, but inside I was miserable.

They haven’t all been bad.  I had a strong connection with one guy.  We found out on the date we were both straight spouses.  His wife left him for a woman, and I thought that maybe our shared experience might work to our advantage.  Despite obvious warning signs that he was clearly not over his ex-wife, we made out in his car for over an hour.  It was highly unusual for me, as I usually don’t even kiss a guy on a first date. Then he completely blew me off.   I guess the situation was too much for him, I don’t know.  I can’t remember his name or face.

Now I still have a few men who hover but do little else. They might send a dick pic, or a request for sexting that will lead absolutely nowhere.  I’ve learned I’m not the only recipient for their x-rated self-portraits.   If I say I’m interested in something more, they tend to bolt.  Of course I still get harassed on the street by any number of men of all ages.  I guess that might end when I have to use a walker or cane to get around.

The worst was my rebound relationship, something I never should have gotten myself into.  It was completely exhilarating, but ultimately soul crushing.  I had so many conflicted feelings towards him, at least two years after the fact.  Now I don’t see him.  I have no idea what’s going on in his life, and I have no desire to find out.  I harbor no ill will, but I also don’t want any contact with him.

I’ve become someone I would have never recognized five years ago.  But in a way it’s not completely awful.  It’s not what I thought it would be.  I’m not angry or bitter, just numb.   I take everything men say and do with a grain of salt.  So what if the guy sent me several texts in a row – It doesn’t mean anything until he backs it up with actions.  I rarely text anyone because I can’t stand being blanked back.  I would rather just have nothing than the feeling of being ignored.

I just stopped caring.  So what if the guy from OKCupid sends me eight emails only to cancel the same night as our date.  I don’t even blink if some man rants about his “bitch ex-wife” for half the date.  It no longer surprises me, if he insults what I do for a living, or complains about my crappy neighborhood. This is dating after 35 in a city where only the strong survive, and you’ll be judged on everything your job, neighborhood, past relationships, pets, hobbies even your hometown.

Some of my dates have been so rude and so horrible that if I recreated them in a movie, I would be accused of being too fantastical.  I try to keep an open mind, stay positive and keep moving forward.  My horrible experiences have given me armor.  I rarely have crying fits on the subway anymore.  I’ve just learned to block the disappointments out.   Most divorced people never think they are going to end up like this.  Few of us expect this as our future.  If we learn more from our failures, I’ll be a genius by the time I finally meet a compatible match.  🙂

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When Saying “Smile” is the rudest thing a person could do

Teen Angst

On the day after Christmas, I sat in the airport and tried to keep myself occupied before my flight.  I was trying to play the NYTimes Crosswords app on my phone, but I just couldn’t focus.  My carry-on had a couple of books I knew I had to read, and a frivolous magazine.  Nothing sparked my interest.  The TV screens suspended from the ceiling were broadcasting CNN and it was some inane story about the economy.  No matter how hard I tried, I could only think of one thing – her face.  It was the face of a woman who was far too young to die.

On Christmas day a year earlier my cousin dropped dead of a massive heart attack.   She was in her late forties, unmarried, and was only in town for the holiday.  Multiple underlying medical conditions contributed to her unexpected death, but it was still a huge shock to everyone that she was gone.  Two days after Christmas her funeral was hastily arranged to allow as many relatives from out-of-town to pay our respects.  She was twice divorced with no children, but had three beloved cats.  On that side of the family I have 16 cousins, and she was the first of our generation to die.

Divorced and childless myself, I couldn’t help but think of my face in that casket.  Would I suffer a similar fate?  I also felt horrible that I didn’t get a chance to see her one last time and I worried for my aunt.  My Aunt was the oldest five and had already buried her husband and daughter-in-law.  Sitting alone in the airport on the anniversary of my cousin’s death caused me to grieve all over again.  As I sat there staring off into vacant space, tears started to roll down my eyes.  And then I heard him – a booming voice with a thick Southern twang.

“Hey pretty lady, you know you ain’t got nothing to cry to be sad about.  Come on and show me a SMILE.”  He was an average looking white man in his mid-thirties with messy hair and coveralls pushing a large piece of equipment.

“Why don’t you mind your fucking business!  Asshole!” I snapped back, giving him some New York City attitude.

I could tell by the look in his eye and his attitude he didn’t care at all about my emotions or what I might be going through.  This was his feeble and pathetic attempt to try to get me to talk or engage with him.  As if a woman couldn’t just sit there and have sad thought.  With that one phrase he wasn’t actually telling me to cheer up he was negating my feelings.  I was just sitting there completely minding my business.  I wasn’t dressed in anything garish or attention seeking.  A black down coat, black jeans and a sweater, minimal makeup and my hair wadded up in Saint Louis cardinals baseball cap.  Why wasn’t I allowed one moment of solitude?  Would he had dared to snap out such an order to a man sitting by himself?

I had a completely opposite situation once while riding the subway.  A man I now refer to as rebound #2 had just abruptly broken up with me.  My post-divorce depression was crippling, and I really shouldn’t have tried to date anyone.  I had just started treatment and was on medication but I was nowhere near recovery.  So that day on the Q train I just couldn’t hold it in anymore and had a total meltdown.  As I sat there sobbing, a woman sitting across from me simply said,

“Are you OK?”

She was tall, well dressed, close to my age, with dark skin and beautiful long braids.  I was so taken aback by her reaction.  I hadn’t even realized I was crying like that in public.  My depression had completely taken over me, and here was this total stranger expressing real empathy. At first I tried to get it together and said,

“I’m fine.”

She looked and me and responded,

“You don’t look fine.  It’s OK.  We’ve all been there.”

Then it all came spilling out,

“I just got a divorce, and I can’t date anyone.  No one wants me.  No one will ever want me. I’m damaged goods.”

The woman came over and sat next to me.  She told me about her own traumatic breakup, and how she had recently met a great guy and had renewed hope in life.  I realized quickly, she didn’t want anything from me, she didn’t ask for my card or information and she didn’t give me hers.  She put her arm around me and told me it was going to be OK and I wiped my tears and we just shared about 10 minutes of a real human connection.  I got off the train and waved goodbye.  It was one of the nicest moments I’ve ever had with a stranger.  She didn’t negate my pain, she acknowledged it.  We all have suffering sometimes and just hearing another person say,

“I’ve hurt too.  I’m sorry you’re in pain.”

It was enough to stop the spiral if for only a second.  Having a stranger scream, “Stop crying you don’t have any problems” is the exact opposite.  We all fall down.  We all go through rough times and we should mourn and give ourselves time to grieve.

When I recently found out that a friend of mine died suddenly at the age of 45 I was on a sidewalk in Union Square.  I literally fell down and had to brace myself on a fence to keep myself from completely collapsing.  As I struggled to make it to the train, get home and keep myself together all I could think of was…please don’t say anything to me…please leave me alone….I just want to get home.  Luckily for me that day, I was given peace.  I worry I might have physically assaulted a man who shouted “Smile honey you don’t have anything to cry about” Luckily no one was that rude or stupid.  Sadness is a perfectly healthy emotion and sometimes it doesn’t come in nice and neat ways.  We will find ourselves breaking down in public.

Making the decision to approach a total stranger in distress is a tricky one.  It’s sort of like going up to a wounded animal.  Will they try to attack back?  Will they go into shock?  Will we make things worse?  As I’ve said multiple times on this blog, the best thing anyone can do for another person in crisis is simply listen.  Don’t tell them what to do, don’t try to fix their problems just hear them out.  But whatever you do, don’t scream “Smile.”

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Dear Stranger from out of town, I’m not an unpaid prostitute.

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Online dating is the social experiment that keeps on giving.  I’m always amazed at hidden agendas it reveals.  If I select that I’m looking for casual sex in my profile, I will literally get over 100 emails in a 24 hour period.  Men are looking for no strings attached sex, but few will be completely open about their intentions.  One of the strangest phenomena are men from out-of-town who seek sex with New York City women.  My inbox overflows requests like these, yet nothing on my profile indicates that I’m looking for hook-ups.  A typical email goes like this:

I think you’re hot. I’m going to be in New York City next week and I’d love to hook-up if you’re game for that sort of thing. If you aren’t, then my apologizes.

The straight forward approach is a bit unnerving, but they are easy enough to dismiss.   I always admire anyone who has the courage to ask for what they want.  As I’ve said many times on this blog, I wish more men were open and honest.  For every email like that one, I get about 10 of these:

I really think we have a connection. Even though we haven’t met, I can tell from your profile that you’re a caring and loving woman. Something about your eyes, and smile are so inviting to me.  I also think we have a lot in common, and we’d have a great time together.  I’ll only be in town for a week, and I really need someone to show me around the city. I know I could just sit in my hotel room in between my work, but I’d rather spend it with someone special like you.

Those make me want to vomit. It’s also an obvious cut and paste.  A guy will send the same email to dozens of women hoping one will bite.  My profile is mostly random movie quotes.  A savvier man will comment on the films I’ve quoted, or at least acknowledge that my profile is slightly unconventional.  Talking about my eyes, smile or the many things we have in common is intentionally vague.  Every woman has eyes, and most are smiling in at least one photo – so I guess a few might fall for complete drivel like that.  Others might realize the guy is a total phony but they think he’s attractive enough for a one-night stand.

Then we have the truly slime inducing ones:

Look, I’m going to be in New York City next week.  I’m going to be extremely busy.  Maybe if you’re hot enough in person, I’ll make some time for you.  You won’t regret it but you’d better be hot, or forget it.  I’ve got nine inches of pure manhood and I love to make hot chicks moan.

Luckily men like this are rare.  When I’ve gotten emails like these I’ve responded, “Why aren’t you on tinder” or “Hire a prostitute” or “I don’t need an out-of-town STD.”

Usually the men who proposition me for such liaisons aren’t exactly drop dead gorgeous, but a few have been.  I’ve still never taken the bait.  I’m not comfortable with these situations for a number of reasons.

  • Are these men married? Who knows?
  • Safety issues – Theft, sexual assault or worse
  • Drugs – Will I be slipped something that will knock me out?  Will the man be blazed out of his mind?
  • Privacy – Photographs, video, webcams – technology has gotten so small anything is possible
  • Unusual requests, unexpected kinky sex, inappropriate boundaries
  • BAD SEX

The last one is in all caps for a reason.  Sex with strangers is like rolling the dice, you really have no idea if you are going to have a steamy, hot night of passion or an awkward, uncomfortable evening of disappointment.  Simply put sex with a total stranger, is sometimes not just mediocre but downright scaring.  Most of the time when men have sex, they’ll at least have an orgasm.  Any woman knows we aren’t always as lucky.  A selfish or unskilled lover can make the entire enterprise one long night we wish we could forget forever.

Women also get hit up for free sex all the time.  If I want no strings attached sex I can probably get that from someone I already know and trust a bit.  I also don’t need a girlfriend or wife tracking me down weeks or months later when they’ve discovered an “affair” which was really just a random hook-up.

Overall these requests make me feel like I have no value.  A sex worker might put up with strange sexual requests, a selfish one-sided lover or an uncomfortable experience.  A prostitute at least gets paid, and usually quite well for their services.  Of course some women love the turn on of having sex with a total stranger who they will never see again.  However most women who want hot sex from out-of-town men are on hook-up sites like Adult Friend Finder and Tinder.  It’s a bit of a leap for any man to assume all women want this type of sexual experience.

Basically. if you want to buy shoes, don’t go to a hat store.  Plenty of women are waiting for your emails you just need to look for them on sites specific to your search.  Sex workers are also always available, they might be pricy but there’s nothing wrong with an agreed upon transaction between consenting adults.  Never assume the average gal on OKCupid or Match.com is waiting for your “Nine inches manhood.”  We know it’s probably closer to six inches anyway. 🙂

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I don’t have a tip jar on this blog because I think they’re tacky.  If you want to support julietjeskeblog.com please watch the following short video.  A portion of the ad revenue goes to help me with the costs associated with running the blog.  I have no control over the content of the advertising.  Thanks so much for reading.