Esther Greenwood

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Five Love Languages

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2009 at 6:37 am

Years ago, I was sitting on my ass watching old tapes of The X-Files when my friend Spam came online full of wisdom and insight he learned from some class in college.  He kept talking about something that sounded straight out of a Dr. Phil book, the “five love languages.”  I ignored it for the most part: for one thing it sounded incredibly hokey, plus usually when this topic came up I was single and it never occurred to me to research the matter for my friends’ benefit.

However, corniness aside, I asked Spam not too long ago to re-explain to me this whole “love language” theory.  Spam, I have to say, is part of one of the longest, sanest, and by far the happiest, relationship I’ve ever seen.  He and his girlfriend Katie love each other, and are so damn good at encouraging one another and being there for one another it almost makes you sick (but not really because you are so happy for them).  Spam tipped his relationship success to what he learned about the five love languages, so I’m here to share because this is supposed to be a blog about dating and relationships and not just full of funny and inappropriate stories or me venting and or pondering.

According to Spam, who is quoting this dude Gary Chapman, there are five ways we humans express love.  The below is a quote from this site:

  • Words of Affirmation
    This is when you say how nice your spouse looks, or how great the dinner tasted. These words will also build your mate’s self image and confidence.
  • Quality Time
    Some spouses believe that being together, doing things together and focusing in on one another is the best way to show love. If this is your partner’s love language, turn off the TV now and then and give one another some undivided attention.
  • Gifts
    It is universal in human cultures to give gifts. They don’t have to be expensive to send a powerful message of love. Spouses who forget a birthday or anniversary or who never give gifts to someone who truly enjoys gift giving will find themselves with a spouse who feels neglected and unloved.
  • Acts of Service
    Discovering how you can best do something for your spouse will require time and creativity. These acts of service like vacuuming, hanging a bird feeder, planting a garden, etc., need to be done with joy in order to be perceived as a gift of love.
  • Physical Touch
    Sometimes just stroking your spouse’s back, holding hands, or a peck on the cheek will fulfill this need.

Now, as Spam (and this Chapman dude) explain it, we don’t all “express” our love in the same way.  As Spam recounts: “Words of affirmation, compliments, are really important to me, and probably my most important love language, for receiving.  When I was going out with XXX, she would never SAY nice things to me, so I thought she didn’t like me.  We broke up after six months because of it… turns out she was in love with me, I just wasn’t picking up her signals.”

So, the moral is, we’re supposed to use these different expressions to show people we care, and recognize the fact that we don’t all show in the same way, and adapt/recognize the other person’s “language” and try to see that just because they aren’t, say, holding your hand doesn’t mean they don’t love you, yadda yadda yadda.  At the same time, if the girl or fella wants their hand held, learn to hold their hand.  It’s a give and take thing.  You have to work it out, compromise.

And now it sounds like I am lecturing.

I swear, most of my other posts will be hip and cool.

So, anyway, I was thinking about this the other day, because I like to give people gifts.  Little things, like a note or flowers or cookies.  And I’m reminded of something my dear friend Stella told me once, about how at times it can be exhausting/daunting to be my friend (this is not to build myself up) because she couldn’t keep up with it, she showed her affection for our friendship in other ways (listening to me vent over and over about the same damn issue or person, for example). And I understood this and accepted this.

I’ve got to give this Chapman guy some credit, though I really do wish he’d change his theory’s moniker.  I’m reminded of how hurt and frustrated I was when I dated a gay guy (I didn’t know at the time he was gay) because he would never touch me (duh, dude dug dudes) or verbally say nice things to me or encourage me (I’m with Spam on the emphasis of the verbal front, as a writer I guess words are doubly important to me, though “actions speak louder,” so I don’t know… maybe I’m full of it– ANYWAY).  But what he did do to show he cared was, to use Chapman’s phrasing, the “acts of service” and “gifts.”  I can only see that now, five years later.  At the time I thought he didn’t give a shit about me.  And while I know now he didn’t in the way I wanted, I do believe he cared in some regard.  We just spoke a different language (and had different interests, or one main similar one).  And in the end, that ruined us.

If you go off of popular entertainment, a woman’s primary “love language” (I still cringe when I type that) is the “words of affirmation” and “quality time.”  Get those two together and it’s a cuddle fest on the couch talking about feelings, a guy’s favorite thing to do.  Hardy har har.  I crack myself up.  Oy.   According to this same popular entertainment stereotype, men’s primary “love language” would fall under “gifts,” “acts of service,” and “physical touch.”  I’m not one to give credence to stereotypes, but notice the lack of overlap.

Anyway, I just thought I’d post this interesting theory up there.  Next post will be something wicked or funny or at least a little less Oprah, a little more Dan Savage.  Maybe with a little Ellen.


Sex Horror Stories, Part One

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2009 at 3:18 am

So, it’s been awhile.  I apologize.  To make up for it, I am going to share a funny true sex story shared with me by a med student acquaintance years ago.

My friend Josh was working as an intern at a hospital in New York.  Once, while working the late shift, a man and woman came in.  The woman had severe burns and the man was in extreme pain.  This was their story:

The man and woman, we’ll call them Claude and Claudette, decided to get high one night.  They got stoned, and started having such a good, relaxing time they decided getting naked could only add to the fun.  So they hung about the apartment butt-naked.  Joy.  Claude, as some stoned folk do, got hungry.  He decided to make himself some pancakes.  So he went into the kitchen and started flipping some flapjacks– still naked.

Well, nothing says sexy to a woman like a man who can cook.  Claudette felt herself getting a little horny, and decided in her stoned glory it was a good idea to go down on Claude while he was standing, flipping those flapjacks.  So she started giving him oral, and Claude got so into it he lost control of his pan and dropped it on Claudette’s fragile head.  Well, that pan was hot, dammit, and covered in hot pancake mix.  Claudette went into shock and bit down on Claude’s manparts.  This, of course, hurt like a bitch.  Claude, panicked, trying to get Claudette off of him, started beating Claudette over the head repeatedly with the burning pan. Both ended up in the hospital.

I can’t remember how they turned out, other than okay/alive.  Josh and I have lost touch and he hasn’t returned my text, so I can’t relieve your fears.  But there’s a funny story for you all!  The moral– carbs really are the enemy.

Getting Over It

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2009 at 12:18 am

“Do you believe in life after love?”

– Cher

This past weekend the subject of ex-loves came up.  Maybe it was due to 9/11 and the fact that everyone was thinking of the past and where they were when the tragedy happened eight (eight!!!) years ago.  But I spent most of the day in contemplation, considering my life’s present and its past.

So it didn’t surprise me that I found myself somehow recalling an event/how I had been hurt over a year ago.  In February 2008, a boy I had been crazy about for years told me he was single and slept with me.  A few days later, I found out Fuckwad was not single and was in fact still with his girlfriend of five years.  I was destroyed.

I hate being lied to, so when I was recounting this tale which was already a painful memory I got a little emotional and vehement about how what Fuckwad did to me was absolutely awful.  The person I was recounting this to turned to me and made a joke, “Well you’re obviously over it.”

And the thing is, I am over it.  I’m over the guy.  As Leah would acknowledge a few days later, you can be over the guy/paramour in question and still be hurt by the events.


“Getting over things doesn’t mean restoring reality to the state it was in BEFORE the thing happened. It means literally getting over it. Moving on. Accepting the new reality.”

I think traumatic events, like first heartbreak, always stay with us.  I know people (not just me!) who have certain songs they can’t listen to due to past pain, and yet they’ve moved on (I hope) and found new love.  We’re changed by the events of our past, and possibly a bit more timid, more careful, more scared to love, but if we want to, we can move forward and love again.  Or at least take those steps towards that.  (Now I’m sounding like a Self Help book or Dr. Phil.)  I’ve learned a lot from some very painful past mistakes and relationships, and while I wish I hadn’t let myself get so hurt or screwed up in the past, I’m thankful for the knowledge it’s bestowed on me, knowledge I can use to make current relationships work.  Knowledge I can use to grow.

I don’t spend too much time mourning the past, because that’s useless.  What happened, happened.  But I can’t run from the past, either.  It’s who I am.  It’s who you are.  And hopefully, we can all love one another both through it and due to it.

a personal entry on a personal subject

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 at 10:56 pm

In my bathroom next to my sink is a letter I make an effort to read a few times a month.  It’s a letter from my ex boyfriend Andrew written a year and a half ago, in reply to a hysterical email I sent him.  In my email to Andrew (who currently teaches English in Korea), I ask him if he found me attractive when I weighed “more.”  Granted, I was never “fat” or whatnot, but I was curvy… I come from a long line of curvy Lebanese women.  After a bout of anorexia post-Andrew, however, I lost a lot of my curves.  When I wrote Andrew my email, we had been broken up for over three years and I had gained my curves back… and was certain I looked ugly as all get out and no man would ever want to date me when I had a tummy and an ass.

My Email:

I’ve been having a mini mental breakdown because I keep eating crap and feeling like I’m gaining weight and I keep feeling like if I do nobody would find me attractive.  And I thought about you and me when we dated, and how I weighed a little bit more, and I wondered if you found me just as attractive when I weighed more as I did/do weighing less.  I know that’s like a TERRIBLE question to ask you, but I’m having a breakdown and I need a friend to talk to…. I’m sick of being insane, and doubting myself, and feeling ugly and I feel like I’m just getting uglier……

I was a depressed, neurotic chick going through a bad breakup/heartache.

Andrew’s Reply:

Hi You,

I’m sick of you doubting yourself and feeling ugly.

You have too much going for you to worry about bullshit questions like the ones you’re asking me.

Goddammit, move to France already!

It’s not getting uglier you have to worry about; it’s getting consumed by all this socially-conditioned self-loathing.

But just so you know….

I found your body more attractive weighing more than weighing less.

When we dated I thought you were perfect the way you were.  I loved your callipygian form, the lines and the curves and the little constellations of birthmarks that dotted the pale skin which covered your body, which was always the perfect size to arouse me enough to wake up a house full of prudish Mormons.  There are many things that may perturb you about your relationship with your parents, but your genes should not be one of them.   No need to wear modest  dresses or avoid the beach.  When we dated, you were desirable.  Your body was made to be coveted and inflame passion in young men’s hearts and inspire jealousy in young women’s hearts.  If I didn’t tell you at the time  how much I was attracted to you, how much I liked looking at you when you had just gotten out of the shower or when you were still in the shower or when you were in between Anthropologie dresses in the closet, how proud I was to show you off (purely physically) to my friends, I’m telling you now: you were gorgeous, and it had everything to do with the body that the Flying Spaghetti Monster in his infinite wisdom gave you when he planted you like a small matza ball into the stork’s womb.

Yes, I found you just as attractive and if you think I have/had bad taste then fuck you (!) because you’re beautiful and you need to accept that and move on and write some young adult fiction.

There are lots of ugly people in this world.  You are not one of them.

If you eat crap you may die of liver failure or cancer or food poisoning, but you’ll keep being the same beautiful Emily that planned revenge on the Catholic Church and her summer roommates with  boxes of Cheerios.

Please feel free to call me if you need to talk.  I promise to be more sensitive over the phone.

And  go to the dentist!


It’s a good email.

So today was a big day for me.  I threw out what I called for the past few months my “anorexia clothes.”  This involves a couple pairs of skirts and a pair of jeans.  It also involves me calling my best friend freaking out that I was going to become fat and thus unloveable.  I don’t know why I have it in my head that weight gain = mass hatred.  It’s fucked up, and I’m well aware of that.

My friend Erin always starts working out extra hard whenever she enters a relationship.  She fears if she gains weight while dating the guy/he sees her naked he’ll stop being there for her or loving her.  I have the opposite problem.   When I enter a successful relationship, I’m happier, and thus a lot less likely to starve myself out of depression.   It’s only after a few months of happy that I suddenly realize I need to wear a bra again and I have an ass that I realize gaunt Emily has disappeared and become well, Regular Emily… then the panic sets in.

I realize men don’t enter nor end relationships solely based on the lass’ looks, but I’m also aware that they notice when a woman’s weight changes.  And while my happiest and longest relationships have always involved me being a healthy weight/still eating cookies with my Lebanese metabolism, weight gain on my part scares the shit out of me.  I can blame it on a lot of things– on my upbringing by a mother who worked out all the time and was constantly aware of her weight, on society, on my own screwed up brain.  Nonetheless, the most confident I feel about my looks is when I’m gaunt, yet starving.  It’s no good.

My fight with body image/self loathing is a battle I wage all the time, and it’s a hard one to talk about.  Most of the time I know the girl I see in the mirror is not the girl my friends and loved ones see.  And I know that nobody really wants to hear me bitch on my down days about how dark and ugly and depressed I feel — it’s one of the reasons poor Vince and I broke up six years ago, he got tired of having to constantly build up my self esteem.  I mean, what do you say to a girl like that?  I’m embarrassed to this day about what a nut I was.

I’m in a LOT better place than I was back then.  But there’s still this nagging voice in my head that my lack of a model’s body or my stomach will get in the way of happiness or disgust those I love most.   And again, it’s almost offensive that I even listen to this voice because I give people more credit than that.  I wish there was a way to shut it up forever.

Relationships Are Hard: A Follow-Up To My Previous Post

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2009 at 1:40 pm

“WTF re: your cheating post?”

– Vince, via text message

Since I posted my entry “Cheating” about twelve hours ago, I’ve received a wave of feedback.  So I’d like to address a few issues.

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who felt so inspired to write me.  Your communication means a lot.  I had no idea I had touched on such a national nerve!  And talking to you really helped me see clearly, with a less subjective, point of view.

I realize relationships are hard.  Dear God, do I realize it.  I realize I sound preachy, like everyone should just behave.  And that’s a lot, lot, lot easier said than done.  I’m the first to recognize that, I swear.  Trust me, I’ve messed up a lot in the past, and if some girl told me to just “buck up” I’d tell her to go to hell, that we’re all human.  There’s a lot I’ve done that I’m not proud of, there have been people I’ve hurt, and just because I set high standards doesn’t mean I ever reach them (or expect others to do so)– I just wish I could.

It’s like my friend Vince reminded me this morning, there’s been plenty, plenty of times where I’ve freaked out at him at the beginning of relationships worrying that if I’m too “honest” or whatnot it’ll weird the guy out and he’ll dump me.  This is by far a very unfeminist stance to take, but a very human one.  Us girls preach “girl power” and all that, but at the same time I’ve never seen women as down as they are when their beau hurts them.  I’ve misbehaved.  I’m no angel, as Mae West would declare.  Nor do I try to pretend to be one.

It’s hard to be honest and open all the time, especially because there’s a difference sometimes between being kind and telling the truth (“no, that white dress with big red stripes across the ass doesn’t make you look fat”).  But I hope that over time, and with someone you care about, you can learn to let yourself be more open and not fear the repercussions.

Anyway, I’m tired of the topic.  I think I went a little ballistic yesterday over that article due to personal reasons that have nothing to do with giving the topic a sane, unbiased view point.  (But you know what? That’ the beauty of a blog like this one– I never promised to not have an opinion.)  A few of my friends have cheated on their other halves in the past and I don’t judge them.  I don’t think them terrible people.   I advise they get out of their relationship or figure out what led them to cheat, but that’s it.  From the other side of it, I’ve both “emotionally cheated” and have been “the other woman” and fallen for a taken man… and maybe what caused me to get so freaked out yesterday was the reminder of how much that “relationship” ended up hurting me, in the end.  I never want to go through that pain ever again, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

We’re all human… and if I made anyone out in the “blogosphere” feel like I wasn’t aware of that, my apologies, from one flawed person to another.


In Uncategorized on September 1, 2009 at 1:55 am

In the last twenty four hours, an article on cheating for Vanity Fair by Melanie Berliet has received a great deal of internet buzz from sites such as Jezebel.  Melanie Berliet goes “undercover to explore a few thorny questions: What kind of men seek out illicit relationships online? Can adultery be a healthy way to fulfill one’s needs without alienating one’s partner? Is cheating really as bad as society makes it out to be?”

After conducting three “studies” (one man cheats because his wife won’t have sex with him and he has not bothered to bring it up, another guy is in an open relationship– and in that case I don’t know if that counts as cheating, and another one hates that he can’t make his significant other cum so has decided to cheat on her), Ms. Berliet comes to the following conclusion:

“The three men I met through Ashley Madison were very different, but they all had a common goal. That goal might strike some people as depraved, but I don’t think Thomas, Jackson, and Leonard are bad people. Those who remain faithful to their partners—whether out of religious conviction, prudence, lack of libido, or supernatural willpower—might deserve praise, but their ability to repress their baser instincts does not make them superior in my eyes to people who indulge theirs. I don’t wish to champion adultery, but the notion that strict monogamy is the right path for everyone strikes me as narrow-minded, even holier than thou.”

Go to Hell, Ms. Berliet.  I love that “supernatural willpower” and “lack of libido”  are the “natural” causes stopping people from cheating.  What about “regular willpower” or “good mate selection” (someone with your same emotional and physical needs) or old fashioned, cornball “love” and “trust”?

Certainly, monogamy isn’t for everyone.  I agree with that assessment but not her conclusions.  If monogamy isn’t for you, then you know what?  Don’t get married. Or, at least, be open and honest to your fiance about why you are getting married so they know what they are getting in to.  (After all, as my friend Joe points out,  a lot of people get married due to custody battles, visitation rights, etc.)  Regardless, I’m so tired of seeing movies (ie, Funny People) where cheating just seems to happen.   While I appreciate that these same movies show that even “good guys/gals” can give in to their baser instincts and fuck up and still be forgiven, I’ve been concerned lately with our national acceptance rate of this phenomenon.

I know a couple of couples who have “worked through” a cheating.  But it’s taken commitment– and the rebuilding of trust on at least one side– to make that happen.  One of the couples in particular ended up becoming closer and have been married now for five years (they’re friends of my parents).  I don’t think people should be strung up by their balls/breasts for such actions, but I don’t think it should be encouraged or simply shrugged off.

Here’s what bugs me– not the act itself (though that sucks too), but the dishonesty surrounding it.  If there is something that wrong with the relationship that part of the couple feels the need to cheat he or she should first try and address that with their mate.  It seems to me to be a communication issue.   And if you don’t want to “hurt” that other person, just think about what kind of hurt you are committing by jumping into bed with someone else without permission.

When you embark on a real, committed relationship, part of that is being committed. Eventually, that commitment blossoms into a mutual love and respect, and cheating on your other half is showing neither love nor respect.  Though it might be totally human, it’s showing selfishness.  If you want to fuck someone else, then do it, but break up first.  If you’re that unhappy in a marriage, get a divorce.

For example, one of the guys Berliet meets with is upset about what a prude his girlfriend is… yet even Berliet admits that it sounds like he hasn’t really expressed his frustration with said girl.  I’m wondering if he just was open and honest with her instead of running to the next pair of legs if he could salvage what I am sure will become an ended relationship.

The whole article makes me sad.

I’m no prude.  I’m open to the fact that many people are in, and happy with, open relationships.  If they’re happy, that’s great.  If they’re open and honest about extramarital affairs, wonderful.  That’s not cheating.  And that involves a level of communication and trust that half the time it seems regular couples don’t have.

When I love someone, when I truly, truly love someone, I can’t even conceive of cheating on them.  I don’t want anyone else.  Sure, I can acknowledge that Johnny Depp is hot or whatnot, but I’m not about to go and jump into bed with the next Johnny Depp look-alike I meet.  There might be a passing attraction for or mild flirtation with a coworker, but I would never do anything about it when I am committed to or love someone else.   And I don’t think this is being holier-than-thou (though perhaps it is naive), I think it’s being faithful, which is something I expect from my other half and what I assume the dude in question expects from me.

There’s another type of cheating, however, that I think a lot of people (and, not to be biased, but I think especially women) tend to commit– emotional cheating (which more often than not leads to actual physical cheating).   This is when you fall in love with someone else while in a relationship.  Again, this happens, and this is why you break up if the passing fancy doesn’t dissipate.   For some unjustifiable reason, I think I would find this type of affair ten times worse than a physical one.  While I by no means would be able to trust for a while a guy if he got drunk and fucked someone else, if he fell in love with someone else… my God.  I’d be destroyed.  Other ladies I’ve spoken to echo this.  But again– tell the girl in question if you feel that way for someone else so we can move on.

My friend Geoff has an interesting (slightly scientific) take on emotional cheating:


That’s another bit from my Evolutionary Gender Differences class
In Strict Anthropological terms, Emotional infidelity is MUCH more threatening to a woman
Because it can lead to the man splitting resources
While men are much more concerned with physical infidelity
Since it’s hard to be sure of parentage
and could lead to contributing resources to offspring not of your genetic stock
That’s in strict black/white evolutionary terms, reality is never so nice and neat in biology.

Maybe I really am just naive.  Maybe we really are all just still primates.  But I’d like to believe there are happy, monogamist relationships out there that last.  Relationships where nobody lies about straying, where you can feel the natural “urge” to physically cheat but not actually do so, and not due to some fear of God but due to mutual love, respect, satisfaction, whatever.  Monogamy isn’t for everyone, but don’t lie and claim to be part of a club you’re not.  Don’t be a polygamist in monogamist clothing.   Just be honest, to both you and your partner.  Everyone will be happier.

Claire’s Thoughts On The Above, Which I Thought Worth Putting On Here Because I Agree With Her And I Realize In This Post I’m Being Relatively Black And White About This Matter Due To Past Trust Issues:

Claire: i think perhaps the view you present doesn’t quite do justice to the gray areas of love and trust, and the peaks and valleys of being in a long-term trusting committed relationship
not that i’ve ever been in one of those
but from what i hear and see and read, and from my small bit of experience, it’s really hard, and people are tested
so it’s not easy
also, I’ve read a lot lately about how infidelity can actually help a marriage