Esther Greenwood

Posts Tagged ‘love’

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.

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

778 Forest Green Drive

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2009 at 1:58 am

“There’s no place like home.”

– Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

There’s a fire surrounding my childhood home/my parents’ house in La Canada.  All I can think about is how badly I want to go home right now and how scared I am for my parents, my house, and all physical souvenirs of priceless memories.

Here are some photos of my street earlier today, and the fire apparently is less-contained than it was when these photos were taken:

I grew up in my house, you know?  I got my heart broken while living at 778 Forest Green Drive.  I met my best friend while living there, studied for midterms, applied to college.  I mapped all ways to sneak out of the house without being caught.  My worst fights with my parents occured in its premises, and some of my best hugs with them have happened in the den.  That kitchen has been the site of countless parties and laughter.  And now it might all go up in smoke.

This isn’t about a relationship, but it’s the best I can do for the time being.  Some people have mentioned this journal comes off as “too personal,” and today I had hoped to write something impersonal.  But right now, fuck it, I can’t.  I’m upset, I’m scared, and I want to go home.

One year ago… and some thoughts on writing

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2009 at 7:42 am

The other day I asked someone where they were a year ago.  Then I realized that a year ago I myself was in a pretty messed up place, caring-wise.  While I was going to write a blog entry about my relationship with myself, that’s taking longer than I thought to write.  So in celebration of me being much, much happier and healthier than I was last year, I’m posting a story that I was inspired to write 365 days ago.


I want to put a cigarette out on your back.
Okay. I continue to dig through my purse.
Still not looking at him, I wait for the cigarette sting. In my low-cut dress my bent back is bare and naked, exposed to both the elements and the small circular nub of fire he holds between his smooth fingers. I wait, but the pain never comes.

I turn to look up at him and arch an eyebrow. I thought you were going to put a cigarette out on my back.
I’m afraid.
You’re afraid? I’m the one who is going to be scarred.
That’s why I’m afraid.

I watch him finish off his cigarette. He flicks it haphazardly onto the ground, and I try not to be annoyed by his defacement of my apartment building.
Now you’re done with your cigarette.
I could light another one.
I stand to walk back in to my apartment; a wave of vertigo passes through me. I would eat something but he likes me thin.

Smoking gives you cancer, I offer as we sit in silence on the couch.
Surprise surprise.
I shrug. I’m disappointed he didn’t hurt me, and I’m worried about my disappointment. I thought I was just an emotional masochist.
I want a cigarette.
You don’t smoke.
What, are you afraid I’ll put a cigarette out on you?
I doubt I would feel it.
I know you wouldn’t.

We smoke in the courtyard in silence. I cough with my first drag and curse my lack of poise. My neighbors’ two kids play cards on their stoop. The older one wins a game and laughs in victory.
I notice his cigarette is almost out.
Okay, I say. I’m going to turn around and watch those kids. You put your cigarette out on my back, right under my left shoulder to the right of the mole.
Are you sure?
I turn away. I hear him take his last drag. I wait for the burn.

Man, I miss that Los Feliz apartment.  It was awesome.  And those kids totally thought I was nuts until I offered to teach them Spades and bought their watered-down lemonade for two bucks a red cup.

So I guess I should write about the “let me hit you over the head with symbolism” symbolism in this piece, but I don’t really want to.  I’m over it.  And no, nobody ever burned me with a cigarette and I never really asked anyone to do that, nor do I want anyone to do that to me now or ever.  I think that experience was more than enough of a burn.  That story pretty much works perfectly to explain parts of  summer 2008.

I think writing is cathartic, and maybe that’s why I haven’t really been as prolific with the short stories for a while.  (That, and trying to get the YA novel done.)  My “writing safety net” is to write depressing shorts about past relationships, and I really, really do not want to do that anymore.  A) It’s been done, B) It’s annoying, and C) Whoever it’s based on usually gets pissed even though it’s fiction.  Now, granted, the last two short stories I wrote were 100 percent fiction– one was called Platonic and this last one was about a dog pound.  And I was actually thrilled that I could write something that wasn’t based on truth at all, yet kept the emotional poignancy/depression that I like to go for.  But goddammit, would it kill me to write something happy?  Especially when I’m in a happy place?

In that vein, why is it that so many of the “good songs” out there that we listen to on repeat are so damn sad?  I need to add to my “happy music” oeuvre.  I have some amazing, fantastic mixes that were made for me full of upbeat tunes, and there’s a lot of happy Beatles songs, but when I’m scrolling through my iPod I can’t help but notice how many of the artists I have are just so. damn. depressed. And that’s no good.  That’s no good at all.  Maybe being an artist involves sadness, or opening yourself to hurt, or being a pretentious fuck that says shit like that.  Ugh.  Gross.

This post makes no sense.  But at least it’s something.  The next post will be interviews with people about long distance relationships.

Sweet Nothings

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2009 at 10:20 pm

“Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
Loretta Castorini: Aw, ma, I love him awful.
Rose: Oh, God, that’s too bad.”

– Olympia Dukakis and Cher in “Moonstruck” (1987)

My grandmother has always been somewhat of a siren.  A vixen, if you will.  Old photos of her show a glamorous, ethnic Audrey Hepburn in silk.  A real exotic beauty.  My mother tells stories about how boys in her class used to ignore my mom and serenade Citu (Lebanese for “grandma”).  So, it should come as no surprise that as a little girl I used to listen, captivated, as my grandmother gave me advice on men that I wouldn’t really have cause to use for eight or so more years.

“Never let a guy know how much you like him,” my grandmother would tell me as she lounged on one of our sofas or buttered a scone.  (Citu has a weakness for all things carbohydrates.)  “The minute they know, they treat you like shit.”  This is advice echoed in Moonstruck to Loretta (Cher) by her mother Rose (Olympia Dukakis), “When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.”

Fearing that was the case, I tried hard as a teenager to never get too attached to the guys I was dating.  I never wanted them to know how much I could like them.  I never wanted them to know how much they could hurt me.   I was afraid of being abused, of being taken for granted.  Still am.  I was also lucky because for most of my teen years I never had that “head over heels in love” feeling with a boy.  Sure, I loved my boyfriends in whatever sense of the word I knew that to mean at the time, they could definitely cause a few “down days,” but I did my best to make sure I could survive without them.

This, ironically, would end up making the guys crazy about me.  It disgusted me in a way, the meaner/the less I cared about these boys (and remember, this is highschool and the beginning of college), the more they’d do things to try to get me to fall in love with them.  I started to wonder, was my grandmother right?  Should I heed my mother’s warnings, as well, and never to get too attached?

In the end, of course, these “games” hurt me.  I never got to have a mutually loving relationship.  The closest I came to that was in college, and near the end I acted abysmally; I still feel bad about that.

But I got my comeuppance.  Karma’s a bitch.  (And I truly believe in relationship karma.)  I got my heart broken, peeled open, salt thrown in the wound, pissed on, crushed with the bottom of a boot, and broken again.  Of course, this only happened after I let a guy know how much I cared.  So again, I stared to wonder if the women in my family, who were so much older and wiser, were right.

Meanwhile, I took a long time off from relationships.

Yet, I look at my grandmother and my mother.  Both of them have been in rather unhappy marriages.  Do I want to be a part of that?  Do I want to repeat their mistakes?  No.

So I made a promise to myself.  The next time I liked a guy, I would be mature.  I wouldn’t go crazy emotional like I still managed to pull off in high-school and part of college.  But I also would not shy away from repeating the sweet nothings that I would undoubtedly feel if I honestly liked the dude.

This, of course, scares the shit out of me.  I still hear in the back of my head my mother’s warning tone that she used to get when I used to call my best friend Keagan more than once every few days in middle school.  “You’ll smother him away,” she used to warn.  If that could happen with a friend, imagine what could happen with a boyfriend?  To this day, I shy away from calling or texting guys I like because I don’t want to scare or smother them away.  I’m a people-person, yet even I like my space, so of course they like theirs.  The problems arise when I want to hear from them but I’m afraid if I call they’ll be like, “not this bitch again.”  It’s a neurotic world, the one inside my head.  Thanks, Mom and cultural stereotypes.

My friend Vince mocks me constantly about my fear of picking up the phone/being sweet.

Vince: I mean you’re so goddamned passive aggressive
Emily: WHAT
Emily: I AM NOT
Vince: you so are
Vince: just telling you straight
Vince: with men you are dating rather
Vince: you so are
Vince: which is the shit of it all
Vince: with your friends, TOTAL STRANGERS
Vince: you’re absurdly up front to the point of total inappropriateness
Vince: but then a boy you like and it’s like all withdrawn

I don’t think it’s passive-aggressiveness, I think it’s fear. Being honest with total strangers is easy– who cares what they think?  Being honest with someone who can hurt you– that’s a whole other ball game.

I’m working on my batting average, I swear.

Being open with someone, letting them know you care about them, miss them, whatever, it’s terrifying.  What if you say something sweet and they don’t reciprocate the feeling? What if your sweet nothing is met with… a nothing?  There’s a pain nobody wants to experience more than necessary.

I’m a sucker for romantic comedies.  The cheesier, the better.  Yet for the longest time when I heard a cheesy line I would blush and look away because even if I wanted to respond favorably, some part of me told me if I did so, I’d get hurt.  (Plus, if you don’t really like the person and they say something cheesy, part of you just cringes.)


anyway i think possibly perhaps thinking in terms of how the other person will react and/or how they will respond might make murky the basic idea of the gesture.

of course, that’s theoretically speaking.

in the heat of the reality, it’s sometimes difficult to tell someone something sweet and get nothing back.
on the internet it’s even worse because even if the reciprocant smiles upon reading a wall post/comment or got a glaze over their eyes like they were thinking about you, you wouldn’t be able to see that.
an empty receiving of the gesture is the same as a nonverbal receiving of the gesture.

I don’t even want to get into the mess Facebook makes of things.

So what do you do?  I guess swallow those fears and plunge ahead.   It’s what I’m trying to do.  Don’t over-think, don’t overreact, just dive in.  Hopefully you’re with a guy who can reciprocate those amorous feelings and doesn’t just want what he can’t have.  And if you get hurt, you get hurt.  At least that way you’re really living.

And I’m so not passive aggressive.

Guest Post: Eric Bilitch, “Koalas”

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2009 at 7:00 am

Editor’s Note:

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Eric Bilitch wrote an incredibly well-written response to my post “Sex Changes Things.”  I was so impressed with his retort that I asked Eric if he would like to write a “guest column,” and he complied.  Below is his post, unedited, in his words.  Enjoy!



by eric bilitch

So we made the hard decision and we each made an incision
Past our muscles and our bones, saw our hearts were little stones
Pulled them out they weren’t beating and we weren’t even bleeding
As we lay them on the granite counter top
– Regina Spektor

I just ripped a Build-A-Bear to shreds.  And not violently either.  Very systematically-like a detective.  I cut a really small hole in his back, starting tearing out stuffing (by the way, that shit is plush) and went searching for something that I never found.

It’s easy to say that the road that led me to sitting in my house tonight ripping up this poor defenseless Koala in a Red Sox outfit started innocently enough.  It was my senior year of college, second semester at that, when I first saw the stereotypically beautiful brown eyes of the eighteen year-old girl who I was sure I was going to marry, raise children with, and die together in some field during a lightning storm.  At least that was the plan she told me numerous times.  Not to say that I was opposed to it.  I was fully in favor of that plan.  In a whirlwind of a four month romance, we finally came to the eternal question of “To do this shit after college when you’re still in college and I’m not, and I’m out on the road for a year without any home like a rolling stone and oh yeah you are nineteen (now) and who knows what will happen after that and ‘I don’t want to hold you back… No, no. I don’t want to hold YOU back…No-NO-You first… I love you more…  (You’re nineteen!)  You’re twenty-three!  What the fuck should we do!? God dammit, I love you. We’re going to do this!  And we’re going to break all the odds, and yeah… Yeah… that sounds good.  It’s JUST three years. Okay?”  That question.  You know… Something like that.

I should say before anything else that I loved um… we’ll call her Eloise… or no… Laila… I loved Laila with every ounce of everything I had in me.  I can easily say that Laila has a power about her that has sucked in other before me, will suck in more after me, and will perhaps, suck me in again.  Laila used to say that all the guys who ever liked her-at some point-realized she was a fad and ended it.  I never thought that.  I still don’t.  But I do think what is more than likely- is that Laila thinks of everyone else as a fad.  Or at least that is how she treated me at the end.  You ever wonder what inanimate objects that were fads felt like when all the kids found something cooler-more exciting-more new?  I was like pogs and she was transitioning from 1995 to 1996, and I didn’t get to make the journey. Maybe she’ll come back when I’m vintage.

I haven’t spoken to Laila in about four months.  While I guess I could add up the pieces that led to the breakup, it’s easier just to say that it came as a huge shock to me.  Not the pieces that led up to it-those were all natural.  We had a good solid year of really not a lot of problems, other than the distance.  And then we had about two months of a big blow up, producing many small blow-ups leading to the culmination.  You know, standard.

We were obviously- now- on two separate tracks.  I mean… I knew that then.  Of course I did.  I’m not so stupid to think that a girl in her sophomore year of college would be in the same place as a guy who was in the “real world”- or vice versa.  I promised to myself- after a few unsuccessful attempts in the past- that long distance was something that could never work and would be something I would steadfastly refuse under all circumstances (see Emily’s “The Rules” blog entry).  In fact, when I first saw Laila-wasted in a bar, by the way- I was just getting past a year and a half relationship followed by a 8-9 month break up.  You know the type.  But Laila and I seemed to defy rules and laws and obligations and everything else BAD about relationships.  Even now- EVEN NOW, though it all often feels like a big lie- it was the best relationship I have ever had.  It was corny.  It was magical.  It was frightening (for all the reasons that something frightening feels good and right and beautiful).

In fact, I think in the end, it might have been so frightening, that that is why it ended.  I sometimes think that the reason she made it come to a screeching halt was that old “she was so scared by the fact that she could be with me forever” thing, but I quickly gain my composure to reassure myself that- Um…No.  That is… in fact, bullshit.  That’s not the reason.  Was it that she felt the need to break out, be on her own, and explore the world?  No.  I mean, not according to her at least.  That one would have made sense to me.  But I asked at least eight times- and no… Not the answer.  Was it that I had become overbearing?  Too needy?  I think that was some of it.  I can admit my faults there.  I was out in the country-a new city every night for a year- essentially alone.  Yes- I used her as a safety net.  But it was because I loved her and she…loved?me?  too. …?  Guys aren’t allowed to get needy.  It is an instant turnoff-maybe even grounds for breakup?  In a relationship more than a year old-even in a situation where I was told that she would never leave me unless I did something “really bad.”  I asked for clarification on what “really bad” was.  “Well, I mean…  If you killed my mom or something.”  Yeah.  I agree with you, Laila.  THAT would be “really bad.”  So, anyway, she made allusions to the fact that this might have something to do with my middle of nowhere no one to turn to I thought you were the love of my life and there for my “neediness.”  And though this was cited as a factor, it was never confirmed as THE reason.  In fact- there never was A reason.  And that is what led to the ripping up of the Koala Build-A-Bear with the Red Sox uniform on.

When someone leaves you so abruptly from a relationship you invested every fiber of your being in (and by the way- not unrealistically…she was-at least in what she said-just as on board and in love and willing to accept the challenge of this thing head on) and would have gladly sacrificed a LOT for- It is just as confusing as it is heartbreaking.  When a couple weeks later (after not talking); you bust your ass to take three different planes, almost have an asthma attack as you run across the Philadelphia airport to get on the third plane that you just yelled and screamed like a little baby demanding to get on when your scheduled flight was cancelled- just to see Laila in a show she was the lead in (even though she had broken up with you a couple weeks earlier with no real explanation after promising a beautiful life together) AND you do your best to not cause a scene by leaving the theatre as soon as the show ends- and then when she talks to you next, her response is “well I didn’t ask you to come…”-which is by the way-AFTER you bust your ass to get back to your job the NEXT day-another plane ride away- WELL, THAT turns more to the frustrating side.  When the last time you talk to this person they are so stubborn that when you suggest that you felt abandoned by their actions, they respond “You’re not my child-I can’t abandon you,” I think that falls more in the heartbreaking category.  Yet again- also confusing.  And still, more importantly- to the context of this blog entry- not producing any answers… except to want to sing “Heartless” by Kanye West in your head over and over and over again.  Well, if Laila was wondering, by the way, here is the New Oxford American Dictionary definition for the word abandon:

abandon |əˈbandən|

verb [ trans. ]

1 give up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking) : he had clearly abandoned all pretense of trying to succeed. See note at relinquish .

discontinue (a scheduled event) before completion : against the background of perceived threats, the tour was abandoned.

2 cease to support or look after (someone); desert : her natural mother had abandoned her at an early age.

leave (a place, typically a building) empty or uninhabited, without intending to return : derelict houses were abandoned.

leave (something, typically a vehicle or a vessel) decisively, esp. as an act of survival : he abandoned his vehicle and tried to flee on foot.

( abandon someone/something to) condemn someone or something to (a specified fate) by ceasing to take an interest in or look after them : it was an attempt to persuade businesses not to abandon the area to inner-city deprivation.

3 ( abandon oneself to) allow onself to indulge in (a desire or impulse) : abandoning herself to moony fantasies.

So, I mean… any of those work, really.  I go with this one, mainly: “condemn someone or something to (a specified fate) by ceasing to take an interest in or look after them” though all the definitions do work.  I know it doesn’t bolster my case that one of the sentences is about a mother and child… but you get the point.

So how does the bear fit into all of this?  (GET TO THE FUCKING POINT ALREADY, we’ve all been through breakups before, jerk… I know-I know…)

Back in our days of Rebel Without A Cause type relationship excitement, she told me about this time she made a Build-A-Bear for a boyfriend and put a note in there that said “Please break up with me.”  Looking back, this probably explains a lot about Laila.  But also… Damn… I must have been a fucking tyrant to actually be broken up with and not just left a hidden note somewhere.  Then again… maybe she was maturing by doing the breaking up with my poor lonely abandoned ass.

Well, anyway, I filed that story in the back of my memory and forgot all about it when she gave me this lovely Red Sox themed (pretty easy way to my outside heart) Koala (likewise) Build-A-Bear (hmm) as just a random present (Easy way into my real heart.  Not a present- but the random act of kindness and caring for no particular occasion), I loved it.  When she dumped me, I was away from the little creature.  When I came home from tour and I moved into my own place, for some reason I took this souvenir of Laila and my love with me- though I think it was more for the outside appearance and general cuteness, and well, it had something Red Sox on it.  In fact, I don’t even remember thinking, “Oh, this is from Laila” and then making a decision to trash it or keep it based on that.  So about five months since the last time I heard Laila’s voice, still with no answers, and not a real dramatic effort to find them (I figured I should grow up and just try to get over it… Good days and bad days on that account.  Must be easy for her-she’s the only one in the world that knows the reasons- and she has done nothing to reach out to me other than sending me a box of stuff that said “thought you might want this.  Good luck.”  THAT pissed me off.  Nothing for months and then “Good Luck” after being madly, deeply in love. Anyway… irrelevant…)-about five months since that last conversation (oh by the way- she broke up with me over the phone and I haven’t seen her since with the exception of endlessly supporting her by going to see her show, aforementioned…)- I was sitting in my house and all of a sudden, I got into a fucking staring contest with this Koala.

I remembered the note story.  I took the bear down.  I started feeling all over this little plush toy to see if I felt any paper inside it.  Nope.  Oh, wait.  Yep.  I feel a piece of paper in there.  I got some scissors.  I took off the Koala’s clothes.  I cut a small hole in his back- near where I felt the paper.  I started-very gently- taking stuffing out.  (Again… that is some soft, plush shit.)  I found the “paper.”  A piece of cardboard with a bar code on it.  More stuffing.  Oh, what’s that?  A little half-inch heart.  I didn’t know they did that.  Does that mean she really loved me? There was no note.  Just stuffing.  And the little heart.  No answers.  Fuck.  For a second there, I was sure this wonderful amazing girl who confused me and broke my heart so quickly on the turn of a dime was some kind of fortune teller who had, about a year earlier, inserted a note with all the reasons into a Red Sox Koala bear-just sitting there for me to find like buried treasure.  Nope.

By this time, my dog (who also resembles a bit of a stuffed plush koala) was looking at me, head cocked sideways, like…well… “What the fuck is wrong with you?”  I asked myself the same question, laughed a lot, and then put all the stuffing back in.  The heart was still sitting on the table. Oh, HOW poetic, right?  I should leave the heart out of this thing, since clearly there was no heart left in this girl, right?  Meh.  I put it back in.  And actually… I have NO IDEA why but… I feel a little bit more resolved before I opened up that bear.  I put it’s clothes back on, put it back on top of my bookshelf, and sat down and wrote this story.

My dog is asleep.  My iTunes is playing some weird song I have never heard before.  I’m still alive.  I’m okay.  And I’m okay with okay.  If it has to be a mystery forever, so be it.  I know how I feel about Laila. She’s a person-flawed and fucked up and selfish and beautiful and talented and nice and smart and young and vibrant and charismatic and lovely and funny and genuine and a liar and heartless and poetic and polite and loving and with the biggest heart I know and the most beautiful telling eyes and the most amazing voice and you know, everything- she’s just a person.  Just like me.  Maybe I gave her something she is ripping up for answers too.  (Though I doubt she even ever expresses missing me- not out loud anyway).  Maybe we should just talk.  Oh- we’re both so fucking stubborn.  But I think, we are maybe- sometimes- definitely- still in love.  Oh, and the bear is fine.  Though I’ll never look at it the same way again… Like after Squints kissed Wendy Peffercorn in The Sandlot… It will never be the same.  We shared a moment.  He’ll always be looking down every time I pass him by.  …Smiling, smiling…

Relationships in Nora Ephron’s “Julie & Julia”

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2009 at 1:27 am

While it’s not uncommon for me to cry during a “chick flick,” it is uncommon for me to cry during a comedic one.  Yet, Nora Ephron’s “Julie & Julia” elicited that reaction from both me and my mother (a repeat viewer) not once, but twice.

“Julie & Julia,” for those who don’t read the papers, watch commercials, or notice billboards, is the movie version of Julie Powell’s blog where she attempts to cook her way through Julia Child’s famous tome of French cooking.  While certainly a lighthearted flick in general (what movie with Meryl Streep portraying the hilarious Julia Child could fail to be so) there were many deeper, more meaningful moments in the film.  Moments that were anything but lighthearted– especially all those concerning the two heroines and their often beleaguered, albeit amused, husbands.

The love felt and, more importantly for the medium, shown, by the husbands for Julie and Julia took my breath away.  I fell in love with those relationships.  I have never before seen a movie for women about women where men weren’t the villains or the main focus.  Writes New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott, “Most strikingly, this is a Hollywood movie about women that is not about the desperate pursuit of men. Marriage is certainly the context both of Julia’s story and of Julie’s (about whom more in a moment), but it is not the point.”  Yet, for me, the portrayal of relationships in “Julie & Julia” was one of the points, if not one of the main high points.

Both Julie (Amy Adams) and Julia (Meryl Streep) are characters in their own right– neurotic, anxious, prone to fancy, slightly crazy, and while obviously in love with their respective spouses, not always the best at showing it.  The husbands, meanwhile, do an excellent job of supporting their women.  (While I was at first seriously displeased that the women weren’t portrayed as equally supportive, there is a nice moment where Julia Child supports a rather distressed Paul Child (the superb Stanley Tucci) regarding his career.)  Julie and Julia both reach for rather extraordinary, insane goals involving food, and the husbands, while fully aware that their wives’ ventures can end in disaster, are nonetheless supportive.  Not because they believe in the projects, per say, but because they believe in their wives.

When Julie experiences one of her many freak outs over her life/blog, her husband Eric (Chris Messina) responds in what we learn is his usual teasing, witty way that is meant to be nonetheless a simultaneous pick-me-up and a means to bring Julie back to Earth.  It’s both beautiful and enjoyable to watch the couple’s witty repartee and Chris Messina’s many amused reactions to his crazy love.

Tucci, meanwhile, has the best moments in the film– the ones that made me cry, the ones that made my mom and I look at each other and go, “I want that in a marriage.”  For example, there is a scene where The Childs host a Valentines Day dinner for their friends in Paris.  Tucci stands up, looks at his wife with this deep, soul-consuming love in his eyes, and proclaims, “You are the butter to my bread, the breath to my life.”  While it’s sappy in text, it’s anything but corny in context.  (Plus, Paul Child really did say those words to Julia Child.)  The way Tucci’s voice breaks and Julia smiles up at him, the way Paul kisses Julia’s hand or cheek, the way she blows him kisses, and the look in both the Child’s eyes…  they adore one another.  While it was a movie and the actors were acting, it felt real.  I wanted it to be real.  And because of that, it made me cry.

Plus, being a young woman living in très-hip New York, it was absolutely invigorating to watch these “based on a true story” romances where the men did not care if their women were bone-thin sticks or, as Julie sobs at one point, fat.  They still find their loves beautiful.  They still want to grow old– fat or thin, wrinkly or tan– together.

In an age where so many married couples seem to be unhappy or divorced, it was a relief to watch a film where support and nourishment– both physical and emotional– were the main entrees.  I have precious few examples of those relationships in real life, and yet I think it is what we all strive for.  Sure, Ephron throws in a random spat between Julie and Eric to show that no marriage is perfect, but spats are normal.  Disagreements are normal.  We all know that. What was nice about “Julie & Julia” was that the fights didn’t necessarily mean the husband would go off and cheat on his wife and the film would end with her victorious but alone.  They worked things out.

In most movies involving true love, the romance is unbelievably passionate and sexy.   And while Nora Ephron has no qualms  showing the healthy sexual lives of her two couples, the passion (specifically the Child’s) had, over time, begun to show itself in the ways the couples would hold hands or cook dinner together or just generally talk to one another.  For example, nothing seemed more romantic than the moment where Julie– feeling incredibly guilty– has to boil a live lobster.  The lid flies off the pot and she runs away screaming.  Eric, who had been singing “lobster killer” throughout the day to the theme of The Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer,” runs in and holds the pot down.  He helps her out on something he personally finds incredibly ludicrous.  That’s sexy.

While I’m not calling “Julie & Julia” realistic by far, in moments such as those it did seem more true.  No marriage or long-term-relationship that I know of is nonstop “tear off one another’s clothes” passionate… love, deep love, and passion, they’re there, but shown in ways other than good ol’ fashion sex.  And again, physical intimacy was most definitely still present.

I went to “Julie & Julia” expecting to hate it;  perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so.  I had low expectations.  But I know one of the main reasons I left that movie wanting to see it again was it gave me hope.  Maybe even I, in my crazy, neurotic, scary-creative way, would not scare away the good guy.  Maybe I could end up happy and with someone to love.

My mother informs me that my father, upon seeing “Julie & Julia,” kept whispering to her throughout the film whenever Amy Adams came on the screen, “She looks like Emily!  That’s so Emily.”  In how the women (for the most part, again I’d be way more supportive of my other half) are members of a loving relationship well past their twenties, I can only reply– “I hope.”

Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2009 at 12:54 am

“Oh no love! You’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone.”

– David Bowie

Today I experienced one of those awful airport days you read about or hear told at a dinner party after the hosts laugh about how the “stupid airline” lost their luggage during their honeymoon.

The day began easily enough– I woke up, dressed, was picked up by my car service and arrived at the airport a full two and a half hours early.  I waded my way through baggage check and security for an hour, had an overpriced bite to eat, and went to my gate.  I sat down next to a friendly Midwestern family and waited.

First, the flight was only delayed an hour.   Then two hours.  Then three.  I finished one book (David Eggers’ Zeitoun) and volume one of the comic Scott Pilgrim— soon to be a movie staring Michael Cera.  I listened to a mix.  I listened Kanye and tried not to laugh at myself.  I listened to random music.  I started to notice Delta was canceling more and more flights and tried my best not to get frustrated.  There’s a lot of ugliness in airports, people packed together in stressful situations such as flight delays tends to bring out the worse, and I didn’t want to add to it.

But, when news came that my flight was canceled and I saw the line that I would have to wait in to rebook– easily already over fifty people long, with only one Delta employee to help them– I wanted to cry.  Instead I bit my lip, took out my cell phone, and texted those closest to me.

At that moment, as I lugged my backpack and purse and stood in line listening to a guy bitch out an airline employee on his cell and an elderly couple proclaim “this bullshit only happens to us,” two thoughts crossed my mind: sometimes it sucks to be an adult, and thank God I have people I care about in my life.

Regarding the first thought: when I was a little girl and things went wrong at airports, my dad– who frequently flies United for work and is one of their VIP passengers because of this– would just go and talk to someone and sort it out for me.  While I villainize my father a lot of the time (sometimes rightly so, sometimes unfairly), at times his temper works in my favor.  So when everything went wrong, the first thing I wanted to do was call my parents and have them sort it all out.

This, of course, was not an option.  I’m an adult and have been acting like one (or at least vainly attempting to) since college.   Just because the situation was new didn’t mean I had to panic.  Sure, I was overwrought and felt like sobbing and screaming, but I had to buck up and get myself together.

Looking back on it, I just wanted someone there with me.  I didn’t want to shoulder all this chaos (by then four other flights had been canceled and a security guard had been called to handle the hordes of pissed off passengers) alone.  Yet, there was another reason I craved company: When I’m in a terrible situation, if I have someone else there that I have to act “together” for, I usually am a hell of a lot better and being upbeat and cheerful.  For example, I HATE the rain.  When it’s raining and I’m alone in it I bitch to myself and want nothing more than to give the sky a glowing neon middle finger.  But if I’m out with friends and the weather starts sucking, I’ll turn it into a game.  Bad weather is a lot more enjoyable when you are out with people you like.

During my freshman year of college, my friend Danielle drove me and my friend Katie to see a play.  Well, a car t-boned us and totaled Danielle’s car.  We were all scratched up pretty bad and ended up going to the hospital.  But what I remember the most is the aftermath of the accident.  Danielle and Katie were hysterical, and while I was just as cut up as they were, I calmly talked to the one car that had pulled over and dialed 911.   I went into “take care of people/be strong” mode.  Meanwhile, three years later when the same thing happened to me but I was alone, I lost it.

Though, then again, the airport situation was pretty terrible.  I’m not sure I’d have been able to remain smiling even if I had Glenda The Good Witch with me all pink and sparkly.

The main reason I wanted someone there with me was because I needed, I wanted a hug.  I wanted solid comfort. So I was eternally grateful when I received support via facebook messages or text from friends and a consoling and considerate text from Boy who was all the way out of town and on vacation.  I felt bad pestering Boy with my shitty news, but at the same time I realized that had the situation been reversed I’d of course want him to do the same.  It’s what you do.  And, dare I say it, it’s one of the perks of being in a relationship (and having a cell phone)– even when you are physically alone, you don’t have to be so emotionally.  There’s someone you want to be there for, and there’s someone who can be there for you.  The same goes for close friendships.

In a way, I guess I was never really alone at the airport.  Everyone on those canceled flights were thrown together in a relatively awful situation.  For every asshole I heard complaining, there would be a gentleman.  It was while waiting in line that I got to know the kids of the Midwestern couple (the oldest girl was applying to NYU).  I made more polite conversation with an intern from a NYC bank who was being sent on a “business trip” by his bosses to Kansas City to pick up BBQ sauce for lunch the following day.  While I’ll never see these people again, they were nice to have around.

Of course, it’s not the same as having people who know you and care about you be there for you in times of stress and trouble.  But it’s something.

Eventually I talked to a ticket representative (though my father, again to the rescue, had managed to secure through a coworker who was big with Delta a not-too-painful flight for me the following day) and, seven hours after I had arrived at La Guardia, I made my way home.  A shower, some chocolate, and a food delivery later I was as right as the nonexistent rain Delta blamed for the cancellation.  But I know, had it not been for the support of my loved ones, not even a bubble bath and champagne would have cured my bad mood.

“No man is an Island, entire of itself.”

– John Donne