Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Twilight": Not Just For Teens, Also For Romance Starved Women

I haven't as of yet, read any of Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" books, but after seeing the movie I know I will now. I was intrigued by the characters, and while the acting was a bit wooden, the story held my interest and reminded me about how exciting NOT having sex can be.

As a parent, and a woman concerned about the values impressionable young girls are being exposed to by contemporary media, I was thrilled to sit through a movie where the young female protagonist didn't have sex thereby didn't get pregnant, get an STD or feel terrible about herself after doing something she perhaps wasn't ready for, but felt she should do because well, everyone else seems to be.

And as an adult, it was also good reminder of just how damn exciting romance can be. In the preceding decade, and this one too - the era of "Sex and the City," "Gossip Girl," and "Unfaithful," I think we're all conditioned to jump from stranger to intimate partner so quickly that we miss something important. Getting to know someone, growing to care for them and THEN becoming intimate. For a long time we've jumped from stranger to bed buddy, and well, I don't think it is necessarily a good thing.

In a classic episode of "Sex and the City," when Carrie first met Aidan, she was worried that he wasn't attracted to her or that maybe he was gay because every time they went out he kissed her at her door, and went home - without trying to bed her. When she finally confronted him he told her, it was called dating and that they'd only known each other for two weeks. Embarrassed, Carrie realized how nuts she had been and how she'd forgotten about something very important: romance.

In a world where our children have a barrage of sexually provocative movies, advertising, music videos and television thrown at them every day, it's not surprising that pregnancy rates have increased, and kids are having sex at younger and younger ages. I am thrilled that perhaps the tide might be turning a bit, and that the idea of waiting for a while might just catch on.

As for we adults, well, being a little discriminating isn't such a bad idea either. Think of it as mental foreplay.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"11 Things He Wants"? How About 1112 Things SHE Wants?

As a single woman I am always drawn to lists which claim to FINALLY shed a light for we ladies who seem to just be stumbling in the dark completely unable to figure out what a guy wants. There's always a common denominator, a thread that connects all the lists. Namely - give them space and blow jobs. Yeah, it's not exactly rocket science.

In this latest contribution to the theater of the obvious, writer Erik Parker gives us his "11 Things He Wants," and honestly, there's not one surprise. That's not true, what's a surprise that is in 2008 men are writing crap like number 6: "A heads-up when you just need us to listen. Sometimes all you really want to do is vent to us about something. A simple warning in advance and we promise we’ll stay quiet and let you talk it out." Wow. Words almost escape me. Seriously? You're in a relationship and he needs a freaking cue that he needs to listen to you and be aware enough of who you are to know to listen to you? Make sure you have a signal for when you're about to leave him because otherwise he might not notice.

So I got thinking about my own list, and have 11 (all right, 12) Things We Want.

1. Awareness. This is pretty broad, and might take some practice, but it's quite simple: pay attention. Whether it's is a dishwasher that needs to be emptied, trash that needs to go out, some support when we're having a tough time, we're not the only adult in the relationship. We want to feel more important than a football game or your Blackberry.

2. Patience. Moodiness and crankiness are deal breakers for me. Be a grown up and keep it together. Don't be a big baby. You snap at me or are passive aggressive, and I'm outta there.

3. Don't ogle other women when you're with us. It's disrespectful, and seriously, by the time you're an adult you've seen a lot of breasts, legs and shapely bottoms, there's nothing out there you haven't seen before. You're not 13 anymore, keep it together.

4. Sense of humor. In my life I've had to deal with a lot of not-so-fun things. Without a sense of humor I would be in a padded room right about now. A litmus test for me is deciding if a man would be a great person to get a flat tire with. Since I tend to get stressed and worried I need someone who is just the opposite. A "no worries" kind of guy. Though if they actually say "no worries!" that's not good.

5. Compassion. Sensitivity and compassion are not wimpy emotions, they are human.

6. Ability to communicate.
I've dated a fair amount of people. Most of the time I end up feeling like I'm a relationship circa about 7th grade. Maybe sophomore year high school. Most people don't bother to do the work and grow, it's all the same knee-jerk reactions you've had since you first began dating. I don't want a middle-schooler, I want an adult.

7. Manners. Just because you are comfortable with someone should not mean all bets are off and you can just be a pig. I don't want to watch you floss, cut your toenails or deal with constant flatulence. In return I will try to keep my beauty regimes to myself.

8. Realism. In Parker's list he has an item about giving your man permission to have sex with a celebrity on his top five list IF the opportunity ever arrives. Seriously? Parker, how fucking old are you anyway? Do you really think Heidi Klum is going to come up to you in Starbucks and offer to do you? Yeah, ain't gonna happen, dude. Get over it.

9. Sex. Let's get over the stereotype that women don't want to have sex, do it because they "have" to, and just aren't interested. Bullshit! When you're with someone who you care about who cares about you, and is thoughtful, passionate and caring, it is the absolute best thing ever. When however it seems like something on a to-do list or a conquest, not so much.

10. Strength. I'm not talking Popeye, this is more an internal, intrinsic strength of spirit. I may invoke the hatred or women everywhere by saying as independent as I am I want to feel a little protected. Not controlled, but like the man I'm with looks out for me a bit. I'd do the same right back, so don't go thinking I'm trying to be the pretty, pretty princess or anything.

11. Ethics. Someone with good values and morals is essential. You can't trust someone who doesn't hold the same values you do. Trust is built on a foundation of believing in who someone is. There's nothing more manly than a guy who is honorable, honest and true to the people he loves. Conversely, there's nothing more unappealing than a man who is unfaithful, lies and disrespects the trust others put in him.

12. To be romanced and wooed. Feeling special and treasured is the best thing ever. Not that the right guy with some throwdown is bad either. A nice balance of both is good.

I know as time goes on I'll think of many more, but this is my first stab at my 12.

What would some of your have-tos be?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Necessary Luxuries: An Oxymoron or Reality?

I don't know one person who isn't worried about money these days. Everyone is cutting back and trying to do without things they maybe took for granted before things were as bleak as they are right now. But, we've all got things we can't imagine doing without. What's a luxury to one, is a total necessity to another.

This got me thinking about the things in my life I would rather go out kicking and screaming to keep than get rid of. I'm a big fan of lists, so once again I've come up with my all-time top-five luxuries I can't live without.

1. My DVR, cable and Internet. That may seem like three things, but since I pay for them all together, I'm counting them as one. I write about TV for the Cape Cod Times, but I admit, even if I didn't I couldn't live without my cable. And now that I've had a DVR I could never go back to taping shows I might miss. And the Internet, well, as a freelance writer it's how I transmit my work, and the thought of going back to an IMDB -less world gives me hives.

2. I don't get coffee every day, but it's a couple of times a week treat. Going out for coffee is not just tasty, it's a social event as well, and for someone who works from home it also keeps insanity from creeping in. So it's medicinal as well!

3. Movies. I will go to matinees to get a cheaper ticket, but I won't stop going to movies. I do always contend however that if the movie industry dropped the price to $5 or $6 I would go a lot more often. Maybe if we didn't pay actors like Will Smith and Tom Cruise $20 million or so per picture they could drop the price. Just a thought.

4. Getting my hair professionally cut and highlighted. I may not do it as often, but after a couple of costly home-coloring disasters I will not try putting the blond in my hair myself. Nor will I go to Pro-Cuts because the last time I did that my hair looked like I was attacked with hedge clippers.

5. Make-up. I'm not talking department store items, I'm talking pretty basic CVS items, but there's no way I'm going without lip gloss and mascara no matter how dire the economy is.

There are many more things I can think of. Music - I don't buy a lot of tunes, but sometimes I just new something new to put me in a good mood. And magazines. And books. Wow. I think the only solution is to start making a heck of a lot more money because it's looking like there's a lot of things I can't do without. Bills. that's something I could do without. But, we can't always get what we want. Apparently though, according to the Rolling Stones we get what we need. I just apparently happen to need a lot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Latest "Bachelorette," DeAnna Single Again

So I can't say I was surprised to hear about Jesse the snowboarder and "Bachelorette" DeAnna breaking up, but I have to say I was a bit surprised by his very sad testimony on YouTube. Seriously, dude, who does that?! Not even John Mayer, d-bag that he is would do that. Oh wait, he sort of did.

I am sometimes inexplicably drawn to these awful "Bachelor" shows, they're like an accident I can't turn away from. I did watch enough of this last season to be pretty shocked when this woman who appeared to moderately have it together (well, as together as anyone does who goes on TV looking for a mate) chose this particular guy. He was kind of goofy, very young and a professional snowboarder - not that's there's anything wrong with that.

In post-show interviews they seemed positively blissful and I thought, well, who the hell am I to judge who anyone falls in love with? I thought I was very off-base in my judgement. Turns out, maybe my gut instincts are better than I think they are.

I think in all the oh so many seasons of this show - both the male and female versions, only one couple, Trista and Ryan have remained together. Why they keep bringing back this show I have no idea.

It seems that things are irretrievably broken for Jesse and DeAnna. How do I know? Well, their official Web site has been taken down. Yes, folks, that's how you know when things are really over - you go to a Web site and get an error message. Kind of says it all, don't you think?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wow! "Real Sex For Real Women" Is Very Real!

One of the perks of my job is I get sent books all the time. As someone who loves books, it is the best thing ever - free books showing up at my door often unbidden, and always appreciated.

A couple of days ago, a new book arrived at my doorstep. It wasn't wrapped in plain brown paper, but once I opened it up I thought it could have been. It's not often a book makes me blush, but this one kinda did.

"Real Sex For Women" really is an incredible how-to guide for both men and women. Laura Berman is at the forefront of human sexuality and she's got a best seller here I'm sure.
I had seen Dr. Berman on "Oprah" talking about the book so I had a pretty good idea how graphic the book was, but was a little surprised when after the FedEx guy left I opened the package and the book. And two hours later, I closed it. Well, not two hours, maybe a hour and a half, when I felt the need for something cold to drink and maybe an even colder shower. It's um, pretty explicit.

Believe me, I don't think there's anything at all wrong with sex, and anything couples can do to make it better I'm all for, but I surprised myself when thinking about all my kids arriving home for the weekend that I didn't think this book should be on my desk. So before they all arrive I will be discreetly sticking it in a drawer. My daughter would just laugh about it, but my sons would be completely freaked out and wonder what the hell mom was up to when they're not around. My oldest son is the type who can't handle a tampon commercial with his mom and sister, I think seeing a book full of naked photos of couples performing various activities would completely send him over the edge.

In the meantime I think that I'll spend some time poring over this tome. For research purposes of course. You never know when there might be a pop quiz, or the chance to write an article about sex might crop up. I want to be ready and raring to go, just in case. Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Don't tell my sons anything else.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is Watching "Gossip Girl" Getting Teen Girls Pregnant?

I'll admit it. I watch "Gossip Girl." Partly because I write about TV for my job, and partly because I seem to at times have the television viewing habits of a 15-year-old girl.

The difference between me and the demographic of this show (I'm assuming 14-24-year-old young women) is that the actions of these characters don't influence me, but they apparently are influencing young girls.

There was a study done recently sited in the Washington Post that found girls who watched shows like GG, "Sex and the City," "Friends" and even "That 70s Show," were twice as likely to engage in behavior that could lead to pregnancy.

I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore when the new "90210" opened with a girl giving a guy a blow job. Too many girls look at themselves as sexual commodities to be traded amongst the guys in their circle and don't recognize or respect their own value. It's startling to me to read about girls who randomly perform oral sex on boys at parties, on school buses and in school bathrooms. Where have we gone so wrong? I know lots of folks will say it all started with Bill Clinton, but girls felt bad about themselves and gave pieces of themselves away well before Monica Lewinsky.

In reading about the correlation between TV viewing and pregnancy I thought back to when my daughter was in middle and high school and how I handled what she watched. Thankfully, she wasn't a huge TV watcher, but we watched a lot of things together. Granted, in the 90s and early 2000s things weren't quite as explicit, but watching together gave me the chance to talk about my values, and how important respecting yourself and your body is. Thankfully my daughter made it through those fragile years without getting pregnant or, as far as I can tell, too scarred by the time. I like to think that my taking the time to be with her and talk about the choices characters on "Gilmore Girls," and the original "Beverly Hills 90210" made helped guide her.

Like so many areas of parenting that appear to have been abdicated, teaching our children about sex seems to have been left to the likes of Carrie Bradshaw and Chuck Bass.

We can't just blame what's on TV for the slutting up of our youth anymore than we can blame the manufacturers of Twinkies for the obesity problem that is rampant among our children. The buck truly stops with the people buying the food and paying the cable bill. We can't ever have complete control over our children, I certainly know this after raising three, but we can be a strong influence. We just need to shout from the rafters until it gets through to our girls - you are truly a treasure and should never, ever just give yourself away.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Good Death After A Very Good Life

My mom passed away this past Thursday, and as completely sad as it is for those of us who loved her and miss her terribly, I am very happy for her. She's no longer living in a body that had ceased to work and now she's at peace.

When she entered the hospital almost three weeks ago and all her grandchildren arrived, none of us had any idea that it would be the last time they would see her. We are all beyond grateful that she did get to see them and they her. We all had that time to laugh and share and tell one another how much we loved each other.

A few days after they left it became evident she wasn't going to get well, and a week ago I called my brother to return.

My brother Mark and I spent an entire week together in this very precious cocoon saying goodbye to our mom and holding each other up in the process.

We developed a routine over the week he was here of going to the hospital twice a day, making dinner late in the evening, and sitting - talking, watching "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report," heading to bed and starting it all over the next day. We'd hold our mom's hands, give her sips of water, and just wait. In between we dealt with the realities of knowing she was going to die taking care of her house, her finances and yes, her cat. I can't imagine how only children do it all, or those who don't see eye to eye. There wasn't one issue we had to deal with that we disagreed about, there were no power struggles and no egos fighting for the driver's seat.

My mother showed more grace and courage through this process than I could ever think to muster. It shouldn't surprise me, because she faced everything in her life that way.

This loss is still very fresh and raw right now, but we're all doing pretty well. My brother has gone back to his life in New York, and I am looking once again at deadlines and surfing the Web for information for my columns. The sacred bubble we lived in for that one sad, sweet week has been broken, but we'll never forget the time we had together, and the way we helped ease our mom from her life on this plane to the next. After all she'd given us throughout our lives we wouldn't have had it any other way.