Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
So for all you loyal readers who read my woeful post on Friday night, I feel I owe you a follow-up to what was really the first noteworthy hiccup in my relationship. It wasn’t really a fight, in that we weren’t arguing about something. But we both had done things to hurt one another and of course, sometimes that’s worse.
Saturday morning I woke up early and went to yoga after reading a comment from a guy who said if he was my boyfriend, he’d kill himself. When I got back home, my boyfriend alive and well, called and asked to get lunch. He came over and patiently waited while I finished getting ready. He asked to talk first and I sat on the couch next to him, waiting to find out his thoughts.
He explained in a few short sentences what he thought the problem was. He was clear, concise, and right. Apparently, I’m dating an adult. I felt terrible. He reminded me of something I had said (twice) and when he said it out loud, I was revolted by my own abhorrent language. I sounded like a self-righteous bitch and I had hurt someone I loved. I had essentially threatened to break-up with him if he didn’t do something I wanted. Even if you have a point, if you don’t communicate fairly, you can quickly become the wrongdoer yourself and in this case, I was more the bad guy than he was.
He was being so mature, I was mainly embarrassed at my own behavior at this point. I had something I wanted to say, but I felt tears advancing every time I tried to say it. He said we should get something to eat and I was hoping that the change of location would allow me to compose myself.
After we ordered, I forced myself to speak. I made it through two points with a dry face, but by the third, streams of mascara had formed telltale lines down my cheek. Only a few people noticed, but it was enough to make me give up talking till we got home. I finally got everything I wanted to say out. We both agreed to work on our recently uncovered tools for inflicting hurt on the other, and though he didn’t use the words, he seemed to forgive me.
We spent the rest of the day doing nothing together. We lay next to each other and talked and made each other laugh till our sides hurt and built a fort and spoke with accents and listened to NPR’s election coverage. I told him if he did ever kill himself now, I would blame myself. We saw friends later that night and again on Sunday and things felt surprisingly normal and good.
It seems we’ve made it through the darkness. I hope we’ve emerged stronger. A friend of mine said that going through something like this is really good for us because if we make it out alright, we can be confident that when confronting life’s inevitable bumps, we know we can handle it.
Sunday night, he called and just before hanging up he said I had a good weekend. We had had the most painful conversation of our relationship so far a day earlier, but since then we had also had a surprising amount of fun. I told him I did too. And so for now, we march on…
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January 21, 2012 | 3:03 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My boyfriend and I had a fight tonight. Not a terrible one but bad enough that I’m back at my apartment alone and intermittently crying. I’m not entirely sure what happened or why but we were sort of off all night. Then, things were said and now looking back, perhaps I was cruel.
It happens swiftly and softly without anger or even very many words but within a few sentences feelings are hurt. We are watching tv and I try to fix everything by taking his hand, but he pulls it away. I try again and again I fail. Our bodies are still touching on the couch, but I feel as alone as if I were sitting in the middle of the Arctic without another person in sight. He says he is tired. I know what this means so I oblige him and say I’m going to head home now. I can’t look at him on the way out. I am hoping he will grab me and kiss me or just do something. But he doesn’t. He closes the door behind me.
I get halfway down the hall and then crouch down on the floor outside his door and silently cry, heaving softly. I can’t decide what to do. I don’t want to leave. It all seems so stupid. What are we even fighting over? I just want to go back in and snuggle up to him and sleep next to the man I love.
His neighbor comes out to walk his dog. I shoot up, with my overnight bag hanging off of my shoulder. Are you ok, he asks, confused.
I smile like an idiot and try to brush past him. Yeah, I’m fine. I notice a pack of cigarettes in his hand. Cigarettes. Is that what we were fighting about?
Are you sure you’re welcome here? Yes, I’m welcome here, I think. My boyfriend lives here, you jerk. He continues down the stairs but now I am trapped. I am too embarrassed to leave and walk past this guy and his dog, like I’ve been thrown out, so I march back to my boyfriend’s door.
I stand there for a while, trying to build back up my courage. I am cold, and tired, and my bags are hurting my shoulder. I can hear the tv playing the end of the show I had been in there watching not so long ago. I want back in.
I knock on the door. Why am I nervous, I’m thinking.
He opens the door. He looks confused. I recall there are still tears on my face.
I don’t want to leave, I say. I look up at him pleading, hoping he thinks I look sweet instead of pathetic which is what I’m feeling.
He opens his mouth to say something, but barely a sound escapes and he closes it. He looks down.
I’m stunned. He looks back at me and his look says everything. He wants me to leave. He doesn’t want to let me in to the apartment I’ve had keys to for months. I thought he’d be relieved to see me, but he’s not. He wishes I hadn’t come back.
Forget it, I can’t even finishing saying it, before the tears start falling. How dare he, I think to myself. I brush my hair aside, mainly to hide my face from him as I turn to leave. He’s sending me out into the cold late night, with my bags, on the long walk back to my car alone.
I walk as fast as I can in my stupid little tight dress and black boots that feel ridiculous now. He hasn’t closed the door this time. He’s waiting for me to leave the building. I guess his neighbor was right, I’m not welcome here. The gate closes behind me.
I know I could let myself cry this whole walk back to my car, but I grit my teeth instead. I will not let a boy make me cry. I will not give him this much power over me. I am too strong to cry over this. Over what? I ignore the embarrassment I feel as I pass people on the busy street, hoping they’ll think I’m walking to my boyfriend’s apartment instead of being kicked out by him. I fantasize he’ll drive up beside me and demand that we fix this. But I know there’s no way in hell, this is happening. He’s tired and probably just wants to go to bed and not think about me. He probably thinks this wasn’t a big deal. It was me who wanted to leave, right? And I was making things weird in the first place. Why do I always do that? Am I determined to sabotage every relationship with a man I will ever have?
He has no idea how rejected I feel right now. I check my phone for a non-existent text. But I only do it once because I know him, and I know he won’t text. What will tomorrow be like? Are we over? Or did nothing happen? Will he call in the morning to discuss our evening plans and think that nothing worth mentioning transpired? When do I get to a place in my life, where boys don’t make me feel like this? Do I ever?
Drastic thoughts of what I could do tonight creep into my head. But I won’t. I’m not angry enough with him to want to do anything except fix us. God, exactly a week ago one night, I thought things were perfect. He used the word soulmate for the first time and I was swooning even though I know he doesn’t load the word with all the meaning I do. He was so tired before I left. Oh my baby, I feel so bad for him when I see how exhausted he gets from work. I want to sleep too but I know I won’t.
No matter what happens to me in life, no matter my accomplishments, no matter where in the world I am, or how much things have changed, it seems this ugly constant remains. I am sitting here in front of my computer feeling alone, crying about a boy, knowing I won’t sleep. I wonder if I should give up on love. Not relationships necessarily – they seem to come easily to me. But this idealistic schoolgirl dream of true love I just can’t seem to let go of. Why do I need to believe this so badly? I just really want to believe that there’s someone out there for me. And I really started to believe it was him. And so why am I home alone without him?
January 20, 2012 | 12:27 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne KagelBeing late twenties, means that bachelorette parties are a regular part of your social calendar. The problem is, most bachelorette parties SUCK. And not just a little. They’re often boring, uninspired, unoriginal, expensive, lame and there’s nothing do to but drink and regret it later. In fact, if one more girl asks me to throw down a thousand dollars to go to Vegas to see a steroid-filled not-cute not-my-type man wearing lime green, while trying to get drunk off of weak thirty dollar drinks, so that she can wear an over-priced plastic tiara for one night, I’m going to lose it. So last year, when one of my best friends in the whole world got married, the tradition of bachelorette planning fell to me and I was determined not to fall prey to these all-to-familiar doomed scenarios.
January 12, 2012 | 9:00 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend let slip that he was titillated by another woman. Well, almost. It might not have been as bad at it could have been, but it was there.
There was this really sexy ad running on FX for their new show American Horror Story which I’ve been watching but really not enjoying. Anyway, my boyfriend and I have been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which we love pretty religiously together and every time they run the ad for American Horror Story, he makes a comment about how much he’d like to see me in a certain skivvies-showing French maid outfit worn very well by the sultry red-haired actress on the show. This actress is seriously hot and the way they have her tarted up to play to this archetypal male fantasy is spot on so I couldn’t agree more that she gives off this irresistibly sexy aura. So the last few weeks he’s reiterated how hot her little get-up is and how he’d love to see me in something like that. Which of course is as genteel as you can be when talking to your girlfriend about how sexy another girl is.
So there we are again, cuddling on his couch watching the It’s Always Sunny gang trying to get to Thunder Gun Express when of course the Horror Story ad comes on. This time, though he says “Damn, I want to &^$&...” Pause. “...you so badly in that outfit.”
I knew exactly what had happened and I couldn’t help but call him on it.
“That is not what you were going to say!”
Of course he played totally aghast. “What do you mean?”
“You were going to say ‘I want to #$%^ her,’ not me in her clothes.”
“That is SO NOT…ok fine that’s true.” I could feel his embarrassment as he confessed and sheepishly squeezed me tightly.
“I’m not mad at you for being potentially aroused by another woman but I think the generally accepted conventional wisdom on this is that girlfriends don’t like to hear about all the other women their boyfriends would like to *^%#.”
He laughed nervously and covered my face in little kisses realizing the fine line he was walking and the disaster he had almost stepped in.
But this brings up a truth in relationships, we don’t often explore. Do we expect our significant others to literally never be turned on by anyone but us? And if we accept that this is not physiologically possible, how much do we want to hear about it?
When it comes to love, I’m an idealist. But when it comes to sex, I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, I think if you want to be in a committed long-term relationship you have to accept that at some point in your partner’s long life, he is going to be turned on by something that is not you. Some girls really can’t handle this. My boyfriend’s fear that I might potentially be mad at him for being turned on by another girl is well founded. I know a lot of women who would be angry to find out their partner looked at porn or that they thought about anything aside from her while engaging in self-gratifying coital behavior. But biologically speaking, it seems to me, this is not a realistic view. We can and should all be held responsible for our actions on these urges, but our most base stirrings are surely not something we should judge one another on. Right?
Of course, knowing this and living it are two different things entirely. In the abstract, I have no issue with the idea that my partner might be sexually aroused by someone other than me. But do I really want to watch that happen? Of course not. When I’m with him, I want to feel like I’m the only woman in the world he could ever desire for the rest of his life. And generally, my boyfriend does a good job of making me feel like that. So then, am I saying he just has to hide it from me in a see no evil, speak no evil paradigm? That idea feels so outmoded to me. Aren’t I more liberated than that?
I want to be a more enlightened modern woman. I’d like to acknowledge the truth that in long-term relationships, both parties are going to be aroused by outside stimuli and accept that having such thoughts is part of being human and has no bearing on our relationship. But at the same time, watching my boyfriend respond to a hot woman who is not me, is not enjoyable. So what is he supposed to do? Put on this charade where in front of me he pretends nothing else in the world aside from me is arousing?
I certainly don’t want to listen to him confess to me any sexual fantasy he has about another girl in particular. But at the same time, if that is wrong, aren’t I also guilty of my own “thought indiscretions” at certain occasions?
Shouldn’t it be enough that my partner is faithful to me in actions? He has control over choosing not to have a one-night stand but if he can’t control his own sexual thoughts, why should it taint his virtue if he admits to titillation from others? We generally don’t punish people for thoughts. You may have wanted to murder someone, but as long as you didn’t, we really don’t think just having those thoughts are that bad. So if my boyfriend told me one day that he was so angry with someone that he momentarily thought about killing them, well it wouldn’t be his best side, but I also wouldn’t think too much of it. In fact, I’d hardly think about it. So why is it then, that I’m obsessing about this moment my boyfriend let slip that he had a sex-thought about someone else?
Women have unrealistic expectations when it comes to our man’s sexual thoughts. I want to blame fairy tales and Disney but really, I think the problem is we don’t talk about it realistically enough. People often say that that when Prince Charming finds Cinderella and they live happily ever after, we indoctrinate a desire for perfect unions that don’t exist. But in terms of the fundamentals, I still want the fairytale – the fairytale for me is someone who’s going to love me and be faithful to me forever and no I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Probably a lot of girls still want the fairytale and I believe they can still find it. The issue is, you technically can still abide by the rules of that fairytale, even if Prince Charming sometimes fantasizes about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty getting it on together. It’s time to stop pretending that loves means pure thoughts at all times. If he still loves you and is faithful to you, that needs to be enough. He shouldn’t feel like he has to hide his sexual desires because I’m holding onto some unrealistic expectation that men only want one woman till they die.
Women need to get used to the fact that great guys who are madly in love with them and completely faithful are going to be excited by other women. Ok, I need to get used to that fact.
And so, was I wrong to tease my boyfriend for making his comment? I just don’t understand why if cognitively I truly am ok with him thinking these things, why do I so not want to hear them? Do I prefer delusion? And isn’t that a sign of a psychopath…
I really have no idea what the answer is. I am not going to tell him to keep these thoughts from me, but I’m also not going to pretend communication is a panacea and encourage him to tell me all about them. guess I’m just not enlightened enough to listen to it. Maybe I am choosing to live in a pretend world, where I am the only bright and shiny object in his eyes. Or maybe hope against hope, the truth is that I do really shine a little bit brighter in his eyes than all others. Maybe only having eyes for me really means that in a sea of shiny objects, he sees all of them, but there’s only one he picks up to play with. And maybe that still means, I can have my fairytale after all.
January 11, 2012 | 2:12 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
A friend of mine sent me a press release about a new tv show airing tonight on USA at 11pm. The show, “Out Of Character With Krista Smith” features interviews with Gwyneth Paltrow, Seth MacFarlane, and Jason Wu and while normally I can’t stand these vapid celeb puff piece interviews, Krista is actually a great interviewer so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been watching her for a while because of her day job as Vanity Fair’s West Coast Editor, since VF often posts her interviews to their website to supplement the great articles she writes. VF is one of my favorite mags and seeing as years ago for about five minutes I technically worked there and got to meet Krista, I’m rather excited about it all. Check it out tonight!
January 4, 2012 | 7:39 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My boyfriend and I haven’t even been dating a year and we’re already fighting about a divorce settlement. Not our divorce settlement, but how much Kobe Bryant’s wife should get. And then Mel Gibson’s wife. And somehow it all circles back to Ron Burkle.
In California, the community property laws say that upon divorce, husband and wife must split equally everything that was earned during the marriage. So if Kobe Bryant is worth $150 million as speculated, without a prenup his wife is entitled to $75 million. This is because the second a husband earns a dollar in California, the wife is immediately entitled to fifty cents of that dollar meaning yes, the husband only earned himself 50 cents of that dollar in his paycheck. Any wealth that either party has before the marriage, they both get to keep. But because Kobe earned his $150 mil while being married, she gets half. Same goes for Mel Gibson’s wife, because Mel earned all of his $850 million dollars while in his thirty-year marriage.
This problem is I happen to think this is fair. My Mr. Dreamboat, does not. It came up for us this past summer, when I was studying to take the CA bar and was reading about Ron Burkle’s divorce. He’s the supermarket mogul and at the time of his divorce was worth about $2 billion, however he swindled his wife out of the billion she was due and she received only $40 million. Of course, $40 million is an enormous amount of money, but it’s the principle of the thing, she should have gotten half. My boyfriend seemed indignant at the idea that any stay-at-home wife in a long-term marriage who had raised children deserved $1 billion dollars for her work.
So how much is it worth, then? I snapped back.
I don’t know, but not $1 billion dollars.
Man, did this make me mad. Mr. DB seems to think that there is a cap on how much a stay at home mom is worth. This was also the conversation where I found out that he thinks prenups are a good idea which undermines every notion I’ve ever held about marriage. So, this was not a conversation that bode well for our future. In his defense, he did say he hadn’t given it much thought and these were just his general first impressions.
But back to our little theoretical tiff. (And although I use husband in this discussion as the generic breadwinner because it’s still more common, I believe the same rules apply when gender roles are reversed. So if the wife is the income-earner and the husband is the stay-at-home dad, he is also entitled to half.) Men seem to think that people like Mel Gibson or Kobe are being swindled out of their fortunes by greedy wives. The headlines that report these stories lead with titles like “Mel Gibson loses half his fortune” or “Divorce will cost Kelsey Grammer $50 million.” But you never see ones that say “Gibson’s wife of thirty years who raised seven kids, virtually alone, without ever seeing her husband, and having to endure living with an alcoholic for years gets what she deserves.” No. Because like my boyfriend, the men who write these articles don’t believe wives should see a ‘windfall’ just for being a mom.
The problem is, no one actually deserves that much money. Why does Mel Gibson deserve $425 million dollars? Just because we have a warped celebrity culture that paid him $20 million dollars a movie to carry around a sword in a horse and wear make-up? Does Ron Burkle really deserve $2 billion dollars? Of course not. No one does. But he happens to have made it through a combination of luck and circumstance and probably hard work. And by the same logic, because of luck and circumstance, and hard work, and progressive California property laws that believe marriage is a partnership, his wife should get half.
Plus, maybe Ron Burkle’s wife made it possible for him to earn all that money. Maybe she supported him during school or helped him make business decisions or kept him afloat when he decided to take big financial risks early on. Maybe Mel Gibson’s wife was the one telling him all those years to keep his anti-Semitic mouth shut or helping him stay sober and he never would have been able to make those movies in the first place without her.
My feeling about marriage, is that once you enter into it, you are no longer doing anything as a solo operator. The sum is greater than the two parts and so it’s not that the husband goes to work, earns money and then shares it with his family. The marriage is earning the money all along. Because who makes it possible for that husband to go to work and earn it all? And especially in the case of a stay-at-home parent, who keeps the husband’s home, and picks up his dry cleaning and picks out clothes that match, and takes the kids to soccer and makes him dinner. Once married, the breadwinner is not earning that money by himself. He is enabled by the other spouse.
And on the flip side, if you can really determine a percentage and say that the wife earned herself 25% of the earnings with all her hard work, does the reciprocal of that hold up? Should the court determine that the husband may claim responsibility for 25% of the people the children turn out to be. Do we as a society want to suggest that the dad is entitled to 25% of the kids’ affection because he only did 25% of the parenting?
But when this first came up in my relationship six months ago, I didn’t push the issue very far. It seemed a bit presumptuous to be defensive about how much a woman should be entitled to for raising a family just a few months into dating. But it has definitely been in the back of mind as a concern of mine regarding our relationship ever since. Do we fundamentally disagree about our philosophies regarding marriage? I mean, if my whole idea of marriage is based on a shared partnership philosophy and his is based on earning your worth, my guess is we’d probably flunk one of those e-Harmony quizzes and I wouldn’t be surprised if the screen started flashing red with BAD MATCH written across it.
But thank god for Kobe Bryant because a few weeks ago we got the chance to rehash this all when my grandmother brought up the topic of Kobe’s divorce. And now, ten months into our relationship, we’re past the point of tiptoeing around potential problems, so I rolled up my sleeves and was ready for the debate.
Do you think she deserves that money? I demanded to know.
He tried to avoid answering, but after another male said absolutely not, it cleared the road for him to agree.
So I dug in. I probably got a little too worked up (I could hear the sass in my tone), but I went after him with my reasons as aforementioned above. The topic got changed and the conversation moved on, but I could not.
So two nights later, over champagne at a fancy dinner, knowing I had made the best argument I could make, I brought it up calmly again. There is a concern of mine that’s been bothering me lately. I suggested we had differing philosophical understandings of the institution of marriage. And though I kept the sass at bay, I just couldn’t resist getting all indignant. And I just could never marry someone who fundamentally disagreed with me about the philosophy of marriage. Yeah, I actually said that to him. And yeah, that would be me being a bitch. Who gives veiled take it or leave it propositions over abstract philosophy in their relationships? Not my finest moment.
You make some good points, he said. BINGO! Relief sets in and I allow myself to pick back up my fantasy wedding. (Why do girls go from zero to sixty on relationship developments in our minds with the slightest smile from a man?) Anyway, this whole time, I’d been perplexed by his stance on this issue because he’s rather close with his mother who was a stay-at-home mom and I couldn’t understand how he could undervalue her contribution to a family. But I had forgotten about his father who has been less lucky in marriage. Mr. DB has seen divorce from the other side. When there are not long term marriages and there are no children involved do I still believe as strongly that everything must be shared equally? Well, I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess I could imagine a hypothetical where the marriage is short and the wife is not contributing anything to the marriage by being an absentee partner and the husband is working hard to earn money and feels like the wife upon divorce is asking for more than her fair sure. Score one for him. I can see where he’s coming from, I admit to him
When I think about marriage, I pretty much talk based on my marriage. Of course, having never been married, I talk based only on how I think it will go. So knowing myself to be a very hard worker, I imagine that I will work tirelessly at being a wife and mother and at staying married a very long time, and should I chose to sacrifice my career for that, I would want my husband to feel that everything he earned, we earned together because I would be working just as hard as him. It had never occurred to me that divorce might come after a short marriage or without children cause well I don’t really think about it all. My parents have been married 35 years, all of my parents’ friends are still married, all my friends’ parents are still married – my mom’s theory on this has something to do with how many Jews make up my life but who knows? In any case, I didn’t grow up with a lot of divorce. So naturally my opinion on this is going to be very differently informed than someone who grew up with divorce as part of his life. All this is to say, I started to feel very bad about all my sass. But does he really think that any marriage involving me might be short term or involve someone not pulling her weight?
I think you might convince me of this though, he offers up to me. I’m gleeful inside. Don’t give up on this one, he smiles knowingly at me. Just in case, we ever do get married and return from living abroad to move into a beautiful house on the Westside and have four girls and I decide to take a break from my successful career to be at home with the little ones where I continue to work from home and also prepare the most delicious vegetarian meals for our beautiful family every night, just in case of all that, I start to believe that Mr. Dreamboat will see me as an equal. Phew. Cause for a minute there, he was just being so ridiculous. Thank god I’m able to bring us all back down to reality…