Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I had a big fight with my sister last week. My sister and I are incredibly close and have been for our entire lives but we can still fight pretty passionately. I have a week off in March and want to take a trip with her because although we’ve traveled extensively as a family, we haven’t really vacationed together without our parents in a while. She was hemming and hawing about planning something and I kept trying to nail her down. She brought up a lot of good points. She lives in Argentina and has taken the last six weeks off to visit my parents and me in L.A. so she doesn’t think she should ask for more time away from work so soon. She feels badly about taking another vacation without her boyfriend of two years. She already has other vacations lined up in the pipeline she’s been planning for first. I’m sort of already committed to a ski trip that week. I want to go to Cuba and she doesn’t think a week is enough time. She concluded with saying she couldn’t commit to a trip yet but she would let me know once she got back to Argentina and was resettled at work.
Unjustifiably, I got really angry with her. I told her she never goes out of her way to spend time with me as I do for her. Plus, I told her that saying maybe was a cop-out. If she really wanted to go, she should just say yes and the rest would fall into place. If she cared, she should find a way to make it work.
I knew I was on the wrong side of the argument but I couldn’t stop acting indignant.
When you’re single, your relationships with your friends and family become more important. Everyone likes to think that when they are in a relationship they will be the same good friend they were before and they will never compromise their loyalty to their family. But the truth is, if you want to make a romantic relationship work, that relationship has to be the number one relationship in your life. You can still be a good friend or sister or daughter, but there is an unspoken truth that your friends and family will be slightly behind the person you choose to marry. After all, isn’t that what marriage is? A promise to put that person first for the rest of your life?
My sister’s not married but she has created a life with man in another country and is at least on that track. And I’m resentful. I resent that she can’t be my roommate right now. I resent that she is finding herself with him. I resent that she isn’t interested in talking about dating with me. For my whole life, it was my sister and I against the world. And now it’s just not.
In writing this, I’m once again being unfair because, as older sister, I did this to her first. When I was in my first serious romantic relationship, I could feel a dynamic in my relationship with my sister change. My family ski trips went from four people to five. Dinner at my parents house was about seating two couples and one single girl. When she came to visit, from New York at the time, I included my boyfriend in everything my sister and I did. We were still close but there was also an omnipresent distance. We now had something we didn’t talk about – she didn’t really express her true feelings about him to me. Perhaps she was confronting the fact that one day I would commit myself to someone over her. But probably most hurtful of all to her, I felt it was no longer my sister and I against the world. I acted like it was me, my boyfriend, and then my sister against the world.
Of course, when my heart was broken, I needed her again in a way I hadn’t needed her in a while. But she no longer needed me in the same way. At that time, she was entering her first serious relationship.
I certainly never felt like I lost her and in some ways now I feel like we’re closer than ever, especially as she matures and my respect and admiration for her continue to grow. But still I know, one day we’ll both slowly choose to devote ourselves to a relationship which will make our consanguineous relationship second to something else. I know this and I accept this and yet there are still moments of anger when it happens.
In the end, I backed off the Cuba trip. Skiing and South-by-Southwest it is. And I’m ok with it. There’s still only one person who can give me a manicure, and sing show tunes on a chairlift, and tell me when I’m wearing too much eye makeup, and call me a brat when I need to hear it, and remind me when family is more important than accomplishments. And I will always have my sister for that. What more could I really ask for?
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January 26, 2011 | 10:28 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
So this week I read the most depressing article I’ve read in a long time (and I read a lot). Tracy Clark-Flory in a story on Salon interviewed Mark Regnerus, the co-author of a new book that was just released, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying. Clark-Flory reports that despite the skyrocketing accomplishments of women, (outnumbering men in college, out-earning their male peers when they first enter the work world), when it comes to relationships, they say men are calling all the shots—which means less commitment and more sex. However, I’m not sure his research actually sustains his ultimate conclusion.
I’ll excerpt the highlights of what the author Mark Regnerus says in the interview:
...The cold-hard truth is that women’s successes have left them with a small pool of similarly educated and financially stable men…It’s created an imbalance that tips relationship power in the direction of the men. Instead of men competing for women, today women feel like they must compete for men…So how do we measure how people price [sex]? A couple different ways: First, the time until they have sex in a relationship. A second measure is the number of sex partners that “sub-optimal men” have had. I define that group as men who are 22 years old, dropped out of high school and don’t have a full-time job—men who don’t have a lot going for them. We compare the number of partners they’ve had with the number of partners of a male college graduate who is employed full-time. Theoretically, if sex is valuable to her then she’s not going to trade it away to just some crummy man, and when we look at the data, we find that those sub-optimal men report a lot more partners than men who actually have a lot going for them.
...In the book, we report that 35 percent of men’s relationships are reported to have become sexual within two weeks; and 48 percent become sexual within a month…All he has to do is maybe buy her dinner and text her…It’s not that young educated women don’t marry—in fact they have the highest odds of getting and staying married—it’s that if you look at the whole relationship scene out there today, more than ever women feel like they’re competing for men. In American colleges, 57 percent of students are women and 43 percent are men. That’s a radical reversal of where we were 30 or 40 years ago. Presuming that people are attracted to people who are like them educationally, it means looking for secure relationships becomes challenging because the sex ratio is so imbalanced.
...That’s a terrible environment to try to get men to commit. The women wind up competing with each other—not necessarily to marry because they’re not interested in marriage at that point—but they compete with each other to attract men. How do you compete with other women to attract men? Well, sex is the way to get his attention. It’s the opposite of a cartel effect where women would say, “All right, we need to band together and artificially restrict the price of sex and get it high, even if we don’t want to, in order to extract things from men.” It used to be women would shame each other for selling low.
...There’s plenty of that mentality of “Well, if I give him what he wants then he should stay.” I think women feel they have to compete with each other, and that if they stick to this script it will eventually work out for them…I don’t think it’s in women’s interest to play the field for a long period of time. It can get depressing, not only about their relationships but to see the pool of men in their 30s who are available. My advice is if you find somebody who you love and who loves you, make it work, whatever it takes! To always think that something better is down the pathway, you might be mistaken.
...I think it’s a bad idea for women collectively to compete with each other for men and to just sort of say I’ll do whatever it takes to be in a relationship with men. Women need to somehow reacquire control over the direction of relationships. They feel like they don’t have control. They feel like he calls the shots. That is most unfortunate. Part of that, I think, involves—and this is what some women don’t want to hear—the artificial restriction of sex until later in the relationship. You might not feel like doing that but it’s for a greater future goal. Men who have sex early in a relationship feel little impulse to make strong commitments. Women desperately want that to not be true, but it is. Men and women make relationship commitments very differently. It doesn’t sound modern and it doesn’t sound natural, but I don’t care what it sounds like, I’m telling you how things work. Giving it away early gives a great deal of power to him.
...I wish I could say, “Oh, an individual woman will get what she wants by withholding sex,” but that is not the case when it’s not the case collectively, when there are lots of other women happy to underbid her. She’s in a bind, which is why a lot of women don’t restrict it because they feel, “Oh, he’s just going to go to my roommate or the other woman at the end of the bar,” which is true. But I still think you have better odds of succeeding, especially if you’re attractive, if you don’t give in, if you make him work hard, get to know you, make commitments—all that stuff that seems pretty basic. This is not about getting sex…This is about getting commitments.
I’m not sure what to say about this. One problem with Regnerus’s theory is that it assumes that women don’t want sex, only relationships. And while at some point later in life this may be true, I have a hard time believing this is true for most women in their early twenties. I have a feeling that plenty of women are having sex at that age because they want to and not because they feel they have to keep a man interested. It also assumes that men will only want sex and not relationships in perpetuity, whereas I meet men all the time, usually in their thirties and forties who say they’re sick of playing around and ready to settle down; I think they would be willing to wait a while to sleep with someone they thought might be a potential wife. Furthermore, there’s no research that shows that fewer marriages are occurring nor that people are settling down at a slower rate. It seems that if men really did call the shots and all they want is sex, men would be less likely to settle down, but the marriage rate has stayed steady for years.
Until, there is evidence that the women who wait to have sex are the ones ending up in relationships as opposed to the ones who don’t, it seems like all women are affected equally: there are less accomplished men for the ones who give it up and for the ones who don’t. That’s the really sad part of the study - we live in a world now where men are going to be constantly under-performing. Not giving these men sex doesn’t seem like it’s going to solve the problem helping men achieve. It’s just going to keep these under-achieving men from getting laid. Apparently it’s time for boy-power.
January 25, 2011 | 10:53 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I am not that private about money. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable to talk about it when it comes up, but then again, as a product of Mark Zuckerberg’s world view, I’m not that private about anything. So I was really shocked when a friend of mine recently told me that for a man to be asked about his finances is like if a woman were to be asked about her breast size? REALLY?
He assured me this was true. That for a woman to judge a man financially was uncomfortable and forward and usually reserved for someone you trust. No one had ever put this in such stark terms for me before and I was surprised that it could be so invasive. I recognize that this may be, because I come from a lower-upper class background where I was fortunate not have to struggle while growing up but I guess I assumed that unless you were a man who had lost your job recently, most people didn’t consider matters so private.
But I considered the comparison he was making. No girl feels comfortable answering a man what size her breasts are because there’s no answer that satisfies everyone. I happen to love mine but I scoff at the thought of being asked the question by someone I’m not intimate with already or about to be. And there are those men that have asked. Every once in a while you get a man who is either too socially awkward to realize that he doesn’t have the right to ask such a forward question or a playboy who wants you to know that’s how he rolls. But in general, I don’t want it to be asked. It would be playing your cards too early. And you want to keep those cards close to your chest (sorry for the pun) as one of the natural enticements in a flirtatious relationship – let him guess until it’s finally the right time to see. So there’s no quicker turn off for me, than a man whose pathetic attempt at enticement includes salacious questions.
But it never occurred to me that a question like, how much does that job pay, could make a man feel as uncomfortable. I’m in my last year of graduate school so naturally I hear a lot of chatter by students about jobs for next year. When the conversation turns to salaries, I usually just feel like we’re all in this horrible economy together, and facing the same world out there, so a salary has no reflection on a person’s qualities but probably is just a reflection of luck. These conversations don’t inflame any emotion for me, so I really had no idea how inconsiderate I might have been in some of these discussions.
I wonder if it’s the same for men. I mean I think most civil men are beat over the head about sensitivity to women’s bodies and sexual harassment, so culturally we tell them it’s inappropriate to ask. But maybe they think what’s the big fuss about because they don’t see the emotional attachment. Perhaps it’s the fact that regardless of what’s under your shirt, once a man is touching it he’s going to have a predictable reaction so it would never occur to him to be sensitive about it because essentially, for men it’s as simple as all breasts are good. So they think that as long as you’re not horribly deformed, why would a woman be offended about being asked her bra size.
But it’s still just a shocking notion for me. Is it really as simple as we judge women by their bodies and men by their finances? It seems stupid to me…that a man could let so much of his own self-worth be tied up with a number on a bank statement. I mean yes, a nice number is always high, but the fact is a nice number is never going to make me like someone I didn’t like before and if I didn’t like you before, I couldn’t care less what the number is. So I’m tempted to just let men know when it comes up that it has no emotional impact on me, but I realize how flawed this plan is – even if a man told me first that he loved my breasts no matter what and then asked what size they were, I’d still be offended. So from now on, I’m going to be sensitive to the issue and be careful to avoid finances in future conversations with men. I guess I’ll just have to change to asking what kind of car he drives…
January 24, 2011 | 10:44 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
A guy just asked me recently what’s my type when it comes to dating men. I wanted to answer honestly, but I didn’t know what to say. Looking at my history, I’ve dated probably one of everything. I’ve long thought I don’t really have a type. But I think the whole type thing is completely made up to sell Cosmo quizzes anyway. Someone’s type is just whomever they’re interested in at that time. People date outside their type all the time. I hear girls saying constantly “it’s weird because he’s not my type but he’s so great.” If you end up with someone who’s not your type, did you ever really have a type to begin with?
I know there are certain traits that make people more or less attractive to each other. But how often have we fallen for someone that we were completely uninterested in at first. Doesn’t that disprove the type theory? It seems to me that there are two ways people use the term. The first is to refer to physical type, as in people who only like blondes. The second is the type of person, as in people who like outgoing free-spirits. I think both of them are meaningless and essentially the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself you’re only attracted to doctors, what happens if there’s a great guy right in front of you who is a vet? Recent research has suggested that scent is a powerful force in determining a woman’s attraction to a man. This argues against any physical or personality determinative factor.
I’ve noticed this phenomenon in myself of course. In high school and college, I definitely had a type. I only wanted to date brooding tortured artists who smoked cigarettes while drinking espresso and writing poetic song lyrics in their moleskin notebooks. And so I did date quite a few tortured artists. But once I realized I was dating just a bunch of depressed bohemians without jobs, my fascination with type wore off. I started to be open to the idea of dating anyone and I truly have had feelings for all sorts of men. I’ve dated a man so poor we had to jump the turnstiles for the subway and I’ve dated an heir to one of the largest American fortunes. I’ve dated younger than me, and much older than me. I’ve dated all-American blonde minor league baseball players, African-American football players, and French writers. I’ve dated carbon-neutral obsessed atheists and Catholic surfers with new Range Rovers. I’ve been on a Ducati with an entrepreneur, and a Harley with a lawyer, been to Spago with an agent, eaten vegetables from the backyard of a DJ, read poetry with academics, and justified anarchy with reactionaries.
So I’m trying to think if they were all alike in regards to some other characteristics. Some were the nice guys and some weren’t. Some were the gregarious outgoing type, some were the wallflowers. Some liked me noticeably more than I liked them. Some didn’t. Some pleased my family, some didn’t. Some were loyal and trustworthy, some were mysterious. I guess for the most part I thought they were all smart so perhaps my type includes intelligence but that one quality doesn’t seem like much of a type.
At this point, I have to say I have no preconceived notions whatsoever about whom I should be with. I don’t have a type when it comes to a type of guy. As for the physical type, I don’t fare much better. I’ve dated across racial, hair color, and body type lines. Maybe there is at first an appearance I’m more drawn to than others, but this changes for me so much depending on the personality of the person. I’m never that attracted to anyone until I get to know them and then once I’m attracted to their personality, I can find my physical attraction heightened exponentially.
I suspect that for men’s attraction, the physical type may carry more weight. They tend to be more visual than women and much research suggests that a man’s physical attraction to someone has to do with some sexual reaction separate from the brain, whereas women’s attraction originates on a more emotional or intellectual level. So I feel I should give guys some leeway when they say they are only interested in a certain physical type. But can this be swayed? It seems like we all know a man anecdotally that fell for a woman not his typical type which suggests to me that part of the type thing really is just a self-fulfilling prophecy. Men tell themselves they like a certain type so they only get to know that type.
Well I’m against type. I don’t believe in it and I think it’s limiting our own experiences. I encourage everyone to date against their type. Why would you limit yourself to dating the type of people you’ve already dated and with whom it didn’t work? I believe we don’t have a type until we’re in love with mind, heart, and body of the person who’s meant to love us forever. Our lifelong partner should be our type. At least for me, my answer to the type question is ineffable for now. I don’t know what my type is yet. Because really in the end my type won’t be one in a category of a type of man at all. My type will be a category of one.
January 19, 2011 | 12:34 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
A few disclaimers: I’m not married, have not personally tested this theory and I wrote this for a law school negotiation class. But I loved the book Getting to Yes, I had fun writing the paper, and I hope you’ll take it in the tongue and cheek manner I intended. I apologize for the odd citations but the blog system won’t seem to recognize footnotes (and in case you care, I got an A-). So here’s my advice for you girls in those dreary three or four year relationships waiting for your boyfriend to finally give in and get engaged:
For thousands of years, men and women both wanted marriage equally. Men wanted to have sex and women needed a partner and the only way to make these things happen was to get married. In recent years though, these incentives have changed, especially for men as most men do not need to wait for marriage to have sex. Many women find themselves in relationships with the man of their dreams whose worst nightmare happens to be marriage. Relationships break down when parties without even realizing it, engage in positional bargaining. Instead, a woman who finds her partner reluctant to marry should enter into a principled negotiation with these men to get to marriage. Principled bargaining is the best way to take a stalled relationship and get to marriage while keeping a healthy relationship intact.
In Getting to Yes, Professors Fisher and Ury lay out their case for using principled negotiation in any situation (Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes, Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In, (New York: Penguin Books, 1981).). If applied step-by-step to a negotiation about marriage between a couple, a woman will be able to achieve the marriage she so desires. The first step in principled negotiation is to stop engaging in positional bargaining. Negotiating by simply fighting over positions endangers relationships (Ibid). The classic example of positional bargaining in a relationship is a man and woman arguing about when they will get married. The woman wants a ring on her finger now. The man wants a ring on his finger never. As the couple argues, the girlfriend casually inserts time references such as “if we’re engaged by next summer, we’ll be able to…” or “after the bar, Ill have more time to plan a wedding” or some variation thereof. This is the absolute worst way a woman could go about attempting to get married. This turns her into a consistent annoyance, which is one of the most toxic behaviors in a relationship. This also puts pressure on the man – instead of the proposal being something that the man decides he wants and plans for, the proposal becomes a sign of his acquiescence to his girlfriend. Furthermore, as time goes on and the positional bargaining continues just with shifting time tables, the man might feel no consequence for his refusal to concede and so he might ignore the negotiation completely because the relationship simply continues. Or worse, he might begin to resent his girlfriend for nagging him all the time and the mere subject could poison the relationship. Either way, this type of positional bargaining is detrimental to the couple’s relationship.
Not only does positional bargaining damage relationships, it can produce an unwise agreement (Fisher). In the short term, the woman’s goal is to get married. But really this desire serves a larger interest that the woman has for family, stability and a happy marriage. Although positional bargaining may work for some girls in the sense that they might get married as a result, these girls may end up getting married to a man they would have been better off leaving. If the focus is simply on when the marriage will take place, the woman may stop asking herself if this is the right partner for her. The woman might stop evaluating her boyfriend’s behavior and miss the signs that he is not meant for her. Likewise, the couple might get married too soon and ignore the fact that the man might have legitimate reasons for waiting, like dealing with issues of his childhood, or financial concerns such as debt.
However, if a woman who wants to get married uses the method of principled negotiation, she will be able to achieve her goals without encountering the dangerous consequences of positional bargaining. The first step in principled negotiation is to separate the people from the problem (Fisher). This is especially hard in a romantic relationship but it is very much still applicable. If the relationship is a strong healthy stable relationship and truly the only issue between the couple is when to get married, then the issue is completely solvable. Yet still, if the woman brings up the issue only in an argument, she’s poisoning the subject. There is no reason this issue should be negotiated in bed or when her boyfriend is tired and hungry. Paying attention to these people factors acknowledges that the needs of people cannot be ignored in negotiation. If the man reacts irritably or short, these reactions may be less a reflection on his opinion of marriage and more a reflection of the kind of day he had. If the woman interprets these moods to be a reflection of his feelings on the subject of marriage, she may grossly overestimate how much her boyfriend does not want to get married. If instead, the woman is sensitive to the circumstances that surround the negotiation, she has a much better chance of getting her “Prince Charming” to commit.
One of the worst examples of how a woman is unable to separate the person from the problem is if she refuses to have sex because she is not getting her way. If the woman withholds sex until she gets what she wants, this is akin to negotiating with dirty tactics, which creates a whole host of other issues. Instead of nurturing her relationship with her boyfriend, she has decided to punish the man she most loves for having interests different from her own. Conversely, if she allows sex to continue as a part of her relationship as she should, she will be able to separate out the issue of marriage and she is much more likely to cultivate a happy relationship which is more likely to lead to a happy ending.
Finally, because the relationship between a man and woman in a romantic relationship is so intimate, the woman may enter into positional bargaining without even realizing it. This often results in her boyfriend perceiving something completely anathema to what she wants to communicate. Understanding what the other side is thinking in negotiation is not just useful but his/her thinking actually is the problem (Fisher). By subtly bringing up the woman’s position or dropping hints, the woman reinforces her position over and over. She may say “I’ve always wanted to be married by the time I was thirty” or “my mother will never let up if my sister gets married before I do.” While this may not sound like the traditional words of positional bargaining such as “I’ll sell it for 100,” in the context of a relationship, these words have the same effect. The words are reaffirming the woman’s timetable, which will be clearly understood by her boyfriend. For example after a hint is dropped, instead of him hearing something along the lines of I love you so much, I want my family to celebrate how much I want to spend the rest of my life with you, the man is hearing words that simply communicate I need a ring by Christmas of this year. Furthermore, he probably hears some variation of these words all the time so instead of focusing the man on why he wants to buy anything at all, some annoying hawker is shouting a number in his face all the time. Who wants to propose to that? The woman needs to put herself in her boyfriend’s shoes; she needs to think about his underlying fears and then ask herself how she would perceive the constant marriage comments if she was on the receiving end of them. The most important first step the woman must make in her attempt to use distributive bargaining is to separate her boyfriend from the problem.
January 19, 2011 | 10:41 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I had an epiphany on Friday night. After a scrumptious dinner at my friends’ gastropub The Yard in Santa Monica, I went with some friends to see a girlfriend of mine sing Jazz at El Cid in Los Feliz. I rarely have moments of self-doubt, possibly to my detriment, but on this particular occasion I was starting to wonder if my dating issues were just me issues. In this era of perpetual self-scrutiny, we all know what our own shortcomings are. You know if you’re shy in social situations, or you don’t know when to end a thought so you’re continually talking, or you look mean when you’re really just nervous. We all have these self-diagnosable issues and in our moments of vulnerability, we blame our lives on them. I am no exception. I start to kick myself for being too outspoken, or a snob, or too career oriented and blame my dating history on my own peccadilloes.
So Friday night, despite a lovely evening of great food, and company and ambiance, I’m spiraling into verbal self-flagellation. The bouncer didn’t let us in for free (cause it was for charity blah blah). My friend Ted (despite all odds, a close plutonic male friend of mine) and I were engrossed in conversation at the bar, when this woman behind me starts eyeing Ted. Of course, Ted proceeds to hit on this woman while still trying to carry on a conversation with me and even though we’re just friends, I was still grossly offended and perhaps jealous that he would do this mid-conversation with me. My friend Devon admitted that he thinks my parents are cooler than me. And finally, out of sheer and utter desperation I turned back to Ted and said “why didn’t that guy from New Year’s Eve call me?”
Even though Ted and I were at the same Hollywood party, he had no idea what I was talking about at first. I had met a guy I thought I might be interested in that night – and while this may not sound like a ringing endorsement, I probably don’t say that more than two or three times a year, so for me to admit that I might possibly like someone was a huge deal. Nothing happened, more than we talked for hours and at the end of the night he went to kiss me and I turned it into a kiss on the cheek but I really thought we connected – or at least that he would call me. And yet, nothing. So naturally, I’ve been blaming myself. If only I hadn’t mentioned the law school thing, I wouldn’t have come off overly ambitious. If only I hadn’t I teased him about his summer camp. If only I had been better at beer pong. If only I had made out with him. Etc. etc. So finally, I let it out. I verbalized my own insecurities and I begged Ted to tell me the truth. What is it about me? Do I come off too strong? Did I insult his manhood? I was desperate for the truth. For the answer. Finally, I was able to jog Ted’s memory and he remembered whom I was talking about.
“Oh, that guy? He was a total player. He would have gone home with anything that moved that night.”
“What? No way!”
“Oh yeah, he was just looking to get laid that night and that was it.”
I was shocked. Could it really be that simple? He just wanted sex? So my witty subtly sexual banter was not being taken as the intellectual titillation of a budding relationship, but rather, he thought I was dropping hints about being slutty. Interesting. I HAD NO IDEA. How could I have missed this? And yet, it made so much sense. It wasn’t me. It was just that guy on that night wasn’t looking for anything more than sex. Ok, I can accept that and I don’t feel bad about it at all. Timing’s important and knowing what you’re ready for in life is a huge part of having a successful relationship. Beer pong boy was looking for a girl to pong. I was looking for a permanent beer pong partner. It wouldn’t matter how compatible we were on some official compatibility test. Our timing was off and that’s always a recipe for a losing game.
January 18, 2011 | 10:46 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
About a week ago, a girlfriend of mine called me up in a state of excitement. An ex of mine had sent her an email. Not to her specifically, but a mass email under the pretext of wishing people a happy new year in order to promote himself and look for work. Now, I’ve been broken up with this ex for two and a half years and really couldn’t care less about this – she wanted to read me the email and I asked her not to out of sheer uninterest, but she was still rather offended.
When you go through a big break up, the kind where friends and families are involved, very few people end up friends with you both, mostly people take sides. People seem to run the gamut on how severe they want the division to be. I have friends that immediately delete all their ex’s friends from facebook, whereas, I just give them limited access to my profile, but either way, there’s a fine art to being respectful to your ex and his relationships with his friends and going overboard and coming off mean. For some friends, like the ones you both knew in college equally, you definitely do end up splitting the baby and keeping mutual friends.
But my friend in this case, has been a friend of mine literally since we were two years old. She met my ex only a handful of times in the few years we dated. There was no confusion here, she definitely was my friend first, still is my friend, and like any loyal girlfriend will go on hating him more than I do. So while, I couldn’t care less who he emailed (I found out later my sister ended up on that list too) she was rather put off by his gall.
I see her point. My ex kept her on this list because she has a cool job and is pretty well connected in town. He probably figures he knows her so therefore he can keep her on the mass email and who knows maybe she’ll be so impressed with his website that she’ll decide his lying cheating past is no reason for her not to recommend him in an industry she doesn’t work in. So while it doesn’t bother me that he’s emailing her, I get where she’s coming from in complaining that they’re not friends and she can’t understand what would possess him to include her in a friendly email. I certainly would never include his friends on an email of any kind.
But then again, does there ever come a point in time, where we need to stop holding relationship grudges. Is there a point in time, where we can all be friends? I’m not saying I can be friends with my ex, but can I be friends with his friends? I’m going to say no on this one because as long as their friends with him, they’re going to be his friends first. And I’m ok with that. But I think that means he needs to leave mine alone.
January 12, 2011 | 10:25 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
So this past week, my family was skiing in Mammoth ,which meant that come Saturday night, the only thing we were all up for was lying on the couch in front of the fire and watching a Lifetime Movie about the Craigslist Killer. While I never really followed the story when it was breaking, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by what everyone else has found so compelling. How could a guy like this lead a double life? A BU med student with a pretty fiance. But then again, maybe everyone has a secret life to some extent. I apologize for getting so existential but dating is all about getting to know someone who’s going to know you better than anyone else in the world. But how well do we ever really know anyone?
I think everyone to some degree has a secret life, especially when it comes to sex. Sexuality is incredibly complicated. Every day I seem to hear of a new sexual perversion – usually from a Law and Order SVU episode. But people everywhere seem to be into all kinds of crazy kinky things. The thing is, I’m tempted to say “I don’t know any of these people.” As in, I don’t know anyone that’s met up with someone for sex from Craigslist, nor have my friends complained about some boy wanting to take them to a sex club, nor have I ever thought about strangling someone since I had to take a self-defense class in college. But statistically, these things are occurring at a rate which implies that I do know such people – I just don’t know who they are. And if I know people or even am friends with people who like to meet up with strangers from the internet for sex, maybe the problem isn’t that everyone has secret lives, maybe the problem is we don’t talk about it enough?
The thing I get hung up on, is everyone, especially you’re average run of the mill man seems to have some sort of secret sexual fantasy life. We don’t punish people for thoughts so how angry can a woman really get at a man who has fantasized about another woman or even five women. The difference is some people act on it and some don’t. Theoretically though, there must be millions of men and women out there who have a secret sexual fantasy life. A life which they don’t share with anyone, and they never act on, they just think about. But in a relationship where you’re supposed to share everything, maybe it would be better if contrary to popular opinion, some didn’t share. If you’re married for forty years, it is completely unreasonable to expect that your mate is never fantasizing about sex with someone else. But at the same time, I really don’t want to know if my boyfriend is fantasizing about a friend of mine. It’s weird and gives me the heebeegeevies.
So where does that leave me? Clearly the Craigslist killer is on a whole other level in regards to perversion but I just can’t stop thinking about his poor fiance. This idea that we think we can know someone so completely that we know them better than ourselves might be a complete fallacy. Granted if your boyfriend is out in the middle of night killing and robbing hookers, you’d think there would be a sign. But before he started acting on these impulses, how different was he from any other guy in a relationship secretly looking at porn or fantasizing about a Spring Break ménage à trois. And how sure can you ever be that that guy is not your own boyfriend?
A friend of mine a little while back told me about how her boyfriend of a year finally confessed his interest in some naughty sexual vices and she came running to me all freaked out about it. The thing is, on the scale of perversions I’ve heard of (which is limited to what is printable in the New York Times), this was probably a level 3 on a 10 point scale. Weird but not that weird. So she’s complaining about how betrayed she feels and how she feels like she doesn’t even know him. But I’m thinking, she probably knows him better than anyone else she’s ever had sex with because he actually told her the truth. I asked her if she confessed all of her erotic reveries to him, including fleeting thoughts of Jake Gyllenhaal. She said no and that she never would tell him because she didn’t want to hurt him. So whose fantasy is better? It seems like he should get the award because he tells her and his at least includes his girlfriend. Hers doesn’t want him anywhere near it.
So all of this leaves me perplexed. How well can we ever really know the person we’re in a relationship with? And are we really better off knowing all?
Maybe we should just acknowledge we all have secret lives. It’s as though the sexual mores of the past still govern how we communicate about sex but not the act itself. It wasn’t that long ago when everything about sex was secret – what it was, who did it, when they did it, what it was like. In the past, everything about sex was secret so naturally sexual fantasies and thoughts were kept completely secret. No one was supposed to talk about any of these things, so most people probably thought that whatever they were thinking was normal. But during the sexual revolution not that long ago, sex became public. We can see it everywhere, we talk to children about it, we know who’s doing it. But while the act entered society in a way we understand, the thoughts and motivations that go along with the act got left behind. We have no idea what other people’s sexual thoughts are like and we’re too afraid to ask. But maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe we will not be served by everyone expressing their feelings in this instance and causing each other’s skin to crawl. Maybe the ultimate knowing someone in a relationship is knowing when to let him keep his secrets.