Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I’ve told my boyfriend I’m ready. We’re beginning the exhausting search for a house so we can move in together. It’s taken over three months since he initially asked, for me to decide this was the right decision for us, but I’ve come to the conclusion this is right for us. I’m nervous and scared, but very excited. I had planned on having a little talk when I told him yes because I wanted him to understand, that although this is fine for now (more than fine, great even), at some point it won’t be enough. As in, eventually, I want to get married. And while living together is all I need now, at some point, resentment for not having more will begin to set in.
So I tried to tell him all this. But I fumbled every word and failed miserably. I didn’t want to sound like I was giving him a finite time limit or that at some point I was planning on issuing an ultimatum so instead I beat around the bush and said something about how I see us on a path. I tried to use the word path as a metaphor so many times I wouldn’t be surprised if he never wants to take a long walk with me again.
So I only have myself to blame when he responded by saying that although he really enjoyed holding our friend’s baby the night before, he wasn’t ready for kids yet. Ay me under my breath was all I could retort with. We’re told as women we can have and do anything we want, and yet when it comes to marriage, we’re not supposed to do anything but wait.
Despite the many advancements of women’s issues, one thing that remains mostly unchanged is most women still wait for their boyfriends to ask the big question. Modern feminism has not obviated our taste for chivalry. Perhaps we’re attracted to tradition in all things romantic; perhaps it’s simply animal instinct as there are more and more biological studies that suggest that males have a primordial instinct to chase a mate and females have a primordial instinct to accept the mate that wins the chase. So putting aside the possibility that we women wait to be asked because we’ve been marginalized for years by a dominant male population that has chosen mates for us, and assuming we wait to be asked because of our simple acceptance of evolutionary truths, this biological reason for waiting to be asked still puts women in an impossible position. This is the one thing in our lives that we can’t do anything about.
If we decide before we get asked that we want to marry the person we’re with, we’re seen as pushy, overbearing, and as pressuring a man to do something he doesn’t want to do. Yet my guess is most men would prefer we think about it beforehand so we don’t have to say, thanks for asking but I haven’t really thought about it yet. Let me take a few days. So when do we decide? Men get the whole relationship to consider. Once they do decide, they ask. Are women really not supposed to make up their minds till that moment? The system we’ve accepted still seems to imply we should just be grateful someone asked us, and be ready to say yes the moment they do.
As loathe as I am to accepting this antiquated tradition, no self-respecting women wants to trick a man who doesn’t want to marry her, into going through with it. And I meet so many couples where it’s an open secret that the girl is pressuring the guy to buy the ring already. People are always maligning these girls behind their backs for issuing the ultimatum and saying we’ve been together for five years, move it or lose it. But I feel bad for them. Aren’t women allowed to ask for marriage when they want it to? She’s not forcing him to do anything and he always has the option of breaking up with her. And if he does by the ring at that point all his friends are teasing him for being whipped. Why do we only respect the women who sit primly with their mouths closed, doing nothing, and waiting?
According to standard rules, once I choose to move in with my boyfriend, I’m also expected not to want anything more. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not asking myself if I want to make a more formal commitment, as in marriage. And if I decide that it is what I want, can I do anything aside form sitting around hoping for it? Can I drop subtle hints without pressuring him? Should I have a conversation called let’s talk about marriage to ensure I’m open and communicating? Should I tell him that he has a certain amount of time to make up his mind so he knows exactly what to expect from me?
More and more couples are opting out of marriage these days. They move in together, they buy houses, have and raise children, all without getting formally married. For many people, this seems to work fine. But I know I’m not one of these people. I’ve always wanted to get married. I want the opportunity to pledge my love and devotion to the person I choose to be with, while family and friends bear witness. And I want someone to make that commitment to me. That being said, I’m not in a rush. We’ve only been dating a little over a year. We’re both in periods of transition with our careers. Most of my friends are still single and the few that aren’t have just begun to get engaged so I don’t feel much social pressure. So for now, in the words of my boyfriend “moving in together just feels like the logical next step.” I just haven’t figured out how to explain to him, that in my mind, we haven’t reached the last step. We still have one more to go.
But what are the words I can use to explain all this without sounding like I’m giving an ultimatum? I just don’t know and I’m tempted to leave it alone and not say anything more because I don’t want him to make up his mind because of anything I say. I want him to ask me to marry him if and only if he actually wants to marry me not because he got sick of me asking for it. But if everything with living together goes well, I don’t want complacency either.
At this point, I’m simply focused on the moving in part. I’m excited about creating a new home, about making dinner together in a big kitchen, about coming home to the man I love, and about having my own washer/dryer. For now, this is enough. And I’m resolved not to ask, hint, or suggest in any way that I’m asking for more. Because, I’m hoping the moving towards comes sua sponte, without any prompting. Down the road if I start needing more, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Maybe that will be the time to start insisting he read my columns…
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June 18, 2012 | 9:30 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
There is a culture in our relationship obsessed young women’s world that has obfuscated a dark truth. We have so overly focused on fixing our relationships that we have become completely blind to the fact that we’re in terrible relationships. We read articles and talk and think for days about how to improve ourselves, our boyfriends, and the health of our relationship. We give advice and listen to stories. But all this has inured us to the fact that we’re just dating the wrong guy. Maybe if we actually told our friends this, many of us would have gotten out of relationships we wasted years trying to fix. As friends, we want to be supportive and often we’re afraid of taking a stance against a friend’s boyfriend lest he turn into a fiancé and we find ourselves at the worst table at the wedding. But it’s become so commonplace, I personally can’t keep my mouth shut any more.
Part of the blame for this is the conventionally accepted wisdom that we’re supposed to “work on our relationships.” As a direct result of the feminist revolution, men have been forced to change: to communicate and share feelings and compromise with us women. But up till the Sixties, if there were problems in a relationship, the woman had to evaluate the relationship including the problems because she would have never entertained the hope that her husband might change into a more sensitive communicative man. Today, we evaluate our relationships, assuming we can fix these problems because we’re told to talk things out and tell our men what we need from them. But we’ve ignored the most important part of working at relationships - determining if we’re in the right one.
We as women have deluded ourselves into believing that if we talk things out we can fix things and then we will have just the good portion of our relationship left. I hear friends say all the time, I just need to trust him more, then we’ll be great, or once we figure out where to live, our relationship will be perfect, or he makes me so happy, except for [fill in the blank] which we’ll fix by communicating better. But the fact remains, there’s very little you end up fixing in a relationship. Your relationship very often has the same problems two years from now that you have today. So you need to evaluate your relationship assuming the problem won’t be fixed. I’m not saying be pessimistic and forget about trying to work out problems. By all means, try. But suppose things aren’t fixed, suppose he still can’t deal with you making more money than him, or suppose you two still want to live in different places, or suppose you don’t trust him any more than you do now, is this still the relationship you want to be in? Women used to have no choice but to evaluate relationships exactly as they are - it was essentially an adhesion contract: take it or leave it. Luckily, there is some room for negotiation these days. We can get men to talk with us and share more, maybe even get a manicure once before they die. But don’t let this blind you to the fact that you might just be in a relationship that isn’t right or isn’t as good as one you could be in with someone else. I’ve had to give up talking to some of my friends about their relationships because every time I get on the phone with them, they’re depressed about the same problems with the same men. And of course they can see fifty possible answers but none of them include the obvious: BREAK UP WITH HIM.
I used to think that finding the right person to be with was about finding the person in the world who makes you the happiest. And that if you achieve that feeling of such complete love and euphoria and bliss with someone, you know you’re with the right person. But it turns out, you can even achieve that feeling with the wrong person. The trick is of those people you could potentially love, finding the one who also upsets you the least. I believe finding the right person is about choosing the person who not only makes you feel that euphoric aura of love, but who also doesn’t make you cry. And so I give you:
1. You Don’t Trust Him
TWELVE SIGNS YOU NEED TO BREAK UP WITH HIM, yes even if you love him.
If I hear one more friend tell me how she is learning to rebuild trust with her boyfriend because of some incident with another girl, I’m going to start losing friends. I hear girls discuss all the time bouncing back from an incident where she went through his phone and found inappropriate texts or facebook messages where he was asking to be [expletive deleted] by another girl, or simply obsessing about where he might be, every time she can’t get a hold of him. Why are you torturing yourself every moment you are not with your boyfriend because of your lack of trust. There is way too much talk and focus on rebuilding trust. Trust is foundational. If you’re in the beginning of a relationship and not married with no kids, you shouldn’t be attempting to rebuild it. Just find someone else you don’t have to build on a broken foundation with. Get in a relationship with someone you do trust!2. You Often Feel Compelled to Snoop
You look through his phone call log. You read his text messages. You check his email. And you’re never satisfied with what you find. Three weeks later, you’re wondering if he’s done something recently that he didn’t tell you about so you check again the moment he leaves you in the car with his phone while he’s double parked. Worse than that, you blame yourself! You think the reason you do this is your own anxiety or because your Dad cheated on your mom or that you have trust issues and you believe you will be acting like this no matter whom you’re in a relationship with. But have you considered, it’s not you? It’s your relationship with him! Have you thought that perhaps if you are in a relationship with a different man, you might trust him so much, that you won’t feel compelled to snoop? I can vouch for this personally. I thought I would always be someone who snooped. I found the hiding place for Hanukkah presents in our house when I was ten. I downloaded a program in 1999 onto my parents computers to read their email. I thought I would always be a snooper. It turns out, in the right relationship, I don’t have the urge to snoop at all. This might be true for you too if you were in a better relationship so what are you waiting for?3. You Want to Live in Different Places
Our relationship would be perfect, if only we could find a city where we both could have our dream jobs. I have a heard a variation of this for many years. This idea that you have a good healthy relationship and that the location is just a logistical thing to figure out is a complete fallacy. If you can’t both be happy in one location together, you do not have a happy relationship because by definition one of you will always be in a place that you don’t want to be in. Girls in this category are constantly evaluating a fictitious relationship in a dream world. STOP pretending you both are going to live in paradise! If your relationship is only good in the utopian place where you can live in a big city and work on wall street and at the same time he can till the soil on his farm far away from city lights, you two are just not meant for each other. If he will only be happy in his country, which is a continent away from the only place you want to work, stop imagining what your relationship would be like when you two are together. You need to start evaluating the relationship as it is - in a place that actually exists. Logistics can sometime be a sign that you are not meant for each other.4. You Cry Because of Your Relationship All the Time
You tell everyone you are in a great relationship. You love him and he loves you. But you cry often and easily and because of him. This is a huge sign. How do people miss this? And yet I did too. It never occurred to me that I was crying because I was in a relationship I shouldn’t have been in. I thought I was crying because I needed him to understand me more or we hadn’t spent any quality time together or we hadn’t had a chance to talk about last week’s incident yet. But now, I can count on one hand the number of times my relationship has made me cry. So stop making excuses for why and take this as a sign you need to break up. And don’t tell me it’s because of your special circumstances - you’re unfulfilled in your job or in a depression or haven’t found yourself yet. Wake-up, you’re not the first person in the world to go through tough times. If you’re crying all the time because of your man, stop telling yourself it’s going to be better after the tough times. There will always be tough times. If you’re crying over little things like hasn’t texted you back, your missing the writing on the wall. Your relationship sucks. Because if it were just the fact that he didn’t text you back, it wouldn’t make you cry.5. You Want Him To Have a Different Career
He’s an actor/model/musician, and he hasn’t been paid for anything but waiting tables in eight years and you’re hoping the two of you move back to Michigan and that he takes over his Dad’s contracting business. Or he’s on Wallstreet working 100 hours a week and the two of you have imagined a life where he takes a job a 9 to 5 government job. Or your supporting him with two jobs until the brewery he’s opening up takes off. Regardless of what it is, if you are imagining your life with him in a way that includes him having a different job, you need to stop fooling yourself. He may never give up on his music career. If you can be in a happy relationship while he’s tending bar, enjoy your happy relationship. If you’re happiness is contingent upon his job changing, accept that you are not in a happy relationship.6. You Want Him to Be More Thoughtful
I used to constantly be hoping that my ex would make restaurant reservations. It didn’t have to be anything fancy. I just for once wanted him to plan some time with me. Even when every once in a blue moon, he would remember to make reservations like on my birthday, I would still get upset that he only called the day of the dinner. I’d be mad at myself for caring, and call myself a spoiled brat. But what I should have accepted was that it wasn’t that I need a boyfriend to make reservations for dinner. But this was indicative of how thoughtful and considerate he was of me in his life. Now, I could care less if my boyfriend makes reservations at a restaurant. Often he does well in advance, sometimes he doesn’t, and sometimes he makes them the day of. But he is constantly doing things that are thoughtful and considerate, so that if he doesn’t make restaurant reservations, I could care less. If you go into birthdays and Valentine’s Day hoping he will break the mold and do something special and then you get upset when he doesn’t., you’re not being superficial. You’re hoping for something special because you feel ignored and under appreciated all year. Find a guy who is thoughtful the entire year and you’ll stop wasting all your energy hoping against hope that he’ll finally prove how much he does care about you.7. You Want Him to Compliment You More
You wish he complimented how you looked or told you why he loved you or just generally commented on everything you do for him. I used to constantly be asking my ex to tell me he thought I looked pretty or liked the new dress I bought or that he was still attracted to me. These things are especially hard to give over time and if you’re twenty years into marriage I think this is a normal problem. But it should come easily early on. It’s hard for the same man to make a woman feel desired over a long period of time. However, if you’ve only been dating a year or even a few and this is problematic, it’s not going to get better. Early on, he should make you feel like there is no one in the world he desires more than you. And early on is longer than just the first time you sleep together. If this isn’t good in the beginning, it’s hard to see it ever getting better so ask yourself if you can accept his current level of compliment offerings and still be happy.8. You Want Him to Be a Different Kind of Man
I have a good friend that at only 29 years old went through a divorce. It’s especially sad because in my opinion it could have been avoided. He came from a blueblood East Coast background where men don’t talk about how they feel. She was from a ribald Latino California family and she needed him to talk to her. Especially, when their relationship underwent a lot of stress. She desperately needed him to communicate and even after therapy he still couldn’t. She kept saying to me, our relationship would be perfect if I could just get him to talk to me more and tell me how hard it is for me. But she never did. Because she couldn’t get him to be different type of person. If you’re saying things are good except I need him to be different, things are not good. It’s not meant to be.9. You Want Him to Prioritize You More
If he acts like his job comes first and you’re not ok with that, no amount of communicating with him will improve this. I notice this especially among people in their early twenties. Men are less likely to put their relationship in front of their careers especially on the early side of 25. And yet most women in relationships need to feel like they are the number one priority in their man’s life. This creates obvious dissatisfaction and can breed contempt for your partner. You have a right to be the most important thing in your partner’s life. If he doesn’t like that, it may be because you’re not the most important thing in his life, regardless of what he says on occasion.10. You Want Him to Enjoy the Things (or Even Any One Thing) That You Enjoy
You like to go surfing or hiking or on a bike ride. He likes to stay in and watch Seinfeld re-runs. You like to try new things, new restaurants, and be with friends. He likes X-Box, Sportscenter, sleeping, and Seinfeld re-runs. You can easily love a person you have nothing in common with. And although it’s true that opposites attract, research suggests that similarities are what make for a good relationship that can withstand the test of time. As passion dies, most couples will be left with a friendship. Friendships are hard to sustain if you don’t enjoy the same activities. Telling yourself that he will learn to love to exercise or cook or leave the house is giving you a myopic view of the relationship you are in now. If he continues to only enjoy the things he enjoys now, is this still the relationship you want to be in?11. You Don’t Orgasm During Sex and He Has No Idea
You have sex. Often, in fact. He says it’s the best sex he’s ever had and tells his friends you have a great sex life. You tell him the same. Except that is a complete lie. You rarely if ever orgasm from your sex with him. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that if you told him, you needed your vibrator or your own hand in order to orgasm, he’d be so offended and it would be so damaging to his manhood and he’d be so crestfallen that your relationship would never recover. So you don’t say anything. And you settle into a routine of faking every single orgasm and he has no clue. If you fake the majority of the time, it’s not just that your sex is bad, it may be that your relationship is rotten too.12. You Are Staying in This Relationship Mainly for Premium Cable
Yes, HBO is expensive. I get that you can’t afford to double your cable bill and that your boyfriend has every channel under the sun, but no television show, not even Game of Thrones is worth your soul. So if every time you start thinking about breaking up with your beau, you start considering your addiction to Girls and how you’ll never find out what happens with Adam, let it go. If you need to ask him for his HBO Go password first, do it already. Premium channels do not a relationship make.
May 10, 2012 | 1:28 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I really didn’t like when you were mean to that girl on Saturday, my boyfriend mentioned in his sweet adorable soft spoken voice out of nowhere two days later when I saw him Monday night at the spectacular DCFC concert at Walt Disney Hall.
I had totally forgotten about the whole “incident” but apparently it was bothering him so much that he brought it up again two days later to tell me that it bothered him, even though he had already told me as much right after it happened.
I asked him if the tomato soup incident to which he was referring was really as bad as all that.
I just like it when you’re nice, he said. Can you get more diplomatic than that? And yet for him, this felt like a stinging rebuke.
Was I really that awful? I suppose I was rude, but if someone’s rude to you first, how nice are you supposed to be back? Perhaps he was shocked because I’m usually a stickler when it comes to being courteous and well-mannered.
Let me explain the circumstances regarding the incident. Saturday evening, we were at a wedding reception, where the food was provided by a food truck. The reception was only from 5 to 7 and contrary to my usual modus operandi, we were perfectly on time. However, from the moment we arrived, there was a long line of guests waiting to order dinner from the truck. Because of the timing of the wedding, I had unintentionally skipped lunch, so although I was starving when we arrived, I hate waiting in line even more, so we chatted with friends for an hour and a half. By 6:30, most everyone had eaten, there was absolutely no line at the truck, and my diplomatic boyfriend and I made our way to the driveway. By the time we got to the window, it was just after 6:35 and I knew just what I wanted.
The gourmet truck had many indulgent foodie options, but being a vegetarian, my options were very limited. There was a vegetable option, which looked like a lot of cucumber but there was also a grilled cheese and tomato soup option. What are weekends for if not to indulge? I ordered my grilled cheese.
That’s just for the children. We have to wait to make sure there’s enough for all the kids.
I checked my watch again. About twenty minutes left for the whole wedding. I looked around. It seemed most everyone had eaten or was at the dessert bar. I looked back at the girl inside the food truck. She looked about my age. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so offended if she hadn’t take so much obvious pleasure in saying no to me. But there was a clear power play going on. I could understand if this was an hour ago and there was a huge line, but the party was over. Either she had enough left to feed me or she didn’t.
Ok, when will you know? I inquired. And I’m not going to lie. I said this like a bitchy sorority girl replying to a guy who just told her he doesn’t know if he can go with her to the Greek formal or not.
I don’t know, she shot back, like she was Queen of Grilled Cheese Land and she could deny any subject she didn’t like the looks of a yummy sandwich at her whim. Well, I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction.
Ok, I’ll come back, fake smile plastered onto my face. I was going to beat her at her own game.
Do you want something else for now? Here’s the thing, having been a waitress earlier on my life, I have an incredible amount of sympathy for people in the service industry. It’s a hard job and no matter where I am or what kind of mood I’m in, I make it a priority to be polite to servers and bussers at restaurants, bellman at hotels, even people who answer calls from 800 numbers. I hang up the clothes I leave in dressing rooms. If I have terrible service at a restaurant which is pretty rare these days, I would never tip less than 15%. In fact, if this girl had taken my order in a restaurant, I still would have tipped her 15% because I don’t like to mess with people’s wages. However, if she starts it, how nice do I really have to be back?
No, thank you, I’ll just wait, I’m a vegetarian. I added this because I thought it might elicit some sympathy. It wasn’t like I had the option of having the pulled pork everyone was raving about or the jerk chicken or the other meaty things people were salivating over.
We have the vegetarian dish. I again weighed my options of vegan vegetables with bread or delicious hot grilled cheese dipped in creamy tomato soup. She was still shooting death-rays at me with her eyes.
No, I’ll just wait. My hunger wasn’t helping the situation and I knew everything I was saying came out in a tone that can only be defined at its very best as snarky.
The potatoes are vegetarian. I knew what she was doing and it was sneaky. See, if she could get me to order the veggie dish or sides, then I’d eat it and I’d be too full to come back, so she would win. But I couldn’t let that happen. Plus, as good as the fried potatoes with aioli looked, I couldn’t have that and grilled cheese for dinner. Some restraint was required.
When should I come back? At this point, she seemed surprised my determination.
I don’t know, ten minutes, she said with equal measure of bitch inflection.
Ok, I’ll come back.
My boyfriend had been behind me the whole time. We walked away and he told me as sweetly as he could that I was mean. But she had started it, hadn’t she?
I didn’t wait the full ten minutes. From the table we sat at, I could still see the truck. No one was ordering anything. I looked around for all the poor hungry children who I would practically be forcing to starve if I got what I wanted. It appeared that all the kids had already eaten or gone home. The dessert bar had been demolished. How was it not obvious, THE CHILDREN HAD EATEN! About five minutes later, I got up and marched in my high heels right over to the window.
Hi, do you have enough now?
She gave me half a fake smile and said she had to check. Apparently, I had worn her down. She came back and said it was fine. Of course it was fine! You had fed almost everyone already, I thought. I didn’t see why she couldn’t have just done that five minutes ago.
I came back to the table with delicious hot melty grilled cheese, which was so rich I could only finish half of it.
I kind of forgot about it after that. But apparently, it had so disturbed my Mr., he had been thinking about it for two days. I thought back on my behavior. Had I really been that bad? The thing was, it really felt personal. Like this girl looked me up and down and was getting a kick out of saying no to me. I had seen her take orders from other people and she used a sweet voice that she did not use with me.
But still, do we as women reserve the right to answer bitchiness with more bitchiness? I know there’s a lot to be said for being the bigger person and in many situations I firmly believe in that. But are there ever situations where it’s simply ok to be a bitch? Was there any harm in me using a tone I usually reserve for impressions of my sister as a teenager? I didn’t want to start anything, but I don’t believe in being a push-over either.
Can one simultaneously argue for confronting the world with politeness and still feel a bitchy girl deserves to be bitched at back? I like to think so. But then again, it was disheartening to feel like I had embarrassed the man I love. All over a tone of voice. My birthday is tomorrow and perhaps I’m reaching the age, where it’s time to put my inner-brat in my back-pocket. Or at least, I’m going to make an honest attempt to from now on. Perhaps, it’s not a terrible thing if I let him make me a kinder person. Plus, I can always make fun of her behind her back…
PS – Monday May 14th at 11am, I’ll be on the Dennis Prager radio show live to discuss my earlier political columns on dating a Republican. You can stream it live from KRLA AM 870 or download it from his website after it airs.
May 4, 2012 | 9:44 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Ann Romney raised five boys. I’m sure that was hard. So hard that to be honest, I’d prefer not to find out myself. But at the same time, it doesn’t give her the same experience as having a job that gives you a paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with her choice. I actually happen to like Ann Romney. I’ve had a special place in my heart for well-coiffed well-coutured women who speak French ever since I fell in love with Jackie Kennedy. And like Jackie, Ann seems charming and classy and whether I like it or not, I’m sure she’ll be a huge asset to Mitt. But can we just stop pretending that her “job” is just like everyone else’s. As hard as being a mother may be, I just don’t see how only ever being a wife or mother while being supported by a husband qualifies you to give counsel on economic issues.
There are some things that you can only learn from supporting yourself on a paycheck. I know because I had to learn the hard way.
Growing up, I labored under the misapprehension that I knew what it was to work hard because I worked hard at school, my extracurriculars, or internships. I grew up wanting to go to a good college so I worked really hard. All the time. I thought that was tough. I told everyone how tough it was to go from ice-skating to ballet and to keep my grades up and study for the SATS and intern for a Congressman. And don’t forget, I had essays for college to write and volunteer work to do and summer programs to apply for. And every once in a while I would work for my Dad to make some money but I didn’t get any special treatment just because I was the boss’s daughter I swear. It was not easy to have so many things to I had to work hard at.
Then I got to college and I thought that was really really hard. Man, not only was I doing twice as much as I felt like I was doing in high school, but on top of that, my parents gave me a budget. Every quarter, they deposited a fixed amount into my bank account and that was all I was going to get. I noticed the price on things for the first time in my life. Who knew conditioner could cost $40? I would get annoyed with my parents on the phone because they didn’t seem to show much sympathy when I tried to explain how stressed I was. I never had enough time to sleep or exercise. When people with jobs told me they wished they could go back to school again, I told them it wasn’t like back in their day when all kids did was party. Sometimes, I had early classes that started at 10:00 cause I wanted to double major. And Student Government was a really big deal at my school and took up a lot of time. And everyone goes out Thursday nights and to the football games on the weekends. And I had to learn if I liked Midori Sours or wanted to join a sorority or if the guy I liked hung out at the Deuce. There was no coasting for me through college.
Right after college, I moved back home to finish my novel or screenplay or whichever one I decided to start first. It was really tough to decide which to write first so I had to spend most of the time exercising and tanning and “dealing” with college being over and luckily both my parents worked so I had the house to myself to get all my work done. But my parents didn’t understand how hard my work was. One day my mom came home and found me tanning topless outside by the pool, reading the New Yorker. She started screaming at me about how she and my father didn’t spend their entire lives working hard so that I could come home and lounge around tanning. I told her I was working but nonetheless essentially out of spite I scoured Los Angeles job till I finally got hired as a waitress and moved out.
And thus, for the very first time in my life, I was supporting myself with a job. I had had jobs a few times before, but they had always been for supplemental income. At first, I was really angry with my parents for not supporting my “art.” Didn’t they work that hard so that I could have opportunities they didn’t have? But then, I looked around at my apartment and felt proud of what I was providing myself. Unfortunately, then I went to work and hated my life. And then I found out what working hard really meant.
I quickly realized I hated waitressing and it hated me. In the beginning, I lived in fear of losing my job. Early on, I got a bad “shopper report,” as in a mystery shopper came in and gave me a bad score. As I sat in my boss’s office listening to him tell me why I was a bad waitress, I nervously ran through all the scenarios that were likely to erupt if I got fired that would eventually lead to me being evicted, living on the streets, and tap dancing on the sidewalk for money. I remember getting stiffed on a table for the first time and sneaking off to the bathroom where I cried because I didn’t know if I was going to make enough money for my car payment that month. Then there was just the general rudeness I had to take all day long. When you work in any service industry job, there will always be some people who will be complete jerks but worse than that, you have to fall all over yourself obsequiously apologizing for your stupidity to them, just praying to God that karma exists. (And although contrary to popular opinion, I never once saw a server ever spit into anyone’s food, I can’t say we never “accidentally” might have kicked a chair every once in a while.) When you go to an elite university, they do a great job teaching you many things. In fact, they even do a good job teaching you some valuable life lessons. But learning how to keep your mouth shut when people at your job treat you like an idiot is not one of them.
So even though, I had worked hard all my life up till that moment, “working” took on a very different meaning for me when I realized that if I lost my job, I might lose everything. My whole life up till that point, my parents had been trying to teach me the value of money. But in retrospect, there’s nothing they could have done. There was nothing they could have said that would have taught me what it all meant. All they could do, was what they did do. Kick me out with a college degree in hand, offer to keep me on the cell phone family plan, and hope for the best.
And I think we can all agree, thank god they did. I’m not saying any of this is any better than motherhood in any way. All I am saying is that from one privileged white girl to another, it’s hard to truly learn the value of money, until you have to earn it yourself. And that’s an experience that I just don’t think you learn automatically by being a mother with no financial troubles. And while being a mother may be the most important and valuable job a woman can have, it’s a different type of job from the one that ends every two weeks with a paycheck. And I don’t understand why we have to pretend that one automatically gives you an authoritative position on the other.
April 27, 2012 | 8:59 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I just read this New York Times article about people causing strife in relationships because of their twitter or status updates about situations that should probably be private. All I can think is how stupid are these people? Yes, we’ve all had the urge, but keep yourself in check people. To help you all, I’m in the process of compiling a list – a list of the worst things you could tweet and below is the start of it. If you ever feel like tweeting the following or some variation thereof, stop - Call someone up, write in a diary, or confess to a stranger but why must we shout from the rooftops when our boyfriends are napping on the job?Ten Tweets to Avoid That Will Ruin Relationships
1. #DontYouHateWhen I just texted my boyfriend a naked pic of myself. He texts back we need to talk.
2. #SomewhereRightNow A man is listening to his girlfriend. It’s not here.
3. He just blamed autocorrect for spelling my name as Veronica. #TextsIHate #ThingsCheatersSay
4. #LiesIveToldMyParents We’re waiting. We’re not living together. He has a job.
5. #LiesIveToldMyBoss Feeling super sick today! My boyfriend came down with the same thing – Viva La Mexico!
6. I keep telling him it happens to every guy and that it’s not a big deal. #whiskeydick #DontYouHateWhen
7. #YouKnowItsLoveWhen He doesn’t mind that you told him you were thinking of someone else the whole time.
8. I didn’t know some straight men watch gay porn. #IDontUnderstandWhy he thought he had to hide it from me. #ItsAllGood
9. #ImProudToSay It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.
10. My boyfriend just asked how twitter works. #DeleteYourTwitterIf
Feel free to comment with some of your own!
April 19, 2012 | 2:58 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
The New York Times had a thoughtful article in it last week on co-habitation and about five different people emailed it to me, as just a few days earlier my boyfriend had officially popped the question. No, not that passé question of marriage that all Baby Boomer parents are waiting for. The Gen-Y question that is much more difficult for us to answer: Will I move in with him? We had talked about it abstractly before; a few months ago we prevaricated around a hazy outline of what might happen with our relationship in the Spring in terms of his lease being up and wanting to find a bigger place for us.
But this was different. The question was formally asked which necessitated an answer. I always imagined that I would be bugging my boyfriend about moving our relationship along while he was dragging his feet, not that I would silently freak out over nothing while he declared he was officially ready.
The thought of moving into a nicer placer with a man I love (perhaps with my own washer/dryer), where we would cook dinner together in a big kitchen makes me excited about the prospect of this step. But I also felt nervous which really surprised me.
I told him that I was excited but that there were a few logistical things I was concerned with like money for instance. He already pays three times what I pay in rent and he wants to move in to a nicer place. Of course, to him, this isn’t an issue. I never expected you to pay half of the rent, he said at brunch. But I want to pay half! I lamented. He joked that it could be a very long time before I’m able to do that and he’s probably right.
So I’ve spent the last few days doing what girls do when we have relationship decisions to make: haranguing all my girlfriends and getting their opinions on the subject. To each girlfriend I list my excuse, the finances, our differences in respect for the toothpaste cap, his Republican tendencies. I analyze the pros and cons. I try to separate each emotion I feel into a question that I must ponder. Till finally the other night on the phone, my friend Beth shoots them all down. Who cares about this stuff? Do you want to live with him? she pressed me.
When she said that, I realized I was scared. I’ve written before about my hesitation when it comes to moving in together and why it may not be the best recipe for a successful marriage. In fact, I wrote a law school paper on why women should avoid co-habitation if they want to get married which you can see here.
This recent New York Times article though offers new insight into co-habitation. It argues that there are two problems associated with co-habitation before marriage which lead to more divorce than for people who wait to live together till married. But the author proffers that the problems have solutions that seem to lessen the effect. Firstly, it acknowledges the sliding effect where a couple moves “from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation [on a] gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.” I’ve seen this effect with a lot of my friends who just end up living with different guys. This however, will not be my problem. I’ve never lived with a boy before. On top of that, I analyze relationships and dating to obliteration for a living so I’m very concerned with what all this means. If we do this, it will be a big decision and I already feel bad for the talks my boyfriend will have to endure.
Unfortunately, the other disadvantage co-habitation causes according to this new research is very worrisome. Men and women seem to view moving in together differently. Women are more likely to see it as a step toward marriage and men are more likely to see it as a “test run” for marriage. This is precisely what I’m bogged down in. My boyfriend and my guess is that more and more of my generation view moving in together as a good test for marriage. Literally he has used the word “test” in discussing the philosophical value of living together. I however don’t see it as a test. In fact, I’d prefer to wait till I’m engaged not because he needs motivation to move on, but because living together is always hard and I think if you’re more committed to working things out, your relationship will fare better. And I don’t want to be tested out for the role of some wifey image he has in his mind.
Plus, I know that living together means so much more to me than it does to him. I always assumed that a guy I was living with is the guy I’d marry, not that I would try out a bunch of different guys until I found a good fit and apartment I liked. This creates a huge problem for us because to him, getting a place together is not a big deal. To me, it’s a huge deal. He’s only asked himself Do I want to live with her? I’m asking Is this the person I’m supposed to marry? Is this the man I want to have children with? Can I accept that for the rest of my life he may never put the cap back on the toothpaste?
Of course, the article suggests that perils of co-habitation might be avoided by steering clear of the sliding factor and discussing your expectations for co-habitation. But what am I supposed to say to him? The fact is, moving in together is forcing me to ask myself the big questions right now and yet, he’s not. He doesn’t want to ask himself those questions until he’s put our relationship through a test. He is a child of divorce so I understand his apprehension about moving too quickly, but I truly am worried that this step could damage our relationship. I’m not gong to be able to make this mean less and he probably won’t be able to make it mean more at this point, so maybe that means that our relationship is not at the stage where moving in is right. But I really am so sick of finding quarters for my washer/dryer. I really feel torn about this whole thing. All I can say at this point is guess who’s having a relationship talk this weekend? I’ll let you know how it goes…
April 12, 2012 | 7:00 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I was in New York for most of last week with my family. We had a great time visiting friends, catching up on the art scene, sampling new restaurants and celebrating Pesach at Sammy’s on the lower east side, to which all I can say is one of the Real Housewives of New York sat at the table next to us.
In any case, I was there when I read the response to my last blog post I Don’t Want to Date a Republican! from Dennis Prager, who I have the utmost respect for. In addition to his column on the subject which I’ve linked to here, he spoke about it on his popular radio show last Wednesday which resulted in flooding my inbox with comments from both sides on the subject. Not that I didn’t also appreciate the less restrained responses from the blogosphere as on the Jane Dough or elsewhere, where tongue in cheek writing does not seem to be readily understood.
In any case, Mr. Prager has very graciously allowed me to come on his show in the near future to discuss the subject more seriously and in more depth and once I have the date on that, I will certainly let you know. (Although I’m having a hard time believing that I’m going to be speaking on the same station that a few hours later will play Glenn Beck.)
In the meantime, I wanted to give you all a little more background on the subject. Firstly, I want to challenge one specific notion Mr. Prager makes, that en mass all liberals are taught disdain and contempt for all conservatives as illustrated by my personal experience.
My personal introduction to Mr. Prager was at a very young age. I went to a conservative Jewish elementary school and I remember very distinctly in our ethics class being presented with a “Denis Prager” question. If memory serves, I believe the question went if you were in the ocean and on your right, your own beloved dog was drowning and on your left a stranger’s child was drowning, and you could only save one, which should you save? Of course, being very young at the time, too young in fact for you to judge me, I was one of the few who vocally asserted that saving your own dog was justified and I made an emotional plea for my cherished dog, Snookie. After being allowed to discuss and discuss as all good Jewish education requires, in the end we were given Mr. Prager’s answer and taught how valuable each individual life is. So I must disagree with him at the outset and contradict the assertion that we liberals were taught to dismiss all conservatives.
However, I believe Mr. Prager’s notion that liberals do perhaps live in an insular world that could benefit from a broadened discussion may be appropriate. Again by way of illustration, at this same school that extolled a very religious life, the constituency was mainly made up of Democrats. This I can attest to because, in 1992, the year President Clinton was elected for his first term, my Jewish school set up a “mock election.” In order to learn about the process of elections and secret ballot, every student in elementary school could vote for a Presidential candidate on a ballot that listed Clinton, Bush Sr., and Ross Perot. I remember the results very clearly because when we found out the final numbers were Clinton 300 and something, Bush about 60 something, and Perot less than 10, instead of thinking how odd it is to have such a one-sided result, my only thought at ten years old was “who were those 60 something people who voted for Bush.” I truly expected the number to be 0 and realized literally for the first time that I might be interacting with some Republicans only because of that result.
This I believe does lend some weight to his assertion that I may live in a liberal enclave with an at-times myopic world-view. However, I also feel that part of the reason for this lays at the feet of the Republican Party specifically. Democrats have completely excised far-left liberals from our party, case in point – our contentious primary was between two moderates Clinton vs. Obama (that’s why when Gingrich wants to align Obama with a liberal, he has to name Saul Alinsky who nobody has heard of. Liberal extremists don’t have a place in the Democratic party, at least not any more.) Contrast that with the contentious Republican primary of Romney vs. Santorum. The far-right racist extremists not only have a place in the Republican party, but they dominate it to the point that Romney has to spend months trying to appeal to them and become more conservative. If only the Republican primary would also excommunicate their extremists, I believe we could all be compromising all over the place and watching our country improve.
And yet, Mr. Prager is very correct that this view is precisely why I’m so shocked to find myself in a great relationship with someone who might vote for Mitt Romney. Because of the extremists in the Republican party which I spend way too much time focusing on and not enough time reading David Brooks and Tony Blankley, I’ve allowed my image of conservatives to be shaped by caricatures like Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Michelle Bachman. And now that I spend most nights saying I love you to a man who doesn’t like the word liberal, I’m forced to admit that some conservatives aren’t all that bad and can actually be scrupulous generous people who I want to be with all the time.
Thus, I’m looking forward to fleshing this all out with him in the future. Are my boyfriend and I star-crossed lovers simply because of our politics? If you have specific questions or comments you’d like me to mention to him, I welcome your thoughts below. Stay tuned for the details.
With that, I’m off to Coachella for the music festival tomorrow, which I doubt is a bastion of Republicans but if I run into any, I promise to keep an open mind and will work to keep an open heart.
March 23, 2012 | 9:15 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
As a lifelong Democrat, I never thought I would be in this place. I never thought I would have to confront this dreaded unforeseen fear - the terror that is for me, dating a Republican. I don’t even know very many Republicans. But it turns out, I’m not alone. Outside of Washington D.C., the entire country is pretty segregated when it comes to political parties. According to dating website, seven out of ten people are in a relationship with someone of the same political persuasion. I grew up knowing very few Republicans and the rare ones I did know got made fun behind their backs, be it children or adults. I know there were some Republicans at my college because there was a “College Republicans” group on campus but this was the Bushy era and the conservatives who were smart enough to get into my university were too smart to be vocal defenders of the Dick Cheney puppet show that was the aughts. I’ve been living in Los Angeles ever since in the type of place where at the moment President Obama was pronounced the winner of his race, we threw open our windows and whooped and shrieked out into the streets till an impromptu parade erupted and bars served free drinks. I cried. I’ve worked for the Democratic Party, interned for a Democratic Congressman and Senator. And even though I went to a more conservative law school, there were enough liberals on campus that if you included the faculty, we could flock together so that I rarely interacted with those others who met with our derision.
So when I tell you I never thought I would date a Republican, it’s not because I really contemplated it and made a specific decision. It’s because as long as I didn’t drive to Orange County, my chances of actually running into one felt slim to none. We live in a birds-of-a-feather type of country. So how did I get to here? How did I come to date a man who told me he “liked a lot of Mitt Romney’s ideas” and that he thought John Kerry wasn’t really a war hero and that cap and trade is a terrible system. At first I didn’t think it would be a big issue. I fell in love with someone who has many similar interests and a big generous heart and when he told me he was an Independent I thought that was just something moderate Democrats said when being pretentious about how non-conformist they are. I didn’t realize I was dating someone who would spend every single Tuesday night glued to Wolf Blitzer’s analysis of another Republican primary. And to be frank, at this point, it’s making me freak out. I get mad at him just thinking about our past political discussions. I can’t date a Republican! What was I thinking? What if I have little Republican babies?
Naturally, he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He keeps saying we can always find common ground. But I find myself angry with him for things that I expect to take for granted. He admitted to me that the word “liberal” for him had a bad connotation and that the word “conservative” did not. It’s hard to blame him when this is a common phenomena in our country now so that only 20% of the population identifies as liberal while 40% is willing to identify as conservative. I tell him this is a direct result of the vitriol that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have injected into our discourse and he shouldn’t buy into their demonizing of the left. But for my boyfriend, “liberal” means big government inefficiency. I’m normally a calm person, but when he said this, I was close to flipping out. How could he buy into all that? He’s a smart person, he reads reputable news sources. And yet, I continually find myself mad at him for buying into conservative propaganda.
Everyone always points to Mary Matalin and James Carville as shining examples of a couple with different political beliefs and a stable marriage. But honestly, have you seen them bicker on tv? I love watching them but I don’t want to fight like that in my home. I want my home to be a place of tranquility and calm and little social justice fighters playing pin your favorite president on the blue donkey.
Another burgeoning concern is that I’m starting to feel like I always have to watch what I say. Yes, I know there are many intelligent Republicans out there and if the party was made up of just David Frums and Christopher Buckleys or even Mitt Romneys, they’d be a reasonable moderate party that I have an intellectual disagreement with and there wouldn’t be anything to make fun of. But for now, there are a lot of crazy extremist kooks running the Republican party and when you get into Santorum territory and Palin country, I want the freedom to openly mock and deride in a forum where I don’t have to worry about offending someone. Is that so wrong? I’m sick of back-peddling every time I accidentally call them teabaggers.
Months ago, we got to talking about Ron Paul, or rather, my boyfriend got to telling me all about him. Although, we don’t disagree that much on social issues, we disagree quite a bit about how influential social issues should be when it comes to casting a ballot, so we started to really get into it. At one point, I said that certain individual rights and liberties should be the most important issue and I was disappointed in my boyfriend because he was willing to forgo those liberties in order to “make a buck.” He was offended. Admittedly, I went too far and I believe he is compassionate for those less fortunate and I know he doesn’t think he’s sacrificing civil rights for money. But I was making an impassioned argument and this is how liberals talk when we’re amongst friends. To stay in my relationship, I must resolve myself somewhat to being more careful in my language now when talking about fiscal conservatives but in so doing, is that the best decision for a healthy relationship? No one wants to have to walk on eggshells around their partner.
Last week, I went over to my boyfriend’s to watch the HBO docudrama Game Change about Palin’s Vice Presidential bid over some wine and take-out. When it was over, I felt bad for John McCain, but outraged at all the doltish hicks who were venerating this ignorant backwards woman who reveled in her lack of knowledge. My boyfriend on the other hand, said he felt bad for her.
How can you feel bad for her? I was shocked. Why is it always the Republican party that nominates idiots? Joe the Plumber, Christine O’Donnell. Democrats would never allow someone who didn’t understand what the “fed” was to run for city councilman let alone the Vice-Presidency.
How much do you really know about what the Fed does? He shot back.
I almost lost it. In that moment, he was impugning my knowledge and at the same time defending Sarah Palin. I was livid. How can I build my life with someone who defends Sarah Palin and thinks “liberal” is a dirty word? We went back and forth for a while with me spouting off economic knowledge and him keeping my rhetoric in check. But I went to bed angry that night.
I know we’re not supposed to try to change our significant others, but I can’t help but hope that I might be able to make a tried and true blue Democrat out of him. It’s worked somewhat so far, as I’ve been able to convince him that John Kerry really was a war hero and that Mitt Romney has backtracked on climate change. And maybe I am better off calling them teapartyers and aside from adjusting interest rates I don’t really know that much about the Fed. Congress recently passed the first Bi-partisan piece of legislation in years so if they can do it, surely two people who love each other and share many of the same values can find common ground as well. Now, if I could only get him to start watching Bill Maher with me…