Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has just affirmed a lower federal court decision that determined that Prop 8, which bans gay marriage, is unconstitutional. While this is a great step toward creating marriage equality for all, it also makes me a little nervous. There is only one place this case can go now….the Supreme Court. And a decision there is going to be huge. It could be a few years before the Supreme Court actually hears the case as appeals take a while and it’s possible that the make-up of the court will change by then, but unfortunately I don’t see Thomas or Scalia retiring quickly enough to allow the composition of the court to change in time for this case. The Supreme Court could chose to not hear the case, which means the decision today will stand for the 9th Circuit, but it’s also unlikely given the current political climate.
This case was only decided 2-1 and I took a peak atthe dissenting judge’s opinion. It foreshadows the arguments that will likely be made at the Supreme Court if it gets there and they are better than I expected. The decision focuses on the fact that a state should be allowed to define marriage however it wants and he offers a lot of precedent to support this. The majority concedes this fact but argues that no state can define marriage in a way that violates a person’s constitutional rights as defined by the 14th Amendment. A decision at the Supreme Court will likely also be a 5-4 decision with Kennedy now the only hope of a swing vote. It’s hard to believe that so many millions of American lives will be touched by the words of one man, but as of now, that’s probably what it’s going to come down to. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to do now but wait. And of course pray for early retirement. In the meantime, we celebrate.
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February 3, 2012 | 1:45 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Lana Del Ray’s stereotypical, codependent, frivolous girlishness is a regression for feminism according to a new article in the Atlantic. Definitely worth a read. Spencer Kornhaber’s contention is that for Lana “in every instance, her stated belief is that without being beautiful, she’s nothing. And what’s really uncomfortable is that she can’t seem to conceive of the world in any other way.” As a lover of all things romantic, I am too sucked in by her idealistic devotion to her man. But Kornhaber rightfully points to the fact that Lana may have crossed over from romance to unhealthy obsession. “We all know people in unbalanced relationships, where one party’s more enamored than the other, but Del Rey sells this problem as not a problem at all—and as inevitably tied to gender.” Is she redefining being pathetic as the new girly?
February 1, 2012 | 3:40 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I found out through the grapevine, that a boyfriend of a friend of mine recently cheated on my friend (with a hooker in Las Vegas nonetheless!). After much deliberation, I’ve finally decided I am not going to tell her….
I feel a bit traitorous about it all and I’m left wondering is there some sort of girl code that should compel me to reveal what I’ve heard to her, just because she’s a woman and I am too? Do I owe all other women this unspoken camaraderie because we all have to deal with men who can sometimes be jerks? We’ve all heard the refrain “bros before hos” but girls don’t go around saying “shrews before dudes.” The closest comparison to a girl code I can come up with is I once ran into a friend’s mother, a three-time divorcé, on a date. After learning I had broken up with my boyfriend, she quickly encouraged me to get back in touch with her daughter saying “don’t worry, girlfriends are like cockroaches. They were there before the men, they’ll be there after them.” At the time, I thought this was the most ridiculous and depressing statement I’d ever heard, but now a few boyfriends later, it’s been somewhat true for me. As much as I love my current boyfriend, I have girlfriends that date back to nursery school and it’s pretty much a sure bet that we’ll be in touch till we’re all in nursing homes. I hope and believe I will get married and stay married forever, but divorce is a scary threat for anyone contemplating marriage these days. In contrast, I know I’ll never divorce my girlfriends. And yet, I’ve never taken any vows to them. I’ve never clearly delineated a promise to be faithful or forgiving or to sacrifice for them. So what do we owe each other? Does it extend beyond just our friends to all women and does it require passing on hearsay about cheating boyfriends?
Years ago, I was cheated on and when my ex told me about it, one of the very first thoughts that ran through my head was how could another woman do this to me. There was a picture of us that sat prominently on his dresser; it had been a birthday gift the year before. I asked him if he turned down the picture when she was in his room and he said no. To me, this meant the girl knew he was in a relationship and she screwed him anyway. How could some girl, another woman I could have been chatting up at a bar the night before, how could she know that this guy was cheating and go through with it anyway? How could one woman be cruel enough and selfish enough to do that to another woman? But just because I understand how hard and difficult it is when your boyfriend cheats, does that mean that it is my responsibility to protect all women by exposing all the cheating men I come across? If I am not friends with the couple at all, do I still have to track down the betrayed woman and introduce myself over Facebook to then spill the dirty details?
It was painful for me to realize that even if there should be a girl code, there are so many women out there who don’t follow it. So many women willingly sleep with married men, and others who will stab another girl in the back, and other women who take pleasure in another girl’s failure. So even if we do tacitly owe one another some moral behavior, our gender is violating the code so often, nobody seems to be following it.
So if there isn’t a girl code, shouldn’t there at least be a friend code? I try to be a good and loyal friend and in return, my life has been enriched by a coterie of incredible women who have added so much to my life. I want to do what is best for my friend. But is it best for my friend that I pass on an unsubstantiated rumor to her when she is desperately in love with a man who has continually been in my opinion a bad boyfriend? On the one hand, she’s put up with such poor behavior in the past, I’m inclined to think she’ll just make excuses for him again and believe whatever lie he tells and continue fooling herself into thinking she’s in a healthy relationship. On the other hand, this could be the final piece of information she needs to finally break-up with him. I’m also biased because I’ve thought for years that she should break up with him so maybe I’m giving this rumor more credence than it deserves - it was passed on from a guy who was drunk at a bar with the boyfriend in Vegas to a girlfriend to a friend to me and nobody really knows what happened once the two went upstairs. I’m also reluctant to put myself in the middle of all the drama – having to figure out how to tell her where I heard the rumor without giving up my source and then possibly being responsible for her heartbreak.
The most unsettling thing for me is even if it’s best for her that I don’t say anything, by doing nothing, am I just letting another guy get away with blatant cheating? Have we accepted this behavior to the point that that even if people observe the behavior in public, no one will tell because infidelity is tolerated? Have I become complicit myself in allowing something that I believe is morally wrong?
I keep playing the game where I ask myself, if I were in her place, wouldn’t I want to know? And the answer is yes, but it’s also more complicated than that, because I would never be in her place – I would have broken up with this creep a long time ago for things that she knows about and has excused, so how can I really judge how important this piece of information is?
And the truth is, there is so much we don’t tell people. Who am I to be acting as moral police? What if I see a friend’s boyfriend just flirting inappropriately? Do I then have to rat him out to his girlfriend also? I’m tempted to say yes as women we all owe each other the decency of collectively not tolerating cheating – but there will always be women who break this girl code. Cheating men have found women to cheat with for thousands of years. And yet, why did I feel so violated by the “other woman” when it happened to me? Why did I obsessively want to know who she was, what she looked like, what she wore, and what position she had sex in, if I knew all along that there were girls willing to do this to one another?
Dejectedly, I have to accept that for some women, there is no girl code. They see a girl at a bar with her boyfriend and they think the guy is fair game. But I can’t live like that. You don’t make and keep lifelong friends by thinking you don’t owe other women something. At the very least, there has to be a friend code. We have to understand, that by being close friends with another girl, we owe each other acting in their best interest. To me, being close friends with another girl means that even if we never say anything, we imply certain promises to each other: I promise to not go after a guy I know you like, promise to drop whatever I am doing and be there for you when you are heartbroken, promise to make fun of anyone who is making your life miserable, promise to not be in a private place alone with your boyfriend ever. I promise to keep your secrets and I promise to tell you mine. And when in doubt, I promise to do what’s best for you.
Although in most cases, what’s best for my friend would probably be to tell her about the rumor, in this case I have to accept, it is not. My friend has dealt with cheating rumors with this boy before and chosen to ignore them. He’s acted incredibly selfishly and she’s found ways to explain it away. She needs him in her life right now as she deals with a difficult time. And maybe it’s not the healthiest thing, but it’s also not my decision to make. She’s the only one that can drag herself out of this relationship and she can only do it when she’s ready. She’s not ready and so I will put away my own agenda and be there for her while she struggles. And when she is finally ready to deal with his behavior, I will be there for her during the heartbreak too. Because as one friend to another, I owe her that.
January 24, 2012 | 1:13 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
So for all you loyal readers who read my woeful post on Friday night, I feel I owe you a follow-up to what was really the first noteworthy hiccup in my relationship. It wasn’t really a fight, in that we weren’t arguing about something. But we both had done things to hurt one another and of course, sometimes that’s worse.
Saturday morning I woke up early and went to yoga after reading a comment from a guy who said if he was my boyfriend, he’d kill himself. When I got back home, my boyfriend alive and well, called and asked to get lunch. He came over and patiently waited while I finished getting ready. He asked to talk first and I sat on the couch next to him, waiting to find out his thoughts.
He explained in a few short sentences what he thought the problem was. He was clear, concise, and right. Apparently, I’m dating an adult. I felt terrible. He reminded me of something I had said (twice) and when he said it out loud, I was revolted by my own abhorrent language. I sounded like a self-righteous bitch and I had hurt someone I loved. I had essentially threatened to break-up with him if he didn’t do something I wanted. Even if you have a point, if you don’t communicate fairly, you can quickly become the wrongdoer yourself and in this case, I was more the bad guy than he was.
He was being so mature, I was mainly embarrassed at my own behavior at this point. I had something I wanted to say, but I felt tears advancing every time I tried to say it. He said we should get something to eat and I was hoping that the change of location would allow me to compose myself.
After we ordered, I forced myself to speak. I made it through two points with a dry face, but by the third, streams of mascara had formed telltale lines down my cheek. Only a few people noticed, but it was enough to make me give up talking till we got home. I finally got everything I wanted to say out. We both agreed to work on our recently uncovered tools for inflicting hurt on the other, and though he didn’t use the words, he seemed to forgive me.
We spent the rest of the day doing nothing together. We lay next to each other and talked and made each other laugh till our sides hurt and built a fort and spoke with accents and listened to NPR’s election coverage. I told him if he did ever kill himself now, I would blame myself. We saw friends later that night and again on Sunday and things felt surprisingly normal and good.
It seems we’ve made it through the darkness. I hope we’ve emerged stronger. A friend of mine said that going through something like this is really good for us because if we make it out alright, we can be confident that when confronting life’s inevitable bumps, we know we can handle it.
Sunday night, he called and just before hanging up he said I had a good weekend. We had had the most painful conversation of our relationship so far a day earlier, but since then we had also had a surprising amount of fun. I told him I did too. And so for now, we march on…
January 21, 2012 | 2:03 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My boyfriend and I had a fight tonight. Not a terrible one but bad enough that I’m back at my apartment alone and intermittently crying. I’m not entirely sure what happened or why but we were sort of off all night. Then, things were said and now looking back, perhaps I was cruel.
It happens swiftly and softly without anger or even very many words but within a few sentences feelings are hurt. We are watching tv and I try to fix everything by taking his hand, but he pulls it away. I try again and again I fail. Our bodies are still touching on the couch, but I feel as alone as if I were sitting in the middle of the Arctic without another person in sight. He says he is tired. I know what this means so I oblige him and say I’m going to head home now. I can’t look at him on the way out. I am hoping he will grab me and kiss me or just do something. But he doesn’t. He closes the door behind me.
I get halfway down the hall and then crouch down on the floor outside his door and silently cry, heaving softly. I can’t decide what to do. I don’t want to leave. It all seems so stupid. What are we even fighting over? I just want to go back in and snuggle up to him and sleep next to the man I love.
His neighbor comes out to walk his dog. I shoot up, with my overnight bag hanging off of my shoulder. Are you ok, he asks, confused.
I smile like an idiot and try to brush past him. Yeah, I’m fine. I notice a pack of cigarettes in his hand. Cigarettes. Is that what we were fighting about?
Are you sure you’re welcome here? Yes, I’m welcome here, I think. My boyfriend lives here, you jerk. He continues down the stairs but now I am trapped. I am too embarrassed to leave and walk past this guy and his dog, like I’ve been thrown out, so I march back to my boyfriend’s door.
I stand there for a while, trying to build back up my courage. I am cold, and tired, and my bags are hurting my shoulder. I can hear the tv playing the end of the show I had been in there watching not so long ago. I want back in.
I knock on the door. Why am I nervous, I’m thinking.
He opens the door. He looks confused. I recall there are still tears on my face.
I don’t want to leave, I say. I look up at him pleading, hoping he thinks I look sweet instead of pathetic which is what I’m feeling.
He opens his mouth to say something, but barely a sound escapes and he closes it. He looks down.
I’m stunned. He looks back at me and his look says everything. He wants me to leave. He doesn’t want to let me in to the apartment I’ve had keys to for months. I thought he’d be relieved to see me, but he’s not. He wishes I hadn’t come back.
Forget it, I can’t even finishing saying it, before the tears start falling. How dare he, I think to myself. I brush my hair aside, mainly to hide my face from him as I turn to leave. He’s sending me out into the cold late night, with my bags, on the long walk back to my car alone.
I walk as fast as I can in my stupid little tight dress and black boots that feel ridiculous now. He hasn’t closed the door this time. He’s waiting for me to leave the building. I guess his neighbor was right, I’m not welcome here. The gate closes behind me.
I know I could let myself cry this whole walk back to my car, but I grit my teeth instead. I will not let a boy make me cry. I will not give him this much power over me. I am too strong to cry over this. Over what? I ignore the embarrassment I feel as I pass people on the busy street, hoping they’ll think I’m walking to my boyfriend’s apartment instead of being kicked out by him. I fantasize he’ll drive up beside me and demand that we fix this. But I know there’s no way in hell, this is happening. He’s tired and probably just wants to go to bed and not think about me. He probably thinks this wasn’t a big deal. It was me who wanted to leave, right? And I was making things weird in the first place. Why do I always do that? Am I determined to sabotage every relationship with a man I will ever have?
He has no idea how rejected I feel right now. I check my phone for a non-existent text. But I only do it once because I know him, and I know he won’t text. What will tomorrow be like? Are we over? Or did nothing happen? Will he call in the morning to discuss our evening plans and think that nothing worth mentioning transpired? When do I get to a place in my life, where boys don’t make me feel like this? Do I ever?
Drastic thoughts of what I could do tonight creep into my head. But I won’t. I’m not angry enough with him to want to do anything except fix us. God, exactly a week ago one night, I thought things were perfect. He used the word soulmate for the first time and I was swooning even though I know he doesn’t load the word with all the meaning I do. He was so tired before I left. Oh my baby, I feel so bad for him when I see how exhausted he gets from work. I want to sleep too but I know I won’t.
No matter what happens to me in life, no matter my accomplishments, no matter where in the world I am, or how much things have changed, it seems this ugly constant remains. I am sitting here in front of my computer feeling alone, crying about a boy, knowing I won’t sleep. I wonder if I should give up on love. Not relationships necessarily – they seem to come easily to me. But this idealistic schoolgirl dream of true love I just can’t seem to let go of. Why do I need to believe this so badly? I just really want to believe that there’s someone out there for me. And I really started to believe it was him. And so why am I home alone without him?
January 20, 2012 | 11:27 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne KagelBeing late twenties, means that bachelorette parties are a regular part of your social calendar. The problem is, most bachelorette parties SUCK. And not just a little. They’re often boring, uninspired, unoriginal, expensive, lame and there’s nothing do to but drink and regret it later. In fact, if one more girl asks me to throw down a thousand dollars to go to Vegas to see a steroid-filled not-cute not-my-type man wearing lime green, while trying to get drunk off of weak thirty dollar drinks, so that she can wear an over-priced plastic tiara for one night, I’m going to lose it. So last year, when one of my best friends in the whole world got married, the tradition of bachelorette planning fell to me and I was determined not to fall prey to these all-to-familiar doomed scenarios.
January 12, 2012 | 8:00 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend let slip that he was titillated by another woman. Well, almost. It might not have been as bad at it could have been, but it was there.
There was this really sexy ad running on FX for their new show American Horror Story which I’ve been watching but really not enjoying. Anyway, my boyfriend and I have been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which we love pretty religiously together and every time they run the ad for American Horror Story, he makes a comment about how much he’d like to see me in a certain skivvies-showing French maid outfit worn very well by the sultry red-haired actress on the show. This actress is seriously hot and the way they have her tarted up to play to this archetypal male fantasy is spot on so I couldn’t agree more that she gives off this irresistibly sexy aura. So the last few weeks he’s reiterated how hot her little get-up is and how he’d love to see me in something like that. Which of course is as genteel as you can be when talking to your girlfriend about how sexy another girl is.
So there we are again, cuddling on his couch watching the It’s Always Sunny gang trying to get to Thunder Gun Express when of course the Horror Story ad comes on. This time, though he says “Damn, I want to &^$&...” Pause. “...you so badly in that outfit.”
I knew exactly what had happened and I couldn’t help but call him on it.
“That is not what you were going to say!”
Of course he played totally aghast. “What do you mean?”
“You were going to say ‘I want to #$%^ her,’ not me in her clothes.”
“That is SO NOT…ok fine that’s true.” I could feel his embarrassment as he confessed and sheepishly squeezed me tightly.
“I’m not mad at you for being potentially aroused by another woman but I think the generally accepted conventional wisdom on this is that girlfriends don’t like to hear about all the other women their boyfriends would like to *^%#.”
He laughed nervously and covered my face in little kisses realizing the fine line he was walking and the disaster he had almost stepped in.
But this brings up a truth in relationships, we don’t often explore. Do we expect our significant others to literally never be turned on by anyone but us? And if we accept that this is not physiologically possible, how much do we want to hear about it?
When it comes to love, I’m an idealist. But when it comes to sex, I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, I think if you want to be in a committed long-term relationship you have to accept that at some point in your partner’s long life, he is going to be turned on by something that is not you. Some girls really can’t handle this. My boyfriend’s fear that I might potentially be mad at him for being turned on by another girl is well founded. I know a lot of women who would be angry to find out their partner looked at porn or that they thought about anything aside from her while engaging in self-gratifying coital behavior. But biologically speaking, it seems to me, this is not a realistic view. We can and should all be held responsible for our actions on these urges, but our most base stirrings are surely not something we should judge one another on. Right?
Of course, knowing this and living it are two different things entirely. In the abstract, I have no issue with the idea that my partner might be sexually aroused by someone other than me. But do I really want to watch that happen? Of course not. When I’m with him, I want to feel like I’m the only woman in the world he could ever desire for the rest of his life. And generally, my boyfriend does a good job of making me feel like that. So then, am I saying he just has to hide it from me in a see no evil, speak no evil paradigm? That idea feels so outmoded to me. Aren’t I more liberated than that?
I want to be a more enlightened modern woman. I’d like to acknowledge the truth that in long-term relationships, both parties are going to be aroused by outside stimuli and accept that having such thoughts is part of being human and has no bearing on our relationship. But at the same time, watching my boyfriend respond to a hot woman who is not me, is not enjoyable. So what is he supposed to do? Put on this charade where in front of me he pretends nothing else in the world aside from me is arousing?
I certainly don’t want to listen to him confess to me any sexual fantasy he has about another girl in particular. But at the same time, if that is wrong, aren’t I also guilty of my own “thought indiscretions” at certain occasions?
Shouldn’t it be enough that my partner is faithful to me in actions? He has control over choosing not to have a one-night stand but if he can’t control his own sexual thoughts, why should it taint his virtue if he admits to titillation from others? We generally don’t punish people for thoughts. You may have wanted to murder someone, but as long as you didn’t, we really don’t think just having those thoughts are that bad. So if my boyfriend told me one day that he was so angry with someone that he momentarily thought about killing them, well it wouldn’t be his best side, but I also wouldn’t think too much of it. In fact, I’d hardly think about it. So why is it then, that I’m obsessing about this moment my boyfriend let slip that he had a sex-thought about someone else?
Women have unrealistic expectations when it comes to our man’s sexual thoughts. I want to blame fairy tales and Disney but really, I think the problem is we don’t talk about it realistically enough. People often say that that when Prince Charming finds Cinderella and they live happily ever after, we indoctrinate a desire for perfect unions that don’t exist. But in terms of the fundamentals, I still want the fairytale – the fairytale for me is someone who’s going to love me and be faithful to me forever and no I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Probably a lot of girls still want the fairytale and I believe they can still find it. The issue is, you technically can still abide by the rules of that fairytale, even if Prince Charming sometimes fantasizes about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty getting it on together. It’s time to stop pretending that loves means pure thoughts at all times. If he still loves you and is faithful to you, that needs to be enough. He shouldn’t feel like he has to hide his sexual desires because I’m holding onto some unrealistic expectation that men only want one woman till they die.
Women need to get used to the fact that great guys who are madly in love with them and completely faithful are going to be excited by other women. Ok, I need to get used to that fact.
And so, was I wrong to tease my boyfriend for making his comment? I just don’t understand why if cognitively I truly am ok with him thinking these things, why do I so not want to hear them? Do I prefer delusion? And isn’t that a sign of a psychopath…
I really have no idea what the answer is. I am not going to tell him to keep these thoughts from me, but I’m also not going to pretend communication is a panacea and encourage him to tell me all about them. guess I’m just not enlightened enough to listen to it. Maybe I am choosing to live in a pretend world, where I am the only bright and shiny object in his eyes. Or maybe hope against hope, the truth is that I do really shine a little bit brighter in his eyes than all others. Maybe only having eyes for me really means that in a sea of shiny objects, he sees all of them, but there’s only one he picks up to play with. And maybe that still means, I can have my fairytale after all.
January 11, 2012 | 1:12 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
A friend of mine sent me a press release about a new tv show airing tonight on USA at 11pm. The show, “Out Of Character With Krista Smith” features interviews with Gwyneth Paltrow, Seth MacFarlane, and Jason Wu and while normally I can’t stand these vapid celeb puff piece interviews, Krista is actually a great interviewer so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been watching her for a while because of her day job as Vanity Fair’s West Coast Editor, since VF often posts her interviews to their website to supplement the great articles she writes. VF is one of my favorite mags and seeing as years ago for about five minutes I technically worked there and got to meet Krista, I’m rather excited about it all. Check it out tonight!