Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vagina Resolutions: What the Men Had to Say

In the last post, I laid out the five most immediately helpful New Year's resolutions anyone with a vagina (or immediately pre-op) could adopt to help make life, and specifically relationships, a little easier on everyone of any gender. I didn't just pull them out of thin air (or plagiarize them from a combination of Dr. Phil's column in O and back issues of The L magazine...that would be wrong). I actually talked to a total of 35 functional or near-functional adults, all of whom had strong opinions on the subject of what we need to do differently to make relationships more ecstasy and less agony in the future.

Before I launch into Resolutions Everyone With a Penis Should make (and that list is a-commin', don't you worry...), I wanted to share a few highlights from the men-folk themselves, as they almost all stem from the same issue: men and women still don't know how to talk to one another. While there's nothing groundbreaking about that news, the research is still fun to read when it's laid out in front of you.

The gentleman interview subjects, all hetero and between the ages of 22-49, were asked this question:  What is the ONE thing women, as a gender, should resolve to do to make us all, as a species, happier? Below are some verbatim highlights and insights from their occasionally impassioned responses (and my totally glib, entirely unserious first reaction to each while transcribing the interviews). All names have been changed:

Greg, 28: "Learn how to play video games. Trust me, that will help a lot."
Because all arguments should be settled via a winner-takes-all death-match down Mariokart's Rainbow Road.

David, 30: "No comment. I need some time alone in the shower to think about this. I'll call you back."
Odds he used shower time to masturbate: 3 to 1.  

Joe, 27: "It's shallow, I know, but keep dressing sexy? I love the woman I'm with no matter what she's in. But when the girl you love comes out in something sexy as Hell it's like Christmas. And when it's like Christmas, I'm like Santa."
Hoe, hoe...hoe?

Zack, 38: "Please remember men are from another planet and we really have no idea what language you're speaking. Like, we understand the words. They sound like words we know. Just not the way you say them. We don't know what you mean."
So dealing with women is essentially like dealing with a stroke patient? Interesting...

Philip, 23: "Stop lying. Little white lies especially. Like what? Like compliments you hear a woman give to the same woman she bashes 15 minutes later, or a lie about why she broke a date...picking and choosing what days she's into me, that's a lie too, either on the day she likes me or the day she doesn't. The point is lies are disingenuous and unpleasant and confuse the Hell out of us."
Omigod, I love your bracelet...no, no, no jokes, he's right. The sentiment is totally valid. So we'll stop lying...as soon as men do. Riiiiiight, that's what I thought. The Mexican standoff continues.

Jacob, 31: "Stop beating around the bush. If you're into me, grab an ass cheek or pull in for the kiss."
Kissing is for pussies. Next time, I'll grab the scrotum. 

James, 27: "Stop expecting us to know what you want. You can't spend 5 minutes telling us what you'd really like to do, but you can spend the next day AND night bitching about how we 'should have known' what you wanted--NO I SHOULDN'T BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T TELL ME. And lemme set this straight too: It's not that we're not capable of deciphering women's covert signals, it's just that we're not programmed to. That takes time."
You should come preprogrammed to know that The Olive Garden was a shit choice for our anniversary. 

Tim, 26: "Please don't date until you've completed rehab/therapy/work-release, etc. I'm begging you." 
Sorry, what was that? I couldn't hear you over the sound of this bong rip.

Sam, 23: "Give all guys a chance. Yeah, there's a lot of dicks out there. But if you start ruling out everyone in one category entirely because of a couple of dicks, you might miss that one worth having."
I'm trying not to be cynical. But the urge to pinch his cheeks and go, "Oh, Jesus, you are just so young and SO pretty that that really does make sense to you still, doesn't it?" was overwhelming. Then I got all distracted and starting thinking about dick...

Paul, 25: "Honestly? Short of tying a red ribbon around the neck of every mixed-up, insane chick I've dated in Williamsburg, I'm at a total loss about how to stop the bullshit that gets tossed at me. The mixed signals are too much. I like you, I don't, I'm into this, I'm not, etc. I'm starting to think it boils down to chicks lying to themselves about what they want. The differences from one night to the next make it seem like you don't even know yourself, let alone what you want from me."
My first reaction was to get all pissy. My second was to remind him that's what he gets for dating in Williamsburg. My third was to check my neck for a red ribbon. My fourth was to deduce he's right. 

Chris, 49: "Stop leaving anything you should talk about face to face in a note."
*crumples up paper, furtively tosses behind back. backs away slowly*

Kevin, 23: "Start wearing signs with adjectives or phrases explaining you/your damage on them."
Okay, fine: jaded; suspicious; flakey crust conceals deceptively sweet, stubborn, smart-ass filling. 115 calories per serving. Helpful, Kevin? 

Shawn, 39: "Stop playing the game. It's making me tired."
You're just pissed I own Boardwalk and Park Place. Now pay up.. 

and my personal favorite:

Frank, 32: "Stop asking us to turn the lights off. We're too excited about getting laid to notice your 'fat day,' break-out, saggy boob, or whatever you think is wrong. We're really not that observant."
And thank God for that.

Much love and thanks to all the male participants, listed or unlisted. 

Please discuss or add to this list as needed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Resolutions Everyone with a Vagina Should Make

Ah, the obligatory resolutions post. Generally, I don't do public declarations of behaviors I will abandon the third time the Devil tempts me. However, I DO support making New Year's resolutions as a practice--it's one of those rare annual traditions which seems logical to adopt, particularly as a unified society. (Also, it's seasonal and these blog posts are chronological, so the subject was an easy out. I've got writer's block. Sue me.)

But expanding in a blog post on my own New Year's need to eat more leafy greens and stop dropping the word "motherfucker" during business meetings seemed ridiculous. So instead I interviewed a group of 20 men and 15 women, gay and straight, single or dating, ranging in age from 22 to 56, about what resolutions would make 2010 a better year for all of us. While there were a lot of overlapping answers, as well as some additional highlights which I'll post in the future, five in particular stood out as changes which could immediately improve the daily functionings of my fellow womenfolk and the men we love (or used to love) if we all made them simultaneously. In no particular order:


1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. No, seriously: know what you want. Sit down and think about it. Grab a beverage, it might take a while.

Do you want to make babies? Climb the career ladder? Date by the book with intent to marry? Blow blindly like seeds until rooting wherever the soil looks nice? 

Do your fantasies include a stable partner with a square jaw, a brooding artist who'll keep you infuriatingly titillated or a German Shepherd trained to keep all humans 100 yards away from your bunker? Would you rather settle down or whore around Babylon? (NOTE: I'm not knocking whoring in Babylon. In fact, if you haven't already, might I recommend taking your next conquest to the hanging gardens? They're exquisite.) There is no wrong answer.

The reason I ask is because the most emotionally raw people I interviewed all mentioned they'd been hurt by A) pursuing lives which didn't make them happy, or B) being misled by someone who said they wanted one thing but really wanted the complete opposite. Take it away, Cool Hand Luke: "WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE."

No more fooling ourselves, and no more testing out lifestyles on other people. Harm is done to innocent bystanders as much as the person in the mirror when we're misrepresenting ourselves, and most of us aren't pathological liars--we're just self-ignorant. So it stands to reason even a single dose of KNOW THYSELF could make a difference in 2010.

Yes, desire is a fickle and many of us don't know what we want. But you can't revise a plan that hasn't been drafted.

2. GROW (A LIFE) ORGANICALLY. This could be read as a partial contradiction to #1, but it's meant more as an addendum.

Knowing what we want is a double-edged sword. "Knowing" can lead to desiring; desiring can lead to impatience; impatience can lead to going bat-shit-estrogen-insane and demanding a new lover immediately label the relationship at 3AM in the morning, post-coitus, because we really need to know "what this is" RIGHT NOW. See? Scary.

Point is, knowing what we want and cultivating what we want are two totally different things, and the latter frequently relies on a nightmare variable: patience. The number of relationships I've seen die early deaths because one of the parties involved was trying to hydroponically rapid-grow a union like Silver Haze buds before a Phish reunion concert (and not letting nature wisely run its course) is unsettling.  

Remember: Engaging in control freakiness doesn't mean you'll actually control freakiness (it just makes you a freak). Let's all take a deep breath and try, just this once, seeing what happens when we're not trying to drag a happy ending into the picture by its hair. And don't worry. If this tactic fails, we'll go back to clubbing potential mates and pulling them back to the lair, caveman-style, in 2011.

3. REJECT ANYONE WHO WILL NOT GIVE AS MUCH AS YOU DO. This applies to friends, roommates, colleagues, anyone...but particularly those welcomed into hearts and beds.

Chronic non-reciprocators are an epidemic. I know it's a cliche, but women are wired for nurturing and empathy (and justifying others' bad behavior so we can nurture and empathize with their poor, tortured souls), so we do end up sucking the fuzzy end of the non-reciprocating lollicock more (and for longer stretches) than, say, most men.

With that point made, I have to admit watching plenty of otherwise admirable femmes taking and taking and taking lately...girls, this is unacceptable. It doesn't matter how pretty (or witty) you are. "Gimme gimme" behavior is the sort of shit that propagates the myth of women as merciless succubi.  Please knock it the fuck off, you're screwing up all the good mates and making life difficult for the rest of us.

And for those of us giving 100% while the people in our lives give just enough to keep us from killing them in their sleep? Time to cut the deadweights loose.  

Yes, it's hard parting ways without winning the validation a non-reciprocator's disinterest makes us crave (and stick around trying to get), but having a circle filled entirely with people who match our enthusiasm is worth the awkward housecleaning.

4. DISCONTINUE "DEATH BY SILENCE." We've all been Death by Silenced at least once; if you haven't been, you're probably a Silencer. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about at all, please send me a postcard from Narnia, I've heard it's lovely there around Christmas.)

For those Narnians unfamiliar with the scenario: You've been dating, or psuedo-dating, or intimately trekking through relationship purgatory, or enthusiastically sending flirty text messages. Maybe you've even crossed over into love-making and discussing the familial benefits of birthing two children instead of three. Regardless of the exact situation, it's blush-inducing bliss. Then, momentously...nothing. Tumbleweeds on a deserted plain. The phone goes silent. The text messages and Facebook "like" thumbs disappear. Your shared late night conversations evaporate into awkward, anxiety-ridden monologues...delivered by you to your lover's voicemail.

The person you've been entwined with literally up and fades away, as if you've hallucinated the whole thing, and you're left with so little closure you can't help but wonder if you did hallucinate the whole thing.

In many ways, Death by Silence is the single most callous and disgusting thing one person can do to another because of how efficiently it invalidates anything you shared as a pair. I understand from both sides that this isn't always intentional. On paper, exiting without a word can seem less cruel than saying, "You lay there like a piece of raw veal cutlet during sex and I just can't take it anymore." But it's not.  It's heinous. It's cowardly. It puts the person you've been dallying with in a state of stress and worry and self-loathing and loss so awful that all other end-of-relationship alternatives seem like a vacation by comparison.

A favorite of the aforementioned Non-Reciprocators, Death by Silence is its own epidemic. It's gotten to the point where all of us, at one point or another, have been spiraled into a neurotic panic if one of our flirty texts to a new partner goes unanswered for more than 12 hours. "He/she always texts me back. Did I say something wrong? OH GOD, I'M NEVER GOING TO HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN!" This is hardly healthy behavior. So, for the sake of our idealism, sanity and the future of unjaded human interaction, I'm proposing we all remove this one from our list of behavioral options and STOP DOING IT.

I venture that the effort invested in ending a relationship should match--and, in some cases, exceed--the effort invested in starting it. Karmically, this is just good practice...and you'll likely agree with me if you're ever silenced against your will.

We'll all be (marginally) less neurotic if Death by Silence dies.

5. STOP READING WOMENS' MAGAZINES. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. So ask yourself this: whatthefuck does reading a book with an airbrushed photo of Leighton Meester on the friggin' cover say about you??

Want to feel like you're too fat, too short, too blemished, inept with make-up, don't own enough stuff, are painfully unstylish, don't have enough hot shoes, live in an embarrassingly ugly home or need to max out your life savings for a beautiful but shallow wedding? Would you like to absorb dangerous blanket statements delivered by an "expert" who may have gotten their degree via the internet, or read incomplete summarizations of actual medical studies? Pick up a chick mag! They're glossy.

A wise man recently told me he dies inside when watching beautiful young women reading Cosmo or Elle, because he knows they're being fed plates of sterilized bullshit. I think he's right. Womens' mags are the Soilent Green of the publishing industry, processed from the grey, decaying bodies of other insecure women. Want to learn about real women? Talk to them. Want dress better? Talk to a gay. Want to learn about yourself? See #1...or hire a shrink. You'll also save a ton of money.

Thus ends the vagina-oriented installment of this seasonally appropriate blog post.

And don't think the men-folk got off easy. They're next.

[** NOTE: Before closing, let me squeak out a "thanks" to the witty, compassionate people who showed support following my sulking Sartre-dry-hump post. Your words were downright comforting, like a sweet, vanilla-scented grandmother smearing Vick's Vapor Rub under my clogged nose.

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but after those  heartfelt emails and encouraging messages (cue saccharine Capra-esque music swell), I've resolved to keep writing here. I'm still finding my footing (and figuring how much real life can currently be documented on this newfangled interweb without people getting hurt), so cut me a hot slice of slack if the next few posts, uh, blow. But I am soldiering on, and thank you]

Happy New Year.