Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lessons, plans and resolutions

I am not one for making the house spotless. In general yes, but not specifically for New Year's Day. I don't make sure to change the bed sheets or put out the garbage. I also eschew the cliched tradition of making and announcing resolutions. It could be that I'm too lazy to make promises I'm too afraid I wont keep; though I prefer to think of myself as just learning and adjusting all the time, not just on January 1.

2009 was certainly full of wonderful lessons. I learned from my friend Nicole that it can take years to become friends with someone, but it's usually worth the wait and usually right on time. Georgia, DeAnna and Nadia taught me that the best friendships can close the longest distances and make you feel surrounded and loved no matter where you are. I learned at the gym that I am physically capable of more than I had ever imagined. I learned from my children that my time is a valuable gift that I should never take for granted. I learned from my husband that I can do anything I set my mind to, because I am smart and capable and because he has my back. I also learned that troubles are no match for our resolve to get past them.

In 2010 those lessons will serve me well. I will cherish my friendships - old and new. I will push myself beyond my known physical limits. I will give my time liberally to my boys for as long as they want it - and maybe a little longer. I will work to accomplish my dreams without fear, accepting the unrestrained and unlimited support of my partner. I will fret less about how and if, and push ahead with cans and wills.

Yeah, those sound a bit like resolutions, but that would be too cliche.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas memories old and new

I remember the Christmas I got the bicycle with the pink and white tassels and the white wicker basket. My dad didn't put the training wheels on and helped me learn to ride that very day. I remember the Christmases before the divorce when my parents squelched their own feelings enough to give me a family Christmas. I remember the suit my mom gave my dad that was not to his liking, and I remember the hurt she felt when he told her so. To this day I believe that exuberant thanks is the only appropriate response to a gift from a loved one. I remember the Christmas my mom tried to bring the new family together. The cornish hens did not go over well with three teenagers intent on being surly and unpleasant. I remember the Christmas my cousin Ken promised my mom he would keep an eye on me so that I could go Uptown with my friends - only to let me go off to meet my boyfriend. I put my belief of exuberant thanks in to practice that night when the boyfriend gave me a bottle of god-awful perfume. I remember the Christmas Georgia and I greased cake pans, wiped walls and ironed drapes and curtains on our cul-de-sac to earn money for Christmas gifts. I don't remember what we bought, but I remember how industrious and responsible we felt. I remember my first Christmas back home after moving to Florida. The Luria's stores were closing down and I cleaned up with Christmas presents for everyone on my list. I remember our friend Sean's last Christmas. I remember my Uncle Claude's last Christmas.

For me, Christmas is defined by those memories. Christmas is a house filled with extended family, a not-so-stylishly decorated tree, visiting friends and sampling fruit cake and sorrel at every house, shopping for and hiding gifts, menu planning and preparing days in advance, new clothes for Christmas Sabbath, staying up late on Christmas Eve to wrap gifts and to start the cooking, a big Christmas morning breakfast amid the smells of dinner well on its way.

It has been a while since we've had a Christmas like that. That makes me sad, particularly for the kids. More than anything I want them to have wonderful Christmas memories like I do. When my 5-year-old declared recently that there is no such thing as Santa Claus it just about broke my heart. I felt my mommy star tarnish more than a little bit. I have been so busy pining over my memories and all I miss, I neglected my responsibility to create memories for my boys. I had foolishly forgotten that there are many ways to have Christmas.

My husband and I don't share the same reverence for Christmas, but we both realize that it is important to create traditions and memories for the boys. Though he thinks I over do and I can't convince him that simplicity is Christmas sacrilege, we are finding a merry medium. So far this Christmas, I've convinced at least one son to send his wishes off to Santa, the tree is up, and I have started work on the Christmas Day dinner menu. I will dial back the more-is-more Christmas and I will not whine about not being with my mother. My husband hopefully will not ask why as he is prone to do and will roll his eyes less. All we want for Christmas are great memories for our boys.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

All men are dogs and other myths of adultery

Politicians, actors, athletes, members of the clergy. The stories of infidelity seem to be unrelenting. As the stories swirl, women sneer with righteous indignation and men snicker at the carelessness of the discovered one. We all sit around and purport to know the circumstances: men are just dogs/he couldn't love his wife and do that to her; the wife was miserable/had gained a lot of weight/must have driven him to it/she would never have done that to him; the other woman is a jezebel/was just looking for somebody to mind her/must have known he was married/knows he's not going to leave his wife.

Some of that may be true some of the time, but those assumptions have become mostly part of love lore - the myths that help to make relationships and their breakdown easier to explain and understand. If we are to be honest with ourselves though, most of us will admit that life and love are never cut and dry, black and white, or easily comprehended.

It seems that every woman we know has been cheated on and we all know men who are perpetual cheats, but rest easy, your husband is not likely to cheat on you. According to The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction between 65 and 85 percent of husbands have no partners other than their wives during the duration of their marriage. True, the number is not great, but it is better than we usually give men credit for. The Kinsey Institute also reports that 20 percent of wives have had at least one extramarital affair. The secret is out, 0ne in five married women have gotten some on the side.

Books have been written on why men cheat, and I haven't heard any conclusive answers yet. I think it is fair to assume that they don't all have the same reason. No doubt opportunity is a high ranking reason, but since they are human I'm going to also assume that sometimes it has to do with emotions - understanding that emotions include arrogance, covetousness, and lust as well as like/love. For women, we generally assume that sex and the heart go hand-in-hand. While it is true that most women's vajay-jays are directly connected to their heart strings, women sleep with men for all kinds of reasons. Infatuation, companionship, a listening ear, a complimentary tongue, a healthy wallet, or a tight butt are often just enough.

Most cheating wives and husbands go to great lengths to keep their affairs secret: seedy motels, morse code phone rings, cash-only transactions, voicemail messages without a name, and a plethora of evolving lies. If the idea was to hurt the spouse why go through all that trouble? Most cheaters would not go through with it if they knew they would be found out and that their home life would be disrupted. Philanderers weigh the risk of getting caught and take their chances. It has nothing to do with how much they love or don't live their spouse. Barring extraordinary situations, any one who is unhappily married gets out. In the same manner, married folks want to be married. The answer to a bad or unhappy marriage is not an affair and everybody knows that.

It is so easy to vilify the other woman (or man). The same people who say men are dogs seem hesitant to believe that they would lie about being married or the health of their marriage. I have heard the stories of maneaters who only date married men, but I believe most people don't want to be on the sidelines of their relationships. Sometimes it takes ignored ultimatums and broken promises to clarify the facts, but given a choice - and all the information - the other woman (or man) will likely pack up her heart and her hopes and move on.

The point is that we don't always know what's going on. More of us have secrets than are willing to admit. Love is messy, unpredictable and not void of pitfalls. For most of us it is hard enough to figure out and manuever our own hearts and relationships. We would be best served not to be quick to judgment of the hearts and affairs of others.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Tiger-sized cost of your entertainment

For the last week, it has been almost impossible to listen to the radio or watch the television without listening to speculation about Tiger Woods' driving or getting the latest count on possible mistresses. The media - even the so-called legitimate sources - has been unrelenting in the pursuit of the salacious details of the golfer's life. Of course the pursuit is for only the best reasons: Tiger owes the public an explanation, he's a role model, genuine concern for the "children caught in the middle." Bull!

I was not there when Tiger made his vows to his wife. And I am going to go out on a limb and assume you weren’t there either. His marriage vows are between him, his wife and God. If he breaks those vows he owes me no explanations - unless he took my husband with him on one of his rendezvous.

Tiger holds no public office. He is not being accused of using public funds to pay for his dalliances. He is not being accused of breaking any laws. On what basis do we dare demand any explanations for his actions?

The role model argument is pulled out every time someone famous misbehaves. There is not much hope for future generations if the best we can do by way of role models for our children are public figures whose moral bearings are unknown to us. If D1 or D2 becomes interested in golf it would make sense to me to direct them to pattern Tiger’s game. On matters of right and wrong, of morality and ethics though, their examples must come from those closer to home.

I am not convinced that Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood or Nancy Grace really care about the well-being of Tiger and Erin Woods' small children. If they were, they would leave the Woods alone to resolve their marital issues without interference, instead of creating hours of speculative and sensational coverage for their children to find on the internet when they are older.

Men and women cheat on their spouses every day. Most do not get found out by TMZ, the National Enquirer or Us Weekly. Most get to make amends far from public glare. Most get to resolve marital issues without entertainment reporters weighing in. Tiger and his wife – and those children every one claims to be concerned about – are paying a woeful price for the entertainment of the masses.

Of course there is the argument that all is fair with a public figure. Tiger the golfer is a public figure. Tiger the husband and father has not courted the media. In fact, off the golf course it seems he has gone out of his way to preserve his privacy. His wife doesn’t even hit golf balls. All she did was marry Tiger Woods. Neither of them deserves to have their lives dissected on Entertainment Report.

Whether the media has provided because the masses expect, or the masses expect because the media has provided I am not sure, but we have become accustomed to seeing the most vulnerable slices of celebrities’ lives splayed on the internet and television. We have become blood thirsty for the juicy details of drug relapses, affairs, divorces, and scandals, without thought to the humans behind the stories.

Yes, the media is at fault, but you are the market. No market, no product. This is one of those situations when we should ask the question we often ask our children: How would you feel if somebody did that to you?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Job = Independence?

"I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings.
Only call your celly when I'm feeling lonely;
When it's all over, please get up and leave..."
- Destiny's Child

The word's of soulster Ne-Yo's Ms. Independent are similarly lauding of women who pay their own way - "She's got her own thing, that's why I love her."

I've always thought of myself as independent. I always offered to split the bill on dates, paid for my own trips and leisure. I have never asked or expected any man to pay my way. I, have in fact, looked down on women who expected their rent to be paid by any man who slept in their bed. Since getting married 10 years ago, my husband and I have paid our household expenses from a common pool, but I was free to buy a new dress or pair of shoes if I was so inclined.

After being a stay-at-home mom of circumstances for more than a year, the idea of female independence has been nagging at me. Now that I rely completely on my husband financially, can I still consider myself independent? Of course, marriage is supposed to be a partnership. There's not supposed to be any yours and mine - or at least that's what my husband assures me. That's all well and good, but then how do I assert my independence?

Finding my place in my new life has been hard. My children seem to like seeing me at their schools all the time and have even stopped asking me if I'm going to find a job. My husband has not set rules or pulled rank at all, and even pushes me to make the most of my 'free' time. I still feel uncomfortable. I hate filling out forms that ask for my profession and/or work number. My stomach tightens everytime someone asks me what I do, and I always say "When I was in Florida, I worked..."

I got all the lessons of feminism, but I never learned how to be comfortably reliant. I am, however, slowly realizing I have been asking the wrong question. Rather than trying to figure out how to assert my independence, I should be determining what means independence to me. I can decide independence shouldn't be just about money - or the ability to buy my own diamonds. Now if I can only figure what it is about I can stop feeling like a bum everytime I see another woman in a jewelry store.