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Women Surfing the Edge of Change

That an entire book has to be written about the way in which the French put pleasure first in their lives–a pleasure gleaned from a lovely long lunch; a good cheese; a natural (as opposed to a creepy or inappropriate) flirtation, makes me sad that our culture comes out so unfavorably.  It’s true that in our culture, “pleasure” seems to be a code word for sex, not a joy we breathe, not the expansive emotion, as the late William Safire wrote in his language column in The Times many years ago, “that suffuses one who has been gratified or stroked; it’s a good feeling, whether physical or intellectual.”

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Coming Up Next!: The Pretend Marriage

My favorite new fact about marriage is not the Census Bureau’s 2010 report that four in ten Americans feel that marriage is becoming obsolete.  (In my book, Marriage Shock, I’d already found that women were running away from marriage in droves–even young, newly married women.  And that was over ten years ago.)  No, the great new fact is that older people who want sex with one another are hiding it from their kids by PRETENDING to get married. Yes!  Heaven forfend their little darlings find out that their widowed grandma or divorced daddy are “doing it” or, more horribly still, “living in sin.” I’ve been hearing about this idea of having the ceremony for appearance’s sake, but not signing the papers –and just read it in this month’s AARP Bulletin.  As personal finance expert Jane Bryant Quinn, speaking about the financial concerns older couples should address before they marry, pointed out, over-50 couples who want to hang together (like kids do) are afraid to let the kids know they’re doing so. Ah, American morality! Don’t you love it? We eviscerate those who lie to us about their inappropriate sexual practices, but happily lie to our own families about our own appropriate ones!  Funnier still:  The over-50 crowd, whose sex lives are assumed by the young to have long since hit the road,  are lying because they, like everyone else, are happily hitting the hay.

How crazy is it that, at a time when there are more unmarried people in the country than married, we’re afraid to be unmarried? Continue Reading →

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How Do Kids Become Bullies?

An eighth-grade girl in my town, 13-year-old Alye Pollack, recently released an anti-bullying video on YouTube—called “Words are Worse than Sticks and Stones”–that has gotten over 200,000 hits.

Everyone wonders how young people learn to be such bullies, and I’m going suggest one way.  Bullying is now de rigeur among older people, and it appears everywhere in the media. Just listen to this note from New York Magazine, asking me to renew my subscription. Keep in mind that I don’t owe them a dime—this is a request, not an invoice.  It begins with a faux “Office of the Controller” letterhead.

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For Love or Money

Men say young women are demanding as hell—about money, about sex, about everything. So how come their mothers aren’t?

At age 58, a woman tells me she lives with her lover in her home, not his, and is reluctant to ask him to contribute to her—now, their–bills. “He buys us beautiful dinners,” she explains when I ask her what’s stopping her from  discussing this, and from confronting him about the sizable mortgage and living expenses she knows they should be sharing. “He gets us tickets to wonderful concerts; pays for our vacations. We started out that way and, well, it hasn’t been that long….” she trails off.

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Why Women Wait to Wed

Are women waiting to get married? Are they defying the custom we believe to be truth–snaring reluctant bachelors into wedlock? Are they now the ones saying, Not Yet?  Yes. Long thought to be the ones pushing those balky bachelors, women are no longer doing so.

For years I’ve been hearing about the “delay” in marriage insisted on by many women, who are simply not as eager as they once were to be wives. For one thing, these young women have greater resources. For another, they don’t have the time, nor feel as inclined as they once might have, to put their all into  intimate relationships. As one 23-year-old guest on my local television show, “The Love Goddess Show,” put it,  “I don’t want to be the one in charge of maintaining relationship. I’m too busy. So right now, I’m lying low.”

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Why The Least Interested Loses in Long-term Love

A reader reminds me that, in my blogs about the Power of the Least Interested, I forgot to speak about how the phenomenon plays out in long-term relationships. Does the least interested maintain power over the more interested partner, once romantic attraction moves into love?

Not for very long.  The usual set-up years ago was the familiar eager-to-please woman endlessly trying to engage her distracted, disengaged, or plainly disinterested husband. Her heartbreaking, losing techniques:  Asking questions. Repeating questions. Attempting to be seductive, funny, young, pretty. (Just saying these in print makes me mad and remind me of all those magazine articles: “Ten Surefire Ways to Make Him Happy!” and all those songs about how to please, win back and stand by that cheatin’ guy.)  One study showing that husbands and wives speak to one another an average of 13 minutes a week (and then, only because they have to arrange childcare and meal issues) says it all: Interest in one’s partner is at risk over time.  And if that partner happens to be a woman, well, poor dear. Continue Reading →

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Exit Donna Reed and Father Knows Best

On my last television show–a cable-access show in Connecticut called The Love Goddess Show–I had two guests, a woman and a man, Louise and Tracy, opposites in every way except  that they’re both past middle age and both single. Louise is busy with her career, refuses to go online to date, and wouldn’t make”dating,” per se, a priority if her life depended upon it.  If she meets someone, great. If not, great too.

Tracy, at 60, is divorced, and like so many recently  divorced men, wants to be involved again asap. He works alone. He is, by his own admission, needy–not in the way women have been accused  (read: too needy), but just in need of a solid, sexually exclusive relationship. It’s what he wants and he says so. He goes online to meet women and hopes not to date them all but to find one to be with. Oh, and he likes women to be as assertive as he is–in fact, maybe more. This is not a man afraid of women’s assertiveness, aggressiveness, anger. Continue Reading →

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Advice or Abuse?

Why do we suddenly  love experts who scream at their quivering audiences? What is it in us that wants the Glenn Beck experience with our self-improvement?

Who made it fashionable among advice-givers to shriek? Was it Dr. Phil, whose relationship tips are shouted out so roughly  to troubled couples? Was it Jim Cramer of “Mad Money,” ridiculing his audience for not investing his (often disastrous) way?   Judge Judy, whose wisdom on the bench increasingly became over the years slicing and dicing the plaintiff? (Granted, that plaintiff is usually odious.) Or  Jillian Michaels, hollering at the obese on “The Biggest Loser”? Suddenly, tyranny is cool and verbal abuse, a promising recovery technique.

“You wouldn’t like the weight-loss guru Jillian Michaels when she’s angry,” reads the blurb under a piece entitled “THE FIGHTER” in today’s New York Times  Magazine, accompanied by a smirking Michaels. Continue Reading →

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Whose Laundry Do YOU Do?

Women of all ages tell me that they want evolved relationships with enlightened men, men who know that developing intimacy skills is part of the job of being a 21st century guy.  And I ask these 21st century women, “Okay, cool, but who are you in this? Are you playing the role of a 20th century woman?”

The story of intimacy in college dorms reveals that the new paradigm of hooking up–which was supposed to free women to make sexual choices without waiting for a commitment, or even a relationship–has some really tired old baggage. It’s still men who decide whom to see again after the inital hook-up. It’s still men who earn a cool-guy reputation for hooking up a lot, and yes, it’s still women who are called “sluts” for doing the same.

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