Fear of Ending It? Get over it!

I’d rather talk about weightier issues than relationship etiquette, but I just heard for the second time this week about another person who ended a relationship by email. I can’t stand it: How rude and cowardly can you get? It was a woman, alas, so we can’t blame it on gender cluelessness.. She said she just “didn’t have it in me” to do it in person “after two years of being together”– which is clueless.

 You HAVE to do it in person. You just have to avoid these five pitfalls:

       1.   Don’t try to win his approval. You can’t reject a partner and simultaneously get his blessing. You’re here to do dirty work and you both know it. So do it without asking for reassurance.

         2.   Don’t ask “Can we just be friends?” Ick. You’re not in high school. Why pretend your offer of not sleeping with someone anymore is an exciting opportunity? Why pretend that cavalierly offering to take someone’s love but not his body is anything but a booby prize?  Have respect for your former lover’s comprehension abilities. You may end up friends, but it’ll be awhile if it happens.

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On Women Running the World

As a passionate advocate for women, and obviously therefore an advocate for putting women at the helm not only of corporations, but of cities and countries, I nevertheless think it’s dangerous to suggest that women are so benign, so aggression-free, that all violence would vanish if we alone were running things.

 The front page review in Today’s New York Times Book Review section is of Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard who has written brilliantly on linguistics, says that violence in our era has decreased more than it ever has, and for a host of reasons– one of which is the effect of women. Noting this, the reviewer, Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton, writes, “The empowerment of women does, Pinker argues, exercise a pacifying influence, and the world would be more peaceful if women were in charge.”

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Sexy Parents, Sanctimonious Kids

 I wrote a long time ago, in response to the fact that so many women were leaving their marriages:  “In the past 25 years women have bloomed. How can we still be talking about fitting modern wives back into an ancient institution, rather than enlarging an ancient institution to make room for modern wives?” I said this on television shows, much to the horror of many hosts, who got so mad that women were leaving (and not men, as I suppose they thought was better). that they blamed me for writing about it.  

 Well they must be really mad now, because America isn’t even a married culture anymore.  That picture of ourselves talk-show hosts and politicians and so many others insist on—the happily married American couple–is a very nice picture, but it has little to do with us in the US. No, as I’ve said a million times, we’re now a dating culture. What’s more, the Pew Research Center points out that nearly four-in-ten survey respondents in the 2010 Census said they believed that marriage is becoming obsolete.

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Coming up Next!: The Weird Fun of Banned Books Week

It’s weirdly fun, on the cusp of Banned Books Week, to look at the titles of books that have been banned: Gone with the Wind; To Kill a Mockingbird; Beloved; The Great Gatsby; The Catcher in the Rye; and, of course, Ulysses.  And the bylines: The authors of the aforementioned, along with Voltaire and Defoe, Chaucer and Aristophanes, Rousseau and Paine, Pascal and Steinbeck and Hemingway and Faulkner and Twain.

Okay, “fun” may not be quite the right word (although Brave New World was banned as recently as 1980 for making “promiscuous” sex “look like fun”). But can’t you just see censorship committee members, one more sanctimonious than the next, poring over page after page to find a “filthy” word or an “indecent” scene? Oh, the outrage these men must suffer in their noble venture! The vicious arguments they must have over the subtle differences between “lewd” and “obscene”;  between “filthy” and “indecent”!  What a responsibility! And all to protect us from…..from what?  Alice Walker’s The Color Purple was banned for its “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history and sexual relations,” all of which troubling ideas are the reasons she wrote it.

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Who’s Sabotaging Teenage Girls?

     In any story, whether we read it or see it on film or in a store window, we have to know  who  is speaking. Whose voice is telling us what story? Whose point of view is it?  A  great  story at the moment, spoken by the Census, is about women’s increased  power. Women are  now the majority of the workforce; the majority of managers; the majority earners of  undergraduate and graduate degrees; the majority owners of wealth.

So, who is narrating the story of this photo in Victoria’s Secret window in Fairfield, Ct.?  (We added the type to illustrate where it might have been more appropriately shown) Odd  that the moment when women are powering ahead, storefronts and magazine covers  feature skinny young girls not only made  up to look like fashionable adults, but posing in a  way that clearly suggests  subjugation—as  does the girl above. Whose viewpoint is this, do  you think? Who’s telling girls about to inherit a legacy of unprecedented power that their  REAL power lies not in their education and their upcoming careers, but rather, in looking  like baby hookers,  pouting and bruised and with their arms up in their air as if in chains?  Are storeowners telling this story so they  can sell underwear? Perhaps. Photographers,  who want to make their mark? Maybe.

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Goodbye, Goddess!

A few years ago, I stuck my toe in the blogosphere by adopting an avatar: “The Love Goddess.”  Using her name, I’d  see if I liked blogging; plus, I’d be less radical and outspoken than I usually am, but still  help women cope with bad men, weird in-laws, resentful stepchildren, creepy online dating issues, all those relationship troubles and self – diminishing problems that fill my books and my office. The Connecticut artist Miggs Burroughs, one of the producers of my television show,  created the whimsical logo.  Steve Leedom, the talented and patient design and marketing man, and now a friend, helped me create a gorgeous, gentle site that appealed to viewers who might not want to spend the money to go to a therapist, maybe, but who could instead have access to one—me. The Love Goddess offered “the best advice in the universe.” And soon I was asked to blog on other larger, more high-profile sites—Wowowow.com, More.com, Hitched.com., Intent.com, to name a few. and I did so mostly as The Love Goddess. Too, I started a weekly TV show about relationships, The Love Goddess Show, in Connecticut.   

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Lucy Stone: A Place of Honor on National Women’s Equality Day

One day, when I was seventeen, I approached my father with questions about love,  like Why should a woman marry?  This confused him because he and my mother loved each other, their marriage was good, and their other daughter, my older sister, was already also happily married.

Nevertheless, I said..  Why? And what’s this “obey” business?  

We exchanged ideas. He was patient. “So: you want a Lucy Stoner marriage, is that it?” he said. Thankfully, since I didn’t know what a “Lucy Stoner marriage” was, he went on to tell me about his early brief marriage to a writer named Hagar Wilde that ended on friendly terms. “We had a Lucy Stoner Marriage,” he confided. They had lived in Greenwich Village, he told me, but she had insisted on a separate studio, one outside their home, for her work. (Hagar, by the way, wrote the famous screwball comedy with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, “Bringing Up Baby,” which I later decided was successful because she had a place of her own.) I hadn’t heard about his first marriage, of Hagar, or of a “Lucy Stoner marriage,” whatever that was, until then. He also told me that he and my mother did not have a Lucy Stoner marriage.

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Our Money, Our Selves

How come a woman reaches the age of sixty having accumulated one million dollars less than a man of the same age who has had the same job? As we approach National Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, I’m thinking of that startling, stubborn pay difference—our 77 cents to men’s dollar—and of what it takes to end it.

 One of women’s greatest quests is an internal one: a search for self-knowledge, self-authority, self-expansion, self-esteem. While this focus on “self” may sound idle—or, as the culture has long claimed, “selfish”–to those who see political activism as solely external, it’s clear to me that this quest is what will determine our monetary future. Only if each of us understands our own psyche, as well as the collective psyche of women over time, will we have mojo for change. The selfless woman, heralded still as being “good”, will never feel good enough inside herself to make a big difference outside.  In the words of the poet Adrienne Rich:

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“So, Georgia, Are Those Flowers Really Vaginas?”

In reading Deborah Solomon’s interesting review of the new book, “My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Steiglitz”in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, I was struck once again by how free literary and artistic men have historically felt to reveal themselves in all their egomaniacal splendor or horror (think Picasso, Hemingway, Styron, Faulkner, Keroac, to name a few) while literary and artistic women have kept silent about themselves (from Austen on).. Steiglitz, the famous photographer and gallery owner, wrote letters that Solomon says “read like an exercise in negative self-salesmanship,” endlessly revealing his hypochondriacal, egomaniacal, wounded self without inhibition to the woman he first hoped to and then did marry.  O’Keeffe, by contrast, throughout their friendship and later marriage “retained her armor of discretion,” Solomon says. She remained silent about her deepest self in these letters–just as she remained silent when critics asked whether those luscious flowers of hers depicted women’s sexual organs.

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The Coming Backlash

Okay, so Treasury Bonds are being grabbed; gold is being hoarded; God is being called upon like never before to save us all from chaos, as He was in Houston a few weeks ago, by tens of thousands of evangelical Christians. Many have written about the problem of harking back to our belief systems, and our superstitions, and our specific faiths , instead of using better means to solve problems, like clear thinking, open-mindedness, conciliation, and negotiation. (See Frank Bruni, “True Believers, All of Us, The New York Times, August 6, 2011.)

I worry particualarly about women, vulnerable now to similar magical-thinking-solutions. I’m hearing young women talk about finding a guy to marry—quickly. I’m hearing older women talk about the futility of trying to reinvent themselves and instead figuring they’ll just hang on for dear life. As with trying to solve the world’s problems with faith and belief systems, trying to stay safe through all the old conventional means is dangerous to our collective psyche. When the economy is tight, and when men get scared, certain things happen like clockwork: There’s more domestic violence. Women tend to retreat; to return to the home, if not literally, then figuratively, as if the homely virtues ever paid off. We imagine that things were so much better long ago.

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