Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Natalie Portman's relationship may or may not end now that she's a Best Actress Oscar-winner

Now that the best-dressed lists have been assembled (Cate Blanchett in my book), awards pool winners decided (never vote what should win, always vote what will), and most clever food puns awarded (my Baked Jeff Brie-dges took the top prize!) there's only one Oscar-related category left to wager - how soon before the Best Actress Winner gets divorced?

Or in this case of this year's winner Natalie Portman, how soon before she and Benjamin Millepied (baby daddy slash new fiance - in that order...) call it quits?

I was asked to cover the topic for AOL's new lifestyle vertical MyDaily. Here are my thoughts.

It's become a well-publicized fact that the former winners for Best Actress have a curiously high rate of ending their relationships in the few years following their win. Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt called it quits after her 2001 win for Erin Brocovich. The very next year Halle Berry and Eric Benet divorced after she won for Monster's Ball. In '05 it was Hillary Swank ended her 13-year marriage to Chad Lowe one year after collecting the award for Million Dollar Baby then Reese Witherspoon split with Ryan Phillippe after her Walk The Line success. And of course the one America still shutters at the thought of - Sandra Bullock's whip-lash fall from Awards' Season sweetheart to scorned wife of the philandering Jesse James.

How could a trend that consistent possibly be a coincidence?

According the rag mags, the Best Actress Curse is a classic case of men who can't stand a career spent on the arm of someone infinitely more successful. It's true that in all the examples above the men were far out-shined by their winning women. But in my opinion (full disclore: that of a non-Oscar-winning non actress who's only six month into life in L.A.) - there are far more what-went-wrong options than just that:

She's after power couple status

There's Brangelina-level power couple-dom, and there's everything else. And with that level of combined star power comes a world of opportunity and access that's the goal of every fame monger. So if you're a Best Actress winner looking to maintain your reign you need a man with just as much star power at your side. In that case the Ryan Phillippe's and Chad Lowe's of the world just aren't enough leading a actresses caught up in the fame game to either end it or inspire the man to do the dirty work.

He didn't bargain for the A-list life

Not to be confused with the "his confidence can't handle being the B-lister in an A-list life. Winning the Academy Award for best actress catapults a star and her a career to a place you cannot prepare to go no matter how close you are to the Hollywood machine. The control an A-list actress has over her personal life changes after that win, and with that so do family priorities, relationship nurturing, and a whole host of things we normal folk will never understand. It is entirely possible that even the most understanding man - even a man who's spent his whole life around the movie business - could experience what it means to be married to someone on top and decide that life is not for him. In this case it's not her fault nor is it his - the downfall of their relationship is just a product of one person reaching the top.

She's "advised" against him

One of the most fascinating things about Hollywood is the hundreds of puppet masters who make this crazy world go 'round. From rumors as big as the fact that Katie Holmes' and Tom Cruises' relationship is just a contract set up by both their "people" to things as simple as an actresses' publicist making it clear that her marriage is hurting not helping her image. Unlike the actress in the first scenario - the one after power-couple status - this actress has given the people managing her career too much influence over her decisions. She's lost control to the point where she can't trust herself to make her own decisions.

It's just a numbers game

It's not that Best Actress winners get divorced in conspicuously high numbers it's that all actresses get divorced in numbers that make most people steer clear of LaLa Land. The Academy Award-winners are just a coincidental sub-set of a bigger trend. That trend very well may be tied to all the issues above, but the Oscar curse is actually just an Actress curse with a made-for-media-attention twist.

He really can't handle being less successful

Or maybe it is just that Benjamin Bratt couldn't handle playing second fiddle to Julia Roberts. Maybe Jesse cheated on Sandra because her success drove his confidence so low that he went elsewhere for attention. Much of Hollywood is insecure narcissists who live and die by their page count in People and number rank in the annual Hollywood Top 40. Maybe the men who deflate our beloved Best Actresses with a post-win divorce just can't handle being the duller star of the set.

Whichever theory is at the root of this unfortunate coincidence I hope Natalie and Ben can prove it wrong. Maybe the trick is that if the actress is engaged but not married, has a baby well on the way and is under the age of 30 the curse doesn't hold?

Only TMZ will tell...

Friday, February 25, 2011

What would happen if you actually said, "sorry, I won't share a bed with you until we're in a committed relationship."

I was thinking about Patti's no-sharing-a-bed-until-you're-in-a-committed-relationship policy the other day.

That's "Patti" as in Patti Stanger of Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker who famously demands that her "matches" do not engage in any hooking up before committing to a monogamous relationship. Kissing, touching, light-to-heavy petting is fine. But anything more is out, including sleep overs of any kind.

Full disclosure - I'm of the belief that if your safety, personal comfort and moral boundaries remain in tact, there is nothing "wrong" with hooking-up before the relationship has been deemed a relationship. Things happen, people lie, mistakes are made, and even beyond those negative things, many people are simply comfortable engaging in sexual acts (as innocent as 1st base and advanced as home plate) outside of a relationship. But if you aren't, and the idea of sharing a bed with someone - regardless of what happens - is not something you want to do before you're secure in the relationship, what do you do?

The very simple answer is - you say no.

But then what happens?

If you really did make it a policy to not hook-up until the guy/girl committed to a monogamous relationship? How would the person you're pitching the policy to respond?

The way I see it there are three options:
  • The person in question would stop talking to you - I think you can string a person along for a few dates before the proposition of a hook-up rears, but at a certain point you're going to have to share your policy, and I believe there's a possibility many people will say, "cool, later." In many circumstances that would be because they were only after one thing in the first place, but it very well could be that the person takes your stance on the physical aspects of relationships as a sign that you're on different pages regarding sexuality and personal comfort. They do want to be in a relationship, and perhaps with you, but they're turned off by the barrier you've assigned.
  • The person in question would "commit" to a relationship in order to hook-up -I can't decide how likely this would be... On the one hand, if you really like someone who ascribes to the Patti Stanger rule then agreeing to be monogamous isn't such a big deal; you'd get there soon enough anyway. But would some people just lie for the sake of the hook-up? I don't know... I feel like there are enough fish in the sea, so-to-speak, that there's no sense in lying just to get some action. Then again, much crueler things have happened.
  • The person in question will patiently wait until you both agree to be in a committed, monogamous relationship - I don't think this is as unlikely as you're probably thinking. While my social world isn't generally not on Patti's page, we can't forget that many, many people at many stages and ages are more conservative about their approach to dating and protective of the number and nature of their hook-ups. That said, there is a very big valley between being careful and calculating about the people you share yourself with (whether it's sex or a fully-clothed sleep-over) and establishing a blanket policy for all situations.
What am I missing? What am I describing differently than it might really go down? And - most importantly - what do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Makes or Breaks Your Relationship - according to 720,000 people

So this is interesting.

eHarmony - makers of ridiculous commercials and the successful matches that inspire them - has come out with a new study about what makes or breaks a relationship.

The results come from questions that service asks during their "Guided Communication process" - online daters as asked to share their relationship "must-haves" and "can't stands" with their matches. They analyzed what more than 720,000 eHarmony members selected from a list of 50 options and put them together in what I think is a rather well-designed chart (power point junkie).

Click here to read at full-size, but I've pasted those very fancy charts below and included my thoughts below that.The "Can't Stand" List
  • Top three are exactly the same for both men and women - #1: Lying, #2: Cheating, #3: Rude. I was pleased to see this because it is smart and makes sense. That said it does not explain why so many lying, cheating, assholes are in relationships.
  • Men are more concerned with poor hygiene than infidelity. Literally. It's the #4 thing man "can't stand" - directly under Liars, Cheaters, and people who are Rude. #4: Poor Hygiene followed by "Mean Spirited" and then finally, "Infidelity." Survey results are always tricky to understand, but it seems pretty clear that if you are a dirty woman you are not going to fare well.
  • On the other hand, if you are a dirty man - you'll be fine. Poor Hygiene ranks #7 on the list of things women can't stand. Frankly I just think that's because it's a. expected and b. something you can change once you live with the guy. Lying and Cheating is not.
  • Women are more concerned about "Anger" than men - (#5 for women vs. #8 for men) but the description for anger ("I can't stand someone who can't control their anger, who yells or bottles it up inside is") is confusing. There is a big difference between someone who yells and someone who bottles it up inside, and I'd be far more inclined to "can't stand" one of those...
  • "Excessive Overweight" makes the list of things men can't stand but doesn't show up for women. "Racist" makes the women's list, but not the men's. Again, survey results are survey results, but this reads like a man prefers a racist woman to a heavy woman, and a woman prefers the opposite. Interesting.
The "Must Haves" List
  • In this department the top four are the same! #1: Sense of Humor, #2: Chemstry, #3: Affectionate, #4: Communicator. I'm not shocked by #1 or #1, but the fact that men ranked affection and communication so high was pleasantly surprising.
  • "Loyal" and "Emotionally Healthy" were flipped for #5 and #6 with men choosing "Loyal" first and women, "Emotionally Healthy." That makes sense though you'd think loyal would rank even higher based on the fact that "Liar" and "Cheater" are the top two "can't stands."
  • "Responsible" makes the women's list (at #8), but it's no where to be found on the men's. I can't decide if this is because men don't think women are responsible or if it's because men don't need/want women to be responsible. I asked a few men who said they'd never thought about it before but wouldn't pick it off a list of "must have's" - makes sense.
  • This is my favorite. "Patience" shows up on the guy side but not on the girl side. I'm going to assume this is because men want/need women to be patient with them - re: nag less.
  • And in an odd twist - "Family Life" is something women must have, but not something that registers for men. The description is, "must have a partner who is committed to marriage, home and family." I don't think we can assume that men are unilaterally less interested in marriage, home and family (or can we?), so maybe it's just that it's expected of a woman to have those interests making it something a man doesn't consider a "must have" worth listing? And, I hate to say this, but I'm surprised at how low it is on the female list (#9).
Part of me wants to get inside the eHarmony system so I can take this survey myself because results like these are always far more specific to the moment than the entire person. But all-in-all, I find them fairly accurate. What do you think?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Regarding the "I'm single" lie of omission

There are white lies, there are lie, lies, and there are lies of omission.

I know this because I was one of those little girls who had a little problem with lying. It's like once I found out you could say things that weren't true and not get struck by lightening (a thing I didn't quite understand as it was), there was no stopping me. In a classic Rosen Family story I ate the entire center out of a loaf of Italian bread via a tiny whole I bore with my baby carrot-sized fingers, blamed it on my four-year-old little sister and then, crippled by the guilt of getting her punished, kidnapped her from the time-out chair, convinced her to lie and say she covered up for me on purpose because she felt bad, and got us both taken out of dance class for two weeks. To this day I believe that punishment is what stood between me and a role in the 2000 blockbuster CENTER STAGE.

So, I know a thing or two about lying, which is why I feel qualified to answer last week's reader e-mail about a confusing situation.

To paraphrase, this reader recently met a man with whom she has become friends. They are both away from home for a period of time and have found friendship in their shared experience. In the several weeks they've known each other, much as been shared. This reader wondered, based on their interactions, if there might be something growing between them...

Until her curiosity took her to his Facebook page where she discovered that he's been in a relationship for over a year.

Oh yes he did.

Is it possible that you fail to mention that you're in a relationship the first time you meet someone? Absolutely. The second time? Fine. But to develop a friendship with someone of the opposite sex (if that's your sexual persuasion) over several weeks and never mention that you have a girlfriend is fishy. I'm not going to be so bold as to say, "wrong," because who knows what the circumstances of that relationship are, but it is by every understanding of the term, a lie of omission.

I believe this reader was deliberately mislead, and I believe she has the right to say, "hey buddy, I was tooling around Facebook and noticed that you're in a relationship. You never mentioned that." (though the thought of having to say that to someone is admittedly terrifying).

But her situation does beg the question of when not telling becomes a lie. One time? Two times? Three?

In my mind it's a combination of time plus nature of conversation. Case in point: I briefly dated a guy who was divorced. He did not inform me of this for the first several weeks of dating. On one occasion while in his apartment, I questioned his lack of furniture.
  • "Oh, I had to get rid of some of it," he said.
  • "My wife took her half in the divorce," he meant.
On another occasion I asked this guy if he had a serious girlfriend in college.
  • "Yes, I had one."
  • "And then I married her," he left out.
"It didn't come up..." he might have told someone who asked, "how is it possible you haven't told Jessie that you're divorced in over a month?!" When in reality, it didn't come up because he made it not come up.

But a divorce is one thing, a current relationship is absolutely another. To the person who says, "it didn't come up" after even four instances of spending time with another person (note: specifically of the opposite sex) I say, "well then you must not like your girlfriend very much." To have zero stories, examples, reference points or reasons to bring up a girlfriend after that much time means she is so small a part of your life that she doesn't naturally come up in dozens of conversations, ooorrrr she doesn't come up on purpose.

I went to an awesome restaurant the other night. When I recount that story to someone I could absolutely say, "I went to an awesome restaurant the other night," which would be entirely true. Or I could say, "My boyfriend and I went to an awesome restaurant the other night," which would be more true.

I am as sensitive as the next previously perma-single girl about dropping the "um, I have a boyfriend" line obnoxiously early:
  • "Hey, I'm Bill."
  • "Hey Bill, I'm Jessie, but I have a boyfriend."
But now I am equally as sensitive about dropping it too late, which is what happened in the case of this reader and her new friend.

Why he hasn't said anything is a mystery I can't solve, but the fact that he has not said something on purpose is certain. As far as I'm concerned.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More details in last week's sleep over mystery

"I'm sure it was just a circumstantial thing," I told my friend as we hashed out last week's sleep-over denial story. "You'll have much more clarity if you guys hang out again."

Famous last words.

Long story short, it happened again. Or, rather, it didn't happen again. Here is the new set of details. Get your over-thinking caps on!
  • My friend invites guy to her neck of the woods on Friday night. This is one week after the previous non-sleep-over date. They had been talking throughout the week.
  • My friend's neck of the woods is approx 20 minutes by car/cab from guy's apartment. Guy has a car but chooses to take public transportation.
  • They go out, get a bite, have a reasonable amount of drinks, then go back to my friend's apartment.
  • Hooking up ensues to the same degree that it did last time. I now think it's important to mention that hooking up does not include sex, and that neither party is pressing the issue on that. As in, he's not requesting it or pushing things to that place, and my friend is following his lead.
  • At approx. 12:30 guy starts in on the, "so I have to get up really early tomorrow..." lines. Which, in fairness, may not be lines but actual facts. He has a 7:30am gym training session.
  • My friend lightly protests, saying he's welcome to stay, she'd really like for him to, and a 7:30 am Saturday gym session is ridiculous.
  • Guy is not waffling about this situation. He's planned to leave, he wants to leave, and he intends to leave.
  • In an effort to not kiss and run, guy suggests they chat for a little longer before he goes. They do so, and he finally leaves at approx. 1:00am
  • Because guy did not drive and it is beyond the time that public transportation is running, he has to take a $30 cab home.
And with more detail comes less clarity.

Before I thought it boiled down to one of, what was it? five possible explanations? Now I think the list has grown. Here's my list of could-be's after instance number two:

1. He has some form of strange medical/physical/emotional issue that he does not want to reveal slash have it reveal itself. I can't really list out what those could be, but I'm sure they exist, and we can't deny this guy that option.
  • Buuut, given the fact that they are already physical, it would be surprising if this hadn't revealed itself already. Unless it's something related to something he does in his sleep, which could be pretty bad, so let's keep this as a valid option.
2. He is only interested in sleeping over if there is a chance that he could have sex and, knowing that it's not going to happen, he figures there's no sense in sleeping over.
  • The cynic's assessment, but an option. The reason I don't think this is the reason is because it has been explained to me that has not and is not forcing the sex issue.
3. He views the sleep-over move as something that signifies a more serious step in a dating relationship than he wants to take.
  • So in this guy's mind sleeping over = real dating behavior. It's a big step toward something more serious than the light dating/hooking up they've been doing. One sleep over and my friend is going to start calling more and expecting things and viewing what they have going on through a more serious light. I think there's a strong possibility that this is what's going on, as does my friend. It may be worth noting that my friend intends for this situation to remain very casual, which could ease guy's concerns (if that is in fact his concern), but he doesn't know that's her position on the matter, so my theory still stands.
4. He doesn't believe people should sleep over after this few dates.
  • Like, he thinks 3-4 dates is still too few to stay over based on his comfort level, beliefs, morals, what-have-you. Yes, I realize this is 2011, he's over the age of 25, and the societal norm is for this guy to be perfectly happy to sleep whenever someone is inviting. I'm saying, what if this guy is just way more traditional than the average 20-something and stands by his personal comfort level/rules?

5. He has a girlfriend and sleeping over poses either a greater risk of getting caught or makes him feel really guilty.
  • Maybe, but my friend met him online so if he's willing to put his picture on the Internet sleeping over can't be beyond him.
I honestly don't know, but if it happens again I'd personally launch into a, "so, is there a reason you're avoiding the sleep-over?" conversation.

What do you think? And, maybe more importantly, what would you do?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The long overdue story of how R and I met.

  • "I'm not trying to hide you from the Internet. It's just that my blog isn't about every detail of my romantic life. I'm a very private person!"
  • "Fine. All I'm trying to say is that I think the people want more R, Jess."
And so, in a spirit of today is Valentine's Day, here it finally is - the story of how I met R - whose name is Robby, but I think we'll stick with R.

Sometime last April I received an unexpected Facebook message from a college friend who I'd kept in loose contact with over the years since graduation. She's a fantastic girl, and our friend groups were always intertwined, but I was surprised to read what the message said:

Listen, I'm not sure if you're seeing anyone, or if you want to be, and I'm sorry if this is a little bold of me, but I have this friend in L.A. that I think you'd really like, so let me know the next time you're on the west coast for work and I'll introduce you two. Who knows, could make for a fun cross-country romance.

There are people you expect to set you up - a family member, a roommate, a co-worker - and people you don't. It's not that I didn't think this friend could identify a good guy for me, I just didn't think I was on her radar of people to yenta.

And apparently, the way she explained it, I wasn't. "I don't know how it popped into my head," she told me months after," I had just seen him, and then I was reading your blog, and it just clicked." (In her honor I've since committed to spending less time thinking of outfits and more time thinking of others.)

At the time I lived in New York (as did this friend) but was making trips to L.A. for work, but this friend didn't know that. She also didn't know that I was very seriously considering moving to L.A. and had already begun the process of finding work out there (here). And she had no idea that I was planning my next trip when she sent the message, that it would be in less than a month and that she would also be in L.A. that same week. It was too many coincidences for even a cynic to ignore.

It wasn't until months after we met that I found out my friend had barely mentioned me to R before I joined them for a drink in L.A. at The Darkroom. I assumed he'd been prepped to turn on the charm and make a good impression.
  • "I didn't know anything about you," R later told me, "Why? Did you know a lot about me?"
  • "Well, only what I could get off a minimally invasive Facebook stalk and fairly dead-end Google search."
  • "You Googled me? Ha. That's so cool."
Apparently all my friend had said to R was, "there's going to be this girl Jessie there who you might like." Which was smart because I then realized his behavior toward me was genuine. (Something to think about when setting people up in the future.)

In hindsight it's too easy to say that we hit it off right away, so I'll just say that I was immediately drawn to him and we spent the rest of the night talking about all those first-date things that you forget immediately and have to awkwardly re-learn throughout the relationship. We were there for three, maybe four hours? And yes, there was kissing.
  • "And you have to tell them about the juke box."
  • "What about it?"
  • "About how we went to the juke box and picked songs together and that's when we really knew we liked each other."
  • "I'm not going to tell them that! That's sooo cheesy."
  • "No it's not, it's romantic. Just tell them. They'll love it."
Please see above (blush).

That was the first night of my week-long trip to L.A. R made a point to take me out on a proper date another night that week, and things went just as well as they had the night we met.

But again, at the time I lived in New York, so my thoughts of what could become of this were minimal. I didn't know which end was up at the time, and truly the last thing on my mind was starting a long-distance relationship after 1.5 dates.
  • "Yeah but I knew it would work out eventually."
  • "What?! How could you have known? We barely knew each other."
  • "I had a good feeling about it."
It was that bizarre yet quiet confidence that I was so attracted to as we got to know each other over phone calls, e-mails, and games of Scrabulous. We didn't have the chance to get drunk and make stupid early-on dating mistakes. There wasn't the awkwardness of having to manage the hooking up versus really dating thing. We just slowly got to know each other.

R's family is from NJ/NY so he came East for the 4th of July and we fit in a NYC date. I went back to L.A. in August to make more progress on my potential move and we saw more of each other then.
  • "You forgot the part about the flowers."
  • "I'm not including that on purpose."
  • "Jess! Come on. That was my best move!"
And on that in August trip R surprised me with the wildly impressive move of arranging for an insane bouquet of flowers to be waiting for me in the hotel where I was staying. Note included. I may or may not have a picture of them on my cell phone, whiiich I sent to not-so-short list of people...

R came east again for an annual high school reunion that happened to fall on the week of my birthday, so he was there for the celebration. And by then, I'd decided to move to L.A.

Now here's the part that R does not enjoy.

I did not intend to move to L.A. with a boyfriend. I was going through a major, major life change that had me in a total tailspin. I'd just left my entire family three thousand miles away. I was switching careers from something stable to something totally unknown. And, and this is his least favorite part, I was planning to play the L.A. field. I write a blog about it for crying out loud, how could I move to a brand new city and totally check myself out of the dating game?

I didn't put R on the back burner when I got to town, but I was very careful about the amount of time we were spending together those first few weeks. I am a commitment-phobe with a dangerously fierce sense of independence. I wasn't about to let a guy define my great, L.A. adventure.
  • "I knew what was up."
  • "You did not! I had you shaking in your boots."
  • "Nah. I told you. I knew it would be fine."
The rest is a strangely uncomplicated story for a girl who specializes in complicated stories. I loved being with him, he seemed to love being with me, and so we kept making plans, going on dates, and introducing each other to our individual groups of friends. I tried to keep the level of time spent together reasonable, but it got to the point where it felt ridiculous to deny something that felt more right than any dating situation had before.
  • "That's because I mastered the slow play."
  • "Does that involve wearing your heart on your sleeve and building all my IKEA furniture."
  • "Allll part of it, Jess."
We made it official in early October, the night of my housewarming party.
  • "I think you just tricked me into being your girlfriend."
  • "SSsshhhh, let's just savor the moment."
The rest is still a very brief history that I am not embarrassed to call among the greatest surprises of my life. I'll spare you the details of what makes what we have work, but I will say that a big part of it is how hard we're both trying to take care of each other and how little effort it actually takes.
  • "Do you know what I really thought when I was trying to figure out what to do about you?" I said to R the other day.
  • "That you'd never find someone this funny?"
  • "Still no. I thought, if I don't give this a go then someone else might get him, and I'm not willing to take that risk."
  • "Wow. Look at you."
  • "I know. I've come a long way haven't I?"
  • "Yeah, but I told you it would work out from the beginning."
  • "How were you so sure?!?"
  • "I don't know. I just was."
And there you have it.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. Spend it celebrating people you love, no matter what their title is in your life. I'll be spending mine being grateful that I got out of my own way and into something wonderful.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What to make of being denied the sleep-over

I am very sad to report that the "off the record" function on the gchat machine works. The minute you X-out the chat it goes into some Internet black hole, never to be found again.
  • "Isn't there a way to search and retrieve it?" I asked my friend, "The people at Google must have this figured out."
  • "I think the whole point is that you can't," she said, "That's what they figured out.
And so a hysterical, 20-minute chat has to be reduced to a bullet point paraphrase of our conversation about a night in the dating life. I'll do my best.

  • My friend (MF) embarks on the third date with a guy (G) she's been seeing for about two weeks. The dates have been good and frequent thus far, as has the communication.
  • MF lives in a suburb of a city. G lives in the city. It is approx 45 minutes by public transport and 25 minutes by cab/car from one apartment to the next.
  • All three dates thus far have been close to G's apartment or midway between the two apartments. In defense of G, he lives in a lively, bar-laden part of the city. MF does not.
  • Date three begins at 8pm and by 11pm they are back at G's place having another drink and doing one of those things we do to kill an appropriate amount of time before hooking up (my favorite of which is to watch random youtube videos - "OMG have you seen Cat with Printer?! You HAVE to see it!! Hold on. I'll find it."
  • Total drinks consumed to that point equal between 4 and 6.
  • Hooking up occurs for the next 45 minutes or so bringing the time to about 12:15. I can't decide how relevant this is, but MF was clear that both parties were equal participants in the hook up and agreed on how far it would go. And it was mutually enjoyed by both.
  • I'm pretty sure it's relevant that G and MF engaged in said activity on the apartment couch, not in the bedroom. I could be wrong, but I'd be surprised.
  • After the post-hook up cuddle session G says, "So, what time does your train run until?" promptly setting MF on a course of confusion. "My train?" she thought-and-probably-said, "Oh, I'll just take a cab?..."
  • Cuddling continued for 15 maybe 20 minutes until it was close to 1am. "Well, I guess I should get a cab?" MF said with - she admits - a twinge of what could be described as pouting. "Okay. Let me walk you out to get one," G said - an act of chivalry that confused MF even more.
  • And then he got his coat on, walked her to the corner, and waited with her until she hailed a cab.
  • Texting and communication has continued between them since.
My initial reaction: WTF?! What kind of guy makes a girl take a cab at 1am in the freeeezing cold. Granted it was 1am, not 3am, and he walked her to the corner versus waving bye at the door, but still. If all was going well, why wouldn't he want her to just stay over? More potential for something more to happen (wink) and points in the chivalry department, right?
  • "Listen, I'm with you," MF said, "but what do you think it could be, if you had to guess?"
Guessing is among my favorite things to do. Usually I like to guess just one option and refer to it as knowing, but for the sake of MF's question, I'll explore all possible scenarios. So, if I had to guess, these are the options I'd come up with. No offense at all is meant to MF.
  • G doesn't really like MF that much or isn't quite sure how much he likes her and didn't want her to spend the night as a result.
  • There is something up with G's bedroom that he's embarrassed about, uncomfortable with, whatever, and he doesn't want MF to stay because she'll see that.
  • G has a strict policy against girls of any kind spending the night at this point in a relationship
  • G thinks MF doesn't want to stay based on some unknown information, so he's trying to be chivalrous and not push the issue
Honestly, I think it's option 3 - G has a policy against girls staying over. This is based on a few more details MF shared regarding things he's expressed being a little conservative about and his dating history (which is slight).

But the devil-on-my-shoulder just keeps saying, "Guys want girls in their apartment and, ideally, in their bed. They don't care if it's messy. They don't care if it's awkward. They just want girl in position to allow for more hooking up to happen, ESPECIALLY if there is drinking involved."

So, what do you think? And how unfair is the devil-on-my-shoulder being to the general male population?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dating terms defined: "self-preservation"

I heard it three different times in three different ways over the course of a single week.
  • "I'm starting to like him a lot, I know I need to take it slow. You know...self-preservation..."
  • "If he ever texts me back, fine, but I'm not contacting him again. At a certain point it becomes self-preservation time."
  • "My whole focus with this OKCupid thing is self-preservation."
A noun in all circumstances (right?), but used in three different scenarios for three very different people. The first: a gay man in the first few weeks of dating someone new; the second a straight, female seasoned in the dating department; and the third a straight female venturing into the online dating pool. All are highly intelligent people with a strong command over English (and in one case Spanish) vocab, and yet I think they may mean three very different things.

I decided the easiest way to start the decoding process would be to take out the term self-preservation in each of their sentences and replace it with other words that attempt to provide a clearer meaning. And for these incredible detective skills I'd like to thank the producers of the robbed-from-critical-acclaim CTW program, GHOST WRITER (in which I may or may not have appeared as Extra #32 in episode #19).

Example #1.
  • "I'm starting to like him a lot, I know I need to take it slow. You know...protect yourself..."
  • "I'm starting to like him a lot, I know I need to take it slow. You know...cover your ass..."
(Not that many options for this one).

Example #2
  • "If he ever texts me back, fine, but I'm not contacting him again. At a certain point it becomes 'fool me once...' time."
  • "If he ever texts me back, fine, but I'm not contacting him again. At a certain point it becomes 'me' time."
  • "If he ever texts me back, fine, but I'm not contacting him again. At a certain point it becomes save your dignity time."
(Better, but not great.)

Example #3
  • "My whole focus with this online dating thing is protecting myself."
  • "My whole focus with this online dating thing is to not get hurt."
  • "My whole focus with this online dating thing is maintaining my sense of self."
(I don't know. Those sort of all feel the same).

So we've determined that self-preservation means covering your ass, protecting yourself, and maintaining your dignity. In essence, doing whatever it takes to get the least amount of hurt. It is the way many slash most of us go about our dating lives. We do not wear our hearts on our sleeves, we do not take massive leaps of faith, we do not let people walk all over us. We are - of course - concerned with taking the necessary steps toward finding the right person, but when those steps start to jeopardize persona numero uno, we run a strong defense.

Phrase: defined. Proper usage: I'm afraid that part is somewhat confused. See there are times when it's appropriate to run the self-preservation play and there are times when that self-defense spirit is preventing the game from being played at all. In short, you can preserve yourself too much. Here are my thoughts and examples on the matter:
  • Keeping your online dating profile as bland and simple as possible in an effort to keep your full personality under wraps so you don't get rejected by too many guys: INCORRECT
  • Leaving off the fact that you're looking to be married within two years, can't stand sports of any kind and are completely married to your work: CORRECT
  • Not contacting someone again after you've left the contact ball in their court following a first or second date: CORRECT
  • Waiting at least three hours to return text from someone following a first or second date sos to not seem to eager: INCORRECT
  • Gathering your five closest friends for a brunch to discuss the tactics by which you will get the new person you're dating to marry you within two years: INCORRECT
  • Telling just a few people about the new person you're dating because it's just too embarrassing to tell them all it didn't work out if slash when it doesn't: CORRECT
Having tested out each and one of these examples over the course of my own dating adventures, I can tell you that the corresponding advice is accurate.

So preserve yourself, by all means. No one knows you better, and no one has your best interests more in mind. But when that word that could replace self-preservation in your dating scenario sentence could be, wearing a metal shield; making myself completely unavailable; or playing very confusing games - things shift from self-preservation to self-prevention. And that's not a hyphenated compound word that'll serve you well in the dating world.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Who-Keeps-The-Ring Conundrum

if it's this one the answer is no one. eek!

A few weeks ago my co-workers and I got involved in a heated debate over the issue of who "owns" the engagement after a failed engagement. It's worth mentioning that my co-workers are five, mostly-married men.

I was championing a very specific position - well positions - relative to who did the breaking up, who did the proposing, and if the ring was a family heirloom. One among my co-workers was very ardently championing another - as in so ardently that the words, "I'd sue for theft," came out of his mouth, and then he called his lawyer on speaker so we could all hear whether or not he'd have a case - hypothetically speaking of course. This, apparently, is the way you settle a debate in L.A. Whomever's assistant is within shouting reach gets that executive's lawyer on the phone and tells him, "no, it can't wait" or, "he needs 5" (this means minutes). It's really something to behold.

I want to make very clear that I do not know the real answer to this question and do not have a lawyer to call and ask. My position on the issue of who gets the ring is based on who I believe deserves the ring. There may be a legal answer. There may be a better, moral answer. This is just my answer making it meaningless unless you intend to propose to me and then eventually break off the engagement. Which, if that's your intention, how dare you read this blog!

Okay - Scenario #1. Man proposes, man breaks off engagement, however both man and woman agree that the engagement is best broken.

So it's as "mutual break up" as the situation can get (though as I've said, I don't believe there's such thing as a mutual break up. Someone always has the idea first, and wants it more). I leave the decision around who gets the ring up to this seemingly rational couple. It was a gift to the woman, so maybe the man lets her keep it as a, "sorry this didn't work out." It was an incredible expensive gift, so maybe the woman gives it back as a, "let's just call this a wash." Or maybe these two are so into the whole mutual nature of the un-arrangement that they pawn the ring and split the money? Seems unlikely, but I'm sure stranger things have happened.

Scenario #2. Man proposes, man breaks off engagement, woman is shocked/heartbroken/confused.Sorry but the ring remains in the court of that poor girl. This may be wildly unpopular (like it most certainly was in my office of five men), but you don't break a girl's heart and then ask for the ring back. Bad, bad form - especially if the reason for ending the engagement has anything to do with another woman. "But what's she going to do with it?!" you ask? I don't know. Sell it and keep the money? Toss it over a bridge? Poke holes in the Voodoo doll of you? Whatever she wants. You took the best years of her life, she can take your 5-20K (Dramatic, yes, but I'm guessing I'd have an even more dramatic line if this had happened to me).

I think it's important to note that many women in this situation might give the ring back in a spirit of not wanting to have anything to do with this man for the rest of their lives. That miiight be what I'd do. It would depend on how angry I was, aaaand how much the ring was worth.

Scenario #3. Scenarios 1 or 2 occur but the ring in question is an heirloom of the man's family.

This pains me to say in the case of Scenario #2, but you've gotta give that ring back. The ring and that man are only connected in the sense that he got it for free from someone in his family. It's not his, and unfortunately it's not yours. Out of deference to people both older and god-willingly wiser than him, you should give it back. Unless of course you're involved in a very bizarre scenario in which the reason said man is calling it off is because his mother is making him. In that case, you keep that ring, melt it down, and make something amazing with it. Don't be shocked if legal action is taken against you though, according to one, L.A.-based entertainment lawyer.

Scenario #4. Woman says yes to proposal, then breaks off engagement.

There is no world in which it is ok to keep the ring if this is your situation. Even if the man, in a hopeless attempt to make you re-love him, says it's okay. It's not okay.

Scenario #5. Woman says yes to proposal, then breaks off engagement upon finding that man wronged her in any TBD number of ways (lying, cheating being popular examples)See Scenario #2.

In my mind those are all the general scenarios. I've left out instances where the couple paid for the ring together (too complicated), someone lies about the reason for breaking off the engagement (which is likely...), and/or someone refuses to give it back (in which case you're probably going to need an assistant to get a lawyer on the phone).

Thoughts? Arguments? Legal precedent? Or (gulp) experiences?...