Thursday, March 31, 2011

The fear and affection connection.

I have a very short list of very grave fears:
  • being held at gunpoint and/or witnessing someone else being held at gunpoint
  • being forced to watch an open mouth tooth brusher brush their teeth in front of me
  • never fulfilling my life-long dream to be a full-time writer
  • and throwing up
Most people dislike throwing up. Some people really hate throwing up. I am downright afraid of it. I have recurring nightmares about doing it. In a game of "Would you Rather" there is an insane list of items I'd "rather". Like, I think I'm going to somehow forget to do it, do it wrong, and die.

When I was a little girl and one of my sisters got a stomach virus I would have to be shipped off to stay with my grandparents because I'd freak out to the point of total tantrum. I can, with very little thinking, tell you exactly how many times I've thrown up, where each instance happened, and why.

So you can imagine my level of panic when around 2pm this past Monday in the middle of a full team brainstorm I started to feel that funky feeling. It bears mentioning that I am the only woman on a team of seven men. Also, I carpooled with R to work that day so I was stranded at my office, totally reliant upon him to pick me up in the event of disaster. Oh, and I'd eaten a massive meal the night before. Nailed it.

Now because I am so deathly afraid of throwing up, I'm also very adept at preventing it from happening. There are times when you simply cannot will yourself out of puking, but in many instances it can be avoided by sheer mental force and a sort of Lamaze-style breathing process.

Luckily this was one of those times. Yes, I had what could not be mistaken for a nasty stomach bug, but as of 3pm on Monday it was limited to stomach bug activities outside of vomiting thanks to my jedi anti-vomiting mind games. I deep-breathed my way out of the vom-zone, 911'ed R at his office, and traveled home with plastic baggie in hand, window open.

Now here's where this post takes the turn from me looking like a psycho to me looking like an asshole.

As I sad there in R's car, him tenderly holding my hand and telling me it was all going to be alright, the thought that kept creeping into my one-track mind was, "what if R catches this bug and isn't strong enough to resist the vom?? I might be around him when he voms and that will surely be the end of us!! plus his attitude about vom-ing in general will only foreshadow all the future vomit-related activities in our unforeseen future together!!!! He cannot get sick. Cannot! But, if he does, I cannot in by any circumstances be around it!! CanNOT"

There is an ounce of compassion in there. It's just hiding under wildly selfish neurosis.

After 6 whole days I was sure we were in the clear. I was better. R remained fine, and life went on with my throw-up number safely where it has been since I drank 16 Cold Ass Bears at Wildwood BBQ in NYC and threw up in the stall of my then office at 1:30pm the next day.

And then came day 7 - one full week after my own 24-hours of hell. R caught the bug.

I should mention that this was not my first experience with R and the act of throwing up. Early on in our relationship he had a terrible flu that included several vom sessions. I was, in fact, at his apartment just moments prior to one of those sessions, but R insisted I take a walk around the block because of his, "bombastic" vomiting technique. I did the equivalent of pretending I'm actually going to pay for half the check when the menu comes. "Nooo, pleeaaseee. It's fiiiine. I'll stay right here. I can handle it." Then he protested once more, and I ran out the door.

See, R is not afraid of vomiting. I would actually go so far as to say he enjoys it. He's one of those people who can talk himself into throwing up when he doesn't feel well just to get all the yuck out of his system. "You've gotta Jess," he told me when I was feeling sick seven days prior, "You'll feel so much better."

I know. It's borderline more outrageous than my trying to date a Republican.

So it becomes clear just after we get back to his place following a decadent dinner with his aunt and uncle that R is indeed sick and inevitably going to toss his cookies. And by toss I mean hurl them out with a fury that is animal in nature.

Now here's where I redeem myself while finally proving the point of this post.

While there was a little selfish devil on the far corner of my shoulder saying, "run Jessie, run! Get out while you can! Not only will you have to witness R vomiting but you could re-catch a more violent strain of this same bug and end up on the bathroom floor yourself!!" what came out of my mouth was some crazy shit along the lines of, "do you want me to come in with you?" and, "I won't leave until I'm sure you're okay."

I don't know what the hell came over me. I may or may not have offered to clean the bathroom after R was sick because I wanted him to get in bed and rest. Clean someone elses' bathroom of someone elses' puke!! I once refused to use our downstairs bathroom for weeks after my sister Dani threw up in it when we were little because I was convinced I'd catch the virus just from being inside the bathroom. Now I was offering a post-puke hug to a man whose germs I kiss with my mouth. And, I mean, this kid throws up. Like, from the depths of his soul. Like, right before he went in to do the deed he took off his shirt and said, "okay, it's happening!"

On second thought, a Republican would be cake.

I'm not saying I'm cured of my vomiting phobia. If, god forbid, I get this virus back in a stronger strain and find myself on the floor of my office's communal bathroom again I will be just as terrified as I was a week ago.

What I'm saying is that when you really care about someone you can overcome some pretty outrageous obstacles for the sake of their comfort. I was actually willing to get dangerously close to vomit just to make sure R knew I was there to help him and make him feel better. It may be the single greatest sacrifice I've made for an adult relationship.
  • "Wow. This post is really embarrassing but you're saying nice things about me so it's like I can't be mad about it."
  • "Exactly. I'm so glad you see it that way."
  • "You probably could have left out the part of my taking my shirt off."
  • "Sorry. Facts are fact."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What we regret most in life, and why the answer is actually great news

I have good news and bad news.

In general I like to drop the bad news first sos to end on the high note of the good. But in the case of findings in a recent New York Times article I'd argue that the good and the bad are fairly indistinguishable.

The piece is about our biggest regrets, and it's based on data from researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who spoke to 370 U.S. adults. They asked respondents to describe one memorable regret, explaining what it was, how it happened and whether their regret stemmed from something they did or didn’t do.

Nearly one in five of all people surveyed the same thing, but if you limit the group to just women it's a whopping 44%.


I thought it had to do with finances and/or education, but perhaps that's because those are my two biggest regrets (not putting more money into my 401K and not studying something more legit than Comm. in college. Nerd alert...).

My second (technically 3rd?) guess was that it had something to do with regret around a family member. Wishing a fight had gone another way, feeling remorse over a relationship gone bad, regretting the amount of time we give to one another?

Again, way too serious.

Turns out the most common regret among American adults involves a lost romantic opportunity. Those one in five respondents told stories of a missed love connection. According to the article, "Women were far more likely to have romantic regrets, with 44 percent fretting about a lost love, while just 19 percent of men still had relationship regrets. People who were not in a relationship were the most likely to cite a romantic regret."

So the bad news is that the number one American regret involves missed or failed opportunities at love and relationships.

But the good news is that since we now know it's the number one thing we're going to regret we have much more incentive to go for it when we feel a connection!

It's like if someone told you that ten years from now you'd regret not buying those shoes with all your heart even though at the time you cringed over the price tag. You'd suck it up and buy them! This is the same except relationships are arguably far more important than a killer pair of shoes (arguably). This study - though depressing for those currently regretting the move they didn't make - is a decision chrystal ball for all of you currently hemming and hawing over whether or not to express the way you feel!

"I don't know...seems like there's more risk in telling her I like her..." you're thinking/saying/gchatting.

Wrong! According to this study there's more long-term risk in missing the opportunity.

Plus despite having zero data around this fact I am fairly certain that the pain of regret is far worse than the pain of embarrassment or heart ache making confessing your love as simple as going to the gym. Yes, it hurts now but being fat and unhealthy hurts way more in the long term.

Long story short: studies confirm you should shit or get off the pot.

And with that one hundred million mothers went, "well I've been telling you that for ages. I don't know why they needed to do a fancy study to figure it out."

Monday, March 28, 2011

When I knew I was an adult, and what that says about me


I week or so ago I received an e-mail from a writer working on a new book about 20-something America – who we are as a set, how we differ from generations previous, what we want out of this phase in our lives.

Her e-mail contained a long list of questions developed – I assume – to get a sense of who I am as a 27-year-old person. Questions about my interests and lifestyle – how I perceive work, what I want in a family. All things I can answer fairly easily as this point my march from 2-0 to 3-0.
“But if you only have time to answer one question in the survey," the e-mail said, "I’d like it to be this: do you think of yourself as an adult? And if so, what was the single thing that made you realize you were, and how old were you then?

The first part of the question is easy – yes, I think of myself as an adult. I’m 27-years-old. I live outside of my parents’ home (and time zone) in an apartment I am responsible for affording and cleaning. I drive a car that I lease to a job where I do unsupervised work for which I am paid a salary. I take care of having someone do my own taxes. I go to the lady doctor without my Mom. I am all grown up.
But when exactly this happened is a question I can’t quite answer.

I know for a fact it didn’t happen the moment I graduated from college. I was one of those kids who spent six plus months miserably unemployed watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show on my parents' couch as I applied for every job listed as “entry level” and “in Manhattan.” I made zero dollars. I spent zero dollars, and yet I had meals, lodging, and insurance at my finger tips. I was closer to a kid than my 18-year-old sister who’d just started her first year of college.

Even after I finally got a job in Manhattan, moved out of my parents’ house and re-joined the post-grad world I can’t say I truly felt like an adult. My parents moved me into an apartment with our Toyota Siena mini-van. They stored the opposite season’s clothes in the closet of my old bedroom (a space my sisters’ unaffectionately referred to as “the shrine”). I paid my own way for all major expenses, but home was in my back pocket. If I needed a new dresser my Dad drove me to IKEA and helped me build it (in the hallway of my 4th floor walk-up). On special occasions I was allowed to use the emergency credit card for a new dress. After every weekend visit home they sent me back with boxes of Special K and Kashi Healthy Heart oatmeal. I don’t think I purchased my own breakfast food for three full years.

So then when, exactly, was the mental shift?

As I look back on those first years in Manhattan the moment that sticks out as a game-changer is the first time I overdrew my checking account. How’s that for a memory of the transition from one life phase to the next?

I was making just enough money to eek by, so the bi-weekly check-in of the BofA online interface was a dreaded task. That month I’d joined my college girlfriends for a weekend getaway to Miami – the very first trip I booked on a credit card because I didn’t have the cash to pay for it up front. Even before we took off for the trip I remember thinking, “This is a mistake. I don’t have the money to do this.” But when you’re 22 and all your other girlfriends are going, you don’t make the sound financial decision. When we got back I was firmly in the red – so much so that I spent the next week and a half of the month eating Kashi Healthy Heart oatmeal two meals a day. It was the first time I remember feeling like my financial life was out of control, like I needed to make smarter spending decisions and set myself on a course so that my future was more secure. I distinctly remember thinking, “I can’t go on like this and be a successful, single mother with a brownstone in Chelsea.”

Those are the overdramatic thoughts you think when you’re a single, city-dweller intending to live off a writing career. But dramatics aside, the mental shift was significant. It was the first time I thought - I want to plan, I want to save, I want to be a mature, responsible adult.

It was around that time that I took on some freelance writing assignments, put my pricey gym membership on hold and got a $20 coffee machine to curb my $3.50-a-day latte habit. Nothing made me feel worse than the prospect of asking my parents to bail me out, and so I re-organized things to prevent that from happening. I stopped indulging in every new outfit, bar, and city activity.

“Wow, that’s depressing!” my friend said when I told her how I’d decided to respond to the prompt. “You decided you were an adult when you were forced to snap into financial shape?”

And with that I realized that this writer's question was even more complicated that I’d realized. For me becoming an “adult” was veiled in this negativity and stress that, yes, turned out to be empowering, but started from a place of, "time to shape up." I had to get my life in order, stop having as much fun, deal with the scary things adults deal with. An equally valid answer would have been, “the first time I was recognized at my job!” or, “the first time I hosted a dinner party at my apartment!” or, in my specific case, “when I finally decided to move to L.A. to pursue a passion versus a job.”

But for whatever reason my mind didn’t go there when I read the prompt. It went to the moment I had to snap out of childhood to survive as a real person. Is that depressing or empowering? I don't know. I'm happy to be an adult and very happy to have my financial self (mostly) in check. I'll leave the interpretation of my personal transition moment to the expert in her forthcoming book.

If you'd like to help a fellow writer by participating in this same survey, please e-mail her at Thank you!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who's the crazy one here?

I'm back in action after two wildly successful performances of THE HOOK-UP CONVERSATIONS: L.A. edition and one wildly consuming 24-hour stomach bug, which by some grace of god came one day after the shows.

Today's topic is inspired by a monologue that was performed in both the NY and LA versions of the HUC's by my good friend Chris Jacobs. It's a comedic piece about a very sincere guy who makes a very unpopular move, and it's based on a very true story that happened to one of my college roommates.

I never know quite how the audience is going to receive the various pieces that make up the show. Some of them are about pathetic characters meant to make you go, "shit, is that me?" others are about heroes that we've all aspired to be, and a few are just totally ridiculous characters I made up in the shower one morning. In general the reactions fit my assumptions. People laugh when they should laugh and look shocked when that's the case.

But with Chris' monologue there has been a moment every single time it's performed that a section of the audience gets audibly upset at a time when I thought they'd laugh the whole thing off.

Let me lay out the detail of the monologue, because I suspect that as I do you'll have no trouble figuring out which section of the audience reacts, and how.

Chris' piece is about a guy named Jake. The monologue is delivered as if Jake is re-telling the story of what happened to a buddy. Here is Jake's story:
  • Jake is at a bar waiting for his friend Boone (whatever, I loved him in LOST) when he exchanges a flirtatious glance with a girl across the bar. Jake has a sense there's something between them.
  • The girl comes over to Jake and starts talking to him. They immediately click.
  • Jake admits at this point (to his buddy, not to the girl) that he's not wildly attracted to the girl but enjoys her personality and is attracted to her looks enough to keep the conversation going.
  • Once Boone arrives Jake and girl are in full swing - drinking, chatting, enjoying each others company. Boone encourages the girl to stick around. Light hand touches and more advanced flirtations ensues between Jake and girl.
  • Fast-forward and hour: Jake is wasted, girl is wasted, Boone is no where to be found.
  • Girl propositions Jake saying, "do you want to come back to my place."
  • Jake admits (to buddy, again) that he does want to go home with her, of course, but is afraid this could turn into a stage-5 situation - a road his been down before.
  • Jake tells girl that yes, he'd like to go home with her, but just so that she knows, this isn't going to go anywhere. In other words - yes, we can hook-up but so you know I'm not interested in a relationships.
  • Girl punches Jake in the mouth, says, "thanks for waiting 'til 3am to be a douche," and walks out the front door.
  • Jake is flabbergasted. She approached him! (he explains to his buddy) She didn't ask if he wanted to grab dinner! Or see a movie! She didn't even ask if he was single! She asked him back to her place! And then when he's honest about the fact that he's not interested in anything beyond that one night, she freaks out! I mean, who's the crazy one in this situation?? Jake asks.
At this point I'm sure you can figure out at which point in Jake's story a portion of the audience gasps audibly and follows that up with an angry, "oooohhh."

My question is - why?

Why does the female audience get so pissed at the fictional Jake when he gets to the punchline of his story? Are they mad because he stayed and talked to a girl he had no intention of dating? Are they offended that he thought she wanted something more than just a one-night stand? Are they audibly rolling their eyes at the bravado of a guy who assumes he has a clinger on his hands?

If I had written the girl's version of this monologue, how would it have gone?

The truth is, I'm not sure. I assume she'd say something about him leading her on for the entire night and then rudely killing the moment before it began. She'd probably mention how garish it was for him to assume she wanted a relationship after they'd only just met. She might even say that's no way to treat a lady.

But would she be right? Or was he?

In the "based-on a true story" story some drunk college freshman dude told one of my drunk college freshman roommates that it, "wasn't going to go anywhere," right before he made out with her on the dance floor of the biggest party apartment off campus. There was no proposition or lead up, and my roommate still hasn't stopped laughing about the ordeal.

The the women in the audience of the HUC's - East and West coast edition - are not laughing when they react to Chris' performance.

I'm not saying they're right or wrong. I'm just wondering what they're thinking slash feeling, and why?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Guest Entry: How to behave on a first date, by R

I'm going to be completely honest. This whole thing started because upon venting about how I'm struggling to stay a-float with real work and blog work and freelance work and The Hook-up Conversations R said, "what can I do to help" and I jokingly said, "write tomorrow's blog post."

"I thought you'd never ask," he said.

And so began what I assumed would be the beginning of the end of our relationship.

"Explain to me again why you broke up?" I envisioned friends and relatives saying.

"Well he just could not structure a blog post to be both informative and entertaining! I did what I had to do..."

Luckily R seems to know his way around a 20-Nothing topic, and put together both an interesting topic: how to behave on a first date with an interesting twist: I don't want to give it away. Best to read for yourselves.

Enjoy! And thanks to you - and him - for patience as I wrap up some non-blog projects and get back to focusing on my thrice weekly routine here.

(R's post begins here, but that will become clear by the use of proper grammar.)

by R

First, I want to say that I’m genuinely honored you allowed me to post on your blog as I know this is not only an opportunity so few have received but that you easily get nervous and skittish about what I’m going to say next to the general public - especially when it has to do with relationship stuff. Even when we approached the idea of me tackling this topic, I could sense a little more apprehension than pure excitement. I'll do my best to not embarrass you and hopefully dole out some helpful advice. Here goes nothing.

As J can attest, I tend to keep things short and to the point. Which as I think of it now seems to be the exact opposite of what a blogger does. Not that you ramble J, but often you ask me relationship questions and my one-line responses leave you less than satisfied. Take for example the time you asked me my take on the chameleon dater (for those new to the blog this was the idea that there’s a type of girl who changes her personality based upon the guy she dates). My response: “A girl who changes to what the guy wants? That’s awesome. I encourage that.” This response led to my first experience with J’s “harrumph”. So know that my forthcoming advice will be mostly brief, somewhat tactlessness, but absolutely invaluable.

Here it is: Ladies: “think like a man, but act like a woman.” Guys: “act like a man, but think like a woman.”

What does this mean exactly? Let’s start with the women.

The first half of the statement is “think like a man.” Why is it that girls always say “being a guy is so much easier?” That’s because for the most part it, it is. Guys tend to not over-analyze, not stress, and certainly not care about the small things. We tend to be our true selves off the bat more often – sometimes to a detriment, but a genuine one.

On a date, try to adopt our lassie-fair attitude. Don’t analyze each word that comes out of his mouth, don’t be concerned about ordering that side of mac ‘n’ cheese (because it’s probably going to be excellent). What would a guy do? He’d order that mac ‘n’ cheese because it comes with bacon and bread crumbs and that’s always delicious. Look, someone is going to stutter through a sentence or say something that may slightly offend you. Like when J told she didn’t like Bruce Springsteen, I may as well have left her at the bar then and there. However, despite my continual attempts to prove the glory that is The Boss, I know that any relationship – short, medium, or long – will have moments where you and the person don’t see eye-to-eye. Let them go. Be the self who you really are. If you are a dork, dork it up on that date. If you loved the Watson episodes of Jeopardy (which I still can’t stop thinking about), then talk about it. At the end of the day, guys want to see that fun side you have even if you are slightly embarrassed by it. We don’t want the version of you that you think makes the best impression. Guy’s don’t do that, and we certainly don’t want that. We want the version of you that makes you most comfortable.

However, the advice is not to be a man, but think like a man. At the end of the day, we want you to “act like a woman.” Now I know this can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people but at the end of the day, it’s a few simple things. One - show us your caring side. This doesn’t mean reach over and start caressing our hand on the first date as we tell a story, but be engaged and show interest. We will do our best to make you comfortable (guys get ready for my upcoming advice) so show a little maternal instinct and care about us a little. In a word, be sweet. Two - be flirty. Guys like women that seem into them, so if you think you are into him, show it. That line of not wanting the girl to come on too strong applies to one out of fifty guys, in my opinion. Most of the time, we'll get excited that you are into us. And three - look nice. We know you like to get dressed up for first dates, so go for it. We'll appreciate that you took the time and we want to see you excited about the date. Looking good will remind us this is a date and we need to treat you special that night.

For the guys, let's start with the second half of your advice which is "think like a woman." This means you anticipate what she's probably going through before meeting you. She's probably nervous, concerned about what to wear, excited to be going on a date, stressed some from work thing, etc. Assume it's basically the entire gambit of the human emotional spectrum bottled up in a less than 24-hour period. No, I have no idea why that happens, but I know it does. So guys, anticipate that. Think about these concerns (don't do more than that though) and with all this knowledge of what she's thinking about ....

The most important part of this advice: "Act like a man." Take some initiative, man up and set the tone early that you are going to make this a comfortable and fun first date. Let's break it down with some examples.
  • You think that she thinks: "I don't know how long I am going to need to get ready for tonight. Your act: Make a specific time you will pick her up (and yes pick her up) that is a reasonable time post-work and don't be late. And do tell her your plan a few days before the date and remind her that morning. This way she should feel comfortable preparing to and minimize the amount of stress that goes into that.
  • Second example. You think she thinks "I hope we don't go somewhere lame/too fancy/too expensive/too cheap etc. You act: You pick a place that is your personal favorite and tell her so. She'll appreciate you bringing her in on something that's important to you but she'll also be comfortable knowing that you are comfortable there.
  • Third example. You think she thinks "I am not sure I look right for this date". You act: Very simple - tell her she looks great regardless of what she's wearing and tell it to her immediately. This is a no-brainer and will go a long way.
Basically guys, think about what any woman could be nervous about going into that date and act accordingly to make her as comfortable as possible.

And last but not least, the classic conundrum of to kiss or not to kiss on a first date. To me, there's no rule on this (right J?). Go for whatever feels right in that moment. And here's why - if you tallied up all the relationships in the world that have ever happened over the long course of time, no one would tell you that the whole deal rested on the first-date kiss. Don't go by a standard rule because there is none. If you two are feeling it at the end of the date, make it happen. If there's no second date then whatever, you got kissed. And if there is a second date, great. You both know you are into each other, and what could be bad about that.

And that's it folks. Good luck on your first dates everyone. Hope this helped and J, hope I didn't embarrass you.

image credit.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shelf-girls and man-children: two terms for thought

Shelf girls (n) - from the Latin meaning girls who inhabit a space most commonly used to store things (i.e. books, games)
The first term was dropped over yesterday's sushi lunch with my friend Andrea. We were talking about some relationship-related issue when Andrea let me in on her shelf girl theory. There's nothing I love more than a succinct categorization for a frustrating interpersonal phenomenon (see: quarter life crisis), so I was all ears slash mental notepad.

According to Andrea (and this write-up on a blog she later sent me) there is a type of girl that a guy keeps around because he thinks there's a chance that when he's ready to settle down, she'll be a good pick. This could be a girl he meets out at a bar and gets to know over a couple dates. This could be a girl he's known his entire life. Either way, the guy generally won't get into any form of legitimate relationship with the girl because he's not looking to complicate things with her - yet.

And so he quasi strings her along - a hang-out here, a hook-up there, a dinner date from time-to-time - keeping her close enough for comfort but far enough from what he knows he's not ready for - so, on the shelf, if you will.

Andrea thinks certain girls are prone to being shelf girls. They're friendly, agreeable, easy-going girls who enjoy attention but don't demand more right off the bat. They're the girls you know your Mom would love - stable jobs, stable lives. It's not that they're not exciting, it's just that they don't exude that X-factor that makes your average bachelor go wild. They're the girls you settle down with.

I can definitely see it. There's a chance I've technically been it, and the whole thing makes a lot of sense. My question is: do the guys placing these girls on their mental shelves do it knowingly? Or it is more of a unconscious act of relationship self-defense?

Man-children (n) also from the Latin? meaning men who are very much like children

This one came via the bi-weekly assignments e-mail my editor at sends us freelance writers. "Looking for
A short post on Why a Good Man Is Hard to Find: Do You know a Man-Child? With a write up on what exactly a man-child is, and how to spot one, based on this new book."

It wasn't the first time I'd heard the term, but it was the first time I was challenged to define it.

What, exactly, is a man-child? How do they act differently than either man or children? And what about them makes them so wildly up-datable.

I think the easiest place to start is to say that a man-child is a child who never grew up and yet is physically grown up. A 40-year-old who still plays video games for hours a day. A guy in his mid-thirties who doesn't know how to take a woman on a legitimate date. A 25-year-old who bring his laundry home for his Mom to handle.

But these are Judd Apatow movie examples - evidence of what a man-child would do, not the definition of who a man-child is as a person. In reality there's a range of man-child just like any other developmental stereo-type (angsty teen, wild 20-something, menopausal woman). In my mind a man-child is a man who is electing against or blind to the possibility of reaching the major milestones of adulthood. Some people struggle to get there for various, legitimate reasons. Other people avoid getting there because it's not fun to deal with certain elements of adulthood. I think a true man-child either doesn't think it's necessary to be an adult man or doesn't know the difference between man and child. He's irresponsible. He's impulse driven. He doesn't have a wild sense of what the future should/can/will hold. He behaves either recklessly or with a total lack of motivation.

Regarding what makes him so wildly un-datable - where do I start... I wrote about the differences between boys, guys and men awhile back. That should provide some insight. But to keep it simple, my rule of thumb: if a guy is still hanging posters on his wall with a device similar to thumb tacks things aren't looking good. If that poster is the one of Bob Marley smoking week, run for the hills.

Post your own ideas for what makes up a man-child in comments. I need to file the article by Monday AM, and I'd love some feedback slash stories from you all.

Same goes for your thoughts on the shelf-girl phenomenon. Have you been one? Are you currently being one? And are you the kind of guy who puts them there? Perhaps there's another article in that.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The supply/demand economics of casual sex today

This is going to be tricky because I never took economics and make it a point not to know anything about investing in the stock market.

That said, when my friend Emily passed this Slate article along, my interest was instantly (and obviously) piqued.

Sex Is Cheap: Why young men have the upper hand in bed,
even when they're failing in life.

Mark Regnerus hits on a topic I've been mulling around for ages: the supply and demand nature of sex among male and female 20-somethings.

Let me attempt to break down the article in as simple terms as possible, then we'll talk about the massive issue I think it's missing:
  • 20-something men aren't doing so well in life. "...earnings for 25- to 34-year-old men have fallen by 20 percent since 1971. Their college enrollment numbers trail women's: Only 43 percent of American undergraduates today are men. Last year, women made up the majority of the work force for the first time"
  • 20-something men are doing incredibly well in bed. "36 percent of young men's relationships add sex by the end of the second week of exclusivity; an additional 13 percent do so by the end of the first month. A second indicator of cheap sex is the share of young men's sexual relationships—30 percent—that don't involve romance at all: no wooing, no dates, no nothing."
  • Men like and want sex more than women. (This is the article speaking, not me, but the article is backed by legit research). "In one frequently cited study, attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University's campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it. As Baumeister and Vohs note, sex in consensual relationships therefore commences only when women decide it does."
  • Women make it very easy for men to get the sex they like slash want. So women hold the "sexual purse strings," but they've driven the cost of sex down very low. In other words, men have to do very little these days to get sex from women.
  • This sitch happened because women outnumber men. Well, that's part of the reason, and the part this article highlights. 20-something women outnumber 20-something men these days in environments like college campuses and major urban centers (NY, LA, Chicago). Women outnumber men means that their supply is greater, driving down their demand. If there were more men than women the men would have to work harder to woo the women. Because there are more women than men the control lies with the men. This has been studied: "Analysis of demographic data from 117 countries has shown that when men outnumber women, women have the upper hand: Marriage rates rise and fewer children are born outside marriage. An oversupply of women, however, tends to lead to a more sexually permissive culture."
  • As such women are complaining that their boyfriends and the men they casually date put off commitment and keep things casual for as long as possible. "Michelle, a 20-year-old from Colorado, said she is in the same boat: "I had an ex-boyfriend of mine who said that, um, he didn't know if he was ever going to get married because, he said, there's always going to be someone better."
  • And, to the final point: all this success in bed may actually be making men less productive in life. "Don't forget your Freud: Civilization is built on blocked, redirected, and channeled sexual impulse, because men will work for sex. Today's young men, however, seldom have to."
I find this article totally fascinating. First, it hits on an issue I've been harping on for years - the very simple fact that if women gave up sex less easily, men would commit faster and more often. It's a clear-cut case of supply and demand. But the part I find even more interesting is the issue of the end product in this supply and demand chain - that being sex.

See, in general supply/demand economics the product is inanimate and the seller's goal is to sell as much of the product as possible. So say we're dealing with bananas. If the banana growers have an excess of bananas the banana purchasers know they can get their bananas cheaper by going to a different growers and negotiating a deal. There are plenty of bananas to go around. Why would they waste their time on a relationship with one banana seller who charges more than another, even if they had a long-standing relationship with that first banana seller and their bananas are of good quality. Supply and demand never fails.

But sex is not bananas - at least it isn't bananas to the people who "produce" it - which in the case of this supply and demand situation (according to this article) is women. Women are to sex as banana farmers are to bananas. They stand between that sex and the men who want it. But unlike banana farmers, the goal of women is not (innately) to "sell" as much of their product as possible. What I mean is - banana farmers sell bananas and make money. Done deal. End of story. The supply/demand chain is closed. Women have sex and, according to this article, get nothing. And, to make matters more confusing, we know that women don't like sex as much or as often as men (again, according to the article. Obviously there are the Samantha Jones' of the world who want as much sex with as little emotional connection as possible). So even if you're inclined to say, "well, women are getting sex out of this "business" relationship. That must be what they want?" we know that that's not generally true. Therefore what we're left with is a situation where women are giving away their product for virtually nothing and what little they're getting isn't even something they really want. That's just bad business.

My issue with this article isn't that it raises a wrong or invalid point, it's that it doesn't ask the glaring question that's most worth asking. Why are women allowing this to happen?

If we were to stick with economics the answer would be because in selling their product for little to no money they believe they're making progress toward another goal - their ultimate goal. So back to the banana farmers. A banana farmer may give away a lot of bananas to one buyer because they want to get into a long-term business relationship with that buyer. Their selling strategy is one of investment not immediate gain. I sell you these bananas for cheap with the hopes that you come back and buy my bananas next time. Translate that to the relationship world and it means women are giving away sex to get something else, something bigger or better. And I don't think it's taking a giant leap to assume that the something is a relationship.

Why do women think giving men lots of free sex is going to lead to a relationship? I don't really know. Maybe it's because it actually does? Maybe because everyone else is doing it, so if one girl doesn't she's just going to lose out to all the other girls who do? Or maybe it's because women don't realize that they have control over the entire sexual market.

Banana farmers need to sell bananas to survive. They can't decide to hold out because they're mad about how low the price has been driven - they need money. Women don't need casual sex. They may like it and they may want it, but ultimately they don't need to "sell" their "product" if they're not pleased with the return. Sex is not bananas.

So then why are women behaving like banana farmers?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

L.A. 6 Months In: a city full of passion-players

I was listening to a podcast in my car the other day because it's the only distraction I've found that helps me avoid tearing all the skin off my body as I crawl home from work at 12 mph (literally. I live 12 miles from work and it can take me one, full hour to get home).

On that particular night it was an episode of KCRW's The Treatment - my favorite of the several I now have in rotation. This salted-butter voiced man named Elvis Mitchell (former NY Times film critic) interviews luminaries of the pop culture and film worlds about their creative process. This particular episode featured writer/director/actor Lena Dunham.

Lena Dunham is a film phenom. The year after she graduated from college (like, three years ago) Lena wrote, directed, and starred in a film called TINY FURNITURE - a pitch-perfect window into those painful months after graduation that received major critical and popular acclaim. Since then she's teamed up with Judd Apatow (yes, there's only one) to write a pilot for HBO called GIRLS - a comedy about that same phase of post-grad life. We should see that premiere soon, but it's already the talk of this town.

You can hear Lena's entire interview on The Treatment online, but the part that most caught my ear slash mind was this interesting tangent she went into about passion-careers versus careers of any other variety.

Lena explained that she was raised in Manhattan by artist parents who were fortunate enough to make their art their career. They didn't have j-o-b jobs; they had professions that had been their life dreams to pursue, and those professions supported themselves and their family. Growing up in that environment made Lena conditioned to view work in that light, she said. It wasn't work vs. life it was work as life, work for life, working to enhance every element of living. Lena's parents raised her in that same spirit, teaching her by example to find something she loved and build a life of work around that passion. (note: my parents lived and did the same)

It wasn't until she went to college and met friends whose parents didn't approach work in that same way (perhaps because they couldn't, perhaps because they didn't want to), Lena explains, that she realized how different a life in pursuit of your passions is from a life in which work is something you do just to make money.

That's simplifying the very poignant point she was making. Probably best to give your own listen.

But my point in bringing this up is that in my six-months-on-the-dot in Los Angeles I've realized how different a place can be when most of its inhabitants treat work as the passion of their life versus treating work as a means to afford their life.

L.A. is a place you come to be a director/writer/producer/dancer/actor/stylist/editor/star. Those aren't jobs, they're things.

There are people here - hundreds of thousands of them - who are doing a job to earn a paycheck to get by from week to week. Maybe they're script readers who want to be script writers, production assistants who want to be producers, musicians who dream of scoring movies, or stylists who actually aspire to act. What I mean is that not everyone in L.A. is living the dream they moved here to pursue, and not everyone here ends up pursuing what it is they originally dreamed. But you don't come to Hollywood to reflect on your 9-5 and say, "well, it pays the bills." The traffic is way too miserable for that.

I used to debate the idea of work/life balance with a good friend of mine who truly did not desire to have a career combined with a passion. He wanted to do a job that made him good, stable money; that he was skilled at; that he could tolerate - but the idea of turning a passion into a career, of spending a life in pursuit of one goal was not for him. In fact, he thought it was a very dangerous way of living.

I'm not sure whether or not he's right, but I am sure he would hate L.A.

It is difficult to describe how living in a city full of passion-players feels. When I lived in New York I met people with that same work-and-life-are-one mentality, but there were just as many if not more people who went to the office, enjoyed what the did, made their salary, and called it a day. They had passions too, but they were separate from what they did at work.

That - for the most part - is not the case here. People eat/sleep/live/breathe what they do here to a degree that's earned this town more than one bad reputation. I can tell you based on a very brief six months that most of those reputations are true. Having a dream and taking that dream to a place where so many before it have come true can lead to some pretty intense stuff. That's why L.A. attracts some narcissists, some fame mongers, and a power-hungry empire climber or 20 who will do anyone and anything to make it to the top. Like my friend says, it can very dangerous to organize your life around one, major passion. And it can be very, very scary for a someone who decided to make that life shift six plus months ago.

But so far I find L.A. to be like the environment in which Lena Dunham grew up. Now that I'm surrounded by people who've taken the same giant leap of faith that I have I feel like I can't let them down. I feel like we raise each other to a certain level of persistence, commitment and hard work. When everyone else at the party is pursuing ten side projects to get them closer to their goal you want to rise to that same level of gumption and initiative. You don't have to apologize for being a little anti-social while you finish your pilot, people get it. You don't have to worry about bringing work conversation into your weekend plans, people want it. And you don't have to feel like everyone is thinking, "come on kid - just get a real job and stop with this whole crazy dream." People here aren't really about stopping.

Here in L.A. the more crazy dreamers pursuing their passions the less crazy an individual passion pursuer feels. And isn't that what we're all after anyway? Finding that one place where we don't feel crazy for wanting to do whatever it is we want to do.

After six months in L.A. I've decided that I feel the opposite of crazy or foolish or dangerous. I can't say that word is comfortable (quite yet), and I know it isn't confident (there's a chance it may never be), so I guess the best way to explain is to say that I feel "right."

So thanks Lena Dunham. You raised an excellent point. But now my question is, how do you feel in L.A. And do want to go get coffee in West Hollywood so we can talk about it?