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Ghosts

After the cold reception I had gotten the year before when I arrived at a party dressed as Phil Donahue, I decided it was time to give in to the sexy side of Halloween. It was the roaring 2000s, and I was single, living in our nation’s capitol. I thought through everything, from silver over-the-knee boots to the metallic liquid-foil boxer briefs I borrowed from my 100-pound gay friend Phillip, pronounced fee-leep. I looked every part of a sexy astronaut.  Sultry nurses, slutty bumble bees and sexy pirates everywhere had eyes green with envy. The one element to this costume I had neglected to think through was the ratio between the size of my head and the previously owned NASA astronaut child’s helmet I had purchased online for $11. About 30 minutes into the party, I had a panic attack in a stranger’s bathroom trying to pry the helmet from my swelling, sweaty noggin. As a rash broke out on my neck, my friend Stephen and his boyfriend Micah began cracking the helmet in half with a hammer they found in the tool closet. With hives on my neck and my makeup smudged and smeared, I changed into a bathrobe and transformed my costume from provocative cosmonaut to Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This exhausting chronicle from my past leads me here: Happy Halloween, whether you dress as a sexy lady bug, a luscious Nordic Viking or Maury Povich.

 

My favorite Teegan and Sara song goes a little something like, I was walking with a ghost. No matter which way you go, no matter which way you stay, you’re out of my mind, out of my mind. This Canadian-born lesbian pop duo were pretty spot on. If you are living with the ghost of a relationship past, it’s time you called Bill Murray and Dan Ayktoyd for some paranormal extermination. Holding onto a past relationship is certain to sabotage your romantic future. If the ghost of a former love still haunts you, it’s essential that you take steps to move on so you don’t self destruct your current relationship or a potential new one. Dr. Terri Orbuch says the four steps to exorcize your ex are to discard haunted objects, purge unresolved anger, properly place blame and identify your unhealthy pattern. Negative emotions, regardless of their origin, are contagious. Your intent may not be to project those negative emotions onto your current relationship, but it is likely you will. Perhaps you find yourself constantly comparing a former love and a current one. The current person will probably always fall short because your mind is still focused on the past. Don’t romanticize that old relationship. Remember it ended for a reason. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want an apparition in my house, and I’m pretty sure Louis the cat doesn’t either.

I’ll make an exception to this rule if Patrick Swayze saunters in behind me while I’m molding wet clay with my hands. Then all bets are off

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The Mallard

I went to high school at a small boarding school here in Birmingham. I consider myself lucky to have had such a unique experience, and I recall these years with extreme fondness.

I recall the first day of eighth grade when I tucked a silk black and white shirt into see–through, white knee length shorts. I remember the day my physics teacher gave me an “F” on a midterm with this addendum, “If there was something worse than an F, rest assured I would have given it to you.” And I recall the time my boyfriend cheated on me with a curvaceous, buxom gal from Colorado. I can’t say I blame her. He did have a charming South African accent and referred to squirrels as “squibbles.”

When you’re 17, an accent and adorable mispronunciations go a long way. I’d love to spin a yarn and tell you what happened when I found out about this indiscretion, but I’d also like to assume a few people read this little column. If I told you what went down that evening, you’d stop reading my column, refer me to anger management classes, and slander my name and point at me next time you saw me walking my cat in a stroller through English Village. I’ll say this, someone’s foot was run over, and a car was vandalized with 45 cans of dog food and one dead, skinned mallard from my dad’s latest hunting trip. Look, I had help.

Walking down crazy memory lane does help me arrive at my more serious point. A friend of mine in Florida called me some months ago to tell me her husband had cheated and their marriage was over. While I dare not compare my teenage antics to her situation, it did make me think back to squibble, the skinned mallard and the emptiness and loss I had once felt. There are numerous reasons for infidelity: revenge, boredom, the thrill of sexual novelty and even sexual addiction. Some experts say that a majority of the time, motivations differ by gender, with men searching for more sex or attention, and women looking to fill an emotional void. I’d like to assume that most people who cheat don’t consider their partner, and how, with this act, it leaves someone to question their sanity, as well as everything they believe to be true about their spouse, and the viability of their relationship. I’m certainly not a psychologist, so I’m in no place to dispense advice on divorce and fidelity. However, I do wish people would exercise a certain level of consideration when making decisions that will have such an impact on their partner. I’m sure deep down my old Afrikaans–speaking flame regrets the anguish he put me through so many years ago. I’d like to tell you I regret shoving a skinned, wild duck in the tailpipe of his red BMW, but I’d be lying, and I think B-Metro has some sort of policy about that.

Groupon for Singles???

My morning routine has become monotonous. Push Louis the cat from his starfish like position off the pillow and onto the floor, notice candy wrappers next to the bed and hope I brushed my teeth after voraciously eating Red Vines, then reach for my phone and check the days hot deals. This morning, I came dangerously close to buying $38 dollars for 18 holes of golf because I saw it included the cart.  Aside from the time I was in Ireland with Irish Bob (Yes, he is really from Ireland) and took a golf lesson because I wanted a reason for the golf pro to stand inappropriately close to my backside, I’ve never swung a club in my life.  But this par 71 course with a 113 slope rating boasts Bermuda fairways and natural creek and mountain views.  It seems like a real steal. As I feverishly search for my American Express, I recall the time I tipped over a golf cart in high school because the laces of my combat boots got tied around the pedal and I decide that perhaps this deal of the day just may not be for me.

A few moments later I receive a call from a friend in Charleston who is having a full blown panic attack, saying she’d just googled the word spinster. While I think I know what a spinster is, I had never looked at the actual definition. As it turns out, the Wikipedia definition is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING. A spinster is not simply a single woman, but a woman who has not formed a human bond by the time she has reached menopause and the end of her reproductive lifespan. A spinster is not eligible to marry. She has had her chance but was passed by. Just as I am about to dissuade my hysterical friend against changing her facebook relationship status to ‘spinster’ she exclaims, “Pag, it’s hopeless. I may as well take myself off Match and put myself on Groupon.” She then goes on to ask if I think there is such a thing as a discounted site for single people. While she assures me she is joking, the fear in her voice is palpable.

The word discounted rings over and over in my ear.  Unfortunately, I fear many single people discount who they are and what they are looking for due to this overwhelming fear of reaching a certain age and being alone. The imaginary timeline seems to be an impediment to happiness and relationship satisfaction. I caution anyone who discounts themselves in any way. 

Strive to be the best version of yourself you can be. Remember that a healthy relationship should affirm who each partner is and allow each person to meet his or her needs together.  I’ll give you some last parting advice. Should you find yourself in Ireland, I highly recommend a golf lesson from Ray.  I still don’t know what a Bogey is, but I’d follow him to the back nine any day.

 

After a recent night on the town with Birmingham’s very own, “Irish Bob”, I was left  with no choice but to burrow into my couch for the better part of a beautiful sunny Sunday (Jägerbomb shots, incapacitated for 10 hours, if you must know).  I spent my day indulging in snacks, talking to my cat in a Russian accent and watching a six hour marathon of “Millionaire Matchmaker.”  The things I discovered this day were important and I need to share them with you. First, I have to stop doing the Cabbage Patch dance in public. It isn’t funny. The only person who ever laughs is my boyfriend, and I know he just does it because he feels sorry for me. Second, it is always a bad decision to eat three hot dogs outside Nana Funks at 4 am. Third, my cat isn’t Russian, therefore doesn’t appreciate my attempts at an accent. And last, Patti Stanger may have been a successful matchmaker but she sold out to Bravo for ratings and not only gives horrible advice, she gives the profession a terrible reputation.

I watched her tell a handful of women she couldn’t do anything for them due to their age (41), their weight (a size 8 ) and in one particularity infuriating instance, because of her successful and intimidating career. Out on a limb, I’m going to assume you have not read Stanger’s book. Well, lucky for you, I have. My face actually caught on fire when I read the chapter ‘negotiating the ring’ and the section dedicated to ‘negotiating monogamy.’ When I’m New York, I like to negotiate (barter goods and services, if you will) the price of a handbag. When I’m in a relationship, I don’t think I want to negotiate anything at all.

I can only imagine the look on Carter’s face when I say, “If you don’t cheat on me, I’ll do a Turtle Super Hard Shell Paste Wax on your car twice a week.”  The crux of this book comes when Stanger advises after nine months to a year of dating, it’s do-or-die time, go in for the kill. Not every woman has her sights set on the ring.  It kills my soul when anyone says  “if it’s marriage you’re after” as though all women are like 1,500 pound Cape Buffaloes, stampeding head on towards their prey.  Someone said to me the other day, “He’s successful, good looking and you’re already thirty two. Get that ring girl.” Is that all women really want? To find a husband, negotiate a ring and lock it down? I vacillated between two reactions to her absurd statement. One was to say, thank you and politely walk away. I choose the other one. Channeling my best Julia Roberts, I looked her right in her botoxed eye and said, “Oh, I’m not trying to land him, I’m just using him for sex”

Tickle His Pickle

A moment of panic sets in as I get a friendly reminder from my favorite hepcats at B-Metro about my slightly tardy column. In an effort to produce a piece filled with expert advice on the trials and tribulations of love and relationships in Birmingham, I cruise down to the local Barnes & Noble to peruse the relationship section.

Much to my surprise, the relationship section pales in comparison to the section on sexuality, diet and self-improvement. Five hours and four lattes later, I leave Barnes & Noble without a column but having read three books by sexual therapist Lou Paget and one book on busting belly fat for good. Just stick with me; this is not going to turn into 1001 places to have sex before you die. (And in case you were wondering, I am allowed to write the word “sex” in this column. I know; because I just called to find out, so don’t flip the page in disgust just yet).

It suddenly occurs to me how creepy I must look.  My laptop is out, I’m crouched in the corner of the “racy” section of the book store, feverishly drinking coffee and flipping through the pages of “The Idiots Guide to Tantric Sex.” I realize employees are starting to talk about me on their headsets so I decide to pack up to head home. On the way out, I notice the hundreds of diet and fitness books staring me in the face as if to say, “We saw you eating those Haribo gummy sharks, and it’s not too late to cut out sugar.” Finally, I decide what information I want to impart to you before I bid you adieu.

It strikes me that all the books in the diet, fitness, relationship and better sex section are all lumped together like little ducks in a row. What if you simply focused on feeling good about yourself first and gave relationship/sex health a lower priority for a while? Have you ever noticed that when you feel healthy, rested and active, the rest of your life seems to fall in line? I’m not suggesting you bust belly flab for good or kiss those carbs goodbye, but put your own health first this spring. Stop worrying that someone misinterpreted your text, tweet or Facebook update and start worrying about you. Take care of yourself first so when the time comes, you can take care of someone else. And if you need any more immediate advice, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be at crouched in the corner of Barnes & Noble reading Sadie Allison’s latest book, Tickle His Pickle.

Settling

I usually start my column by mentioning something about the month or Louis the cat. It’s 34 degrees as I sit down to write, so I can’t say I am particularly excited about April, a month where science confounds children everywhere as bunnies produce pastel-colored eggs.  And unless you want to hear about how Louis bit his toenail with such aggression that it flew up and scratched his cornea, then he did nothing of note this month either.

So here we go, straight into advice with very little time for satire. If you are in a relationship and wake up in the morning knowing you have settled or that in a few years time, you’ll feel like your life has passed you by because you were afraid to be alone, keep trudging ahead. It is better to be with someone who only partially satisfies you than be solo in Birmingham, a city known to be challenging for single professionals on the dating scene. It is perfectly natural to enter into a relationship with a less than desirable mate to escape the fear of buying a cookbook with recipes for one or enduring stories from your friend’s grandmother about the woman she knew who never married, or cut her hair.

If you have not fallen in love with your soul mate and not started working on a family yet, more than likely it is too late and I feel sorry for you. Just find someone as quickly as possible. Try to focus on the temporary happiness it will bring you and don’t concentrate too much on the life of disappointment and longing you have created for yourself. I forgot something else that this month has to offer, April Fools. So in my few remaining sentences to gain back some of  your respect, let me drop this on you.

Psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum states that settling is accepting a relationship where the five dimensions of chemistry are missing. Some of these include the usual suspects such as trust, physical attraction, and mutual respect. These are known by relationship professionals everywhere as ‘oldies but goodies.’ I always tell my clients to periodically reevaluate and rethink their must–haves when selecting a mate, but there is a point where compromise and understanding turns into settling. Don’t turn a blind eye to problems you know will only get worse in time. I promise you aren’t going to end up alone, unmarried, and breeding Russian Dwarf Hamsters. Hold out for something fulfilling, and send me a gift when you find it. I don’t care what you send because it is the thought that counts

Bonjour March, I hope to see your plus one this month is spring. As I write this column, I’m trying to decide if I am going to need an ice scraper to clear my windshield so I can drive to get LTC (Louis the Cat) bread and canned goods. It is supposed to snow, and with the inch accumulation warning, it’s sure to be epic.  I would hate to be stuck inside for days; left with only Japanese rice wine and gummy sour pigs. So according to this conceited month, spring is here. Good. I have nothing left to give the cold.

However, the reason March is my favorite of the twelve is not just spring’s return, it’s because I now get to reference The Ides of March. I’ll never forget my 9th grade English teacher warning me, in her wee Irish accent, to “beware the Ides of March.” Perhaps you’re thinking I’ve had too much sake and gone into total sugar shock after the sixth bag of gummy pigs, but marinate on this for a moment. I recall a while back, my friend tells me she is dating a man who meets about four (a mere four?) of her ten requirements and declares he is the one. She also tells me he is adamant about not wanting children but she is confident being with her will change his mind.  She has wanted to be a mother since the day she tried to put red baby oxford shoes on the family beagle. Allow me to fast forward a year later.  She just ended it with Mister Four, is madly heartbroken and feeling more defeated and alone than ever. If you are in relationship thinking you can change the other person, pack your Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunk and head to the bus station.

 An oldie but always a goodie, “you can train a dog but you can’t change a Lab into a Golden Retriever”.  I wonder how life would have panned out for Caesar had he heeded the old Soothsayer’s warning to “beware the Ides of March”.  In all fairness, Caesar had it coming, as he was given a fair warning from the start. Imagine if my dear friend took four on his word from the start? She certainly wouldn’t have stayed in a relationship that’s demise was foretold within the first week. Listen to what people say and don’t dismiss what you don’t want to hear. Never enter a relationship with the mindset you can change the other person. And certainly, if a soothsayer crosses your path as you’re strolling Railroad Park, turn your Ipod off and listen. I’m willing to bet Julius Caesar is really kicking himself right now.