Category Archives: Women

Why women frighten me

Have you ever had an argument with a woman where there were passive-aggressive (or aggressive-aggressive) remarks being passed back and forth. In this situation you are the underdog. Either you are being berated or you are being made to feel you have done something wrong.

The negative remarks are escalating in intensity. You can feel the woman pawing at the boundaries of what you will put up with, how far she can push you before you push back. And then she says it. She goes too far. She knows you well enough to know exactly which button to push. And when you look up at her you see something.

It’s a happy, hateful glint in her eyes, like she is enjoying putting you down, like she has one-upped you. A look that says “I am bigger than you and I got to you, and that makes me happy.”

That look is why I am terrified of women. I have never seen anything that even approaches such pleasure-taking in cruelty in a man. For all the terrible/bizarre things I’ve put up with in romantic relationships, no man has ever looked at me that way.

I have, however, seen that look from three women. Countless times from my mother. But also, memorably, on my twenty-first birthday from a girl I thought was a dear friend in college. I also saw it from the girl who bullied me in middle school as she told me she and my other three friends no longer wanted to hang out with me. It scares the shit out of me.

The terrifying thing about the glint is that it’s not derived from anger or sadness. It looks like success, like pleasure. It’s a happy internal moment for the woman, derived from your downfall.

In my mother, the glint disappears if you get close to mentioning the kind of hatred that brings it on. If you force her into your mindset (she has to be forced), the light is quickly extinguished. She says, “I would have rather had a nice, dumb daughter than a smart bitch.” I see the glint. I say, “Wow, that is incredibly hurtful.” The glint is extinguished. But she would keep going if I didn’t stop her. Sometimes I let it go past the glint-inducing comment, just to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, but I usually don’t last much longer.

My point is that I think the glint is an opening to a world men are rarely privy to. Women simply do not aggress toward men the way they do toward other women. And in many groups there is a silent undercurrent running among women that men are blissfully unaware of. I wonder if men even see things like the glint, or if they slip below their notice. I hope men are perceptive enough to run hard and fast in the other direction if they accidentally stumble upon this kind of woman, but I often worry that they’re not. This kind of woman is very skilled at concealing what she is, at least for a while.

At certain moments in my life, I have felt that women have a special hatred for me. I don’t know if they target me because I give off the impression of frailty because I am thin and I have a quiet speaking voice or because I’m an asshole. Or if I target them because I attract abusers because of my relationship with my mother (before I entered therapy, abusers made me feel so comfortable and complete, an experience shared by many people who have been abused).

I have been blessed with some truly loving, fulfilling, gentle relationships with women. These relationships have been tested and they endure. And my radar is now attuned to seek out and eliminate from my life women who can produce “the glint.” If you recognize this characteristic in yourself, please seek help and stay far away from me.

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How to know when you’re ready to have children

If I had to choose one, I would say the most difficult moment in my life so far came right after I realized I would never be loved like a child is loved by his or her mother.

I heard that friends can be your new family, and that finding The One would pervade my being and fill all the gaps left by a multitude of emotional cuts and scrapes. I expected too much of my friends and hoped for the world in each new relationship. I held out hope for a long time, thinking the hole would fill as I concentrated on the love of friends, distracted myself with a variety of substances and activities. The right combination of love and life would make me feel whole.

It never happened. It was heartbreaking.

The reality is that nothing can replace the affection, kindness, and nurturing of a loving parent. I am never going to get that, because I have an emotionally limited parent who is incapable of giving that to me. I am the child of a narcissist who had a child for the wrong reasons. Do not be this person. Put in the work to learn how to help your child grow into a complete person AND a life-long companion.

This is how you know you’re ready to have children:

1. You have worked through your own emotional and psychological issues. Are you depressed? Are you a narcissist? Do you have a personality disorder? Are you excessively anxious? Do you lack close friends? Are you addicted to drugs (legal or illegal) or alcohol? If the answer to any of these question is “yes,” or “maybe” or “I don’t know,” you are not ready to have children. You need psychological counseling and you have a long journey ahead of you to fix yourself before you are ready to have children.

Young children cannot understand mental disorders, and they suffer under the care of someone who is unable to nurture, guide, and care for them appropriately. Infants born from an adverse prenatal environment (in the womb of a pregnant woman who is experiencing extreme stress or a mental disorder or who is unable to regulate her emotions), have more difficulty regulating their own emotions, are more likely to be unhappy, are more likely to express negative affect, and may be more likely to commit suicide later in life.

2. You know a lot about child development. Do you know how long you should breast feed your baby? The answer is: 2-5 years. Is your twelve-year-old capable of advanced moral reasoning (can he understand, in a complete way, why he shouldn’t do things)? No, and he won’t have a fully developed prefrontal cortex until he is in his mid twenties. How often should you touch your child as an infant? All the time, and you should keep up with the close, physical contact until your child is at least 2. You should be asking many questions like this and having them answered by science and scientists (not by your intuition).

You need to understand how your child’s mind is developing and what she needs at every stage of her life. Find out what developmentally appropriate games you can play with your child, learn about what issues she might be going through. This means being attentive and reading literature and understanding the science behind it. This means asking relevant questions (without prying) like: “Who are your close friends at school and what do you like about them (who are they drawn to and why)?” and “Has anyone ever been mean to you at school (are they being bullied)?” and “Do you have any questions about sexual health or how to have safe sex?”

If you do not know the answers to these questions (and especially if you have not even asked questions like this), you are not ready to have children.

3. If you didn’t have a good model for how to be a good parent, you found one. If you doubt your capabilities to be a parent (which every responsible adult should do), make sure you have a good model for what a parent should be. Find a spouse who has a warm, loving family. Look for friends who have healthy and happy children and do what they do.

If you don’t have any friends, having a child is going to be extremely difficult and your child will not have appropriate opportunities to develop social skills and close social relationships. If you don’t have friends, take a long, hard look at what you are doing and why you don’t have friends. Then fix it. If you need the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist, seek it out. Don’t assume you’ll learn as you go along. Positive social supports and scaffolding for building social relationships need to be in place before you have children.

If you do not have friends or if you do not have a clear idea of what kind of parent you want to be, you are not ready to have children.

4. You have grown the fuck up. You are not ready to have children unless you realize what goes into raising them. As in love, the process of growing with another human being is one of hard work and almost infinite patience. The work is often fun and rewarding, but it is still work.

If you are not adult enough to walk into a poop-smeared room and still pick up the child who did the smearing and hug and love him while calmly explaining why spreading poop all over our possessions may not be the right thing to do, you are not emotionally mature and you are not ready to have children.

Is your house filthy and unsafe for a child? Do you have dangerous pets? Do you and your spouse have a vitriolic or immature/shallow relationship? Are you financially unable to care for a child? Do you lack a clear understanding of the work required of a parent? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” or “maybe,” you are not ready to have children.

5. You realize a child is an autonomous creature. If you have control issues, you need to deal with them before you have a child. Your child is going to be independent. He is going to have ideas that are different than yours, he is going to have experiences that you have not had, he is going to see things that you do not want him to. Such is life. You can spend years fighting it, attempting to claim the moral high-ground, and/or arguing with your child, or you can give him autonomy to explore the world as a normal human being.

There is an internet meme going around that says something like, “I nag, pester, annoy, and bitch at you because I love you and I’m your mother. When you understand this, that’s when I know you’re a responsible adult.” That is bullshit, and a product of a poor understanding of how to mother a child. I shudder to think how many abusers and terrible mothers have that meme plastered on their digital or physical walls. A better way to approach a child is with patience, respect, love, and understanding and (always) a clear explanation of why things are happening. If you can’t do that, you are not ready to have children.

And finally…

6. You have empathy for others and you are a caring person. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be a complete, loving person before you start having children. You want to be (and to seek out a partner who is) fun, playful, attentive, loving, and accepting. Men, if you are going to be the breadwinner of the household, and your wife is going to be a stay-at-home mom, make sure she is a caring woman and will be a good mother to your children. Take as much time as you need to make sure.

Links on parenting:

-Darcia Narvaez’s thoughts on evolutionary parenting.

-Psychology Today’s parenting articles.

Information about postpartum depression.

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Why I Hate the “Fat is Beautiful” Movement

I am a size zero. Being thin is in my genes. I eat. I am healthy and happy. I have to work hard every day to put on (and keep on) fat and muscle. It’s a struggle.

So I had a visceral reaction the first time I saw Dove’s “real women have curves” campaign for “real bodies.” The idea seems good on the surface, but what idea is Dove really selling us?

Dove is a multi-million-dollar corporation. The idea that Dove is encouraging “real” beauty by selling us beauty products is, in itself, laughable. Dove uses statistics (like this one: “Only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful”) and images of women’s bodies to sell us the idea that Dove is made for “real” women (not those skinny bitches who are not “real” women). The message is incredibly cynical and insidious.

In other words. They are using this image:

Dove Advertisement

…to do the same thing to women as does this image:

What advertising is selling women is the gap. For Dove, the gap is between “real” women and “not-real” (skinny) women. For Armani, the gap is between you and the ideal woman. Either way, the end-game is to get you to buy things. The problem is that this message is a destructive one that seeps below the surface and poisons our thoughts about ourselves and about women on the other side of all the manufactured gaps.

I cringe every time I hear a corporation (or person) bang on about how only large/curvy/thin/fat/big/skinny women are healthy or beautiful. Such messages are not just hurtful to every woman excluded from the body-of-the-year definition of what is beautiful, they are also concepts mobilized to encourage competition and dissatisfaction among women. They funnel female energy away from loving, accepting, and nurturing one another and into competing with each other over what is most attractive and appealing.

I would say I wish male bodies were exposed to the same scrutiny as ours, but that’s not the solution. The solution starts with showing men (and women) the effect they can have on female health and self-esteem by being kind, accepting, and loving toward women instead of belittling, categorizing, and objectifying them.

Yes, fat is beautiful. So is thin.

The next time you are tempted to criticize another woman’s body, just imagine a man (let’s make him unattractive, whatever your idea of unattractive is) leaning back in his leather chair and smiling cynically at the inertia he has created to feed into the destruction of female self-esteem. Every time we push each other down, he is winning.

I refuse to buy Dove products and prefer real images like this:

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A short thought on friendship

In my senior year of college, I broke up with my then-boyfriend late at night. My dear friend Kate called me immediately after I messaged her, came over to my house without being asked and slept with me in my bed because she knew I was hurting and that companionship was what I needed most.

She did this even though she was a very talented rower, and had to be awake at 4:00am the next morning for practice. Five years later, this is still one of the most touching, thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.

Thoughtfulness is about thinking of nice things to do for others, and then doing them. And there is nothing like a close, loving friendship.

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Weddings vs. Marriages: Why I Don’t Hate Kim Kardashian

My parents, for better or for worse, have been married for thirty years. My father thinks about marriage as a life-long commitment to a person you choose to love every day. I have never thought about my wedding, or valued large weddings. I have never thought about what engagement ring I would like. I only ever thought about the man.

So I had a visceral reaction when I found out Kim Kardashian was getting a divorce after 72 days of marriage. Why? Because her wedding/fundraiser makes a mockery of the institution of marriage? Because hundreds of thousands of young women watched a woman get married for money and fame instead of love?

No. I was disgusted because I totally fell for it. I was genuinely happy for her. She seemed like an insecure, misguided, beautiful, imperfect human being. It seemed as though she fell in love with someone she truly appreciated and cherished and that she was confronting some important issues from her childhood in the process of committing to him. Why else would one televise something as private as a romantic courtship?

Looking back, the Kardashian wedding/fundraiser was only a symptom of the problem. She is not destroying marriage. She’s just one person, and she is so highly scrutinized, she must live in terror of any missteps. Hers wasn’t even the shortest celebrity “marriage”, by far.

The metamorphosis of the institution of marriage is just a symptom. So are the excesses of the wedding industry. The disease is the rampant materialism that has come to define America.

More and more, I see celebrities and role models who focus on the wedding instead of on marriage. I fear for our children, and especially our daughters, when I see the messages they will receive from cradle to tomb about what appropriate behavior is for a woman, how she should express her morals and values, and what those morals and values should be.

What kind of message does this wedding obsession (as opposed to a desire for marriage) send about what defines women? It’s not a good one. It reinforces the idea that women are shallow and superficial. It encourages the myth that throwing a lavish party is a reasonable, desired, and necessary act for all committed couples.

It suggests that those who choose to invest their money in a down-payment for a house, a trip around the world, or a child’s education (instead of a one-day celebration) are the unreasonable ones. It suggests that one day (the wedding) is more fun and important than what you will build every day for the rest of your lives together (marriage).

But women are not the only ones to be blamed for their desire for lavish wedding spending.

I trace the idea that materialism and consumption represent love to the creation of the market for engagement rings. In the 1930’s, DeBeers, the famous diamond company, singlehandedly created the market for diamond engagement rings. To combat twenty years in decreased sales, DeBeers launched their “A Diamond is Forever” campaign. They sold women the idea that you are not loved unless your future husband puts a diamond on your finger. The campaign was wildly successful, and most women today cannot imagine becoming engaged or married without a diamond.

The wedding industry has exploded in size similarly: by creating an excess of “need” where there was—and is—no need.

Women have been taught that weddings are the zenith of romance. A wedding should be the best day of one’s life. In a truly bizarre twist, women are now encouraged to plan a wedding before there is even a man in the picture. The popular television show “Say Yes to the Dress” features many single (as in, not even in a relationship) women who shop Kleinfeld’s racks for wedding dresses ranging from $2,000 to $50,000. As with many other things that we consume, weddings have become a booming industry, a 40 billion dollar industry, in fact.

There are tremendous incentives in place for advertisers to do everything possible to get women to spend money. Women spend $5 trillion dollars every year, which represents half of the US GDP. Selling “beauty” is a big part of this (I’ll talk about this later), as is selling the idea that you are only loved if you have a diamond and a wedding. Advertising companies constantly target women with images and slogans; the goal is to make women feel bad about themselves so they will buy things to fill a newly-created void.

What is my point? It doesn’t have to be like this. And being aware that we are being manipulated is the first step in changing our perspective on what we consume. The 2011 documentary Miss Representation ends with the thought that women control the US economy. We are capable of exercising tremendous power as consumers (or non-consumers).

A wedding can be a beautiful affair—a true celebration of the love a couple has found and their excitement in committing to each other for the rest of their lives. But a wedding is not love, happiness, or joy. Marriage is.

What are your thoughts on the wedding industry?

Here are some other people’s thoughts on excessive consumption:

-Slate.com article: Diamonds are  Girl’s Worst Friend

-The 2011 documentary Miss Representation is an eye-opening look at how images in the media are used against women.

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How to Get Her What She Wants for Christmas (2011 Gift-Giving Guide)

Retailers have nicknamed the Saturday before Christmas “Father’s Day” for all the men who start their shopping that day.  So, men, if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping, do not despair. You are in the majority! However, it is December already, and if you are totally clueless about what to get the special women in your life, you need to get moving. So let’s get started!

What does she want?

We hope you’ve been paying attention in the past couple weeks, because most women (72%) have either “directly told” you or used “the power of suggestion” to tell you what they want. Many express that they trust you to choose something appropriate, but also know that you appreciate ubiquitous hints.

A woman (at least 68% in this survey) would like to be surprised by a gift instead of receiving something she has asked for. So your goal here is to demonstrate your listening skills while choosing something tangential. For example, if she has mentioned that she needs some new earrings, search for a beautiful necklace. You get the picture.

How much should I spend?

Let’s start with the good news. More than half of respondents would be happy to receive any gift. As one participant said, “As long as it’s thoughtful and from the heart, it doesn’t matter!” Most women think $100-$200 is an appropriate amount for a significant other to spend on a Christmas gift. Many women (31%) would be happy to receive a gift costing $35-$75 or $75-$100. The even better news? If you are shopping for a friend or acquaintance, most women hope for a gift in the $10-$35 range.

Can you be more specific?

Yes! Below, I review the top 6 types of gifts women would like to receive, along with giving specific suggestions within each category.

1. Experiences

The gift women would most like to receive is an experience-related gift. To women, this means: a trip, a nice dinner, a winter hike, or a night out with family or friends. The number one item on a woman’s wish list is a trip–to spend some time with you or to see her friends or family. Since a flight is a big item, most women would also love help with travel expenses. You can wrap up your “help” along with a homemade card explaining your gift.

In the “experiences” category, women would also appreciate “a nice dinner and a weekend alone” with you. Other options for experience-related gifts: dance classes (find a local ballet studio), yoga classes, and rock-climbing or other athletic pursuits. My top choice in the experiences category is a warm winter hat and an outdoor weekend away to hike or ski. Bonus points: fold up a letter describing your destination and slip it into the hat-box.

2. The Little Things

Accessories are a close second to experience-related gifts and are among the most sought-after Christmas gifts. Jewelry is the big one here, although women express a lot of understanding that men are trying to save this season. There are many jewelry options out there, but to stay in the $100-$200 range, you can start with Zales holiday sales, Macy’s, and Ann Taylor.

Also prominent in the accessories category are handbags. Try looking at Coach and Nordstrom. The reward: she can wear jewelry or a handbag every day, and she will think about you every time she puts on your gift.

3. Apparel

My top pick in this category is something cozy, warm, and beautiful that she can wear around the holidays to show off how awesome her significant other is. Think: sweaters, vests, a coat, a scarf, or gloves. There are some beautiful options at Ann Taylor, which is my number-one pick for an item in the apparel category. Other options include JCrew favorites and Banana Republic gifts under $100. Two great lesser-known options: Velvet tees and Asos.com’s dresses.

Is she outdoorsy? She could benefit from new hiking shoes, a fleece, or running shoes. Does she wear nice shoes? If you’re not sure, does she wear different shoes sometimes? Especially shoes with a heel? If so, take a look at: High-end Ballet Flats and holiday shoes at Zappos.com. Several women expressed special interest in boots to wear this winter.

4. Beauty Products

Also ranking high on wish lists are beauty products. Buying a woman perfume gives you a chance to show off your knowledge of what she has and likes or to give her some adorable reasoning behind why you chose a new scent. Many sites make lists of top-rated scents, but if she has something she already loves, women say they would appreciate a refill. Here are some top-rated scents or you can search through your local Macy’s or Bloomingdales to see what you like. Always classic are DKNY and Michael Kors (Michael by Michael Kors was gifted to me 4 years ago and became my signature scent).

Makeup is a highly requested item, as well. If you know where she shops, that’s enough (see number 5). My number-one item in this category is a an item from or gift certificate for MAC or Sephora. Many women love the Beautyblender, and at $20-$25 it’s a great option for a stocking-stuffer.

If you want to get major bonus-points, try SK-II’s brightening line or their facial treatment essence. This is one of women’s most-loved beauty products (and is also one of the most expensive lines in the world–see how much work we go through to look good for you?) and has been dubbed “holy water” by regular users. I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now. That’s ok! Check it out anyway. Other favorite brands are Clarins and Clinique. Go for something moisturizing, nothing “spot-correcting” or anything like that; we all want to have a pleasant Christmas, after all.

5. Gift certificates

This doesn’t mean we don’t trust you to choose something nice! Many women enjoy the process of picking out their own items (crazy, right?). A gift certificate to a store she loves is a great option for a Christmas gift.  Specific stores women would like gift certificates for include: Sephora, MAC, and Amazon.com.

Many women also say they would love a relaxing spa day or salon gift certificate. This could mean a massage, facial, or products. Ask her what salon she goes to or look in her shower (not creepy if you’re doing gift-reconnaissance, just make sure you don’t get caught) and see what products she uses. My top pick in the gift certificate category is a cut and color at a local Aveda or Bumble and Bumble salon.

6. Electronics and Books

My number-one pick in this category is the FitBit Activity and Sleep Tracker. It is an awesome little gadget that any woman who works out would love to have. Women are also excited about the Kindle, the iPod Touch, and computers. A computer is a big-ticket items, so assistance toward purchasing one is also a good option. Books are a bit more tricky, but any animal-lover would enjoy Paul Nicklen’s stunning arctic photography and everyone loves a good novel. If you’re really stumped, try a beautiful journal from Smythson or the famous Moleskine notebooks.

So what is the bottom line here? The special woman in your life will be happy with anything that is special and from-the heart (Aww!). Family, time off work, time with friends, decorations, and warm fuzzy holiday feelings are most important to women during the holiday season.

As one woman put it, “anything that falls in line with my interests is always good (like he remembered that I said I like this, or wanted that, and he got it).” This is your chance to get her something she wouldn’t get for herself. The best gift is knowing that you listened.

Good luck!

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