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 have more fun than everyone else at Mardi Gras

I think at this point everyone who knows me well has heard that I traveled to New Orleans last week. It was my first Mardi Gras, and I had the time of my life. If you missed it, that’s ok. There’s always next year.

Since I can’t share Team Creep’s personal stories, here’s what you should do when you go to New Orleans for Carnival:

1. Find a friend from New Orleans. You get instant street cred just by saying “I’m with my friend Brandon; he’s a local.” People won’t try as hard to rip you off. You will know you can’t walk around the neighborhood near the bar you’re in because you will get shot. Also, you’ll be able to visit all the good bars where the locals hang out, instead of being subjected to the mass of teeming flesh that is Bourbon Street night after night. We saw an awesome, free concert by DJ Mannie Fresh on Lundi Gras because we were with a local who knew to take us to Maison on Frenchmen on that night.

B-train taking us to our first parade

After you find a local friend, make more friends. Almost everyone in New Orleans over the Carnival season is looking to have a good time. All the people who aren’t up for it either don’t come or clear out for the week. You’ll meet some great people. Exchange numbers and ‘friend’ each other on Facebook so you can see them again next year.

2. Drink Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens. This was one of my favorite moments during my week in New Orleans. Pat O’Briens has a beautiful outdoor courtyard and lovely, relaxing restrooms with supportive attendants. And did I mention the Hurricanes? They’re dangerous, so start with one. Go from there.

Hurricanes in geaux-cups

3. Dress in costume. Our local host made us dress up in costume on Saturday, and we had more fun than everyone else. Even though someone screamed, “IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN!!” at one girl in our party. Dressing up (especially on Mardi Gras Day) is part of the fun. And if you get weird looks, just say, “I’m going to a costume party in the Quarter later.”

What should you wear? Get weird in something French Colonial (think: Marie Antoinette), marine-related (mermaids, pirates, sea creatures), revealing (you’ll fit right in), or creative (I saw a homemade Homer Simpson, Nightman, and some excellent political commentary). Compliment people on their costumes and take pictures.

4. Watch some parades. Not all of them. You’ll get tired of them around the 10th time you’re pelted in the head with a bag of beads or a really heavy throw. But the first (and second) time will be magical! Go to Bacchus and Endymion and, if you can wake up early enough on Tuesday, go to Zulu and try to catch a hand-painted coconut (if you make it to Zulu and into Mardi Gras night, I applaud you). When you get something cool, give it to one of the kids nearby. They especially like the plush animals and light-up stuff.

Don’t take too many pictures; take mental pictures, instead, and don’t miss out on potential eye-contact with the celebrity guests on the floats. We were feet from Will Ferrell, Adam Levine, and Andy Garcia. Secure a place to use the restroom nearby, and you’re set.

Keep an eye out for your host’s favorite high school bands. When the chaperones or the cops tell you to back up to the curb, BACK UP. I saw a woman get slammed in the face with a trombone slide. They are not messing around. And for God’s sake, wear layers. And bring a poncho (Yes, really. You’ll thank me when the two-hour rainstorm is preventing you from leaving the bar at 10am in the French Quarter). People are not lying when they say the weather changes quickly and constantly in New Orleans.

5. Stay calm. You will see an inebriated 40-year-old yank plastic beads away from a sad-looking child. You’ll be shocked how quickly 10-cent plastic beads become the bane of every drunk adult’s existence. Someone will shove you as you’re trying to walk down Bourbon Street. Some lady will almost choke you out trying to snatch the boa you got from a float. These are ridiculous things for adults to do, but it’s Mardi Gras, and you can’t let the little things harsh your buzz. Take it all in stride and let the good times roll!

Someone knocked over my adorable parade buddy's ladder about ten seconds after I took this picture, but I caught him!

6. Wake up early on Mardi Gras Day and stay out late, no matter how crap you feel. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to hate yourself if you miss out on all the music and awesome costumes people bust out on Fat Tuesday. Caffeine is your friend; you can worry about recovering later. Walk around, take in the scene, start drinking.

Group shot 11:30am Mardi Gras Day

7. At least once, throw some beads from a balcony. You may be apprehensive (I was), but it’s an experience you won’t forget. Again, don’t underestimate how much 10-cent plastic beads can change the life/mood of every adult walking on the street below you.

The view from the balcony is much better than the view from the street. See, look how much fun these people are having!

You’re going to have to go to Bourbon Street at least a couple times while you’re in New Orleans, so you might as well be up on a balcony and away from the crush of the crowd. When you get up on a balcony, be sure to say something positive like, “You look good, girl!” to make your subjects–uhh, I mean new acquaintances–feel extra special. People will throw you beads. Try to catch them, then throw those, too. Just remember:

8. You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to and you don’t need to feel bad about anything you did do. Seriously. I didn’t show my boobs. And you don’t have to, either. Or do show your boobs, and be merry! This is a time to cleanse yourself of sin before Lent (or just to be sinful if you’re not Catholic), so you’ll be in good company no matter what you decide to do. Unless you’re a man, and you want to take your pants off. Don’t do that; you’ll be arrested.

What do you have to do to collect this many throws from one parade? Just yell, "Throw me something, mister!" as the floats roll by!

9. Eat delicious food. Going along with the “it’s a marathon not a sprint idea,” you have to keep yourself nourished (kind of) to survive the week. Thank your host if she’s feeding you delicious jambalaya. Eat a Po-boy. Eat shrimp, eat gumbo, try turtle soup. We went to an awesome Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters. We drank a lot of champagne. If there’s a buffet, the answer is always “yes.”

Yes, I know this isn't a picture of "food."

10. Listen to some good music. My favorite night was the aforementioned Mannie Fresh concert on Lundi Gras. He was up on stage on the third floor three hours past closing time. Before he came on, we listened to two lovely jazz bands (Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses and Dirty Bourbon River Show; the latter’s lead singer  poured bourbon into the crowd at random). The music will be good, people will be dancing. Stay out late; that’s when all the fun stuff happens.

DJ Mannie Fresh!

11. Do something other people aren’t doing. Do those alcohol-infused ice-pops look delicious? Have one. Do you want to look at the water instead of going to a parade? Take a drive down to Lake Pontchartrain. Do you want to visit a museum? Don’t be ridiculous, it’s Carnival, there will be time for indoor art later. Once you’ve done something different, head to the Quarter and do what everyone else is doing. This isn’t the time to be an elitist.

The courtyard at Pat O'Brien's on Mardi Gras Day (you can see us in the bottom right corner :))

12. Have fun. This isn’t going to be a problem, but make sure you are prepared before you leave for New Orleans so you can have the best time possible. Prepare your body by eating well and getting lots of sleep. Once you arrive, be safe, be aware, take care of your people, meet new people, share your coffee. Have a Happy Mardi Gras and let the good times roll!

Thank you to everyone (Brandon, Angela, Irene, Jenny, Dave, Tara, and many others) for a fantastic week! See you next year!

Photo credit: Christine White, Jarrad Fontenot, and some dude on the roof of Pat O’Briens

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Christine is going to Mardi Gras

For those of you who don’t know, I will be in New Orleans for the next six days. If you need to reach me, please don’t. I’ll be busy partying at the biggest party in the world.

Keep Calm and Chive On!

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Why celebrities aren’t talking about Whitney Houston’s drug addiction

Millionaires and billionaires should have moral responsibilities.

I can’t believe this is a topic that comes up for debate. Hoarding an incredible amount of money does not exonerate one from social responsibility. And joining the echelons of the rich and beautiful shouldn’t herald the end of individual thought. We give beautiful people so many allowances in daily life, but those allowances come nowhere near the moral leeway we afford the rich and famous.

More often than not, when a celebrity expresses individual thought, he or she is censored or castigated and made to look like a monster. It happened when a select few spoke out against Chris Brown and his violence and anger issues. Usher commented on how Chris Brown should have shown remorse instead of riding a jet ski, after beating Rihanna, biting her on the face and neck, and leaving her for dead on the street. Usher was criticized for his comments and quickly issued an official apology. How rude to speak negatively about Chris Brown’s ‘private life’:

The celebrities surrounding Chris Brown have done nothing to indicate how monstrous and pathological his behavior is. Yet again, celebrities, along with our “justice system,” have reinforced the idea that if you are rich and famous you are above the law. ABC didn’t press charges against Chris Brown after he threw a chair into a mirror after an interview. This year, a spokesman for the Grammys had this to say about Chris Brown: “I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”

I am a believer in rehabilitation and personal forgiveness. If Chris Brown had changed his behavior, expressed remorse, and became a spokesperson for anger management and victims of domestic violence, I hope he would be forgiven. But Chris Brown has done none of those things. After beating Rihanna, biting her on the face and neck, and leaving her for dead on the street, he received probation and community service, the equivalent of a legal slap on the wrist, and took no steps to work on himself as a person.

Celebrities demonstrate the same kind of callous, manipulative self-censorship they displayed after Chris Brown beat Rihanna when confronting drug and alcohol addiction. They did it after the death of Marilyn Monroe. They’re doing it right now in the aftermath of Whitney Houston’s death as a result of alcohol and pill use. They are presenting her as an icon and a role model, and utterly failing to mention the destructive habits that contributed to the decline of her career and her health.

Whitney Houston was a drug addict. She was arrested multiple times for crack cocaine use and possession of illegal substances. She is not a role model. Yet celebrities have remained surprisingly silent about this fact. This silence speaks volumes.

The message celebrities are sending in their response (or lack thereof) to drug addiction is that people who kill themselves with drug abuse and egocentrism are to be valued and immortalized. You can be forgiven for you volatile behavior, poor parenting, and illegal behavior if you are “an artist.” What a terrible message to send young people who look up to you.

So why the silence? Is the fact that Americans value self-destructive celebrities evidence that we value success, fame, and beauty over almost all moral qualities? Do fame and money have morally transformative properties? Are people who are attracted to certain careers (acting, politics) more likely to demonstrate sociopathic tendencies and believe in moral relativism? All of these ideas receive some support in scientific literature.

But I’m still surprised by the pervasiveness of this silence. I find it odd that celebrities can pose in Playboy, be addicted to drugs, and demonstrate total disregard for others and still claim they are empowering women or acting as humanitarians or role models.

Every time I come across the rare celebrity running against the flock of the beautiful sheeple, it warms my heart. Not enough attention is paid to people like Robert Downey Jr. for the effort they put into getting clean, turning their lives around, and building successful, productive careers out of the wreckage that drug abuse can wreak on a life. I don’t find Taylor Swift particularly talented, but I started paying attention to her after she went on record saying that celebrities and musicians shouldn’t complain about having their picture taken by the paparazzi. She views such minor inconveniences to be part of the package of being a billionaire (since the “billionaire” package includes more than enough positives–power, voice, money, adoration–to outweigh the negatives).

It looks like the messages that need to be sent about real life are never going to come from celebrities, so the onus of responsibility will fall on us (normal adults) to teach children media literacy and set positive examples for what appropriate behavior is. Young people need to learn about the fallibility of humans and they need to understand how utterly destructive negative habits can be, even on “the voice of a generation.”

More importantly, we have to talk about the truth. And today, one truth is the fact that Whitney Houston was a beautiful singer and a drug addict.

What are your thoughts on why celebrities seem incapable of criticizing other celebrities for their moral failings?

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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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“Good” and “Sweet”

There is an important distinction between what is “good” and “sweet.”

Good: “Good” actions are those that lead to enlightenment, improvement, positivity, growth, and love. More often than not, “good” actions are not “fun” things. We may need to have an unpleasant conversation with a friend about her addiction, arrive late to an important meeting because a stranger ran out of gas on the freeway, or pick up our dog’s poop to keep the neighborhood beautiful.

Sweet:  “Sweet” actions are those that are pleasurable: they make us feel excitement, short-term happiness, or arousal.

Understanding the difference between these two concepts is critical to personal growth and genuine happiness. When we cannot tell the difference between these two concepts, we misdirect our energy and waste tremendous amounts of time.

Deep down, we know when we are using “sweet” things (shopping, sex, drugs, alcohol) to fill holes in our other aspects of our lives, but giving “sweet” things up is difficult, so we close the door to our thoughts and continue on a pattern of destructive, anxiety-provoking behavior.

We may overindulge in food, becoming compulsive eaters who are addicted to the dopamine-rush of a fatty meal. We may zone out for hours every night in front of the television, without leaving time for friends, family, or self-improvement. We may spend prodigally to repress something that is bothering us: “Ugh, I should really nurture my relationship with my husband/read that fascinating article I’ve been putting off/clean my home, but I’m going to buy this instead.”

We can use food, television, and shopping like emotion-numbing drugs or we can use them to bring people together and nourish ourselves. If there is a hole in your life created by emotional or physical trauma, the only thing that can fill the hole is hard work on yourself (individually or with a loving professional). Using people or things to procrastinate putting in work on ourselves may be “sweet” in the short-term, but it is not “good.”

There are, however, many things in life that are both good AND sweet: savoring a delicious fruit (taking joy in the taste and nourishing your body), smiling with a young child, engaging in random acts of kindness, having sex with a loving partner, petting a dog (I’m sure the dog would also find this “sweet,” even though he may have no concept of “good”).

When we fill our lives with things that are both good AND sweet, we maximize our capacity for joy and pleasure.

Ask yourself: What am I doing in my life today that is only “sweet” and not “good?” How can I find more joy my “good” actions? Am I too concentrated on aspects of my life that are “sweet” or am I moralizing excessively and obsessing only over what is “good?” If I cannot identify what I can improve about myself, how can I gain insight into who I want to be?

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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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