What’s A Young Woman To Do?

Imagine you’re a heterosexual, twenty or thirty-something female, wanting a romantic partner, even a husband, maybe even children, but you spend more time looking at screens than interacting with male friends. Realizing the folly of your ways, you unplug a bit, stop taking your phone everywhere, start changing your daily routine so that you’re Instagramming less and talking to people your age more.

Then you read this essay titled “How Abusive Relationships Take Root” and learn:

“Roughly a third of women in developed countries report having been in at least one abusive relationship, defined by a partner or ex-partner who ’causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors,’ according to the World Health Organization.”

What do you do? Throw in the towel? Benedict Carey, the author of the essay, has an answer. Pay really close attention to warning signs.*

“The hallmark signs of the male abuser are well known to experts. He’s jealous. He exhibits a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. He can be cruel with animals, to children. But often there are subtler, more incremental steps in the development of an abusive relationship, among men and women of all orientations.

‘It often starts in a very insidious way,’ said Patricia Pape, a psychologist in private practice in New York. ‘He says, ‘Don’t put Sweet-and-Low in your coffee, it’s poisonous.’ ‘Then, ‘When you wear that nail polish, it makes you look like a fallen woman,’ and ‘That skirt is too short, it’s too revealing.’ Or, ‘I don’t think you should see her, she’s not good for you.’ ‘You wind up in a situation where he’s telling you what to wear, what to eat, who you can see, how to behave.’ Each small adjustment made by the victim reinforces this control, Dr. Pape said. One of her patients had a husband who, when the couple was out at a public event, would insist she not look around at the crowd, as he felt it could be seen as flirtatious. ‘It came to point that when she walked around, she would look down,” Dr. Pape said. “It changed how she walked.’

In this case, as in so many others, no single request was offensive on its own — at least, not early on. Each person in a relationship makes room for the other’s quirks, to some extent, male or female: that’s what couples do. It’s the incremental ceding of control on one side that can prime someone for abuse, therapists said.”

The incremental ceding of control. The incremental ceding of control. The incremental ceding of control.

When he says, “Don’t put Sweet-and-Low in your coffee, it’s poisonous,” your inner voice has to say, “F*ck you.” Get up from the cafe table, walk out, and don’t turn back. When he says, “I don’t think you should see her, she’s not good for you.” “F*ck you, I will always choose my friends.” Nail polish makes you look like a fallen woman, f*ck you. Skirt too short, f*ck you. Swear too much, f*ck you.

At the same exact time you have to remind yourself that most men are not prone to dictating what you put in your coffee, that they don’t care who your friends are, what color your fingernails are, or how short your skirt is. Most men are not jealous, do not have Jekyll-and-Hyde personalities, and are not cruel to animals or children.

In fact, #MeToo headlines and popular culture depictions aside, a lot of men are secure, psychologically healthy, even kind and considerate, and they dig whatever friends, color of fingernail polish, and clothing make you happy. They willingly cede control to all-important things like what you put in your coffee. And they listen, consider your feelings, and seek to make most decisions together. They conceive of romantic love as a partnershp. Lots and lots of men.

So you overcome your understandable uncertainty and take chances with male friends, sharing more and more of your deepest thoughts, assuming that they are of the kind and considerate variety until they prove differently. At which point you promptly drop kick them and start all over again.

*I will be using this passage in future writing seminars. Brilliant illustration of specific details.

Monday Assorted Links

1. My Gender-Fluid Senior Prom by Ara Halstead from. . . Olympia, WA.

2 . The Spy Who Came Home. What do Fallujah and Savannah, Georgia have in common? Find out from Patrick Skinner, who I find inspiring on so many levels. Then follow him on Twitter.

3. How Bike-Friendly Is My City? Not as friendly as Fort Collins, Colorado or Wausau, Wisconsin.

4. Jerusalem opens a bike tunnel in a sewage tunnel.

5A. Silent soccer.

5B. Young swimmers may have to wait to dress like Katie Ledecky.

 

Why Is Everybody Getting Married in a Barn?

You may not have known it, but Caroline Kitchener says:

“Millennials, in staggering numbers, are choosing to start their married lives under high eaves and exposed beams, looking out over long, stripped-down wooden benches and lines of mason jars.”

If you’re thinking of getting married in a barn, be sure to follow the template.

“Even if a couple isn’t actually getting married in a barn, there’s a good chance they’ll make their venue look like one, said Gabrielle Stone, a wedding planner based in Boston, Massachusetts. ‘There is this term that people use now: rustic chic.’ Typically, that means couples will fill the space with homemade chalkboard signs and distressed, vintage furniture.  ‘And wooden water barrels,’ Stone said. ‘Lots of water barrels.'”

And start saving.

“According to one widely-cited set of statistics, the average wedding cost has been steadily increasing, from $27,021 in 2011 to $33,391 in 2017. But, despite these price tags, many young couples today don’t want to be showy about it. Happier at a brewery than a fancy restaurant, accustomed to wearing jeans to work, many Millennials are proudly casual. There is a certain social capital that, as a 20- or 30-something, comes with being labeled ‘laid-back’ and ‘chill.'”

More analysis.

“It’s about the couple—who they are, and what they want to represent. More than ‘How do I want other people to see me?’ it’s ‘How do I want to see myself?’” Many live in urban areas and have a fantasy about a life that is ‘calmer and less complicated’: a life removed from the big city, where couples and their guests can be one with the animals (or—if none are available—at least the spaces they could theoretically inhabit).

I wonder if no mention of churches is an indicator of the increasing secularization of North American life.

And I gotta believe there’s one more explanation that Kitchener and her sources slight, that some are opting for barns because others are. How do I want to see myself? Like others.

Wednesday Assorted Links

1. Research Puts Spotlight on the Impact of Loneliness in the U.S. and Potential Root Causes

The findings:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).

2. Nearly half of jobs are vulnerable to automation.

“In 2013 Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University used—what else?—a machine-learning algorithm to assess how easily 702 different kinds of job in America could be automated. They concluded that fully 47% could be done by machines ‘over the next decade or two.'”

3. Mental health on a budget.

4. The Secret to Magic Mornings? Put The Kids to Work.

“Our kids — all daughters (and no, we aren’t and weren’t trying for a boy) — are ages 4 through 18. And over the years we’ve tried all kinds of systems and routines as we’ve tried to make mornings more manageable. Yelling didn’t work. Bribes and reward charts were more trouble than they were worth. Doing everything for them was unsustainable — we all were cranky.

So we kept tinkering with different ideas.

A while back we hit the jackpot with a plan that is finally working well.”

5. How Refugees Are Finding Home on an American Campus.

Proud of my former employer for resisting Trump’s xenophobia so concretely.

The Only Constant Is Change

Dig this beautiful essay on selfishness, selflessness, and love titled “Nobody Tells You How Long a Marriage Is” by Lauren Doyle Owens.

At the end, she writes:

“Nobody tells you how long marriage is. When you fall in love, when you have fun with somebody, when you enjoy the way they see the world, nobody ever says, “This person will change. And so you will be married to two, three, four, five or 10 people throughout the course of your life, as you live out your vows.” Nobody warns you.”

Tru ‘dat.

Same as when I married three decades ago, I have no interest in military history, plant nomenclature, or jazz; now though, I am interested in lots of new things like cooking, food, endurance athletics, North Korea, and Stoicism. When I married I was a pauper public school teacher who was oblivious to the stock market. Now I identify in part as an investor. When I married, I was a conventional Christian, today I am more open to and interested in other religious traditions and forms of spirituality. When I married, I used a lot of product in my (amazing) hair; now, not so much.

When I married I was agnostic about the natural world; today, my well-being depends upon it. When I married I was a son; now, I am not. When I married, I was Lauren’s husband, preferring the suburbs; now I’m Lauren, preferring anywhere else.

Life is fragile and mysterious, meaning best case scenario, the Good Wife and I are in the middle of our life together, meaning she’s been married to four or five Rons* with maybe another four or five to go. Here’s hoping she continues adjusting to my continuing evolution.

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*As a result of this recent Janos tweet, I’ve decided my Witness Protection name is going to be Rondo not LeRon. What, you don’t get to pick your WP name?!

Written while the Celts were losing their last game, “we are need rondos.  I am say all day all night for lots time  but is no rondos.  i  am frustrate.”

Commas Are Killing Your Relationships

It took a long time, 56 years to be exact, but I have mastered human relationships. Picture me taking a bow.*

Harmony depends upon your ability to apologize to whomever you offend or hurt. When in the wrong, which in my experience is most of the time, there are two ways to apologize, one wrong, one right.

The wrong way is to say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but . . . ” The “but” completely cancels out the original sentiment.

To the other person, everything that follows sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher or an unintelligible foreign language. Commas are sly bastards which we wield to say, “You’re overreacting.”

To review, when you say “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but whah, whah, whah,” what you’re really saying is “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but you’re overreacting.”

Always choose periods over commas.”I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

*somewhere, The Good Wife just spit her tea all over her screen :)

My Personal Total Solar Eclipse

Of the mechanically inclined, we say “He’s/She’s good with his/her hands.” For some reason though, of the mechanically disinclined, we don’t say, “He’s bad with his hands.”

But if the shoe fits. You can say I’m bad with my hands because it’s true. My excuse is I was the youngest son, meaning whenever something needed fixing, Older Brother 1 or 2 took care of it. I have a lot of friends who didn’t grow up learning trades, but they’re naturals, totally renovating their houses. “Just watch a YouTube video,” they say.  I use YouCanTooTube to replace air and cabin filters, but it’s little help when attempting intermediate or advanced fixes.

Today I did my first triathlon of the season, swim-cycle-mow/edge. I used to continually fight my gas edger because it would unspool and I’d repeatedly take it apart with a screwdriver and slowly rewind it until it unspooled again. Then God looked upon me with favor, by which I mean I went electric. The electric edger never unspooled and life improved immeasurably.

Today, two years later, I ran out of line in the middle of my landscaping handiwork. Then it happened. Something as rare as a total solar eclipse.

As I retreated to the garage I wondered, “How am I going to fuck this up?” Then I flipped open the manual to the exact right page. An omen.

I lined up the hash marks so the eyelets were even, measured and cut 15 feet of line as instructed, inserted it into the eyelets so that each side was the same length, wound it up, and cut it off so that each side was exactly five inches long. Back in business in a few minutes.

I forgive you for thinking, “This is simple shit. What a sad sack for celebrating re-spooling his edger.” But everything is relative. When it comes to home repairs, the Cleveland Browns win more often than me. If my sad sackness makes you feel better about how good you are with your hands, I’m happy to contribute to the self esteem boost. One day, two accomplishments.