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Posts Tagged ‘men’

Get that needle away from my face!

In aging, beauty, business, culture, domestic life, History, life, Medicine, Style, women on October 5, 2013 at 2:14 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Having had four orthopedic surgeries in 12 years is enough to put you off needles for a long, long time, between pre-op blood tests, IVs and anesthesia.

So I’m not going to be reaching for the Restylane or Botox — face freezers or fillers that make you look calmer and younger — any time soon.

No needles in my face, kids!

Pretty Face

Pretty Face (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a recent column from The New York Times about how to age gracefully, without all the paraphernalia:

Some days it seems everyone I meet is afraid of getting old — or at least of looking as old as they are. Occasionally, I see women who have had so many face lifts that they can barely move their lips when they talk, let alone smile.

Business is booming in the anti-aging market. Plastic surgeons who specialize in lifts, tucks and fillers barely noticed the recent recession. Cosmetics with anti-aging properties fly off the shelf, and new concoctions appear almost weekly.

I admit to supporting the multibillion-dollar skin care industry with my long use of night creams, as well as a slew of daytime facial and body lotions that purport to “smooth out” aging skin while protecting it with sunscreen. I also color my hair, which in its natural state is now about 80 percent gray.

But I draw the line at injectable fillers and muscle relaxants, face lifts and tummy tucks. I’ll do everything I can to stay out of an operating room.

I’m with her on that. I also really like her emphasis on who you are are as you age, not just the shape, size and condition of our bodies and faces:

Youthfulness is not just a question of biology. People are perceived to be younger than their years if they smile and laugh a lot (be proud of those laugh lines!) and are generally cheerful and upbeat, the kind of people who smile at strangers and wish them a good day.

People often guess me as 10 to 15 years younger than my true age, which is pleasant. This week, a NYC cabbie guessed me 13 years younger, and young people looking at me in broad daylight (i.e. their eyesight is fine!) do so as well.

If people perceive me a decade younger than some of my peers, it’s likely a combination of things:

– I’ve never smoked

– I get a lot of sleep

– I disconnect, often, from technology to meet people in person, read books in print, get into the real world

– I minimize my use of social media (however hip) to recharge and reflect

– I enjoy my life, and have a wide network of supportive friends

– I only drink moderately

– I exercise 3-4 times a week, often outdoors in nature

– Genetic good fortune – my aunt, who died at 82, looked amazing (she might, having been a well-known actress in England,) have had “some work done” along the way.

– I have much younger friends, some even in their early 20s, and love being part of their lives

– I’ve never hit rock-bottom, terrifying poverty, the kind where you have no idea where your next dollar, or dime, is coming from. Terror and 24/7 anxiety will age anyone quickly.

Here’s a great post from Emma Johnson, aka Wealthy Single Mommy, a fellow New York journalist, who is 36, about accepting and enjoying how our bodies change with age:

In the past year or so I’ve noticed other first, albeit subtle signs of aging: The large pores. A second glass of pinot grigio at night and I wake to extra-dark circles and creping under my eyes. The cellulite that has hugged the back of my thighs since I was 12 has spawned and now also covers the front of my thighs. After two babies and four decades, I don’t expect to see a flat tummy again. Everyone knows bodies age, yet are surprised when it happens to theirs. Here I am.

And yet.

And yet for the first time in my life, I see something else that wasn’t there before. When I see pictures of myself smiling I notice the fine laugh lines, yes. There is something else in my whole face that is new. The same thing when I catch a reflection of my eyes in the rear-view mirror as I glance at my children sleeping in the backseat. I see the crow’s feet at the same moment and I see a pretty face. I did not see pretty before. It may have never been there, I’m not sure.

For the gentlemen in the audience, here’s a smart/funny column from Details magazine on the subject:

We now have a small army of male archetypes suffering sartorial midlife crises.

There’s the man still padding around dressed like the 28-year-old Silver Lake hipster—Vans, Daft Punk tee, thigh-hugging jeans—he was a decade ago. His proliferation is easy to understand, because his style requires no effort. Change nothing. No wonder he has numerous stuck-in-time siblings, like his urban-styled brethren.

Women, certainly in the U.S., are judged harshly when we’re not deemed sufficiently  thin, perky and unwrinkled — which rules out plenty of us over 40, let alone 50.

It also focuses way too much attention on the size of our hips or ass when we really need to focus attention on the size of our paychecks and investments for retirement.

Active, curious,open minds and generous hearts are every bit as important — and generally far more within our control — as the inevitable ravages, and sometimes really lousy luck, faced by an aging body.

Some of the coolest women I know live in my apartment building, like M. who’s 80 — and feels about 60 — with fab clothes and a pompadour, a booming laugh and a spirit that still kicks ass.

I want to be her.

When you look in the mirror — especially those of you over 30 — are you happy with what you see?

No, I don’t want to “Smile, honey!”

In behavior, children, culture, family, life, parenting, urban life, women on September 19, 2013 at 1:08 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Here’s a powerful essay from The New York Times about one mother’s ferocious, non-smiley 10-year-old daughter, Birdy.

A few excerpts:

I am a radical, card-carrying feminist, and still I put out smiles indiscriminately, hoping to please not only friends and family but also my son’s orthodontist, the barista who rolls his eyes while I fumble apologetically through my wallet, and the ex-boyfriend who cheated on me. If I had all that energy back — all the hours and neurochemicals and facial musculature I have expended in my wanton pursuit of likedness — I could propel myself to Mars and back. Or, at the very least, write the book “Mars and Back: Gendered Constraints and Wasted Smiling.”…

Birdy is polite in a “Can you please help me find my rain boots?” and “Thank you, I’d love another deviled egg” kind of way. But when strangers talk to her, she is like, “Whatever.” She looks away, scowling. She does not smile or encourage.

I bite my tongue so that I won’t hiss at her to be nice.

Girls and women often hear this order — mostly from men, and often while walking in public, lost in our own thoughts: “Smile, honey!”

Because….?

It’s our job to respond to you?

It’s our job to be cheerful at all times?

It’s our job to immediately re-arrange our facial features at your command?

It’s our job to reassure you that you’re every bit as attractive and charming as you think you are?

It’s our job to put you at ease — no matter what our true mood is in that moment?

Seriously.

Smile Like You Mean It

Smile Like You Mean It (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In high school, I was badly bullied every day, loudly, for about three years by a small group of boys. My nickname was Doglin and they’d bark at me in the hallways, their taunts echoing off all the metal lockers and the long terrazzo hallways.

It didn’t matter what I wore or how I reacted or how smart I was or how many friends I had — the daily public humiliation continued.

It’s not our job to make you feel better about yourself by making our face, body or behavior more appealing!

Smile 2

Smile 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also like this post, about why women don’t need to be pretty either (h/t to Small Dog Syndrome):

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

I’m not saying that you SHOULDN’T be pretty if you want to. (You don’t owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.) Pretty is pleasant, and fun, and satisfying, and makes people smile, often even at you. But in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy, is way below healthy, and if done as a penance, or an obligation, can be so far away from independent that you may have to squint really hard to see it in the haze.

And here’s an excerpt from a recent, powerful essay on the issue from Salon.com:

Yesterday, I missed a train and I was frustrated, hot and tired. A man standing in the station decided it was a good time to pass his hand along my arm as I ran by and whisper, “You’d be even prettier if you smiled.”  Here’s the thing about “Smile, baby,” the more commonly uttered variant of the same sentiment: No woman wants to hear it.  And every woman wonders, no matter how briefly, about what could happen if she doesn’t smile.  I was in a crowded place and perfectly safe, but that is actually, in the end, irrelevant.  I have, in the past, been followed by men like him.

Without exception, this phrase means a man is entirely comfortable telling a woman, probably one he doesn’t even know, what he wants her to do with her body to please him.  This suggests a lack of respect for other people’s bodily integrity and autonomy.  The phrase, and others more sexually explicit, are verbal expressions of male entitlement.  The touching would reinforce that suggestion. Two “inconsequential” little words.  A small thing, until you consider street harassment as the normalization of male dominance.

Gentlemen, do you care if a woman doesn’t smile at you?

Do you care, ladies, if men think you’re angry or ugly when you fail to acknowledge their gaze?

In praise of male elegance

In beauty, behavior, business, culture, design, domestic life, Fashion, life, men, Style, urban life, US, work on November 25, 2012 at 12:12 am
English: Lithograph of Brooks Clothing Store, ...

English: Lithograph of Brooks Clothing Store, Catherine Street, New York City, in 1845 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Loved this recent story about how (some!) American men are dressing better, in The New York Times:

Men are notoriously averse to shopping…

So why do men appear to be shopping for themselves in record numbers?

Men’s wear sales are surging at double-digit rates. Suits, sports coats and outerwear, nearly all bought by men themselves, are leading the gains, according to Steve Pruitt, founder of the fashion and retail consulting firm Blacks Retail. Blacks projects that men’s suit sales will be up 10 percent this fall and holiday season, and sports jacket sales will be up 11 percent, while women’s ready-to-wear sales remain flat.

“Men are the new women,” Bret Pittman, director of J. Crew’s Ludlow Shop in TriBeCa in Manhattan, told me when I stopped in recently for a tour of the new store, the prototype for a line that will feature men’s suits and tailored clothing.

As I write this, two gift-wrapped boxes await Jose in my closet, from Paul Stuart and Brooks Brothers, with more sartorial goodies en-route for Christmas. He went to the dry cleaner’s tailor today to get three pairs of corduroy trousers altered — after I insisted. (The tailor agreed.)

A well-dressed man is a rare and lovely sight. If this is becoming a trend, I’m all for it.

Madison in the mid-40s, in Manhattan, is where you’ll find Brooks Brothers on the south end of the block and Paul Stuart — a 74-year-old shop named for the founder’s son — at the north end…keep heading north and you’ll find 111-year-old J. Press, all shops with classic, elegant, well-made clothing.

Brooks has everything from a smart black umbrella with a real bamboo handle, (a reasonable $60), to suits, shoes, pajamas, cologne, hats and leather briefcases. Their small shoe department has wonderful things, from dressy to casual. Paul Stuart, whose styles and colors are far more European, is not for the faint-of-heart or thin-of-wallet — a pair of socks is $48 and their sweaters and jackets roam to the four figures. Their cheapest shoe, a stunning black suede Italian loafer, is $562.

But some things are affordable, and fun — silk pocket squares and their knotted fabric cuff-links for $12. I love the quiet, old-school atmosphere and the jewel tones, in virtually every item, that are their trademark.

Elegance is an acquired taste.

My father, at 83 exploring Hong Kong as I write this, still dresses with great style, as he always has, which gave me a decided interest in dating — certainly marrying — a man who appreciates it as well. I still remember exactly what Jose wore on our first date 13 years ago, very much enjoying that he had bothered to dress up for the occasion; when I see guys in their 30s or beyond still schlubbing around in sneakers and caps and hoodies, like a bunch of 12-year-olds with no dough and less imagination, I sigh.

Male elegance has a few basic, classic components:

Fit

American men seem to have no idea that tailors even exist, as so many wear trousers, (even on their wedding day!), that puddle hopelessly atop their shoes. Too many clothes, certainly the cheaper ones, are laser-cut in China, with little or no attention to proper fit. Read GQ or Details or The Sartorialist for examples of how do it right.

Material

Learn the difference between cotton, polyester, nylon, wool, cashmere and rayon, calf leather, cordovan, suede. Read labels and feel the materials under your hand. Once you can tell the difference between cashmere and merino, (and your budget has no room for new cashmere), hit consignment and vintage shops for affordable options.

Color

Many men have absolutely no idea what colors look well on them, or awful. The color of your hair, (or lack of same), eyes and skin tone should all affect your choices  — including hats, scarves and eyewear. If you’re very pale, a white shirt and light gray suit are probably not the most attractive choices. Jose, being Hispanic, has a skin tone that allows him to wear some fantastically bold color choices and look terrific in them. A decent salesman or woman in a better quality men’s store can help. Men whose wives or partners have a great eye could do worse than let us help you edit your choices.

Grooming

Huge. The nicest pair of leather shoes will look like hell if you let the heels wear down, (hence the expression, well-heeled), don’t polish them frequently and forget to use heavy, solid wooden shoe trees after each wearing. Regular haircuts — including nose, ear and eyebrow trim for the over-40s — make a serious difference. Keep nails short and clean, and hands moisturized. A subtle cologne is a wonderful lagniappe.

Footwear

Financial Times columnist Peter Aspden recently described the challenge of finding weekend shoes:

By far the trickiest part of weekend dressing is footwear. Look: there is no smart casual in footwear. Smart is what you wear to work. Casual is trainers: comfortable, fashionable. A chairman of the Royal Opera House once declared that he never wanted to sit next to anyone wearing trainers. He was ridiculed. It was a seminal cultural-podiatric moment. We are the generation that invented trainers, and now we had earned the right to wear them, whenever, wherever.

Joe Ottaway, personal shopping consultant at Selfridges, grimaces. “I’m not a great trainer [note: Britspeak for sneakers, running shoes] fan,” he says. He admits that weekend footwear can be a thorny problem. “What is important is to find something that is age-appropriate.” It seems, not for the first time, that I have missed a key trend in men’s fashion. “The age of the well-dressed, well-groomed man is coming back.” And it means, beyond a certain age, no trainers. What age might that be? “25,” says Ottaway.

Accessories

Have fun! These include gorgeous silk pocket squares, (this one is $8 in jewel tones), lovely knee-high colored socks, cuff-links, a sterling belt buckle, a slim (possibly vintage) watch, great eyewear, a well-made hat, a snazzy duffel or backpack or briefcase. Frenchmen almost always add a fab scarf or muffler to their outfits, and there are many options out there; I like this striped one from Barney’s, by Paul Smith.

Take time, if being stylish appeals to you, to browse a few high-end shops, on-line or in person, to see what’s available. The king of this is British designer Paul Smith; a visit to his Fifth Avenue shop is always fun and inspiring.

Ladies, does a well-dressed man catch your eye?

Do you — gentlemen — pay attention to such matters?

For best results…

In behavior, domestic life, family, life on October 6, 2012 at 12:06 am
Toothpaste and toothbrush

Toothpaste and toothbrush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seriously, kids, this is what I recently read on the side of my toothpaste:

For best results, squeeze from the bottom of the tube and flatten as you go.

A few thoughts on this:

Someone earned a handsome wage for conceiving of/overseeing/commissioning/writing and editing that sentence.

As opposed to? The sides? The top?

Who, truly among us, does not know how to squeeze a freaking tube of toothpaste?

But then I thought some more…Wouldn’t it be awesome if life came with similarly clear and gently helpful instructions?

I began imagining a stream of them that might well have given me so much better results, had I only heard them in time…

For best results:

– That cute boyfriend who speaks Russian, with the alluringly thick mustache? Not a great choice. Although extremely skilled on the horizontal, he’s actually gay.

– That other cute boyfriend, the soulful one who became a photographer, ditto.

– When you decide to describe someone, (entirely accurately), as “a total bitch”, best to recall that your new friend has been friends with her since childhood.

– If, as you start to walk down the aisle to get married, and your final whisper to your maid of honor is “Just be my friend if this doesn’t work out”, perhaps the wiser choice is to turn around and head for the bar instead. Say, in Bolivia.

– Before taking that cool new job in another province, the one (guess!) with insane-o tax rates, best to call an accountant there to see how much of that raise you’ll actually get to keep. Before you rent an expensive apartment and up-end your entire life.

– If you’re marrying someone who makes you a little nervous, spend a few bucks on a divorce attorney to see what you’d get if he bails. Nothing, you say? Pre-nup, stat!

– Small-town life looks so alluring: flannel, boots, long walks with the dog. Complete lack of friends/family/income/sources of income? Not so much.

– If it looks like a liar, sounds like a liar yet is utterly charming, stay with your first impression. A private detective is a wonderful thing, but not someone you want on speed-dial.

– If your boss routinely stands thisclose and shouts abuse at you, that anemic fuck-you fund, if fatter, would allow you to quit with dignity, not pop another Xanax to keep the bills paid.

What words of advice, if heard ahead of time, might have saved you some excess drama?

Does your spouse vastly out-earn you? Does it matter?

In aging, behavior, books, business, culture, domestic life, family, journalism, life, love, Media, men, Money, women, work on August 30, 2012 at 12:07 am
united states currency seal - IMG_7366_web

united states currency seal – IMG_7366_web (Photo credit: kevindean)

Maybe it’s your wife who’s out-earning you, a trend in the United States, where one-third of women now make more money than their husbands.

Here’s today’s New York Times Magazine cover story on the subject, by Hannah Rosin, about the new “middle class matriarchy.”

What we’re really talking about is income disparity, a proxy for the very real issue in every marriage — power: who has it, who has more of it, who uses it and some who, in a nasty fight, abuse it.

Marriage, to me, ideally means two people helping one another to shoulder their burdens, but is it anymore?

Here’s a recent blog post by a fellow freelance writer on this subject:

I realize that I don’t really want to “have it all.” Or, rather, the phrase “having it all” is different for everyone. For me, it means having a balanced life, as a writer and wife and mother and woman. A high-powered career doesn’t interest me, though I wouldn’t want to stop working completely.

Michael and I have always wanted the same, basic things: marriage, children, a house, fulfilling careers. When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a writer. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer. Now? I’m a writer…

But then I think about how Michael’s carrying me. How he’s carrying us. And not wanting “it all” (in the conventional six-figure sense) makes me feel guilty.

This writer says she makes about $30,000 a year, working mostly part-time.

That’s a fortune to some people, but not in many parts of the United States, unless you own your home outright, pay almost no property tax and feed your family from your own food production.

Without a significant additional income from your spouse, you’re going nowhere fast.

And husbands know it.

Her post spoke to me because my annual income for two years, also as a freelance writer, was less than $30,000. Things have improved for me since then — my income doubled between 2008 and 2009, and I’m up 11 percent over 2011, with four months’ additional earning power before year’s end.

I still earn far less than my husband — who, thanks to his newspaper union, is stuck with measly 3 percent raises year after year.

So, who’s more “successful”?

Is money our only, our most accurate, measure of worth?

Ask a teacher or those working at lower wages doing essential work…

I began writing for a living in 1978, in my final years of college. Back then, $1/word was normal pay. It was also plenty — my share of the rent was about $300/month and my only other bills were food and phone. Today, costs are way up, I want to retire, (i.e. must save a ton of dough), and many editors pay the exact same wage. Many talented, experienced writers are hustling harder than ever for less money than we made a decade ago.

But many of us, watching some of our peers hit the Today show or best-seller lists, also feel driven to make big bucks, with or without kids, because we can. Our incomes prove our bona fides as smart, ambitious, driven, feminist.

What if we don’t want to?

That’s a pretty radical statement for women daily exhorted on all sides to Do It All. As many women doing it all know, (those without 24/7 nanny care or family support), it can be a recipe for exhaustion.

We don’t have kids, (by choice), nor must we support broke parents; my father and mother are well-financed and Jose’s parents long dead.

So whatever income we scrape together is up to us to negotiate. In our early years, we had some very bitter fights over my inability to earn a lot more than I do. Now Jose gratefully accepts what I earn, even if it’s less than my income from 2000, when we met, and I had a $1,200/month client for about a year. I recently — after many tough years without one — snagged another.

It’s difficult not to feel really frustrated sometimes. We’re in our 50s, not 20s or 30s with decades ahead of us in which we want to workworkworkworkwork.

Like many people our age, and in our industry, we’re both doing our best to adapt, but we’re weary of trimming our sails or savaging one another for our stagnant/falling incomes. It’s been too easy to turn that frustration on one another.

From The New York Times:

In the first quarter of this year, per capita disposable personal income was up just 4.7 percent from four years ago. That is the smallest such gain since the late 1940s, when the number was influenced by the fall in government spending after World War II. Adjusted for inflation, the average American now has income that is 2.1 percent lower than four years ago.

Do you significantly out-earn your husband or vice versa?

How’s that affecting your marriage?

The other people with “your” name

In behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, journalism, life, Media, men, Money, urban life, US on April 24, 2012 at 12:14 am
Brief History: Civil War Pensions: The busines...

Brief History: Civil War Pensions: The business card of one of the many attorneys specializing in pension claims, circa 1895. SSA History Archives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you have a doppelganger?

It’s very odd when you discover one, let alone dozens, or hundreds. I grew up in an era when Caitlin, (a variant of Cathleen), was unheard of, at least in Toronto. People called me Cakelin.

(In Ireland, they pronounce it Kawtch-leen, in Wales, Cawth-lin. I say Cate-lin, thereby mangling my own name in two places. Ooops.)

My name, then, made me unique and distinctive, so much so that I wanted, for a teenage while, to become a less-unique Jennifer.

Now the Google alert on my name brings up daily mentions of “my” name — almost always high school athletes. When someone hollers my name in public these days they’re usually scolding a toddler.

When I began writing for a living, at 19, people accused me of creating a euphonious pseudonym. “But what’s your real name?” they’d ask, indignant.

Now Caitlin Kelly’s are bloody everywhere! There was even another one living for a while in my suburban New York town of only 10,000 people. When I once airily asked my mortgage company to look something up under my name, lists of them appeared. Ouch!

Here’s an amazing story from The New York Times about a reporter named Alan Feuer who reached out to his doppelganger — and discovered a Gatsby-esque tale of re-invention:

Beyond our name, we had nothing in common. He lived on the East Side; I lived on the West. He wore top hats; I wore baseball caps. When he asked about my family, I told him I was from Romanian Jews, most of whom fled Europe after World War II. Alan told me that he was from a family of Austrian bluebloods transplanted to New York. There had been, he said, a family fortune once; but, he added wistfully, “Mother lived too long.”…

Dear Mr. Feuer,

Ever since reading your article about the other Alan Feuer, I have thought about writing to you. I had no desire to disrupt his life while he was alive, but since he has passed away, I am wondering if you would be interested in learning the truth about his background.

The writer, I was shocked to find, was the other Alan’s stepniece; she told me she had known him since she was 5. Her letter laid out the family’s relationships — I knew that Alan was estranged — and then concluded on a melancholy note.

While the adult life he described to you was certainly true, his background was far from the one he claimed. If you would be interested in further information about this sad and, I think, somewhat troubled man, please feel free to contact me.

This is such an American tale! The hiding of one’s working class or less-affluent origins; the re-invention, hiding behind a European mantle of sophistication; the (correct) assumption that fellow Americans will be too polite or bamboozled to unmask you.

I grew up in Canada, whose entire population, (about 30 million), is that of New York State — only ten percent of the U.S. Social, educational and professional circles are smaller and tighter and lies usually easier to detect. The best universities number no more than five, so soi-disant backstories are harder to create from whole cloth when a few phone calls or mouse clicks can reveal the truth.

Here in the U.S. where bluff, bluster and the right clothes can go a long way to impressing people, you can become — and many do – whomever you choose.

At best, it’s charming and a testament to social mobility.

At worst — which I’ve experienced — it’s catnip to con artists, who know that an air of suave self-confidence can fool a lot of people for a long time. I dated one of these in 1998. He pretended to be a physician, while living in Chicago, and his business card, (doctors generally don’t have business cards!), boasted a string of credentials that mean nothing to anyone knowledgable. But the women he wooed didn’t know or care.

Do you have a doppelganger?

Have you met or been in contact? Are they like you?

What’s your definition of “manly”?

In behavior, blogging, culture, domestic life, life, love, men, women on March 31, 2012 at 12:21 am
Lewis Hine Power house mechanic working on ste...

Lewis Hine Power house mechanic working on steam pump. (1920) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s an interesting post by one of my favorite bloggers, a fellow Torontonian named Josh Bowman, about his struggle to define “manly”:

There is something to be said for ‘Masculinity’ (with a capital ‘M’). It’s dirty, sweaty, tough, honest. As we enter another Hollywood blockbuster season, where tough leading men will formulaic-ly beat the crap out of aliens, monsters, and other assorted baddies, I can’t help but be reflective and a bit jealous. You see, I’m a young, white collar, politically liberal, pro-feminist, university educated man. I have sensitive skin, and work in theatre. I have lots of emotions, I joke around, and I suck at confrontation. I haven’t been in a physical fight since elementary school, really (I’ve been close from time to time, but I’ve cleverly and diplomatically avoided fighting for most of my life).

The thing is, I rightly or wrongly associate hyper-masculine men with all kinds of values and beliefs that I find politically and socially abhorrent: misogyny, homophobia, conservative politics (or no political beliefs at all), being mean jocks, and liking Nickleback. I’m also kind of afraid to get into a fight. I have no interest in being stabbed, shot, or beaten to a pulp over somebody stepping on my shoes or being rude on a streetcar. At its worst, I see hyper-masculinity leading to near psychopathic behaviour. Then again…

I’m often deeply jealous of those guys who seem so at ease with their identities as men…

I find his dichotomy interesting, if false.

Having done a lot of dating — I married for the first time at 37, then was single again for another four years after my divorce — I’ve closely observed the behavior of a fairly wide swath of men. The super macho guys in black leather with tats and callused hands were never my set. I go more for a guy with really good shoes, who wears (small, elegant) cufflinks and who can choose an excellent bottle of wine.

But, having said that, I did once, briefly, date a Serb who wore black leather trousers. Why, yes I did. “I vill be unfaithful,” he warned me. I laughed. He was right.

Then there was a veddy proper British television executive.  The boy with a handlebar mustache who spoke Russian. The 6’4″ would-be Olympic rower who sent me a bouquet of roses so enormous that when I opened my front door I couldn’t see the person holding them. The blue-eyed engineer working in Khartoum who whisked me off to Wales.

I’ve even met a real, working cowboy — a fantastic man named Bill, who in his 70s, strapped on his worn leather chaps and rode off across the Texas dirt each day. He taught his wife how to shoot a handgun, which saved her life the day she was alone and (seriously) a rabid bobcat leaped for her throat. That’s manly in my book! (I tell her amazing story in my first book, about women and guns.)

I bet every man I’ve met considers himself pretty manly. It’s not as though there’s some standard, objective measure…

So what is manly?

Is it a guy ready to bust his knuckles against someone’s cheek for me? Not necessarily, although a sense of protectiveness is, to me, extremely alluring. I’ve traveled the world alone and now appreciate any help I can get. I like a guy who knows what he wants and will fight hard to get and keep it — especially if it’s for a good cause, not just his latest car.

The qualities I find most appealing in a man are often the same I like best in women:

kindness, intelligence, curiosity, a great sense of humor, an insane work ethic, optimism, someone with clearly thought-through principles who sticks to them, loyal, discreet. Someone who’s just great company.

The quality I probably most admire in a man is integrity. I don’t care if he’s rich or powerful or handsome — if he can’t make and keep his promises, he’s a loser in my book.

How about you?

Ladies, what’s “manly” to you?

Gentlemen, do you face any of the confusion Josh does?

How Dads help raise brave women

In aging, behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, life, love, men, news, parenting, women on March 27, 2012 at 12:55 am
Sexism is a crime against humanity!

Sexism is a crime against humanity! (Photo credit: ЯAFIK ♋ BERLIN)

Loved this recent piece in Time magazine, written by two men, fathers of two daughters:

 The need for fathers to help empower daughters is clear, since we still live in a world where some powerful men throw sexual slurs at adult women and girls are being sexualized and objectified at a younger and younger age. As dads of a combined 4 daughters (ranging in age from 1 to 21,) these recent events have made us pause and reflect on how to best encourage our daughters to combat these tendencies in our society.

But how do we do this as fathers? One of the most important ways is to break down the old stereotypes that men are rational and logical while women are emotional. We can free our daughters from the burden of that myth by expressing our own feelings and by respecting the intelligence, decisions, and leadership abilities of women. When they see us opening up and talking, they learn to do the same and to not remain silent when something doesn’t feel right. A father’s influence can help a girl find her own strong voice. We also need to listen to our daughters more instead of trying to always impart a lesson. Listening paves the way for girls to discover what they want to say and the inner strength to say it.

The other big thing dads can do is treat women the way we would want a partner to treat our daughters. We wish that it went without saying that daughters need their fathers to reject treating women as objects through sexist jokes, stares and comments on the street, and pornography….

The need for fathers to help empower daughters is clear, since we still live in a world where some powerful men throw sexual slurs at adult women and girls are being sexualized and objectified at a younger and younger age. As dads of a combined 4 daughters (ranging in age from 1 to 21,) these recent events have made us pause and reflect on how to best encourage our daughters to combat these tendencies in our society.

It’s a hopeless task — and completely unfair — to ask only girls and women to defend themselves from the culturally toxic stew in which they’re raised.

Especially in the United States, where being thin/pretty/blond/materialist/popular/wealthy/famous is held up as the ultimate goal. And when legislators are ruthlessly determined to strip women of every possible reproductive right, whether access to abortion, birth control or a safe, private pregnancy; 39 states (!) have recently passed or are considering passing such laws.

It is a really lousy time to be female in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, as “America the Beautiful” so romantically opines. If there was ever a time for young women to be reminded how much their voices matter to their political and economic future, that time is now.

A seminal study was done in the 1970s of women who later went on to significant success in the corporate world. The key? Their Dads played sports with them when they were teenagers.

Seems pretty simple, but as someone who also had this experience, it’s not.

When your father very clearly values your company and you’re a young woman, he is teaching you an important lesson. His focus on your brain and your heart, your character — not just your perky figure — teaches you that these matter.

When you spend a day together skating or skiing or hiking or fishing, you learn to share skills and enjoyment with a man who’s enjoying your company, not your sexual allure.

When he consistently values your intelligence, competitiveness, physical strength, agility and stamina — just some of the attributes needed for most sports — you’re more likely to emerge from the potential hell of female adolescence, if you’re lucky, with a solid base of self-confidence.

What greater gift can a Dad can give you?

If you’re a father, how did you help your daughter(s) become self-confident?

If your Dad did a terrific job — (or a poor one) — of helping you feel great about yourself, how does that play out for you today?

Aaaaah,that feels better….nothing like a good fight!

In behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, men, women on March 12, 2012 at 11:07 pm
Show fight of the "familia gladiatoria pu...

Image via Wikipedia

As opposed to a bad fight.

I know, I know, some people never fight.

Hah! Not me.

I grew up in a family of people with six-guns for tongues, and it wasn’t a great education. I certainly learned how to shout, rail and rant. I can slam a door with the best of them.

But…resolve conflict? Discuss an issue in a civil tone? Negotiate?

Hmmmmm.

So when Jose and I recently finally had a fight, after wayyyyyy too many weeks of peaceful, loving cooperation, it actually felt a little more normal.

We both agreed it felt a bit more “us” than all the (lovely) sentimentality we’d been living for a while. Because, like many people, there are still some unresolved issues driving us both crazy that just get buried under the day-to-day stuff. They’re still there and, until we have the time or energy to unearth them, they fester.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wild about arguing, or shouting, or angry words. But having survived a first marriage where we never seemed to resolve anything, (hence the words first marriage), at least in this one, 12 years in, we actually try to wrangle our demons, both shared and individual.

One of the toughest parts of an intimate relationship of any duration is figuring out how (when, if) to fight. What do you say and what’s taboo? Who apologizes first and who really means it? What happens if you just can’t find common ground or a compromise?

It took us several grim years for him to accept that you can love the hell out of someone and still be really angry at them. Our first fights were at least 30 percent worse because of the added catalyst of disbelief and dismay on his part that we even were fighting. In my family, it was pretty standard operating procedure.

Now, maybe because we’re been together for so long and have mellowed and/or matured and/or accepted some of the behaviors we once railed against in one another — or maybe we’re just pooped — we don’t fight much at all.

Do you fight with your loved one(s)?

How does it usually turn out?

It’s not really a cold shoulder

In behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, women on February 26, 2012 at 1:00 am
NASA staffperson hug

Image via Wikipedia

So, who’s the cuddly one in your dyad?

Here’s an interesting advice column from one of my former employers, the national Canadian daily The Globe and Mail, on the issue of a non-cuddly husband.

Typical of Globe stories, this one has 298 (!!) comments.

I wanted to blog this because, in my marriage, I’m the dude, the one much less comfortable with emotions, expressing tender feelings, being cuddly and saying “I love you.”

When Jose and I started dating 12 years ago, I quickly noticed this, and often joked that he’s the girl and I’m the guy in this respect. He always wanted to talk about our relationship, to share his feelings, to feel validated by my listening attentively to them.

Sigh.

It’s not that I didn’t love him. But I come from a pretty frosty family, hardly unusual among educated WASPs, especially Canadians, (some of whose British stiff-upper-lip-ness affects all aspects of life, from work to medical treatment.)

It’s not easy at midlife to radically alter your emotional style, even when you know it’s a good idea.

I’m grateful Jose is as accepting of me as he is. As I’ve written about here, I spent most of my childhood at boarding school and summer camp, starting at the age of eight. I didn’t see my Dad that much as he traveled a lot and he and my mother were divorced by then.

When I hear people chirp “Love you!” into their cellphones, I wonder how it comes so easily to them.

So I learned, young, to keep my softer emotions hidden and in check. There was little reason to hug a ferocious, scolding housemother!

Jose, who is Hispanic, grew up in a loving and intact family, with a Mom who was thrilled to have him — surprise! — when she was 49. I keep a photo of him as a small baby on my computer, his Mom holding his tiny hand as he stands on their piano bench, as they both look so totally delighted with one another.

I never got a chance to meet her, as she and his Dad died decades ago. But her abundant love perfumes my every day through her loving son. At our wedding reception, in September 2011, I toasted Gregorita and thanked her for the spirit of affection that Jose so embodies and shares, with me and with others

He freely and easily says “I love you” a lot. He hugs and kisses. He holds my hand. All of which I adore and am very grateful for.

He knows I’m nuts about him, even if I’m not very skilled at expressing it.

Thank heaven!

In your relationship, who’s the huggy one?

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