A brave freelancer, Jian Ghomeshi and what happened next…

By Caitlin Kelly


Some of you — radio listeners and/or former fans of Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi — are aware of a huge scandal that is now engulfing this once glittering star in Canada’s media firmament.

Here’s the latest from the Toronto Star:

The CBC fired Jian Ghomeshi after seeing “graphic evidence” for the first time last Thursday that Ghomeshi had “caused physical injury to a woman,” the CBC said an internal memo sent out Friday.

“At no time prior to last week was the CBC aware that Jian had engaged in any activities which resulted in the physical injuries of another person,” the memo states.

After seeing this evidence, the public broadcaster took “immediate steps to remove Jian from the workplace and terminated his employment on October 26.”

“After viewing this graphic evidence we determined that Jian’s conduct was a fundamental breach of CBC’s standard of acceptable conduct for any employee,” the memo states. His conduct “was likely to bring the reputation of his fellow employees and CBC into disrepute and could not be defended by the CBC.”

Led by Toronto freelancer Jesse Brown, whose work is crowdfunded, the revelations that Ghomeshi, whose warm and gentle style brought many celebrities to his arts and culture show, “Q” is in fact — allegedly — a brute and a creep have stunned many. So far, nine women have now come forward to tell their tales of abuse at his hands.

Here, from Toronto Life magazine:

What were the roots of the Jian Ghomeshi story, and how did you become the first journalist to tackle it?
It started when I was approached by a young woman. I investigated independently for some time—a few months—and I found a number of other people making accusations. I put together the stories as best as I could, and I had extensive conversations—hours and hours—with these women, and I verified aspects of their stories.

What was it like for you when you started to realize that the story was getting so huge that you might not be able to do it by yourself?
I got advice from a number of libel and defamation attorneys. Originally, I was very eager to report the story myself. I have my own journalistic standards as to what would make this story newsworthy, and it met those standards completely. But I’m not a legal expert, so I wanted to know what could be done to make this bulletproof against a libel claim. What I was told, in no uncertain terms, is that there was absolutely nothing I could do. There were many things I could do to make the story stand up in court, but there’s nothing I could do in my journalism to stop me from getting sued. That’s why news organizations have this thing called libel insurance, which I didn’t even know about at that point. One of my attorneys suggested that I partner up with a newspaper. I’ve been very vocal about my opinion that the news media is not doing its job aggressively enough, but one news organization, if I had to pick one, that was very interested in investigation and breaking stories, and had shown some balls in recent years, was the Toronto Star.

Was it frustrating for you that you couldn’t break this story by yourself?
Once it crossed the threshold for me that this was absolutely a valid news story, it was frustrating for me not to be able to publish, yeah. But even though I had no concerns about the legitimacy of this as a news story, I had never reported a story like this. These allegations are very serious, and there’s a responsibility to do this exactly right. And there’s a responsibility for my sources, because if I had published this on Canadaland, it would have been very easy to tar me and smear me as some scurrilous independent blogger. When I took my ego out of it, I realized that the best thing I could do for this story and my sources was to work with an established brand and a trusted reporter like [Toronto Star investigative reporter] Kevin Donovan.

I worked for Mike Cooke, editor of the Toronto Star, at two other newspapers, and know his penchant for investigative work, so it’s not surprising that he took this on, with Brown — as Brown was terrified of the legal (i.e. a costly lawsuit against him) ramifications of going after so public and lauded a person on his own.

I grew up and started my journalism career in Toronto, so I am also especially interested in what happens there in journalism.

Here is a difficult-to-hear (TW) 12-minute CBC radio interview with a woman who says she went on two terrifying dates with Ghomeshi.

Here’s a video interview with a fellow broadcaster from the Toronto Star who went on a date with Ghomeshi:

“He never indicated that he would hold me by the throat.”




Columbia student turns her campus rape into performance art

By Caitlin Kelly


Artist, and Columbia undergrad, Emma Sulcowicz has been dragging a 50-pound mattress around the campus of Columbia University for the past few months — to protest a fellow student rapist she says has not yet been disciplined or expelled.

From The New York Times:

Ms. Sulkowicz spoke of her interest in the kind of art that elicits a powerful response, whether negative or positive. Freshly painted on the walls around us loomed big black letters spelling out the “rules of engagement,” the guidelines to her performance: One states that she will continue the piece until the man she accuses of attacking her is no longer on campus, whether he leaves or is expelled or graduates, as she also will next spring. (If need be, she plans to attend commencement carrying the mattress.) She said the performance is giving her new muscles and an inner strength she didn’t know she had, and is attracting many different kinds of attention, some of it hard to take.

“Carry That Weight” is both singular and representative of a time of strongly held opinions and objections and righteous anger on all sides, a time when, not surprisingly, political protest and performance art are intersecting in increasingly adamant ways.

Her decision to make the alleged attack public, ongoing and physically demanding — of her and her bystanders — forces others to engage with her, intellectually, emotionally and physically. Many rape survivors choose to remain silent and hidden, fearing insensitive response from friends, family and authorities.

Her protest, having made the front page of the NYT arts section (a spot many established artists would kill for!) also won her the cover of New York magazine:

A few years ago, an Ivy League student going public about her rape, telling the world her real name—let alone trying to attract attention by lugging around a mattress—would have been a rare bird. In America, after all, we still assume rape survivors want, and need, their identities protected by the press. But shattering silence, in 2014, means not just coming out with an atrocity tale about your assault but offering what Danielle Dirks, a sociologist at Occidental, calls “an atrocity tale about how poorly you were treated by the people you pay $62,500 a year to protect you.” By owning those accusations, and pointing a finger not only at assailants but also the American university, the ivory tower of privilege, these survivors have built the most effective, organized anti-rape movement since the late ’70s. Rape activists now don’t talk much about women’s self-care and protection like they did in the ’90s with Take Back the Night marches, self-defense classes, and cans of Mace. Today, the militant cry is aimed at the university: Kick the bastards out.

According to this HuffPo story, 10 Columbia undergrads were accused of sexual assault  in 2013-14 — and none have been disciplined:

Columbia released the data following months of pressure from student leaders and activists. Meanwhile, a federal complaint accusing the school of mishandling rape cases has grown to include 28 current or former students.

The Ivy League university announced in January that it would release the aggregate data, starting with the 2013-14 school year.

“Over the past year, the issue of sexual assault has gained a new level of attention and engagement on campuses around the country,” Columbia Provost John Coatsworth said in an email to students. “We are committed to providing a national model of the best policies and practices to help ensure that members of our University community feel safe and respected. As one part of that commitment, we are publishing Columbia’s first annual Report on Gender-Based Misconduct Prevention and Response.”

Few universities disclose such information. Some Ivy League schools, including Yale University, Brown University and Dartmouth College, release data on sexual assault punishments in some form.

College offers students a wealth of exciting opportunities — to learn new subjects in depth, try new sports and activities, take on leadership roles, gain intellectual confidence and emotional maturity.

For some, it becomes an overwhelming maelstrom of sexual assault, often in concert with consciousness, memory and physical condition altered by drugs and/or alcohol.

This Slate piece, from 2013, raises some powerful questions and received 60,000 Facebook shares:

A 2009 study of campus sexual assault found that by the time they are seniors, almost 20 percent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. Very few will ever report it to authorities. The same study states that more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol. Frequently both the man and the woman have been drinking. The men tend to use the drinking to justify their behavior, as this survey of research on alcohol-related campus sexual assault by Antonia Abbey, professor of psychology at Wayne State University, illustrates, while for many of the women, having been drunk becomes a source of guilt and shame….

The 2009 campus sexual assault study, co-authored by Krebs, found campus alcohol education programs “seldom emphasize the important link” between women’s voluntary alcohol and drug use “and becoming a victim of sexual assault.” It goes on to say students must get the explicit message that limiting alcohol intake and avoiding drugs “are important sexual assault sex protection strategies.” I think it would be beneficial for younger students to hear accounts of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault from female juniors and seniors who’ve lived through it.

Of course, perpetrators should be caught and punished. But when you are dealing with intoxication and sex, there are the built-in complications of incomplete memories and differing interpretations of intent and consent. To establish if a driver is too drunk to be behind the wheel, all it takes is a quick test to see if his or her blood alcohol exceeds the legal limit. There isn’t such clarity when it comes to alcohol and sex.

This group, End Rape on Campus, offers nine additional resources; these women are fighting several prestigious schools — UNC Chapel Hill, Columbia, Berkeley — for sexual assaults against them while they were students.

Columbia Journalism School
Columbia Journalism School

Gratefully, I never suffered any such assaults while an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and, yes, I did attend some parties at male fraternity houses. But there was not, then, (and I suspect still), a culture of female binge drinking.

For a variety of reasons — maybe coming of age during second-wave feminism? — drinking myself into vomiting, staggering oblivion, let alone while surrounded in a large house by young men whose morals, ethics or sexual notions of decent behavior were unknown to me just never appealed to me in any way. So I just didn’t do it.

For me, and my friends, sex was fun, plentiful — and best enjoyed while sober. And, as someone who lived all four years off-campus living solo in an apartment, I was also acutely aware that whatever (lousy) choices I made were mine alone, as were the consequences of same.

I had no RAs, nearby friends or room-mates or campus security to turn to for advice or possible protection. Cellphones — and an emergency text or IM — did not yet exist.

California has just passed a bill, “yes means yes”, to make drunken campus rapes (one hopes!) a thing of the past.

I often wonder how much of young women’s “need” to drink themselves into virtual unconsciousness is a quick, easy and socially-sanctioned way to dodge the many complicated feelings and negotiations around safe, enjoyable, consensual sex.

Is this an issue that has touched you or someone you love?

File this one under “Heteronormative non-news”

By Caitlin Kelly



The New York Times (yes, for whom I freelance frequently) posted this enormous story (we call ’em ‘heaves’ for a reason), a front-page face-palm over the fact that women at elite colleges (the rest of you, meh) are not having committed sex with their fiances, but are in fact hooking up for fun and…you, know, sex.

Sex (Photo credit: danielito311)

And — because any story about: 1) sex; 2) young women; 3) elite university students; 4) hooking up is going to be fucking catnip for the finger-wagging crowd, the story had gathered a stunning and possibly unprecedented 788 comments within hours.

Here’s some of it:

These women said they saw building their résumés, not finding boyfriends
(never mind husbands), as their main job at Penn. They envisioned their
20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a
bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a
corporate job in New York. The idea of lugging a relationship through
all those transitions was hard for many to imagine. Almost universally,
the women said they did not plan to marry until their late 20s or early

In this context, some women, like A., seized the opportunity to have sex
without relationships, preferring “hookup buddies” (regular sexual
partners with little emotional commitment) to boyfriends.

And this:

But Elizabeth A. Armstrong, a sociologist at the University of Michigan
who studies young women’s sexuality, said that women at elite
universities were choosing hookups because they saw relationships as too
demanding and potentially too distracting from their goals.

In interviews, “Some of them actually said things like, ‘A relationship
is like taking a four-credit class,’ or ‘I could get in a relationship,
or I could finish my film,’ ” Dr. Armstrong said.

One of the things I enjoy about Broadside is that I have readers from their teens to people their grandparents’ age, some of whom are devoutly religious and for whom pre-marital sex is taboo. I get that and respect that.

But this is for/about people who are going to have sex and beyond the really tedious heteronormative strictures of getting engaged/married/pregnant, certainly right out of college — i.e. by your early or mid 20s.

You actually can be pretty, smart, ambitious and deeply ambivalent about wanting to permanently attach yourself to a man (or woman) before you have a clue who you are! That might mean years, even a few decades of sexual experimentation, travel, graduate study, volunteer work, returning home — or all of these.

You might never wish to marry at all.

You might not want to have children.

This hand-flapping over when, where, how and why young women are having uncommitted sex is — to my mind — pretty old hat. Many of us were having, and enjoying, uncommitted sex in the 1970s when I was in college, long before herpes, then AIDS scared everyone into abstinence or commitment for a while.

Now everyone with a brain uses condoms to protect themselves from both (and HPV, chlamydia, etc.)

The notion that young, educated women are incapable of — the term is accurate, if crude — sport-fucking — is absurd.

It may deeply comfort people to assume that all women, everywhere, all the time, from puberty to death, only want to bonk people with whom they are deeply in love and with whom they are really dying to rush to the altar.

For some, sure.

For others, absolutely not.

We’re not that simple.

We don’t want to be that simple.

Just stop it!

Healing is emotional as well

Doctor's office again
Doctor's office again (Photo credit: Sidereal)

One of the most essential elements of healing a body that has been injured, damaged or ill is to soothe and comfort the psyche, the soul of the person whose corporeal armor has, in a significant way, (even in the aid of better health), been pierced.

But it’s the piece that is consistently left out. When you leave hospital after a major surgery, you’re handed a thick sheaf of instructions, some in boldface type, all of which are — of necessity — focused on the physical.

Who addresses the needs of the soul?

Which is why, when I met a fellow hip patient in the hallway, a former dancer, a woman my age, we couldn’t stop talking to one another about how we felt.

Not our bones or muscles, but our hearts and minds.

A sense of shame and failure that years of diligent activity and careful eating and attention to posture…led us into an operating suite. The feeling of isolation, of being cut from the herd of your tribe, the lithe and limber, the fleet of foot. The fragility of suddenly relying very heavily on a husband whose innate nature may, or may not be, to nurture.

And a husband who knows all too well that physical intimacy is almost impossible, sometimes for years, when your loved one is sighing not with desire but in deep pain. When your hips simply can’t move as you wish they would, and once did. It is a private, personal loss with no place to discuss it.

I’m deeply grateful to know a few women like me: feisty, active, super-independent and all recovering, now or a while ago, from hip replacement. Every tribe has a scar, a mark, a tattoo.

Ours is  a vertical six inches.

Time to wear it proudly.

Woo Or Pounce?

Cover of "Gone with the Wind"
Cover of Gone with the Wind

We watched “Gone With The Wind” recently — all four glorious hours of it.

I had forgotten Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler, snapping at spoiled little Scarlett O’Hara — “You need to be kissed, and often, by someone who knows how.” How deliciously assertive!

And then he did.


Which raises the larger question — when it comes to kissing, and whatever comes after that, do you prefer to be wooed or pounced upon?

Does it matter if, like me, you’ve been with your partner or spouse for many years? Does first or fourth date behavior need to change to something more subtle — or perhaps more assertive — with the passage of time and the growth of familiarity?

I admit to preferring the pounce, personally. I’m one of these laser-focused people who’s always doing something and hates being interrupted, whether cooking or reading or writing. Sex, romance, smooching — it all takes uninterrupted, undistracted time. And undivided attention.

Which, in college, I and my beaux had a lot of. I remember many long, lovely afternoons devoted to….not attending class!

But as I get older — sigh — I find my libido mugged by any number of determined assailants, from fatigue to a painful arthritic hip to worry about my mom with dementia in a nursing home far away to insecurity about my body to….you name it!

Pouncing, which sort of forces my poor sweetie to be a little leopard-leaping-from-a-tree-esque (decidedly not his nature), relieves me, I confess, of the need to initiate and squelches any ambivalence I might be feeling. On with it, then!

Which do you like best — to be wooed or pounced upon?

Why No Pill Can Make Women Want More Sex

Let's talk about sex!
Image via Wikipedia

If only.

Life would be so much simpler if all those women who only vaguely remember the last time they had sex could just pop a pill, as the makers of flibanserin, aka female Viagra, are so hoping.

Every woman knows it’s not that quick or easy.

Loved this example from a story in The New York Times:

Boehringer has also sponsored medical education classes for doctors and nurses about hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

In one course, released online in May, a quiz asked doctors to diagnose the condition of a 42-year-old working mother who takes care of three children and her own sick mother, and who had no desire for sex. (Her husband is mentioned only in passing.)

The correct answer? Schedule a follow-up visit to evaluate whether she has diagnosable hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

Gotta love the dogged persistence of Boehringer-Ingelheim, makers of such popular drugs as Mirapex (about which I wrote, whose bizarre side effects can cause sexual addiction). Think of all those frustrated, sex-less women dying for the Big O. Profit city!

Truth is, you can pop a fistful of pills and still lie there dead to the world….because, reality intrudes. Recession, unemployment, underemployment (yours, your kids’, your spouse’s or partner’s), college tuition bills, kids back home after college, your illness, your spouse and/or parents’ illnesses…

None of which makes you want to rip off your panties and chase your man around the bedroom. Many men these days are so whipped from even trying to keep their job, let alone find a new one, they’re not up for much either.

And, like it or not, some men are simply really lousy in bed. Their wives married them and some stay with them — for the kids, for the emotional security, for the lifestyle, for the companionship. But not, sad to say, for their horizontal abilities. (When in doubt about women’s ability to pretend everything’s great in bed to soothe male egos, rent “When Harry Met Sally” and watch her faking an orgasm in a very public place.)

No pill can make a man into a better lover. So a pill that rewires a woman’s brain to want more sex basically gives sexually lame men a Hail Mary pass, ignoring the deadening effect of their too-fast, too-slow, inept or inattentive lovemaking. Great!

Sex Every Night For A Year? Woo-Hoo! Or Exhausting Just To Think About?

Image by kyz via Flickr

Here’s a piece from The Guardian about Charla Muller, an American woman who promised her husband sex every night for a year for his 40th birthday and (natch) wrote a book about it:

We had been married for eight years and I wanted to reconnect with Brad, and give him a gift he would never forget.”

Maybe, particularly in harsh economic times, modern couples who are enduring the dark night of the soul that is the long-term relationship should consider giving each other the same gift Charla gave Brad. Forget the downsides – the missed Everton-Man U penalty shoot-outs, the soreness, not to mention having to think of new ways to keep the bleeding thing interesting each and every night. Accentuate the positive. Think of the free nightly endorphin rushes. Not to mention how much you’ll save by turning out the lights and giving up your subscription to Sky+. Think how close you’ll be to your partner (even if, all things considered, you’d rather be playing online Scrabble, lying about your life on Twitter or taking your Second Life avatar to a roller disco).

What was Brad’s reaction to this gift, I ask Muller. “He turned me down! He thought that scheduling time for intimacy would detract from its loveliness. He also wondered if he was up to it. He said, ‘What would happen if I have a headache?'” So she drew up a list of ground rules, among which was that either party could decline on any occasion.

“Eventually he said, ‘Let’s give it a go.'” As Brad’s birthday neared, though, the couple worried about logistics – how would they find the energy and free time (she works in marketing, he is a salesman), how would they ensure that the kids (aged seven and five) didn’t intrude, and what if there was something really good on telly? “We agreed that TV couldn’t trump intimacy, and that once we scheduled some saucy time, BlackBerrys and emails would be ignored.” What about the kids? “They’re old enough that we don’t have to look out for them every five minutes, so we would often put them in front of a video. We were also much stricter with bedtimes than we had been before. We also weren’t afraid to lock our bedroom door. Sometimes we had a great babysitter for our date nights.”

Nothing like stories about others shagging to bring out the cynics and jealous.

“Another boring American story”, sniffed one commenter. The thread on the story was shut down after 202 comments, several of which the moderator had removed.

I’m going to vote for — exhausting and annoying. I already have enough daily obligations, so many I feel like my brain is going to explode. Turning sex into another one seems a little sad. You want it, or you don’t. If you don’t, deal. People aren’t machines.

Does this — ladies and gentlemen — sound like your dream come true?

Or an exhausting “Are you kidding me?” addition to your long to-do list?

Infidelity's A Dealbreaker, But So-So Sex With Their Partner, Not So Much, Say 6,096 Women

Two Hearts Just To Hold Love
Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

From the April issue of “O” magazine, an online survey finds that a third of women would take a hike if their partner or husband was unfaithful — but only seven percent would bail due to sexual incompatibility. Hm.

Are American women shortchanging themselves? Sounds like it to me.

Eight percent said boredom would end things, 24 percent if they were “no longer in love” (seems a little vague), 28 percent for “chronic fighting.”

I was saddened to read that 31 percent of women say they don’t get enough emotional support — how’s it in your house? — but maybe they’re being unrealistic? Guys are legendarily not the greatest at hand-holding. Yet 61 percent of women said they turn to their partner in times of crisis, and only 20 percent to their best friend. Which begs the question — where, then, do women get their emotional support, if not from their sweetie or best friend?

A third of women said self-help books were helpful in improving their relationship, 22 percent regular date nights and only 12 percent said couples therapy.

A miserable 12 percent said they feel trapped in their relationship and 10 percent griped “better than being alone.”

In recent months, both Elle and Vogue have also run long pieces on women’s lack of sexual desire — and the ongoing paucity of effective/safe drugs to alleviate it. From Vogue:

Women have slim pickings in the sex-drug marketplace… Doctors have jumped in, giving women an estimated 2 million “off label” prescriptions every year for high-dose—and potentially risky—testosterone pills, creams, gels, and ointments. For now, though, there are no FDA-approved sex drugs for women. Pharmaceutical companies and device-makers have been scrambling for years to cash in on the largely untapped market in female desire: an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion in annual sales.

That lure has revved up American ingenuity in previously unimaginable ways. Having trouble reaching orgasm? In just a few years, the Orgasmatron spinal-cord stimulator—now available only in a nine-day-trial version—may be fully implantable, with a subcutaneous battery lodged inside what its inventor calls “the anatomical love handle.” Stuart Meloy, M.D., says his device delivered orgasms on demand for four of eleven women in his small study. He hopes to persuade others to spend about $12,000 for the semipermanent gadget. The catch: First Meloy has to convince regulators that the benefits of the Orgasmatron outweigh the risks of lodging electrodes near the spine: paralysis, infection, and incontinence, to name a few.

Bremelanotide—the arousal injection—generated a lot of buzz when it was first introduced as an aphrodisiac nasal spray. But the spray spiked blood pressure in early trials and had to be yanked. The hypodermic version appears to avoid that problem, but testing is still under way.

A more appealing aphrodisiac may be within reach. Two firms are racing to develop the first prescription drug for women’s most common sexual complaint: distressingly low libido, which psychiatrists call hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). In the last few months, the makers of LibiGel and flibanserin claim they’ve discovered how to stimulate nerve centers in the female brain that control libido. Just how effective the drugs are remains unclear. The German drug giant Boehringer Ingelheim reported last November that in a six-month study of more than 1,000 women, a daily 100-mg dose of flibanserin gave premenopausal women 0.8 more “sexually satisfying events” per month over a placebo. (That metric doesn’t necessarily mean a woman has more orgasms, or even more sex. SSEs can include greater fantasies, arousal, and orgasms—or just feeling closer to a partner.) BioSante, the Chicago-area company that makes LibiGel, announced that 46 postmenopausal women who used it for three months had three more sexually satisfying events per month than women who received a placebo.

Maggie Bullock, in Elle, points out many reasons a woman can say “No thanks” including: emotional and psychological trauma, stress, relationship problems, depression, weight gain, body image issues, anger, tiredness, infidelity, childbirth, power issues, past abuse — not to mention the routine and ennui that can come with long-term relationships.”

I would add to that sadly long and realistic list a few other issues I’ve experienced — injury, arthritis, chronic illness, surgery and recovery. My severely arthritic left hip now works like a poorly designed hinge. I’ll figure it out, but it’s not erotic.

Does any of this ring true for you?

Ten years together, ten lessons learned

Two Hearts Just To Hold Love
Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Ten years ago this month — we can’t remember the exact date we met — I met my partner. A decade. We can’t quite believe it. We met on-line when I was writing about on-line dating for Mademoiselle and he saw my profile and photo.

My miserable marriage, a man for whom I left Canada, friends and a staff newspaper job, lasted barely two years.

The first few years with my current partner were a rough ride. Lots of fights. Scary ones. A really loud public one right on Houston Street across from the Angelika Theater. We are, and were, two stubborn, ambitious workaholics with very clear ideas what we want. We weren’t going to bend, dammit!

Counseling helped. Growing up helped. Being a little less mistrustful, which can take longer than it should, helped a lot.

Here are ten things we’ve learned in those ten years together, and yes, I asked him if it was OK to talk about them here:

Know your boundaries, set them and keep them. Not very romantic, but crucial. He and I are both career journalists, accustomed to doing whatever the job demands — he worked for weeks without showering while covering the war in Bosnia; I covered a political campaign on crutches. We both had demanding, severe families whose needs we accommodated at the expense of our own. It took us a while to figure out, even in love (maybe especially in love) that we do have boundaries and limits and you mess with those at your peril. He once kicked me out of his Brooklyn apartment at midnight on a rainy St. Patrick’s night, the streets filled with drunks. Months later, I kicked him out at midnight — a $150 cab ride home because the commuter trains weren’t running that late. It taught us both to respect our limits, and we do.

You’ll do some things you might never have imagined because you love this person. I decided to marry my partner (we’re getting there, slowly) the day we arrived at my mother’s house in rural British Columbia; she was in the hospital with a massive brain tumor (she’s fine.) She had lain on her mattress for days, unable, because of the tumor, to get up — soiling it. My sweetie took her mattress to the verandah and scrubbed it clean. I can’t imagine a kinder gesture, to me or my Mom. I have taken him to the hospital with a concussion, waking him up several times in the night to make sure he was OK.

Sexual dry spells will not kill you. They happen. We’ve had dry spells that make the Sahara look like a small, verdant backyard. I’m not talking days or even months. Even my ob/gyn told me to dump him. I didn’t and he didn’t. We both had plenty of sex before we met. It’s not like we didn’t know what it is or how great it can be. But it’s not the central, defining engine of our relationship, which it is for some. It’s one facet of our life. When you’re not feeling sexy or sexual there’s a lot of reasons this can happen — fatigue, depression, a health issue, unexpressed anger. Allowing those feelings and issues to stand on their own, taking the time to see and acknowledge and resolve them, can take much longer than you think — or the magazines tell you is acceptable. My ex had an affair, left me and re-married within a year, so a prolonged lack of interest in sex can be a terrifying warning your marriage or relationship is in deep trouble. But it may not.

Their rage may have nothing whatsoever to do with you. Don’t take everything personally. We had two defining fights early in our time together. In each one, he stood, and I stood, railing, shouting, red-faced…but not, really, at the other person. At some distant old ghost. Once we could recognize each other’s older demons, our soul equivalent of bone bruises, we knew where they were and when we’d hit one.

Laugh loud, long and often. My sweetie works at The New York Times, a place about as raucous and kooky as the Library of Congress. In one of his jobs there, I would see nearby heads whipping about in disapproval when I came to visit because, within minutes, we’re always laughing with one another. Whenever he starts snorting into his headset, current colleagues — many of whom are my friends and colleagues too — know he’s talking to me. When my Dad stayed with us recently, he noticed we laughed into the night. Life is crazy, too often full of pain and disappointment and loss. Laughter heals.

Say please and thank-you. All the time. Last year we met someone new who thought my partner and I had only been dating a few months. I think it’s because we keep a bit of formality, even now. I never take his presence for granted, nor he mine. We have both been married and divorced. We work in an industry legendary for its inability to praise or nurture even its very best. Gratitude matters.

Jewelry! OK, I’m kidding. Sort of. Maybe your sweetie hates jewelry — but whatever it is s/he does love, treat them to it: tickets to the opera, a gorgeous sweater, a great meal. My sweetie learned early, poor man, I adore jewelry and he has given me lovely things; the earrings in my T/S photo were a Christmas gift. He knows my taste and knows the extraordinary pleasure his gifts give me.

A shared spiritual life. Maybe neither of you professes any religion at all. Or ever wants to. I do think the happiest partners have some notion of what matters most deeply to them, individually and as a couple and support this in their partner. Mine is a deeply devout Buddhist; when we met, his apartment had an entire room filled with prayer flags and an altar. He routinely went off on week-long, costly retreats. I felt a little alienated by our deep differences in how we handle faith and belief, but I met, and became friends with Surya Das, his lama. I saw, and see, the daily effects of his faith in our lives. He comes to church with me and sits beside me. We both value a deeper set of questions and ideas about how to live an ethical life of some value to others. I have never had this with a partner and it, I think, is both helpful and important.

Shared projects. He’s seen me through two books, two surgeries (so far) and a few jobs. I’ve seen him through three major changes at work, a terrifying month when we thought he’d lose his job, a new wedding photography business. Knowing what’s really happening with your partner, and how they really feel about it, orients you. If your income just dropped through the floor with a job loss, deal with the reality and start rowing your boat. Knowing your partner has your back will, metaphor intended, keep your spine stiff.

A lot of space, both physical and emotional. He has a quiet, solitary hour every morning sitting in the living room armchair, watching the sun rise. There are entire days he’s gone, playing golf. There are entire days I’m off at an antiques show or with a girlfriend or at the movies. I was gone for three weeks overseas, his gift to me, when I finished my first book in June 2003. I called him from a phone booth in Tunis — he was in San Francisco, serving as one of the judges for the book “A Day In The Life of America”, the furthest we had ever been apart. We check in with phone calls or emails, sometimes several times a day. But we both like a lot of air in the room, and the time and space to nurture our separate interests. We have many we share. We do not have to be, nor wish to be, joined at the hip.

What has kept your love alive and thriving? What’s been the kiss of death?

What's Up With Those Cialis Ads? Since When Did Painting A Hallway And Doing Laundry Become Erotic Activities?

Image by dcwriterdawn via Flickr

Have you seen the latest Cialis ads?

In one, a guy and a woman are painting a hallway together and — baboom! — time for sex. In another, they’re doing laundry, and the white plastic basket morphs into a romantic table for two.


I know, I know, it’s meant to show how caring and nurturing and domestic a guy can be and that, I guess, is meant to be so hot that his partner wants to rip his clothes off. Or…?

I’ve seen my guy with a paint roller and a laundry basket, although not simultaneously, and much as I enjoy his contributions to the household in this fashion, it’s not going to make me lunge with lust.

Not to mention, as he keeps asking me, what’s the deal with the original ads that show a man and a woman in two separate old-fashioned bathtubs by the shore?

How is that working for anyone? I don’t envy the copywriters or ad agency guys and gals who have to make this stuff seem appealing, but I’ve yet to meet any woman for whom dropping a paint can is quite sufficient foreplay.