Tag Archives: relationships

Um, Seriously?

Have you heard about Lulu?  I hadn’t either until Diane Duane reblogged a link to an article about it on her Tumblr.  Lulu is an app for women to offer their opinions and share their experiences with the men in their lives, most notably the men they’ve dated.  The article makes it sound like the app’s aiming to become a giant database of references that women can look at when considering whether to get involved with or even go on a first date with a guy.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing1.  What I do think is problematic, however, is how Alexandra Chong, Lulu’s CEO and founder, is pitching it:

My vision has always been to create a discreet, private space for girls to talk about the most important issues in their lives: their relationships.

Um, what?  Is Alexandra Chong really suggesting that for every single woman out there, the most important thing in her life is her relationships?  As opposed to her education?  Her schooling?  Her family?  Her dreams of being the next CEO of her own company?  Any health issues she might have?  I’m having a hard time believing it.  I think women are much more individually complicated and collectively diverse than that.

I’m also troubled by the suggestion because, let’s face it, we already have plenty of sexist people — especially sexist men — who think that a woman’s worth and importance is primarily and even solely defined by the men she is related to, whether it be romantically, biologically, or even just platonically.  So pitching any sort of relationship app in a way that reinforces that notion and suggests that women should see themselves in that same light strikes me as troubling.

On a semi-related note, I’m a bit weirded out by “Dear Dude,” which is apparently Lulu’s advice column on relationships and sex.  Seriously?  You create an app that’s strictly for women to share about their relationships and you think a guy — a “Dude,” no less — is the best person to offer your all-female userbase relationship advice?  Is this more “Mars/Venus” bullshit?  Because that’s the vibe I’m getting.

Short Story: Awkward Timing for a Conversation

Last night, rather than work on my novel, I decided to write a short story.  I decided to cross-post that story here to my blog.  I hope you enjoy.

I walked into the restaurant and scanned the dining room. I spotted Trent sitting at a table for two near one window. He spotted me and waved, shooting me his patented smile. I nodded to the host and gestured toward my boyfriend. She nodded in response and said, “Enjoy.”

I crossed the thirty feet and sat at the empty table. “Well, hello there,” Trent said as he absentmindedly ran his hand through his meticulously combed hair. He already had a beer sitting in front of him.

“Did you order me anything yet?” I asked.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d want, to be honest. But if you know, I’ll call our waiter.” He raised a hand and shouted toward the server station. “Cody!”

A young man about five years younger than me walked over. He had blonde hair, was about 5’9” and a somewhat slim build. “Hi. You must be Alex,” he said to me. “May I get you something to drink?”

“A virgin daiquiri, please,” I said. I was a bit taken aback that the waiter knew my name.

“Certainly. I’ll have that for you in just a moment,” Cody said as he hurried away.

“Thank you,” I called after him. I turned back to Trent at that point. “Have you been here long?”

“Ten or fifteen minutes maybe,” he replied. “Just long enough to get to know our waiter a bit.”

“That’s cool,” I said. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I got hung up at work. Sue asked me to review a short document right at four.”

“No problem. Cody was a dear and kept me entertained.”

I tried hard not to wrinkle my nose. Was he trying to make me jealous again? “Well, that’s good. He seems like a sweetheart.”

“I didn’t flirt with him, in case you’re wondering,” Trent said in a tone that was almost too nonchalant.

“Oh, okay,” I said as I tried to resist the urge to rise to the bait.

“So, were you wondering?”

“Not really,” I said. It amazed me that I was being honest when I said that. Even one month ago, I would have been wondering. Hell, I would’ve been paranoid.

“It’s tempting though. I bet you he’d call me if I gave him my number.”

“It’s possible,” I said. This was getting irritating and I didn’t want to make a scene in the middle of the restaurant. “So, must be you mentioned my name to him?”

“Yeah, I said you were meeting me. And yes, I told him you were my boyfriend,” he said.

“Ah, okay.” I still wondered why he’d give a guy who knows he’s taken his number, but I had quit trying to understand Trent’s actions a few weeks ago.

Cody returned with my drink. “Here you are. Do you both know what you’d like?”

“Is the chicken in the chicken caesar salad grilled or fried?” I asked.

“Oh please, Alex. Like it matters. Having grilled chicken for one meal isn’t going to magically make you lose twenty pounds,” Trent said. He was often annoyed with my finicky food choices.

Cody stood looking at Trent with an astonished gaze. “It’s grilled.”

“Then I’ll have that. I prefer the taste of grilled chicken to fried chicken,” I said.

“And you?” Cody asked Trent.

“Oh, I’ll have a small order of ribs. Standard barbecue sauce.”

“Alright. And for your potato?”

“Baked and loaded.” Cody nodded and left to enter our order into the system. Trent commented to me, “I really think I will give him my number. Just to see what he does.”

I took a sip of my drink. “Okay.”

“You’re not going to object?”

“No, I’m not,” I said.

“So what? Are you going to punish me with the silent treatment?”


“Oh,” he said, his face a mix of relief and confusion. “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Let’s wait until after dinner, shall we?” I said.

“Oh, it’s going to be one of those conversations!” he said. “And here you said you weren’t going to make a big deal over me coming on to Cody. You just need to accept that this is the way I am already.”

I set my drink down. “I do,” I said trying to keep the irritation out of my voice.

“Well, good. It’s about time you just accept the relationship the way it is.”

I sighed. “I didn’t want to talk about this in the middle of the restaurant, but you keep pushing. So maybe it’s better if we just get it out of the way. I do accept this is way you are and the way our relationship is going to keep going.” I took a deep breath, then added, “That’s why I’ve decided that it’s time to end our relationship.”

Trent laughed. “You can’t be serious.”

I nodded. “I am.”

“You’re dumping me?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that. I just think we’re in different places in our life and we both need to accept that. I need to accept that.”

“I can’t believe this. I’m the best thing that has ever happened to you.” I shrugged. I felt that point was debatable, but didn’t feel like debating it. I just wanted this conversation to be over. He pressed, “You’ll never land someone as good looking or as sexy as I am again.”

I shrugged again. “You might be right. I’m willing to take that chance.”

“I’ll replace you by the end of tonight! You’re likely to be alone for weeks or even months.”

A thought occurred to me. “Are you really trying to get me to stay with you by trying to get me afraid of being alone?”

Trent stuttered. “What? How can you accuse me of that?”

“I’m not. I’m asking.”

“Whatever. This is all your therapist’s fault. She’s been turning you against me, hasn’t she?”

I laughed out loud at that one. “You mean the therapist that you insisted I go see in the first place because you felt I was just too paranoid?” Another thought occurred to me. “You wanted her to convince me I was just fucked up in the head, didn’t you? It’s just another way you’ve tried to manipulate me.” I paused, then added, “And yes, that one was an accusation.”

Trent sputtered. “I don’t have to stand for this. I’m out of here. He stood up and stormed toward the door.

I sighed and pulled out my phone and sent a text message to my friend, Sally. “It’s done. It wasn’t pretty, but thank god it’s done.”

I had just hit send when I heard Cody’s voice from beside me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I will be. Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you try to put a stop on the ribs?”

“Sure, no problem. Um, do you want me to cancel your salad too? I mean, if you need to leave after that, I understand.”

“Actually, I think I’d rather stick around and enjoy a pleasant meal.”

“That’s cool,” Cody said. “Let me run to the kitchen and take care of the ribs. I thanked him as he ran back to the kitchen.

Sally responded, congratulating me and asked when I’d be seeing my therapist next. I told her I had scheduled an appointment for tomorrow afternoon, though I was feeling surprisingly good about it.

Cody came back. “I was able to cancel the ribs. I also talked to the manager and he agreed to take the beers off your bill.”

“Beers? So he had more than just the one.”

“Yeah, he finished one before you got here. So, not that it’s any of my business, but I’m sorry.”

I shrugged. “Thanks. But I’m glad it’s over. I wish I had ended it even sooner. Putting up with him for ten months was just way too much.”

“No doubt. You certainly deserve better.”

The host came over and spoke to Cody. “When you get a chance, I need to talk to you.”

I smirked. “Let me guess, my ex gave you a business card to give to Cody.”

She blushed and shuffled her feet. “Yeah. I’m sorry. That was a really shitty thing of him to do.”

Cody asked her, “You tossed it, right?”

“I figured that’s what you’d want me to do.”

“Damn right. Are you sure you’re okay, Alex?”

“I’ll be fine. To be honest, I’m feeling kind of relieved. And I hope you didn’t turn him down just because of me.”

Cody snorted. “Hell no. He was an ass. Besides, at the risk of being too forward, I’d rather have your number.”

I blinked. “Are you serious?”

His coworker laughed. “Honey, he’s serious. Besides, he’d never play you after the experience you just had. He’s not like that.” Cody just nodded in agreement with her.

“Well, I’m flattered. But I think I need a bit of time. I’m feeling good about breaking up with him, but I still need to sort through things.”

“Understandable,” Cody said. “Though if I gave you my number, would you hold onto it and consider using it when you got things sorted?”

I considered this for a moment. “Sure. Though it’s probably going to be a few weeks.”

“That’s fine.” He tore a page out of his pad, scribbled on it, and handed it to me. It had his name and number written on it. “Thanks, Cody. And could I get another daiquiri? Non-virgin this time.”

“Coming right up.” He walked away. I smiled, surprised that the night wasn’t a total disaster.

I’m not doing that anymore, Dave

Given that it’s the last day of 2011, I want to use today’s post to personally reflect on the past year, particularly my recovery with regards to being codependent.  It’s a topic that has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks, and was one of the contributing factors to a recent bad day I mentioned.

This isn’t surprising, as the events that led to me seek therapy and uncover my codependency unfolded around this time last year.  That was when things really began to spin out of control in my friendship/relationship with a young man I will call Dave, and I realized I needed to get professional help for some my own reactions.  Then when things fell apart completely and I threw Dave out of my life, I went into therapy and started to really learned what codependency is and why I’m codependent.

For those who may not know what codependency is, I’d like to start with Melody Beattie’s definition:

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling the other person’s behavior.

My only problem with Ms. Beattie’s definition of what it means to be codependent is that devoid of any context, it sounds really awful.  That’s because being codependent is awful, in the sense that it’s hell on the person who is codependent and those who are around a codependent person.

What doesn’t come across in that definition very well is that “the other person’s behavior” is not minor behavior.  Ms. Beattie is talking about behavior that is truly out of control and usually committed by someone who does not wish to take responsibility for that behavior.  Codependent people end up taking responsibility for that behavior — usually out of a sense of obligation disguised as love — and trying to rescue the other person from their actions and their consequences of those actions.  We seek to control and “reel in” that behavior, to try to keep everything in that person’s life — and our own by extension — from flying apart at the seams.

Dave was the last person[1] I was codependent with before getting help.  He was out of control, not handling his own past well and acting out in ways that were self-destructive and destructive to those of us in his life.  And for the longest time, I made excuses for him and took responsibility — responsibility that Dave refused to take himself — for cleaning up the resulting mess.  As a result, my life fell apart — which is pretty common for codependent people.

So I went into therapy and began to examine my own behavior, why I tended to put other people’s needs before my own, and chose to attempt control other people who were out of control rather than taking care of myself.  I re-examined my self-perceptions, came to understand and appreciate my own boundaries, and learned to put far more of my energy into caring for myself.

Like recovery from most things, recovery from codependency is a process, and usually a never-ending one.  I still have moments where I slip into the old “care-taker” habits that marked my relationship with Dave and others.  In fact, Dave and I started hanging out again — and even started moving toward a relationship again — as I continued my therapy.  At the time, Dave seemed like a changed man, and I decided I wanted to give him another chance.

Unfortunately, I discovered appearances were deceiving toward the end of June, and that Dave was still up to his old games of deceit, manipulation, and using others (including me).[3]  So I eventually told Dave it was over again and told him I would not talk to him until he got help for his problems.

Before the second separation, I had felt the old patterns come back.  I had started to allow my life to center around Dave again.  However, I can proudly say that things hadn’t gotten as bad that time around than it was at the beginning of the year.  Plus, once I saw the truth about Dave’s continuing out-of-control behavior, I quickly cut it off.  For a codependent person, that is a victory.

I’ve heard from Dave since, and my response has been even stronger.  The last time I heard from him, I laid out the rules of what it would take to prove himself to me and convince me to let him back in my life.  Dave didn’t like the answer, said a few nasty things to me, and stormed off. I haven’t heard from him since, and while I’m a bit saddened he hasn’t changed, I will not accept an unchanged Dave.  I cannot change him, and I do not want him back unless he chooses to change himself.

I hope that Dave will be the last person I get into such a rough and out-of-control relationship.  I’d much rather find a great guy who understands and values his own integrity and a sense of responsibility.  But if I do meet another guy like Dave and even start getting involved with him, I now have the sense of self-worth and the tools to recognize it and put the brakes on.  And that is good enough.

[1]  It’s important to note that my codependency developed over a long period of time and is the cumulative result of taking responsible for many people over the many years of my life.  While Dave was a toxic person[2] and not good for me, it’s important to note that my codependency did not start with him.  Also, I am responsible for my codependency and my recovery from it now.  As Ms. Beattie also says, it may not be my fault that I’m the way I am, but it’s my responsibility to do something about it.

[2]  It’s important to note that toxic people are not worthless or irredeemable.  Saying a person is toxic simply means that they choose to behave in ways that hurt other people and are often unhealthy to be around.

[3]  The final straw for me was that we broke up and agreed to just be friends.  I was crushed by this decision.  While we were out together three days after the decision, a waitress asked if we had considered getting married, and Dave told her that we were actually engaged.  That was the moment that I realized that Dave would tell any lie that suits his purpose, even if his only purpose is to get a little extra attention from a random person in a restaurant.  I didn’t want anyone who had such a low regard of his own integrity.  Someone who can lie so easily for such a pointless reason cannot be trusted to treat others properly.

TV pp.9-10: “Poor Sally”

Note about page numbers:  I’m using an iBook copy of this book.  With iBook (and I believe most electronic books work this way), the book repaginates based on your font settings.  As such, I’m not sure how useful it will be to give page numbers.  For anyone who wants to know, I’m reading my iPad in portrait mode using the smallest font size, with a font setting of Palatino.  That’s how I come by the page numbers I list in the post titles.

Having met our mysterious crucifixion survivor and watching his discovering of some unknown power last week, we turn the first chapter of Peretti’s “The Visitation” this week to meet nineteen year old Sally Fordyce as she leaves her home in Antioch Washington[1] to go for a walk.  We learn that Sally is nineteen and has returned to Antioch to live with her parents after a short-lived relationship with a trucker named Joey.  Peretti describes that relationship from Sally’s point of view:

She had believed everything Joey, the trucker, told her about love, and how she was that girl silhouetted on his mud flaps.  The marriage — if it happened at all — lasted three months.  When he found another woman more “intellectually stimulating,” Sally was bumped from the truck’s sleeper and found herself coming full circle, right back to bring Charlie and Meg’s daughter living at home again.

This is the perfect evangelical cautionary tale against “fast relationships,” especially those involving premarital sex.  Sally is that “poor girl” who trusted the promises of the “wrong boy,” fell head over heels, got used, and had her heart broken and dumped back home, ruined.

As anyone who has ever dated can tell you, there’s a lot of truth to this story.  I suspect most of us could tell that story of that person who promised us the world and eternal love, believed them, and ended up getting hurt.  I don’t take issue with any particular detail of this story, as it’s quite plausible.

And yet, the way in which this tale is told and meant to be perceived in evangelical circles is troubling to me.  This is not a tale of a young woman who had her heart broken when love didn’t work out, but the tale of the foolish girl who made a lot of bad choices and got the heartbreak coming to her.  Let me break down some of the hidden (or maybe not-so-hidden) elements of this message.

First, we have Joey comparing Sally to silhouettes (presumably of a sexy woman in some pose that’s meant to be provocative) on the mud flaps of his truck.  In evangelical culture, this is a hint that Joey is a sex-obsessed boy who would seek to sexually objectify any woman he meets.  In the evangelical mindset, this is probably seen as a sure sign that Joey watches porn too, and that if Sally had been smarter, she would’ve realized that Joey was bad news and only interested in one thing where she was concerned.

Add to this the phrase “if it happened at all” in regard to the marriage, which suggests that maybe Joey and Sally didn’t officially tie the knot, but instead were simply cohabitating in Joey’s truck as the traveled around for his work.  Again, this is a clear warning sign in evangelical circles, as any guy who will shack up with a girl without “making her an honest woman” is bound to dump her at some point.  Again, to the evangelical mind, this is something that Sally should have seen as a sign that Joey was trouble and avoided him.

The thing is, this is how some evangelicals tend to envision all relationships that meet their expectations of “doing marriage right” look.  There are no well-meaning couples who decide to live together and do their best to make things work, only to fail.  If such a relationship fails, it’s because the couple “did it wrong.”  Even if the couple does everything “right” according to the culture, if the relationship fails, it’s a sign they “didn’t really do it right after all.”  And while they might be sympathetic with Sally, there’s that part that sees this as consequences she brought on herself.

This is further shown as Peretti tells us that Sally saw her relationship with Joey as her chance for freedom.  Of course, Sally’s understanding of freedom is painted as immature.  Now that she’s back home, she has to cook, clean, and help with other household chores, things that she apparently didn’t have to do while living with Joey.

Of course, to Sally, freedom also meant escape from the small town of Antioch.  To her, Joey was her one chance to escape.  I find this interesting because Peretti is playing on a cliche here that I don’t buy into.  Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who grows up in small towns wants to escape them.  Even some of those who are not “wheat farmers” decide they like their cozy little hometown and stick around.  After all, there’s a lot to be said for living in a small community where everyone has known almost everyone else since they were born.  It can be quite comfortable.

Yes, some of us[2] decide we’d prefer more excitement.  Or we decide that our chosen careers require us to move.  Or we decide we’d have better dating options in a larger, more diverse community.  But we don’t necessarily just leave our small towns for the sake of escaping our small towns.

This is, I suppose, where I find Sally a bit poorly written.  There is nothing driving her desire to get out of Antioch.  There is nothing pushing her away from her hometown, nor is there anything pulling her to some new location.

Of course, that’s why Sally never found an escape other than Joey.  She has no ambition of her own.  She has no goals or self-determined destination.  And that’s why she is still (or at least back) in Antioch.  So she latches onto a man — a trucker who tells her that she’s sexy and beautiful, no less — to provide her with her escape.

Elephant in the room time:  Don’t a lot of evangelicals hold this up as a woman’s perfect — and only — duty?  Isn’t being a wife beholden to a particular man part and parcel of many evangelical descriptions of the ideal woman.  So here we have Sally, who seems to be latching onto that idea herself.  She turned to a man to be her ticket to the good life.  And yet, because (1) she didn’t “do it right” and (2) she “failed,” she’s a “poor girl” to be pitied/tsk-tsked by the same people who probably contributed to her thinking that this was the perfect life for her.

After all this set up, Sally meets a random stranger that has a message for her:

“I’m here to bring you a message.  Your prayers have been answered, Sally.  Your answer is on his way.  Be looking for him.”

Sally’s answer to her prayers — her prayers to get out of this small town — is on his way.  You heard that, the alleged answers to her prayers is another man.

You can almost hear the evangelical readers sardonically thinking, “Here we go again.”

[1]  Google maps knows of no Antioch in Washington, though there apparently is a “Highway 9” that runs through that state.  I suspect that this is another attempt by Peretti to create a plausible sounding small town, as Yamikuronue concludes about Ashtion in “This Present Darkness.”

[2]  I grew up in the rural town of Tioga, Pennsylvania, so I’m a “small town boy” myself.

Morality: Societal Dictates vs. Societal Consideration

On Wednesday, I tackled how morality can be influenced both by the advice of deities and the individual’s application of reasoning and consideration.  Today, I’d like to consider how society fits into the development of one’s morals – in this case, my own.

Understanding how society influences morality is primarily understanding the very nature of morality as a matter of relationships.  To put it simply, morality comes into play when my actions affect my relationships to friends, family, my gods, the world in general, and even myself.  If my actions do not affect anyone,[1] then there is no question about morality.

The importance of morality rests on the importance of those relationships.  To put it simply, people need relationships to survive, both individually and collectively.  The Randian notion that a person can be completely self reliant is a quaint fantasy with no basis in reality, as mmy beautifully demonstrated not so long ago.  We all need the support and help of other people from time to time.

At it’s heart, I think morality is a way of developing and strengthening relationships with mutual trust and respect, relationships that ensure that when we – both collectively and individually – need aid and support, we are certain to have some place to turn.  This support might be extreme, such as the case mmy describes in the blog post linked in the previous paragraph.  However, it may just be the knowledge of knowing that other people “have your back,” knowing that you don’t have to spend all your time and energy protecting yourself and what you value.  This social support enables you to take risks, seek new adventures which may lead to new benefits and gains, both for yourself and those around you.

As a devotee of a Norse goddess, I am deeply inspired by the Icelandic sagas, whose heroes often find themselves doing a careful balancing act between the deep-felt call to being a rugged individual of great accomplishment and meeting their obligations to their families and the greater society they find themselves in.  I personally consider learning to find this balance the greatest endeavor and purpose of morality.  For me, it has led to a finely nuanced and carefully considered framework on which to determine what my best and most moral next action in a given situation will be.

[1]  Admittedly, if any such actions exist, they are truly few in number.