Archive for the 'relationships' Category

stop analyzing your single friends

You have to find yourself to find love, goes the mantra. You have to love yourself enough to attract love into your life. You have to be already be complete before someone else can complete you (wait, what?).

A lot of the advice hurled at single people suggests that there is more work to be done. You have to solve your issues. You have to learn to be happy, all of the time, on your own.

Single women are constantly blamed: You’re giving off the wrong energy. You’re too desperate. You’re not open enough. You’re intimidating. Men are attracted to non-threatening, smiley women with big, friendly teeth and a successful career that isn’t successful enough to be intimidating. You have to be self-sufficient but not to the extent that it renders you unfeminine. And don’t text him so soon after the date! And don’t sleep with him right away, for f*@ks sake! Or, wait, maybe do. You don’t want to be weird and uptight about sex.

A happy, committed relationship is dangled like the yummy, carb-y prize at the end of a grueling marathon of personal improvement.

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My own journey to love was more like a lazy stroll down the block.

I am an online dating success story. “Just sign up and try it for a month!” my best friend urged.

I signed up. I jotted a quick profile, slapped up a lone, somewhat flattering photo and flung my single self out into the universe. Two weeks later, I went on a first date with a guy who sounded funny and smart in writing. He was even more than those things. I fell in love with him right away. We got engaged six months later. We’ve now been married for four years and I am still bowled over by his awesomeness. He lights up my days.

So of course, immediately after meeting him, I started preaching the gospel. “You have to sign up!” I told my single friends. “Just try it! You never know who you’ll meet!”

I talked quite a few of them into it. They went out hopefully on first dates. They reported back. Some duds. Some weirdos. And then some guys who seemed wonderful but suddenly disappeared after having sex. Nice guys who they didn’t “click” with. Gorgeous guys who seemed to be drifting, distracted. Cool, shaggy-haired photographer guys who texted “I might be free in an hr. wanna meet up?” and then canceled.

We analyzed and analyzed. I tried to be encouraging.

“Wait,” they started to say, “you met him after being on the site for how long?”

“Two weeks,” I said, but now it felt like bragging. So I began to say, “Maybe a couple months?” But soon even that sounded very quick, unrealistic.

A few of my friends found love online or elsewhere, but the majority of them are still dating. Or they’re not dating right now. They’re taking a break, because, enough already! But soon they’ll try again. Their stories are full of incredible, buoyant hope and, increasingly, creeping resignation and quiet despair.

More often now, they ask, “What is wrong with me?”

We try to figure it out sometimes.

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Kate on May 7th 2014 in friendship, relationships

the most gorgeous man in the world

When I was twelve, I was in this program that paired kids with elderly people who wanted company. Every week, I visited a woman I’ll call Mary in her overstuffed one-bedroom in a dimly lit facility circled by a sad narrow sidewalk. The whole place smelled like loneliness and mildew and I was depressed by it.

But Mary was upbeat and earnest and she always made me a grilled cheese on her George Foreman grill. We talked a lot about the virtues of that clever grill. The grilled cheese was always on potato bread with American cheese from her similarly yellowing refrigerator. I loved it.

Mary and I had some other things in common, besides appreciation of a good grilled cheese: we both loved Agatha Christie and romantic stories. Hers was the most romantic of all, she told me. Her third husband was the love of her life. He had been in the Navy and he had a sailboat- a real sailboat! And he was gorgeous. The most gorgeous man in the world. Like a movie star except better. Tan and tall and charming and with such a smile! It would make you faint.

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“Don’t you dare fall in love with me,” he’d warned her, when they first met, dancing. “I’m on borrowed time.”

They were in their fifties. He told her his doctor had only given him a handful of years to live, a decade if he was very lucky. The problem was his heart.

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Kate on January 22nd 2014 in beauty, friendship, life, relationships

the smartest guy at college

I started out as a music major, and once I cried in a practice room, sitting next to a chipped old grand piano, because everything felt wrong.

I was dating a French horn player and all of his friends were brass players too (they were really very nice but I never fit in) and all of my classes were about music, except that somehow they were boring and difficult at the same time. The other sopranos were better than me and also harder, somehow, and the one who made herself throw up in the dorm bathroom was the most popular.

I signed up for one academic class. Religion and Psychology. Professor Jones, a commanding man with exactly the right amount of facial hair to be distinguished-looking, and a low, thoughtful voice made for oratory. I sat towards the back, but soon I was raising my hand a lot, because I wanted to talk about everything. And the other students in the class wanted to talk, too. There was a really smart girl who sat in the front, a little to my left, and took notes in the neatest handwriting. There was a lumbering guy with a baseball cap who sometimes debated with her. And then there was the smartest guy at college.

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That’s what I called him in my head. He had a lilting accent I couldn’t identify because I wasn’t worldly enough. It made me want to be more worldly. He had very black, thick hair that did a sort of sweep because it was long enough to and because it had natural style. He had glasses that looked almost decorative, because I thought glasses were really cool. He had read everything. He could quote everything. He didn’t even sound like a jerk about it. Well, maybe he sounded like a tiny bit of a jerk, but I didn’t mind. I thought he sounded fascinated and, by immediate extension, fascinating.

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Kate on December 31st 2013 in fear, life, new york, relationships, uplifting

26 and already pregnant

This is the full version of my piece about pregnancy that appeared here on Slate. I wanted to share the original, because I like the details, and Slate was nice enough to let me. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t really want to tell my friends. We’d talked about babies, over wine and second draft feature articles at a non-fiction writers’ group, and everyone agreed that if you’re smart, you wait until you’re thirty-five.

“There’s too much to do before then!” said one of the women, summarizing.

I was twenty-six when I got pregnant, which meant I’d jumped the gun by almost a decade.

In a lot of different parts of the country, having a baby in your mid twenties is not a big deal; According to a 2009 report from the CDC, the average age of first time mothers in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and nine other states New Yorkers rarely visit was recently twenty-two to twenty-three. But the average age of first time moms here in New York was twenty-six, and twenty-seven in New Jersey, where I grew up. When you account for factors like advanced education, the numbers climb. The Pew Research Center notes that 71% of first time mothers over thirty-five are college educated. Since I arrived in NYC, I don’t think I’ve even met anyone who didn’t go to college.

But on my Babycenter.com Due Date Club app, people are constantly starting threads with titles like “aNy othr teen moms on here???” And they get plenty of sympathetic answers. In New York City I only know one other woman my age who has a baby. She’d gone to Harvard and worked on Wall Street, but, she once confided in me in low tones, “I always wanted to be a mom.”

(my eternal hero– Robin McKinley. God, can this woman write a fantasy novel. source)

I have not always wanted to be a mom. (If I’ve always wanted to be anything it’s a famous fantasy novelist – dorky, I know). More immediately, I’ve wanted to get a college scholarship and then get a high GPA and then get into an Ivy League grad school and then have a sparkling career in the big city. I’m not sure about how sparkling my big city career has been (a guess: not particularly), but I made the rest of my goals happen.

Until now, the conversations I’ve had with my friends about babies have sounded something like this:

Glamorous, perfectly made-up Mara: “My mom is a nurse. She says it’s a myth that women are less fertile in their mid-thirties.”

(We all nod sagely.)

Julie, who has just been promoted and is managing ten people and attending star-studded work parties: “I need to spend at least another five years on my career. And anyway, my boss hates pregnant women.”

Stephanie, who works at a tech start-up: “Five years, definitely. That’s the right amount of time. You have to live your own life first.”

Everyone else: “Yes!”

Me: silence

I had been married for a couple years when I decided to go off birth control. By then, I was in therapy to try to cope with my career-related anxiety. At my preconception appointment (this is a thing! Although I may be the only one who has ever taken advantage of it), the doctor congratulated me for being so proactive and told me to go off the pill three months before I was even thinking about trying to conceive, to get the hormones out of my system and allow my body time to readjust. So I did. And then I panicked. “I have to finish my book,” I told my therapist. “Maybe I should wait another year? Six months? I think I rushed into this. I’m not ready.”

But my body was. Two hours after that therapy session, I peed on a stick, telling myself that I was stupid for even taking a test this soon. It said “YES” in very straightforward digital letters. I was already pregnant.

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sexy balding man with back hair

You know what’s a funny joke about a guy? That he has back hair. It’s hilarious! It’s funny because back hair is just inherently funny. It’s inherently gross. Because—because it’s HAIR! On someone’s BACK! EW! Hair is not supposed to be on a back, right? It’s supposed to be on a head! Obvi. Which is actually why it’s also funny when a guy doesn’t have enough hair to cover the top of his head. Because that is where the hair is supposed to be! And it looks ridiculous when it isn’t!

I think that’s how the logic goes, anyway. I’m trying to figure it out, because I definitely notice a lot of smirking, humorous references to men who are balding or men who have back hair, without any explanation for why these things are supposed to be so unappealing and ridiculous as to be amusing.

There are gleefully explicit scenes in movies where guys need to get their back hair waxed before they can even approach a woman. Because what self-respecting woman would ever even consider a man with hair growing on the wrong side of his body?

(hold up! you just crossed over to the wrong side of the tracks! source)

I admit it, I have giggled agreeably along with these observations about unfortunate, socially unpresentable men. You know, when one of my friends is relating a story about a guy she ended up deciding against, and she adds, lowering her voice secretively, but with a note of righteousness, “And…he had back hair!” Or, “He was totally going bald…” So that we can all understand exactly how bad it was. This was the sort of thing she was dealing with, so, you know, she did what had to be done.

Just like the nice guy I wrote about who made all those not-so-nice comments about women, I don’t think that making these comments about men necessarily makes women mean. I think when we do this, we’re often just employing the jargon. Like a tired comedian wrapping up her set, we’re just making the jokes we know will get a laugh. And when we do end up dating/loving/appreciating a guy with back hair, we simply don’t mention it. Why would we? We don’t want anyone to think poorly of him, or be grossed out by his body. No need to even get into it.

I remember the first time I ever saw Bear without his shirt. And there is a reason I call him Bear. He’s fantastically furry. And I didn’t know until then that I would like that sort of thing, but instead, I loved it.

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27

I tried to remember what I’ve done this past year. I would like my accomplishments to be big and obvious, like trophies on a mantel, each one a little shinier and more prestigious than the last.

I remember my twenty-sixth birthday. It was a bad day. I was so afraid of not being enough. Of not getting ahead. I am always so afraid of that. It’s an old and boring fear, even to me.

The truth is, it’s not just the past year, I can’t really remember what I’ve been doing for the last decade. I mean, I did things. Some of them were the big things that people are supposed to do at those ages. College, grad school, figured out a career. I wrote pieces I was proud of and some of them got published in places I was proud to be published. Sometimes someone I knew would tell me that someone they knew had sent them a piece I’d written, and they’d been like, “I know her!” And I would feel successful for a minute, and I’d think that I needed more of that, sort of like a drug. And also like a drug because afterward, I felt bad because I wasn’t getting it anymore. And I’d feel jealous because someone else got a big deal agent or an NPR interview or whatever.

I love to write. If I could somehow take that feeling of working on a book and strain it through a magical sieve and leave behind the chunks of ambition and everything money related and my insecurities about getting ahead that have been carded into the strands of my inspiration over the years—that would be liberating. Sometimes I can. It makes me want to write forever.

But the best thing I’ve done over the past decade is decide to spend my life with Bear.

And the best thing I did this past year was start to feel like maybe I was already doing enough.

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Kate on March 21st 2013 in life, pregnancy, relationships

you are pretty enough to find love

Sorry, two relationship-y pieces in a row. I know. It just happened that way. This one was on the Frisky originally, for my column there, and it was also syndicated on XoJane. So if you saw it either of those places, I hope you’ll forgive the redundancy. Even if you’ve already seen it, I always love the discussions that happen on this blog, so I wanted to share it with you guys, to see what you thought. 

The other day, a girl emailed me:

“I’m worried that I’m not pretty enough to get a guy. I’m single, and want a serious relationship, but sometimes I think I can’t find one because I’m not prettier.”

I wanted to exclaim, “That’s ridiculous!” But instead I thought, Well, of course you’re worried.

When I was single, I reasoned that being hotter was always better because it would give me more options. The hotter I was, the more guys would be interested in me, and the more choice I’d have in the matter. So even if I thought I looked fine, it would’ve been better to look, well, even better. (And then there is no limit—you can always be hotter, somehow.) And when I thought that I looked significantly, depressingly less than fine, I was scared, because I felt as though I might miss out on something essential.

This is not irrational. It makes sense, when we think of women’s worth as being closely matched, at least initially, with their beauty.

 

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From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught that if we were prettier everything in our lives would be better. We would have the things that we want. Girls become preoccupied with their appearances in an effort to control and improve their lives, and are too often driven to despair when they don’t see themselves as fitting into restrictive and seemingly arbitrary beauty standards. And this is not some dramatic interpretation—it’s just life. Some of us escape unscathed, and some of us are blissfully oblivious enough, and some of us recover from middle school and go on to not care very much, and some of us continue to be chased by the howling, hungry beauty demons into our adulthood and even until we die.

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Kate on December 26th 2012 in beauty, being different, fear, relationships, uplifting