Tag Archives: New York Times

Those Elusive Life Skills…and My Always Omniscient Mother

A few days before leaving for my recent trip home–this one for the primary purpose of spending time with my father, sister-in-law and niece, at the beach–I talked to my mother on the phone.

I ambled around my dirt-topped backyard as we spent twenty minutes or so catching up, and then told her I needed to go get dinner.

“Okay,” she said. “What time is your flight on Sunday?” And then: “Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit!”

I’m certain she could hear the sound of my eyes rolling through the phone.

“What?” I retorted. “Do you really think I’m twelve years old? Jesus, mother. How do you think I survive in the world?”

Let’s just hold onto that question for a moment as I ask you to imagine the way I felt when, sitting at my gate in the Albuquerque Sunport that Sunday morning, I ticked through the contents of my suitcase and realized that I had, indeed, forgotten to pack my swimsuit.

I’d like to think it a testament to the strength of our present relationship that my first thought (after: “Wow. Really???” and “Good lord, Elizabeth, are you fucking kidding me!?”) was to tell my mother: I was eager to share with her the laugh.

(And it is perhaps testament to the frequency of this sort of exchange between us that when I did get ahold of her and asked “Guess what I forgot?!” she laughed and said “It’s okay, we have plenty of cell phone chargers!”)

Why do I tell you this? A few reasons. One, it is my mother’s birthday today and I suspect that she’ll appreciate the nod to her all-knowing-ness–as she usually, quietly, does. Two, it’s mildly amusing, and when things happen to me that are mildly amusing I sometimes (you know, about weekly) like to share them. Three, to ask this question: how in god’s name do I survive in the world?

It’s been ten years, now, since I moved out of my parents house and went to college in a state few people I knew had been to. (Or, could remember: “Where are you again?” they’d ask. “Missouri?”) Since then–save a perfectly lovely three weeks at my parents house between stints in DC and New Mexico when I worked on grad school applications and took off my pajamas, maybe, twice–I’ve been living on my own.

I’ve lived alone. I’ve lived with roommates. I am the primary (though, thankfully, not the sole) caretaker to an energetic pitbull mix. In a year, hopefully, I will have a graduate degree.

But still: I struggle with the basics of life. (Seriously: it’s possible that I haven’t been to the dentist since the Clinton administration.)

Last week in New York I had coffee with a friend and former roommate from college: she recently finished her grad program and has spent a few months unemployed. Those months have been filled with the kind of life stuff–bills, IRS issues, doctors appointments–that are a constant challenge to balance with work.

“I don’t understand how anyone who has a job gets this stuff done!” she sighed to me over iced teas at a Park Slope coffee shop.

It reminded me of a conversation I once had with my brother R.

“What have you been up to?” I asked him.

“You know, the usual, life things,” he replied. There was a pause. “All that stuff that you put off and don’t deal with, that you do everything else but? Like bills and appointments? That’s the stuff I do every day.”

“Oh,” I said. “Right.”

Which is all to say that there are people, my brother apparently among them, for whom basic responsibilities are a manageable burden. And then there are people, people like me and A, for whom they are a persistent struggle.

But, baby steps: in NY, I borrowed bathing suits from my best friend and sister-in-law. Yesterday, I made an appointment to have my teeth cleaned in September. The pit mix is sometimes crabby and not the most reliably obedient, but she’s got a pretty good life.

I’m not always sure how I survive in the world, but–with the help of good friends, occasional handy dudes, and an always all-knowing mother–I do. And, I suppose, I will.

Happy birthday Mom.


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Science, Sense and Cheating

In the past couple of days I’ve been inundated with emails from people alerting me to that recent New York Times blog post, for a while the most emailed on their website, called “The Science of a Happy Marriage.”

(Okay when I say inundated I actually mean I heard from two people, my grandmother and my best friend R, both of whom frequently send me links to things. But that is two more people than normally email me the same article in a given week. So there.)

Anyway R suggested, specifically, that I weigh in on this idea that what fosters commitment is not so much genetic but a specific dynamic in a relationship, that of “self-expansion”: “how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons.”

Apparently you’re more likely to be faithful to someone who you feel challenges you and makes you a better, more interesting or more virtuous person.

Okay, I’ll buy that. I mean, I’m often drawn to men who I think are smarter and more creative than me: I want to be with someone who I can learn from.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today in lowbrow gym reading, I perused myself some Glamour. (I claim, by the way, to read the New Yorker at the gym. Once in a while I do. But let’s be real: when there’s a lighter option available, I am not above taking it).

This issue featured Katie Couric conducting a serious interview with Whoopi Goldberg. Okay fine it was really, really unserious. Among her puffy questions was one about what she knows now that she wished she had known in her twenties.

Being Whoopi and being awesome, she replied that she wished she knew that being twenty-something is not, in fact, all that different than being fifty-something.

Which, if you’re not Whoopi, may be more or less true. But regardless it reminded me of a conversation I had last night with one of my best friends, R.

R is starting law school in the fall, which means she’s moving back to New York. She is currently contemplating a decision: whether to go back to her bright-but-expensive-and-ideally-located Brooklyn apartment, or move in, for a few months at least, to her parents bright-but-free-and-ideally-located Brooklyn house.

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Why We’re Drawn, Why We Stay

Have you ever made a list of the reasons why you like someone you’re dating?

I have.

Have you ever wondered, as you were making said list, whether it was a completely ridiculous thing to do?

I’ve done that, too.

I’ve been thinking about this lately–this idea of trying to articulate and quantify what makes me attracted to someone, and whether it makes any sense.

And then, today, I came upon this article about Norris Church Mailer, Norman Mailer’s third (and last) wife. The one in the Sunday Times Magazine that those of you more presently engaged with politics and culture either saw or read several days ago.

Norman Mailer’s wife is not someone who most of us would immediately think to turn to for relationship advice. She was, after all, married to one of American history’s most famous mysoginists and philanderers.

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Storytime: On Being, and Not Being a “Dude”

Less than 48 hours after praising my womanhood, the same guy who had done so commended me for my ability to “be a dude.”

To be fair, I was the one who had used the phrase originally–when we’d quasi-dated the first time about a year earlier. But I wouldn’t begrudge you some confusion. How anyone–most suspiciously, me–could get from the neuroses I express daily in this blog to the performance of any romantic behavior that could possibly qualify as “dude-like” is pretty radically dubious.

So: some background.

I first met this guy (like my avoidance of boy or man? I’m trying) on a bus from Washington to New York about six weeks before I moved from the latter to the former last November. We spent most of that time talking and feeling extremely attracted to one another.

Due to this extreme attraction, things moved rather quickly–quicker than either of us anticipated or intended.

And then, as men are wont to do (especially when they are twenty-four, as he was) he panicked: he wasn’t looking for a relationship–he’d just gotten out of one, he was in school, he had two jobs. I told him that was okay: I was about to move, anyhow–why couldn’t we just keep it casual and enjoy each other’s company? I could “be a dude” about things.

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What Comes Before Marriage

I’m pretty sure the second most disconcerting thing my current therapist has said to me–the first, of course, being when he offered his prayers on my behalf–was his off-handed declaration that I should never live with a man to whom I am not married.

“You’ll never do that again, right?” he asked, when I referenced having lived together with my ex.

“Excuse me?” I responded, fairly dumbstruck.

“It’s just a bad idea,” he said, going on to cite data that men and women who live together first are less likely to stay married.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone who would marry someone before living with them,” I declared.

“I know,” he said. “That’s the problem.”

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On Dating While Blogging: How Did Carrie Do It??

Here’s to making this blog as self-referential as possible: I will now respond to Jennifer‘s comment on my last post, which was in response to my father’s comment on the post before that. With me?

Jenn assuaged last night’s fretting about the implications of my nascent blogging career: namely, that I will have to maintain an active dating life and be, interminably, single. She assured me that I shouldn’t panic, that I can enter into a relationship and blog about that, get married and blog about that, etc etc.

I appreciate her wisdom. And I appreciate that it brings me quite conveniently to the next meta-blogging issue I wanted to raise: I have a hard enough time finding someone that I am attracted to who is also willing to date me, and now I have to find someone I am attracted to who is also willing to date me AND be blogged about while doing so??

I know we all like to think of our lives as somehow paralleling Sex and the City, and I will confess that at times I like to fancy myself a darker, less wispy and less rich Carrie Bradshaw. But the other issue on which the show gave little guidance–besides how, on a writer’s income, she could afford all those designer shoes along with a non-shoebox-sized Manhattan apartment–is this question of how she managed to write so freely about her love life without destroying it.

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Sex and Facebook

I swear, I really was planning on taking tonight off from compulsive blogging, but I just saw this NPR story and couldn’t resist.

I couldn’t resist because, for one, Shereen is a former colleague and All Things Considered my former home. But mostly, I couldn’t resist because I think about this basically all the time. This, of course, being Facebook and general internet-stalking. I do it more than I care to admit. I won’t say all the time, but, well, kind of. I simply cannot resist typing the name of a new interest into Google, and suffering the results. And I don’t know what to do about it.

By now, I think we’ve developed something of a dating etiquette: no Facebook friendship for at least a few months (I’m guessing here, because–ironically, and helpfully, I am prone to men with a startling degree of internet aloofness and the last time I actually dated someone with a Facebook page for more than three weeks might have been in 2008). Based on my experience, though, it’s turned into a sort of dance: who will friend who first?? Sadly, Facebook’s egregious privacy settings have almost rendered obsolete that one precious barrier to dooming yourself to far more information than you should every truly have about someone, much less someone you’ve recently met and are contemplating sex with. Continue reading


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Is there a girl named Sulzberger at UNC who can’t find a date?

Because that is the only explanation I can think of for the cover story of today’s New York Times Style section.

If you’ve not read it, the article takes the space of almost 2000 words to lament the phenomenon of women outnumbering men on college campuses–at UNC Chapel Hill in particular–and, heaven forbid, making their way through college without a boyfriend.

I know what you’re thinking, Peter: Elizabeth, please. The blogosphere is already saturated with bitter, overly snarky retorts to dated Style stories. Trust me, I hesitated. But it turns out that when one starts a blog about dating as a twenty-something and the next day the Times runs a piece like this, one feels somewhat obliged to weigh in.

Plus, there was this choice quote, from a female UNC junior, on guys cheating: “If you don’t let it slide, you don’t have a boyfriend.” If this is really the state of affairs at UNC, I am more thankful than ever that I went to a liberal arts college.

Not that dating was–or is, I’m sure–any more of a breeze for girls in that environment. No offense to the wonderful and brilliant men I went to school with, but we all know that for four years it was all you could do to pull your pants up in the morning, much less hit on somebody. With a few notable, whorish exceptions, most of you could hardly manage to interact with one girl in an academic year, much less several.

We survived. We dated older men, and each other. We graduated and, well, we’re still surviving.

Which brings me, sort of, to the most obvious question prompted by the story: really, New York Times?? Women in higher education outnumber men? Haven’t we known this since approximately the Clinton administration?? Like, the first Clinton administration??

I’m not saying it’s okay. But a skewed ratio of educated women to educated men is an endemic problem in this country, not just at colleges and not just in Chapel Hill. That means we have to shift our expectations of romantic relationships: women shouldn’t expect to date men with greater financial or academic potential, and vice versa.

But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t expect men to muster the maturity to commit to a relationship: a prospect that, post-college, is daunting enough. The only function of putting up with bad behavior is to encourage it. Which might mean that men will, truly, never grow up.

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