Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category


death of a beloved dog

I can’t sleep for sadness tonight. I’m sad for the consciousness of mortality.

There were two important deaths in the last 48 hours. One of a hated man I would never have met, whose death caused glee in some and solemn reflection in others. His death took almost ten years.

The other death was the sudden last day of a friend’s beloved dog.

I would have cried for the second death even without the priming of my tears by the first, but my mood was extra pensive, so the sadness is extra profound.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Death. We’re closely acquainted. I’ve also met and closely watched his twin sister, Illness. They tend to hang out together, and they’re hard to tell apart.

It surprised me tonight to realize I have come to hate Illness more than her brother. He’s quick and merciless, but she is a cunning sadist. And that has been worse. I have watched her tempt her brother with a new victim, and heard her laugh as she snatched them from his grip. I’ve also seen her keep her toys out of Death’s sight, although she whispers his name from another room. “Memento mori,” she chuckles. Remember to die. But not just yet.

I’ve seen her terrorize bunnies and boys and mothers. I have hated her for it all, but quietly borne it, because eventuality Illness leaves, either by her own will or the force of Death.

Death is a scene-stealer, so you forget his sister when he enters, and you think you hate him most. But Death is kinder. Death is finally merciful when he takes someone away from his treacherous sister. If you truly hated someone, you would wish them a terminal illness with endless trips to the doctor or vet and scores of antibiotics that don’t work, or a thousand sleepless nights in the hospital, or the fear that comes with chemotherapy. You would not wish them dead.

And so tonight I think of the forgiveness of Death, and how it is sometimes a relief you feel, a thankfulness to Death, when you watch someone go without having had to watch them suffer.

I think that Death is the ultimate justice, both for a murderous zealot and a beloved dog. One will be sorely missed. One will be dismissed. Both are lucky in the fact that Death took them before the inevitable Illness of old age had her chance to torture them.

So I can’t cry overlong. You were a good dog, Furgus.

You were a bad man, Bin Laden.

But Death the great equalizer found you both, one way or another, and took you away. And it is all any of us can hope for in the end for ourselves and those we love or hate.

Now I’ll sleep, listening to the snores of my healthy young pup, knowing someday I’ll have to watch Illness take him seriously, if Death is not merciful first.


the great porn debate

Reader T. C writes:

I’m a red-blooded American man who watches porn occasionally. Nothing extreme or too raunchy, just your normal run of the mill guy porn. My girlfriend thinks porn is degrading. She was actually astonished when she found out I watch porn. (Don’t all guys watch porn?) Clearly it hasn’t affected our sex life in any way, as I’m not an addict or anything. But she’s asked me to stop watching porn. I’m kind of torn about what to do. Obviously I don’t think porn is bad, but she does. Also I think I’m more miffed about the fact that she would ask something like that of me, impinging on my freedom and my rights, etc. And finally, I’m miffed that she thinks the little porn I do watch could transform me into some deviant monster. What do you think?

Dear T.C.:

I think this issue may fall slightly across gender lines, so I took one of my highly scientific IM surveys and found out.

I was sort of right.

Most of my gal friends said it wouldn’t be outrageous to ask a guy to stop watching porn entirely. Especially if your sex life is good anyway.

Most of my guy friends said OH HELL NO.

too public

This may be a bit too public, dude. Image: photofriday /

Of course, there were spirits of compromise on both sides. Many of my girlfriends said that your girlfriend can keep her opinions and even express them to you and maybe try to educate you on why she feels that way, but that it should be okay for you to do what you want (or need) to do in your free and private time, as long as she doesn’t have to watch (or know about it).

And the guys said basically the same thing — if they loved a girl enough, they would consider giving up porn for her, again if the sex life was doing well, but that the girlfriend should probably be okay with you doing whatever you want to do in your free time.

I think this brought up a few interesting assumptions that need to be addressed.

First, not all red-blooded American men watch porn. I have personally dated several who not only didn’t have a stash, they also didn’t make use of the free porn on the interwebs. And I’m not talking about people who avoid pornography for religious or political reasons. Some men do just fine with their own imaginations. So maybe your girlfriend wasn’t totally out of line when she was astonished to learn you watch porn. (And depending on how long you’ve been together, that’s a good job of keeping it private already, buddy.) Also, some guys wouldn’t have a problem giving up porn altogether, possibly because it’s not such a big part of their lives in the first place. This is probably not you.

Next up, she may have good reason to be offended by pornography. There are lots of arguments against porn in the feminist world, the religious world, and probably several other worlds. Is it degrading to women? I can’t say. Is it degrading to your girlfriend? Yes, for whatever reason. Whether it’s because she’s experienced sexual abuse in the past or because she’s studied the arguments against it, she is offended by pornography. And you are very unlikely to change her mind, even if you can expose her to feminist porn. While most of my girlfriends were not opposed to porn in this manner, a few of them said porn has caused problems in their past relationships. So your girlfriend’s not totally out of left field in wondering if pornography is problematic.

Of course, her assumption that men who watch porn are deviants is clearly wrong, too. While I’m not up for looking up the statistics now, I’m sure more men do than don’t, and the majority of those are not lunatics. Yes, child pornography is disturbing, and so is snuff porn, and so is any number of other degrading and non consensual pornography, and I’m sure you’ll admit that as readily as she will. So there’s one thing: you can agree that certain porn is degrading. Shake hands on that and be happy.

In terms of what you should do, you can either come to a compromise about pornography, you can quit watching it, or you can break up.

The compromise would be what most of my friends agreed about above — agree to disagree about the nature of porn, and only watch it when she won’t know about it. Or maybe you could try reading erotica, which is typically hailed as being more female-friendly. In fact, maybe you could read erotica together.

From what you’ve told me about pornography being your right, I don’t think you’re going to be willing to give it up anytime soon. While it would be a very nice gesture to a woman who was seriously offended by pornography, I don’t think it’s the gesture you’re willing to make. Porn is a sticky subject (no pun intended). Most of our society preaches that it’s a huge vice to be hidden under shadow, and defending your desire or need for it can make you seem like a real pig. Is porn more important to you than a relationship with a real woman? That’s not the line this argument should draw, but it is an interesting point to think about. If you really loved her, maybe you would be willing to try and see things from her point of view somehow.

But that goes both ways. If she really loved you, she’d be willing to hear your point of view. And it’s not just “huh huh huh boobies”. You can make arguments that porn is empowering for women (some make 10 times as much as their male co-stars), or that there is pornography out there produced by women for women.

There is another side to the coin, too. As one of my friends pointed out, if she’s got serious issues with pornography that you don’t have, other sexual issues may arise later in the relationship. Is she too much of a “prude” for you? Does she have body issues? Is she “frigid”? While these are all sexual issues a woman should work through in her lifetime, it’s not your job to work through them with her. Being in a relationship is not about being a hero or saving the other person.

If the fact that she is asking you to give up your right to porn weighs more to you than your relationship, or if she won’t budge on a compromise, you two may need to consider splitting up. It may be an embarrassing-sounding reason to split (“she wouldn’t let me watch porn”), but sex is an important part of a relationship, and if you two have severely opposing views on it, you shouldn’t be together in the first place.


how many is too many

Reader L. S. writes:

How many sexual partners is too many?

Dear L.S.:

Now there’s a question asking for judgment if I’ve ever heard/read one.

I’m going to take the grand old cop out on this one: Your personal sleep number is yours, and only you can determine how many partners is “too many” for you.

“Too many” is a very relative term. For many people, two partners is “too many”. For some others, hundreds might not be enough. Unfortunately, you may not know how many is “too many” until you’ve passed your limit. So perhaps you should decide before you start sleeping around if you’re ready to do so.

So how will you know what your personal sleep level is before you hit it?

Know thyself, amigo.

flames of love

If you are on fire, you may have had too many sexual partners. Image: Filomena Scalise /

Sex in our culture is chock-full of politics, religion, social pressure, and mixed cultural expectations. There’s a virgin-whore dichotomy for the ladies, and a stud-asshole complex for the gents. Depending on your social circle, you can be equal parts pariah and god(dess) for sleeping with fewer or more people.

My very first recommendation is to keep your decision to yourself, or at least to a very select few trusted advisors and friends. While I think we should keep our noses out of other peoples’ sexual business, this is not, unfortunately, how most of the country feels. Frankly, your sex life is nobody’s business but yours and your partners’. Don’t give the crazies the satisfaction of knowing what to label you if they feel the need to judge.

Next up, really think about it. How much do you care about a religion or other social order having a say in your sexual partnerships? If you are firmly of the belief that sleeping with someone you’re not married to is a sin in a higher being’s eyes, then you should probably not do it. Easier said than done for many, of course, but I think that feeling guilty about sex is quite possibly one of the worst things you can do to yourself, not to mention your partner(s). Search your soul on this one. While many people may not believe this, there are people in the world who go their entire lives with only one sexual partner. I can assure you it is usually a very conscious decision to do so.

If you don’t care so much about religious or social stigma, consider your own level of maturity on the issue, both emotionally, physically, and mentally. Are you prepared to deal with jealousy? Are you prepared to deal with STIs and safer sex? Do you believe monogamy is a virtue? Do you value quality vs. quantity? Do you get attached easily?

To be totally honest, I don’t think most people are capable of setting a number for themselves and saying, “Nope, no more, I’m not going to have sex with one more person.” For people who aren’t committed completely to abstinence until marriage, sexual partners tend to appear naturally. I know a few of my friends who would definitely wish for more sexual partners, too.

But you’ve got to watch out for your heart. The truth is that while monogamy may not be for everyone, “no strings attached” sex doesn’t work for everybody, either. In fact, I’d say it doesn’t work for a majority of people, regardless of how much they wish it would. Be honest to yourself.

If you feel like you’ve had “too many” sexual partners, slow down and ask yourself what it is that you’re going through. Are you caving to someone else’s demands for sex, rather than listening to your own needs? Are you trying to find validation in sex? Sometimes a bit of forced chastity can clear your head.

Otherwise, my call on this is that nobody can decide how many sexual partners is “too many” except yourself.

So there.


flirting frustration

Reader D. C. S. writes:

lonely heart

Image: m_bartosch /

I’m recently single, after a very long relationship, and the last time I was actively flirting with women was about four and a half years ago. So I’m out of practice. I have also learned that I am socially awkward in the hitting on women department. Things go great for most of the interaction, eye contact, laughing at jokes, etc. But, when I give them my number, I don’t hear anything back for days or even at all. Plus, when I hear back it fails completely. She responds, there’s some minor flirting and suddenly, texts stop. Then I find myself frustrated getting absolutely no response. I really can’t tell if it’s something I’ve said or just reading too much into it. Are there some basic rules, tricks or advice I should know, to continue to garner interest from a woman, or things I should do that would help practice and hone these skills?

Dear D.C.S.:

Welcome to the world of single life! It’s a magical place, especially in our later 20s and early 30s, where the scene is full of jaded folks who thought they’d found “the one” but found after several years that they were gravely mistaken and are now left trying to figure out how to mingle with a bunch of other people still holding on to their own baggage.


While I am, of course, writing tongue-in-cheek, I am also trying to point out that you’re not the only one who’s having an awkward time navigating the waters of singlehood-after-long-term-relationship. Most folks our age have been left stunned by the fact that the person they thought they chose for life isn’t actually the person they ended up settling down with. We’ve all kind of lost that giddy sparkle about meeting people that we had in college. We’ve been around the block. Some of us are divorced. Some of us have children. Things are a bit weirder and more serious and oftentimes, a lot more disappointing than they used to be. Keep in mind that the women you’re probably dating feel the same way you do: frustrated, lost, and like maybe this isn’t worth it.

I’m not saying you’re not worth it. And that’s not what the girls are saying, either. It’s just that dating is harder as we get older. We’ve seen a lot more. We’ve felt a lot more. Some of us (like myself) are holding out for that teenage feeling, and that comes less and less often as we get further away from our teens. It still happens, so don’t sell yourself short. If a girl’s not madly in love with you, it’s probably because she’s still freaking out about how she’ll never feel the same way she did when she was 16. Or she’s still hurting from the last guy. I can’t tell you why someone doesn’t call someone else back. And you shouldn’t fret about it either. Let her go.

So here’s my bullet list of advice on flirting in our modern era:

Quit caring. The number one suggestion I can give you to keep the flirting fresh is to quit caring as much as you do. You’re right, you probably are reading into things too much. One major problem about dating at our age is that it feels like the stakes are higher. Our couple-based culture has burned onto our brains that we need to be married and happy by 30 or LIFE IS OVER. This is not true, obviously. We all know many a 30-year-old who is not only single, but enjoying herself. Even some of our 40-year-old friends haven’t ended their lives because they’re not settled down. But the pressure is definitely on, especially for the ladies. The more you can do to make a girl feel like there’s no pressure, the more she will like you, even if she wants to have babies, like, tomorrow. It’s one of those weird psychological tricks, but it works every time: the less responsive a guy is to me, the more drawn I am to pestering him.

Not that you have to get all Pick Up Artist on a girl, but just treat the dating scene like you could take it or leave it. Be so fully immersed in having a wonderful life outside of flirting that it doesn’t matter if a girl calls you back or not. Be warm and inviting, but have such a rich circle of friends that more intimate relationships can just be the cherry on a delicious, already-frosted cake. If she doesn’t text you back, delete her number and move on.

Be funny. In spite of all the douchebaggery surrounding his comments that women aren’t funny (obviously he’s wrong — I’m hilarious!), I do agree with Christopher Hitchens to some degree: “The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh.” (Vanity Fair, January 2007) While you may be extremely physically attractive, that’s not going to cut it for a girl. We’re not as into the physical side as you guys are, at least most of the time. Find a comfortable humor that works for you and just make her laugh. If you can’t make her laugh, maybe she’s the wrong girl anyway.

Avoid the self-deprecation. The only time self-deprecation works is when you are so hot the rest of us are ashamed of ourselves and we couldn’t possibly believe there’s anything bad about you. If Brad Pitt says, “Oh, you know, my penis is small,” we laugh it off and continue fawning all over him. If Joe Normal says it, we believe him. Not only do we believe him, we think he has a complex about it, which is even worse than actually having a small penis. So keep the self-deprecation to moments when humility is really necessary.

– On that note, be confident. Know what you’re good at, know that you smell good, know that you’re well-loved and wanted, and we’ll feel the same way. But the confidence extends beyond just what you’re good at: we also love it when you try something you’ve never tried before, or re-try something you think you’re bad at or didn’t like the first time. Sing that song at karaoke. Play mini golf. Eat escargot. It’s not about bragging about what you’re good at; it’s about not being so wrapped up in your insecurities that you can’t do something new. This will also help with aforementioned “not caring so much”. If you’re amazing and you know it, deep down, it won’t matter if the girl doesn’t call back.

Practice makes perfect. Just think of all these non-returns as practice for the time you really hit things off with a girl. While I know we all say life is not a dress rehearsal, dating kind of can be. Treat the flirting period more lightly than you would a serious relationship, and have fun with it. Don’t take things personally if your flirting doesn’t work out. While there are some things you can probably change to snag the right girl, 98% of the whole process is just mood lighting and chemistry, both of which you have little to no control over. So don’t worry about it. Just enjoy yourself.

If you want more specifics on what to do on a date, check out my post on dating tips for straight guys.

A quick, weird idea: maybe you could ask the girls who don’t respond directly why it is that they don’t respond. It’s kind of like asking an employer why you didn’t get the job, and you have to be tactful in your questioning. Don’t accuse her of anything, and admit that you understand she’s not interested, but you want to know why. If you do go this crazy route, be prepared for her to say something you don’t like and that may hurt your feelings. Keep in mind that you’re obviously not going to date, so you don’t have to take this as personally as you would if your actual significant other laid it out on the table. Don’t get defensive, definitely. But if you can use it as a learning experience, why not? And if you do decide to go this route, let me know, because I would love to hear what responses you get.


sad friend

Reader J. B. writes:

My best friend has been pretty blue for a while. What can I do to cheer her up?

Dear J.B.:

It’s very thoughtful of you to want to cheer your friend up, and I’m going to give you a few ideas, but first I want to address something about sadness that I’ve been trying to learn myself.


Go on cry, it can be a cruel world. Image: graur codrin /

Being sad is an important part of life and provides us with a massive learning experience. Particularly if someone is going through a period of grief, the sadness is completely necessary, so don’t jump too quickly to the cheering up sessions. Our culture has made us extremely averse to discomfort, and being sad, especially for longer than ten minutes at a time, is really uncomfortable. But we need to be sad sometimes in order to grow. We need to experience some discomfort, or we turn into mushy blobs, not just physically, but emotionally. It’s even in the Bible, kids: “Sorrow is greater than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3)

Depending on why your friend is sad, this can be an important period for her to do some changing, or perhaps some growing up. It may be hard to watch, and in some cases, you may not be able to be as close a friend to her as you feel you should be. I’ve read somewhere (and I can’t find it now) that human beings are wired to want to help someone who is sad, but we are adverse to hanging around someone who is perpetually blue. The fact that you want to hang around and help her is, in my opinion, a good sign.

If your friend is grieving the loss of a loved one or a big break up, she may and should be sad for a while. It takes time to heal. It’s perfectly natural for the grief to lessen and for her mood to improve. Distracting her and coming up with fun things to do can help, although she’ll probably need a good shoulder to cry on more than anything else. Let her cry. Grief has to run its course. She can’t be happy all the time. If she needs it, help her be sad. Help her sit with the sadness and come through it. This may mean watching sad movies with her, or listening to sad music. Do what it takes. It will pass.

If she’s depressed, or if there seems to be no reason for her sadness, you are going to have a much harder time being “a good friend” through the process. Depression is hard, and you’re going to have to steel yourself against some really hard times ahead. There isn’t much you can do, other than just listen, support her, and recommend she get treatment somewhere. Most people who haven’t been through it themselves don’t understand that depression isn’t something a person can just shake off. Distracting her won’t make her less depressed. In fact, sometimes people who are going through depression feel worse after having a good time. I’m not saying you have to give up completely. What I would recommend is researching depression and how it’s different from sadness. Professional help may be her only option. Be prepared to listen to some rough thoughts. Just be open about listening to her, and that will help her immensely.

If she’s talking at all about suicide or harming herself, take her seriously and act accordingly. Do not ever change the subject if someone brings up suicide. Listen to her and find her help. Trust me on this one. Talking about suicide won’t make her more suicidal. Get it out in the open and do your best to fix it, however you have to — even if it means calling the cops or an ambulance.

But if your friend is just going to be sad for a while, I think

Now, on to the fun stuff: ways to cheer your friend up.

– Make a mix CD. Put on songs she likes to dance to or sing along to, or songs that have made you happy in the past. You could make her a cathartic sad CD, too, with songs that reflect her mood right now. Maybe she just needs to be sad for a while.

– Take her out to a movie or have a movie night at your place. Spring for the popcorn. See something hilarious. Laugh as loudly as you possibly can. I’ve always found movies are the best way to distract myself from feeling sad until I’m really capable of handling it.

– Surprise her with lunch at her office or workplace.

– Call her. Spontaneously. No one calls anyone anymore.

– Set up a spa day for the two of you. Get a massage or get your toenails done. Or do it at home. It doesn’t have to be a pricey excursion to be good for her.

– Take her out for a glass of wine and take her dancing. Girls who like to dance can really live through it when they go, and the exercise will help her mood. Hit up a Zumba class or a hip hop class. Or if you’re feeling extra saucy, check out a pole dancing or strip tease class.

– Go for a walk with her in nature. Even if it’s just a local park, get her out of her house and into some fresh air.

– Set aside one night and just make her talk about what she’s feeling. Don’t talk about yourself at all. Let her get it out. Have questions ready about how she’s feeling. Bring tissues. Have a good cry. This is a tough one to do in public, but I’ve seen it happen at dinner after a good bottle of wine. You’ll both feel better afterwards. Just make sure to end the evening with something happy. Aforementioned dancing or movie are good ways to go.

I hope your friend feels better.



Reader N. S. writes:

My girlfriend is coming home this weekend from a year-long internship in England. We haven’t seen each other in a long time, and I want to make it really special. Any suggestions?

Dear N.S.:

I promised myself I wouldn’t mention this, but I have anecdotal evidence of the girlfriend’s return not being such a good thing. I took another unscientific survey of my guy friends and realized that many of them have been dumped directly after a GF returned from a long trip. With that in mind, I guess I should say steel yourself against that possibility and tread with caution. If you wow her on her first night back, she might consider keeping you. Or she might consider waiting a few days to dump you. I don’t know. Depends on the girl. I guess you should be prepared for it, but don’t expect it. What’s the fun in expecting to be dumped? Plan on romance, pure and simple.

Now that Debbie Downer is out, I’m going to jump into this with gusto and admit I got kind of excited when I read your question. This is going to be pure and utter fantasy from the brain of Kat Cox, and I’m going to enjoy this to no end.

I’d like to sum up the advice below with the following simple sentence: “Think like a girl; act like a man.” Yes, I am all about prescribed gender roles today. Muahahahaha.

Don't make her wait

If she has to wait for you at the airport, you've already failed. Image:

I hope you’re picking her up at the airport. Maybe I’ve just seen “Love Actually” too many times, but the reuniting of a couple at the airport can be one of the sweetest moments ever. If you are going to pick her up, my first advice is be a bit early, spring for the short-term parking instead of waiting by the curb (be a man, c’mon), and have something cute in your hands when she gets off the plane (think like a girl!). We all know I love flowers, but there’s are other cute things: a sign with her name on it, a teddy bear, or some piece of local food she’s probably been missing like hell since she was in England. (If you’re in New Mexico, the obvious answer here is some sort of green chile. Probably a breakfast burrito.)

Next up, carry her bags. (Act like a man!) She’ll be jet lagged and tired from traveling, so it’s just the sweet thing to do. And it makes you seem extra manly (act like a man!). Make sure the only thing she has to carry is her bag and whatever cute thing it is you just brought her. Let her talk about her trip entirely. Ask her questions about it. Keep the conversation on her. She probably has a lot she’d like to share with you. (Think like a girl.)

I should have given you some more prep info, come to think of it, because when you get her home, you’re going to want things to be perfect (think like a girl!). If you live together or are bringing her back to your place, clean it. Thoroughly. Clean sheets, clean towels, no dust, no dishes in the sink. Vacuum, sweep, and mop. Scrub the crud out of the bathtub and put some bubble bath out. Have some candles ready by the tub and by the bed.

I would say you could take her to a nice bed and breakfast, but honestly, she’d probably rather just be at home for a change. Let her dictate what she wants in terms of seeing friends or family. I assume the first night is at least going to be partially devoted to you, and she’s probably not going to want to make too many decisions. Just have light, easy, relaxing things planned — no fancy dinners out, no huge surprise parties.

Have food ready that you don’t have to do anything to. Cheese, fruit (chocolate covered strawberries are a good choice here), good bread, crudités (that’s “raw vegetables” in French). A good bottle of wine is a nice touch, too. But if she’s tired from traveling, she might prefer tea, or hot cocoa, or bourbon. (She’s your girlfriend, you tell me.)

When you get her home from the airport, let her put her bags down and do whatever she needs to relax. Encourage her not to unpack right away. Let her sit down. Let her chat. Draw her that bath with bubbles. Light the candles. Put on her favorite TV show (I don’t care if you’re going to have to miss your football game). Rub her feet. Give her a back rub. It’s a great excuse to get her naked. (That’s thinking and acting like a man, I guess.)

And while I know she’s been out of town for a long time and you haven’t been able to enjoy each other’s intimacy, don’t expect to get laid on her first night back. She’s tired and jet lagged. Let her rest. (Think like a girl!)

However, she might be so turned on by all the awesome sweetness you’re showing that she won’t be able to help throwing herself at you. Act like a man in this case, and go for it.


winning her back

Reader N. R. writes:

My girlfriend and I have been going through a rough patch. Okay, I’ll be honest: I screwed up pretty royally, and I think she’s thinking about leaving me. But I’m at a complete loss as to how to make things up to her. What can I do to make her stay?

Dear N.R.:

We all go through rough patches in relationships (unless we end them before the rough patches start, which is my current MO). You should be aware that there are certain things in any relationship that might be unfixable, although what those things are changes from relationship to relationship. If you’ve cheated on her, or taken her for granted one too many times, or really lost her trust, you may just have to cut your losses and admit you effed up and it’s never going to work out. Of course, some people are capable of forgiving these major problems, so you might still have a chance. I think you should give it a try, regardless of what you did.

Wine and roses

If you've never done this for her, now might be a good time to start. Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.

Admitting you messed up is a very, very good first step. If you were blaming the relationship problems on her, that would be another story. And it’s quite possible that she’s done a thing or two to exacerbate the problem (takes two to tango).  But we’re talking about what you’ve done, and what you can do to fix it. So let’s focus on that.

Now that you’ve admitted to yourself (and my blog readership) that you’ve messed up, you’ve got to tell her you know you messed up. Don’t just assume she knows that you think it’s your fault. Even if she does know, without a doubt, that you are the problem here, hearing it out of your mouth is a much better, proactive step than just letting her stew over it. Swallow your pride and fess up. Apologize as necessary. She needs to hear it, and so do you.

Next, change the behavior. Have you not been spending enough time with her? Turn off your stupid video game and spend time with her. Have you been flirting with other girls (even if it’s just innocent but you know it makes her uncomfortable)? Stop. Stop right now. Make a concerted effort to staple the holes you’ve created. Again, even if she’s part of the problem, the only part you can fix is your contribution to it.

You probably know deep down exactly what you need to do to fix the problem, and what you could do to make her feel better. You’re the one who’s been in this relationship, and if you’re really up to the challenge of fixing it, you’ll make the necessary effort. I know sometimes girls can seem like a mystery, but if you know what you did to screw up, you can change it. Otherwise, ask yourself, “What does she need from me?” If you feel like she hasn’t made her needs clear to you, ask her what they are. Even that is a sign that you’re trying to fix things. And sometimes it’s the thought that counts.

Of course, changing your behavior is going to be really, really hard. You’ve got habits set up you don’t even know you have. If you’re not willing to completely rearrange how you think and react to your relationship, guess what… it’s never going to change. You have to force the change, and it has to start with you.

Go to counseling if you need to. Having an arbiter or mediator is extremely helpful in airing and fixing relationship troubles. And you can feel better knowing that the advice you’re getting is coming from a trained professional, rather than just some blogger who writes about things she never went to school for.

Something very easy you can do that for some reason gets overlooked is just make an effort to be sweeter and more thoughtful than usual. There are many very simple things you can do to make her feel like you’re trying, and (most importantly) that you thought of her. Men really don’t understand how powerful a dozen roses (or, to be less generic, a dozen of her favorite flower, and you should know what that is by now) can be.  If you’re going to the grocery store, pick up those cookies she likes. (If you don’t know what she likes, she should have dumped you ages ago.) It’s really not hard. Being thoughtful is probably the number one thing you can do to show her that you mean to make it up for her.

After you’ve made your effort, she has to come the rest of the way to accept it as good enough. Again, I’m sorry to say, sometimes it’s too little too late. If she can’t forgive you, you’re going to have to let it go.

And remember, of course, to keep your needs in mind. If there’s an underlying reason in your mind or heart that’s been causing you to act a certain way, it may be a sign that you two aren’t cut out for each other. Be honest with yourself. And be honest with her. That’s the best advice anyone can give you.


how to drink

Reader D. D. asks:

I just turned 21, and while I’ve been “drinking” at parties for a long time (shh, don’t tell mom or the cops), I realized that when I go to the bar, I have no idea what to order. Help!

Dear D.D.:

drinky drink

Image: Paul /

It takes a few years to learn what you like to drink. Alcohol — the really good stuff — is an acquired taste. Anyone can drink keg beer or jungle juice to get drunk, but learning about real booze takes time. There are people in the world who never learn how to drink beyond the simple goal of getting drunk. Personally, I think they’re missing out on one of the finer things in life, but to each her own, I guess.

In any case, I can give you a few recommendations on how to learn what you like and what you don’t.

First off, you should know how much to drink. I know the kids love to get wasted, and it’s a coming of age thing to learn not to, but as you age, you really should know how much you can drink in any of these situations:

– You’re going to be driving later. This is really important. Don’t be a dick. It only takes one time being a little over the limit to get a DWI on your record, or worse, a really bad wreck. My personal rule is 2 drinks total, preferably over 4 hours with a glass of water in between and a glass of water after, and preferably with a 30 minute-hourlong wait before I get behind the wheel. Ideally, you should not be driving at all if you’re going to be drinking. But you’ve probably heard that somewhere before.

– If you’re going to want your limbs to function, like if you’re going to be dancing. A couple of drinks can loosen you up, but too many drinks can get you kicked out of the bar. (I’m naturally clumsy, so bouncers at clubs often think I’m drunker than I actually am. Which is fine since they usually give me free bottles of water, anyway.) Two or three drinks is usually a good cut off. The problem with booze, of course, is that after you reach a certain point, you’re going to think you can handle more. Make yourself stop when you know you should.

– If you’re going to want to have a sensible conversation or not say something stupid. Some people find it endearing or charming when a friend bursts into tears after a few drinks. But most people don’t. If you’re sad, you’re going to get sadder after a few drinks. And you’re going to want to tell everyone about it. Save yourself the embarrassment and limit your intake unless you are really, really sure of your friends.

Next up, you should know what not to drink, and specifically what not to drink together. The age-old adages are:

– Don’t mix grape and grain. Grape = wine, grain = beer/whiskey. This obviously cannot be true all the time because my next age-old adage is…

– Beer before wine, you’ll be fine; wine before beer, c’est le pire. (That’s “it’s the worst” — I came up with this in Belgium, because apparently in Europe they have this adage, but I’ve never heard it expressed in English.)

– Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear; beer before liquor, never sicker.

If you really look at these statements, the basic suggestion is always to drink the beverage that has the most alcohol first, and follow it with the one that has the least alcohol, and then do not switch back and forth between them. Of course, the “beer before wine” adage negates this entirely, and I’m not sure why that one holds the way it is. Maybe it’s different in Europe.

My suggestion: stick to one kind of alcohol if you’re going to drink. Don’t do shots between beers unless you want the hangover. It’s okay to have a cocktail and follow it with a beer, but don’t have wine, and then beer, and then a martini, and then a shot of tequila.

Also, avoid sugary drinks because they can cause some pretty serious hangovers in the morning. Most of the specialty cocktails you see on the menu are sugary: the appletini, the chocotini, the mai tai, the cosmopolitan. Yes, I know, they’re very easy to drink. Again, if you just want to get drunk, these are the drinks that are designed to do that job without you having the icky real alcohol taste adults learn to enjoy. And these drinks can be fun once in a while — they come in fancy, pretty glasses, which is what I like about them. But they’re junk drinks.

My best piece of advice to you is to educate yourself. Go to wine tasting classes. Go to beer sampling. Check out a whiskey or Scotch or vodka tasting or two. You won’t get drunk at these events (hopefully), but you will learn what you like and what goes into the alcohol you’re drinking. Find a type of beer you like and drink something similar at the next bar you go to.

Okay, and what you really wanted was a list of things I think you should try the next time you go to a bar. Fine, fine, fine. Here you go:

Beer: try a hefeweizen. Imminently palatable, and a little sweeter than most lagers, ales, or IPAs. Some day you’ll learn to love hops, but for now, wheat beers are totally drinkable and make you look like you know something about beer. For something a bit more common, I think Sam Adams is a very respectable choice. Almost anything Belgian will probably be delicious. And I prefer to get my beer from the tap than from the bottle if I can manage it.

Wine: white wine is easier to drink than red, generally. As my father says: “Red wine makes women do what white wine makes them think of doing.” Most places will have a chardonnay on hand, and if it’s served nice and cold, it will probably be totally drinkable. My friends and I have been going through a real sauvignon blanc kick lately, and these are usually nice, crisp whites with plenty of citrus and fruit in them that I think you’ll enjoy. For reds, I’m a real sucker for a good zinfandel — not a white zin, mind you, but a real red zinfandel with lots of jam and pepper in it. Shiraz, syrahs and zinfandel tend to have fewer tannins (the kind of sour taste you get from a glass of wine) than cabernet sauvignon, so they’re a bit easier to drink for the inexperienced.

Whiskey: bourbon is sweeter than Scotch or rye, and is a pretty good way to introduce yourself to the stuff. A Manhattan is a drink that is made with sweet vermouth, bourbon, bitters, and a cherry (usually) and will make you look fancy. I order ’em up so I get the martini glass.

Vodka: well vodka is usually not a good way to introduce yourself to the stuff, ’cause if it’s cheap, it burns. Still, the easiest way to drink vodka is mixed with tonic, so go for something mid-level if you’re going to go this route. I like Ketel One, which may be a bit high-hat for some vodka-tonic drinkers, but it’s very smooth. Smirnoff will probably get you through the night, too. In my martinis, I like Belvedere or Grey Goose, plenty of olive juice (“extra dirty”), and an extra olive, preferably with blue cheese.

Gin: again, well gin is not your friend, even if you’re getting a gin and tonic. For a nice surprise, try Hendrick’s — it’s got cucumber in it and is very light and refreshing. Beefeater or Tanqueray will do you fine, too. Personally, I don’t drink gin because I’m allergic to juniper pollen and just can’t get the two disassociated from each other.

Tequila, Brandy, Cognac, Scotch, and other fancy liquor: Most of this stuff is best drunk on its own, sipped slowly from a proper glass. I wouldn’t order it unless you knew what you liked, as I’ve mentioned before. Study up on it and learn the difference between añejo and reposado, 12-year and 18-year, what barrels things are aged in, where they’re made, etc. etc. There’s a lot to learn about these and it can be a lot of fun.

So there you have it, a few ideas on what to drink when you go out.



Reader D. G. writes:

My sister got married this weekend. I made the absolute worst drunken wedding speech in the universe. I told stories no bride should ever have told about her and I think I embarrassed her big time… long story short: I need to apologize. What’s the best way to do so?

Dear D.G..:

Ha, you really screwed that up, didn’t you! On the supposed biggest day of your sister’s life, you got drunk, took the microphone, and just ruined everything! That’s hilarious!

I’m sure your sister doesn’t think so.

If she does, she is by far the coolest woman in the world.

God my brother's a dick.

God, my brother is such a dick. Image: Timeless Photography /

But let’s remember that it is, actually, hilarious. Probably everyone else who was at the wedding has forgiven you because you stepped up and took the embarrassment out of the situation, so they didn’t have to. There is always at least one person at any large social event who embarrasses himself and everyone around him; this time, it just happened to be you, and not Uncle Sergio. Good job.

Now what I would suggest is a hand-written apology note, tagged onto one of the nicest gifts on her registry. If you can’t afford that, try a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store (sunflowers are, like, $6 right now), or homemade cookies. Or something she really, really likes. Maybe a picture of the two of you from when you were kids. Make the note simple but sincere. In fact, it may be more touching if you just write “I’m Sorry” than if you try to explain yourself. She knows what you did. You know what you did. Time to get it over with. Your sister is probably on her honeymoon right now anyway, and by the time she gets back, she may be ready to laugh at you, give you a hug, and move on. The wedding is over, and no matter how terrible you were there, her marriage happened anyway.

The thing is: you’re family. Most of us are far more willing to forgive our family members of gross trespasses than we are ready to forgive, say, that groomsman who was just on the soccer team with the groom in college. And in fifteen years, everyone will either have forgotten, or will be telling it as a joke to whoever will listen (probably the grandkids!).

I don’t think you need to sign up for community service or go into a rehab program to show your sincerity in this situation. She may still be mad at you, but at weddings where alcohol flows freely, someone is bound to get drunk. Also, wedding speeches are really, really difficult sometimes. You mean to be funny, but you’re not; you start blubbering and crying in the middle; you wrote it all down on notecards and you’re reading it rote and it’s terrible. These are normal wedding speeches. You’re not the first one to tell bad stories about the bride or groom. Have you seen “Wedding Crashers” or “Rachael Getting Married”? People make movies about this stuff. It’s normal. It’s par for the course. Weddings = extreme embarrassment more than 50% of the time. Keep that in mind.

The point here is that you understand you made a mistake, and you’re willing to acknowledge it because you love your sister. That’s awesome. There are some guys who would just pretend it never happened. You are therefore an awesome brother.

However, be prepared for her to do something to you on your wedding day. Payback’s a bitch!


friend break ups

Reader F. C. writes:

I feel like I’m having some serious friend drama without ever having done something to cause it. Recently a girlfriend of mine has stopped answering the phone when I call. She doesn’t call me back. She takes hours to respond to my text messages. She doesn’t seem to have the time to do anything with me anymore. In fact, we were going to take a road trip together but eventually I just told her to go without me because of how weird she’s been acting. I don’t know what’s going on.  Should I just stop calling her or what?

Dear F.C.:

I thought I’d written a post about this a few months ago, but apparently I hadn’t, so I’ll write it now.

Break-ups with friends happen, and they need to happen. Just because a relationship isn’t romantic doesn’t mean it doesn’t follow similar rules of give and take, honesty, and, yes, proper ending when it’s over.

It sounds to me like your friend feels that your friendship is over, for whatever reason, and just hasn’t had the courage to tell you the news.


"Bitch." "Slut." Image: djcodrin /

Your friend can’t totally be faulted for not extending you the courtesy of breaking up with you. It’s a nasty business when girls quit being friends, and most of us don’t ever take the time to officially end something when it’s over, even if both parties know it. Girls have a standard of “niceness” that we’re supposed to hold onto, or we get to carry the term “bitch” around like a cross. Confrontation, direct speech, and ending friendships are all part of the bitch cross that few girls are willing to bear.

It may be possible your friend is going through a tough time right now and isn’t responding to anyone’s texts, phone calls, or whatever. Or she could just be incredibly flaky, although you seem to have indicated that at one point she did respond to texts and phone calls, and this is a new development.

But in this situation, I think you should take the initiative and tell her that you want to end the relationship.

That’s right: I don’t think you should just stop calling her like she’s some sort of booty call. I think you should woman-up, sack up them ovaries, and tell her you’re ending things.

Since she’s not responding to your phone calls, chances are she’s probably not meeting you for coffee or drinks anytime soon, either. So a letter, a text, or an email will have to suffice.

Keep it short and sweet. Don’t blame her for anything. Don’t tell her you think she’s the queen bitch mother of the world.

Try saying something like: “I’ve been sensing lately that our relationship has cooled, and I have decided it would be best for me if we quit being friends.” Simple, direct, yet not bitchy.

I’m guessing that she will be surprised by your directness, but given her cavalier attitude about your relationship already, she may not be worried about the message.

If she does come back with a declaration concerning how unfair it is that you are ending the relationship, you can disclose to her the fact that you thought she was already doing so, but that she was keeping you hanging on by not ending it herself. I wouldn’t try to reconcile things right now, either, even if she wants to. Even if this is just a phase, if she’s at a point in her life where she can’t be bothered with you, you don’t need that kind of friend.

As women, I think we need to be less afraid of ending any relationship that isn’t doing us any good. While the lines may be a bit blurrier in friendships, sometimes you have to treat them like you would a dating relationship. If you’re not getting what you need out of the friendship, you should not be afraid to end it.

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