Friday, December 18, 2009

My Christmas Letter to You

Happy holidays, Dear Readers!
I didn’t think it would be possible to summarize the last two months in one blog post, but it turns out, there’s a genre that was invented to project four-dimensional lives into tidy missives: THE CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER LETTER. I’ve never received one of these letters, but I read about it in the WSJ and did some research on the internet. So, y’know, I’m kind of an expert now.

I have no children doing precious children things, but my English improves every day. Last week, while I was looking for the name of words that can be used as both verbs and nouns (like flock, arm, blog, and rise), I came across the word “anthimeria” which describes words deployed as a part of speech other than their accepted parts (ie She poemed that. That was so L.A. I felt angry and whiskey.) I was disappointed not to find the word I was looking for, but I’ve been using anthimeria as a verb with impunity ever since. (More on double-meanings in an upcoming blog post on the linguistics of love.)

For our annual Thanksgiving service project, my company volunteered in shifts at the USO in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. Seasoned volunteers from any cause will tell you that a volunteer gets more out of volunteering than the folks she's helping, but a stint at the USO is exceptional in this aspect. We'd spent days baking cookies, organizing, and making holiday cards for soldiers. We cheered and applauded soldiers coming up the escalators that all flights empty into. We learned to tell who was starting R&R or ending R&R by their reactions. We organized the luggage for a couple hundred soldiers flying to Iraq- two days before Thanksgiving. How can I describe the powerlessness of my oatmeal cookie offering to a young, very young, man or woman getting in the frame of mind to commute to the hardest job I can imagine?

Later, I got into a debate on immigration policy, half my mind occupied by the soldiers I'd met that morning. We had predictable economic arguments, but who could care about economy that day? We send our bravest to defend freedom halfway around the world while turning away people looking for the same thing on our doorstep, and examining why sent me headlong into a bourbon. Only one, though, because I had to go to Dallas for the seventh wedding this year.

Thanksgiving weekend, four weeks after he told me he would and three days after he landed in our hometown on leave, my brother got married.

After a week of lobbying for him to tell our parents that (a) he had a girlfriend and (b) he wanted to marry her this month, he did, and wedding planning commenced like a Texas tornado. Here I am at the beginning of the toast:

"When my brother overheard the saying 'love makes fools of all of us,' he said, 'Not me.' I think he's right. False love is blindness that makes us forget who we are. But true love is lucidity that shines light on the good and the bad. That way, we can be ready for both.
But I had to power through the end:

"Matthew and Jessica, may you embrace the good, the bad, and each other all your days."
I'm powering through the end of 2009, too. (Did you catch that anthimeria?) It's not that I oppose charity, togetherness, and peace on earth. It's just exhausting to squish the bulk of our quota in 5 weeks. So forgive me for sending this mass letter to all seven of you, dear readers. I wish you the happiest of holidays, and I sincerely hope to get Christmas newsletters from each of you soon.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Compassion turns an armed robbery around

Click to watch an interview with Angela Montez, who started praying and talking to a robber who held her at gun point.

Loving Yourself

Today, I can stick a finger in the waist of my fat pants.

After months of calorie counting and many more months of sort of working out, I think I learned something about self-loathing. I think self-loathing is punishing yourself for being you, when you don’t think you’re good enough to love as you are. When I would skip working out for weeks, because I’d skipped once, it was because I’d written myself off as a failure, like an abusive parent or something. I thought I’d slipped down some slope and might as well free fall to its depths.

What does it mean to love yourself? I asked, and you answered:
“Loving yourself means believing you have value and worth and deserve respect and compassion. It means truly hoping for the best for yourself.”

“Maybe ‘tough love’ is good self-love: pushing yourself to excel, and rewarding yourself for a job well-done. Or maybe just being comfortable in your own skin.”

“I think the practice of Love should be the same for yourself as it is for others. …Do you want only the best for your best friend and believe they shouldn't needlessly suffer through judgment- always.”

Loving yourself, I hypothesize, is acknowledging that you’re on a walk, so that when you trip and fall, you get up and keep going. You are not scaling a deadly mountain grasping for approval at its peak! One day, uh, many days, I’ll eat way more than my calorie budget or say a nasty thing I didn’t mean. The next day, I should refocus on eating right and speaking love, because I still believe in myself like a loving parent.

Soon enough, I'll be able to stick two fingers in my fat pants.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

86-year-old WWII vet on gay marriage

86-year-old WWII vet on gay marriage at a public meeting on Maine's marriage equality bill on April 22, 2009: "What do you think I fought for in Omaha Beach?" A powerful video:

"Post-Marriage" Counseling

Behold, the intersection of three of my favorite topics: relationships, metaphor, and branding:
Thanks, @catherinefaas and @GuyKawasaki!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cultural Differences: Shut Up and Love mentioned in AJC!

This article ran in the print edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sunday October 18, 2009, but it didn't run online at, or I'd post the link for you. I'm posting the text of the article below with the writer's blessing. Discuss!

Eager hearts, open minds

Service links those who accept diversity in the search for love.
Racial barriers falling, but not easily for most.
By:Helena Oliviero

Mauricio Solano has distinct tastes when it comes to the women he dates.
You could even call him picky. His dream girl is outdoorsy, cares about
her appearance, but isn't "too skinny."

He won't date smokers, and cussing is a big turnoff.

But when it comes race, often a barrier in romance, he said his mind is
wide open.

"Doesn't matter, " the 44-year-old Colombian native said in a
matter-of-fact tone, revealing a very slight accent.

Recently, Solano joined Color Blind International, an Atlanta-based dating
service built on the premise that racial diversity should be embraced and
never get in the way of true love.

Solano --- a well-educated, divorced civil engineer --- said during a
screening interview that he dated women from various ethnic backgrounds
while in college.

With clipboard in hand, Color Blind co-founder Mingnon "Ming" Gregory, cut
to the chase and asked him: Are you interested in white women or all

"All races, " he said.

While many online dating services match people of different races, Color
Blind International appears to be Atlanta's first dating service (outside
of online dating) aimed at interracial dating.

Gregory, an African-American woman with model-good looks, said the idea
for the business stems from her own experience. For a couple of years, her
quest for Mr. Right was going nowhere, even after joining dating sites and
a dating service.

Then one day, Gregory, an image consultant, had an epiphany and confided
in her friend John Evans, whom she later joined forces with to start the

"I remember telling John one day, 'I might open myself up to other races,
' " she said. "And he said, 'Good idea.' ... I remember thinking, there
are a lot of good guys out there; why am I limiting myself?"

More than 60 members pay from $1,700 to $3,000 for the dating service,
which includes matchmaking, background checks and image consulting. It
also provides life coaches who give members tips on how to handle their
relatives' reactions to their interracial romance.

Dating interracially has long been sensitive, even taboo. It was just 42
years ago that the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, legalized
interracial marriages.
And, for many years, black men were subjected to
violence for simply looking at a white woman the "wrong way."

Attitudes have changed over time. And there may be signs that a growing
number of singles are crossing racial lines for love., one of the biggest online dating sites with more than 9 million
members, said more than 90 percent of current members say (in their
profiles) they are open to dating outside their race. In Atlanta, the
percentage is 91 percent, up 9 percent from 2006.

Tony Brown, sociology professor at Vanderbilt University, said online
dating patterns are not likely representative of the general population.
He said singles online are usually younger, live in urban settings and are
more educated --- all of which makes them more likely to date someone of
another race. He also thinks many singles may revel in the idea of an
interracial romance, but have no intention of marrying outside their race.

Even for singles who fall in love and want to marry someone of another
race, it's not always an easy proposition, Brown said.

"Oftentimes, these relationships get shot down when one person brings that
special person home to family.
There's like this 'relationship bubble' and
that gets burst
at Thanksgiving dinner, " said Brown.

Census figures show just 5 percent of marriages in Atlanta and nationwide
are interracial unions. Interestingly, the percentage of unmarried
interracial couples living in Atlanta is 10 percent, according to the
Census Bureau's 2007 American Community Survey.

Still, as singles marry at an older age and have more experience with
people of different races, there's more opportunity for people to date
outside their race.

And for some, it's a numbers game. Some African-American professional
women, for example, say it's difficult to find a black man with their same
level of education. It plays out at college campuses, where an average of
65 percent of black students enrolled in college are women, according to
the U.S. Department of Education. At some colleges, Brown said, women
represent 75 percent of the black students.

All in all, Brown said, the vast majority of Americans don't explore
romances with people of different races.

"We live very homogenous lives. We surround ourselves with people who look
like us, think like us, believe what we believe. And when it comes to
romance, it's very unusual for us to deviate from that pattern."

But Michael Rosenfeld, a Stanford University sociology professor who
studies interracial marriage trends, sees many more opportunities for
interracial dating, particularly in the online dating world, which brings
together singles of various ethnic backgrounds.

Rosenfeld believes race continues to be a major fault line in America but
thinks it's becoming less relevant.

"It's much less of an issue than it used to be, " he said. "Old racial
divisions are slowly dying away."

'Shut Up and Love'
Ivy Le, a 26-year-old Vietnamese American, explores her intercultural
relationship with her German-born boyfriend in her blog, called "Shut Up
and Love."

She talks openly in her blog about cultural differences. Le said she and
her boyfriend have argued for more than a year about moving in together.

In Germany, it's common for people to live under the same roof before
marriage. But in her culture, that's not the case. Couples don't live
together until they are married. In fact, single adults often live with
their parents until the wedding. In the end, Le and her boyfriend
compromised: They decided to live together after they get engaged.

"Of course, it's easier if I came home with a good Vietnamese, Buddhist
boy. If I brought a boy like that home, we would be on easy street to
marriage, " said Le who lives in Athens. "But love, while wonderful and it
does have all of these promises, easy is not one of them."

Keeping options open
Pretty and personable, Jeanette Phillips has a good job in finance. She
seems to have it all. But lately, the 46-year-old African-American has
been grumbling to her girlfriends about how impossible it seems to find
Mr. Right in this town. As she has gotten older, she said, she has become
more open to dating men of other races.

She stopped by Color Blind International's posh 15th floor suite in
Buckhead recently to talk about her recent dates.

"I like that that element has already been removed and you can be relaxed
in that regard, " she said. So far, she has gone on three dates. Three
different white men. They've been nice, but she likely will continue to
keep her options open.

Meanwhile, Hazel Brito, a 32-year-old Hispanic woman, has gone on three
dates, all with the same guy, who is white. She said she found instant
chemistry over bites of tiramisu at Intermezzo and steaks at The Strip.
"He makes me laugh. His family is important to him, " she said.

So what would her parents say about her dating someone of a different

"My parents would be totally fine with it. My parents just want me to be
happy, " said Brito, who works for a pharmaceutical company.
And happy in love is what she wants, too.

"The tall, handsome guy is always nice --- in whatever race that happens
to fall into it, " she said.

Saying 'I do' to diversity

Chance that a person in the Atlanta five-county metro area will marry
someone of a different race:
White men: 1 in 25 (4 pct.)
White women: 1 in 50 (2 pct.)
Black men: 1 in 20 (5 pct.)
Black women: 1 in 25 (4 pct.)
Asian men: 3 in 50 (6 pct.)
Asian women: 4 in 25 (16 pct.)
Source: AJC analysis of marriage statistics, based on U.S. Census Bureau's
American Community Survey
Database reporter John Perry contributed to this article.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cultural Differences: Interracial Marriage Denied in La.

This justice of the peace in Louisiana who would not marry an interracial couple is getting a lot of heat. And here, I'd posted the story on the Facebook fan page, because I thought it was funny.
"I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
C'mon, Jon Stewart's whole staff couldn't make that line up! Alas, I know we're not "post-racial," because no one else laughed. I get it: this justice reminds us of that time when miscegenation was illegal, and back then, this wouldn't have been funny. I'm sure the couple was stunned, as I would have been, at the moment the justice's (not judge) wife told them her husband doesn't marry interracial couples. But then they just went to a different dude in the same area, and they're married now.

I think we should lay off an old man who grew up when people thought colored people carried disease (and so people were afraid to let us use their restrooms). Let him and his views retire quietly like so many embers in an abandoned fire. It's the next generation we should put all this indignant energy toward teaching, not the last one. Hope you can laugh about this:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Reform Madness - White Minority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Love Hurts and It Should Sometimes

I'm reading through boxes of old letters researching a writing project that my friend, the redneck noir author BH Shepherd, has persuaded me to tackle (or die trying). The love letters from my first love are an interesting time capsule, listing the things we predicted would happen after high school graduation:
  • we would move on to meet and love others,
  • we would each eventually be displaced as the relationship standard against which new prospects are measured,
  • we implicitly acknowledged that it would be a struggle eventually to stay in touch.
Indeed, all those things came to pass, and re-reading the words that tore at my barely-callused high school heart, it hurt that those things didn't hurt more when they happened - as my younger self had hoped they would.

Why did I hope that it would hurt to move on, when many are afraid to stick even their bare big toe in the murky waters of love?

If love could NOT cut you down to the ground, would you want it? If it wouldn't hurt when your child lies to you, would it mean anything when he or she said, "Mommy, I love you"? You cannot love without exposing some vulnerability, and why would you want to? Even if you could love without feeling pain, would you learn anything about your soul's topography in the process?

There is a logical argument (as in explanation, not debate) for the stinging phenomenon of love, but knowing why is not the same as knowing that
"there are sharks in the water
but the only way to survive

is to breathe deep
and dive."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gift-Giving to One's Beloved really effin' hard. I used up all my best ideas the first two years we've been dating. One of my first boyfriends got a really sweet top-of-the-line alarm clock/CD player to replace his squawking radio alarm for Valentine's Day. I thought it was perfect; the girls in my dorm explained that it was tragically practical, that I was that guy.

What do you men WANT, for heaven's sake!!!

My two-year anniversary is Wednesday, and I've only gotten my Great Idea last night. Wish me luck, friends.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Survey Results: Where to Find Love

“I’ve been dating since I was fifteen. I’m exhausted. Where is he?”-Charlotte from the “Sex and the City” Season 3

Thanks to everyone who shared the survey link, joined the Facebook event, and responded to the survey on Twitter, too! Here's what we found out together about where to find love.

SURPRISE FINDING NO. 1: The Workplace ranked top 3.

Surprisingly, the workplace was No. 3! I mean, I knew y’all were goofing off at least by reading my blog at work, but day-um! This is distraction at another level.

“After walking past his cube multiple times a day, I told him I liked his shoes when we were alone on the elevator on day, and he realized I wasn’t a stuck up snobby consultant. We then had a lurid affair that was both exhilarating and enlightening….Been married for three of the last 6 years.”

“I’m a reporter, and my boyfriend is our chief photographer. It sounds scandalous now, but… he’d come out on stories and help with video. It wasn’t until months later…that I found out this wasn’t in his job description, and he wasn’t getting paid for it.”

“I was a stinky line cook, and she was the dreamy juice girl/barrista. I courted her over smoothies.”

“Whenever I had work to avoid, I would linger in the café and try to make her laugh. Eventually, she figured I was funny enough to spend an evening over drinks. At the time, both of us were certain that we would never date anyone from work.”

SURPRISE FINDING NO. 2: You might already know the person, but it's not the right time yet.
More than 10% mentioned or suggested time in the explanatory comments. This surprise finding suggests that you may know your love – before you know it!

“Initially, I didn’t like him very much, but he grew on me.”

“She stalked me for a year and finally broke down my defenses. I figured, ‘Now here’s a girl who will commit.’”

“BAM! It came out of nowhere. He’s the love of my life, and he was right under my nose for almost four years, and I had no idea.”

We knew each other for five years... . One day, we started talking – about life, relationships, etc.- and pretty much didn’t stop. I will always remember that ‘first’ conversation that changed everything. It was honestly incredibly random that one phone call out of hundreds led to the rest of our lives together. I mean nothing was different. We were just both finally ready to move on to something real, I suppose.”

“We finally looked at each other and realized what we could have. That was seven years ago, and we’re married now.”

SURPRISE FINDING NO. 3: Surprise! Love doesn't care what you think you want.
The element of surprise kept coming up. Love is apparently big on guerrilla warfare tactics, just like terrorists.

“We saw each other for the second time at a party, hit it off, and woke up next to each other….I never expected to meet my Mr. Wonderful so soon.”

“We were both outside each others criteria (on since we did not live in the same state, and our relationship was supposed to be merely a friendship.”

“My wife first met my parents on the plane on a business trip. After six hours of hair-raising air travel together, my shy mother asked at their destination if she was single, and then for her business card to send to her son. LOL”

"I came abroad (Paris) to do an internship, and that's where I met the love of my life!"

"I've known my husband since I was 13. ...We never dated. After his deployment to Afghanistan...we lost touch, but reunited once again during his R&R from his next deployment to Iraq. We kept in touch through phone calls and e-mail for the rest of his deployment, and we just knew. We were married as soon as he came home. I wouldn't necessarily recommend marrying without dating someone, but for some reason, for us, it worked out that way."

At more than a third of respondents, the most common way people met their loves was through mutual friends and acquaintances, as to be expected. Mutual friends are how we meet most everybody: friends, employers, or marks. The second most common meeting ground was high school or college. But that shouldn't discourage those who are no longer in school. Slightly more than one in five people became partners with a schoolmate, but that means that about 4 in 5 people met other ways!

No one marked church/temple/synagogue nor volunteer activity, but 5% met in a mutual interest activity, which included missionary trips and church choir, as well as music or theater groups. We also can put to rest the conventional wisdom that "no one meets someone in bars and clubs." In fact, 11 of the 96 respondents did just that. And why not? Just because someone like to dance and drink doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is a drunk or a lech.

Having good friends, patience, and being open to sucker punches by the universe is the way to go. All three of those prerequisites are easier said than done, of course, but friends, patience, and the universe will have to wait for their own blog posts.

PS If you sent the survey to someone who doesn't usually read this blog, please let them know the results have been posted. The survey was anonymous, so I have no way of knowing who I quoted and contacting them. Thanks!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Long of Long-Term Relationship

At nearly two years with my Beloved, this is my longest relationship ever. Each passing birthday and holiday together, funeral and wedding is a road sign flying by that says I’m farther and farther away from any place I’ve been. I’m surprised by what turns up on the scenic route:

Gaining Weight
When I was single, I danced to top 40s at Mood Lounge on Monday night, salsa at Tongue and Groove on Wednesday, Latin rock at Loca Luna on Friday, and hip hop at Sutra on Saturday. It amounted to about 16 hours of stiletto-stomping, bass-pumping, aerobic writhing and flirting a week. Now, I’m lucky if I log 45 minutes on an elliptical before watching The Daily Show while drinking a beer (because that’s what he stocks) on his couch.

Creating Our Own Linguistics of Love
I’ve had inside jokes and pet names before, but we have, uh, progressed to being able to communicate in a complex system of grunts.

Learning to Love Unconditionally
In the bright beginnings of a relationship, you put everything else aside - like a vacation - to shower acts of kindness on a new love. Then, one or both of you learn that the other isn’t a heaven-sent angel at all, but a human being, a deeply flawed human being at that – which is so not what you signed up for. That’s when most couples break up. To be honest, sometimes I miss the perpetual beginning of a relationship, being seen as so perfect, so beautiful, so charmingly articulate. Now, I’m thick, and I grunt a lot.

My Beloved has witnessed my temper, my grief, my quirks, my myriad failures. We either had to break up or learn to love unconditionally, and obviously we haven’t broken up. (Well, we did once, but does 19 hours really count?) In fact, I often find myself saying “I love him too much to even let this silly thing annoy me.”

Planning the Future with a Capital F
I’ve daringly planned trips months ahead of time with boyfriends before. My Beloved, though, has made me start saving for retirement, and the other night, we decided on our “last song” for our eventual wedding reception.

But I have not reached the point when I am comfortable farting around him. That is so not what I signed up for. Many of you have been in relationships for much much longer. Tell me, what else am I in for?

Monday, August 31, 2009

What does it mean to love yourself?

Is it holding yourself accountable to your dreams every day? Is it working out, eating healthy, and letting yourself go to bed early? Is it forgiving yourself for for falling short of both those things most days? Been trying to figure this one out, so consider your advice solicited.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Really, I love spending time with my boyfriend. Yesterday, we went to lunch together on a whim and enjoyed each other's company so much that we barely realized when our lunch hour was up. How could I not love being with this man, so sexy in his victory glow after catching the garter at a friend's wedding?

I'll miss him terribly as he goes off to Burning Man in the desert with no cell phone reception for 10 days. It's hard to imagine any future without him, of course, but, after much agony, I've manage to plan how I'll...cope:
  • Going to see Julie and Julia!
  • Sleeping in the middle of the bed
  • Cooking experimental vegetarian meals with some girlfriends (My Beloved prefers meat.)
  • Sushi dinners. That's PLURAL, people!
  • Wine tasting in Watkinsville
  • Possible America's Next Top Model viewing party, details TBD
  • Dates with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Bernhard Schlink, and Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Being a bridesmaid in a two-day wedding
  • Shopping for a fall face palette
  • Hopefully, fielding calls from concerned friends checking up on me to make sure I'm not too lonely. ;)
UPDATE: I totally meant Project Runway, not ANTM. What an upset last week, eh? Can't believe Melvin got the auf wiedersehen so soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Love Poem

I've been a delinquent blogger, I know. Between work, moving, and adopting a new workout regiment (heart disease is not a good look for me), I've been bursting with ideas to bounce off y'all. I promise I've got some good stuff planned: how jerks get hot girls to date them, what happens when you get to the long part of a long-term relationship, and of course the results to the Where Did You Find Love Survey (please take it and share it if you haven't!) - just to name a few. As a good faith gesture, here's a love poem I wrote:

I gasp a clarifying clause from your throat
to come after your comma tongue.
The thought is complete.
The climax is post facto etymology;
we put the revel in revelation.
We’re writing the resolution, the dénouement of love --
that is, the falling action.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Way to Meet Women

Thanks to everyone who has participated or will participate in the 2-question survey about where you found love! Please keep passing the survey along! I know many readers have not participated in the survey, because you are not in a relationship. For you, I offer this alternative technique to meeting women:

(Courtesy of Dave and Thomas Daily Timekillers. Thanks @chrisilluminati.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pain is not Suffering

Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional. -Not2wo blog post "The Dharma of Rooster Sauce"

I posted the one of the recent best Modern Love columns on the Shut Up and Love Facebook Fan Page last week, but I didn't know what I could possibly add to it. The writer's husband tries to leave her, but she realizes that he's working through issues that have nothing to do with her and so gets out of the way until he could figure out what she'd already knew:
"When life’s knocked us around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within." -Laura A. Munson
In the end, the writer's enlightened handling of her husband's issues and understanding of the nature of peace kept her family together, but it would have served her well, too, even if they had decided to divorce. A friend once asked, "What are you supposed to do with emotions you want to express to an ex that you can't?" This sensation of suppressed emotions is a common post-break-up problem, and the answer is to do just what the wife in this article did:
"I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to 'The End of Suffering.' I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control."
Accept that your happiness has nothing to do with what your ex knows (i.e. your anger) or feels (i.e. remorse) or gets served (i.e. revenge, cold), because your ex is external from you. Then, you can work through the natural pain of mourning the end of a relationship even as you practice personal peace. Surely, the pain will hurt, some days worse than other, but not expecting things outside of your control (or waiting for something outside the realm of possibility) protects the heart from too much suffering.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cultural Differences: The Return of Mixed Sunni-Shiite Marriages in Iraq

Just had to share this AP article with you about a local policy to encourage the return of mixed marriages after years of intersect violence. (And we thought OUR intercultural relationships could be hard!) Here are some highlights:

In 2006, the Sunni vice president started a program doling out $2,000 to any Sunni-Shiite couple that tied the knot, "in the hope that love would help overcome war." ..."Iraq witnessed the marriage between Sunnis and Shiites for hundreds of years," said Karim. "We have to resume our Iraqi traditions even though terrorists are trying to erase them."

Congrats to Muhanad Talib and Samma Nasir (photos of the couple in the article) on their marriage!

Also, we still need more responses to the "Where did you find love" survey! Click Here to take the survey or copy and please share this link: Extra points if you send the survey link to someone who actually met their Beloved "not in temple, because we're from different sects" in Iraq.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where are all the good men/women?

Forbes magazine has published its annual ranking of Best Cities for Singles, and I'm sorry to say that Atlanta, so close to my heart, has fallen from No. 1 to 6th place. New York City tops this year's list. Atlanta can take solace in the fact that, despite all the opportunities Forbes says NYC offers, it is full of lonely people sitting in their closet-apartments wondering, "Where are all the good men/women?" (I know, because there was a TV show about it, and everything I see on TV is true.)

Seriously, single people all over the world are wondering the exact same thing - not that we lack magazines and ads and well-meaning parents telling us where to look. Often, their suggestions sound pretty plausible; someone's met their love that way, after all.
"Hmm, maybe I if move to a bigger city, it'll just rain men" or "Perhaps filling out this free personality assessment will, in fact, lead me precisely to my dreamgirl," or even
"Maybe my parents are right, and I should go with them to Vietnam to meet someone who will fall in love with me, because I'm a swaggering Viet Kieu...or something."

Though I love love, the cynic in me is reminded of a quote by Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the well-read Prussian military officer: "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy." After trying speed-dating and the bar scene and matchmaking, one can be fed up with anecdotal evidence and unsolicited advice. What we need is data, cold, hard aggregation about where people really do find love.

Shut Up and Love is conducting a survey about where folks in loving relationships found their partners. If you are not in a relationship, a healthy relationship that ended well could be useful count, but please don't tell us where you met your psycho ex. We're not interested in finding those. Click Here to take the survey or copy and paste this link:

We'll need at least several hundred responses to come up with truly useful information, so please please help spread the survey link these first two weeks in August, by email, on Twitter, or inviting people to the Facebook event, to name a few ways. I'll post the results up by the end of the month. Thanks for sharing your experiences! We are smarter together than we are alone!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Love Song for Every Girl

This song was written for the children of Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy For Girls in South Africa, but I've put it in the queue of lullabies to memorize for my unborn daughter. Hope you pass along to every niece, daughter, sister, girlfriend you know. It's "Beautiful Flower" by India Arie.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Perspectives outside the "Friend Box"

I present to you two perspectives on dating a friend. First, the cautionary tale by Musiq Soulchild (linked it, because Youtube disabled embedding) vs. the dive-right-in lobby by Corinne Bailey Rae:

What say you, dear readers? What have you done to get out of the friend box, and how'd that turn out for you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cultural Differences: This Blog vs. Adsense

I saw the Asian fetish ads from Google, and I've blocked them. If you see anything else completely incompatible with Shut Up and Love, send me the url of the advertiser, so I can block it, too! Guess some bots only see what they want to see.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cultural Differences: Between Friends

Recently, I was waxing nostalgic with a childhood friend about the moment she realized I wasn't white. We were in eighth grade, monopolizing the phone as tweens do, when she had her epiphany. "You never noticed even when I don't speak English to my parents?" I asked, genuinely surprised. "Well, I guess I never thought about it," she said. "Vietnamese just sounds like quack quack quack to me." Those were really old, good days, pre-race consciousness, when we just talked about Animaniacs and laughed all the time.

Now, friendships are fraught with complications like dating, wealth-consciousness, and race. The race landmines can be awkward and mostly harmless as this Facebook message from an acquaintance:
you'd be so proud of my current asianness. i just made authentic pho soup.”
(She’d also declared herself an “honorary Asian” over spring rolls when I saw her last month. It’s awkward, because it sounds like a lunch special could stand in for all refugee, assimilation, and minority experiences.) The landmines can also be as scathing as someone (our generation, my race, and just last week) suggesting that my dating someone who isn't Asian is a failure of character and a personal betrayal. That person and I may never speak again.

It’s common for majority-folks to disclaim, “It's impossible for me to put myself in your shoes, and experience what you must feel every day.” I disagree. Most people have had at least one searing experience with alienation - perhaps as a woman in a male-dominated field or as the fat kid in a skinny school. Many people, though, use it as a card to win some unspoken victimization contest, rather than as a foundation for understanding.

Once, a girlfriend and I got into a serious email exchange after two nights out: one where I’d gotten us on the list at Verve (she was one of the few white people there and decided to leave) and the other when she’d invited me to East Andrews (I was one of the few people of color, and didn't enjoy the 80s rock cover band). We both said some things after drinking some things, I think. Sober, she wrote, “It makes me angry that people of other races assume that I’ve never been discriminated against when they discriminate more against me than I ever have or will against them. Since I’m white, that’s what they expect from me.” There are two kinds of discrimination here, and both must exist simultaneously to exist at all. Conversely, if one goes, the other evaporates, too.

It can be done. First, minorities have to acknowledge that white friends are trying and missteps don’t constitute racism; this way, we can all get on the same team. (That’s one of the two twin racisms.)

Second, majorities have to stop being defensive to the point of killing discussion before it starts. Out of frustration, some people refuse to discuss cultural or racial differences at all, because they feel that acknowledging them gives prejudice power. But like anger or addiction, we can't get rid of something we don't acknowledge.

Thirdly, never argue against each other. Argue for understanding. Trust that you want to understand your friend as much as she wants to understand you, even –especially- when the conversation starts out uncomfortably. These exchanges rarely come up casually, and when they do, no one wants to lose a friend over it. About these landmines, she wrote, “It makes me angry that I can cause pain and pour salt into this wound every time I open my mouth without even knowing it.” When any of us don’t know, it’s because we're all reluctant to educate each other. I wrote her, “I know your heart enough to refuse to believe that you would choose to continue to cause pain unknowingly.”

We grew closer in these days of emails than we had in years of nights out. Difference is often where the beauty of friendship lies.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Size of "sympathy groups"

"...Make a list of all the people you know whose death would leave you truly devastated. Chances are you will come up with around 12 names. That, at least, is the average answer most people give to that question. Those names make up what psychologists call our sympathy group. Why aren't groups any larger? Partly it's a question of time. ...To be someone's friend requires a minimum investment of time. More than that, though, it takes emotional energy. Caring about someone deeply is exhausting. At a certain point, at somewhere between 10 to 15 people, we begin to overload." -The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

I wonder whether if we learn to accept death, we'd have enough emotional energy left to love more people. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cultural Differences: Meeting Each Others' Families

"Once he gets his green card and his PhD, if you get fat enough, he'll leave you." -my father over dessert after meeting my Beloved

"Doesn't your boyfriend say something about your low cut clothes!"-my mother livid about my summer dress

"I'm just worried that people might be racist in Germany, and he won't be proud to bring you around to his friends."
-my mother on our cultural differences
"Mom, we love to show each other off. We're hot." -my American response

"You're talking about getting engaged and raising children, but you don't even live together yet?" -his father upon realizing we are waiting to move in

"Did you already pop the question?" -my 12-year-old nephew to my Beloved
"What question?" -my 11-year-old nephew

"Ivy, Ivy! Do you know about Helmut Schmidt? Come, I'll tell you!"
-his father about his favorite German chancellor

"He doesn't eat fish? That's ok, we'll just order him shrimp." -my mom accommodating my boyfriend's aversion to seafood

"You enrich our family!" -his aunt to me

"No, I don't hate him." -my father when asked about my Beloved

Thursday, July 2, 2009

News Roundup: I Procrastinate, So You Can, Too!

Gay Sex Decriminalised in India
Actually, just in Delhi, and the ruling might be overturned by the high court. Gay rights groups and the Indian government's HIV/Aids control body are elated for homosexuality to be legalised, while clerics and old people are among those shaking their fists at gay revelers covered in celebratory vermilion, hugging and dancing in the streets. India's a democracy, so I'm sure they'll deal. (See the BBC story.)

She's Just Not That into You
All us girls who have accidentally left a trail of broken hearts, we just got called out. (See essay.)

Home Is Next to the One You Love, Especially if You're Homeless
I like to read wedding announcement articles, k? You got a problem with that? Huh! I will cut somebody! Seriously, this wedding story is the only one I've ever read that had me on the verge of tears. Congratulations, Jennifer and Paul, on your nuptials and overcoming your demons. (See the article.)

My Boyfriend Meets My Parents
I know those of you in intercultural relationships are following this story closely. My Beloved of nearly two years met my father about a week ago, and he handled it like a champ. My father, when questioned directly, "So? Do you hate him?" said, "No, I don't hate him - but I can't love him either." Ha! We'll see about that! This weekend, we're going to surprise my mother for her birthday. She's in an intercultural relationship herself, but her standards for men having their business together is very, very high. Expect a wildly entertaining account of the interrogation soon. (See me in Texas.)


Friday, June 26, 2009

To Those Who Insult Michael Jackson

Just had to share this "Open Letter To Those Who Insult Michael Jackson." Thanks, MJ, for telling me when I was eight that it didn't matter if I was black or white and for debuting your music videos on the regular TV stations, so everyone could watch.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Routing Resentment: Talk to each other!

I clutched my Beloved last night watching Jon and Kate Plus 8 as the parents explained their decision to separate. It was sad, of course, but also frightening. Could that happen to us if we married? The answer is, of course, yes, it could. Any couple could go from this:

to divorced without caution. I'd heard all the gossip blaming the fame and the show or the multiple children or one spouse or the other, but none of those theories hold water. The paparazzi complicate their lives, but unfamous couples have complications, too, like layoffs, ailing relatives, sick children, or mental illnesses. Children are challenging, but plenty of big families stay together.

The episode opened with a disagreement about where to put the children's playhouses, which could have been discussed in the planning stages in place of broiling silence and resentment. Then, in the separation interviews, Jon said, "I've never been a good communicator," and she said, "He won't talk to me." How long had they been like two workers on the Tower of Babel, unable to communicate to move a single brick? Today, I haven't found a single commentary blaming the breakdown in communication, perhaps because we want to believe that only "freakishly" large families or reality TV exhibitionists can end up so far from where they thought they were going. (In my searching, though, I found plenty of people calling them gook and bitch in Youtube comments. Sigh. This blog's got work to do, so please share it with all the ignorant Youtube members you may know.)

May you, dear reader, nor I ever choke on our anger or resentment so much that we swallow it until it swallows us. In that spirit, I want to clear the air with My Beloved: I'm sorry I didn't replace the toilet paper roll when I used the last square last night. I must be hard to love when my brains scatter about your tidy abode. Though I forget a lot of things, know that I never forget that I love you even when it seems like I scorn your structure. Really, I think your structure's great! Love, Ivy

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

If there is only one lesson we can learn from our parents, it is forgiveness. They know their children will hurt them, and they have them anyway. Then, we hurt them, but they keep loving us. They COULD put up a wall between them and their children, and perhaps some do, but even those who do will simultaneously give up their parent title, as if it is written in our DNA that forgiveness is integral to parenthood.

Sometimes, parents make mistakes by their children, and if we learned well, we forgive them back. As this blog's not about easy love, if you have a hard time loving your parents, I hope you take some time today to enumerate the things your parents did out of love, even if you didn't get the love message at the time. I would even champion a letter detailing your resulting list. Something along the lines of, "All the times you did [blank], I understand you were doing it because you loved me." As a friend has said, we spend plenty of time measuring each other by our failures. Even if they abandoned or abused, were addictive or incarcerated, what harm can come from acknowledging that no one is completely evil nor completely good?

Happy Fathers' Day!!!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wedding Guests as Witnesses

Right before the birthday in Germany, I had the privilege of attending an intimate wedding, about 45 friends and family members, in Mexico. The couple walked down the aisle hand-in-hand, and also skipped the bridal party and groomsmen traditions. Instead, each guest was given a calla lily boutonniere, as if we were all in the wedding.

And we were: the officiant asked us all to take a vow to protect their union just as they had to promise to love and protect each other. Their love has survived continents apart, the swine flu, and so much more; I can't imagine what marital trouble I could help them through after all that. Alas, do we ever know what trouble will come? Every guest was a witness, and we all gladly answered, "I do." Congratulations!!! May this day be the day you love each other least for the rest of your lives.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stop Frontin'

I had a chat with a friend yesterday that I could have had with thousands of other women. Do you recognize yourself anywhere in this conversation?
Friend: my guy friends tell me that I come off demanding and hard to approach, and my girlfriends tell me that I'm too hard on guys, but I don't want to be a pushover
Ivy: do you feel that people don't really know the real you when they first meet you?
Friend: yes, and many people have told me after knowing me for awhile "when I first met you I thought you hated me"
Ivy: hahaha! so what do you think people think about you at first? and what do you think people realize after they finally get to know you?
Friend: I think it's in the look I give them. I developed the look to turn off scrubs, but I think it turns off stud muffins as well.
Friend: at first, they think I'm very serious
Friend: once they get to know me, though, they realize that yes, I work hard, but I have maybe one serious bone in my body
Friend: most people also think that I'm quiet when they first meet me, but then realize the exact opposite is true
Ivy: so what should your ideal man love about you?
Friend: the fact that i have my own mind, that I have goals and opinions, that I'm there no matter what
Ivy: ok, so you're loyal, you're opinionated, independent and you have a sense of humor
Ivy: if a guy isn't in love with those 4 things, he needn't apply. Right?
Friend: Correct!
Ivy: ok, so how is the man who is scouring the earth looking for you, the loyal, opinionated, funny, independent woman of his dreams supposed to know you when he sees you, if you're scowling and keep your opinions to yourself when he meets you?
Ivy: you're wearing camo! how's he supposed to find you that way?
Friend: I never thought about it like that. I need to stop making it so hard for the hunter
Ivy: if the scrubs come, just say no, which you have no problem doing.
Ivy: luckily, the real you is awesome, and your laugh and smile are gorgeous!! so if you're just you all the time, people will just come.
Ivy: it's so awkward when people ask for advice, and all i can say is "stop being a douchebag"

Women today, we're strong. We have to be. Who has time for a breakup before a major client presentation? Sometimes, though, we misinterpret braggadocio for strength. For example, I met a joyful woman at a bachelorette getaway last weekend who declared loudly that all she wanted was a boytoy to pleasure and dine her and be disposed by her when she goes to grad school. Then, in other moments, she quietly suggested she might really want to love and to be loved - which she'd be great at, I think - and she wondered why that eluded her.

We put up walls of bombast and bitchiness to protect ourselves from those who might break our hearts, and we're afraid that people will see through these disguises, but the worst thing that can happen is that no one does. There is no valor nor gain to be had in hiding. In Eleanor Roosevelt's words, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." And it can be terrifying to simply be your humanly vulnerable or goofy or imperfectly beautiful or malaproptastic self, but love's looking for you -- just as you are.


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