Monday, March 30, 2009

Netflix and other rooms for disagreement

Some couples fall in love over shared passions for sashimi, Wes Anderson movies, and Orham Pamuk books. They stay up talking until 5 a.m. on their first three dates debating things like whether the best French onion soup can be found in the 8th Arrondissement or Avignon. (Avignon, for god's sake! You're paying for real estate, not food, at the former.)

My beloved and I aren't like that.

We're more like the couples in this article:

"And so began their siege in this new trench on the front lines of American marriage: the shared Netflix queue. ...For many couples, ... the queue is the new toilet seat that somebody left up.

Men and women from perfectly happy partnerships report their own dysfunctional cohabitation within the confines of the queue. Once upon a time, these sorts of disagreements were sorted out in the aisles of a video store, before a movie was selected. Now, when the conversation begins, it’s already too late."- New York Times
March 27, 2009

He's a scientist; I'm a poet. He writes research papers with page-long sentences. "Shut up and love" is the best sentence I've ever written. He hates fish, and I just had sushi for breakfast. He loves DJ Tiesto beats and computer games, and I heart Jay-Z lyrics and shoes. He loves action movies, and I love horrifying comedies by Pedro Almodóvar.

We are different on all the little things, but agree on all the big things (more details in a later post). Still, little things come up every day, and I am heartened by the fact that the only "Netflix divorces" reported have been when couples give up sharing a queue and sign up for two separates accounts.

So, do any of you have a lot in common with your loves? How does that happen? Don't you get into petty fights about Willa Cather vs. Mary Shelley or iPod Touch vs. classic? (Cather, w00t! Classic, WHAT!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Searching for My Solemate

Once upon a time (about 3 weeks ago), I designed the perfect blue shoes in my mind, safe where no one could see them. One day, I decided I was ready for the bright blue suede pumps of my dreams to brighten my mournful winter suits. I went searching for them in every shoe store in Atlanta's retail forest. At DSW, all the blue shoes were patent leather. At Macy's and Bloomingdales, inkblot/navy was the closest color available to bright blue. The mall shoe stores had blue flats and boots and open-toe stripper shoes, but no work-appropriate pumps.

I found two pairs of blue shoes at Neiman Marcus, the Manolo Blahniks from Sex and the City and the latest satin d'Orsay heel from Christian Louboutin - too well-known and not a good fit respectively, and both cost about $900. I went on and on and grew more disillusioned at every stop. "All shoe-makers are jerks!" I declared to anyone who would listen.

Weeks later, I was looking - again with no success- for a new briefcase. I'd spilt tea and food all over my bag that day. Then, half an hour before the mall was to close, an effortlessly fashionable woman passed in my peripheral vision wearing BLUE SUEDE HEELS! They were an enigmatic shade of grey-blue, I observed, as I chased her down in my own heels yelling "Hey, Girl-with-the-hot-shoes!" She got hers a year ago, she said, BUT had seen a similar pair at Zara a month ago. With only minutes left before closing, I ran upstairs to Zara and scanned the store for blue shoes. Seeing none, I grabbed a sienna suede pump and thrust it at a sales associate: "I just saw a girl with shoes like these in blue! She said she got them here!" (I fictionalized a bit. She wanted to know what I wanted, not my life story.) She went to the back and pulled out one of only 2 pairs left, the one in my size. MY SIZE!

I'm sure there are other blue shoes out there that I would love, but this pair makes me happy and were about $80. The moral of the story is that you never find love when you're looking for it, but be ready to seize opportunity and it will come. Alternatively, start your own blog, and no one can stop you from writing about shoes. THE END.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don’t Give Up...Yet

If you’ve flaked on your new year’s resolutions, don’t give up just yet. Growing into yourself is not a pass/fail class. Getting a B- is still better than an incomplete. I, for one, resolved to post this post around the Lunar New Year when I'd resolved to write this blog,'s up now.

What I've found through an informal survey of my girlfriends is that many of our metrics for success/failure are sabotaging us. One girlfriend resolved to "practice more" each week on her guitar skills. After two weeks, she'd given up on it, because she hadn't been able to fit it into her schedule "more." But what she really wants is to dazzle at house parties on the fly, so she re-resolved to memorize 5 popular party songs by year's end. If by June, she hasn't finished learning two songs, she'll know it's time to hustle to make it by next year. And even if she only learns 2, as her friend, I'll still be dazzled by those songs at house parties. Reframe your goals, so you can see how far you fell short but also how far you came.

Rather than declare "I will lose 10 pounds" and fail again this year, another friend decided she would train for the Susan G. Komen 3-day Breast Cancer Walk in October, often a life-changing experience with women survivors from all walks of life. She finds that measuring how much farther you can walk and what a difference you can make is much more relevant to real life than measuring how many Kate Mosses could fit in your pants. Re-examine your motives, because the thought really does count. Is your heart in the right place? If vanity was a solid motivator, don't you think we'd all lose weight every month after a new fashion magazine issue came out?

Last year, I resolved to get two poems published. I only accomplished my goal halfway, but it was still one more publication than I'd ever gotten in my career. Best. Failure. Ever. Making new year's resolutions in March is quite counterculture, if you're the type that turns on a band once they get popular, and if health or a charity run are your goals, the gyms aren't crowded anymore. Don't give up!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When to say "I Love You"

I've heard of people marrying within a month of meeting and even know of a guy who proposed after 3 years of dating, before he ever said "I love you" to his fiancee. Therefore, I tune out all the conflicting advice about when to say "I love you." These adages sound like a game of craps: wait 2 months! No, wait 6! Caution shouldn't be about calendar days, but about maintaining the value of the precious verb "to love."

When it might not be too soon to say "I Love You"
When you know that you would still love this person even if sex was suddenly out of the picture, and
When others who are supposed to be attractive bore you, you might be in love instead of lust.
When you've learned your partner's biggest faults and do not attempt to change them, you're ready to love the real human being and not an idealized caricature on a pedestal.
When you've disagreed and realized you would rather be fighting with this person than not-fighting with someone else.
When you've both been saying "I love you" to each other in wordless gestures anyway, and
I think the most important of all: wait until you're ready to say the three words without expecting to hear it back, because love is not selfish or vain - or a guilt trap.

Incidentally, I'm formulating a theory that once you start farting shamelessly around each other, it's time to discuss a lifelong commitment. Thoughts?

Friday, March 13, 2009

7 Scary Truths about Getting Engaged

Several of my friends (De'A! Priya! Steph! EJo!) have recently gotten engaged, and this article is for you.

"The blender from him that was a testament to your margarita-making skills now seems like a domestic shackle." -Colleen Rush

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Romance and the Recession Status Update

Cultural Differences: The Part That Sucks

A few years ago, I was at J. Strom Thurmond Lake on Memorial Day with a boyfriend's family, white Americans who had been here for several generations. There, because I speak Spanish, his mother asked me to talk to a Mexican family that had just arrived. They were unpacking at our tables and had a bag of coal to use the grills.

I explained as respectfully as possible (the father was my father's age) that our family had rented this space for the day. They didn't buy it at first, so I showed them the sign posted with our reservation. I said we'd be glad to share some picnic tables, but our group was so big that we really did need both grills to cook. I apologized but of course, they said it was no problem and collected their kids -already dripping from jumping in the lake- to find another picnic area. About 20 minutes later, I remembered the parking attendant had told us that all of the areas had been reserved. I felt horrible that I hadn't thought to warn that family. I imagined them going around the whole lake being asked to leave, sometimes politely, sometimes not.

I could imagine what they were thinking, because my family came to America in 1980, and we had been in similar situations before I was old enough to handle things like reservations. We were thankful for a holiday we didn't understand, often the first day in months when the whole family could be together, sometimes the first day in weeks either parent had had off. So the parents think, "What's something affordable that will be fun for our children today?" It seems so simple to go pick up some food, a bag of coal, and floaties for the kids to go to the lake, but it never turns out to be that easy. How are people who don't own boats supposed to know that public spaces at the lake need to be reserved weeks ahead of time?

But that's not the part that sucks about cultural differences. That was the part that sucks about being new immigrants.

A couple weeks later, that boyfriend and I went out to dinner with his uncle. He told us that his sister, my boyfriend's mother, had been telling the story of how "Ivy 'took care' of the Mexicans" with brio to anyone who would listen. I was horrified that she saw me as this bully (and was proud of it!), and even more horrified that her brother and my boyfriend thought it was a great story. My boyfriend thought it was good news that his mom was so fond of me. After dinner, we got into an unusually emotional argument that led nowhere. It took me days to articulate myself.

Ultimately, I was upset, because I felt that if his mother really understood that my family is like that Mexican family and that I am not at all like her, she'd want to get rid of me like she wanted to get rid of "them." That's probably the only time I've ever felt something close to shame about where I come from. We eventually broke up, not because of this situation but not for reasons completely unrelated to it either.

The part that sucks about cultural differences is that you can't entertain the fantasy of loving in a vacuum. There is no final "We made it!" or "happily ever after." Walls between all of us, rooted from the time of Babel, long before you fell in love or met or were even born, can rear up between you any day of the week. Those days, differences dwarf love, and one feels hollow inside like watching your father cry for the first time or learning about death after seeing your dog run over by a car. Love is precious, but it doesn't trump everything, so when you have the chance to root for love, please, shut up and do it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cultural Differences: The Easy Stuff

While I'm researching this cultural differences series, thought I'd share some references that have been useful in facilitating courtship between myself, a Vietnamese American, and my beloved, a German German. The first gives you an idea of how hard it is to have normal couple conversations like, "How cold will it be on our trip, so I can pack?" or "Could you preheat the oven for me while I jump in the shower?" (Click the comic to enlarge.)

The following is a slideshow by an award-winning graphic designer who was born in China and grew up in Germany. As if you won't know immediately, blue represents the Western point of view and red is the Eastern. Be sure to click through to see all of them. You can imagine these differences (on food, on raising our future children, punctuality, social circles, travel, etc.) have led to missed understandings on first, fourth, and seventeenth dates. At least we're never bored. :) East-West by Liu Young

UPDATE: One label in the above slideshow is incorrect. This graphic compares the German and Chinese way of handling problems:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cultural Differences: teaser

I'm working on a series of posts about cultural differences between people in romantic or platonic relationships. (Ideas welcome! Get at me!) Trouble is, there's so much to talk about (that's why they're called "differences" instead of "trivialities") that I don't know where to start! Trouble also is that I'm swamped at work and frantically drafting new poems for my feature at Java Monkey on March 22 (PLUG! ZING!).

But I promise your patience will be rewarded. I ask you, how could a post on cultural differences not be good, when it's written by this woman:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Best Match.Com Question

In my humble opinion, the most revealing info on a profile is the answer to this question: "The one thing I wish MORE people would notice about me is... ."

How would you complete that sentence?


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