Advice: Sister on the Rebound

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My two sisters and I have generally been close. Recently, we have undergone a bit of an upheaval, and it’s causing some issues in our family.

The youngest, Susan, has been married to Stan for 13 years. Susan and Stan separated four months ago. Last month, Susan started dating again. She seems to have clicked with one man in particular, and has even introduced him to her children. The children are, understandably, confused by what’s happened between their parents. They told me and my other sister they’re unhappy. Of course, we know my sister’s separation isn’t the boyfriend’s fault, when he’s around he reminds the children of their parents’ problems. We see that this hurts them. When we tried to talk to Susan about this…suffice to say that talk didn’t go over very well.

We are planning a birthday party for our aunt, and I know Susan wants to bring her new boyfriend. My other sister and I haven’t invited him and, quite honestly, aren’t ready to meet him yet. We are still mired in the emotional conflict between Susan and Stan. And, we know that the boyfriend’s presence at the party won’t go over well with Stan. It will damage whatever chance of reconciliation they may have, or affect their ability to have a working relationship if they do divorce.

I don’t want to sound mean, but we are exhausted with Susan’s current situation. I don’t want to have to fake it with the boyfriend. We don’t condone any of this, and we know it’s hurting the children. How can we show support to our sister when we see how much this hurts her kids?

Sad Sisters

~~~The Bartender and The Priestess respond~~~

P: Wow, so, Terri, How many people were in that marriage bed? Do we need to count toes?

B: I know, right? This question comes with a lot of holes in the backstory, so much of what I want to say about this is probably going to be more general than I would like. And yet, there’s still so much to talk about…

Or rather, I would have a lot to talk about, except I’m suffocating.

My lovely Priestess has hit one of my initial questions square on the head: who was in this marriage, anyway? Was it your sister and her husband? Or was it you, your sister, your other sister, and the separated husband? How are you “knee deep” in their emotional conflict? Do you even know what a boundary is?

You say you and the sister in question have always been close; surely, you must have had some inkling that she and her husband were unhappy, before their separation. When my brother left his wife, I knew he was desperately unhappy. I didn’t know it would happen on the day it did, but when he left, it made sense. You know “close family” isn’t synonymous with “hive mind”, right? Your sister doesn’t have to behave in a way that you like, even a little, if it doesn’t suit her. She can wear short skirts and vote Democrat and change her religious affiliation and date men who aren’t her (legally separated) husband, and she doesn’t owe you an ounce of explanation, right?

P: Exactly, my sweet Purveyor of Spirits! Sisters, let’s start at the end, where you wonder how to support your sister. I have to say there is nothing, nothing I’ve heard that begins to suggest that you are looking to support your sister. I’ve heard a little bit about your supporting her children and a lot about supporting a marriage about which you have said nothing. News flash: judgment is not support, it’s judgment. So, my dear supportive sisters, do you have any idea why your sister wants a divorce? Because it was your sister who was in that marriage. If you’ve been in it, it’s been because you’re butting in. Your sister needs your support. No one ends a 13-year marriage without a lot of pain, particularly when the spouse is the person with whom you made a family. This was never an easy decision.

B: The only people she owes anything to in this time of significant emotional upheaval are her children. You say they’re reminded of their parents’ conflict by the presence of the boyfriend. I call BS. They’re reminded of their parents’ conflict by the fact that Mom and Dad live in two different places. They’re reminded of the conflict by one less body in the house at night. They’re reminded of it by the hole at the dinner table, by who’s not checking their homework, by who’s not giving them kisses goodnight, every night. To blame the children’s sense of loss and confusion on the presence of one man undermines the reality of that loss, which is with them much more than their mother’s new boyfriend. Their pain and confusion should not be greeted with, “We’re sorry this is your mother’s new normal, kids. Blame THAT guy.” Care and support? Missing in that statement. Instead, try saying, “Welcome to the day after everything changed. Let’s hold hands as we plunge together into the void.” How do you approach these hurt, confused children? Arms folded, sniffing over the tops of your glasses and “Tsk, tsk”ing at your sister as she goes on a date? Or arms open, ready to offer love to a grieving family?

Because believe me, your sister is grieving. Even if she’s the one who initiated the separation and claims relief, there’s still grief and confusion. Chances are she’s played every second of her marriage over in minute detail, asking herself any one of the million questions that accompany this seismic shift. Why didn’t this work? Why did I pick the wrong guy? Maybe I’m the wrong girl. How did I stay with this person for 13 years? Should I have left earlier? Would I have been better off if this marriage never happened? Did we ever really like each other?

And so on, and so on. Even if she is stock-sure this was the best move for her, she’s still got to climb out of an emotional bog. That is her reality.

P: If this is only about your religious beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, what, if anything do you know about whether or not the husband held the marriage as sacred. What was your sister due in her marriage? Was she getting it? Did you ever talk to her about it? Or did she, understanding what kind of response she would get from you, stifle her feelings and say nothing? I don’t even know from what you’ve said who wanted the divorce. Do you know? Or are you just clear your “little” sister is wrong.

You say the separation has been stressful on the family. My suspicions are it’s been more stressful on your sister. Who are you to be knee deep in the conflict? And while you are, what are you stirring up? It seems to me the conflict is between the ex and your sister.

And if there’s conversation about reconciliation beyond your clapping for that Tinkerbelle, I haven’t heard it. (ps, as much as I love Tink, in this place, I don’t think she’s real.)

Tink isn't coming back. In all likelihood...neither is the ex. Move along.

Tink isn’t coming back. In all likelihood…neither is the ex. Move along.

B: Here is the reality of the situation: your sister is rebounding. She is free to run around with her underpants on her head so long as she’s not self-destructive and putting herself or her children in danger. “If they reconcile”, or imagining how un-civil the divorce could be if your sister dates, are not reality. Honey, you’re projecting so hard you should get a job in a movie theater. And the reality is, also, that no matter how emotionally unprepared you are for your sister to start dating again, most divorcees do not decide to live partnerless forever. You, and the children, will have to make room for a new beau at some point. Is now too soon? Maybe. But you don’t get to decide that for your sister, any more than your sister gets to decide where you’re going to work, or how often you play the lottery as you dream about a better life in the south of France. Or whatever. You get to arrange your life as you see fit, she gets to do the same with hers. That’s how it works.

P: Is it better that people don’t dash into relationship? You betcha. Does anyone recommend that the first thing you do after getting out of a long marriage is bonk your way through life — no therapist or counselor worth his/her salt (that I’ve known) has suggested this.

But many, many people do. They’re struggling their way toward happiness. Most people find their way out of the rebound period, maybe a little wiser, a little more ready to find their happiness. And your sister deserves a chance to be happy. We’ll all hope she’ll be content with the infatuation period long enough to figure out if she really likes this guy.

Your job is not to sniff about this but to be understanding.

B: I am sure your concern for the children is well-intentioned and heartfelt, but you need to make sure they are living in reality, too. “Yes, your mother and father live apart from one another. But no matter where they call home, or who they date, or whether or not they talk to one another, they will always love you. We’ll be here to help them along the way, as well, because they’re scared and confused and have to figure out the world around them, because it’s different for them now, too. But we’ll be OK, because we’re family and we have a ton of love between us. See? Now, your worries are much less scary.”

That’s what you should say. Instead of, “Poor us, we don’t have the energy for this.” You’re punishing your sister, and using the kids as leverage, because you don’t want to adapt to the changes in her life. That’s not support. That’s control.

P: The one place I’m going to give you some props is that you’re concerned about the kids. That’s laudable. Often after a death or a divorce a parent can go a little crazy with the freedom. If you’ve been unhappy in a marriage, it’s a heady feeling to spend time with someone who thinks you’re great, especially if you think they’re great too. Infatuation is a marvelous thing. It’s dangerous, but it’s marvelous.

Terri made some great points about what to say to the kids. It’s great that you are willing to stand up for your nieces and nephews. And if you feel things are really out of whack, you might say, if you can manage to be straightforward and caring: Sweetie, I know you’re really happy, but your kids are not ready to see you as a sexual being under any circumstance and particularly not when they’re reeling from the break up. They’ve come to us and they’re confused.

Hopefully that will wake a mother’s heart.

If it doesn’t then you need to talk to the kids. (also how old are these kids? What you say changes a bit with age.) You do NOT need to be disapproving of the mom, you do need to say, “wow, you sound hurt and confused. You know your mom loves you. You know your dad loves you. You didn’t want this for the family, but unfortuntately families are based on marriages, and when they break is difficult. It’s rarely just one person’s fault or another’s. They’re sad too. And whatever happens, they love you. That’s never going to change, even if they’re both finding different ways to deal with the changes that are happening in their lives. And you know we’re right here to support you. Things will settle down a bit. Keep talking to us,” or some version of that. It’s a much better alternative than teaching them to be judgmental little so-and-sos.

B: Be gracious to the boyfriend at the party. I can’t even consider you have any other option. And knock it off with the “she’s the youngest” rank. She’s old enough to be married, have kids, and decide her life isn’t working for her. She is not a baby; she is your peer, and that sort of familial seniority-ranking should have stopped once you were all done with high school. Pointing out that she’s younger than you only puffs you up, but it has no real merit behind it.

P: If you’re not planning on leaving your husbands behind for your aunt’s celebration, why would your sister think she needed an invitation for her date? I’m not sure why you’re not ready. You’ve had four months to get used to this. And my guess is you’ve missed several years of paying attention to the demise of this marriage, completely ignoring your sister’s comfort.

You may be missing your soon to be former brother in law. That’s sad. There’s nothing that says you can’t eventually have cordial relations with him. However, that time is not now. He needs to lean on his family and friends for support. If you preference your B-I-L over your sister, you’re likely to lose the sister, especially if she has a spine. Nobody loves a sister who makes them earn a place in the family she was born into. She’s divorcing her husband, for goodness sakes; she didn’t steal the family silver.

B: Circle the wagons around your sister! She’s your sister. She’s not some oddball interloper.

P: So, in the meantime, if you can’t manage to be happy about this, wish your sister happiness and love her. That’s what close families do.

Do I need to say it again? BOUNDARIES, people!

Do I need to say it again? BOUNDARIES, people!

Many thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photography!

Many thanks to the Lewisburg Hotel for its generous use of location!

If you want to learn more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Do you have a question? Email us at bartender priestess @ gmail (dot) com. If you’re a non-spambot human, remove spaces and punctuate accordingly. 

Thanks for reading!

Advice: That’s No Way To Win The Game, Dears

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My husband and I recently went to our granddaughter’s softball tournament, and got to witness some appalling behavior on the behalf of the opposing teams’ coaches. Both coaches, from both teams.

One coach got up into the umpire’s face because of a call. This normally doesn’t happen and is certainly not permitted, and it caused a 30 minute delay in game. A mediator had to be brought in, and the ump’s original call stood. Then the opposing team’s coach caused a fit over a requested rain delay, which was not granted. To me, it felt like bullying, and it destroyed the spirit of the game.

I understand that winning is nice, but winning at all costs worth it? I thought their behavior was inexcusable. And how do parents and grandparents manage this? I have a 12-year-old granddaughter, and I don’t want this to be her main impression of what to expect from team sports.

–Fair-play Grandmom

~~~The Bartender and The Priestess respond~~~

P: Wow, I’m so sorry. For you, for the kids, for all of us.

I’m not sure when children’s local sports slipped from something kids do to the most important thing in the world. Sure, there have always been notably irate parents but they were fewer and farther between, if only because social strictures were stronger.

Disclaimer, I don’t do sportsing and neither does my beloved Bartender. We do things for our health, and we may watch them on tv, but game sports are not my field of expertise.

Bad manners? Bad child rearing? I think we’re ready to talk about this.

B: Critics of team sports—while generally looking at manly sports like football and hockey and such—point out that they are, in quite a few startling parallels, much like organized warfare. There are distinct sides, identifying uniforms. Sports involve strategy, Us v. Them, and can even—especially at the end of a tournament—end in militaresque victory parades. If you don’t believe me, watch the Olympics and tell me that’s not a way for countries to deploy against one another in a socially acceptable manner.

I mean, hey. We’re still basking in the glow of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team’s surprising defeat of the USSR’s Central Red Army team. If that wasn’t a thinly-veiled war game, I don’t know what was.

I don’t oppose organized sports. I even love some of them. But it’s easy to see how they can knock a participant over the edge and straight into fanaticism. “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” isn’t that right? That’s been floating around in our public consciousness since it was first uttered in 1950. (Fun fact: NOT said by Vince Lombardi but rather, by UCLA football coach Red Saunders. Take that, misattributed quote promoters!)

P: So, to start with: in my opinion, sports are a great way for kids to figure out the way their bodies work, to learn to follow directions, to learn to strategize and to learn to collaborate in achieving their goals. And it’s probably not a bad thing to learn a bit about friendly rivalry. As when you start to do anything, especially if you’re going to be good at anything, you’re spending a lot of time being gloriously bad at things. When you have to learn so many things at once, there are so many ways to be bad.

Still it’s a thrill to play and a thrill to get better. Look, arms and legs all headed in the same direction YAY. Look, ball successfully arrived at another kid, WOW!

Now something we learn in this process is that not all of us have what it takes to take our particular sports world by storm. Young dreams aside, few of us are going to be the best athlete in the world in our sport. Yep, actually a really small percentage. A modest number will grow up and become really competent. So that leaves a lot of other kids to learn about running and team work and cheering people on.

B: You’re right in worrying that “winning at all costs” is problematic, since learning how to lose graciously is part of becoming a fully functioning adult. It’s, sadly, something the battle-coaches you talk about failed to teach their charges when they had the opportunity. The world doesn’t always conform with the outcome you want, and kids need to learn that that is OK. Losing a tournament shouldn’t result in tantrums. It shouldn’t end in personal recriminations. It doesn’t make a child less of a person if they don’t win a softball tournament. It doesn’t diminish their ability to draw or do math or play piano or bake. It just means they didn’t win a softball tournament. Life will go on.

P: The likelihood is that your child is not the next Derek Jeter or Serena Williams, and their work on the field isn’t the most important thing they’ll do in their life. Although the time and interest and fun you invest in them may well be the most important thing you do in your life. It may be the most important thing you give them. Not only is there love, but there is also hanging out with friends, doing something together. There is, we devoutly hope, a sense of your parents, siblings, grandparents being proud of you and all around glad you exist.

B: The one bit of relief I find in this letter is that the writer doesn’t implicate parents in being the sports-crazed bad seeds. Honestly, since the perpetrators of bad behavior were opposing team coaches, it makes me wonder (reading DEEPLY between the lines) if there isn’t a personal issue between the two of them.

Now, they may have learned how to coach from watching too many film clips of coaches kicking dust on an ump’s shoes, and you may have had the misfortune of getting two people with severe anger management issues. And any reason for petulant behavior like that is inexcusable. But you may have—let’s face it, mostly likely have—been witnessing the expression of issues that have nothing to do with the game at hand. Maybe the coaches were romantic rivals. Maybe they’re former lovers. Maybe it was a perfect storm of bad juju, and Coach A just had a fight with his/her significant other while Coach B was fighting a vicious toothache. Or maybe they’re narcissistic win-hounds who will wear sackcloth and ashes if they lose a game. Bad blood will out. The kids, and the game, bore the brunt. Regardless, shame on them for engaging in an “I am the squeakiest wheel!” method of coaching.

You're out of order! You're all out of order!

You’re out of order! You’re all out of order!

P: Let’s talk about their lack of courtesy. Oh, what a disaster. Lots of towns are adopting courtesy codes. They should be urging them on the sports organizations. Sports organizations should be examining their mission statements. They should have pledges anyone, any adult, involved in the sport should sign. And there should be penalties. Although the importance of winning is certainly emphasized over playing, just about everywhere in life, isn’t it? So maybe it won’t matter to a parent if she/he is banned from ever watching their child play again as long as, by hook or by crook, they win a t-ball game. Are we ready to give this up and be neighbors, friends and oh, by the way, parents? Because this is immature, self-indulgent and distasteful.

B: I want to eliminate the word “bully” from this discussion. I appreciate your awareness of the problems that come from bullying and thank you for being vigilant in opposing it and its negative effects. But all bad, mean-spirited behavior isn’t bullying, and I don’t want to water down the meaning of that word. The coaches in question weren’t aggressors going after a target they perceived to be weaker; they were peers battling for supremacy. Pissing contests are not bullying events.

P: Bullying may be too easy a catchword. The Bartender and I just indulged in a sidebar argument. We reached no permanent agreement other than on the fact that it’s stinko behavior. She thinks the way the stinko behavior gets expressed is a personal issue, I think it’s a permission issue… I think it’s a threatening temper tantrum without regard to who’s involved… with regard only to whether we win, win, win. It’s a ridiculous use of power and privilege. I wish the only people doing this were just these two tantrum tossers. I wish it weren’t soccer moms and dads (and football and base/softball and wrestling and all) (and sometimes grandparents — good for you for calling this out!)

B: US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote that the remedy for negative speech is “…more speech, not enforced silence”. You (and her parents) need to talk to your granddaughter, get her to explore how she felt about it, guide her to understand that sometimes, adults act irrationally and none of that behavior was acceptable or should have been perpetuated at her and her team’s and her opposing team’s expense. It should not have been endured, nor should it be emulated.

Then model the behavior you do want her to emulate. Gather together for a family game of softball. Have a pepper game in the back yard. Get some board games, play Risk. But undertake these actions with the idea that you will all participate in these games for fun, and for bonding purposes, with all ego left at the door.

P: Parents? And grandparents? You have a couple responsibilities. You need to get the kid to team practice and to games and to spend some fun time kicking, throwing, batting, something-ing around the ball in the back yard with your kid. It can be great bonding time. It can be a fun memory that your kid can look back on and say, “wow, my mom/dad always had time for me.” (That can happen even if you’re really bad at the sportsing thing. Just keep the glove in front of your face or the mask/helmet on!) You need to recognize that a game is just a game and that your kid may just be a kid who needs to have fun, and that this is helping your kid become confident and competent. Maybe your kid is a freaking genius; acting like this, you can hopefully help her/him develop teamwork, camaraderie, and self-discipine in the process of sorting out his/her arms and legs and developing brain — Because of course discipline matters immensely in developing genius.

And if your kid is not a freaking genius, you can still offer to play catch. Or go and cheer. Or float down a river on some inner-tubes and relax…

What the doctor ordered.  (Note: not a real doctor. But I would play one on TV, casting directors.)

What the doctor ordered.
(Note: not a real doctor. But I would play one on TV, casting directors.)

Many thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos!

Many thanks to the lovely Jean for modeling and playing along!

Many thanks to the good people of the Lewisburg Hotel for letting us use their facility!

For more information about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here.

Got a question? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and add appropriate @ and . signs. No real names will be published.

Advice: Threesome: One Too Many?

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My boyfriend, “Bob”, and I, are in a committed relationship. We’ve been together for the past nine months, living together for six. Yes, we moved fast. For the most part we are super-compatible. We’re good at dividing household chores and bills, we are supportive of one another, and our sex life is great. I can picture us spending the rest of our lives together.

However. Bob has a sexual bucket list, and at the top of that list is having a threesome. He almost nags me about it, because it mentions having a threesome every week, more than once a week. He’ll even make a point of showing me which of my friends and co-workers he’d like to invite in as the third person at the party. Bob says he can only picture having a threesome before we get married, because having one after we’re legal would be “weird”. Before we get married, after we get married, the fact is I’m not really comfortable with having a threesome, and I don’t expect that to change. What do I do? Should I give in and have one with him, because it seems like it’s so important? Do I let him find two other girls to have one with, even though I know I won’t be OK with it?

–Just Me In The Bed

~~~~The Bartender and The Priestess Respond~~~~

P: Here Terri, hold my shawl and my drink, will you? Because I’m going to need both my hands to pull my hair out, k?

I barely know where to start on this all kinds of bad…

See the thing about coupleness, as I see it, is that sexual bucket lists become a couple’s sexual bucket list. And a bucket list is sorta wow, that might have been really interesting to do, but damn, life interfered.

Presumably no one in Mr. Threesome’s life has ever thought it was their job to satisfy this fantasy… which is to say, so far he’s failed, but he thought maybe you could pimp his dream for him? Nice guy.

B: I want to echo Ann and emphasize that as far as couples go, a “sexual bucket list” is one that should be mutually shared by the couple. It’s not that all sexual exploration has to stop once you commit to another person. It’s that the exploration should meet both partners needs OR, at the very least, doesn’t jangle one partner’s “Ick” reflex. When that happens, the other partner needs to be willing to let that “Ick” thing fall off the table. So if you were interested in having a threesome, by all means, you should, as a couple, go for it. But you’re not.

Because the thing about sex, despite the idea that clothes can be thrown off with reckless abandon and it’s just skin, is that you are, at that time, vulnerable. You are, literally, naked. You are—especially as a woman—literally opening yourself up to someone else. You are as physically close as two people can be. If you’re not going into the bedroom joyfully (or at the very least, with open-hearted acceptance), then you shouldn’t go.

P: And actually, this is really the first thing, which makes all the other discussions sort of moot? You’re not interested. No means no. Anything else is coercion. Coercion/Persuasion to do something you don’t want to do doesn’t really fall in the partnership model, it falls in the sexual assault or maybe just harassment model.

B: Yeah, Ann, I agree. I’m more than a little alarmed by Bob’s war of attrition. Mentioning his desire to have a threesome, repeatedly, and pointing out desired partners…do you find the ground getting a little uneven beneath your feet? Does it knock you off balance a little? It should, because trying to wear you down that way is manipulative and unsettling. He’s hoping you’ll finally snap; All right! Enough already! Let’s go bang Susie from accounting!

P: For real? WORK??? He’d like you to waltz into your work place, where presumably you have a career that’s important to you, and not to him, btw or he wouldn’t be asking you to screw it up, and solicit someone for sex? Someone, who would then have all sorts of private information to hold over you. This looks like a great idea if you’re working on a program how to derail your career in a couple easy steps. There are reasons we don’t have sex at work. Almost all of them are valid.

The cards say: don't bring your co-workers into your personal kink.

The cards say: don’t bring your co-workers into your personal kink.

B: Absolutely. Repeat after me, dearest: BOUNDARIES, please! I’m concerned about Bob’s willingness to point out his desired partners from your pool of friends and co-workers. Work is not the place to look for kink playmates. That’s what Craig’s List is for. Are you supposed to view everyone in your life as a possible sex partner? Or more than that, as a sexual threat? Are you supposed to feel jealous or possessive or “maybe this is the one?” every time you’re around another attractive woman? That doesn’t lead to sexual autonomy or healthy decision-making. That’s a constant stressor, and will find its way out in overreactions, or a poor work environment. Stress will out. If you did agree to a threesome, insist that he stop pointing out which members of your social circle he’d like to sleep with and engage in finding third partner as a couple, and insist that it’s someone who’s independent from the rest of your lives.

P: Yes, it was early to move in, and that’s a problem because you need to know someone a while to know whether or not he’s going to start lobbying for you to do something you really don’t want to do “for him.” Because what’s going to happen when you say no, I’m not interested?

What will happen when you say, no, in fact, I’m not interested in a man who puts his fantasy above his real relationship?

B: I’m not sure if you’re actually engaged, or if you’re projecting into your future engagement. Regardless, you speak as though you’re looking at a lifetime together. Here’s the thing: if you’re going to function within the parameters of a committed relationship, then you need to behave as though you’re in a committed relationship. That means respectfully attending to your partner’s feelings, and reaching a mutual consensus. That does not mean filling your own desires by the grinding emotional erosion of attrition. Bob says a post-marriage threesome would be “weird”. But you’re committed to one another right now, right? This is supposed to be the testing ground before marriage. This isn’t supposed to be, “You are my one and only, baby and I know a threesome isn’t your thing, but…what about her?” Question that “but”. What if “but” never happens? Will there be resentment? Will there be cheating? Will there be more coercion, even if it’s “weird”? You need to find out just how important this is to Bob. Or, on the flip side, if you do agree to a threesome, you need to ask yourself if you’ll feel OK, or resentful, or betrayed. Depending on your perspective, a threesome can be an opportunity for you both to explore a sexual avenue, safely, together. Or, you can feel like you agreed to let your boyfriend sleep with someone else while you had to watch. (Would he be OK with if your threesome was with another man?) Or, since you already said you don’t think you would feel OK if he went forward with a threesome without you, you can feel like you undermined your own set of principles by letting him do what he wanted.

P: Oh, and this… those people who are really anxious to be part of a threesome, it does double their sexcapades and partners. I’d be wanting some good info on a person I was going to do a bunch a things to that I didn’t want to do… cause probably boyfriend wants to watch… because there’s nothing hotter than two chicks who so aren’t into each other pretending to get off for a guy…

What if he likes it and wants to do it again? Do you say no then? ‘cause now you’ve done something you had no interest in doing with someone you work with who now knows everything about you and you have to leave your apartment AND your job.

B: You know, I see people all the time, at the bar, drowning out the aftermath of bad decision-making. Ask yourself how your relationship with Bob is, overall. Yes, you said you’re both good with chores and responsibilities and have a good sex life, and those are all important, but does he make you feel respected? Cherished? Secure? Free to be who you are? And the same goes for him. Perhaps he’s just a different person with a different set of values. The question is whether or not you can make your values mesh. If the answer to that is no, I’d recommend taking some time to strongly consider whether or not he’s the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. It can be hard to extract yourself from a relationship, and we often put up with more than we want because the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And it’s hard to accept that you can love someone but not be able to make things “work”. Adding one more person into your bed won’t ease this sort of contemplation.

P: Feeling beleaguered or harried or resentful or compromised or unfulfilled is no way to start a life together. This question bothers you enough to write in about it. Is this, potentially, a deal-breaker? If it is, then let it be your dealbreaker, and make peace with it. It’s your body, and it should be your decision how to use it.

B: If you feel that engaging in your boyfriend’s bucket list threesome would empower you in some way, then go for it. But if you feel like this would be damaging or compromising, then stand behind your beliefs. If he can’t accept your sexual boundaries as part of the marriage package, then maybe it’s time to take a different path.

Sex Rx?

Sex Rx?

Thanks to Deb Slade for Phabulous Photos!

Thanks to Dale and the good people of the Lewisburg Hotel for the swanky location!

For more information about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here.

If you have a question for us, please email us at bartender priestess @ gmail. com; human non-Spambots, please remove the spaces.

Bluebirds In My Back Yard

Bluebirds, indeed. Plus maybe another guest birdie or two.

Yesterday, I looked out my window into my back yard while I was on the phone with my mother, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We usually have a lot of birds in the yard; cardinals seem to love it here, as do the usual assortment of blue jays and grackles and mourning doves. But yesterday…it was like someone was throwing a bird party and they all showed up.

(WHERE THE HELL DO I LIVE AND WHO AM I SPENDING MY TIME BIRD WATCHING??? God damn it, I’m from the suburban sprawl that is New Jersey. The only wildlife I spent time watching was the raccoons getting into the garbage. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? And I digress.)

The red-tailed hawk that lives in our ‘hood was circling overhead. And my yard was filled with the chatter and flit of birds going about their very important bird business. A goldfinch or two joined the party, and I thought I saw the bright orange burst of an oriole fly by. It was like someone unleashed a box of flying crayons in my yard.

But the bluebirds. The Eastern bluebirds! Two mated pairs, in my yard. Hanging out on the telephone wires. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch a good photo of all four of them together, but you know…so what?

You look great in blue. Did I ever tell you that?

You look great in blue. Did I ever tell you that?

DIG MY PLUMAGE!

DIG MY PLUMAGE!

A juvenile song sparrow* stopped by to have a look around.

june 9 15 (15)-001

Hey, I know I’m not blue or anything, but I still deserve love.

And he kind of looks a little huffy. Well, hello, Mr. Crankypants.

*At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what this li’l fella is. If anyone knows differently, please do, tell.

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WHAT.

Meanwhile, the bluebirds were busy checking out the new fence posts, built to keep in the sheep (SHEEP? OH MY GODDDDDDD WHERE THE HELL DO I LIVE?) our neighbors are getting.

june 9 15 (11)-001

Oh, yeah, it’s quite nice, innit? You’re getting sheep, you say? Right here?

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And now, for a moment of interpretive dance. I call this “The Stillness”. Thank you.

Meanwhile, a northern flicker attempted to be aloof and mysterious in the branches of the neighbor’s evergreen tree.

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I said no photos. Damn paparazzi.

But at the end of the day, the bluebirds were the stars of the back yard show.

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Derp.

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You talkin’ ta me?

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ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR.

Thanks for dropping by, birds! See you again soon!

Advice: Weighing In On Love

Dear Bartender & Priestess,

I’m a 20-something woman with a lot of interests. I hike, I’ve got some art projects going on, and I’m happy in my chosen career. When I look at myself on paper, I know I look good. So why do I believe that no man will love me unless I lose weight? I don’t date. I won’t even flirt until those twenty annoying pounds come off. Again, when I look at this on paper I know I’m way off base, completely illogical. But it’s how I feel and I can’t shake it. What can I do to get past this?

~~~The Bartender and The Priestess respond~~~

B: Oh, man. A body image issue. These things are tough.

I’m sure you’ve heard—or even made unto yourself—all the conventional arguments. But it’s only 20 pounds! You have so much to offer anyway! Honey, you don’t want to be with someone who only loves you for your body; beauty fades, look for the relationship that will remain! But you have such a pretty face!

Right? Am I right? I know I’m right, here. Because you’re not the first person to have body image issues. Please don’t misinterpret that as “We all struggle with this, get over it,” because it’s not what I mean. Rather my point is, you are not alone. I fight with myself over this every day, especially when it’s time to stare down the contents of my closet.

Every day, we are subjected to hundreds…perhaps thousands…of images of idealized womanhood. Emotional merit is given to those who achieve an idealized look, while those who do not look the part of the feminine ideal are left open to ridicule. We use weighted language (ha ha, no pun intended but maybe kind of a little) to describe our relationships with our…well, it’s really with our fat storage, isn’t it? We’re bad when we take the ice cream, because it will make our bellies grow. We’ve all heard that woman, the one with a beatified smile on her face, say, “Oh, no. I’ll pass on the cake, thanks. I’m being good today.”

Repeat after me: there is no moral virtue or downfall in cake. It’s just cake. (P: Cake? Cake is wonderful! Cake is so Cakey!) There is no good or bad in your weight. It’s just weight. And all this is an elaborate way of saying, we have, for the most part, allowed ourselves to be manipulated into thinking that there’s only one correct way of looking. That way is, of course, lean and strong (but you’re a woman, so not too strong) and fastidious in your eating (but not too fastidious, because sometimes a guy just wants to have a burger with his best girl) and curvy (but only in Barbie proportions, so invest in boob and butt implant surgery, will you?) There are as many right ways to be a woman as there are women on the planet. And, physical perfection is no guarantee of life-long happiness. Even Halle Berry has been cheated on.

By asking for help in getting past something, I’m presuming you mean that you want to climb over your self-imposed, 20-pound wall, because you hate the body standards American women are asked to adhere to, and resent that they’re something by which you feel that you must abide. I noticed that your question doesn’t include a statement like, “I’ve started a healthy eating program that should allow me to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week, so I should achieve my target weight in about three months, give or take a week or two. What’s a good way to re-enter the singles scene at that time?” (Hint: bring body armor and Purell.) This tells me you’d like to focus on liking yourself more and shedding the notion that whether or not you’re lovable is tied to your dress size.

First thing: you need to realize that this 20-pound quantifier comes only, strictly, from you. There’s no weigh-in committee that only allows people with the “correct” height-to-weight ratio to date. So the obstacle in question, really, isn’t the weight.

P: Whoa, ok, Terri! But she’s right — let’s acknowledge that so many of us have felt this way at the same time we acknowledge that it’s codswallop. Neither Terri nor I are immune from this particular lie — but it’s a lie. And when it stops us from having a life that we want (and I don’t see anything in your post about actually getting the weight off…), then we either don’t want the life or we aren’t willing to do the one thing we think will make us worthy of the life we want (this is the codswallop part), then we’re wasting our lives. And what if you get the right guy, and then the weight sneaks back? Divorce? That doesn’t show a lot of trust in the partner. And do you think losing the weight means you will suddenly be secure in yourself? Nothing external really works… It’s like varnish. It wears off.

B: You need to dig in deep here and ask yourself, why do you think you’re unlovable? What planted that notion in your head? Was it a parent with body image issues? Did your mom cry when she looked in the mirror? Did your dad shake his head and mutter, “If only she could lose the baby fat…”. Did your high school dream boy react in horror when he found out you liked him? Do you have frenemies who tell you, “Yeah, you could be really cute. It’s too bad about your butt.” Is it thanks to the onslaught of women’s magazines and TV shows and advertisements and gossip and movie roles reinforcing body stereotypes? Because here’s the thing: none of that? Is actually real. They’re images manufactured on Madison Avenue, airbrushed and polished to a glossy shine. They’re your mother’s baggage, your friends’ insecurities, a boy caught in his own adolescent morass of what’s “right”. They’re words and ideas, that’s all. But these influences become a voice, the legion that speaks into the loop playing over and over in your head, telling you that you’ve got a problem.

P: At some level, it comes down to loving who we are and joyfully accepting that a partner will love us for all our fabulousness. You don’t want to offer yourself to a potentially fun partner with a damaged goods sign around your neck. Because if you think that, you’ll certainly be able to convince your partner that it’s true. And then you can prove to yourself that your fears were valid, as he runs screaming not from your avoir du poids but from your sense of being less than… but those fears? Groundless.

B: So drown that voice. Surround yourself with positive things, with positive people. If you have that friend who doesn’t make you feel quite-that-good about yourself, cut him or her off. If it’s someone you can’t readily cut off (like a relative), then throw the brakes on conversations you don’t like. Say, “Hey, family member, I appreciate your interest in me, but I’d rather talk about something other than my non-existent weight problem. Are you streaming anything good on Netflix right now?” Do things that make you feel good. Try a new means of expression in an art project. Learn to knit, or learn how to change the oil in your car. Stop reading books you don’t enjoy (you don’t have to finish them!). Join a gym. Not necessarily to embark on a weight loss plan (unless you want to), but to reconnect with your body. Recognize that you are strong, or graceful, or limber, or can run like the wind, or love to dance. Full disclosure: I also teach Zumba. I’ve seen a lot of people walk through the doors of my gym who are at odds with their bodies; not over their weight, mind you. A lot of people don’t “get” how the whole system goes together, they don’t know how to move in their own skin. Get to know yourself. And be kind to yourself. Affirmations can work. Remind yourself of your self-worth, all the time.

P: There may be reasons that my beloved and Terri’s beloved decide they don’t love us any more. Goodness knows we’re complicated enough, there could be a long list of good reasons that they saddle up and ride out — but in fact, both those very smart men love us for all our complexities and do the best to buoy us up in our insecurities. And they know what they’d miss if they left. It’s not about the weight.

That said, our weight is about our health. Are you healthy? Because if not? That’s a problem you don’t want to give your bf. And getting healthy in a gym? Great place to meet a guy.

Are you happy? Because a happy woman is her own best advertisement. Are you doing things you love to do and are going to have to let any guy who comes into your life know that he’s just going to be one of the wonderful things that make your life great.

Do you really want to meet someone? Or are you content obsessing about your weight? If you want the guy, there’s a therapist that would like to help you with your weight and health issues. But here, let’s let Terri take this one out… she’s all over this one.

B: Smash the assumption that you’re not lovable by taking stock of the people around you who do love you. Don’t dismiss the love that’s in your life because it’s not coming from a desired, imaginary person, and being directed toward a thinner, imaginary you. Magazines and TV and cultural memes are the projected products of other peoples’ inner lives, but they’re not real, and they’re not your life. Be present in your own life. That’s how you throw away twenty pounds worth of imaginary obstacle.

P: Leaving me no option to do anything but sit in the amen corner and holler, “Yes!”

Do it.

Do it.

Check out the original post here!

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The ’80s Pin Project: The Thompson Twins

For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.

In a weird way, for me, The Thompson Twins define what made the 1980s music scene so…outlandishly 1980s. They wrote synth-fueled, harmony-laden poppy new wave, and… They wore zany clothes! They had absolutely frigging enormous hair! They lacked eyebrows! (Well, two of them did.)

Yes, really. Eyebrows. The Thompson Twins were a trio (of course: ZANY!) of unrelated folks (two of whom eventually married) (and are now divorced) who, at one point, were painfully poor. They wanted to do *something* unexpected with their eyes, to make the band more of a visual standout, but colored contacts cost money. Shaving, however, was (practically) free, et voila! Two of the three non-family twins engaged in regular eyebrow maintenance, and the look* for a band was born.

Kooky bunch of eyebrow shavers.

Kooky bunch of eyebrow shavers.

*as long as you add giant duck-billed hats, yards of baggy satin jackets and a treasure chest’s worth of ersatz pearls to that look.

I totally loved the album Into The Gap. I still have it, it still makes its way onto my turntable every now and again. It had their biggest hits on it, most notably the song “Doctor! Doctor!”. Don’t worry. I’ll include the video for that song, soon enough, but first! We discuss the Twins.

Also, please note: I know they released other albums besides Into The Gap. But I didn’t really care about those albums, except for a select song or two. Sorry, The Thompson Twins. It’s not personal.

Everybody I knew liked The Thompson Twins (or at least, grudgingly admitted they did not hate said Twins and if you knew my friends you’d realize that NEVER happens), and owned their very own copy of Into The Gap. It was a ginormous seller. Sold a bajillion copies world-wide. Generated a Thompson Twins world tour. Heavy video rotation on MTV! Caused young men to take an inordinate interest in long, skinny rat tails! And created a side business of swanky shwag, like the very pin I have pictured above. It was GREAT! In 1984-85 The Thompson Twins were riding high and yet….

And yet, they never got away from their supremely ’80s sound, which stopped being interesting by the end of the ’80s, and the group disbanded in 1993. I still have Into The Gap on vinyl, but I could never quite make the move to get it on CD, or leapfrog over physical media and get a digital copy. I could do that, I suppose (she said, with an unconvincing attempt at enthusiasm in her voice).

But the thing is, they are SO completely 1980s, it feels almost anachronistic of me to play them in any other media, which doesn’t necessarily happen for every artist in my collection. I have no problem with Katrina and the Waves in my iPod. How else am I supposed to bop around to my own private music collection that feeds right into my earbuds? But for the Twins…I don’t know. Digitizing their music feels wrong, somehow.

Maybe if I had a cassette I could play on a Sony Walkman…maybe that would feel more authentic to me. Right on, Thompson Twins! Right? Kind of? Know what I mean? Sort of? Hang on a minute, while I switch my cassingle and adjust my awkwardly-sized, generally inconvenient and kind of sweaty mini-headphones.

Truth: This is the exact model of Walkman that I used to own.

Truth: This is the exact model of Walkman that I used to own. Image from outsidethebeltway.com

Hahahahahaha! I said “cassingle”. Moving on.

I love The Thompson Twins, but they are my 1980s music equivalent of Han Solo frozen in a block of carbonite. Kind of grandiose and almost mythical, but ultimately, stuck pretty tight in one spot.

Nope. Not going anywhere. Image from jeditemplearchives.com

Nope. Not going anywhere.
Image from jeditemplearchives.com

Nothing about them progressed. Nothing about them moved forward. Putting a Thompson Twins album on to play is a great way to get an aural photograph of the ’80s scene. But it wouldn’t work in a Zumba class. Kudos to the Twins for not slipping into the nostalgia trap and trotting their old chestnuts out for a reunion tour. Stay in the carbonite, beloved Twins, where we can worship you at a distance and bedazzle your music in the glossy, soft-focus sheen of memory.

Here’s the video for “Doctor! Doctor!” which–quite sensibly–embodies everything that was happening in the 1980s video era. Big hair, moody lighting, superimposed giant piano-playing hands, harlequin masks, raggedy clothing, purple gloves, expansive hand gestures, inexplicable shots of fringe-drenched figure skaters…I never could make heads or tails of it and yet…

And yet, this video is frigging awesome.

Advice: What’s a Party Without Booze?

The Question: Recently, I decided to host an afternoon open house for my whole family; siblings, spouses, nieces, nephews. Open the door at noon, say final goodbyes by 4, eat something from the buffet table. No one was leaving my house hungry, I can promise you that. This is something I almost never do, maybe once every four or five years. We don’t see each other often, not as a large group, anyway. There are issues among us, and one of them is alcohol.

It plagues my family, deep.

Three of my six siblings have had a long-time struggle with alcohol addiction; one of them died from it just two years ago (she was only 59) and the other two are in recovery, after a pair of DUIs each. Alcohol addiction has passed down generationally in my family, too; several of my nieces and nephews now face the same struggle, though their problems have not crossed legal boundaries. Yet. In light of all of this, I opted not to serve alcohol at my brunch. I never said the attendees couldn’t bring their own (and one nephew brought beer for himself), but I wasn’t going to provide any, and I asked my husband of 22 years, who has watched all of this happen in my family, to not drink that day, either. And this caused a fight between me and my husband.

No, it's your fault, you big palooka.

No, it’s your fault, you big palooka.

 

My husband thought it was “unfair” to deny cocktails to the other guests at the open house. He likes to enjoy a glass of wine, particularly when my family is around. He thought it was unreasonable of me to level demands on the rest of the attendees because only two of them couldn’t drink. And he feels that since my brothers—the ones in recovery—will have to learn how to be around alcohol, I was coddling them with my decision. What do you think? Was I being unfair to my other guests with my decision?

The Bartender and the Priestess Respond:

Priestess: Wow! Barkeep? I’ll have two aspirin along with the club soda! ! There’s a lot going on here, and none of it easy. Let’s start with the simple: Hospitality. Here’s what Google has to say about that: “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” This is not to be confused with the hospitality industry, which means supplying what people want for a price. So, no, providing a warm welcome and good food at your house is a lovely bit of hospitality. You don’t owe anyone alcohol. I disagree with the original notion that you’re denying anyone anything by inviting them to your house for a party, even if alcohol is not served. So that’s the easiest part of the question dealt with. And staying simple, doesn’t anyone know how to use google to figure out some great drinks that are non-alcoholic? You’re not the only people in this boat, you know. Terri, how are you calling this…

 

Bartender: I feel like I should be all, “Step aside, people. I’m a professional, let me handle this.” But this is a situation that’s painfully fraught. Annie, my dear, I can’t do this without you.

First, let me make this ABUNDANTLY clear: if a person—any person—wants to host an event and not serve alcohol, that’s perfectly fine. Much like they can choose not to serve shrimp salad, or quiche. It’s just a thing, it doesn’t define an event. At least, it shouldn’t. I know that as far as parties and hosting go, it’s generally what’s socially expected. It’s also expected that people control themselves around it, which the letter writer’s family has proven they cannot do. But even without the tragic family history, it’s OK to not serve alcohol.

And clearly, the letter writer did not “deny” people their right to drink. She didn’t take away the six pack her nephew brought. She just chose not to provide it. Her house, her family, her right. I am completely in support of her decision to host her own family at her house as she sees most fit.

 

Priestess: The question of whether you and your husband can have a party without alcohol seems to be in play. Is the husband willing to talk about his need to lubricate the party? Especially, if it’s a party that happens very infrequently. And what you needed, it seems to me is support in a very hard circumstance. As a person who spends a lot of time doing ritual and celebration with people, if there’s anything that interferes with people’s ability to be present it’s alcohol. It sounds like you not only needed to control the event (the ever so infrequent event), so that people weren’t tempted, so that they behaved well, you also needed to be backed up here. You have a brother who died from alcohol related issues. That’s huge. And even if you’re skittish and a bit rigid about it (and I’m not saying you are)? So what? You’re his wife, who needed him.

 

Bartender: Did we answer what the letter writer thought was the actual question? Because what I really want to talk about is this husband. I’m kind of worried about him. I think he might have alcohol issues of his own.

I keep circling back around to the words “unfair” and “deny”. Unfair and deny. Alcohol. It’s unfair to deny me booze. When someone reaches that point at the bar, that’s when I cut them off. “It’s not fair because I want it” tells me that person has crossed the line from reasonable adult control to childish, id-based petulance. It’s taken on emotional precedence in the user’s mind. I feel like hubs is putting way too much emotional weight on the presence of booze. And, conversely, he’s not putting enough emotional weight on the struggles his wife and her family face. How many of her relatives have to die young before he accepts that, for them, alcohol isn’t all fun and games? There’s an unsettling lack of compassion here, for her, from him. Wasn’t he there when she buried her one sibling? Didn’t he see that affect her? Doesn’t the husband get that her decision actually has nothing to do with him and everything to do with his wife’s pain?

 

Priestess: What I don’t see in your husband’s conversation is the “honey, how is this for you? How can I help?” If this is a normal part of your pattern, then you may want to look at changing it? But since you’re both commenting on things it sounds like you work fairly easily together. Does he know how you feel beneath all the rational stuff about your family’s drinking problems? Do you know how you feel? What kind of counseling have you done about this? It’s hard as hell if you’re the sober one in a family full of people who are consumed by alcohol. And sober or no, alcohol affects everyone in the family.

 

Bartender: Of course, if the wife’s brothers are now in recovery, that’s where they will be for the rest of their lives and it can’t be expected that they’ll be sheltered from booze forever. They’re going to have to learn how to function around that, and in this one respect the husband is correct. However. Two years isn’t that long of a time in terms of getting past the untimely death of a loved one — from the very thing you want to serve at your party.

And, family holds a special place for people. I don’t mean that in terms of familial love. I mean, they’re really good at setting off emotional triggers. How many times have any of us been at a booze-soaked family event and thought, “You know…this is why I drink.” How many times have TV shows or movies used the sight-gag where a person is at a family event and swallows an entire glass of scotch in order to deal? A lot of the coping behavior we exercise in adulthood, we start learning in childhood, thanks to the interactions with our families. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the letter writer to not endorse the sort of behavior that’s been demonstrably harmful to her family. Again: she is not Carrie Nation, breaking kegs of beer in the street so nobody can have any. She’s just not providing the thing that she feels is an emotional and physical detriment.

I mean, if one sibling had died of lung cancer and the other two were in chemo, would the husband insist everyone smoke inside because he wants it that way? Or would you be putting out large bowls of cigarettes and inviting people to take a few?

Is he willing to help or only willing to complain?

 

Priestess: You don’t ever say how the party went… Was it a good time? And if it was a good time, does that give you both some leeway to have more of the same? And before you do that are you willing to do just the wee-ist bit of work to figure out where you stand in this family of self destructive people — with a husband who is no where near as supportive as you need in these very painful moments. And if he’s unable to be supportive because of his own alcohol issues, don’t you want to know that the issue isn’t the party, but, once again, alcohol. And if that’s the case what do you need to do?

And to answer the question, can a party be a party without booze?? Betcha by golly, yeah.

Here. It's good for what ails ya.

Here. It’s good for what ails ya.

Got a question? Drop us a line at bartender priestess @ gmail .com (human non spam-bots, please remove spaces) and you may see it answered here on this very page!

Many thanks to Deb Slade for her Phantastic Photo, of the gracious and lovely models Marjorie and George.

And thanks to the good people of the Lewisburg Hotel for allowing us to shoot photos there.

See the original post at Sacred Village!

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