Advice: Heart Problems Galore

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a 22-year-old man and recently got dumped. Again. And this last one really hurt.

We were together for about a month, and I really liked this girl, “Sally”. One night, we got involved in a long conversation about family, and family history, and the kind of baggage we have. One of the things she told me about (along with her parents’ divorce and an estrangement with another sister) was she had a brother who was born with a congenital heart disease. I thought, FINALLY! Someone who might understand me. You see, I too was born with heart disease. I got all excited when I told her about my condition. I thought she would get it.

Instead, she bolted. First, she was slow to respond to texts and calls. Then she stopped replying altogether. When I went to her house to ask her what was wrong all she said was, “I am sorry, “Bob”, I just can’t do this.”

It’s really painful. I know my life isn’t going to be terribly long, but does that mean I am supposed to be alone for it? Sally should know that as much as her brother deserved to be loved, I do too. How can I help a girl get past my heart problem and see the real me?

–Heart Problems Galore

B: Oh, my dear young man. You have my compassion and my good will. You were born with a very tough row to hoe, and I admire and respect your desire to push it aside in the pursuit of a normal life for as long as it’s available to you.

But you need to understand that your conditions bring a special set of complications into any new relationship you want to start. Of course you deserve to be loved; we all do. But you need to find someone who’s willing to love extraordinarily.

The girl you talk about, “Sally”, has already been through an unenviable degree of pain in her life, and if you and she are contemporaries then she’s only 22. You said her parents have divorced, and she’s got an estrangement with her sister. You also talk about her brother—the one who shares your congenital heart problem—in the past tense. He had a heart problem, he deserved to be loved. Has he already passed away? That’s a whole lot of anguish for one young woman to handle in only 22 years. You’re asking for her compassion but not giving her any in return. She may be wounded, and wounded so deeply she can’t dig down any deeper to give you the sort of love you were hoping for from her.

P: Oh, I’m so sorry. As if your damaged heart was not enough, now you have a broken one. Whatever your heart’s condition, you, like all of us, are looking both to love and be loved.

Understanding what may be true about Sally isn’t going to make your heart hurt any less, but her reality seems as complicated as yours. We don’t know why her parents split up, but statistics tell us that it’s often about the death of a child. It seems that everyone in her family ran to different corners. She already feels alone. So your condition may well represent a loss of everything rather than the possibility of something beautiful and precious.

While it seems that the potential to understand your life may be there, it doesn’t seem like she’s made that leap. She may never make it. She may always choose safety. You may be a wonderful choice, and the fact is that none of us know how long we have, but you are not a choice she can make.

In life, in work, and in love, people are only capable of that of which they’re capable.

B: You need to understand that it’s not about you, even though it affects you profoundly. It’s about her, and her capacity to keep opening her heart. And it’s not that she’s wrong to draw in and protect herself. She may have reached her pain limit, and that needs to be respected, in everybody, at all times.

The unfortunate thing about relationships is you can’t make the object of your desire, desire you back. That’s the part that hurts.

You have a difficult task. When we start relationships that we think have staying power, we tend to project our cozy newfound couplehood into a gauzy ideal; we picture what our children would look like, we imagine long nights under the covers, we see Thanksgivings fifty years from now, with gaggles of squirrely, laughing grandkids around the table. What we don’t project into is widowhood at 40. We don’t imagine starting over. We don’t start relationships thinking, “What’s my next move when this relationship comes to an end?” And, unless you experience a medical revolution regarding your heart problems, that’s exactly what you’re asking your new love to ask herself. What will she do when you leave?

That’s a tough starting point.

P: There are so many myths out there about love, and most of them are fairytales. We choose to love people. And as painful as it is, we can, and sometimes must choose to unlove them. Because her choices, given her baggage, as you call it, are for safety. You’re not a safe choice, partially because your heart is damaged and partially because you’re willing to grab what life has to offer. That scares the hell out of a lot of people, and good for you!

B: You are digging into your life with both hands. You are not letting your condition best you, and you’re blazing forward with the intent to love, and do so wholly, for as long as you are able. It’s admirable, and it’s brave, and it’s intense, and it’s incredibly healthy. You just need to find someone willing to make that plunge with you, knowing the likely downside and deciding to go for it anyway.

But you can do it. The thing is, if you want to have an extraordinary love, you need to be extraordinary. And by default you are asking your intended to step outside the parameters of a “normal” relationship.

You’re allowed to be disappointed by the outcome of your attempted relationship with Sally, because you thought you had an “in”. But, as we all have to discover as we navigate every relationship we’re in, we can’t let other people’s baggage define us.

So no, Sally wasn’t capable of having a relationship with you.

P: As Terri says, you get to be extraordinary. Why not let your heart condition be part of what makes you that way? Not in a negative fashion, but in an aggressive, “one of the side effects of my congenital heart disease is that I live passionately and love deeply” kinda way.

Are you an activist for your disease? I know it’s not everyone’s dream to become an activist, but there’s something so exciting about bold people who tell you what their limitations are and then wow you with their strengths. If your heart problems are just another (out front) piece of you, then the people who come into your life come in knowing some of your weaknesses, they’re going to run away long before you fall in love…

Being part of a group these days almost always means you get a tee shirt. Get a bunch. Wear them! Go to conferences and meet ups, get to know other people who are living with your disease. Educate people. And do things you want to do. You know that the likelihood of a shortened life is your reality; what are you doing to ensure that the time you have is fascinating?

You deserve a fabulous life. (we all do) You got dealt a crummy card. (many people do). But that card isn’t all of who you are, by a long shot. Discover your passions, love yourself wildly and watch people line up — if you have time given that you’re busy having a good time.

And figuring out what groups to belong to will give you a chance to meet new people while your heart is healing. Because you cared a lot about Sally and you had high hopes. That leaves you with a very tender heart. The tenderness will heal. I think we can promise you that. (Because pssst: Both the Bartender and the Priestess have had their hearts bruised on more than one occasion. But bruises heal; yours will too.)

broken heart napkin

Pomegranate juice. For heart health.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

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Advice: Non-Wedding Bell Blues

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I was supposed to be getting married in less than a month. Instead, my ex-fiance and I have called it off and completely broken up. Now, I feel like I’m left to my own devices. I am overwhelmed by my sense of loss and pain, and am already seeing a therapist to process everything. I am heart-sick, and can’t even put everything to the side because I have to de-plan everything we’d planned. I never knew I could feel this exhausted.

But still. I am left wondering…just what in the heck am I supposed to do on what would have been my wedding day? I was supposed to be a bride, it was supposed to be the start of my new life. I’ve been told I should try something I’ve never done before, but I don’t really know what I would want to do. I don’t have the energy to plan anything. I understand that I am grieving and eventually this will pass, but that doesn’t change the amount of pain I’m in right now, and I stare at my calendar and the approaching non-wedding day with dread. What can I do to get through this?

–Signed, Never A Bride

P: I’m so sorry. What a painful, horrible thing. Your poor heart. Of course you’re grieving. No matter the reasons for the break-up, this was someone you’d planned to spend your life with and you had dreams together. Those dreams are now shattered. It may be that grieving is exactly what you need to do. And if you don’t feel up to planning something fabulously memorable, wait until you’re healed.

B: I know roughly where you’re coming from. I remember hating the calendar after my ex- and I split, wondering what on Earth I was going to do when our now-pointless anniversary date rolled around. I spent twelve years celebrating that date. And…now what? I remember the weight settling in my chest, the short, panicked breathing when I thought about what to do. It’s not fun. Yes indeed, your poor heart.

P: If doing something is something you want, where are your bridesmaids? They’re the women you wanted to stand by you in your happiness, are they ready to stand with you in your grief? If you want something fun, will they help? If you want to go out and build houses for habitat for humanity, will they go? Will they go out on a canoe trip? Or a museum weekend? If you want people to mourn with you, will they dress in black and come to the funeral? (more about this later.)

And are they willing to help you unplan? Have you asked them? Because they surely don’t know what to do to help.

B: Help. Yes. Ask for it. I’m a big fan of calling in your tribe. Like Ann said, talk to your bridesmaids. Your family. Recruit them, because you shouldn’t have to do everything alone. Most of the time, friends want to be there but don’t know how. They don’t want to intrude, or seem like they know best. So tell them what will work for you. You asked a community of people to stand with you and support you at your wedding. You should, hopefully, be able to call on those same people to support you during these more difficult times. We form social units for a reason, so circle the wagons around you. There is hardly more reason to call for support than when one undergoes heartbreak like this.

P: Just as a starter thought, and I’m sure your therapist has already brought this up, but what ever you do, stay away from the alcohol. Your body is already processing this shock to your heart. Alcohol often lowers your inhibitions so now you’re a hot drunken mess (usually in public, eek). And you don’t want to wind up having a fling or a rebound relationship with someone that you entered via alcohol.

Lots of us have done this. And you don’t need anything else to extricate yourself from!

B: Believe me: these are the customers that bartenders dread. Don’t be the drunk weepy girl at the bar. You may come in to my place but once; those stories live on forever.

That better be a Shirley Temple in that glass, young lady.

That better be a Shirley Temple in that glass, young lady.

P: The ritualist in me has two thoughts here. One is something private that might help. I had a lover “ghost” me, just disappear from my life a long while back. It was dreadful. Someone taught me this ritual and it worked really well. It worked particularly well because I did it in another state… It’s a ritual of release. It takes a week, so you may want to start beforehand and release on the day of.

You need Paper, Pen, matches, salt.

Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper ¾ of the way down. Then draw a line at the bottom of your line. Under that line write: I release this relationship and my sadness in the unrealized dreams. (or whatever mission for this ritual makes sense to you.)

Then to the left of the line, right all the things you’d hoped for, all the things you’d liked about your relationship and this partner.

On the right, jot down every big problem and every petty annoyance that you had in the relationship and with the partner. Hated her hair? Write it down. Chewed with his mouth open. On the list. Wasn’t trustworthy? Write that. Write until you’re done. Take a couple days.

Then make a small circle of salt on some land or in a parking lot, or, or, or… I left my boyfriend by a fishing pond in Colorado. He liked to fish, I hated it, and I was never going back there.

Read your mission statement aloud. Read the good qualities. Put that aside. Then read the bad qualities aloud, adding anything else that occurs to you. Then set the list on fire and place it inside the circle. When it’s burnt, add some more salt to the ashes. I had to go back to that circle a couple days to add a few more “and another things.”

Then every day for the rest of the week, read your mission and the good things list. Because there were good things. You didn’t just make bad choices. At the end of the week, read your mission; read your list.  Then say I am done with this relationship and I release it to the world. Burn it and the mission, not inside the circle, and scatter the ashes. Walk away.

I was greatly relieved by the time I was done. Honestly, I did pieces of it again, because I was heartbroken. And I always felt as if I were taking a step in the direction of my own well-being and self-esteem.

B: You’re such a priestess. But I think you’ve hit what’s most important for the letter writer right now, which is rebuilding her self-esteem. We tend to define ourselves and our well-being by our significant others, which creates such problems in the aftermath of an ended relationship. We have to understand who we are, anew, without this other person beside us. The important thing is that you do reconnect with yourself. Figure out who you are and what you stand for. Figure out what you really like. You’re in therapy, and I’m sure there’s a lot of discussion with your therapist regarding your former relationship and its demise. But you are still here, with or without the fiancé, and you need to merit your attention too.

I say you should do what you want to do, on your not-wedding day. I don’t mean that you need to do something new and wild—you don’t need to hang glide, or travel to Tahiti, or spend the day building a better mousetrap. But you should spend the day honoring who you are. IF (and only if) that means spending the day alone, in your pajamas, watching Steel Magnolias and eating ice cream, then do so.

P: Seriously. You don’t have to overlook the possibility of a stack of sad love stories or movies and a huge box of tissues. You’ll need popcorn and chocolate. Your jammies. Eat bad things. Go to bed and cry yourself to sleep. Get up and remember, you may have sad memories, but no date is ever going to be that bad again.

B: The catch, though, to a day in bed with movies and tissues: you need to be moving toward something. You’re not allowed to dig out the foundations of a new rut to wallow in. Be in the moment as you cry and pound your fists and honor your pain. And then release it. Emotional pain should not be your closest companion. Honor and acknowledge it, because if you don’t, pain has a sneaky way of hanging around. Oddly, I’ve found that once I’ve said, yes, I hurt, yes, this sucks, yes, I deserve the cry of my life, yes, I feel miserable and all I want to do is shake my fist at the sky, the pain becomes less antagonistic. People often try to get their loved ones to turn away from the pain, because they don’t want to see them hurting. I say, embrace it, because you are human and your pain is real. What you’re going through sucks. Unfortunately, to get to the other side of something, you need to be in it, you can’t get through it from the outside. How’s that quote go? When you’re going through hell…just keep going.

P: And if you’re really feeling awful and want closure…

B: I hate the word “closure”. I think it’s overrated. Can’t she commemorate and move on?

P: Yes, sure. Whatever. Gather your friends, ask them to dress in black, and have a funeral for your relationship. There are three things you’ll want to pay attention to: Talk honestly about why this relationship ended, what killed it. Talk about the things you loved about it and the things that weren’t so great. And then talk about what kind of life you will now have, incorporating the wisdom you’ve gained or will have gained at some point when your heart stops hearting. Don’t hesitate to burn a picture and scatter the ashes. Or cut the ex out of a picture and burn that half.

B: It’s funny how burning pictures can help. Just be careful, of course. No errant flames, no injuries.

P: And then go out to a lovely lunch with your besties spending some of the money you get back from all your deposits, etc. Charge the cost of that to whatever (if any) money you’re splitting with your ex. Should she/he complain, point out that you’re doing the settling up of accounts and that it’s the cost of doing business.

B: My answer to my anniversary quandary was to have an anti-versary party. I gathered my friends and family around me. Like I said, I’m a big fan of circling wagons. It was a great way to remind myself, even though my life had gone so not how I had planned, I was still loved. And I know that can be difficult to remember, right now, but it’s true. You might not have the romantic love you’d envisioned, right now. But you have people who love you, and want the best for you.

P: Again. I’m so sorry for your broken heart and your dreams.

To sum up: be good to yourself.

To sum up: be good to yourself.

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos!

Thanks to the Lewisburg Hotel for location, location, location!

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

If you would like to ask us a question, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com; human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert appropriate punctuation.

Thank you for reading!

 

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.

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.

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Advice: Zamboni Lady Dispels the Worst of the Popular Myths about Love and Relationships

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyoneelse’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.

***

Welcome to a very special Valentine’s Day edition of Zamboni Lady.  We hear a lot of things in Zamboniland.  We hear a lot of funny things, we hear a lot of nonsensical things, we hear a lot of things that are charmingly mistaken.  But we also hear a lot of crap that has absolutely no basis in reality, is sneakily detrimental to our well-being, and yet serves as some kind of well of common wisdom that well-meaning but misguided folks stick their dippers in time after time.  After time.  And Valentine’s Day is coming, which means everyone’s getting weirdly and romantically torqued in ways they perhaps ought not to.  The Zamboni Lady takes seriously her role as benefactrix to all, so let me dispel some of these incredibly common, warped, potential emotional landmines that are often viewed as legitimate relationship lore.

3)  “The heart wants what it wants.”

<sigh>

When the tortured, lovelorn soul mournfully utters these words regarding the love he or she cannot live without, those nearby nod in

"You'd probably brood too, if you had to wear a neck ruffle like this." --E. Dickinson

sage agreement and slip into the darkness to think of their own hearts and loves.  Popular wisdom has this quote attributed to Emily Dickinson and if she was indeed the originator, then my heart wants to punch her right in her brooding face.  More recently used by doucheketeer Woody Allen to defend his relationship with daughter-wife Soon-Yi Previn, “The heart wants what it wants” is a misanthropic shoulder-shrugging that is designed to excuse self-absorbed sexual fixation.  We all have urges that can bear profoundly on our thoughts in a day, but they aren’t necessarily good or healthy or socially acceptable.  You down with OCD?  Yeah.  That’s what I thought.  We can’t excuse morbid obesity with, “The mouth wants what it wants.”  We can’t mindlessly drink and say, “The liver wants what it wants.”  And go ahead, just TRY and get away with saying, “The vagina wants what it wants” without having your great grandparents rise from their graves (or stop by, if they’re still alive) to beat you with with the slutty stick until you see the error of your ways.  Try it, I’ll wait.  But say “heart” and suddenly the speaker is in the middle of a romantic odyssey that defines their life but yet over which they seemingly have no control.  It’s the magic word of melodramatic justification.  Oh, to be the pawn of cruel, tempestuous Fate!   Oh, to be so deeply in the thrall of passion that you end up having unprotected sex with an in-law in the bathroom at that in-law’s wedding reception!  Oh, to have a readily available, hackneyed excuse that removes you from any and all responsibility for your own behavior!

Restraint, people.  As humans, we have the ability to make decisions about our behavior.  Free will?  You know, the concept that we can choose a course of actions from among various alternatives?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Anybody?   We’ve been evolving for thousands of years and the best you’ve got is, “I’ve got an achin’ in my heart (and a poundin’ in my pants)”?  That’s a country song, not a way of life.  So we have free will, unless the heart wants it, and then we are beholden to go out and get it/fuck it/break it up with whoever it’s involved with at the time?  Eliminate this piffle from your repertoire, and move on.

2)  “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

I should be kinder toward Ali McGraw.  She’s a Wellesley sister, after all.  And she’s dead now.  But that never stopped me before, so…ever forward.

Love Story, Erich Segal.  Rich boy meets poor girl, they fall in love, she is terminally ill, rich boy learns lessons about life and love and gets to claim the moral high ground against his curmudgeonly, snobby father, end scene.  Here is the entire movie, in about four and a half minutes:

Contained within both this book and this film is the now immortal line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”, which, of course, is a gigantic crock of shit.  Admittedly, I have a problem with anything that romanticizes the nobility of suffering, and this ancestor of Forrest Gump‘s Jenny sets the standard what it means to suffer and die within the confines of a relationship.  Segal imagined his beautitragic heroine saying the most selfless thing he could think of in the aftermath of a fight, and in doing so downplayed the importance of self-reckoning for an entire generation and impacted generations to come.  I’m not saying your partner shouldn’t be able to lovingly excuse a particular behavior.  I’m not saying it’s healthy to have to apologize for every single one of your minute transgressions.  But love requires work, and sustained, healthy love, in a chosen relationship that isn’t beholden to parental or familial bonds (because those are slightly different, though even these have their limits), means knowing exactly when to say you’re sorry, and meaning it.  “I’m sorry”, at its height of meaning, says, “I have taken the time to consider your concerns, and I have come to understand both your point of view and where I have failed it.  My ego may have taken a hit from this but I am trying not to lose the lesson.  Please forgive me.”  That’s a lot of meaning in two words–three, if you spell out the contraction.  But they are words that are important to every relationship, because nobody is above screwing up and requiring a little self-contemplation.  We start learning how to think about other people when our parents start teaching us to share.  If you think love doesn’t mean valuing your partner’s feelings and the dignity of your relationship, then do us all a favor and bow out of relationship-having until you take the time to grow up.

This sort of thinking has led directly to…

1)  “S/he is my soul mate!”

Gaaah.  Really?

OK.  I want love to be transcendent and eternal.  I want to feel like my chosen partner enriches my life just by being around.  I want to feel like something I’m a part of is bigger than the sum of its parts.  But here’s the thing: you can do that without getting cosmically goopy.

Yes, yes, yes.  I know that 2500 years ago, Plato was talking about twin souls and twin flames and searching the world for the other half of us from which we have been torn asunder.  2500 years ago, Plato and Socrates also spent a significant amount of time discussing whether or not women were woefully inferior, or just mildly inferior but deserved things like some sort of education.  2500 years later, the best we can come up with is that we’re spiritual twinsies?  I can barely stomach a couple dressed alike…

They walk alike, they talk alike...

…never mind how I feel about someone who thinks they need to find the person who matches their soul in order to feel complete.  Because that’s really what “soul mate” searching is about, isn’t it?  It’s about not resting until you can find the perfect person with whom you can develop a codependent relationship.  Here are a few questions from a common “Are You Soulmates?” quiz:

  • Do you feel in sync with one another?  Does he buy the gift you’re secretly wishing for?  Do you finish each other’s sentences?
  • Are there signs of compatibility you can’t ignore?  Did your dog or cat love him or her before you did?
  • When you talk about your childhoods, do you feel like they were uncannily alike?

And so on, and so on.  Consider this, in response:

Do you feel in sync with each other?  Does he buy the gift you secretly want, do you finish each other’s sentences? ~~ Boy, that sounds nice, huh?  Never having to work at a relationship, speak up for yourself, or learn how to communicate healthily, letting your partner know what you want, what you like, or what’s on your mind, rather than expecting them to get inside your brain and read it for themselves.  Because that’s what sane adults in healthy relationships do.  That’s what you do, right?  Yes…wha?  No?  Oh.

Did your dog or cat love him before you did? ~~  OK, I can’t even process this accurately.  I love my cat–my boyfriend’s cat, our cat–very very much, but if George told me he let Sammy guide him in his relationship decisions, I would pack up and leave under cover of darkness.  This isn’t even real.  It can’t be.  God help us.

Do you have uncannily similar childhoods?  ~~  See, here’s the thing–unless you had extraordinarily different situations, chances are pretty good you had similar childhoods.  The kid who grew up in suburban New Jersey might have a wildly different childhood than an inner city kid or an army brat, but would probably have a very similar childhood to the person who grew up contemporaneously in, say, suburban Illinois.  I might even be able to find more than one who won a spelling bee, had a pet rock, and had a dog named Rusty who got hit by a car.  The point is, as unique and snowflake-special as we like to imagine ourselves, we’re remarkably similar.  We may think differently about them in the end, but we have a lot of the same experiences.

There is no easy way to have a healthy relationship.  A relationship is messy and hard, and requires that you attend to it on a regular basis.  Looking for the easy way, by believing that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” or searching for soul mates or that you’re the victim of your own heart is not only unrealistic and unhealthy, it also results is an abundance of nacho-and-tequila-fueled tearfests.  As the Zamboni Lady, and as your friend, I beg you, do the work, be honest about what you want, communicate, and don’t take shortcuts, lest you end up with an example of a bad, bad valentine.

Bad, bad valentines.

And seriously, if anyone recognizes where this came from, I would love to link back to it.  I saved the picture last year because it cracked me up, but I didn’t save the link and am regretting it now.  Please help me credit the right person for this moment of pure Valentine genius.  Thank you.

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