Advice: Having It All vs. Having A Choice

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

Last night, I worked until after midnight, and I did so the night before, and at least two times the week before that. And so on, and so on.

I love my job. I’ve been an entertainment news producer for the last six years and I love the challenges that every day brings. But in two weeks, I am going out on maternity leave, and I’m trying to make sure I have enough of my assignments in the can to keep my name fresh and relevant to my bosses. Things move quick in this industry, and being away from it for twelve weeks means I will be gone for practically a lifetime.

Of course I know there are laws to protect me from losing my job while I am out on leave, but that doesn’t mean I will come back to the plum assignments I’ve earned. And also, of course, I hear the whispers: Will she come back? I realize that’s an option available to me, to stay home with this amazing creature my husband and I have created, but I don’t know if I’m ready to trade my briefcase for some diaper bags.

I’ve grown up believing in things like a “work-life balance” and that women can “have it all”, but I feel like I’ve put a big part of myself and everything I’ve been working toward for the last six years up for grabs to my colleagues with different obligations. I don’t understand how this is “having it all” if my professional advancement has to stall and/or get winnowed away from me. I’m even considering cutting my maternity leave short so I can get back in the saddle and on track ASAP, and my friends with children are “mommy track”, so they’ve cut back their work hours or accepted less taxing assignments at their jobs…or are “taking a few years off”…so they don’t understand my perspective at all. None of those options are acceptable to me. What should I do? How should I look at this? I can’t wait to meet my little girl, but do I have to lose other parts of my life to do it?

Signed, I Want What’s Mine

 

Dear What’s Mine,

Bartender and Priestess: Sigh. Well, we knew this was coming, sooner or later. Let’s see if we can sort out our responses.

P: It’s hard to know where to start with this. Is it the notion that everything you can conceive of can fit in a day (Time), that everything is of equal value (Priorities), that people have ever done this (History), that the physical body is capable of this (Limitations), that you are somehow deserving of having everything you’ve ever wanted (Entitlement), or that this is somehow good for the world (Civilization).

As the Priestess, I’m going to start with your priorities. Being good at either work or raising children requires tremendous discipline and sacrifice. I wish you had thought to ask these questions before you conceived. Children are not something you check off a list. Humans, especially tiny ones, are frail little creatures demanding an enormous amount of time and attention. And in the beginning they’re not only endearing — they are fretful and demanding.  When they don’t sleep, my dear, you don’t sleep. Even if you’ve hired a nanny whose job it is to get up and have those middle of the night screams and snuggles, most babies I know have a voice that rivals a fire bell. Now there’s nothing that says that you have to be the primary parent, your partner can be, but that is a delicate dance you should have worked out before, because a child is going to interrupt your busy lives and require sacrifices.

B: There’s a long-standing joke-y meme that’s been around for decades: imagine a woman, enthusiastically chirping out the message: I CAN have it all! A baby AND a career! Some version of this probably lives in some corner of your head, doesn’t it? Moreover, it sort of informs your opinion on how you should be able to manage your life, right?

I want you to stop that. Why? Because it turns your life into a list. Like Ann said, a baby isn’t something you check off when you accomplish it. Washed the windows, check. Had a baby, double-check. Do you think the best way to judge your life is by the number of tally-marks you’ve scratched on a scorecard? And no matter what structure you try and put into place, a baby will find a way around that and make things unpredictable and messy. In a conversation I had two days ago with a good friend and mom of two adorable munchkins, she said, “The thing about parenting is—and every parent I’ve spoken with has, at some point, reached this conclusion—it is NEVER what you expect it to be.”

Realign your life’s expectations. Checkity-check-check.

P: If you want a happy, healthy child who will eventually grow to become an active and contributing part of society, you’re going to have to contribute to that child. And the needs don’t stop with babydom, they just change. Neither Terri or I chose to have children. My choice centered on the fact that I thought I would be better at what I did, that I didn’t have what it took to be good at both work and raising children. Are there times I regret that? Of course. None more than when my sister’s two children died, and I couldn’t give her mine to love. But it was a decision based on my analysis of my ability to provide a child what was needed. Because child rearing is incredibly important, not just to us, but to our world. I worry about how we build a better world.

When your sentence starts, “I can’t wait to meet my little girl, but…” you’ve already clarified your priorities, and yet, here you are pregnant. Who is going to raise your child?

B: I assume you have some kind of child care in mind, though you don’t mention if it will be a nanny or day care or grandma’s house or if your husband is going to be a stay-at-home dad. All of these options are OK. But I want to point out to you that while you may not know how to juggle “having it all” in terms of baby and career, what you DO have are options. A tremendous number of them, and this is my plea to families everywhere: please stop looking at “having it all” as meaning that you can keep everything on the table in front of you and that it will hold equal weight. It won’t happen. It doesn’t happen, even without a kid to consider. Have you ever made a decision? Have you ever chosen to go to your husband’s parents’ home for Thanksgiving instead of your brother’s? Then you’ve been presented with two options on the table, given one more weight than the other, and let the less important one roll off the table. You physically can’t split yourself in two and be at both your in-laws’ and your brother’s homes at the same time on the same day. And, you can’t physically split yourself in two and be a full-time mom with a full-time career, and take care of both things at the same time.

And please, don’t point to people like Marissa Meyer, who’s CEO-ing Yahoo! while taking care of her baby. She’s not. She has a full-time nanny, and a nursery built onto her office. She has no work-life balance. Her office IS her home; she just has another place where she sleeps at night. Usually. Is that what you’re looking for?

P: Historically, we lived in villages. Children ran in packs and grannies and aunties and neighbors all mothered our children. For anyone who’s been part of the Mother Grapevine, you knew you were being watched: it meant you could get a cookie occasionally at someone’s house, it meant you could use the toilet, and it also meant if you misbehaved, you got yelled at by your friend’s mom who then got on the phone and called your mom. And if the behavior was egregious enough, the other moms might chime in. There was a village to raise the children and you played a part in it. Your job was critical to the village as well. Everyone’s was.

We don’t live in villages any more. We don’t live in extended families. And I know a lot of grandparents who, even if they live next door, have active and involved lives and are not available and or interested in raising your child. They’ve raised their own children already—you. They aren’t being selfish if they have their own lives. No one ever promised you that you could have children and not parent them.

B: So, going back to the options before you. I want you to take a moment to consider what a lovely and enviable position you’re in. There are plenty of parents who don’t have the resources available to make these decisions—they have kids, they have to keep them housed and fed. I grew up in a home with two parents who both had to work to support the family. There are lots of families who just have one working parent, which often means more than one job at less pay than she or he deserves. Child care is expensive, summers home from school are a challenge, and the question of whether or not the mother can stay home to be with her baby is often laughable at best.

I’m not asking you to feel bad for the single parent or the working-class struggle. What I am asking you to do is reconsider the idea of “It All”. What you have, which is ironically fueling your dilemma, is the luxury of choice. And you want to keep it all on the table in front of you and make it all equally important. You can’t. Decisions have to be made. You have the ability to decide the what and the who and the how of your daughter’s upbringing in a way that’s unencumbered by dire need. You’re comfortable with your and your husband’s capacity to provide, and you can be discerning about which things fall off the table, in ways that other families simply can’t. You have resources, ability, and the power to use them accordingly. You have “It All”, even if “It” isn’t on the checklist in front of you. You’re just not seeing it.

P: I’m sorry, you were probably coming to the two feminists looking for a different kind of support. I spend a lot of time looking at families. I spend a lot of time looking at society. Both of these need a lot of loving attention. Where are you going to be in creating a family — which is what a child needs to thrive? How will you be contributing to society? Who are you that the world should arrange itself around you?

When having it all isn't all it seems.

When having it all isn’t all it seems.

Ray of Sunshine Mocktail Recipe

  • 2 oz orange juice
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 ½ oz cranberry juice
  • 1 ½ oz sweet & sour

Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing glass; pour into a tall cocktail glass filled with ice and garnish with an orange and a cherry.

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Advice: Step Away, Sister

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have a real problem with my older sister, and—finally—I’ve gotten to the point where I am over it. When we were little, my sister “Ethel” constantly insulted me. She would call me names, make fun of my weight, point out every pimple, tease me that the boys would never be interested in someone who looked like me. Ethel would come into my room like it was her own and rifle through my closets, helping herself to my clothes and shoes, or she would take my CDs and “lose” them, or she would slip my favorite lip gloss into her purse and “forget” to give it back to me.

Ethel has since moved several hours away. I still live in the town we grew up in, and I only see her when she visits our parents. Now that we are adults…well, I want to say we get along better, but we don’t, not really. Adolescent teasing has given way to adult nagging, as though she can make me thinner/smarter/wealthier/with the right guy.

I’m in my early 20s, live independently, have a nice career underway, own my own house, own a car, have a good group of friends who support me instead of trying to tear me down. I like who I am and what I’ve achieved so far, but my sister thinks I can do “better” and won’t hear it when I tell her I’ve had enough, so I keep my distance.

My parents, of course, wish we were closer and have asked me to try, try, try. They don’t hear me when I say I’ve had enough, either. I have no interest in being her friend and having girl-dates with her when she’s in for visits. I certainly don’t feel like I need to go see her and be alone with her on her turf. But I don’t want to be disrespectful to my parents. Should I suck it up and keep trying with Ethel? Or is it OK to keep her at arms’ length?

Stepping Away Sister

Dear Stepping,

B&P: Before we say anything else we want to say, congratulations for getting your life together at such a young age. You’ve made good plans and grown into them. Whether or not your sister and your family can acknowledge your accomplishments, be very proud of yourself and keep building a community of friendship and support even as you build your dreams.

B: Ahh, family. Despite the Norman Rockwellian images of family we like to conjure up—gathered around the turkey, bright smiles, warm gestures, no drama—it’s often a minefield. These are the people who have known you the longest and, ironically, may not know that much about you. They may not know your political affiliation, your current job title or your favorite ice cream flavor but chances are they are intimately acquainted with your emotional triggers.

There’s a profoundly sad moment in the movie Home for the Holidays, that I think will help explain your feelings. The two sisters, constantly at loggerheads through the film, finally have the conversation that gets to the root of their problems. It goes like this.

Claudia: You don’t know the first thing about me.

Joanne: Likewise, I’m sure. If I just met you on the street… if you gave me your phone number… I’d throw it away.

Claudia: Well, we don’t have to like each other, Jo. We’re family.

And therein lies the problem. You’re family, and you’re stuck with each other. And it can be hard to continually justify why you’re spending your valuable time and energy with someone who does everything she can to make you feel bad about yourself when your carefully cultivated, friendship-based, supportive urban family who genuinely likes you is just a phone call and a quick escape out the back door away.

P: Oh, this is so difficult, I’m so sorry. It seems that not only is your sister toxic and has been for a long while, but your parents also seem to have been indifferent toward the pain this causes you — and the disruption this ugliness causes in the family. Their expectation that you, who are picked on, should be the person who can, never mind should, make the situation better is a sad indication of their cluelessness. I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not actively mean, but they have certainly been passively mean.

B: Normally, I am an advocate for cutting one’s losses and stepping away from any sort of toxic relationship—partners, friends, co-workers if you can manage it (though that does get more difficult). If they’re bad for you, develop an exit strategy, and go. However! Family—and one’s nuclear family in particular—does have its own set of rules. Cousins? Cut ‘em out, let ‘em go, how often do you see them anyway? Aunts and uncles? Easy to create distance. But a sister…

Yeah, that can be tricky.

I’m not saying it’s tricky because I live in some kind of rose-colored ideal that one day, one day, you’ll both come to realize just how important the other is, and years of pent-up anger and dysfunctional interactions will fall away. I’m not saying it’s tricky because some day you may need a kidney, and she’s your best bet. But it’s tricky because you have parents you want to respect and honor; in your letter, it sounds like your parents are the only thing keeping you from kissing her goodbye forever. Chalk one up to yourself for that.

P: Terri and I talked a lot about how you didn’t focus on your sister, but rather on your desire not to be abused by her. Congratulations. Because you can’t fix her; I’m not sure you’ll be able to talk to her about this. You’re doing the work you need to be doing for yourself: you’ve got work you like, you own a house, and you have good friends. You’re building a life. If you read us, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of getting the support you need. If you don’t have it in your social circle, pay for it. You need to figure out what role you play in your family and the ways you are and are not willing to keep the family working. If you want to maintain relationships with your parents and sister, or create new ones, talking to a professional who can help you determine a course of action is a good thing. Maybe that person will have suggestions for new tacks to take with your sister, or your parents. There’s nothing like a little rehearsal before you try new tactics. Afterwards, with your therapist, you can even allow yourself the opportunity to debrief.

If I were you, I would also be disappointed in my parents’ response now and over my lifetime. In a way, it sounds as if they see you as capable and mature, but it doesn’t sound as if they see her as mean and hurtful.

B: UGH! Pet peeve alert! It’s almost as though you’re being punished for being strong. Why do you have to take her abuse? “Because you can” is not an acceptable answer. Sorry. Had to interject.

P: They are not protecting you from her abuse. From your description, your sister’s actions are verbally and psychically abusive. Your parents’ failure to stand up for you deepens that abuse. This is another place a counselor can help you. You don’t want to confront everyone and everything too early as your work on this because that can really blow things up. You need to figure out how to make your family hear you, because so far what you’ve tried has not served you well, but you also have to guard against them becoming defensive and turning on you. You don’t want to let any of your family members tarnish your life and your very real accomplishments.

B: You never mention whether you spend any time alone with your sister when she’s in for her visits. Have you ever, one on one, sat her down and told her how you feel about her behavior? Or have your exchanges been more like: dinner table à she insults you à you eyeroll and tell her to knock it off? That’s an adolescent pattern reasserting itself, and if I were your parents I’d have a hard time seeing it as anything other than the behavior you’ve always engaged in. Maybe you should try taking her out for a cocktail, or inviting her to your house—alone, no parents—to have a long-awaited chat. And tell her, without drama, that her criticisms hurt you deeply. They make you put up walls against her, which then hurts your parents. Try saying, “I expect you to treat me like the adult I am, because I feel like you still address me as though I am 12 years old and you’re the big sister who knows better, instead of the peers we’ve become.” Try NOT to say, “Knock it off, Ethel! You’ve always been so bossy.” Those two sentences are worlds apart in terms of gravitas. Because people, and women in particular, are notoriously bad at actually asking for what we want (because who wants to make waves?), you may want to practice saying what you need to say to your sister in a mirror. Practice makes perfect. Then, the next time she’s around, actually say it to her.

If that doesn’t work and she doesn’t let up…at least you’ve had your say, and can claim that you’ve tried to build a bridge with your sister. If she continues to harass you over your appearance or what the heck ever, don’t engage in that conversation. It’s a common mistake people make, thinking they have to comply or reply to the questions put before them, instead of saying, “I’m done having this conversation, and am moving on.” Give yourself some control of the conversation. Simply remind her that you’ve already asked her not to badger you any longer about personal issues, but you’d be happy to talk to her about the latest movies playing at the local megaplex. I’ll back you in saying that it would be fine, after that, to maintain your arms’ length relationship with Ethel. Be polite, pleasant even, when she’s around, and then slip out the back door as soon as you can to meet up with the friends who support and nourish you emotionally.

P:  Whatever you do, remember that you have choices and that exercising those choices will give you power. She may continue to bait you. But you don’t have to play. It’s a sad thing if she does, but that will be her choice. It might be helpful to plan some fun things around necessary family visits — channel yourself some good old Mary Poppins and her spoonful of sugar —  not only does it give you something to look forward to, it also gives you a time when the visit is over. One thing you want to be sure about though, as you reduce your sister’s influence in your face to face conversations, you want to ensure that she begins to take up less time in your life with friends. She is who she is. I’m not saying you don’t get to tell stories, but you don’t want to waste your time reliving the discomfort.

 

Time for big sis to step back, or little sis is stepping away.

Time for big sis to step back, or little sis is stepping away.

THE BIG SISTER recipe

  • 2 1/2 oz (70g) Cranberry Juice
  • 1 oz (28g) Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 oz (28g) Ginger Beer
  • 1 1/2 oz (70g) Citrus Vodka*
  • 1/4 oz (7g) Simple Syrup**
  • A few drops of fresh lemon juice
For the Garnish
  • 3-4 Sugared Cranberries, skewered, or a slice of lemon
METHOD
  1. To a cocktail shaker, add a handful of ice, cranberry juice, orange juice, ginger beer, vodka, simple syrup and a drop or two of lemon juice. Test to see if it needs a bit more simple. If so, add just about a 1/4 tsp more at a time.
  2. Shake 3-4 times. Pour over ice.
  3. Garnish with Sugared Cranberries.

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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}}}

Advice: Her Cheatin’ Heart

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have a friend named “Mary”. Mary and I have known each other for ten years now; we met as freshmen in college and have seen each other through a lot of things.

In my case, I have mostly seen her through breakups. And new hookups. And breakups again.

Mary is not one to be single for very long, and every time she starts a new relationship it’s with the most fabulous guy she’s ever met. Of course, she’s sure that this time around, she’s finally met The One, at long last. At least, that’s how it is for the first month, and then she starts having random hookups.

It’s never cheating. It’s just exploring. She says she’s getting this wild stuff out of her system before she settles down. Or sometimes, “something” just happens with a friend while they’re hanging out and she said she couldn’t help it. But it’s not cheating, ever, as far as she’s concerned. It makes me feel really bad for the men in her life when she tells me about her latest rando. And somehow, the boyfriends are seemingly oblivious, so I end up feeling even worse, because they’re being played.

Recently, Mary has gotten engaged, again, and she’s asked me to be her maid of honor. Again. As a person, I feel like I can be friends with her because she’s never done anything to me. Still. I do feel kind of like a dirty accomplice, and I’m a little put off at the thought of standing at her side on her wedding day, knowing what I know. She swears that once he’s put a ring on it she’ll be faithful to her future husband, but I don’t really think I believe her. What should I do? Should I tell her fiancé what’s going on? Do I cut and run out on a ten-year friendship? Or do I keep quiet and accept her at her word, that she’ll cut the cheating out when she’s finally a Mrs.?

Signed,

I See It, But I Don’t Like It

Dear Don’t Like It,

BnP: Well. Wow. It’s hard to know where to start on this one. But we’re going to start with… Yeahhhhh…we don’t like it either.

P: There’s the cheating. There’s the lying. There’s the demanding you be an accessory. There’s the whole “I’m just a girl who can’t say no,” or is it “the devil made me do it.” And then there’s the what in tarnation kinda friend is this?

I might start with the lying and asking you to lie. Which she does, every time she introduces you to a new BF and then proceeds to cheat on him and tells you and expects you to “wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”

Why would you choose that option? How is she your friend? Granted, your letter’s all about her cheating, but I don’t see one way you’re anything more than an accessory, or maybe a walking dispenser of absolution. Check your resume to see if the title “Mother Confessor” has been slipped in on your job description. Once she involves you, you start lying to the boyfriend. Granted she was your friend first, but if you like them at all, you’re helping her hurt him. And them. You’re lying too. Is that what you want?

B: I can’t help but feel that she’s coming to you to be absolved. Like, if you nod and metaphorically pat her on the head and tell her it’s OK, then it’s…you know. OK. Is that what you want to say? Is that the message you want to send? I agree with Ann, even though you’ve not said a word what you’re doing is lying right alongside Mary. Inaction is an action, people.

P: Now, for the cheating thing. Actually, none of us are perfect. Too many of us have done things of which we’re ashamed, especially when we were younger. We don’t know what we want. We don’t know how to ask for what we want if we do know. And all too often, we don’t know how to be honest about our misdeeds. These are the lessons we spend our 20s learning. You do lots of silly things early in life that you don’t do later in life because you learn they’re not good for us and they’re not good for people we know and love.

Cheating is one of those things. She’s a serial cheater. I don’t know whether it is an addiction. But I do know she’s not going to stop doing it until she admits that she’s a cheater and gets help figuring out what she’s looking for and why she’s destroying other people’s lives. Because that’s what she’s doing. And ding, ding, ding… if “things just happen” can we trust that she made sure that her surprise partner wrapped that rascal, or is she risking passing some dread disease on to her so called beloved? She’s not just risking giving her partner a broken heart in that case.

B: What I hate about “it just happened” is…well, yes, she’s not admitting to her behavior, but more explicitly, she’s not owning her sexual autonomy. You don’t “whoops” into bed with someone, it’s not like she slips on a banana peel and falls naked onto her paramour du jour. Engaging in sexual activity with another person requires a decision-making process, and unless she’s being forced into bed (which is another, far more dire letter) then she is an integral part of that process. She CAN keep her clothes on and prioritize her relationship with her fiancé. She CHOOSES to cheat on him.

P: I don’t care about her promiscuity. I care that she seems to have the need to do it within what she would call monogamy. Have (safe) sex all you want. But don’t rope some poor suspecting other into your life. People get to say whether they want to be in a threesome. And you are agreeing to hang out and be the voyeur. How’s that feel? Don’t you have better things to do? Do you have a partner? What does she or he think about your tacit approval of your friend’s cheating. It would make me nervous.

B: Yup, I also don’t care about whether or not she’s promiscuous, in that there are all sorts of sexual agreements that couples make that work for them, and they can certainly include other people in their beds. But the key word here is that it’s an agreement, mutually reached by both partners. Everyone has to be on board for an open relationship to work. Her fiancé is anything but. Mary can tell you all of her details, all she wants, and it doesn’t change the fact that she’s not telling the one person she should.

Which isn’t you.

P: We probably haven’t seemed really supportive yet, have we?

I think you need to decide what you think friendship is and what you want it to be. And then you get to be that friend. Being her friend may mean not being in relationship with her — because she’s not a good friend. I don’t want to hear the “she’s a good person.” She’s hurting people. Again and again and again. As the Wedding Priestess, I made my couples state their intentions to love one another for the rest of their lives and then I made their community sign up to love and support the couple and their intentions. I once did a series of three couples’ weddings. By the time Couple Number Three was getting married, Couple Number One was getting unmarried. Couples Two and Three came to me and said, “we went to talk to Couple Number One and asked them what they were doing. We reminded them what they had promised. We pointed out that it made mockery of the promises we had made to them and the promises we were all making to one another.” I was so proud of them. It took great courage. Nothing changed, but they were good friends. And the husband leaned on their love as the wife went on to the new life she’d already created.

But their actions were honest friendship in accordance with what they believed about loving coupledom and loving friendship. What kind of friend do you want to be? And what kind of friend do you think you deserve?

B: I think you need to spend some time deciding who you are. You wrote a letter asking us what steps you should take in managing your relationship with Mary, who exhibits behavior you no longer think is justifiable or can condone. And—I can’t believe how often I have to remind people about this—the only behavior you can ultimately control is your own. So who do you want to be? How do you want your behavior to be perceived? Your reactions help tell your story, and in your letter, in your own words, you say this situation makes you feel like a “dirty accomplice”, you’re “put off” by the idea of being in her wedding, and you “don’t really think you believe” she can be faithful after her wedding day.

Side note: “don’t really think you believe” is a wishy-washy way of calling her a liar. Can we please just say the words?

P: And she wants you to be her Maid of Honor? Um… whose Honor? How can you have honor if you’re not being truthful with the bride or the groom? Marriage isn’t just about having a great wedding. Marriage actually matters. What if she does this once she starts having babies? And let’s be clear, why would we think she wouldn’t keep cheating? Because, trust me, babies add stress to a marriage. And what does she do when there’s stress? Mess around. That’ll be great for the kids. Wanna be the aunt who tells the five-year-old that Mommy found someone better to do? Want to testify at that custody trial? Who better than you?

B: Should you tell her fiancé about her activities? No, I don’t think so. He’s in an unenviable position but it’s not your job to manage their relationship. Or, essentially, tattle on her. But good friends find the courage to have difficult conversations when they’re necessary. Good friends make room to care about the legitimate well-being of a friend. They don’t take the option to look the other way when they know their friend is making serious, potentially dangerous, mistakes. Can this lead to a friend-breakup? Maybe. Mary hasn’t been a good friend to you, as Ann has pointed out already, but you’re not being a good friend to her by holding your nose when her behavior stinks. And you’re not beholden to the acceptance of behavior that at one point you were kind of OK with, but now don’t think is quite so cute or funny. People grow, and change. It’s what we do. She might not like hearing what you have to say, but really…too bad. So again, I ask you: who do you want to be? The dirty accomplice? Or the good friend? It’s up to you.

Hey, Old Pal. Looking a little rough around the edges, there.

Hey, Old Pal. Looking a little rough around the edges, there.

The Old Pal

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Campari
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 full with ice. Add whiskey, dry vermouth, and Campari. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds, and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use as garnish.

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Food Musings: Memorial Day, New Friendships

Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve been working with my friend Ann, sending her a photo of food every week, so that she can write a poem about it that celebrates peace and send it off to her subscribers. I’ve decided to write a companion piece to the photos I send, musing about the way that food plays into our lives.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Last week, George and I were invited to a backyard party thrown by one of the regular attendees in a Zumba class I’ve started teaching. I knew that some of the other regulars from the class would be there, so I would have a cushion of people to talk to, but the only person George would know there was…me. Which can be daunting, both for the don’t-know-anyone partygoer and for the invitee. Should he stick by my side the entire time? Will the other kids play nice with him? Could I leave him to his own devices after a few minutes? Since I’m fairly confident that George is a likable kind of guy and that the people at the party weren’t going to hit him with sticks, we took a deep breath and went to a party full of new people.

It was wonderful.

These people, who I only knew in a limited capacity (sweaty, shaking their moneymakers in my Zumba class) until the party, were warm and welcoming and funny. It took George and I thirty seconds–maybe less–to feel settled. And the ritual was the same. There was the greeting, the acclimation to the surroundings, waving hello and party-wide, informal introductions, and the piling high of plates filled with familiar picnic food. We broke bread and got to know each other. We made our way through heaps of beans and macaroni and chips and dips and crudites and fruit salad, all straightforward and comforting, like the people at the party.

And I’ve seen the same layout in New Jersey, in Texas, in Boston. Maybe some of the regional specialties were different, but the overall gist is the same. And it’s good. It’s a way to connect, to build community, to take part in something that is greater than the sum of its parts. For that day, in those few gentle, funny, happy, warm hours, we were all connected in a way that made the world a slightly better place than if we had eaten the same food separately, in our own houses. And that is the point of our being social creatures, isn’t it? To be greater together than we are apart?

Read Ann’s original poem here!

Advice: Relationships Should Be Better Than This

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I’ve been involved with a man, “Marc”, for six months now, and I really like him. He’s got a lot of admirable traits that most of us look for in a man. He’s gregarious, he’s honest, and he’s well-mannered and respectful. And, of course, he has baggage.

Marc was married before, but it ended poorly and he’s skittish about relationships. I get it. He’s also got this friendship with another woman that, frankly, I find confusing, and I don’t know if she’s just a friend or a romantic rival. They’ve been friends forever and I don’t mind that. But, he tells me things, particularly that she wants a relationship with him, but he’s not willing to give that to her yet. Honestly…I don’t know if I need Marc to be that honest with me. You know what I mean? He’s also told me that he loves her, and I don’t know if that means love-love, or friend-love. I’m so confused.

The other woman currently lives in another state but is considering relocating. Closer. Like, to our town. Marc says that her moving closer won’t necessarily mean he’ll want to be with her, and whenever he says that my stomach just plummets. Why is this even an option? I’ve been the girlfriend who’s been around, and caring, and am now emotionally involved. She’s just been some figure in the distance. What can I do to make him see that I’m here? Or should I try and protect my heart and walk away?

–Lost in Love

B&P: Oh my dear. No, no, don’t walk. Run away, far and fast.

B: I’m going to take issue right off the bat with this sentence: Marc was married before, but it ended poorly and he’s skittish about relationships. I get it.

No, you don’t. You don’t get it, because you’re not even listening to him. You say he’s honest, and you’re right. You just need to hear what he’s actually saying, and not what you want to hear (or decide to justify, if you don’t like your initial interpretation). He’s basically saying, over and over again, “I don’t want to commit to you.” He says it when he tells you he’s skittish. And he really says it when he says that this other woman moving closer jeopardizes the relationship you’re currently in.

Please note: by “relationship” I mean, you and Marc know each other and have some regular communication, but you also have relationships with your hairdresser, your co-workers, your mail carrier, etc, etc. The word “relationship” does not necessarily mean, you know. Relationship. Moving on.

P: And here’s the thing, when you’ve had a bad marriage and you’re skittish, if you’re a grown up, you do a couple of things: 1) you get some counseling and work through your issues, 2) you’re up front, not that you’re skittish, but that you’re unavailable. Oh, and 3) you probably don’t date someone here, while you’re planning on moving someone in from far away. So that’s him. What about you? As Terri says, and trust me the Bartender has heard ‘way too many of these conversations from intoxicated, broken-hearted people on the other side of the bar, you’re pretending that he’s interested in you. Why go out with someone who is not going to be in a relationship with you? You’re wasting valuable time or you’re using him as an excuse not to move into a grown up relationship while indulging in the drama that must ensue.

B: Now. I am not saying Marc doesn’t enjoy your companionship, and it’s possible that on some level he cares about you. But honestly, you sound like you’re a relationship fluffer as far as Marc is concerned. You’re enough to keep him aroused and entertained (on his terms), but not so much that he will take the relationship all the way.

Despite his vaunted honesty, dear, he is behaving dishonorably. What he’s doing is manipulative. Telling you that your place in his life is not secure, while “honest”, allows him to keep you at arm’s length and at the same time, keeps you walking on eggshells. Have you ever felt a moment’s peace inside this relationship? Have you ever felt secure, like you’re “home” with him? All you’ve told me and Ann about are successive instances of insecurity. NOT feeling loved. NOT feeling appreciated. At the end, you posit that you don’t even know if he knows you’re really there. WHAT. Though from him end, I wonder if he gets a real turn-on from it; he keeps knocking you down and you keep coming back, begging for more. This relationship—again, I use the term loosely—is so one-sided even you admit you’ve disappeared into it. Do you determine your sense of womanly worth by whether or not you’re with someone? I’m not being facetious or mean, it’s a yardstick people often use—men and women—to measure themselves.  You’ve already signed on to this and have agreed that this is your dynamic these last six months. Do you see it changing in a year? Can you live with this for another three years? Five? Do you still want knots in your stomach and eggshells under your feet twenty years and a few kids from now?

P: Wow, I can’t say I think there will ever be kids… It won’t be enough about him. I wish I could say I don’t have any experience with this. But I bet most women have dated some version of him, hopefully for a short time. It was funny, right before Terri received this question I’d been reading an article (help, I can’t find it) that talked about why your ex would want to remain friends with you — big answer: because he’s a narcissist. He wants all the attention. And it’s an easy parallel to draw with Marc. He’s got “marriage issues,” he’s got a girl back home, and he’s got you keeping the home fires burning. And he’s so “honest” and “meaningful” and therefore must care about you, right? I wish he did. But more truthfully, I wish that you didn’t think he did. Whatever he’s saying, let’s pay some attention to what he’s doing. (A lot, and not much of it with you.)

B: I wish I had nicer things to say about where I thought your relationship could go, but I don’t. I think you’re Marc’s Miss Right Now, but I don’t think you’re his Miss Right. Of course, I can’t make you do what you don’t want to do but I can’t see a reason for you to stay. And more to it, I can’t see a reason why you wouldn’t make an appointment with a therapist and discuss your willingness to be strung along for six months, and even fall in love with the stringer. You know this relationship isn’t right, which is why you’re writing to us. But in much the same way that I can’t make you do anything, you also can’t make Marc do anything. You can’t make him love you more, you can’t make him commit (and mean it), you can’t make him stop having contact with Miss Out-Of-Towner. The only thing you can control is your behavior. Take a good, long, hard look at what you’ve got and where you’re going. If you truly, in your soul, like it, then stay. If your stomach drops to the floor and you feel that sense of panic, then I think you have your answer. Good luck.

P: I not only want you to look at what he’s offering, I would like you to look at what you want and why you’re willing to jam yourself into a relationship that gives you no place to be a valuable person. How can you move forward in your life if you’re so willing to be stopped by someone who really doesn’t care for you? Because if he cared about you — not for how you make him feel, but for you — he’d leave the relationship because he wasn’t giving you what you deserved. Nope. He’s using you and you’re enabling it. Are you enjoying the drama? I’ll tell you, drama is not love; it’s just drama. Please give yourself better. Allow yourself to deserve someone wonderful who’s ready to be in your life. Leave so you can have it.

How much louder does he have to say it?

How much louder does he have to say it?

Dark & Stormy

  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 5 oz ginger beer
  • lime wedge

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour rum over ice, top with ginger beer. Give a stir, and squirt with a lime wedge. Enjoy!

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}}}

 

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}}}

Advice: Promposal Problems

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a senior in high school. Since the beginning of this year I’ve held a part-time job, and put most of my money into a savings account. I’m going away to college in the fall on a partial academic scholarship, and my parents and I decided it would make sense for me to work now and save everything so when I go to school I can focus on my studies, and still have some spending money. We don’t have a lot of money, so maintaining my scholarship is really important to me, and to my parents.

My problem is, there’s this girl I’ve been dating, and I really want to ask her to the prom. It’s a big deal in my school to do promposals, and I know some guys are planning big ways to ask girls on dates—taking them to a fancy restaurant for dinner, getting their girls specially embroidered his and hers running shoes (so they can be prom-body-ready). One guy got his girl a charm bracelet that spelled out “P-R-O-M” in the charms. Of course I want to make the girl I ask feel special. I’m already planning on the tux and flowers and prom tickets and dinner beforehand, and the limo. And that’s fine, I’m ready for it, I’ve been planning for it. But this seems like so much more extra money, and I know I can’t ask my parents to pitch in with this. They already do so much for me. How can I compete?

Thanks.

Prom-Plexed

Dear Prom-Plexed

BnP: First, kudos for the great signature! And your question succinctly nails an issue — a trend; perhaps even an obscene trend — that makes us ca-razy. Is it about the money? Or is it the fact that our young vibrant women feel like they need to be Disney princesses? They need public displays of desirability (and thus, validation)? And how romantic is it that boys are increasingly expected to be nothing but cash cows? (Can we even say how much we hate these two things?) Is it that nothing can simply be what it is? We’ve maxed out the stuff we can add onto the prom (What??? You’re not spending the week at the shore???), so we’ll invent this idea called “Promposal”. Let’s see if we can help. Prom-body ready, where’s the fainting couch.

B: Give me a minute to congratulate you on earning a scholarship! That’s no small feat. And, congratulations to you and your parents for taking your academic achievement and growth seriously, and making plans to preserve your scholarship eligibility. You’re just in high school, but you’re looking ahead and weighing the variables of your life with a maturity I don’t always see in adults three times your age.

As for your question…

I haaaaaaaaaaate promposals. It probably borders on the irrational, and if I were a judge I would in all likelihood have to recuse myself from this case if it came to my courtroom. Luckily, this is an advice column and I can rattle on at will.

I can just hear parents now: oh, come on, party pooper, they’re cute! They’re harmless! And who doesn’t want to see “PROM?” spelled out on their front lawn in sparklers? But negotiating the social strata of high school is tough enough without having to add in an extra layer of manufactured courtship. I *swear* this is an idea devised and perpetuated by the wedding industrial complex to train future brides and grooms to go big or not leave the yard.

P: Just thinking about this brings back the high school trauma. Yuck. And back then, there wasn’t dinner beforehand, or breakfast afterwards, let alone promposals. Yes Priestess is Ancient. There was just the wondering whether you’d be asked, the fumbling conversation in the hall by your locker and then the agonizing what-will-I-wear. Thank goodness my mother sewed! But a promposal? This is the wedding industry going amok, an extravagant marketing ploy. This is, how to say this delicately… hogwash.

That said, here you are. Living in this world.

You want to go to the prom. You want to have a good time. You want to go with someone interesting. You don’t want to break the bank. That pretty much it?

B: Going to prom can be fun. You get to wear fancy clothes, ride around in a nice car, sit at a big round table with all your friends and eat banquet food, do a little dancing. It’s a way to practice a ritual of adulthood, and fills the niche created by the (now largely abandoned except in certain circles) debutante ball. Prom-goers put themselves out there, displaying themselves as they get ready for adulthood.

Practicing at adulthood should also (theoretically, at least) contain an element of practicing what to look for in a desirable partner. Promposals can skew that. Yes, some promposals can be cute. It’s like a storybook, right? Awww. But what they tend to do is put a glossy sheen over the meaningful work of dating, which involves determining someone’s personality. It establishes an expectation that girls should expect to get treated like fairy princesses, and if Prince Charming isn’t riding in and saying he wants to take Terri to the prom with artfully strewn rose petals, then either the boy who’s simply asking (“Terri, would you go to the prom with me?”) isn’t worth Terri’s time, or Terri doesn’t merit a proper asking. Do we really need to reinforce the idea that our sense of self depends on the value placed on how much of a public spectacle we are made by other people?

P: Hopefully the girl your dating will be able to appreciate your opinion, if not have the same abhorrence that you do for the crass commercialism. The prom is really about having a fun evening, or should be, and not an opportunity to worry first if your promposal is sufficient and then if your prom-date is sufficient. 

I hope she’s a wonderful, independent, non-drama princess kinda young woman. I’m sure she’s someone interesting that you’d like to spend a fun evening with, someone you’d like to know for a long time, whether it’s as a girlfriend or as a great friend.

B: You said the girl you want to ask is someone you’ve been had some dates with. More than one date. There’s some reason to believe you’re at the very least compatible and share some of the same values. So it seems like you’re looking in the right direction.

P: It’s important for you to remember that you have great values. You’re working hard for your future. You’re considerate of your parents. You’ve thought about making it a fun date. Someone’s really going to want to go to the prom with you. Let’s not think about this as a lack in you but rather a positive. You’ve got goals. You’ve got principles. And you’re trying to figure something out. You’re interesting! If your date, who knows you, tells you she don’t want to go to the prom with you because you’re falling down on the promposing, it’s going to be hard on the ego but really, this is likely not someone you want to know really well.

If you have to, go ahead and think about this invitation as a promposal, but why not just think about it’s being asking the girl you’re dating to the prom? Let it be about the two of you. Why not make your invitation one more opportunity to get to know one another better? You’re going to have to talk to one another a long time at the prom. It’s a good idea to keep building common ground. You can be very romantic without spending beaucoup bucks.

Do you two share an interest? (hint: it’ll be more fun at the prom if you have things in common).  A little research and you can figure something out. This is getting to know someone. This is effort that will not be wasted and will stand you in good stead your entire life. Truth to tell, I find someone’s interest in me far more romantic than someone who throws cash because it’s the thing to do — something that has noting to do with me.

B: Again, being willing and able to talk to someone you’re interested in—making the effort to get to know your future date, and not just want someone who looks good on your arm—is a sign of maturity. Of *course* we all want to be attracted, and attractive, to the person we date, but a date can go sideways pretty quickly if all you have is the pleasure of looking at one another. If you wanted that, you could take a picture of that person and put it in your wallet. But your date moves and breathes and talks, so find out what interests her and go from there.

P: Looking for ideas? Do you hike? Go some place special, take a picnic. Look for a heart shaped rock. There are loads. Start collecting them. When you’ve got enough hand them to her and say, be my prom date! Take car drives, go see something special. Find two animals in the field together. Ask her to go with you to the prom. Live in a city near a favorite museum? Go see a painting, ask her to the prom. Use your bus passes and spend the day hopping on and off the bus. Go on a picnic. Play a game. Learn to make an origami flower, get really good at it. Do it in front of her, ask her to the prom.

Be creative, interested and hopeful. And the origami thing? You’ll always be able to use that!

B: I want to take a moment to beg the parents who encourage these sorts of displays, or smile benignly upon them as they’re happening…please stop. Your son is not a gesture-generating ATM, your daughter is not a princess, and we should be working toward raising young adults who are independent, not codependent. There are so many wrong messages attached to the idea of a promposal.

As for you, Promplexed, remember, when you go forward into your life, that relationships do not thrive on flashy gestures alone. Be true to yourself, your goals, and your personal value system, and don’t EVER feel like you’ve got less to offer than anyone else because you don’t put bling before substance. Have fun at the prom, and best of luck to you in your future.

NAPKIN TEMPLATE-006

Prom objective: Don’t get too stressed. Have fun. That is all.

Ombré Grapefruit Cocktail
Ingredients 
  • 1/2 c. grapefruit juice, chilled
  • 1/4 can Sprite or 7Up, chilled
  • 2 Tbsp simple syrup
  • 1 tsp grenadine
  • sugar to rim the glass
  • Use champagne flutes for a pretty presentation
Instructions
  1. Pour a very small amount of grapefruit juice/grenadine/simple syrup onto one plate, and a layer of garnishing sugar on another 
  2. Dip the rim of the glass in grapefruit juice, and then into the sugar so it coats the rim of the glass
  3. Carefully pour grapefruit juice into glass
  4. Add simple syrup
  5. Top off the glass with soda and drop in the grenadine
  6. You can add a stir stick or straw, but don’t stir it until after it’s served or else it will no longer be ombré

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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