A Bitch in Heat

A number of weeks ago I started talking about some of the concepts in David Richo’s book “How to Be an Adult in Relationships”.

Richo states there are five A’s of relationship:

  • Attention
  • Allowing
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Acceptance

Today, I wanted to write about two of them that seem to go together in my mind – Affection and Appreciation. Of course, each of these are somewhat idiosyncratic to both the people we are and the people we are in relationship with, whether that’s our sweetheart, spouse, or best bud. However, since we’re primarily talking about our most intimate relationships (those that are romantic in nature as well as possibly spousal in form), I think we can all agree that both appreciating our sweethearts and showing affection to them is not only a nice thing, it’s pretty essential for the health of our relationships. Plus, let’s face it, a good hug just feels good to us, too.

As I’m sure the entire universe knows, LA’s been having a heat wave for the past week with temps as high as 108 and 113 in the valley and in the 90’s along the coast. Frankly, I don’t do all that well in the heat. Plus, although this has not been talked about much on the local media, the air quality has seemed fairly lousy – since I drive into downtown LA regularly, it’s been hazy which can only mean one thing – smog. Double ugh – heat and smog. When I feel all nasty I just don’t want to be that close to anybody, let alone my husband. Especially my husband.

Add to this, our master bedroom is weirdly constructed with working windows only on the East facing wall (where we get morning sun) and decorative, non-functioning windows on the North and South facing walls. So we don’t get a cross breeze and we have no air conditioning where we live, ostensibly because we don’t need it (yeah, right). So I stay in the front room until I’m more than half asleep, before retiring to my sweltering bedroom to sleep on top of the sheets, while the ‘Publican sleeps blissfully unawares.

As you can tell, the phrase “bitch in heat” has true meaning at Casa Zental Floss.

So it is a mark of my unconditional love for my husband that I allow him to hold my hand and touch toes on the ottoman while TV watching, and even do some snuggling in the morning before the heat sets in. He knows I’d prefer it to be 70 degrees everywhere and always, so he doesn’t get all weird about my anemic displays of affection, and I don’t start screeching at him when he wants a hug. We’re pretty affectionate with each other in general and I’m not sure if that is because we haven’t been married forever or it’s because we both have been with partners in the past who weren’t very affectionate or used it and its withholding as a measure of manipulation and control. This was the case with my ex-husband who would only show affection when he wanted sex, which meant I had to be careful around him unless I wanted sex, too. In case you were wondering, we’re not married anymore (d’oh!)

I think the reason why this works between us is that the ‘Publican has a real sense of himself as full and complete with or without me as a partner. I’ve noticed that he’s not overly sensitive when I’m in a bad mood – he doesn’t take it personally. I probably feel more anxious when he’s in a bad mood as if the reason he was in the bad mood was because of something I said or did. As if.

So he’s not taking it personally that I’m not as physically close as I usually am right now – and he knows and trusts that I’ll be in the near future, or when we’re in air conditioned environments (which would not be our house right now).

“Love in adulthood is a re-experience of the love our every cell remembers. The way we were loved in early life is the way we want to be loved all our lives.” – David Richo

The good news is that even if you didn’t have the happiest childhood (I didn’t), you can be greatly assisted by a loving partner in adulthood. I think the five A’s indicate the primary needs in all of us, so if, for example, your parents weren’t the most touchy-feeling types ever, you probably felt at least some love in the way they listened to you or played ball or fixed you your favorite foods, all of which is imprinted on your soul. If there are some gaps in your love “language”, these can be filled by your partner as long as you’re willing to stretch a bit. Not too far, just enough. What you might find is that you just might like this touching business, even if sex isn’t always the pot at the end of every hug, kiss or toe touch.

Richo speaks of affection as being a form of unconditional love for ourselves and our bodies, even if we’re middle aged, with too much belly and not enough hair, and no fashion sense at all. Not that I’m talking about anybody I know or anything. But it is true that showing true affection for the other is not dependent on what we or they look like, which is one of the ego’s way of keeping deep love and intimacy at bay.

Think about every person you know who’s been perpetually seeking a partner only to find this, that and the third thing “wrong” with them, everything from their politics/religion to the shape of their nose. Some of these things are significant and some not so much – but for the person who really just wants to complain that there are no good men or women in LA (a familiar refrain), they all become equally huge. With predictable results.

I mentioned above that I think one of the reasons we as a couple “work” is because the ‘Publican doesn’t take my lousy moods personally and I think one of the other reasons we work is that I don’t criticize him very much, if at all. He’s mentioned how appreciated he feels by me, and I’m glad for that. I think by the time I met him, I had long stopped criticizing men in general for just being men, and really found much to like and appreciate about them. Men’s protective and generous nature is what I’ve tended to pick up on the most and maybe because I appreciate it, I tend to see it in the good men I know, including my husband. But this is extended to other men, too – my bosses and co-workers as well as the guy opening the door for me and letting me pass in front of him at the bank.

I, too feel appreciated by my husband, not just for my ability to make money and work hard at home, but for other qualities, too – my sweetness, my great sense of humor (which, translated, means that I laugh at HIS jokes and stories), my values and what I think he’d call being a good sport, and I might say is a joie de vivre.

Appreciation really is a form of interpersonal gratitude. It gives “depth to acceptance” as Richo puts it and it’s a way of saying you not only admire or respect the other person, you delight in them, too.

In fact, even though some families and couples seem to get by with, at most “Hey, you . . . “ in their verbal communication, I think “please” and “thank you” very important, almost as important as saying “I love you.” They aren’t just for Emily Post – they’re for you and me, too. “Please” says I know you are a thinking and feeling being, apart from myself and my demands, and “thank you” acknowledges the kindness or gift (either of love, time, attention, affection, a great dinner or space to think) you’ve bestowed on me. They are the full circle of gratitude and appreciation.

Today as loving partners take some time to show affection and appreciation for each other – delight in each other as you each deserve to be delighted in, too. And even if your partner tells a stupid joke, ladies… laugh at it – would it kill ‘ya?

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I Never Danced With My Father

Originally uploaded by baruchinbar72

I always had the dream of placing my small feet on top of father’s big wingtips as he guided me across the dance floor.

But that never happened. What happened was that my father left my mother and I one day when I was six. The memory burns as much as the assassination of John F. Kennedy did that year – 1963. Caroline Kennedy and I are almost the exact same age and we both “lost” our dads that year. Mine was just a few communities over from us, but for all my understanding of what divorce was, he might as well have been dead. Of course, I’m glad he didn’t die and am incredibly grateful that he’s still alive. But to a six-year-old, death and divorce seemed pretty similar.

Every so often, I saw my father, but it was clear that he felt ill at ease and didn’t have a clue what to “do” with a girl. Should he take his 6 foot 5 inch frame and get down on the rug and play Barbies with me (hey, I would have liked that)? Would I want to go with him to the UCLA football game (I did go and remember it as one of the happy, if somewhat chaotic, times with Dad). So we got in the habit of having ‘dates’ where I’d dress up a bit and we’d go out to dinner and we’d try and have a relationship, but it was one that had few role models.

I look back and have compassion for him because even with his sense of being the outsider, he did make an effort to have a relationship with me, all the while dealing with his own pain over the divorce, beginning to date again with all that that entailed, and dealing with my mother and whatever rules she set for him. Nobody was to blame for this turn of events and both were clueless about what would be best for me. Because clearly what would have been best for me would have been no divorce to begin with.

This wasn’t a couple who yelled, screamed, threw bric-a-brac, hit, or punched. This was a couple who probably had a fairly bloodless relationship, but at least it wasn’t violent, either physically or emotionally. But in 1963, women were beginning to stir from their long beauty sleep of the 1950’s, and the thought of being married to a man like my father must have seemed as stifling as being in a room with most of the air sucked out of it. I think my mother just couldn’t breathe.

And you know, I understand that, but my mother’s decision to save her self had huge consequences for two other people and she never did understand my loss of a father, because her father had been so ever-present in her life. Years later, I have a clear memory of my mother asking me why I cared so much about my father and his reactions to me – in essence, why couldn’t I just “forget him”. Well, I just couldn’t then and I can’t today, either.

My parents, like all parents, were flawed human beings who just happened to live in a time when women’s nascent sense of self was just beginning to be explored. Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1964, and the book was a beginning to naming and describing women like my mother who had bought into the idea that good women gave up their dreams and aspirations for home and hearth. A couple of generations later, it’s interesting that many educated and accomplished women are deciding consciously to forestall their own career aspirations for home and hearth, proudly becoming SAHMs and WAHMs. They are starting internet-based businesses to bring in some income between taking care of the kidlets and couldn’t be happier. What a full circle world it really is.

So that’s my basic understanding of how my parent’s divorce happened – I just remember it as such a shocking event mainly because there was no yelling or screaming in the house – although the amount of tears is hard to determine. If they existed, they were definitely behind closed doors.

A few years after the divorce, my father met a woman with three kids and they got married and then promptly moved to the Midwest. I then became the shuttled kid, spending summers with my father and the step-monster (oh, sorry, step-mother) and her kids. I really hated this, because my Dad would try so darn hard to treat us all alike. I didn’t want that – who does? I wanted his undivided attention as, after all, I’d just spent most of the year without him, and those kids had him every day. That’s how it seemed to me. I think how it seemed to him was that he was living in the worst kind of “no win” situation. If he favored me, he’d hear about it from his wife, and if he didn’t, he was disappointing me, and let’s face it, he was living with her, not with me.

Then came the final straw with the step-mother. They’d moved again, this time to the south and I was visiting. I’d spent a portion of a school year about a year or so earlier, which didn’t end so wonderfully. It was one of the times when I tried to figure out what it would be like to live with my dad. But again, I didn’t see him all that much, since he worked an awful lot, so I was stuck having to live with another woman’s rules and resentful step-siblings. So here it was a year or so later, and I was doing my obligatory summer sojourn. And we were all in the car, driving somewhere on a short trip. And in the middle of nothing (or so it seemed) my step-mother announced that I just had to go – that it was either her or me. And here’s my dad, driving along, being broad-sided by this as surely as any truck running the stop sign.

For all I know, they’d been feuding about this for weeks and months – but it sure seemed like it came out of nowhere. I think silence ensued and the rest of the drive was laden with unspoken anger and resentment. Eventually I think there were probably some heated discussions and fights, but the upshot was, as you all can figure out, I was put on a plane and didn’t see my father for the next five years. The next time was after my step-mother was dead and buried and the step-siblings had fled the scene.

The last act of this drama ended up being a bit of a let down. I saw him for one weekend, he was a wreck because his wife had just died and his step children had left him (temporarily as it turned out, but you have to wonder about a woman who’d allowed a man to raise her kids and pay everything for them, but denied him the ability to adopt them because she said he “wasn’t blood”. No, maybe not blood, but certainly a checkbook, as it turned out.) After that weekend, there were years before I saw him again, and by then I was myself a mother, approaching my own divorce, and he was remarried, but this time to a wonderful woman.

I started this piece by remembering that I never danced with my father, and part of this is because he never attended either of my weddings. I regret this, as I’m sure he does, too. I didn’t attend his last wedding, either. Nor did I hop a plane to visit him or my grandmother who lived in the same town as him – I never had the money or time to do this. And I didn’t even attend my grandmother’s memorial service. It was always ‘understood’ by everybody and they’ve been nice enough about it, and the facts of my lack of daughterly duty at least on the surface, makes sense. But it sure feels bad.

I remember a small scene in Desperate Housewives where Bree is railing about her mother-in-law after Rex dies; basically she tells her son, “grandma’s a bitch” and her son replies, “but she’s OUR bitch.” And that’s how I feel about my Dad (and my mom, for that matter). I don’t know if I’d even like him all that much because so much has come between us over the years – caused in some cases by others, some from ourselves, and some of the distance caused by nobody and nothing in particular – it’s just become a habit. But no matter the reason for the distance, no matter how awkward seeing him again might be, no matter all of that . . . he’s still MY dad. And I’m hoping that one day soon, we can just cut a rug.

Hope everybody had a wonderful Father’s Day today. And Dad, I love you, Laura

Some Unspectacular Quirks – And Yours Are?

I’ve been tagged by Debra at Mama Flo’s to tell you about Six (6) Unspectacular Quirks of Mine.

1. Although I’ve always been well read and think of myself as “educated,” I really love low brow entertainment like the TV show “Cheaters” (which has just got to be the very worst show ever);

2. I sing out loud in the car, at home, actually anywhere. This has caused much embarrassment to the spawn over the years. I’m particularly fond of Joni Mitchell, but I sing everybody from Streisand to Lucinda Williams. I once bought a jacket worn by Joni at a concert, although it barely fit and I ended up donating it to goodwill; the fact that she’d worn it probably only once was enough to make the sale;

3. I used to read Tarot cards on a daily basis, and I have judged people based on their astrological signs (and yes, the ‘Publican and I are the same sign);

4. I can take all day to drink a single cup of coffee, a quirk which the ‘Publican finds fairly disgusting, but then again, he drinks espresso which I cannot imagine, let alone try;

5. I run hot and frequently have to sleep above the covers and of course, the ‘Publican is underneath said covers – this is the opposite of many couples; and

6. Although I’m not very vain in general, I have to have my pedicures, I’ve highlighted my hair for so many years I don’t have a clue what the real color is anymore, and I almost never wear my glasses anywhere. If there’s a problem with my contacts, I’ll try not to go out of the house.

The Rules for this MeMe are as follows:

1. Link the person(s) who tagged you.

2. Mention the rules on your blog.

3. Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours.

4. Tag six following bloggers by linking them;

5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged bloggers’ blogs, letting them know they’ve been tagged.

I’m not going to tag anyone – if you see this and have a mind to play along, go ahead, just do the link back thing.