Tag Archives: women

Fresh eyes and a male voice

I am about to embark on one great big, holy crap adventure – and I’m kind of terrified. The terror isn’t going to hold me back, in fact it is pushing me forward, but the fears of failure or success or getting hurt along the way – all these things are beginning to knot together in my tummy. You see, next week I am flying to Las Vegas for a national conference where I am going to be part of two panel discussions about farming, women, and communications. It is an amazing opportunity – one that I reached for and grabbed. An opportunity I plan to take full advantage of…but that doesn’t mean I’m not scared to death.

The other morning as I was stirring my coffee and staring at the clock, I realized that all grand adventures are, in some way, kind of terrifying. Adventures aren’t smooth and easy and always full of fun. That’s a vacation. No, adventures are full of tough treks and scary moments and amazing payoffs. I’m ready for the adventure – and the happy ending too.

I’ve been practicing my presentation (about farming, women, and communications) for a few weeks now, but I felt like I needed a fresh perspective. I called my friend, the Lemon Drop (sour and sweet all at the same time) over for dinner. The Lemon Drop realizes that there is no such thing as a free dinner where I am concerned. When I come a-callin’ he can expect a delicious meal, a lot of questions and very likely a blog entry the morning after.

Anyway, I think the best part of the evening was listening to the Lemon Drop reading my presentation about farming, women, and communications. Hearing him say things like “It’s called being a woman, right?” with sincerity made me giggle. A deep, gravelly voice – one that can be grumpy and pumpy at times – talking about the strengths women have, well, it made me see the presentation with fresh eyes and a pretty light heart…and I wasn’t so scared anymore either.

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A little thrill, a little love, a little lesson

I am going to let you in on a widely known secret: 90% of the time my brain is occupied with romance. How to recognize it (a skill I woefully lack). How to get it (again, not my strong suit). How to define it (yeah, not great there either). How, how, how. I am, without a doubt, a romance addict. A fifteen year-old giggling girl in a thirty-six year-old woman’s body. The thing is, I wasn’t boy crazy at fifteen – that didn’t kick in till I was nearly thirty.

As a romance addict, my latest drug of choice is the Modern Love blog from the New York Times. The other day I read Albert Stern’s essay on his son’s first crush and the girl who stole his heart. A ten minute episode in the life of a two year-old that spoke to the past, the present, and the future of romantic encounters.

Romance is a constant, like prime numbers or Pi. There is a high, then a low that results in either success or failure. Or, as Stern put it: “First you have a little thrill, then a little fun, then a little disappointment, and then come the brain-eating zombies.” How true, how very true.

The muddy paths and March winds tend to bring romance to my door. My most romantic moments have happened in the month of March. This fact has led some of my family and friends to deem March my hottest month. Thus far, there haven’t been any takers in 2013, but we are only thirteen days in so there’s time.

Should romance knock, I’ll be sure to enjoy the ride while keeping an eye out for the brain-eating zombies.

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In honor (or dishonor) of Mr. D

After 34 years of giving Mr. Darcy types the benefit of the doubt, my empathetic compassion and an understanding ear, I have come to one fundamental conclusion – Mr. Darcy was an asshole. Really, how many men – living, breathing men – can you count off who were crotchety, conceited jerks at first meeting but who ended up having hearts of gold with deep rivers of passionate emotion for you flowing under their icy surfaces? And, by the way, I don’t mean all those thoughts, feelings and un-acted upon desires that we project, infer or fantasize they are tormented over either.

My answer is none. Once a jerk, always a jerk.

I sound jaded, bitter and an all around bitch so of course no man would want to be around such a sour lemon of a woman, but I’m not in fact, I’m just the opposite. I am a friendly, flirty and fun girl who everyone wonders “why is she single?”. This question I can answer simply and succinctly: Because I have wasted my heart and emotions on the Mr. Darcy’s of the world. That is why I have vowed off boys for a year, why I have professed again and again that boys are a drug and I’m going cold turkey…except I had a relapse the other day…and this is my pep talk back onto that wagon…

I ended up thinking about the Mr. Darcy in my life – the crotchety jerk I’d met years ago who on very rare occasions showed me his heart only to turn to ice immediately afterward. I found myself wondering if, despite past experiences, he really did care, but just couldn’t figure out how to express himself. I pictured the wonderful, breath-taking, heart-stopping moment when he’d grab my hand as I went to leave, the way he’d stroke my face with his coarse hands and tell me he had been a fool – that he loved me.

I allowed myself to slip into the warm, hypnotizing pool of hope for an hour or two and then snapped myself back to reality and repeated the words “Mr. Darcy is an asshole” over and over again until I was more angry than melancholy and I didn’t want anything to do with any Mr. Darcy every again. No, there will be no Mr. Darcy’s, Ferrar’s, Willoughby’s or any other of dear Jane’s men (good, bad or tempting) in the rich world my head and my heart create.

I don’t want the romantic angst and self-doubt a Mr. Darcy creates – I’ll leave that to fiction – instead, I want a real man. A living, breathing man who let’s me know he wants me more often than not and who appreciates a smart, sassy and sexy woman such as myself…But then again, maybe such a man is even more of a fantasy than Mr. Darcy himself. Either way, it’s back on the wagon I go – that is, until I suffer from another, inevitable, romantic relapse.

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Heartbeats or heartbreaks?

As I’ve mentioned, last week I spent a lot of time people watching and wondering and realizing. I wondered why some men make clearly unwanted moves. Or why seemingly great guys are unreliable jerks. And how (some) absolute bastards end up being the most gentlemanly of all. Finally, I wondered why so many men choose the path of distant indifference instead of taking a heartfelt chance.

There have been a couple of articles on the death of chivalry and benevolent sexism; I even read about the current hook-up culture. All were interesting and had their useful points, but none really answered my basic question: What is the matter with men? Or, as a work colleague lamented (in a very funny tirade) “Where are the real men?”

But what is a realman? What qualities should he possess? What habits shouldn’t he possess? And what are the guilty pleasures in a man’s behaviour that you really shouldn’t like but can’t help but love?

This past year has been an education for me on what I want, what I need, and what I won’t deal with anymore. The whole thing has been eye-opening. I’ve gone from ‘2012 is the year of the hook-up’ to ‘2012/13 is the year for a sweet guy’. It has closed doors I’d propped open, waiting for that guy to get a clue and realize I’m the one. It has also pushed me to take chances I’d never have taken before with my heart and my pride.

I don’t have the answers yet, but I’d like your opinion…

What qualities does a true man possess? (For me he has to return texts/messages in a timely manner. I hate being left hanging especially when I rarely text/call in the first place.)

What are the most aggravating and stupid habits/qualities/personalities you’ve encountered? (My favorite is still the ex-farmer boy who thought telling me he was ‘horny as a three-legged billy goat’ was going to get him a green light.)

And, if given the opportunity, what wisdom would you like to pass onto men of what a woman needs to be happy? (Tell us we’re pretty or you miss us. So few men ever do.)

Guys, if you have input on us ladies I’m all ears too!

Your answers will help me out greatly. I’ll compile them in a couple of different lists so all input is welcome!

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Hide and seek

I was amazingly, ridiculously, unabashedly obnoxious to a friend this past week. For this I am very sorry…but not exactly repentant. I’ve apologized to him but haven’t gotten a response so, well, I’m pretty sure he’s pissed at me. Why was I such a brat? What set me off? What hidden anger was revealed for me to act out so childishly?

He was hiding. He was afraid of something and instead of standing in the line of fire – a torrent of ‘how are you’s,’ ‘how have things been,’ and ‘we missed you’s’ – he chose to hide. And to me hiding was unacceptable. I got so frustrated and angry at him because he does this all the time. He shows the world a confident, cocky, capable, and accomplished face and whenever you get close enough to see anything else he pushes you away. Actually, he pushes me away…again and again. So this week’s act of failing to show for an event he’d cautiously accepted kind of sent me over the edge. I was disappointed that he didn’t have the strength to be vulnerable.

I’ll admit that I had a bit of a tantrum. No, I didn’t stomp my feet or cry – Instead I organized the near-constant bombardment of text messages to his phone for an hour by three or four people.

We will likely not speak for several months.

But here is where I’m not repentant: As obnoxious as my behaviour may have been, each one of those messages let him know how much he was missed – and that I do not regret.

Strength in vulnerability is a phrase I’ve had rolling around and around in my head lately. Men have it all wrong. They think that being tough and indifferent and cocky shows a woman how strong they are. Actually, at some point men started to work on the premise that indifference was an acceptable approach to women…It isn’t.

You know what shows real strength? Being vulnerable. And you know the most vulnerable things a man could do? To be kind, courteous and well mannered to a woman. Asking to buy a drink, holding a door, offering to carry a box or bag for a woman. It is basic, gentlemanly behavior that is so rarely practiced because we, as women, have been taught to decline. Today when a man offers any of those things he’s more likely to be brushed off and rejected – no matter how unintentionally – than accepted.

I want more men to realize that taking a chance, showing their vulnerability, keeping their promises (no matter how loosely offered), and just plain being nice to a woman shows so much more strength than anything else. And don’t hide – ever. Don’t ever hide from things you fear most. Be strong enough to face the hurt, the embarrassment, the pity and the awkward moments. Nothing changes if you hide. Life doesn’t get easier, just more isolated. Problems don’t get solved, only bigger. Fear doesn’t fade, it magnifies.

Or you may come face to face with a tantrum.

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Many questions and a few uncooked thoughts

This week I did an awful lot of people watching. I mixed and mingled. I laughed and flirted. And all the while I took in how other people did the same. I truly enjoy the education exercise that is the male/female interaction (said in my best social scientist voice). It was New York Farm Bureau’s State Annual Meeting and the event is always ripe with observation opportunities.

Some men lavish women with attention while others sit nearby and just kind of hover. Some men use cool indifference as a tactic to get women to follow them. Some women are able to draw men in with a knowing laugh and a coy smile. Some women stand on the edges and pine for a particular man who isn’t even aware of them.

Why is it that you can always see other people so much more clearly than you see yourself?

I honestly don’t know where I fit in the mix. I tend to have interesting, funny men around – but they never make a move. I’ve had a tendency to fall for the men that will never give me what I need or deserve. The ones that are indifferent and kind of rude but draw me in and drag me along for long periods of time. The combination causes me to honestly wonder if I even register as a woman – or am I “just Jen?” But then, in fleeting moments, I notice a sweet man looking across the room at me.

And then I’m truly confused.

It happened the other night. I looked up a few times and saw someone that I like but don’t really know looking at me. So I smiled and he smiled back. I even went over and asked a question, giving the opportunity to start a conversation. In return I received a sentance-long answer as he turned back to the card game he was playing. Huh. So maybe I was wrong. Or maybe he’s shy…Or maybe I was wrong…I keep going back and forth on this one.

Instead, I ended up being propositioned by a very drunk friend. At least I think he was propositioning me – I couldn’t actually understand him. There was drunk hugging and drunk “you’re amazings.” There may have even been a proposal in there…Let’s just say there was an awful lot of drunk on his part. It was kind of sweet, but totally not going to happen. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and went to bed alone and wondered. Not about him, but about men in general.

I wondered about how I approach men, about who I show them I am. Do they think I’m just a flirt? Am I unapproachable? Am I strong and independent and terrifying? Am I someone they pine for or am I someone that doesn’t even register as a woman? Am I a combination of these things? I’m a natural hostess so I move from group to group, laughing and chatting, asking how people are and what’s going on in their lives. I’m a flirt, I guess, because I smile and tease and joke, making sure that everyone is having a good time.

But men don’t know what to do with that do they? And when I work the room all the man who may be interested in me sees is me paying attention to everyone else but him.

I have other thoughts from this week and my scientifically minded observations. I have theories developing on vulnerability and strength and how they are actually not what you think they are. I’ve got a few lines on how hiding from things only keeps you hiding. And a call to action for men to actually offer to help a woman out  – lift heavy boxes, hold the door, be gentlemanly and well mannered…especially if you are interested in the woman!

None of these thoughts are fully cooked yet, but be sure there will be more from me soon enough.

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Returning to a defining truth and the stories that come later…

Sometimes I’m smarter than I realize. Below is a post from April 2011 called Stories. I’ve been getting pretty upset with a few individuals in my life but I haven’t actually been telling them why. Instead I’ve put silent quantifiers and tests on them, expecting them to just get it simply because they care. No one knows what makes us truly happy…and we’re the only ones who can do the job.

When I was a senior in high school, a defining truth was passed down to me by my most beloved English teacher, Mrs. Matthews. The truth was this: It is important to always be selfish, but never self-centered. Sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? Like the opposite of everything we’ve ever been taught, right? But when explained the world opens up and the fog clears, letting sunshine and joy in.

To be self-centered is to only think about yourself and to have others work for only your ends. On one end it can mean that you consider something in your appearance, character, intelligence or talent superior to those around you. On another, it also means that you put an unspoken (or in some cases spoken) expectation on others to make you happy. In the end though, to be self-centered is that you think only of what you can get from others to please yourself.

We all have our moments of being self-centered and we all know individuals whose lives revolve around a heightened need to have others tell them how important they are, how beautiful, how loved and adored they are. It’s human nature to want re-affirmation from the outside world, but in the end it doesn’t matter what others think of us, it’s about what we think of ourselves as individuals that matters.

To be selfish is a very different thing indeed to being self-centered. To be selfish is to know what makes oneself happy and what doesn’t; it entails a level of self-awareness and understanding but also the gumption to go out and do it ourselves. Selfishness means relying solely upon ourselves to find happiness, love and accomplishment because we are the only ones who know how to make ourselves happy.

 Let me put it to you this way: if you leave it up to other people to do the “big” things, those important moments of joy or love, you’ll always be disappointed in one way or another. We’ve all pictured the ideal way a moment should play out, the way we’ll feel when someone else gives us exactly what we want, a moment of light; it rarely happens the way we picture it does it? Putting quantifiers on another person’s actions in relation to how important you are to them sets up failure and animosity both from you and from them. In these moments, a person is being self-centered.

But there’s another piece to the puzzle too, an essence that an individual can never fully relate to another person – only we hold that essence inside of us and therefore only we can make ourselves truly happy. And therefore even if an important person in your life plays their role in your ideal moment perfectly, there will still be something missing and the moment will be incomplete in some way. What I’m saying is that the people around you don’t know that they’ve just failed you, only you do.

So why put this destined-to-disappoint test of loyalty or love on them? Instead, realize that only you can make yourself happy in a way that will rarely disappoint. Make the dinner reservations at the romantic Moroccan restaurant you’ve wanted to go to for your 10th anniversary instead of dropping hints and putting silent quantifiers on your husband’s ability listen and therefore his level of love and appreciation. As soon as you start to let go of these unspoken exams and begin to take happiness into your own hands, well, you start to see all the other ways people tell you how much they care, admire, respect and love you – everything you’ve wanted to know all along.

So that’s one truth, something that I’ve built my life around and have been richly rewarded by. But the other day I learned another. I was having lunch with a friend, catching up and swapping news. I told her how recently I’d gotten a very quick, very unexpected, very decisive brush-off from someone I’d been dating. It was like a hit and run with no explanation and no confrontation, it was just done. I’d been wracking my brain trying to figure out the why of it all and was quickly being driven crazy. It was then that my beloved friend said this: You don’t know his story.

What she meant was that I didn’t know if there’d been family pressure, an ex-girlfriend resurface, insecurity or fear about the feelings he (or I) was experiencing…and I never would, and that’s when it hit me – we are the only ones who know the way to bring happiness and we are the only ones who will know the entirety of our own stories. Even if you relay something in great detail to another person, the story will never be complete; there will always be something missing, something impossible to translate.

Just like happiness, there is an essence inside of us that only we can identify and understand. Is that essence the thing that makes us, us or could it be our soul? Deep questions, but let me get back to my point…

That one simple statement brought to me such clarity. Not only did the worry and hurt and angst over the break-up disappear, but so many other things that I carry with me every day began to lift away as well. There was a lot of forgiveness in that moment.

We all have a story that can never be fully told, you just have to accept and understand the bits that other people share about their lives and above all, always ensure that the overall story of your life is one of joy and love and (most importantly) personal acceptance.

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