Archive for January, 2011
The monkeys died.
Remember Psych 101, the sad lesson of the Rhesus monkeys who weren’t touched and failed to thrive? From this we learned the importance of skin-to-skin contact. Remember, Maslow’s conclusion that after basic needs of food, shelter & safety, human beings needed to feel a sense of value, belonging & esteem?
Humans cannot go long if the needs of the body are not met. If we don’t get oxygen, nourishment, water, exercise, and sleep our body systems will begin to fail. After just a few days without sleep or water, our organs will begin to malfunction or shutdown. We are very aware of our bodies need for basic care and feeding, yet we often go without that which killed the monkeys.
Our society has become hyper-sexualized, yet we touching less than ever. Non-sexual touch seems to be reserved for small children, but the need to be touched is one we never outgrow. A lack of physical affection, will affect our sense of well being–and like the monkeys, either we or our relationships will fail to thrive.
Our society has become so hyper-sensitized over sexual harassment, we have become over-cautious about touching each other. Teachers no longer touch students, kids no longer touch their peers. What used to be acceptable, has become taboo. Sadly, new findings show that children who are touch-deprived tend to be more aggressive. Adolescents who are touch-deprived are prone to more inappropriate sexual behaviors. Simply stated, we crave touch.
The subject of hormones is mostly limited to those that affect gender differences. The effects of estrogen & testosterone are blamed for every unpleasant behavior between puberty & menopause. It’s as if we forget there are other chemical compounds affecting our moods and behavior. The hormone we don’t talk about enough is oxytocin–AKA the bonding hormone.
Oxytocin is a hormone often associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding, but it is a naturally occurring chemical in both both men & women. It plays a vital role in sexual arousal and satisfaction, and has also been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase our feelings of affection. The mere act of touching increases our levels of oxytocin. It is the reason we feel different when greeted with an embrace, instead of a handshake.
Here’s the point. Better sex starts with non-sexual touch. Women are more enthusiastic about sex when they feel fond of their partner. Regular non-sexual touch promotes both our feelings of attraction and affection toward our partner. Men generally do not touch as much as women, causing more distance in a relationship, because for men touching tends to be sexually motivated–instead of intending just to convey or nurture affection.
An inherent problem is that when young males have their first physical contact with girls, it is usually at an age when all touching makes them think “sex”. By the time a man is engaged in a long-term relationship, he may have little experience with non-sexual touching and have fallen into thinking, SKIN + TOUCH = SEX. Where as women instinctively communicate affection through touch, men become conditioned to think all touching is foreplay.
In order to recondition men to touch more, a woman must understand some of the basic qualities of men.
1. Men are big, tough, strong and fragile.
They need to be reassured and need to know we adore them for whatever they do well. (Even if what they do well is really lame.) A sincere & gushy compliment will disarm him, and cause him to feel all studly again. When men feel appreciated they are more affectionate.
2. Men are really, really smart and clueless.
Acknowledge and show gratitude when he does things you like such as rubbing your shoulders when he knows you’ve had a hard day or holding your hand in public. If he never does those kinds of things naturally, spell it out. Men do surprisingly well when given clear directions. Telling them you want him to put his arm around you when you watch TV is way more effective than waiting for him to come to that conclusion on his own.
3. Men are competent–when properly trained.
You gotta give to get. If you want him to touch you, you have to touch him. To keep him from immediately assuming that every touch means, “She wants me.” Use touch in situations where it is impossible to misconstrue intent. Greeting him with a hug, holding his hand at a PTA meeting, or giving him a kiss when he volunteers to run to the store, conveys affection causing him to start dimming the lights. When he feels loved, he is more likely to respond in kind.
For the men readers, here is the summation. She doesn’t want you when she doesn’t like you. If you’re wondering why you’re not getting any, think outside the box. Touch, stroke, embrace. If you want hot-monkey love, you must make sure all your pet’s needs are properly met.
I would find it impossible to believe in the existence of a god who wasn’t forgiving. As I see it, a prerequisite to being a god is the possession of divine attributes, or super-human powers. If one of those attributes is being all-knowing, then God is not surprised our world isn’t a better place. Therefore, if God were to exhibit human emotions every time someone on this planet screwed up, he surely would have unleashed brimstone, lightning bolts or flying monkeys by now.
Whether or not you believe in God is irrelevant to this discussion, but I am convinced that if God, a superior life-form, can forgive, it’s a worthwhile goal for the rest of us. As another tip for making 2011 a good year, I suggest the practice of forgiveness. Learning to forgive will allow you to let go of some of the stuff that keeps you from being happier.
Forgiving is complex–easy to understand, but hard to master. Because the world is full of wrongs, we are too often subject to the hurtful words and misdeeds of others. Unless we can get past those hurts, we carry them indefinitely. The old adage forgive & forget, isn’t so easy–because it requires us to let go of bad feelings–forgiving is easier than forgetting past hurt.
I think that’s a good thing. Remembering how it feels to be hurt, helps us develop the compassion and empathy that helps us to forgive others. That might sound noble, but it fact it’s completely self-serving. I cut others slack, in the hopes they will do the same for me. Whether I offend someone by something I say or by driving like a bonehead, I am hoping someone will give me a pass.
To be forgiving, we must come to terms with our own shortcomings. If we hold ourselves to impossible standards, our standards for others will be equally unrealistic. I’m sure God, like me, would prefer perfection from people, but obviously that’s not happening. I figure if God can cut us slack, it’s the least we can do for others. Not only that, but if God would forgive me, I should forgive me. However, forgiveness isn’t the same as absolution. We are absolved when we carry no guilt or responsibility for what we have done. Forgiveness does not take away one’s culpability.
Even so, many of us carry condemnation of our own devising. We may hold ourselves accountable for things for which we had no responsibility. To forgive others, we must be able to forgive ourselves–especially for the things we didn’t do. You may hold yourself responsible for the break-up of a marriage–your own? Your parents? If there was an affair, you may blame yourself for the actions of an errant spouse. If you are a parent, you may old yourself responsible for the failures of your children. An adult may hold themselves responsible for the parent who failed them. One who has been molested, may blame themselves for bad things which were not their fault. It is burden enough that we are responsible for our own failings, we cannot shoulder responsibility for all that is wrong in the world.
The world is an imperfect place. You are not responsible for all the wrong in it. When we accept the flaws of others, we are able to come to terms with our own. When we dwell on our own failings, we will believe we are failures and have no reason to strive to improve. When we learn to forgive ourselves and others, we are able to move forward.
The newness is wearing off 2011. It is no longer just the new year, it is the present and the start of the future. There is no time to waste, especially if you are one of the many who resolved this to be the year in which they will get thinner or fitter. With that in mind, it’s time to have a frank discussion about dieting and body image.
I don’t believe in dieting. My first was my last. At around 15, while waiting for leftover baby fat to reroute to places it would be more desirable, I became convinced I was fatter than all the other girls. At 5’9” and 118 lbs, it would have been helpful if someone would have told me not to compare myself to Olympic gymnasts, models or acrobats.
I have watched dieters my entire life. I can give you the rundown on most any of the diet fads of the last 20+ years. I can guess the fat, carb and caloric content of most foods, based on a single mouthful. I’m sort of like a walking, talking version of Eat This, Not That but despite my lack of experience, I am a self-proclaimed diet expert. Having watched countless diet failures, it is my life-long goal to never diet. This doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally resolve to drop pounds or tone up, but my conclusion is almost every diet will yield a net weight gain of at least five pounds. If you want to lose weight, for goodies’ sake, don’t diet–you’ll only end up weighing more than you do now.
Lesson One: Don’t diet.
Diets are a colossal waste of time for most people–the exception being those for whom they are medically necessary and/or medically supervised. It’s much easier to change your mindset and lifestyle, than to deprive yourself of food in the hopes that after a few months of deprivation, your body will forget how much it missed the stuff you kept it from. Make this the year you resolve not to diet, and you might have a chance of actually losing some weight.
Lesson Two: Accept your body.
If you’re still laboring with the burden of your body’s imperfections, get over it.
Just as I, the obsessing teen once attempted to live on 600 calories a day, it’s probable you are unfairly critical of your body–especially if your desire to lose weight has anything to do with being more attractive to men. Consider the evidence.
FACT #1: Women pay more attention to appearance then men.
Don’t believe it? Just look around and count how many men you see on a given day wearing ill-fitting pants, rumpled clothes or worn and faded t-shirts.
FACT #2: Women pay way more attention to details.
Seriously, most men barely notice a radical new hairdo. You think they notice a ripple of cellulite, when there’s so much else to distract them?
FACT #3: With few exceptions, the average heterosexual male dreams of making sweet monkey love to a woman on par with Megan Fox, Jessica Alba or the current cheesecake flavor-of-the-month.
(This includes those men with bad hair, big guts, and all those wearing baggy khaki cargo shorts.)
FACT#4: Those same men know Megan Fox isn’t fantasizing about them, and will therefore content themselves with what they can realistically hope for.
Men want women who satisfy their visual and tactile sensibilities. Women who are painfully thin aren’t nearly as smushy-nice to touch as those with a normal amount of well-apportioned fat–you know the soft curves above & below the waist. Which means the waist may be the only part of the body worth obsessing about.
C’mon, it’s 2011, most of us have seen enough naked (or nearly naked) people to realize the only perfect skin and bodies are either a) not of legal age or b)Photoshopped.
A little insecurity will do more to squelch your attractiveness, than a few extra inches. Sex appeal is a mindset–not a dress size and nothing is a less attractive than wearing a garment of self-loathing. Stop wasting time obsessing about your body. Strive to be more active and eat healthier, but don’t waste another year wishing for the body you may never have. Live in the present and set your sights on feeling and looking as good as you can.
Two weeks into 2011, those of us who made an effort to make resolutions are now coming to terms with our probably success or failure. For myself, the requisite resolutions included a pledge to see more movies and a resolution not to pay late fees on anything–including rental movies. So far, I’ve seen one movie, and am going to the DMV to pay a late fee. (In my defense, it was unforeseen circumstances, which caused me to fail to register my vehicle promptly.)
Seeing movies isn’t the usual self-improvement or quality of life resolution–in fact it may actually decrease the quality of my life, by leaving less time for reading. Despite this, Ive grown weary of listening to friends insisting I should see this film or that. Ironically, their constant blather about the films they’ve seen causes me to feel as if I’ve seen them all.
Don’t get me wrong, I like movies; I just don’t like them enough to carve time out of my schedule to see them. As a a social activity, I find the activity to be lacking, because it is mostly solitary, nevertheless, it’s a great date,–especially for married people, because it provides a civil and socially acceptable reason not to have to talk.
My sister-in-law, a movie reviewer, has named me the the worst person with whom to see a movie. I think her description a bit harsh, but I’m not sure she’s entirely wrong. My first film-goer’s faux pas was texting in the theater. Hey, it’s not like it makes noise, but apparently the light is distracting. Next there was the matter of my laughter. Funny things make me laugh–out loud. (That would be LOL for those of you for whom txting is a first language.) Additionally, I gasp at the unexpected and shriek at scary parts. In a quiet theater, I am often the only audible sound, proving that I am either a genius or a moron. It’s too early to determine which, but clearly I need to get out more.
As if this weren’t enough to annoy my movie-pal, it is probable I could eat my weight in popcorn. I don’t eat popcorn often, but when I do, I eat it with gusto, by handfuls. Sister -in-law finds this to be both undignified and annoying. Worse, at her preferred theater, a buffet of popcorn seasonings is offered. Halfway through the big barrel, I usually run out of seasoning, and find it nearly impossible to concentrate on the movie until I’ve returned to the lobby for another fix of Nacho Cheese or Sour Cream Onion.
Like one who is asked to choose the wine when they know nothing of wines, my cinematic ignorance has fostered in me some insecurity. I no longer know if my opinions on movies are valid. I liked the first film I saw in 2011, but to what can I compare it? Don’t know why I feel this way, as I am convinced that many incomprehensible films receive acclaim because nobody will admit they didn’t understand it either–and there are always films (Porky’s comes to mind) loved by the masses despite being sophomoric pap.
So that’s it. I’m going to the movies and the DMV. If I don’t become a movie fanatic, I may still have time to get to the gym and work on becoming a better person. Text me if you want to see a movie, if I don’t answer you’ll know I’m already at Bijou.
Life is full of surprises. After the New Year, I took an unintended and unplanned vacation from the blogosphere. Though I pride myself on being self-motivated in regards to de blog, I found myself surrounded by distractions. Had those distractions been inspiring, perhaps I would have authored some kind of brilliance, but alas, with nothing of import to say, I decided to allow my head some downtime. Unfortunately, life is full of detours and unknowns. The unexpected is always to be encountered.
If only life were like algebra. In algebra, there are formulas one can use to solve problems and determine unknowns. Algebra is challenging, but life is more so. At least in algebra, someone can tell you if you’re getting it all wrong. In life we are faced with problems that have no solutions, unknown quantities and too many variables.
If 2010 had been an equation to solve, it would have caused me to break the pencil and walk away, because it was one of those seemingly unsolvable strings that makes one feel their head or heart will explode. Beloved Soul Mate is a math whiz, but even he couldn’t come up with solutions for all the problems which presented themselves during the past year. I was as unprepared for 2010, as the student who has failed to study for the end-of-term exam.
Because it’s impossible to “cram” for life, I spent most of 2010 feeling lost. Not adrift-at-sea lost, but standing at a crossroads with too many choices and not-enough-GPS-lost. Each day, seemed to be one on which, I was solving for unknowns or factoring the consequences of my decisions. Should I abandon troubling relationships or simply redefine them? Should I stay where I was or venture on to other things? Should I buy a different house, and if so which? Should I change everything I’d grown accustomed to by going after a big job? Sandwiched between the big decisions were little ones like the kind that are an ongoing part of parenting. It’s hard to make good decisions when you don’t know their consequences or the how the consequences will affect others. Against all odds, I think I ended the year exactly where I had hoped to be.
Each year, there are lessons to be learned–maybe not single lessons, but themes & subjects learned and revisited. If I had to name this year’s subject, perhaps it would be geography–because I spent so much time wishing for a better road map. Like those wanderers Waldo and Carmen San Diego, I was always in a different place trying to figure out where I was or where I should go next. If I’d had any idea how often I’d feel lost, perhaps I would have had the foresight to wear something distinctive like that striped shirt of Waldo’s or something natty like Carmen’s crimson trench coat & matching red fedora. (Hey Waldo, if you’re reading this, please call your mother, she has everybody looking for you.)
Instead the new year finds me still in a t-shirt and jeans–just like last it did last January, but don’t be fooled. I may look the same, but I am not. The past year changed who I was to who I am. There is no way to anticipate where life will take us next, but we do our best to keep moving forward. I’m glad to have gotten through 2010 and hope to be ready for whatever adventures lie ahead in 2011.