Friday, December 24, 2010

Give A Little, Get A Little (Love).

I saw a special on gift-giving and the Christmas present tradtion on BBC news last night that was really eye-opening. Their human behavior expert was adamant about how we started giving gifts because they cement social relationships. It's a way of enforcing bonding for us, a tangible reminder that we care a lot about that particular person. However, once the gift is out of our hands, the way it's received is a little more ambiguous: The recipient can see it as a token of appreciation, or an admittance of guilt, apparently, which is what makes us so anxious as we give it and they open it. (High adrenaline stakes, perhaps?) Effort, thoughts and feelings that go into finding the right gift that show how much, or how little, we care about the person we're buying for. Or, at least, that's how it's supposed to be.

You can't just buy the esteem that comes with real bonding, as I've found on numerous occasions. While our society places the whole gift-giving dynamic on men treating women, for the majority of my life, I apparently mis-read the memo, and did all the treating while reaping absolutely none of the rewards, other than that "oh my god, does he even like this?" feeling. For my last long-ish term on-again, off-again guy, I bought him a leather jacket in Italy. Its wear-life already has outlasted our relationship. It's a nice coat. He stills wears it. I'm still don't regret buying it for him. But that's just the tip of my over-spending on the less-fair sex.

It all started with my first boyfriend. I was 16, didn't even really like him all that much, and yet still dropped over $80 on him for our first Christmas-- an Irish necklace, new boxers, a stuffed dog to replace the one his very real beagle had ripped to shreds, a 6 pack of his favorite beer, and on, and on, and on...just to find out he got me NADA for the holidays, and to also find out he was cheating on me 6 days later. I bought another guy a new hoodie...which I ended up keeping because I loved it so much (we shared custody of it for awhile, anyhow). I couldn't resist buying two soft-as-second-skin t-shirts I found in the most complimentary colors of blue and green for a guy...even though we'd only been seeing each other for a month. I also sent him a care package at college, which facilitated the beginning of our blow up. I used to buy my senior year of high school boyfriend chocolate covered gummy bears, his favorite, and sneak them into his soccer bag for after practice. Needless to say, I've always found it nearly ridiculously easy to drop money on guys. And usually, they drop me soon thereafter.

As I pointed out to my mother today, in the current economy, dating has kind of died. Three years ago, I was making more as a part-time sales associate at American Eagle than I am now working 20 hours a week as a peer writing consultant and Champlain's Writing Center. Three years ago, people our age had the ability to take a potential new beau out to dinner at places like Sweetwaters or Halverson's or VPB. Now, as our paycheck shrink and our gas bills get higher and higher, we have to be a little more creative. My roommate was recently taken on a very romantic winter walk in the newest snowfall. My friend Julia's favorite date was at a laundromat-- getting food delivered as they did their laundry. Movies and eating in are becoming in vogue again, because with Netflix and torrenting and streaming online, it's cheaper than going to the movies. Going out to eat and seeing a show has become a thing of the past. Brunches and bowling have replaced them. Dollar drafts at 4 PM are king, and if you can't understand why I want to treat you when I can buy you four beers for the price of one at 10 PM, we're done.

This also means that this year, I'm going light on the Christmas gifts-- I'm doling out small things (mostly, new hats, because they all need them,) from Italy that I bought for Christmas presents for my best guys way back when I left la bella Italia in May, or lending out books to friends that I think will interest them. Alli and I decided we obviously love each other enough without having to prove it with gifts. A girl's night out is the method of choice for holiday cheer with my girls-- nothing says "holiday love" with your set like getting dressed up and drunk. And as for the romantic interest? My smitten-ness will have to be enough...for now.

Merry Christmas to you and yours-- be safe, have fun, make merry! And remember...no one ever went wrong giving the gift of great sex. And it's absolutely free! Amen!

XOXO

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All I Want For Christmas...Is To Get This Out Of My Mouth.

You know what's really not hot for the holidays? Being sick. And guess who just happened to come down with strep throat during the most romantic time of the year to be playing tongue hockey? That's right-- THIS GIRL.

Among all the things in the world, the image above is NOT something you want in your mouth.

Sunday night I was feeling great. The boy came into town; we watched a movie (NOT in the sense of what it meant in high school-- in the sense we ACTUALLY watched it, or, most of it); I was in high spirits. Monday morning, I woke up to clean the apartment before it was being shown and before I picked my mom up from the airport, and I noticed that my right lymph node on my neck was slightly swollen and a little painful. Now, my throat glands are the rough equivalent of Zac Efron-- they start breaking down if you even just look at them funny and they sure as hell can't take a punch. So I ignored it. Monday afternoon, I zonked out and took a nap like the dead for hours when my body commanded it. When I woke up, BOTH glands on the sides of my throat were swollen. Great. Well, I've got Aleve, and chloraseptic spray, and throat lozenges-- bring it on, bitch. I'm prepared.

NAWWWWWT. Tuesday, I woke up crying because it hurts so much to swallow no one should have to endure that sort of pain, not even Kim Jong-Il, Jack the Ripper, or the Jonas Brothers. Now, I'm a stoic bitch. I'm pretty used to pain. In fact, I'm kind of prone and partial to enjoying it-- if you think I'm faking, ask me about the bruises and welt on my forearms sometime. But, when I'm trying to breathe and swallow and talk, that is not the time to fuck with me about pain. So, after calling my mom and sobbing brokenly to her about it, I woke Alli up and had her drive me to the Fletcher Allen walk-in clinic. Insurance is a grand thing, but still, I spent $30 to have a doctor tell me that my rapid swab turned up negative for strep, and to go home, gargle with salt water (WHICH, by the way, is possibly my LEAST favorite remedy and something I'm sure is COMPLETE bullshit), and get some children's Benadryl and ibuprofen and wait it out. I do all of the above. I sleep a lot. I try to be a trooper. I cry a lot more than I'd like to admit to. I really just wanted some sort of antibiotic from that visit, that's all, and I DON'T think it was too much to ask for. That night, I call the clinic back as rasp at them that I've done everything they told me to as religiously as a pagan can, and if anything, the only things it's gotten me is A.) feeling worse, and B.) producing copious amounts of thick, viscous, slimy saliva that won't go past my engorged glands. Great. Now I'm slowly suffocating to death, and all that they'll tell me to do is wait it out to see if it's an abscess in my tonsils that will need to be DRAINED. Sounds like all the fun you want during your holiday break, right? "Sorry babe, this may not be a great week to come see me...I'm getting my tonsils drained of pus and shit. But you have a Merry Christmas, and we'll be kissing under the mistletoe soon enough?"

Now, I am not the sort of person to WebMD shit. I'm not a hypochondriac, or a germ freak, but mono HAS been going around, and though I had in once before in high school (before I even had ever kissed a guy; it was SUCH a bum deal) and was 95% sure that's not what I had this time, I went to the Mayo Clinic online, because my aunt works there and I trust it, and did some research on strep throat. Armed with a flashlight, the bathroom mirror (I was decidedly NOT the fairest in the land at that moment), and just enough knowledge to be considered dangerous, I looked into deep throat. Well. That's an angry red, and that's certainly swollen, and WAIT...ARE THOSE WHITE SPOTS? YES, THOSE ARE WHITE SPOTS! And wait! IS THAT MY TONSILS TOUCHING MY GLAND? YES, that would be my swollen tonsils touching my swollen, spotty gland. Excuse me, Fletcher Allen, what is going on here? I'm so needlephobic I faint after getting shots and have white-coat syndrome, and even I know strep when I'm staring down my throat at it.

Called my mom. Cried about it some more. Spit some more shit out because I couldn't swallow it. Wiped my running mascara off my cheeks. Was coerced into going home a day early to have real doctor's appointment at my primary care place. I mean, I was convinced I was going to lose my tonsils at this point if this tragic comedy of errors and misdiagnoses continued, so I was willing to brave the Home From Whence I Came for one extra night if it would get me some antibiotics, which Fletcher had made abundantly clear would not be happening there, save possible administration after I, I don't know, DIED.

After listening to my general list on complaints and doing a rapid check of my ears, nostrils, eyes, and throat, it was decided in my hometown doctor's office. "You're showing 3 of the 4 signs of strep, and the only one not there is the test result," Dr. Coombs told me. "At some point you have to put aside the test and start treating the patient." I felt my eyebrows raise, fo' sho', and made some sort of hands-out-shoulder-shrug in mute pantomime of "finally!" I got scripts for not only the antibiotic I so desperately wanted, but also for steroids to speed up the process, and Vicodin for the pain, which I aptly described as being "the worst in my life." I have had my arms broken more than 4 times. I dislocated my collar bone. I've been kicked in the chin by a horse wearing steel shoes who had just thrown me into the wall of the indoor arena. I've had sex with overly well-endowed men. And it's strep throat takes the cake for "Most Painful And Humiliating Moment Of My Life."

So, moral of the story? I paid a $30 dollar co-pay, and $15 worth of bullshit medications to be told nothing was wrong with me and for things that did absolutely nothing for me. And then we paid a $20 co-pay, and under $20 for what I am throughly convinced are the best drugs in the world (I really do NOT understand how steroids and Vicodin can be less than what it costs for a g of greenery), and I feel if not like a million bucks already, but at least like 500,000 grand. I now understand not only why people love Vicodin enough to become addicted to using it recreationally, but also while I was a little confused at first when the doctor said that while the steroids can make me "zingy" and more of an insomniac, the Vicodin might knock me out, now I get it. I promptly went fucking off my rocker, and then passed out on the couch. Euuuuuphooooria.

While I know that this subject matter isn't quite what you're used to if you're a devout reader of SATCG, I feel like it's an important story nonetheless. Moral of the story in more clear, blog-themed wording? Sometimes you don't get what you pay for-- sometimes, it's the less expensive things that have the most effect. Which I think is a really valid point as we come up on Christmas. I.E-- Don't get me jewelry-- get me a new wristband to add to my tatty collection, and I'll wear it every day until it falls off. The end.

XOXO

Sidenote: Steroids make me ridiculously horny? What is this? Why? Aren't they supposed to do the reverse? Or is it because I have no balls to shrink that if affects me the other way? Does anyone have an answer for this?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From A Man's Mouth, To Your Ears.



I have to admit, I've watched the majority of his videos now. It's so nice and refreshing to have an average Joe talk about the places where men and women go wrong, and get a male perspective on where we differ. What can we learn from this?

#1: Be proactive. If it ain't goin' down, LET HIM KNOW that it ain't goin' down. It's only fair; it's only polite; wouldn't you want him to know sex isn't int he cards before you make a fool of yourself? Extend the same courtesy. As he says, there is nothing wrong with a woman saying no to sex...before sex is literally on the table. Once you let things get to that point and then renege on it...that's when you're a tease, and not in the hot way.

#2: To steal from "He's Just Not That Into You," like he says, you are not the exception. If he's done it before, chances are, he's gonna try to do it with YOU. If you let him, it's your funeral. Only if you stop him and get yourselves on the same page real quick is when he's going to start thinking about you differently than those other 101 girls, because you've made him see you differently. Lately, I've been hearing from more and more men that strong, independent girls who speak their mind and aren't afraid to sass back are the type of girls they're into. This explains why my friend Julia, who was voted "Most Likely To Marry A Rockstar" in her high school yearbook, does so well with me. (She's a reigning Champlain LikeALittle queen.) She never lets herself by lumped in with the rest of the pack. If all the girls are leaning left, she's leaning right. Guys go crazy over her. Emulate. Stop being the meek, "doesn't rock the boat" girl, and being all surprised when you're not getting what you wanted out of a relationship. Lay it all out there. He'll respect you more for it. And sass is hot. I mean, just look at that word. It's already got "ass" in it. Of course it's awesome.

#3: Thou shalt put in as much work as he is. "Everything was cool-- talk on the phone everyday; she would stop in to see me, I'd go past to see her..." The amount that you put into a relationship is proportional with how into it he thinks you are. And vice-versa, for that matter. If you want him to know you're genuinely interested, stop doing the aloof woman shit, and be the one to ask to make a date or see each other. That's when he gets that you're feeling him-- NOT when you wait three hours to respond to his text because your friend Amy told you that you don't want to appear too over-eager. Be smart, like I know all you girls are-- use your judgement about when is a good time to play the game, and when it's not.

#4: If he's paying for your meal, chances are, unless he is a very platonic friend, or the nicest and most generous man in the world with a disposable income, he's gonna want to see something for his Benjamin's. This is no secret or surprise. There are differences between a man paying for your Junior Whopper or paying for your crab leg dinner. One means peaceful co-existing while eating together. The other means "I'm taking this out in sweat from you later." Think about it this way: How many of your male friends, who you've known for years, and consider like the brothers you've never had, have paid for a meal of yours? None of very few? That's right-- that's date territory. And while I'll have my boys over for dinner, or they'll make me spaghetti and homemade meatballs in their humble abode, it's not like they're taking me out to Leunig's downtown for a slice of banana cream pie...and a steak. So, unless you want to sleep with him, or unless you're very, very hungry and very, very poor and don't mind being very, very rude-- don't accept a dinner invitation out with him to somewhere where entrées are over $20.

#5: The ears are the sweet-spot. AMEN. Ears are very dangerous things to play around with. DO NOT go for the ears unless you're ready for the consequences. Men, women, dogs...I don't care what gender or even species you are...the ears are where it's AT. Earlobes are packed full with nerves and are an erogenous zone, don'tcha know? So don't go near my ears unless you want to be having buckwild sex in about .02 seconds, and I won't go near a man's ears unless I want the same. Let's all make a pact right now-- keep your mouth off the ears, and no one will have any mixed signals or wishes that can't or won't be fulfilled, ok?

XOXO

Honeymoon's Up

I'm ridiculously impatient. It's one of my worst character traits, and it always has been-- ask my mother. I was one of those kids who started digging my elbow into her side in the supermarket when I thought that the conversation she was having with the acquaintance she had bumped into in aisle 4 had gone on for long enough, and I was getting hungry. Maybe it's because I'm an only child-- I've always wanted the show to be about ME. I am my own circus. There's a fire under my ass, and I don't have time to wait in line for other people's side acts. At times, this makes dating and relationships-- with ANYONE-- extremely trying.

I try really hard to rein it in, I do. At first, in the honeymoon phase, it's so easy. I can be patient because at first, it always seems great and like it's the answer to all your prayers. I'm as chill as I can possibly be, because I'm out to prove that I am a chill girl who he wants to be spending his time with and on. In the starting phases of any relationship, the "Meet and Greet," if you will, he's excited about you, you're excited about him, neither of you want to leave the other alone. I live for this phase-- I love getting to know people and love spending night sitting up, talking...call it the journalist in me, but I love to know their dirt and what drives them and what they're passionate about. Responses are instantaneous. Someone wants to know what you're doing, all the time. They're asking to see you, making plans, taking charge. God, it's so exhilarating and hot, especially if your previous relationship's attitude on keeping in touch and making plans was decidedly not.

But if this sort of stamina could be kept up, we'd all be in grand romances. As I think we all notice when we look around, we're not. Suddenly, you realize it's been a week since he asked you what night you're free so he can see you. You sit in front of your computer or phone waiting for a answer to a question for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and then give up and move on. And since you've already covered all the exciting shit about yourselves, conversations are a little more...mundane. After years of reading Cosmo and Glamour and women's magazines, we all know the little tricks to seem more endearing and make sure that you're still in the picture-- making sure to ask them questions about themselves and their day by bringing up specific details to prove that you listened and are interested, sending the cute little random "thinking of you!" messages, pulling your own weight by doing half of the communicating, surprising them with little things from bringing home that new action flick he's been dying to see to sending random sexts to make sure to keep things spiced up, yadda, yadda, yadda. We know we have to be nice. We know we have to be sweet, and entertaining, and patient. A week ago, maybe he was sweeping you off your feet, but this one, maybe he needs to lean on you a little bit. Or maybe you're both getting a little complacent, and there's not that fervent need to prove to the other that you're soooo into them every time you talk. But even when I know everything is copasetic, making me wait 20 minutes to get back to me about something I asked or abruptly leaving a conversation can really get me going and turn me all indignant. And that's when you realize, in a blinding flash of abject horror: Different guy, same shit.

Newness always works like a Band-Aid for a girl's down-and-out dating ego, but feels like a bitch when it wears off and your current Prince Charming is just as late in coming as your previous one was. Are we really ever any better off, or is the grass just always greener on the other side?

XOXO

Photo Cred: http://i289.photobucket.com/albums/ll233/AshKabu/comic%20art/Bored.jpg

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

America's Funniest Home (Sex) Videos

I was having a conversation with a friend last night while procrastinating taking a shower and catching up with everything due in my Food Writing course that took a decided turn for the philosophical when home-made sex videos came up. As has been previously stated, I have no issues with porn, but there's something that really just rubs me the wrong way (pun intended,) about making your own sex video. Have we learned nothing from Paris Hilton, Pam Anderson, and Rob Lowe? (In researching this, do you know that Fred Durst, frontman of rock band Limp Bizkit, and the wet-dream of my entire middle-school years, had a sex tape leaked? Please believe...my research on this matter is FO' SHO' not stopping here.)

While Cosmopolitan preaches that if you were to create your own D.I.Y home porn star DVD, it's best to be sure that there is only ONE copy recorded, and that it is kept in YOUR possession. However, I have no idea what sort of man would actually agree to this arrangement. Not one like the sort of men that I date, anyhow. All the men I know would consider that a lost cause if they had to take it out on loan, like a sort of very naughty, decidedly not public library. I'd also worry about home invasion after you break up if he has the keys to your place-- funny how your cat burglar would only be interested in what was in the "Lady and the Tramp" DVD case that definitely DID NOT contain children-friendly material.

Then there's movie-quality issues...I am a snob about these sort of things.

Overall, though, my friend and I quickly sorted out the most paramount issue about becoming your own little movie star: That one session is out there. On the records. To be seen. Compared and contrasted to. Judged. It will be impossible to deny the truth of your sex-life from then on. You'll actually see how the interior of your thighs jiggle-- and do you really want to see that? Does ANYONE?

My biggest hang-up on this matter isn't quite so trite, but it goes hand-in-whatever you happen to be groping: My issue is with its repercussion on the future. Not just your personal future, but with all of humanity's future. Though popstars have shown us that you can weather a sex tape scandal, I'm worried about what society in 2125 will think of us.

"It's there.
For posterity.
Someday, an archeologist will dig it up, and that's what everyone will think sex was like in the 21st century.
That is seriously what I always think of-- someone will dig this up someday. And what does that say about myself?"

I'd rather not know for sure what I look like during the act to fulfill my dreams of becoming an actress than have to consider what anthropology students in the future think of my reverse cowgirl. Yikes.

XOXO

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Red Light, Green Light, No Lights?

Like any smart person dating or living, I have certain non-negotiables when it comes to men: He must do what he says he will do (have follow-through). He must have initiative (put as much time and energy into planning, talking, and general effort). He must have manners (ack rite, be a gentleman, and know how to hold a fork correctly). He must have self-confidence (sexy). He must love watching football as much as I do and drink PBR (because if you can't agree on your teams or your brews, what in life can you agree on?!). This is like the Holy Grail. I get that every other female on the face of the Earth is looking for this dude; here's hoping I'm just more tenacious in finding him.

And I'm getting closer, what with all these relationship lifestyle changes. For possibly the first time in my life, a guy other than my father or a very platonic male friend is treating me like a princess-- but one in a glass tower, wearing a chastity belt. It's quite possible I'm just hornier and used to taking the bull by the horns (or other things,) and just jumping into bed with it. This would not be a shocking world revelation. As the past has shown, this isn't always the best decision and doesn't tend to lead to being treated like anything more special then a really great lay, which is why strides are being made to Do The Right Thing Here and Play The Game. But it does bring up some questions, other than "Are you even attracted to me? And if not, then why do you guys do all of this?"

But I am not a man. Obviously. And sometimes, when playing with new men, I feel extremely out of my comfort zone. There are things that I know what they mean coming from a woman, but coming from a man, I am completely lost in translation. And when I get lost, I get, well...masculine. Instead of the sweet, flirty, lovable girl I want to be around the men I'd consider letting through the Pearly Gates, my masculinity comes out to play at the wrong time to take charge! and Just Do It. (Obviously, that one's trademarked by Nike.) But despite the gender-bending overtures, I'm still no closer to getting any of this, and I AM attracted! What gives?!

So, today, male readers, you get to do ME a solid and help me decode dude behavior and figure this out. Listed below are some standard actions of men currently engaged in the early stages of getting to know a woman. Preceding them are icons-- a G for if women interpret this behavior as "all systems go!", a ? if we're completely baffled by if this is a good or bad sign, and a R if we take this to be a complete failure in the interest of ever getting it on. Your job is to correct me if I've got the wrong end of the stick on any of this. And ladies, you're not left out of the game, either-- What are some other completely baffling men dating behaviors? Let's sort this the hell out!

[G] If he talks to you every day-- either via in person if it's possible, phone, text, chat, etc.
[?] If he talks about other women who were flirting with him. On one hand, maybe he's trying to feel out how you feel about him by seeing if you're jealous. On the other hand, maybe he wants help in picking them up. I have no idea how to feel about this one.
[R] If he brings up his past relationships. Dudes-- Unless you are asked, point-blank, to discuss your exes or another girl you had a "thing" with, or unless something pertinent happened with them which goes to explain a point in your current relationship-- it is bad form to bring up another woman while talking to a woman. Especially in bed. Don't laugh. That's happened to me, more than once.
[G] If he asks you about your sex life. Then he's thinking about your sex life. (Caveat: Some men are dogs and just want to inappropriately ask you about your sex life with no reason, and no groundwork beforehand. Consider them like hand grenades-- volatile, and apt to destroy with reckless abandon.)
[G] If he tries to validate himself to you as someone awesome-- bragging about prowess, financial status, work, school, or sport accomplishments, etc.
[G] If he initiates contact more than 50% of the time, and makes the plans. What a keeper.
[G] If he tells you flat-out that he wants to do things for you. (I think it's acceptable to take people on their word.)
[?] If he tells you what's wrong with him-- i.e: doesn't consider dating a priority, has anger issues, has mommy issues, has had trouble in the past keeping it between you and him and in his pants, etc. We call this the Lemon Law: Most guys will tell you within two weeks what's wrong with them, or what challenges you're going to face in dealing with them. The good news is, he knows what his issues are, and he's telling them to you. The bad news is, he's normally not so up-front about it-- it'll be snuck into conversation, so you have to be on toes about looking for it and/or noticing it. So, is this enlightenment, or something to fall back on later when he can look at you and say, "I told you I have issues with commitment"?
[R] If he admittedly is not on good speaking terms with his ex, other women he's been involved with, or a majority of people who used to be friends. How he treats or treated them is a great preview into how he'll end up treating you.

And then, there's a flip-side to everything. To make it all even more confusing, here's what it means when a woman does the same exact things. Guys, what you're looking at right here is what we ladies know. This is what we have to work with. So if something you're doing is getting lost in translation and interpreted entirely differently...here's why:

[?] If she talks to you every day-- either via phone, text, chat, or smoke signals, it either means one of two things: She likes you, or she's dependent on you. When women like someone, we want to talk with them, a lot, especially if there's physical distance between them and the other person-- say they don't live in the same town, or have conflicting schedules that makes hanging out difficult. I'm actually weird-- when I've got a crush on someone, I do want to talk with them every day, but after the initial honeymoon phase has worn off, every other day or every two days is enough space for me. However, I get highly dependent on the men in my life-- stopping talking to exes is extremely difficult for me to realign them as a major player in my life to a bench-warmer.
[G] If she talks about other men who were flirting with her. She's trying to make you jealous and see how you really feel about her. All the way. We do this purposefully, all the time, and unless you're the most platonic of our male friends or male coworkers, we're trying to feel you out if you're going to get all caveman on us and grunt, "No! You my woman! I make you mine!" and carry us back to the cave over your shoulder like we're hoping you will.
[R] If she brings up her past relationships. We're either not over it, or we're using it as a warning tale to you about what NOT to do, so, listen close, either way. Same rule applies: Unless he asks, leave it in the past.
[G] If she asks you about your sex life. She wants your bod. She wants you to do things to her no man has ever done before. She thinks you're Superman. Her body is a movie, and your penis is the star. (Thank you, The Sweetest Thing.)
[G] If she tries to validate herself to you as someone awesome-- she wants to show you how much better your life could be if she was in it, cooking you breakfast, helping you update your job resume, and making your buddies jealous you have such a smokin' and awesome girlfriend. Oh, yeah-- we think about. We want to make your friends as jealous as you do. Fact.
[R] If she initiates contact more than 50% of the time, and makes the plans. She's secretly a man. Or, at the very least, a severe micro-manager. And is more into it than you obviously are. Recognize it, and let her down gently. (Ladies-- don't lie-- we're liberated and if we can vote, we can sure as hell call him first, but we also know what it means when shit's going bad when you're the one hunting him down to talk more than half the time.)
[G] If she tells you flat-out that she wants to do things for you. She's a keeper. She's there to help. She really digs you, and she's willing to prove it. And if those "things" are sexual in nature-- never let her go.
[G] If she tells you what's wrong with her. Unless she's bat-shit crazy, a woman with issues knows that she's got them. I know mine-- see the note above about how I get masculine when intimidated by big, manly men, among many others. Best be sure I explain myself when it happens. If we're telling you what we get crazy-pants about, it's a good indicator that we're working on those issues, and want to forewarn and forearm you before the shit hits the fan and you're wondering what you ever did to deserve the way we're treating you out of the blue.
[R] If she admittedly is not on good speaking terms with her ex, other men she's been involved with, or a majority of people who used to be friends. Unless all these men and those friends were bastards (which, can be true,) she's a stark-raving psychopath. RUN AWAY, YOU DON'T NEED THIS TROUBLE IN YOUR LIFE. Even some of the most horrible break-ups can result in civil behavior or continued friendships and acquaintances. My most dastardly ex is still someone I spend time with. Granted, some of it is catty, sarcastic time, but we can be at the same place at the same time, nonetheless.

So, are we on the mark? Way off-center? Completely missing the point? Did you learn something? Can you teach me something? We'll all never know unless you tell! That's what that comment box is for.

XOXO

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Man Eater

Even though I'm a little rock-n'-roll in my style, it's taken me a long time to hop on board with the whole tights-under-denim-shorts look. Burlington, Vermont, while extremely fashion-forgiving, is not exactly Florence. This girl, however, rocked the look in way that felt easy enough to emulate with pieces out of my own wardrobe when I was getting dressed this morning in a particularly ass-kicking mood. (I'm also lusting after that men's Bone Idol t-shirt HARDBODY.)

I took this Elvis pompadour skull tee that I got at Zara in Florence, sheer black leggings, and my American Eagle medium wash denim short-shorts and called it a Vermont December day with a studded belt, and my Letizia Ferrari black high-heeled motorcycle booties from Italy. I hunted all over the internet for a photo of them, but alas, failed, so you can see them back in this post here, and here are a few other example of black motorcycle booties that I think work with this look nearly sinfully well:

Just a few hints: Keep it all black from the end of your denims down. This elongates your legs and keeps everything uniform. Some girls can pull off brightly colored tights instead of black, but if you have a midget-sized inseam like I do, black is your best friend.

And think Seattle Grunge. Think Kurt Cobain. Pile on the jewelry and top is all off with a flannel long-sleeve shirt. I roll my cuffs to mid-forearm, always. All the better to show off that jewelry with.

I'm currently trying to make up allllll the work I never did this semester before it ends, and juggle it with my social life. Here's a big mea culpa for being spotty about blogging lately-- unfortunately, it's probably going to continue for the next two weeks, but how about I promise that what I DO finally get around to posting sporadically in between crying myself gently to sleep at night at the thought of having to write another speaker reflection paper for Internship and getting my handle on this thing called "acceptable public interactions with men," they'll be really good, thought-provoking, interesting, dishy posts. Ok? Ok. Cheers.

XOXO

Monday, November 29, 2010

Be a Girl Scout; Be Prepared.

I'm a girl who likes to be ready for anything. I carry a big wallet (an embossed alligator 5 Euro flea market find from Firenze that can hold my passport,) and I make a point to always have condoms on me, because hey, you never know when the opportunity is going to present itself, if you will. In fact, at any one time, there are usually 5 condoms within close distance of my person. I told this to a guy I was sleeping with, and he seemed awed. "That's more than I have. That was my last one."

I'm highly optimistic.

Possibly even more useful than carrying protection, however, is carrying something for when you've passed to point of protection and now need to go on the offensive: Not Plan B, but a small packet of at least 2 painkillers and a few Band-Aids. Painkillers to soothe all your little roughnesses in life, and Band-Aids for everything from paper cuts at work to covering developing blisters from your cute yet painful flats. Truth be told, I always end up reaching for those two things more than the condoms.

Now, if only I could find a way to fit a shot of vodka in there for those times you need either liquid courage or a bracing moment, we'd be in business.

XOXO

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Make Wise Decisions

The first man who proposed to me was desperate for a family and cheating on me at the time because he knew that at my young age, kids weren't a paramount desire for me-- going to college was. I thought he was joking-- there was no ring, no bended knee, not even any short but sweet speech about how I made his life better. Just a "What would you think about getting married?" I laughed. To this day, I still laugh. Because life with him would have been laughable, and ended in divorce, tout suite.

The second man who proposed to me was drunk. Drunk, drunk, drunk, drunk, drunk. It was at my cousin's wedding, and we'd be talking for an hour, and everyone knows how weddings make people. When he proposed that I become Mrs. Joey Valentino, since I had the class, the brains, the looks, and the connections that he was looking for in a wife, I very gently told him to reconsider in the morning, when he was sober. One tells men used to hearing "yes" due to their family connections to reconsider things very gently. On one hand, I could be sitting in a manse in Red Bank right now, wearing Dior and sipping on Patron, or on the other hand, I could actually be getting on with my life in the real world. But I'm not going to lie-- right around when the time of the month comes to pay the bills, I start to really miss Joey.

The third man to use the words "I'd" "marry" and "you" together in a sentence was one of my best guy friends, after he saw that this was something I'd want my groom and his groomsmen to do in our Star Wars-themed wedding. He was obviously kidding, and it was obviously not really a marriage proposal. It was the best one that I'd gotten yet.

Make wise decisions when it comes to the rest of your life, ladies. There's a difference between being in love with someone and being in love with the idea of love. The wisest women I know have turned down their first 2 proposals. Extremely wise mothers of some of my friends turned down the first 2 proposals of their future husbands and fathers of their children, just to make sure they were serious, or because they felt that as a man, they weren't ready yet for marriage. It takes a while to find out what you're really looking for in a mate, and the best way to do that is to be faced with the idea of spending the rest of your life with someone, and realizing you don't want to for this reason, and that reason, and because they hold their fork like this. Be young; be wise; be single-- don't get married or even engaged until the third time is at least more than a charm.

XOXO

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Woman's Plea

Please take me on a date. Like, a real one. Not one that later I will question if it was a pseudo-date, or merely you making sure I actually have two ears and two legs and one nose. One where other people will see us and instantly be able to recognize between your look of sheer terror at the thought of not entertaining me enough, and my full face of make-up that we're both hoping at some point in the near future to wind up horizontal and We Are On A Date because of this. It doesn't really matter where you take me-- I mean, as long as they serve beer, you could take me to a cockfight (not a euphemism), and I would still try to make sparkling conversation and validate your choice of venue. The key to impressing me is to ask me out in the first place, because, let's be honest here, from there, it's all downhill. Even if we were to go on a second date, or a sixth date, or end up together for two years, sooner or later, you will discover how I always leave an inch of drink left in my cups in the fridge, which I never plan on finishing, and I will discover, at some point, your love for either 80's power ballads or anime porn. It will never be as new and exciting as that first real date, ever again.

Please take me on a date. If we go out to eat, please pay for my meal. It's not that I'm a gold-digger; it's just that I've run out of edible combinations for the pickles, peanut butter, and fiber crackers that make up the remains of my kitchen cupboards at home. If I plan the date, or suggest eating while we're out, it's because I'm hungry at that moment, and I promise that I will pay for whatever I get, be it Starbucks, or lo mien. But if you're the genius who came up with the idea of going to that crazy-expense new sushi place because it boasts aphrodisiac sea creatures and the "romantic atmosphere" you hope will get yourself laid, please pay for my meal. I signed on for a date, not a second mortgage.

Please take me on a date. I promise to act like a normal human being. I will not ask you if you can do the M.C Hammer dance, because I really want the groom at my wedding to be able to do it with his groomsmen while wearing Stormtrooper helmets. I promise to stay off hot-button issues like politics, my lack of religion, and your pants. I promise to at least smile at your jokes, if not laugh at them, and only discuss things that I'm passionate about, like living in Italy and the Impressionist art period, so I light up from the inside and come to life, not things I'm passionate about, like sticking it to my ex and how I loved Mark Wahlberg even when he was Marky Mark. Especially in those magical white boxer-briefs. I promise to hold my fork the etiquette-class way, and not like I'm getting ready to spear your hand if you reach across to steal one of my fries. I promise to order more than the salad.

Please take me on a date. Make the first move at the end of the evening. Unless I've been blatantly yawning at you or texting through the entirety of our time together, it's a pretty safe bet that I'm giving you the female air traffic control signs to align your lips with either my cheek, or if you're feeling particularly dangerous, my own. Even if we don't kiss goodbye because I am hacking up a lung and possibly my left kidney, and though you're willing to swap cigarettes with me, you're worried that your immune system will not be able to keep it's shit together if it meets with my saliva, just know that I am wearing nice underwear. Though the chances of you actually seeing them at this juncture are slimmer than the chances of Nixon ever admitting to being the mastermind behind not only Watergate, but the Snuggie, too, just know that were we to somehow trip over a storm drain and a freak gust of hurricane wind were to rip our clothes off on the way down, and I landed on top of you...yes, these are from Victoria's Secret.

XOXO

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where Have All The Good Men Gone? Someone's Already Dating Them.

Like I've said, I enjoy a challenge and something new. After a year of riding the same merry-go-round, I decided to take a break from the one-man game and see what else was out there and offering itself's up, because, after all, what's good for the gander is good for the goose-- if you're not getting what you want and you need, and if there's no commitment, and he's off having fun elsewhere or not making up his mind-- you should be looking elsewhere, too. Respect yourself; know your worth. If one man won't appreciate it, chances are, another will. Start looking for that man, or men, if you feel like you just want to date casually at this point in time. Men have been doing it for years; it's time for women to start dating and mating like men, too.

And if there's anything he can do, I can do it better. Am I right, ladies, or am I right? Time for me to enter the world of dating, albeit a little bit late in RSVPing. Straight from the dating trenches, I bring you the secret, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Ridiculously Attractive, and the Golden Rule:

The Secret: Your friend's friends are your secret, untapped resource. Ask around and see if anyone is hiding a great guy-- someone they used to date and have remained friends with with no residual desire, just a platonic friend, a brother or cousin or co-worker or classmate, etc. The good news is, your friend can vouch for their sanity, and knows what you're looking for, and can also play referee and deliver the rulings from the other side of the field; if they feel comfortable doing so, of course. (Guys, I hope you realize this goes for you, too-- your buddies could be sitting on some great girls to set you up with!)

The Golden Rule: 10 minutes of straight, uninterrupted talking is possibly one of the smartest moves you can make when you're getting to know someone. Plan the event surrounding those 10 minutes of bliss (or abject horror) accordingly. The object of this first date or meeting is to fill enough time doing something else so that you still don't know everything about each other, because hopefully, the suspense and good feelings created will lend themselves to a second meeting. Sporting events, where it's only considered decent to talk in between innings or quarters or commercial breaks, are a great choice if you're sports fans; catching a show or a concert is another venue that gives you time to re-group and be silent and think, rather than having to spend all the time together talking, which, let's face it, can be trying, or worse yet, means you run out of things to converse about. Though movies aren't generally considered the best since you're sitting silently side-by-side in the dark for 2 hours, it could maybe fly with the right person. Maybe.

The Good: "I offer my most sincere apologies but I have to run; I'll talk to you tomorrow, though."
The Bad: Just signing off or not responding to the last text or leaving. You'd be shocked and amazed how many guys do the "bye!" duck and run, or, don't even say that they're leaving. Common manners is saying goodbye; great manners are apologizing for an abrupt exit, and leaving a time-frame for the next time they'll be in touch. (Same goes for you, ladies-- let a guy know how much you've enjoyed talking with him, and let him know it's either ok for him to contact you again, or that you'll be in touch with him. Stop being so fucking aloof. Let him know he's done well and that you like him. For god's sake, flirt with it if you're into it. A little mystery never killed any romantic suspense, but being an Ice Queen sure as hell never started any grand passion.)

Women tread a fine line with dressing for dates. On one hand, I lived in Italy for 4 months and dropped some major cash on some pretty fashion-forward clothing. On the other hand, no woman should outshine her date-- the goal is to match each other in terms of dress. I'm not talking you two should be in matching tracksuits like how your mom used to buy you and your siblings all color-coordinated outfits for the holiday family photo, but rather, that the way that you dress will compliment the way that he dresses. (Because let's face it, women generally are more fashion-conscious then men. It's easier for us to think of all the outfit possibilities and align that with our plan.) However, this being said, it is always better for the woman to be a little more under-dressed than the man. This is because if a girl shows up dressed to the 9s, while a dude's in his flannel shirt and jeans, it's going to do 2 things: Make him feel self-conscious, and convince him that she's more invested than he is. When in doubt, GO CASUAL. Jeans, boots, and a shirt never went wrong. A skirt and a t-shirt is fine. Tailor your outfit to the location-- if it's a movie or a concert or bar, a dress will look out-of-place. If you're going out for dinner at a place where entrées are $20 and above, you might want to wear that dress there.

The Ridiculously Attractive: When a guy shows up with obvious effort put into his appearance. I dressed a little down; he showed up in a button-up cuffed at the wrists, trousers, and a fresh shave. His stock went through the roof.

The Ugly (Truth): I'm gonna say it-- I hate Facebook chat. I really, really hate Facebook chat. I usually sign in, scope out who's on, and then sign off real quick before any of the random people I went to high school with and haven't talked to in years decide it's time for a reunion! This being said, everyone and their mother is addicted to Facebook today, and it's generally a good place to get in touch with people, meeting, before, or in between or after dates. Today, I logged myself on and sat down, waiting through an excruciatingly weird conversation with one of my best friend's exes, just to ignore the person I actually wanted to talk to. Why? Because I'm a woman. We set up a scene so that we can wait around...and then ignore a guy until he starts talking to us, ESPECIALLY after a date or seeing him for one of the first times in person.

See, it's all about the chase. If you've just met up, or if you just went on the first date, contacting him first it going to cloud your waters. I mean, yes, we're big girls in the 21st century here, and if we like a guy, we know how to let him know. But it's also important to find out exactly how he feels about you. If it didn't go as well on his end as it did on yours, it'll show in how long it takes him to contact you. And if he's enthusiastic about you, you'll also know it by how little time it takes for him to say "hey" again. From there, you've got a pretty educated guess on how receptive he is to you, and if date 2 or meeting up again is an option.

Let's recap: I am perfectly comfortable asking a guy out (though I'd prefer he does, first). I'm fine with asking for digits-- asking for people's phone numbers should be routine by this point in your life. I even periodically open doors FOR MEN. But what am I, and nearly all other women-- and I'd be willing to bet large sums of money on this, if I had it-- still loathe to do? Be the one to make first contact. It's so fucked up, I know, but that's women for you. There. Consider yourself strapped. Go forth, and message her first.

Happy dating! And if you have any dating rules you live and die by-- send 'em in! Lord knows I need all the help I can get.

XOXO

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And Lead Us Not Into Temptation.

As I may have stated previously, I am an extremely monogamous and loyal person. And though I'm currently not in any committed relationships, it genuinely makes me question my morals when feelings for two disparate people are happening at the same time. To me, the girl who always has a favorite of everything, and a firm opinion on why it's the best one, it feels like...emotional cheating.

The problem is, when things aren't "new" and "fresh" anymore, or, if you aren't getting what you need from someone, you're susceptible to anyone else who comes along and can offer you what's missing. This is where things start to get sticky. I have an incredibly fine line between "happiness" and "being kept occupied." It's hard for me to differentiate between the two, because, for me, being kept occupied makes me happy. What is always shocking is when I finally do separate if I'm happy from if I'm just spinning my wheels to be convinced that I am happy. Am I being kept occupied right now? Yes. Am I actually happy? No. Because I'm a big fan of the human connection. I like to be able to talk about random things, life plans, or share music, movies, or news with the people I think will enjoy them. In a functional relationship, this is great, because it means there's always something to talk about. But, when it's been awhile and the lines of communication are stunted for one reason or another, that's what I miss the most. And then along came an answer, and it sat down beside her.

What did I say? What did I say? Every time Juggernaut Ex comes into town, my current relationships are in for a change, either progressing, ending, or introducing someone new. Jeeesus. I'm getting too busy and too ambivalent for this shit.

Let me count the ways that women fall for looking elsewhere for what they're not getting:

All the women I know prefer to be pursued. All my bullshit about not wanting to be taken out is exactly that-- bullshit. I can't wait until some guy sees through it and just DOES it. Let's face it, if you looked at me and said, "Let's go get something for breakfast," or "Let me buy you a few dollar drafts," I'm not going to stop you. I am, after all, human, and therefore, need to eat and drink. And if I can eat and drink while casually talking without someone I am genuinely interested in, that sounds kind of like a win-win situation for all. And I do think that the definition of that example is a "date." And if you're clever enough to not say the word "date," and instead, ask me to "do something" or "see something" with you, well then...all the more power to you.

Though I was about 15 minutes of conversation, or one day (whichever came first) away from asking him out for coffee to get to know him better, he beat me to the punch when he suggested watching a highly contentious football game together. (I'm an Eagles girl who considers Michael Vick in his second-coming as the Jesus of football, and he's a Giants fan.) I knew that my love of football and Star Wars would eventually pay off with men. I mean, jesus, it took this long for someone to ask me to watch a game. What sort of inherent no-brainer is that? While I was perfectly comfortable and confident in asking him to grab a cup of joe, the fact that he put an offer out on the table first showed initiative and self-confidence. Both sexy traits.

They compliment you. Seriously. When was the last time that you said something legitimately sweet or complimentary, straight-out, to someone you've known or been with forever? You don't. That's the issue. At first, you're all about letting someone know that you're into them, and vice-versa. After awhile, you think it goes without saying that you think that they're the bee's knees, but we all still need to hear it sometimes.

Help. He asked about my writing program, and then went on to offer help facilitating contact with professionals in the food industry if I ever needed quotes or ideas for an article. Women, even if they say they don't need it-- and I'm a huuuge example of this-- still like to be offered help. It's like having a safety net behind us; if we fall, we know that someone's got our back.

Scintillating conversation. He had my interest at "microcosm." Once I find out that a guy has an over fourth-grade reading comprehension, yet is still kind and unpretentious, then he actually has a chance with me.

But how many players are you allowed to have on the field at once?
As my oldest friend Caiti said, "It's just ingrained in society that the man makes the first move. But girl, this is 2010. Welcome to the 21st century. I say if we can vote a man into office, we can ask him to be the only man between our legs."

What do you think? Where do you draw the lines of loyalty? Can you juggle being attracted to two or more people at once? What is your personal cut-off point when it comes to acting on it? How do you avoid temptation?

XOXO

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Long Gone



Tonight, I went to a bar with one of my exes. (Don't worry; this is not one of "those" stories that involve the equation of an emotionally vulnerable woman + man from her past/present she can tell you full measurements of, and I mean, FULL measurements + alcohol = oops.) It actually wasn't as simple as that, because it never is-- when he originally got in touch with me, he said "coffee" and "afternoon," which as the day progressed later and later, turned into "beers" and "11 PM" by the time we actually connected with each other. As is prone to happen, as soon as we made firm plans, a dinner invitation with friends rolled in, I realized I had absolutely nothing to wear in my over-flowing closest that was suitable for this occasion of "hi, this is casual, and yet don't I look great?", another guy came over while I was supposed to be getting dressed, and yet another man texted me to ask if I had any plans for the night. Yes. Yes, I'd say I did. (I swear men have uncanny Spidey-sense about when other men are moving into territory. As I followed my mid-dressing visitor into the kitchen, I had a brief, terrified moment where I thought he was actually going to sit down at our kitchen table to chat and render me hopelessly late for this most very important of dates.)

It always blows my mind how skittish women are about calling guys to firm up plans, but after the ship has sailed, I swear to god it's the easiest thing in the world, mostly, because you don't give a shit. You stop worrying about who was the last one to call or text, or if you're blowing their phone up. He texted me on Wednesday to let me know he was coming into town. He called me this afternoon to work out a time and let me pick a location-- he always lets me pick the location, and this is such a good move on his part. I texted to re-affirm that plans were still on. He texted me to let me know where he was downtown before the bar if I wanted to stop by and grab a slice of pizza pre-drinks, and I called him when I was 5 minutes away from the bar to make sure he was there. I have been told that in a perfectly functional relationship, this is the sort of discourse a couple can have. I have only been able to seemingly achieve it with a few of my exes. I never said I don't have my communication issues.

Once there, standing, pint glasses in hand, face-to-face again after 2 years, it got interesting. I was surprised to find myself no longer sexually bowled over by him, even since our last meeting. Not much had changed in his life, while a lot had in mine-- it made for uneven conversation and the feeling that the student was outgrowing the master. He's 25 now, and I was standing in front of him, drinking legally, obviously not 18 anymore; we were both a little taken aback. And then "Hot Thing" by Talib Kweli came on, and I couldn't place it-- other than the fact that it's on my iPod-- and why it seemed so familiar, and why we were both suddenly so stiff, until I realized it was one of Those Songs from a dark night and twisted bed sheets. Awwwkward. Thanks, 3 Needs.

Afterward, we strolled Church Street to talk where we could actually hear each other talking about our respective semesters in Florence over DMX growling, and when our arms brushed, there was no static charge anymore. In my mind, that was the end of The End. Ship. Officially. Sailed. Off over the horizon. I really have no clue how and why these things work. It makes me wonder if I'll wake up tomorrow morning, or the morning after that, or 2 weeks from now, or 3 months, and suddenly, have no feelings left for people I've held on so doggedly to and weathered through so much with. Probably, actually. Sad, really.

I'm not going to lie about this: Every woman secretly hopes to hear that a guy she used to be with has found that he just isn't able to live without her. This is very rarely the case. But, as we of the XX chromosome persuasion have to know everything, and figuring that all this time and all those other men in between later, I thought it was high time to actually come out with it while he walked me home and ask him why exactly he still calls me every time he comes back to Burlington and asks to meet up.

But instead of admitting his misfortune on dropping off the face of the Earth after graduation and dropping me faster than a hot potato covered in ignited kerosene, when asked why he's kept in touch with me, 3 years later, he grinned his little grin and said, "I still like seeing you. I liked seeing you tonight. And I enjoyed the friendship that we had," and kissed the side of my head. Roughly translated from his Manslation, "I liked the way you blew me."

I have no hope for huMANity. Or my love life.

XOXO

Friday, November 12, 2010

When Women Re-Enter The Cave

One of my more endearing quirks is the fact that I'm one of those girls who always goes over to a guy's place, rather than having him come to me. A great way for my guys to figure out how I feel about them is if I invite them over or not: If I ask you to come over, I'm not stressing about you seeing where or how I live. In other words, we're great buddies. I'm comfortable around you. You can totally see where I sleep. But if I drag my feet about having you over more than George Clooney drags his feet about getting married; oophf, I may like you enough to not want you to see my dirty dishes, what science experiments my roommate and I are growing in our fridge, and be worried about you finding out how many pairs of shoes I really do own. (Ummm...it's a lot.)

The last man I had invited into my home slept in my bed, broke some bedsprings (yeahhh...let's not talk about that...) ate my food, broke my ottoman, and left his proverbial scent over everything I owned. I saw traces of him everywhere I looked, in my own things. It took a long time after the break up for me to be able to sit in my own apartment again without feeling like shit. It also took me a long time to get ready to invite another of my guys into my living space. So, in the meantime, I went out to their places a lot.

Women's mags would have a field day berating me for this (all that yadda on going into a space where he's in power, etc., etc.,), but there's something that I really love about being in Man Space. I like talking to the roommates, and admiring the attempts at interior decorating. I like drinking beer that isn't mine, and reading books I don't have on my own bookshelf before he wakes up in the morning. And I really, really like waking up in an apartment that isn't mine. A joke that really isn't a joke that I recently told a friend is that the shittiest part of a break-up is the fact that you can't retreat to someone else's territory when yours is hostile or boring. There are some nights you just want to not be home, or some ungodly early mornings that your landlord wants to come in to do some reconstruction work. Those are the sort of nights that it'd be nice to have enough money for a hotel, but, in failing that, would like to have the option of using the person you're sleeping with's bed instead. So, figure, spending the night at a guy's house is like going to a 2-star hotel with a prostitute. But in a more romantic, less illegal way.

I found this article from Glamour online today, and it was like it encapsulated everything that I love about going to my guy friend's places. While she may have liked the fact that when a dude is home, she knows where he is and with who, I like the whole "gather around the man cave" concept for another reason. One of my favorite parts about not staying home is being able to go over where a dude is hibernating at home and hang out with his buddies. At home, it's me, it's Alli, and it's His Little Shit Nicolai la Citta, who, having NOT been neutered and in retaining both of his furry balls, is probably the most testosterone-ridden thing we see around regularly. And as should probably be splashed across the headlines as it is so NOT breaking news in any sense, it's pretty obvious that I'm a really big Guy's Girl. I drink beer. I have a football team. I can out-quote you on Star Wars. I can identify how many cylinders a car has by sound. I sleep between to a collector's edition Batman comic book and a life-size cut-out of the Joker. I do pretty well for myself with guys, and I really love getting to know their friends.

But unlike the author, I like the man caves as much as the men inside of them, and obviously find it a huge turn-on when a guy has so thoughtfully "pimped out his man cave." It shows that appearances are just as important to him as they are to me and that his cleanliness is close to him being godliness. I was actually with a guy for awhile who had the most spectacularly neat room I've ever seen other than my own, and thought that this was the norm until I met one of his longtime girl friends who promptly spilled the beans that that was NOT true, and it appeared as though he'd been cleaning before I came over. I do the same thing. I was charmed. She thought it was hilarious.

One apartment full of men I know is decorated with the findings of one roommate's antiquing and flea-market finds. (Having side tables gets you far with me.) Another house of 4 guys has a cleaner bathroom than we do at Heaven on Union, and HANDTOWELS! One of my female friends lives with two of my guy friends, and together, they stock and share a refrigerator I am truly envious of that consists mainly of beer, expensive foreign cheeses, and meats. I clearly have such awesome guys in my life. Why would a girl NOT want to spend time in man caves like these?

Oh, right-- that whole asking to come over thing always sucks.

XOXO

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sex with an Ex: Distressed, or Progress?

Over an extremely rare burger and extremely good beer out with friends tonight, I got a text from one of my exes. He was not, shall we say, one of the prominent exes in my life; rather, a guy I was with for the last month of my freshman year of college, just before he graduated and fell off the face of the Earth, never to be heard from again, until the next time he happened to come back to Burlington, and every time he stopped in again after that. He is, of course, the resident ghost of "Night of the Living Undead Relationship", and since I wrote that, has re-orbited around from the wild blue yonder twice, neither of which time did I see him. We'll see if we really meet up to discuss life post Firenze this Saturday or not. One way or another, it's still a bit shocking every time it happens.

But it got me thinking, as I pulled a surprised face when I saw his name on my phone's screen and showed it to my incredulous roommate beside me, about your relationships with your exes. Some of them I like to pretend don't exist anymore. Some of them are perfectly nice people with whom we both had bad judgement in dating and it just didn't work out, and we still are friends are periodically hang out in large groups with our mutual friends or chat for a good 15 minutes when we run into each other on the street and part with a hug, no harm, and no foul. And some of them are still around, (or, at least, cycle around periodically like this Space Cowboy) and defy both definition or a close to a relationship.

While I may not be doing anything other than having coffee and speaking Italian with this ex, there are other things you can be doing with your exes than meeting up with the crew for brews or occasionally catching up via Facebook chat or Skype or when you go home for the holidays. How bad is sex with an ex, really? Cosmo seems to want us to believe that after re-joining your genitals, you promptly go up in flames of shame and defeat. "It's hot, it's naughty...oh yeah, and it's a really stupid idea. You know it's unhealthy, and that's precisely what makes it so damn good."

I can get behind this state of mind, and I have in the past: It's basically admitting you haven't met any better men, which is depressing at best, and degrading at worst. I even used to think that "you could always do better than yesterday's old news." Believe me. Some of my past "issues" are more fit to line hamster cages than anything else, and I still feel this same way about them. But not all of them are equally horrendous.

78% of Glamour readers also say that sex with an ex is a bad idea. Shanna Moakler, otherwise known as Travis Barker of Blink-182's on-again, off-again wife stands as the one lone vocal supporter of it: "As long as you go into it with a clear mind-set—knowing it’s complicated, knowing you have issues and knowing the relationship can’t go forward—I say yes! Do it! All of the pressure is off, and you can just enjoy each other as friends and lovers. [We’re] exes, but there’s still that substance there, that history."

Sure, this is still someone who you care a lot about. That's perfectly fine. You've spent a lot of time together. You know each other intimately. It's only right that you want to see the best for them. What I've come to realize is that you don't ever "get over" someone you were at one time in love with-- you just fall back out of love with them, gradually and almost unknowingly. The history and comfort that you have with each other can gleam in high contrast to the awkwardness of the mornings after or the futility of trying to meet new people who you like as much, if not more. But only if you have moved on enough in your own life that you don't still want to "be" with them can sleeping with them again really be called "safe." And even then, we can be back-stabbed by our very own brains, who believe that the release of oxytocin released during orgasm means LuV 4EvA, hehehe! So do yourself a favor so you don't find yourself back-sliding: DISAPPEAR.

Take a few days, a week-- whatever-- after the event and go all Witness Protection Program. There should be, at this point, nothing else that you need to talk about, so don't. Don't make excuses for it, and don't hang around. Go, enjoy your post-orgasmic bliss, and invest your energy and happiness somewhere else. (I hope by now you've learned that you can't depend on them as your sole source of happiness. It's all about YOU, sister.) Wait until you actually DO have a reason to talk to them to reappear. And no, "I'm horny again" is not a valid reason. Something like, "Hey, can I pick up the shoe I left there, and have you happened to find my car keys?" is. But then again, you have more than that one pair of shoes (I SINCERELY hope,) and you don't really need to drive anywhere for a few days. So give it some chill time. Do whatever it is you need to do to keep yourself balanced-- when I get lonely at night, I borrow my neighbor's amiable huge mutt Mason, who likes to spoon just like a human man (something I may or may not be coming around to), and give of just as much, if not more, heat. Mason, however, doesn't snore. As much.

Also, I find it really handy, when you are feeling a little weak, to remind yourself of all the hugely dickish moves they made. This is especially helpful in keeping you clear-headed if they're STILL occasionally slipping up and making the dickish move. In that case, I would almost be inclined to say thank them for making your life easier.

But strangely, it was Marie Claire's male blogger Rich Santos who encapsulated the whole ex-mystique thing so fully: "These days, I'm undecided on whether it's best to take someone back or swear them off after they've messed up. A lot of it depends on why they left your life or how they messed up... If you take someone back, they may think they can get away with treating you badly and they'll take advantage of you. When you have that familiarity with each other, it's so easy to fall into bad habits. For example, I've gotten back together with many women as a temporary Band-Aid for our mutual loneliness (which usually plays itself out in the form of sex with no real relationship). Usually, your heart is wrong and your head is right, but your heart wins out. Sometimes it's impossible to say "no," and that's OK." Or, as he then points out, it could be better than it ever was. Not being fully together anymore takes a lot of the pressure of a bona-fide relationship off-- my favorite part is that I am no longer obligated to answer to my exes. Problem is, that also means that they are no longer obligated to answer to you. See? Even out of a relationship, you can never win.

All in all, there's something to be said about your exes who are still current in your life. Whether or not you're into sex with an ex or not, get on with your bad self. Seeing my orbiting ex again always makes me realize how much I've matured and changed from when I was in love with him, and carrying on other relationships with exes teaches a delicate sort of teeter-totter between intimacy and friendship that you'll never learn any other way. I really think that the relationships you have with your exes AFTER the end of your "relationship" is the NEW relationship of the 21st century. It's your grown-up "we're all people here who have issues and needs" relationship. So embrace the ex. It's just up to you how full you decide you want that embrace to be.

So, what do you think? Ever been burned (a second time) by the same person? Are you one of the 78% against knocking some familiar boots, or are you one of the cool 22 who think there's something to be said for it? (Namely being, y'all know the bells and whistles {and emotional hang-ups} already.)

XOXO

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Text And The City

I send texts. You send texts. We all send texts. Everyone's doing it. But are we doing it...wrong?

There is nothing quite so degrading as when you realize you're giving your phone the evil eye, waiting for it to ring after you send someone a text. I mean, for chrissake, it's an electronic lump of plastic, and here we're thinking giving it the look that would freeze hell over will galvanize someone miles away into action, manipulating them to reach for their similar hunk of plastic, and redeem all of human kind to us. We all know, I think, how often this actually happens. The opposite of what we'd like to happen happens more often than we'd all like.

Wow. Our expectations and misplaced steely stares are grossly over-sized. So, how do we learn how to text...better?

First, we need to recognize a fundamental fact to communication between the sexes: Women perceive their relationships better than men. A study done by Hebrew University of Jerusalem showed that after surveying 97 couples in the United States, women are more perceptive than men in describing their relationships. The study, which was published in ScienceDaily, reported that women were much more accurate in describing the perception of their partners than men. Sometimes this hurts more than it helps. This means that, technically, a woman texting should know the situation that she's getting into and the sense of decorum that it comes with. Is this always true? Fuck no. How many of you ladies have sent those texts that as soon as your thumb lifts off the "Send" button, you start cringing? I start shaking, myself. Like I have palsy. It is tres, tres attractive, I'm sure.

I really, and I mean really hate the phone. This should be apparent by now. Which is exactly why I've spent so much time and off-the-mark texts researching what the best ways to compose and send them are. And this is what I've found:

We all have options about the way we have text. There are easy options, ambivalent options, and leave no pris...I mean, hard options. Most texts are usually ambivalent options. If he says he's got other plans when you ask what he's up to tonight, you probably won't be heartbroken. The general variety "Hey, do you wanna go get a drink?" or "What are you up to now/later?" are ambivalent options. Ambivalent option texts are usually safe texts to send and receive because the sender generally wants little other than some sort of contact with another life form for the sake of feeling not so bored and there's not so much pressure. Unfortunately, these are the sort of texts least likely to get responded to. It happens, though it still really pisses me off, primarily because like stated, they generally aren't threatening texts at all, merely curious and mostly seeking beer or other forms of entertainment of a purely friendly kind, no ulterior motives. (Well, ok, I mean, everyone always has ulterior motives of one kind or another.)

But sometimes, you need to hardball. Sometimes, you need to put you first. Maybe you had plans you need to know are definite. Maybe you forgot the notebook with your calc notes in it at his place after spending the previous night, and you've got a test in 2 hours. Maybe you really need advice on a matter, and value their opinion nearly more than your mother's. This is when you hardball. You don't want to force a no-options text when you think you want to spend the night. That's like using The Force for evil. That's turning over to the Dark Side of being one of Those Girls. (Pink lightsabers are not good lightsabers, people.) Text "I have to get my _____. What time will you be home so I can get it?" No options. You're getting that _____. Today.

A "soft option" or "easy option" looks like an ambivalent text at the beginning. It usually starts with a "Hey, what are you up to?" or something equally breezy and conversational, then it gets to the point after the "Not much, what about you?" response. A "soft option" then gives a time limit and easy out for the recipient to say either "yes" or "no" to, no pressure. "Can you chat for 5 minutes?" DON'T use "talk." NEVER use the word "talk" in a text in the context of "Let's talk," or "I want to talk to you" or "We need to talk." This makes sirens go off, and if you seem overly seriously, it's another no-no. They'll run for the hills. Seriously. Always stay light and informal. Now is a good time to be delicate about asking for things. This makes it a "soft in," because there are good chances that you'll get that in for 5 minutes or an invite. The main difference between an ambivalent text and an easy option text is that an ambivalent text is very direct and to-the-point without being overly polite or seeming like you're asking for a favor, like an easy option text usually takes the form of. The point of an ambivalent text is that you really don't give a fuck, which you do with easy option texting-- which is why you're making it an easy option.

Some other rules of texting thumb and phone etiquette:

- Always ask yourself, what am I trying to communicate in this text? Is it clear? Can anything be misinterpreted? Unfortunately, the answer to this last question may still be "yes," but at least by now you've done your best.

- Keep the text to one point. Abbreviate what you can, without it looking like a 14 year old wrote it. Keep it classy, and abbreviate using shorthand. "With" becomes "w/." "Because" is "b/c" or "bc." "And" becomes my favorite symbol, "&." "At" is "@." And although I really hate it, and it's the last thing I abbreviate, and only then if I really can't help it, "you" can be "u." God. I feel so awkward and tweenage all over again. And unless you're texting your best friends, keep it to one text page at a time. Getting slammed with a consecutive 2 or 3 in a row is so overwhelming.

- If you want a text back, a good place to end is on asking a question. A pertinent question. People are more apt to respond back to questions, even if it is only with one or a few words.

- Sass is hard to pull off without sounding like a bitch unless the other person knows your humor as well as you do. Watch ya tone.

- Use a fresh opener that other people won't. A "ciao" means it's from me. Conversely, using a gender-bending opener like "Yo" or "Dude" is great for fending off the advances of men you think of sheerly platonically, or alternately if you want to make your guy friend feel more comfortable with the informal tone of your text.

- Only if you call and don't leave a voicemail message can you text a "voicemail message" instead. I actually suggest this, as it's clever because it means your name is seen twice, and if they didn't answer the call because it wasn't an appropriate time, I think we all know that by now, texting mid-conversation, or at least reading a text, is considered de rigueur. That means twice the chance that they'll know to get back to you.

But always remember-- when in doubt, and if it's important: Call.

XOXO

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Things Women Never Say


I don't cry in public. I'm mortified when I cry in front of my friends. In fact, I flat-out believe that I should never cry; if I have to, I cry in the shower so it's like I never did in the first place. Getting me to admit fear or the fact that I feel something or want something is harder than getting me to submit to vaccinations administered through needles or local anesthesia. And I have not had either in the past 4 years. I think it's a woman thing: We're taught that there are some things that you should never say to a man-- never expose your flaws, never explain your fears, and certainly never ask for anything more. But I think that one of my favorite things about Carrie, and the trait that I admire most about her, is her ability to speak up and speak her mind when it comes to the men in her life. Be it the fact that she'll pick up the phone and dial without thinking (while I get the shakes just texting if I think that it won't be welcome,) or that she doesn't seem to care if a guy thinks that she talks too much or is too blunt, I think this is an excellent example of the fearlessness with which she approaches her relationships that we all could stand to emulate.

"Ok, I know I've lost a little of my power here, and I'm pretty that most women's magazines would say that what I just did was a very bad idea but...it's not your fault because I never say it."

But for the record, there are some things that you should never say. Such as, "Your back hair looks really weird," or "My ex used to have those boxers, too!" or quite possibly "From the way you look when you sleep at night, I can so tell our children are going to be really cute." Those would all be classic example of what NOT to ever say. But Carrie was right. Things like, "I hate your cigars," (if you're not smoke friendly, or, alternately, feel the extreme need to smoke as well when people you're close to light up, like I do,) "I hate that you look at other women," (I think we've all wanted to say this at one point or another,) "I hate that I don't have a key to your place, and you've never spent the night at my place," (if you've been in a committed, long-term relationship and it's gotten to the point that either the doorman or his roommates all expressly know to let you in, no questions asked, and will sit and talk with you until he gets there,) and "I still want something to change, a little bit, for me," can be really important to say. If you're not happy, something's gotta give, and it shouldn't have to be your standards of contentedness. Nor should it have to be your relationship.

I've asked friends going through difficult relationship times if they ever talk to their partner about their desires and fears and what they want out of said relationship, and I've gone through that same process of being guilty of not doing it, too. We women never say these things, because we like you so much that if it doesn't go over well, we don't want to lose you or the relationship totally, because as very wise yet very desperate people once said, something is better than nothing. But how much of "something" is better than us feeling like we're taken by our partners as a "nothing"?

Swallowing your pride and fear to say things like these can be difficult, but it has to be done. Just like how you can't get mad at someone for doing something if you've never spoken to them about it, you also can't expect things to change or get better or magically rectify themselves if you never bring the issue up. Don't point fingers; don't be obtuse about it-- just say "I feel (this) about (this), and I need/would like (this) from you if possible/if you're willing/if you feel the same way." Even if the situation can't be fixed, even if he won't give up his cigars and will never stop looking at other women or doesn't think you need a key to his place because of all the wonderful bonding you do with his roommates because you don't have one, the point is that you've gotten it off you chest and said your piece. And that will hopefully give you some peace.

And also for the record, I have never punched a guy I was seeing.

XOXO

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What NOT To Do In A Relationship

I've talked a lot about what you should do in a relationship. We've bonded over shared stories of where we all went wrong. We've even discussed how to make being single more fun and less lonely. But something that a lot of time hasn't been spent on is what NOT to do in a relationship. The bad news is, these things can only be learned after they go wrong, and some relationships don't snap back from these sort of things. The good news is, you can take my and my girl friend's sharp learning curves and apply them to your life, maybe before you experience these bad behaviors in yourself. Here are the 7 most important lessons we've compiled from our dating histories. While I have never snooped in a beau's phone, a friend of mine did, to disastrous results, which more firmly implanted in me a desire to never spring into action over that curiosity, and now, might nip your yearning in the bud, too. And while we all have wished sometimes that we could change a man, I'm here to tell you that sorry, doll, but you can't. What are these things that brand you in a relationship as brightly as a scarlet letter?

Never, EVER, EVER look in his phone or email or planner or what have you. Believe me. It is not worth it to you to put yourself in that kind of pain if you DO find something that upsets you. Women have great intuition, so trust it. If you think he's creeping, he's probably creeping. So, make like I do, assume the worst, and act from there. What do I hate more than nearly anything? When the guy in bed next to me is getting texts at 2 AM. Do I assume some of these are from other women? Oh, totally. So instead of snooping around and either making myself feel like an idiot or making me someone he feels like he can't trust, I assume that if I were to look at his phone, yeah, I'd see other women. I don't like it, but it gives me enough of a shell that were I to ever be there at the same time as another woman (oh, and but it happened TWICE,) I'm ready to act with class, and not distress. And if he really isn't creeping? Then you all can feel better about it. Maybe I'm jaded, but I've learned to operate on "plan for the worst; expect the best." I expect to be considered the best and that a man would have the decency to acknowledge this, but I plan because sometimes we need to remember that people are, in fact, just people, and therefore, fallible.

REMEMBER-- Until you have the discussion about it, assumption can make an ass out of you, but it can also prepare you to either be strong, or pleasantly relieved. Also, would you want him going through your phone? OH, HELL NO.

In the words of The Clash, do not NOT stand by your man. If your friend is talking shit, prove her wrong. If your mom isn't his biggest fan, tell her the reasons why she should be. (The best argument for this is that he makes you genuinely happy.) Basically, be as loyal to him as you hope he's loyal to you. I've proved loyalty more times than I'd like. I've stuck through legal troubles, some dubiously unlawful activities, infidelities, and long-ass distances because I feel that when you find a good man, you don't let him go so easily, even if there are learning curves that may be a little steep.

What does loyalty mean to you? Is it something you can turn your head the other way from, or is it a deal-breaker? I can tell you from experience that turning the other way is more painful than it does good, even if it does stave off an epic WWIII blow-out. But sometimes it's more important to stand up for yourself and have that blow-up than to keep letting someone disrespect you.

Don't be together every day. Take some time off from each other. You start to appreciate each other more for the things you do, whether it's the way you bring him his favorite ice cream for a night in watching movies on the couch, or the way he smells when he sleeps at night. The best times I've ever had in relationships are the times when there's a little bit of absence. I'm an only child, so I'll admit it-- I like my space. If I spend the night at a guy's house, I prefer not to see him or talk to him the next day after I go home. I'm under the impression that everything that needs to be said has been said, and done, at least for a little while. You both should get to chillax without the other. In a recent interview with Katy Perry, it was noted that she started reading now-husband Russell Brand's memoir, "My Booky Wook," after they started dating, but, she said, "...then I stopped because I was like, I can't eat, sleep, and shit you. I need to just experience you." I think these are incredibly wise words from someone who has made major bank off of the fact that she kissed a girl and liked it. You CAN'T, and SHOULDN'T eat, sleep, and shit anyone other than yourself.

This also applies to phones. I was smitten when a guy I was seeing called me on the days we didn't see each other just to check in, but then again, HE was the one calling ME, not vice-versa.Don't be the blowing-up-the-phone girl. Let someone else be her, because she doesn't get responded to for long. Leave some silence in hopes that he's the sort of guy who will want to talk to YOU when he has something he wants to say, or needs a secondary opinion. Or just wants to say hey. Conversely, when you're in a really comfortable, effortless relationship, it doesn't really matter who calls whom, because it's not that big of a deal. When you're into each other equally, you know it. You lose the stress. That's a really nice place to be.

Don't be a bitch. Don't be a nag. Don't put the other person down needlessly. You say something you shouldn't have, you take a quiet moment to apologize for it later. End of story. Same applies toward men. You too, sir-- don't be a bitch.

The only flip-side to this is that sometime egos running rampant need a check. You should be comfortable enough with your S.O to provide that check, and know when to provide that check. They should also be able and willing to do the same for you.

Don't be a little piggy. I hope that you are not the only thing going for him in a man's life. I hope he has friends and family and a job and hobbies. I hope he has a favorite sports team and favorite TV shows and a favorite beer. I hope he plans vacations or at least road trips or hikes with his friends. I hope you're not the only person he goes out to eat with (in a non-romantic or dating capacity, that is. Then, I SINCERELY hope you're the only person he's going out to eat with). So, don't be little Miss Piggy and hog all his time. He needs time drinking beer and yelling at the TV screen with his boys. He needs to take his mom out to brunch and play with his nieces and nephews. He needs to work over-time to pay rent at times. Even if you don't needto do all those things as well, you need to realize that he does, and let him do them, sans you.

How would you feel if you had a girl's night planned full of cocktails and gossip and getting dressed up and going out to innocently flirt with other guys who you'll never see or talk to again (the girl's equivalent to a guy's game night with his dudes), and your S.O decided he was coming out with you? It'd just about put a dampener on everything, wouldn't it? So don't you be the dampener in his life! Respect each other's time and space and separate activities. (This includes cell phone privacy. If you want to tell each other who's calling, you can. But it's not obligational. I got into a spat with a guy over this. Same deal-- don't ask; don't tell.)

You can't change a man. I've been remarkably lucky in relationships for the past 2 years. The last 3 guys I've been with have all been the most intriguing, most considerate, and yes, most gorgeous I have ever dated. Last summer's was a virtual Greek athletic god on Earth; last fall's was ever so popular and out-going; and the most recent, well...the most recent has been not only quite possibly the most stunning person I've ever met, but also the most interesting, as well. But as attractive and impressive as all of these men have been, it still doesn't mean that they all were perfect. There were things about all of them that I would have changed, given the chance, and a magic wand. But as I learned, in the sleepy-and-whiny-5-year-old's-early-morning-hour's voice of the most recent, you "don't try to change meeeeeeee!" You can't change a man. You just can't. There are things that you can suggest-- like using a variety of punctuation, possibly investing in some boxer-briefs (the Wonderbra for men; I'm serious, they're like magic), or trying out some new positions in bed-- but you will never make spots into stripes. If you're with a leopard, and looking for a zebra, cut ties, and don't waste both your time trying to make an herbivore out of a carnivore.

Just like you can't really change a woman. I guess empathy is a big thing here. I know we're all guilty of making demands or suggestions that aren't the most graceful-- and here's my mea culpa-- but think of how you'd take it if a guy told you he hated the way you wear your hair, or wanted you to spend half the time it takes for you to get ready in the morning cuddling with him instead. I think we all know how that'd go over-- like a lead balloon. Like the Hindenburg crashing and burning. But with more fireworks.

For god's sake, don't let yourselves become boring! We all have routines. I'll admit it. After a lot of time spent together, we tend to develop habits. We're all guilty of this. You spend the night on Tuesdays, Friday, and Sundays. He makes lasagna for the two of you once a week. You have-- heaven save us all-- a sex routine down-pact. There is more to life than this! SHAKE THINGS THE FUCK UP. Don't spend the night on a Tuesday. Spend a Wednesday. Ask him to make something new, and tackle a different recipe together. Wear some lingerie to bed. For god's sake, try a new position. Variety is the spice of life.

But make sure to keep the things that you do love to do together consistent. Talk to each other about your favorite things to do together. (Yes, sex can be one of them.) Commit to doing those things with each other, even if it's a random, last-minute plan. (Not as in, "Hey, you're at work and on deadline with a really important project, and I'm grabbing lunch at our favorite spot-- wanna play hooky and come?" Even though that might be fun. More like, "Hey, I know the show starts in 5 minutes, but if you leave to come over now, you'll only miss the opening credits, and I can fill you in," or, "I'm at the bar, and the seasonal brews just came out! Wanna come down and grab a pint?") Watching favorite TV shows together is a great weekly bonding ritual. Spending a night together a week is crucial for keeping up with not only each other's lives, but also in keeping up your connection. Chemistry just happens sometimes, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have to be nurtured, just like everything else.

Feel free to comment with your own dating revelations and tips on things NOT to do, or the cases in which there are exceptions to the rules.

XOXO