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How to Spank Like Christian Grey

February 13, 2015

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The following is an excerpt from the “S” section of our A-Z book, 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Every bolded word below indicates an entry in our encyclopedia of sorts. The book is on sale now!

Spanking is hand-to-tush contact, which many consider more intimate and less scary than any other type of flagellation. It’s Christian Grey’s calling card. Spanking is definitely safer for newbies, since you have much more control over (and better aim with) your own hand. Spanking can be a seasoning (a few spanks during a particularly passionate bout of intercourse to add some kinky flavor), an appetizer (spanking as foreplay before more orgasm-focused activities, like the first vaginal balls scene in Fifty Shades of Grey), or it can be a meal in and of itself (a session in which the spanking is the goal — the main course, if you will — that takes half an hour to serve and enjoy).

If you’re hungry for more than just a sprinkle of seasoning, then follow the rules of any first-time flagellation: Have the spankee lie across your lap, kneel on a bed, stretch out stomach-down, or bend over something they can put their full weight on for comfort; start slowly and build up intensity gradually with your bottom’s permission, varying your pressure and strokes; and contain your spanking to the lower, fleshier halves of each cheek and the backs of the upper thighs (even if you’re just having a spanking snack during sex, this area should be your target) — avoid the lower back, tailbone, and back of the knees at all costs.

Specific considerations for spanking include the following:

  1. Remove all bracelets and rings.
  2. Start with a butt massage.
  3. Follow each blow with a short massage, too, to spread out the pain and keep things nice ‘n’ warm (at least during your first few sessions together).
  4. A woman might like particular attention paid at the intersection of ass crack and crease, with the vibrations reverberating throughout the vulva, but definitely steer clear of the guy’s family jewels.
  5. Remember that, because of your close proximity to your partner, spanking is especially great for pleasantly diddling their lemonade area while whacking the steps of their fudge factory ‘round the corner.

A.k.a. fanny dusting. See also floggerspaddlesslappers, and arnica cream.

150 Shades of Grey: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink is on sale now in paperback and e-book form!

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How to Hardware (Un)Like Christian Grey

February 11, 2015

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The following is an excerpt from the “H” section of our A-Z book, 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Every bolded word below indicates an entry in our encyclopedia of sorts. The book is on sale now in both paperback and Kindle form!

A hardware store is a one-stop shopping center for all your BDSM needs. Who needs specialty sex shops when you can find everything at your friendly neighborhood True Value at half the cost? Even Christian I-Fly-My-Own-Helicopter Grey does it, and he could afford freakin’ diamond-encrusted BDSM gear if he wanted. (And how convenient if your potential sub just happens to work at the hardware store — oh, the foreplay possibilities!)

Of course, you’ve got to have a bit of a D.I.Y.-streak, but if you’re willing to put in the extra elbow grease (or should we say Crisco?), you can completely decorate your dungeon or playroom with the following: welded-link chains with “quick links” to aid in adjusting chain lengths; two-by-fours, tubing, and rods of wood, metal, or plastic to create spreader bars; duct tape for bondage (over material only please, to avoid pulling off hair and skin); keyed locks (safer than combo locks which may take too long to undo in an emergency sitch, though not if you’re the type to lose things, like keys); single- or double-ended snap hooks, snap shackles (or “panic snaps”), and carabiners for securing D-rings to other things; eyebolts (not flimsy screw eyes) to anchor chain ends; block and tackle devices for suspension; and miles of natural filament rope for bondage masterpieces.

[More important safety info below the movie clip]!

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

But please, whatever you do, don’t buy cable ties as wrist and ankle restraints like kink “expert” Christian Grey does in the first book of Fifty Shades and in the freaking movie – not only is that bush league, it’s dangerous. The only thing you should be using cable ties for is organizing all your rope.

If your hardware store doesn’t have the high quality and durable materials you’re looking for, try boating or outdoor adventure stores instead.

150 Shades of Grey: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink is on sale now! It contains more information on all the bolded terms above (plus so much more!).

 



10 Simple Steps to “Fiftyize” Your Love Life

February 10, 2015

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Here’s a nifty little 10-step program for introducing BDSM into the bedroom, inspired by our book, 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink:

 

1. Talk Dirty to Him

Bringing up BDSM with your partner can be shocking and awkward. A great way to test a fantasy is to incorporate it into dirty talk. Whisper in your partner’s ear, ‘What would you think if I did this to you? I would find it so sexy.’

 

2. Safety First

Physically and emotionally, kink can be heavy, so it’s great for long-term couples who already have built up trust. Still, if there’s going to be bondage and a little struggle, have a safeword other than ‘no.’ It can be ‘red,’ ‘banana’—something you normally wouldn’t say during sex.

 

3. See No More

S&M is about ceding control, so a good entry point is bringing a blindfold to bed and seeing how you like it. One night, one of you can be the boss; the next night you switch it up. Kink isn’t just sex—it shows you’re really interested in turning each other on and asking each other about your fantasies.

 

4. Cuff Love

We’re all about working up to things gently. Padded, velcro handcuffs are familiar and easy to use. They’re a way to establish if you might like to move on to more kinky things, like rope ties.

 

5. Dress the Part

There’s a whole style to kink. Bring in textures like leather, latex, garters, and high heels. Anything you wouldn’t normally wear in bed.

6. Light Biting

When you’re really turned on, pain can feel a lot like pleasure. You don’t have to get a punishing spanking from a Christian Grey–type to get a kick out of pain—sometimes a nibble on the nipple, one single well-timed spank, or a little hair-pulling is all it takes to heighten the sexual tension.

 

7. The Sound of Music

Music helps drown out the world around you and lets you focus on the pleasure at hand. Try Nine Inch Nails, Muse, Radiohead, The Brazilian Girls, Massive Attack, Marilyn Manson, Prince, Peaches, The Cure, or Kings of Leon.

 

8. Put a Ring on It

150 Shades of Play tells you about all sorts of S&M, including tamakeri, the Japanese porn fetish of getting kicked in the balls. Of course, if your partner wants you to kick him in the balls, that’s probably not the best first step. Start out with a vibrating ‘love’ ring for his manhood—it’s a little something for both of you.

 

9. Light My Candle

BDSM temperature play is a scale from ice to candle wax. But be careful to use only plain white candles; scented candles burn too hot. Blow the candle out, test the wax on your hand first, and when it hits the skin, massage it in. Some new candles even melt into massage oil.
 

10. Toys and Girls

Handing over the controls of your sex toy to your partner suddenly seems a lot more kinky than doing it on your own. Sex toy design has gotten so much better in the last 10 years; it’s a lot more wireless. LELO makes a great, wireless bullet vibrator your partner can use from the other side of the room, or even while you’re taking a bath, as it’s completely waterproof! Other wireless vibrators can be controlled by a cell phone as a way of spicing up a long-term relationship.

 

This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.

For more inspired ideas about kinking things up, check out 150 Shades of Play, available from Amazon.com in both paperback and e-book versions! 



The Top 5 Writing Lessons of “Fifty Shades of Grey”

February 6, 2015

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According to Wikipedia, the Fifty Shades of Grey series “has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.” Not only has it introduced many people to the world of kink, it’s given them a lesson in how not to write. And if a lack of literary merit didn’t slow down sales, well, at least people can learn about the elements of style while being turned on by the elements of sadomasochism.

1. Avoid repetition of words and phrases. 

When Ana first meets Christian Grey, she thinks she spots a “ghost of a smile” in his expression. That’s a nice, descriptive way of putting it — it’s easy for the reader to imagine. The problem is, James uses the same exact phrasing only a few pages later, for the same character. And that’s not the last we hear the term “ghost of a smile,” either — it pops up a few more times in the first book. Using something so specific again and again just comes across as lazy.

 

2. Use adverbs sparingly. 

Anastasia Steele never met an adverb she didn’t like, especially when it’s modifying the way she or another character speaks: “I mumble almost inarticulately”; “I murmur apologetically”; “he murmurs softly.” (For painfully excessive use of the word “murmur” throughout Fifty, see rule #1).

 

3. Don’t use substitutes for the verb “said.”

The Fifty Shades characters rarely just “say” something, they whisper it, they breathe it, they moan it, they mumble it, they murmur it, ad nauseum (see rule  #2, and then rule #1). One of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules on Writing is this: 

Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled,” “gasped,” “cautioned,” “lied.” I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

What he said.

4. Be accurate. 

There is such a thing as creative license, but E.L. James’s should be revoked. Like driving, creative license is not a right, but a privilege, and should be used responsibly and with the utmost care. For example, the author creatively personifies Ana’s internal struggles over various situations as two polar-opposite people living in her head: a sex-loving, open-minded, free-spirited, back-flipping “Inner Goddess” and a careful, cautious, judgmental worrier called her “Subconscious.” Cute, but what Alanis Morissette did to the word “ironic,” E.L. does to the word “subconscious.” To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” If it were truly Ana’s subconscious guiding her, Ana would not be aware of her — that’s what the whole “sub” part of that word means: not conscious! Similarly, there are a ton of British anachronisms in a story about American characters living in American cities with nary a funny Mancunian sidekick to rub off on them. James even includes an apology at the end of the third book for including a scene so preposterous that it defies all logic and law — that’s when you know you’ve abused your creative license.

 

5. Don’t worry about the rules of writing.

E.L. James didn’t, and look where that got her: laughing all the way to the bank! The most important thing is just sitting down and actually writing. As long as you do that — ideally with passion and conviction — then there’s a chance (albeit small) that you can ignore rules 1 through 4 above and still be a success.

If you liked Fifty Shades (despite the writing), you’ll love 150 Shades of Play, our how-to companion piece to the popular trilogy! 

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How to Use a Flogger Like Christian Grey

February 5, 2015

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The following is from our very own naughty dictionary, 150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Bolded words signify individual entries that appear elsewhere in the A-to-Z section of the book. Anything with a tie icon

 indicates an activity or prop mentioned in the Fifty Shades series (symbolic of the famous woven tie Christian Grey uses to restrain Anastasia Steele). The idea being: look up something you’re interested in and, from there, make it a choose-your-own-adventure book by following any bolded words that pique your interest to their own dedicated entry. Or just start at A and don’t stop ‘til you get to Z—or ‘til you’re compelled to try something out with your partner, whichever comes first!:

F

 floggers

The pom pom of the BDSM world. (“Give me a W! Give me an H! Give me an I! Give me a P!”) A popular flagellation tool, a flogger consists of a fairly stout handle and several “tails” of equal length (from one- to three-feet long) made of leather, suede, nylon, pleather, rubber, or even ribbon. Depending on the number of tails, their length, their material, and whether they have knots or beads at their ends, the sensation a flogger provides can be anywhere from soft to holy-fucking-shit.

Beginners should go with a well-made, small, light-impact flogger: they’ll evoke more giggles than actual cries of pain. Avoid heavy-leather, braided, beaded, or knotted tails in the beginning. As with most BDSM equipment, you don’t want to scrimp: A cheaply made flogger won’t be balanced correctly (making it harder and heavier to wield), its tails won’t land in the same spot (what you want), and/or the edges of the tails will be sharp (what you don’t want). Try companies that specialize in making floggers, like Bare Leatherworks—with their Midsize Cowhide Flogger, the handle feels great, you can give your partner a good whack without it hurting them, and it makes your victim’s butt jiggle, too! For the kind of posh flogger you might find in the Red Room of Pain, there’s LELO’s Sensua Suede Whip (available also in red!).

To make sure you’ve got good aim, practice on inanimate objects first. Work on your different strokes: twirling, backhand, infinity symbol. Don’t graduate to animate objects—that have of course given you their consent—until you’ve got the eye and aim of a national darts champion. The ends of the tails should be hitting only the safe zones: lower buttocks, thighs, and upper back (not the spine or neck!). As a beginner, it’s a good idea to protect areas you don’t want to hit with clothing, a towel, blanket, or pillow, just in case you accidentally let the tails “wrap” around the body beyond these safe zones—the epitome of poor form. (Another good reason to have your bottom lying down if you’re a beginner.)

See flagellation for more important safety info. A.k.a. cats. Mini-floggers for genitorture are called flails, pussywhips (ha!), or ballwhips.

For more on other kinky endeavors and accoutrements for newbies, pick up a copy 150 SHADES OF PLAY, on sale now at Amazon, in paperback or e-book!



10 Ways Blizzards Are Good for Your Love Life

January 26, 2015

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photo via Flickr

It’s Snowmegeddon! Batten down the hatches! Get the gas for the generators! Scratch the eyes out of the mom at the grocery store grabbing the last of the organic milk! And then take a deep breath, relax, and look at the beautiful snow from another perspective: namely, from a place of love. Here are 10 blizzard-inspired behaviors that can have a potentially positive effect on your romantic relationship:

  1. Cozying up by the fire: If you’ve got a fireplace, there’s no better time to build a fire. And what’s more romantic than a roaring, crackling fire? A thousand cheesy movie love scenes can’t be wrong. Bear skin rug optional; bare skin…ideal.
  2. Nipping whiskey to warm up: It’ll bring a flush to your cheeks, reminiscent of the rosie cheeks you get in, shall we say, other ways. And a little loosening of inhibitions — in moderation, of course — might inspire those “other ways.”
  3. Snuggling under the blankets to share body heat: According to one health site, to avoid hypothermia “remove your clothing and lie next to the person, making skin-to-skin contact. Then cover both bodies with a blanket.” Hey, that’s official medical advice, people!
  4. Winter montages: Building a snowman together, having a snowball fight, drinking hot chocolate, looking adorable in matching woolen hats — it’s like your life is suddenly a rom-com montage! How can you not feel the love?
  5. Power outages mean mood-enhancing candlelight: As with a roaring fire, “natural” light = instant romance, mainly for its flattering affects on your appearance: almost all bodily flaws are forgiven by firelight. Power outages may mean no TV, too — in which case, you’ll just have to make your own entertainment. Hmmm, we wonder how you could do that?
  6. Eskimo kisses: Touching skin that you don’t normally touch can be novel. New nerves are awakened. Use the eskimo kiss to inspire other kinds of untraditional and unexpected touching, if you know what we mean.
  7. Long, hot baths: With nowhere to go when you’re snowed in, there’s no need to rush through a quick shower. Draw a hot bath, add some bubbles or aromatic oils, bring in some candles (even if there’s no power outage), and invite your partner to join.
  8. Post-shovelling massages: Yes, digging out is not only a drag, it can be dangerous: sore muscles, thrown-out backs, even heart attacks. But if you do any heavy lifting and make it back inside safe and sound, you are definitely within your rights to pull the pity card and request a rub down. And it’s almost a scientific fact that 78% of back massages end in sex.
  9. Cancelled work = instant mini staycation: (Please note: for the kid-free only.) With the world basically shut down and all responsibilities temporarily put on hold, you can sleep in, watch movies in bed, and have sex in the middle of the day just like you do on vacation. And the sex is always better on vacation.
  10. Stockholm-Syndrome-Lite. Forced to essentially be each other’s captives for an indeterminate amount of time, you just might fall in love all over again (if you don’t kill each other first).

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10 Journal Prompts to Help You Get Over a Breakup

January 20, 2015

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photo via flickr

Two recent articles in the New York Times (here and here) discussed the benefits of writing things down to help you move on from a difficult situation. An aversion to exercise, for example, or trouble fitting in at a new job, or — the situation we hear about most often at EMandLO.com — inability to get over a breakup. The latter is the one we will discuss here.

You may call it writing in a diary, or “journaling” (assuming that word doesn’t make you feel funny inside!), but researchers call it “expressive writing.” And there is actually a lot of scientific research showing the benefits of expressive writing — studies have shown it can improve mood disorders, boost memory, increase happiness,  improve general health, change behavior, and even reduce symptoms among cancer patients. Holy shit! If expressive writing can punch cancer in the face, just imagine what it can do to your asshole ex.

The idea, according to the NYT, is “based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way.”

But how the hell do you edit your narrative and change the story? Below are ten prompts that you can follow to do exactly that. Buy yourself a notebook (or do it on your laptop if you prefer, but we like the old-school nature of using a pen). Each day, or every other day, follow one of the prompts below. When you get to the end of the list of prompts, take a few days to read over what you wrote in response to each prompt. Then, start over with prompt number one, and go through to number ten again. When you’ve completed all ten prompts a second time, take a few days to read and compare your two different sets of responses. Repeat, and repeat, as necessary.

Here’s the thing: It may not seem as if you are moving forward, in real time. But journaling in this way is kind of like time-lapse photography — in a month or two or three, you’ll be able to step back, look at the big picture, and see how you really are moving on. And the more distance you have from your ex, the more honest, and more helpful-slash-healing, your responses are likely to be.

Without further ado, here are our ten prompts. Respond in a hundred words, or five hundred, or a thousand, whatever feels right*:

1. Describe what your ex looks like, including at least one physical defect (come on, even supermodels have at least one body part that is less than perfect, even if it’s just an oddly shaped pinkie toe).

2. What do you miss about your ex?

3. What don’t you miss about your ex?

4. Why did you two break up?

5. In what ways were you a better person around your ex?

6. In what ways did your ex make you a worse person?

7. What are you looking for in your next partner?

8. When did you first realize you guys were headed toward a break-up?

9. What was sex like with your ex?

10. What did you do today?

* Warning: According to the NYT, too much journaling might not be right for everyone: If your problem is that you tend to ruminate too much on your feelings after a breakup, then you should limit yourself to a certain word count each day (say, 500 words), and limit yourself to journal entries only every three days.

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4 Ways to Make Your Marriage Last in the 21st Century

January 15, 2015

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by Gwendolyn Bond-Upson for YourTango | photo via flickr

Did you know that the rate of infidelity in American marriages has not increased in 20 years, even though attitudes toward adultery have loosened in the past 40? More facts, in addition to tips for success are included in the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project’s annual report “The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2009.” You can click through the project’s welcome page to read the 116 page report—or just get the abbreviated version here.

Our friends at The Huffington Post have thoughtfully pared the report’s findings down to a few key points as an entry point into more advanced-level marital strategy.

1. Marriage is as much an economic, as an emotional partnership.

This is one area the recession of 2009 has helped families strengthen their bonds. Mutual belt-tightening and simple lifestyle shifts, such as more cooking and eating together at home have united families in both financial agreement and increased communication and quality time. 4 Ways To Avoid Fighting About Money

2. Switch traditional financial responsibilities.

Generally women tend to make the everyday purchasing decisions in a household and men the long-term investment choices. UVA professor Richard T. Wilcox suggests flipping the responsibilities. Women tend to enjoy shopping more and therefore spend more, getting an emotional as well as practical pay-off out of the experience. A man will typically have more spending discipline when it comes to household shopping. But as far as investing goes men are more likely to be overconfident and risky whereas a woman will seek outside advise from a professional, making more informed and prudent financial choices ultimately. 5 Ways To Improve A Marriage That’s Already Strong

3. Accumulating “stuff” does not a happy relationship make.

Getting on the same page with your family budget is a good first step toward harmony, but if you are still harboring materialistic feelings that a “thing” like a car or house or gold-plated toilet are going to make you feel more whole you will undermine the satisfaction you can get from your loved one. Now, don’t get us wrong: it’s still a hoot to watch audience members blowing their tops on Oprah’s annual “Favorite Things” episode! 10 Items Of His We’d Like To Toss

4. Define your own roles.

The idea of the man as sole or even main breadwinner has been going the way of the Dodo for decades. Now with a major increase in male unemployment and more women continuing to work post-childbirth, it is time to redefine our ideas of success and contribution in a working relationship. Men can be caregivers, women can be breadwinners and that can shift over the years as well. You get to chose how you feel about each other’s contributions so why not set them and agree that they are all valued? For A Month, I Did Everything My Wife Said

Time spent together communicating, compromising and just hanging out are a sure way to increase the return on your marriage. Lucky for us the economy is giving us just the slightest nudge to force these practices in to action! How The Recession Forever Changed Relationships

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This article originally appeared on YourTango



36 Questions to Ask a Date Instead of Playing Mind Games

January 13, 2015

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photo via flickr

Dating is so mired in game-playing and pickup moves these days that it’s amazing anyone ever ends up finding lasting love. So we’re huge fans of any approach that manages to cut through all that B.S.

For example, many years ago — before we each found lasting love, against those game-playing odds — Lo conducted a sort of social-romantic experiment: When a friend introduced her to a guy who seemed very nice and whom she was instantly attracted to, she asked him if he’d like to be her boyfriend. Standard protocol would have had her flirt with him and wait for him to buy her a drink and then pretend to be just a little bit interested and he would do the same and so on until maybe they’d manage to “hang out” a few times and perhaps, eventually, stumble into a real relationship. Instead, she asked him if he’d like to cut through all the crap and immediately go steady, kind of like kids do in grade school, before they learn how to save face. He astonishingly agreed. The hand-holding in public was immediate, as was the soul bearing. The relationship lasted only a month or two, but it was healthy and full of honest communication, and when they parted ways, it was as friends.

Em accidentally conducted a similar experiment a decade ago: After Em had two great dates with a guy, the two of us (Em & Lo) had to fly to England for nearly a month, on a book tour for the U.K. edition of our first book, The Big Bang. Em and the guy weren’t in touch during that time — the relationship seemed too new to support long-distance communication — but when she returned, they had a third date. Except it didn’t feel like a third date… it felt more like they’d already been dating a month. So they naturally, mutually, without really discussing anything, just skipped all the are-we-really-into-each-other nonsense of those first unsteady weeks. She was able to leap-frog her bad habit of being attracted to guys who just weren’t into her, and he was able to leap-frog the male version of this. And, reader, she married him.

We found a third example of this kind of “speed mating” in the Modern Love column of the Times this past week: “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This.” The gist of the piece: During a first date with a guy she’d kind of known for a while, the author had one of those flirty-theoretical conversations about whether it was possible to fall in love with anyone. (It’s the kind of conversation that’s possible to have on a first date, because you’re basically strangers, but then you can’t really talk about that stuff again until you’re in a very serious relationship.)

The author, Mandy Len Catron, recalled a scientific study she’d once read about, wherein a researcher put two complete strangers in a lab, had them ask each other a series of increasingly intimate questions — thirty-six, in all — and then had them stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. One of the couples in the study ended up marrying (yes, the researcher scored an invite!).

Mandy and her date decided to replicate the experiment, except in a bar. They found the list of questions online and passed an iPhone back and forth between them (who said smart phones are killing romance?!), starting with questions like, “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” And “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?” Then they progressed to more intimate questions, such as “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common,” and, of course, “How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?” Finally, they relocated to a nearby bridge and held eye contact for four excruciating minutes.  Reader, they fell in love.

Of course, this experiment isn’t going to work with any random stranger you pluck out of your morning commute. But on a first date, where chemistry and at least a little mutual interest has already been established, we like it a lot more than all of that crappy, heartbreaking game-playing. Plus, it’s a great way to weed out selfish, one-track-minded pickup artists before you get in too deep. As the author says:

But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him. … The study [gave] us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate.

If you want to try it yourself, here are all thirty-six of Dr. Arthur Aron’s questions. You should take it in turns, each answering all thirty-six questions.

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

Finally, don’t forget to stare into each other’s eyes for four full, SILENT minutes — no cheating! — to seal the deal. (Set a timer on your iPhone, as the author of the piece did.) After that, feel free to seal the deal with a kiss.

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How to Organize Your Ex Out of Your Life

January 6, 2015

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The two of us basically share a brain when it comes to this blog, and we are one hundred percent united on all the important issues in life, love, and dating: safe sex, orgasms for everyone, the superiority of flat-front pants, etc. But every now and then we have to resort to the first-person singular for a post — not necessarily because we disagree, but because one of us has a particular interest that the other just doesn’t quite get. Which is why today’s installment, about the joy of tidying up, comes from Em. Lo can certainly appreciate a tidy, well-organized house, but for her, there’s no joy in this process. Em, on the other hand…

For people like me — i.e. people who relish the idea of spending an entire weekend organizing their house — the arrival of Marie Kondo’s new book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was kind of like hearing about a brand new religion… one that promises eternal life and free ice cream. The book, which is a massive bestseller in Kondo’s native Japan (where she’s a bona fide celebrity) as well as throughout Europe, and is fast becoming one in the U.S., takes an approach to home organization that is both drastic and zen. Also, kind of quirky. (How often have you thanked your socks for the hard work they do?!)

The basic gist of the KonMari Method is this: If you try to organize everything you currently own, you will fail, time and time again. Instead, you have to purge and then organize. And when purging, you should get rid of any object in your house that fails to “spark joy.” Oh yeah, and you’re supposed to thank these objects for the service they provided you before finding them a new home, too! (The Salvation Army, a friend, the trash, whatever.) The moment I heard about this philosophy, I knew I had my resolution for 2015: Purge my house of all items that fail to bring me joy.  All sweaters that itch, all spoons that are both too big and too small, all paperwork, all superfluous kitchen equipment.

This is probably too drastic for most people, but while contemplating my year of purging ahead (with, yes, glee), it occurred to me that Kondo’s approach would be an excellent way to move on from an ex. She has an evangelical fervor when she talks about the benefits of the KonMari Method. Her clients, she claims, experience life-changing benefits from a de-cluttered, well-organized house: They start businesses, they divorce neglectful spouses, they lose weight, they reconnect with partners, they get promotions. As Kondo writes, “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do. … Not only will you never be messy again, but you’ll also get a new start on life.” Which sounds like an excellent post-breakup remedy to me.

So if you’re stuck in a post-breakup rut and finding yourself unable to move on, start with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Go through your clothes, your books, your makeup, your apocalyptic stock of Q-tips, your photographs, your tchotchkes, your office supplies, your kitchen equipment. “Joy” may be a strong emotion to apply to these objects when you’re in a depressive funk, so here’s a better way of thinking about it in your state of mind: Discard anything that makes you feel even worse. Especially anything that reminds you of your ex. And for those items that remind you of your ex, go ahead and get quirky, Kondo-style: Thank these objects for how they served you during your relationship, and then let them go. Optional soundtrack: Idina Menzel belting out “Let It Go.” (According to this Times writer, Lucinda Williams or George Jones may also work.) Hint: Kondo says you can’t simply assess objects as a group, i.e. “All my clothes/books/tools bring me joy.” No, you have to assess each item individually. This slow, methodical process will be therapeutic in and of itself, you’ll find.

Once you have reduced the contents of your home to only those objects that don’t depress you further, organize the shit out of them. Learn to fold a shirt using the KonMari method. Don’t stack anything in drawers: Every item in a drawer should be visible when you open it. Hang clothes by color. Don’t force books onto a shelf, damaging their spines; purge until there is open space on your shelves. This way, you are open to new acquisitions that will bring you joy.

And yes, that’s a metaphor for your love life.

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