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Top 10 Sex and Relationship Tips from The Breakfast Club

March 25, 2014

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Earlier today we imagined a 2014 remake of The Breakfast Club (and, yes, just the thought of this horrifies us, too!). As we took a trip down memory lane, calling up some of our favorite lines from the movie — still verbatim: no wonder we have trouble remembering who’s president of Iraq these days — we realized just how much excellent love and sex advice there is in there.

Here are some of our favorite life lessons culled from the movie:

1. You Don’t Have to Tell Anyone If You’ve Had Sex Yet
And anyone who pressures you into talking about this subject or calls you a tease and/or slut is probably hiding something (or else just an asshole).

2. …And If You Lie About Having Sex, Everyone Will Know You’re Lying
Especially if the object of your cherry-popping conveniently lives in some far-flung vacation destination.

3. “When You Grow Up, Your Heart Dies”
Ah, just kidding. It just feels this way sometimes in high school. And then the popular girl gives you a makeover or the cute jock kisses you and all of a sudden you hear birds singing and you realize that being goth was just a phase you were going through.

4. Taping Someone’s Buns Together Really Hurts
So if you’re thinking of doing this in bed, you better really like pain.

5. Giving Away Your Diamond Earrings Means It’s Love
Because love is stronger than diamonds! And just in case you didn’t get this from The Breakfast Club, then Some Kind of Wonderful hammers the point home, too.

6. Dating a Bad Boy Will Really Piss Off Your Parents
Especially when they find out you gave him your diamond earrings that were a sweet sixteen birthday present!

7. Math and Physics Clubs Are Terrible Places to Find a Date
Sure, they’re sorta social. But they’re demented and sad, too, remember?

8. Stupid Pet Tricks Are for Pets, Not People
Nobody really wants to see you apply lipstick by holding it between your boobs. Or if they do, they’re probably not the person you really wanted to impress.

9. High School Sucks for the Really Cool Kids
We’re pretty sure that dating in high school (or hooking up, or whatever the kids call it these days) is a lot more like the opening of this movie than the close of it. In other words, the chances of you getting stoned with a jock, a nerd, a criminal, a basket case, and a princess — and making out with one of them — are slim to none. But, hey, at least it gets better!

10. You Are Not Your Label
Whether you’re seventeen or seventy, there will always be someone who wants to reduce you to a tag: jock, princess, nerd, mom, feminist, bitch, playa, prude, careerist, leftist, buddhist, whatever. Don’t buy into it! This is the age of Twitter, after all: You can hashtag yourself however (and however many times) you damn well please.

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Re-Casting the Breakfast Club for 2014

March 25, 2014

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Did you know that this week is the thirtieth anniversary of the Saturday detention in the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club? Thirty freakin’ years! Man, we’re old. Not only do we know the entire movie by heart, we could even recite for you the differences between the original theater version and the dubbed-for-TV version (wherein “eat my shorts” became “eat my socks”… which sounds way dirtier, if you ask us).

In honor of this momentous — at least to us — occasion, we decided to imagine who would probably get cast if The Breakfast Club were remade today. Note: We think that remaking this movie would be a terrible thing to do — sacrilegious even. We’ll say that one more time: Hollywood, please don’t do it! Our best guesses at who would probably be cast should tell you why.

The Brain (nee Anthony Michael Hall): Michael Cera
Okay, so of all the possible re-casting decisions that could befall a remake, this one at least has a little potential. Cera could probably pull off the nerdy weirdness of that anecdote about borrowing his cousin’s shoes for a wedding. But deep down, we’d all know that he was really kind of a cool funny dude. Whereas we actually believed that Anthony Michael Hall had worn those creepy borrowed shoes.

 

 

The Athlete (nee Emilio Estevez): Channing Tatum
While we’d love to see Channing Tatum defend wrestling “tights” as the “required uniform,” we’re not sure we buy him having any inner sadness about his jock status. Nope, he seems pretty happy being a jock.

 

 

 

The Basket Case (nee Ally Sheedy): Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart wears a lot of black and she wears sneakers to red carpet events and she chews her hair and she gets vague blank looks during interviews. None of which adds up to interesting or rebellious in our book.

 

 

 

The Princess (nee Molly Ringwald): Selena Gomez
She’s so perky! She’s so pretty! She not-so-secretly loves bad boys (emphasis on the boy, Bieber). But can she do the Molly? Also, Selena is totally not a fat girl’s name.

 

 

 

The Criminal (nee Judd Nelson): Shia LaBeouf
Plagiarism is a crime, okay? And we could kinda see Judd Nelson’s Criminal doing that whole paper bag over the head gimmick. But watching Shia and Selena mash faces in the supply closet just wouldn’t get us all tingly in the right places (we mean our hearts, people) like watching Molly and Judd.

 

 

 

Okay, so we know this was kind of a straw man argument. We created a flimsy cast and then shot it down. But you just know this is what it would look like if the movie actually got remade! If you could remake it with anyone, who would you cast?

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Blog Snog: 25 Romantic Words That Don’t Exist in English That Should

March 21, 2014

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photo via The Date Report



The Best Way to Fix Love (According to the New Book “Love Sense”)

March 21, 2014

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photo via Flickr

The new book Love Sense by clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson tries to take some of the mystery out of that big emotion. While that may not sound very romantic, Johnson is dedicated to the scientific exploration of love so that we may have better, more-fulfilling, more intimate long-term relationships — especially in a world where independence, isolation and non-monogamy are growing more common. Her book offers real-life examples and practical exercises, based on the Emotionally Focused Therapy she developed in her own practice. In previous weeks, we’ve featured the first sections of Chapter 1 on the history of love and the sceince of love; below is the final section, which presents a unified theory of love and offers an exercise to try at the end.

 

Love Sense” by Dr. Sue Johnson

from Chapter 1: A Unified Theory of Love

Understanding that our lovers are our safe haven from the vicissitudes and depredations of life has given us new insights into what makes romantic relationships fail and succeed. For years, all of us have focused solely on what we see and hear. The fights that erupt over money: “You’re spending a fortune on shoes you don’t need.” “All you want to do is save. We’re living like misers. There’s no fun.” The disputes over in-laws: “You’re always on the phone with your mother, telling her every little thing we say and do.” “You’re Daddy’s girl, totally. When are you going to grow up?” The disagreements about child rearing: “So he didn’t do his homework last night. He gets too much. You’re too rigid and controlling.” “And you’re too lenient. He has no discipline. You let him get away with murder.” And the disappointment about sex: “You cheated. How many times? You’re such a liar.” “Well, I wouldn’t have if you were willing to try new things or have sex more often. And anyway, it didn’t mean anything.”

But concentrating only on what’s right before our eyes obscures our vision. We don’t get the big picture. Home in on the miniature dots in Georges Seurat’s painting and you’ll be unaware you’re seeing A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Sit at the piano and play a few notes in a score and you won’t hear Johannes Brahms’s lulling Waltz in A-flat Major. Take the dance floor and repeat one series of steps and you’ll never realize the sensuality of Argentine tango.

Similarly, troubled couples are fixated on specific incidents, but the true problem is broader and deeper. Distressed partners no longer see each other as their emotional safe haven. Our lover is supposed to be one person we can count on who will always respond. Instead, unhappy partners feel emotionally deprived, rejected, even abandoned. In that light, couples’ conflicts assume their true meaning: they are frightened protests against eroding connection and a demand for emotional reengagement.

In contrast, at the core of happy relationships is a deep trust that partners matter to each other and will reliably respond when needed. Secure love is an open channel for reciprocal emotional signaling. Love is a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing, and finding deeper connection. It is a dance of meeting and parting and finding each other again, minute by minute and day by day.

The new science has given us what I like to call a unified field theory of love. Einstein couldn’t find it for physics, but we’ve found it for love. At last, all the pieces we’ve been puzzling over separately fit together. We see the grand scheme. Fifty years ago noted animal researcher Harry Harlow, in an address to the American Psychological Association, observed, “As far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in their mission…The little we write about it has been better written by poets and novelists.”

Today we have cracked the code of love. We now know what a good love relationship looks and feels like. Even better, we can shape it. For the first time, we have a map that can guide us in creating, healing, and sustaining love. This is a consummate breakthrough. At last, to quote Benjamin Franklin, this “changeable, transient, and accidental” phenomenon—romantic love—can be made more predictable, stable, and deliberate.

The fixes we’ve tried in the past have been failures because we have not understood the basis of love. In general, therapists have attacked the problem in two ways. The first is analytical: couples dig back and sift through their childhood experiences to find the reasons why they respond the way they do. This seeking after insight into first relationships is laborious, time consuming, and expensive—with small benefit. It comes at the problem sideways, through intellectual insight into each person’s relationship history. Your present relationship is not just your past automatically playing out; this dismisses your partner and the power of his or her responses, as if this partner were simply a blank screen on which you project the movie of your past.

The second approach is practical. Couples are instructed on how to communicate more effectively—“Listen and repeat back what your partner has said.” Or they’re taught how to negotiate and bargain their way through divisive issues, from sex to cleaning—“You agree to vacuum the rug, and I’ll clean the bathroom.” Or coached on how to improve their sex life—bring on the flowers and racy lingerie and try positions from the Kama Sutra. All of these techniques can be helpful, but only temporarily. Love is not about whether you can parrot back what’s said or decide who vacuums the rug or agree on what sexual moves to try. Such practical counseling is like putting a finger in a cracked dam to hold back the tide or sticking a Band-Aid on a suppurating wound.

My client Elizabeth tells me, “The other therapist made us do these set exercises using the statements she gave us, but we just couldn’t talk to each other that way when we got home, let alone when we were upset. And we did make a deal about chores, but it didn’t change the way I felt about us. I was still lonely. At one point we were doing this ‘leave the room, take time out’ thing, but then I was even more angry when he walked back in, and I didn’t even really know what I was so angry about.”

Ultimately, these remedies are ineffectual because they don’t address the source of relationship distress: the fear that emotional connection—the font of all comfort and respite—is vanishing.

When we know how something works, fixing it and keeping it healthy is much easier. Before this basic understanding, all we could do was flail around trying to fix one part of the relationship in the hope that trust and loving connection would somehow find their way back in through these narrow routes. The new science has given us a straight arterial road to our destination.

To really help couples find happiness, we must shore up the foundation of their relationship; that is, help them relay and rebuild their emotional connection. The technique I and my colleagues have devised, EFT, or Emotionally Focused Therapy (my irreverent children call it Extremely Funny Therapy), does just that. We’ve discovered that discontented lovers fall into set patterns of behavior that plunge them into cycles of recrimination and withdrawal. The key to restoring connection is, first, interrupting and dismantling these destructive sequences and then actively constructing a more emotionally open and receptive way of interacting, one in which partners feel safe confiding their fears and longings.

The results of EFT, as measured in a multitude of studies, have been astoundingly positive—better, in fact, than the outcomes of any other therapy that has been offered. Lovers say that they feel more secure and satisfied with their relationship. Their mental health improves as well; they are less depressed and anxious. And they are able to hold onto the changes they make long after therapy has ended.

Why is EFT so effective? Because it goes to the heart of the matter. We do not have to persuade or coach partners to be different. The new
science has plugged us into the deepest human emotions and opened the way to transfiguring relationships, using the megawatt power of the wired-in longing for contact and care that defines our species. Says one of my clients: “For twenty-eight years, my wife and I had been circling the kind of conversation we are having now, but we’d never actually gotten down to it…Either we were too afraid or we didn’t know how. This conversation changes everything between us.”

Once you have a map to the territory called love, you can put your feet on the right path and find your way home.

***

To help you turn the new science into love sense, you’ll find brief “experiments” for you to do at the end of each chapter. Science, after all, is deliberate observation that leads to identification of recurring patterns. By doing these experiments, you’ll be collecting data on your own relationship that will help you understand the way you love and help you find the security and satisfaction you—and we all—long for.

EXPERIMENT 

Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted for about thirty minutes. Sit comfortably and quietly, and count twenty breaths in and out. Now imagine that you are in an unfamiliar, dark place. You are suddenly unsure and scared and aware that you are very much alone. You want to call out for someone to come.

Step 1 

Who is the person you want? Imagine his or her face in your mind’s eye.

Do you call or not? Perhaps you convince yourself that this is a bad idea, even a sign of weakness, or an opening that will lead to hurt and disappointment. Perhaps you decide that it is not good to rely on another person and that you must take care of your distress on your own, so you hunker down in the dark. Perhaps you call, but very hesitantly, then go hide in a dark corner.

If you call, how do you do it? What does your voice sound like? When someone comes, what does he do? Does he express concern, offer comfort and reassurance, and stay with you so that you relax and let yourself be comforted?

Or does she come, but then sometimes turn away, dismiss your distress, tell you to control your emotions, or even criticize you, so that you try to hold onto her but get more upset, feeling that she has not really heard your call or cannot be relied upon?

How does your body feel as you do this experiment? Tight, numb, sore, agitated, calm, relaxed? How hard was it for you to do this experiment? Do any emotions come up for you—sadness, joy, anger, or even anxiety?

Step 2

Now stand up and move around for a few minutes. Sit in another chair to consider the results of your thought experiment from some distance. (If it is hard to get distance, you may want to postpone reflecting on the experiment until another day or even discuss it with someone you trust.)

Summarize, in very simple terms, what happened in this fantasy scenario. Write the steps down. What does this imagined scenario tell you about what you expect in a relationship? Our expectations, our predictions about how others will respond to us guide our steps in any dance with a lover. They are our very own love story.

Step 3

Reflecting a little more, see if you can articulate your general feeling about love relationships.

Some people automatically go to phrases such as: “They just don’t work”; “Men/Women are impossible to relate to. They always reject you or let you down”; “Love is hard work, but it’s worth it”; or “Love is for dummies.”

Step 4

Ask yourself, “What do I really want to know about love and loving?” See if you can find the answer by reading the rest of this book.

 

from “Love Sense” by Sue Johnson, available on Amazon.com
Copyright (c) 2013 by Sue Johnson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.
 Read the first part of Chapter 1 on the history of love
Read the second part of Chapter 1 on the sceince of love.
 



New Poetry: “No Girls in the Porn Store”

March 18, 2014

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Did you even know there were poets any more? Well, there are. We know one, and he is awesome. He is Mark Bibbins. And he will make you believe in poets again. He will convince you that they are sexy and dreamy and powerful and relevant. His knew book, just out, is called “They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full.” See? How can you not love that? How can you not give it as a just-because present to someone you want to have sex with? Even if that someone is yourself.

Here’s a poem Mark Bibbins is graciously letting us reprint in these unpoetic digs of ours. If we’re lucky, maybe he’ll give us another one next week.

 

Poem that Wants to Use Revelation 3:16 as an Epigraph

 

A guy who was a regular
at the bar where I used to work

we called Peckerhead because
he looked sort of like a balder

Ginsberg, who looks like a pecker.
Well I have no idea how Ginsberg looks

now, but it’s probably pretty
peckeresque. Peckerhead drank dollar

drafts and was no doubt ten times
smarter than all us smartass bitchy

barmaids put together, maybe he
was a botanist or an actuary

or had some other clever gig. I felt kind
of guilty about it, even though we never

called him Peckerhead to his face, as far
as I know. Ginsberg died April 5 (1997),

birthday of Colin Powell (1937), so happy
b-day C.P. and happy d-day A.G. Inevitably

we would get loaded during our shifts, before
we killed ourselves or caught you-know-what

or left town before either of those things
or worse happened. Did I read somewhere

that Ginsberg fucked a guy who fucked
Whitman? Fucked/got fucked by? So stinky,

who cares. I must not see what fucking
is, other than stinky. If I had anything

to say about gender I’d already
be fucking you or paying Peckerhead

to fuck you. I think he was gay too.
All the girls we saw after work

at the porn store, their skin was
the color of a three-month-old

plaster cast. If I could make you
a real simile it would be like when

I turn into a boy I will wag
a pecker at you like a dirty mop

until it cracks and flops around like
my broken leg. No girls better

go there, Peckerhead always said,
no girls in the porn store.

 

Mark Bibbins’ “They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full” is available on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog Snog: Irish Guys Joke About Hooking Up on St. Paddy’s Day

March 17, 2014

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The New Science of Love (from the Book “Love Sense”)

March 14, 2014

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photo via Flickr

The new book Love Sense by clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson tries to take some of the mystery out of that big emotion. While that may not sound very romantic, Johnson is dedicated to the scientific exploration of love so that we may have better, more-fulfilling, more intimate long-term relationships — especially in a world where independence, isolation and non-monogamy are growing more common. Her book offers real-life examples and practical exercises, based on the Emotionally Focused Therapy she developed in her own practice. Last week we featured the first part of Chapter 1 on the history of love; below is the next section, which lists the recent findings in the latest scientific research on love.

 

Love Sense” by Dr. Sue Johnson

from Chapter 1: Revolution

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines revolution as “a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something: a change of paradigm.” And that is exactly what has happened to adult love in the field of social sciences. Two decades ago, love didn’t get much respect as a topic of study. No emotion did. René Descartes, the French philosopher, associated feelings with our lower animal nature and thus considered them something to be overcome. What marked us as superior animals was our ability to reason. Cogito ergo sum—“I think, therefore I am,” he famously proclaimed.

Emotions were not rational and therefore suspect. And love was the most irrational and suspect of all, thus not a fit subject for scientists, the supreme rationalists. Scan the subject index of professor Ernest Hilgard’s exhaustive historical review PsychologiAmericapublished in 1993, and you won’t find the word love. Young researchers were routinely warned off the topic. I remember being told in graduate school that science does not deal with nebulous, soft indefinables, such as emotion, empathy, and love.

The word revolution also means “an uprising.” Social scientists began to recognize that much of their work was not addressing public concerns about the quality of everyday life. So a quiet movement, without riots or bullets, began in campus laboratories and academic journals, challenging the orthodox adherence to studies of simple behaviors and how to change them. New voices began to be heard, and suddenly, in the 1990s, emotions emerged as legitimate topics of inquiry. Happiness, sorrow, anger, fear—and love—started appearing on the agenda of academic conferences in a multitude of disciplines, from anthropology to psychology to sociology. Feelings, it was becoming apparent, weren’t random and senseless, but logical and “intelligent.”

At the same time, therapists and mental health professionals began adjusting their frame of reference in dealing with relationship issues, especially romantic ones. For years they had focused their attention on the individual, believing that any turmoil could be traced back to a person’s own troubled psyche. Fix that and the relationship would improve. But that wasn’t what was happening. Even when individuals grasped why they acted a certain way and tried to change, their love relationships often continued to sour.

Therapists realized that concentrating on one person didn’t give a complete picture. People in love relationships, just as in all relationships, are not distinct entities, acting independently; they are part of a dynamic dyad, within which each person’s actions spark and fuel reactions in the other. It was the coupland how the individuals “danced” together that needed to be understood and changed, not simply the individual alone. Researchers began videotaping couples recounting everyday hurts and frustrations, arguing over money and sex, and hassling over child-rearing issues. They then pored over these recordings, hunting for the critical moments of interaction when a relationship turned into a battlefield or wasteland. They kept an eye open, too, for moments when couples seemed to reach harmonious accord. And they looked for patterns of behavior.

Interest in emotions in general, and love in particular, also surged among “hard” scientists as advances in technology refined old tools and introduced new ones. A major hurdle to investigations had always been: How do you pin down something as vague and evanescent as a feeling? Or, as Albert Einstein lamented: “How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”

The scientific method depends not only on observation and analysis but also on measurable, reproducible data. With the arrival of more sensitive tests and assays, neurobiologists launched inquiries into the chemistry of emotions. But the big push came with the advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Neurophysiologists devised experiments that peer into the brain and actually see structures and areas lighting up when we are afraid, or happy, or sad—or when we love. Remember the old public service announcement showing an egg frying in a pan while a voice intones, “This is your brain on drugs”? Now we have films that actually do capture “This is your brain on love.”

The result of all this ferment has been an outpouring of fresh knowledge that is coalescing into a radical and exciting new vision of love. This new love sense is overthrowing long-held beliefs about the purpose and process of romantic love as well as our sense of the very nature of human beings. The new perspective is not only theoretical but also practical and optimistic. It illuminates why we love and reveals how we can make, repair, and keep love.

Among the provocative findings:

The first and foremost instinct of humans is neither sex nor aggression. It is to seek contact and comforting connection. 

The man who first offered us this vision of what we now call attachment or bonding was an uptight, aristocratic English psychiatrist, not at all the kind of man you would expect to crack the code of romantic relationships! But John Bowlby, conservative and British, was nevertheless a rebel who changed the landscape of love and loving forever. His insights are the foundation on which the new science of love rests.

Bowlby proposed that we are designed to love a few precious others who will hold and protect us through the squalls and storms of life. It is nature’s plan for the survival of the species. Sex may impel us to mate, but it is love that assures our existence. “In uniting the beloved life to ours we can watch over its happiness, bring comfort where hardship was, and over memories of privation and suffering open the sweetest fountains of joy,” wrote George Eliot.

This drive to bond is innate, not learned. It likely arose as nature’s answer to a critical fact of human physiology: the female birth canal is too narrow to permit passage of big-brained, big-bodied babies that can survive on their own within a short time after birth. Instead, babies enter the world small and helpless and require years of nurturing and guarding before they are self-sustaining. It would be easier to abandon such troublesome newborns than raise them. So what makes an adult stick around and assume the onerous and exhausting task of parenting?

Nature’s solution was to wire into our brains and nerves an automatic call-and-response system that keeps child and parent emotionally attached to each other. Babies come with a repertoire of behaviors—gazing, smiling, crying, smiling, clinging, reach-ing—that draw care and closeness from adults. So when a baby boy bawls from hunger and stretches out his arms, his mom picks him up and feeds him. And when Dad coos or makes funny faces at his baby girl, she kicks her legs, waves her arms, and babbles back. And round and round it goes, in a two-way feedback loop.

Adult romantic love is an attachment bond, just like the one between mother and child. 

We’ve long assumed that as we mature, we outgrow the need for the intense closeness, nurturing, and comfort we had with our caregivers as children and that as adults, the romantic attachments we form are essentially sexual in nature. This is a complete distortion of adult love.

Our need to depend on one precious other—to know that when we “call,” he or she will be there for us—never dissolves. In fact, it endures, as Bowlby put it, “from cradle to grave.” As adults, we simply transfer that need from our primary caregiver to our lover. Romantic love is not the least bit illogical or random. It is the continuation of an ordered and wise recipe for our survival.

But there is a key difference: our lover doesn’t have to be there physically. As adults, the need for another’s tangible presence is less absolute than is a child’s. We can use mental images of our partner to call up a sense of connection. Thus if we are upset, we can remind ourselves that our partner loves us and imagine him or her reassuring and comforting us. Israeli prisoners of war report “listening” in their narrow cells to the soothing voices of their wives. The Dalai Lama conjures up images of his mother when he wants to stay calm and centered. I carry my husband’s encouraging words with me in my mind when I walk out on a stage to speak.

Hot sex doesn’t lead to secure love; rather, secure attachment leads to hot sex—and also to love that lasts. Monogamy is not a myth. 

Pick up any men’s or women’s magazine and you’ll find cover lines blaring: seduce him! this sexy move works from 20 feet away; 28 things to try in bed…or in a hammock. or the floor; and sex academy—get an a in giving her an o. In our ignorance, we’ve made physical intimacy the sine qua non of romantic love. As a result, we myopically pour massive amounts of energy and money into spicing up our sex lives. But we have it backwards: it is not good sex that leads to satisfying, secure relationships but rather secure love that leads to good—and, in fact, the best—sex. The growing craze for Internet porn is a catastrophe for love relationships precisely because it negates emotional connection.

It is secure attachment, what nature set us up for, that makes love persist. Trust helps us over the rough places that crop up in every relationship. Moreover, our bodies are designed to produce a cascade of chemicals that bond us tightly to our loved ones. Monogamy is not only possible, it is our natural state.

Emotional dependency is not immature or pathological; it is our greatest strength. 

Dependency is a dirty word in Western society. Our world has long insisted that healthy adulthood requires being emotionally independent and self-sufficient; that we, in essence, draw an emotional moat around ourselves. We talk of being able to separatand detacfrom our parents, our first loved ones, as a sign of emotional strength. And we look with suspicion at romantic partners who display too much togetherness. We say they are too involvewith, too closto, or too dependenon one another. In consequence men and women today feel ashamed of their natural need for love, comfort, and reassurance. They see it as weakness.

Again, this is backwards. Far from being a sign of frailty, strong emotional connection is a sign of mental health. It is emotional isolation that is the killer. The surest way to destroy people is to deny them loving human contact. Early studies discovered that 31–75 percent of institutionalized children expired before their third birthday. More recent studies of adopted Romanian orphans, many of whom had spent twenty hours a day unattended in their cribs, found that many suffer from brain abnormalities, impaired reasoning ability, and extreme difficulty in relating to others.

Adults are similarly demolished. Prisoners in solitary confinement develop a complex of symptoms, including paranoia, depression, severe anxiety, hallucinations, and memory loss. They call their experience a “living death.” “When we isolate a prisoner in solitary confinement,” writes Lisa Guenther, associate professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University and author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives, “we deprive [him] of the support of others, which is crucial for a coherent experience of the world.”

The idea that we can go it alone defies the natural world. We are like other animals—we need ties to others to survive. We see it clearly in a multitude of cross-species combinations: in Thailand, a tiger adopts baby pigs; in China, a dog nurses lion cubs; in Colombia, a cat cares for a squirrel; in Japan, a boar carries a baby monkey on its back; and in Kenya, a giant male tortoise fosters a tsunami-orphaned baby hippo.

We, too, as the Celtic saying goes, “live in the shelter of each other.” World War II historians have noted that the unit of survival in concentration camps was the pair, not the individual. Surveys show that married men and women generally live longer than do their single peers.

We need emotional connection to survive. Neuroscience is highlighting what we have perhaps always known in our hearts—loving human connection is more powerful than our basic survival mechanism: fear. We also need connection to thrive. We are actually healthier and happier when we are close and connected. Consistent emotional support lowers blood pressure and bolsters the immune system. It appears to reduce the death rate from cancer as well as the incidence of heart disease and infectious disease. Married patients who have coronary bypass surgery are three times more likely to be alive fifteen years later than their unmarried counterparts. A good relationship, says psychologist Bert Uchino of the University of Utah, is the single best recipe for good health and the most powerful antidote to aging. He notes that twenty years of research with thousands of subjects shows how the quality of our social support predicts general mortality as well as mortality from specific disorders, such as heart disease.

In terms of mental health, close connection is the strongest predictor of happiness, much more so than making masses of money or winning the lottery. It also significantly lessens susceptibility to anxiety and depression and makes us more resilient against stress and trauma. Survivors of 9/11 with secure loving relationships have been found to recover better than those without strong bonds. Eighteen months after the tragedy, they showed fewer signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and less depression. Moreover, their friends considered them more mature and better adjusted than they had been prior to the disaster.

Being the “best you can be” is really only possible when you are deeply connected to another. Splendid isolation is for planets, not people. 

Like Darwin, with his list of reservations, many of us think of love as limiting, narrowing our options and experiences. But it is exactly the reverse. A secure bond is the launching pad for our going out and exploring the unknown and growing as human beings. It is hard to be open to new experiences when our attention and energy are bound up in worry about our safety. It is much easier when we know that someone has our back. Thus fortified, we become imbued with confidence in ourselves and in our ability to handle new challenges. For example, young professional women who are emotionally close to their partners and seek their reassurance are more confident in their skills and more successful at reaching their career goals. It is an ironic paradox: being dependent makes us more independent.

We are not created selfish; we are designed to be empathetic. Our innate tendency is to feel with and for others. 

We are a naturally empathetic species. This part of our nature can be overridden or denied, but we are wired to be caring of others. We are not born callous and competitive, dedicated to our own survival at the expense of others. As biologist Frans de Waal points out, “We would not be here today had our ancestors been socially aloof.” We have survived by caring and cooperating. Our brains are wired to read the faces of others and to resonate with what we see there. It is this emotional responsiveness and ability to work together, not our large, thinking brains alone, that has allowed us to become the most dominant animal on the planet. The more securely connected we are to those we love, the more we tune in and respond to the needs of others as if they were our own. Moral decisions and altruistic actions spring naturally from our emotional connection with others.

The bonds of love are our birthright and greatest resource. They are our primary source of strength and joy. Seeking out and giving support are so vital to human beings that social psychologists Mario Mikulincer and Phil Shaver observe that, rather than being called Homsapiensor “one who knows,” we should be named Homauxiliatoveaccipiauxiliumor “one who helps or receives help.” To be even more accurate, I say we should be called Homvinculum—“one who bonds.”

 

from “Love Sense” by Sue Johnson, available on Amazon.com
Copyright (c) 2013 by Sue Johnson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.
 Read the first part of Chapter 1 on the history of love
Tune in next week for the next section of Chapter 1!



@Midnight’s #FilthyCelebrities Hashtag War

March 14, 2014

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Our favorite show (besides “True Detective,” and the second season of “House of Cards,” and “The Bachelor,” duh) is @Midnight hosted by the adorable Chris Hardwick (of “Shipmates” fame!). It’s a late night Comedy Central game show wherein three comedians (different each night) compete to make the funniest jokes about that day’s Internet “news,” memes and viral videos. Our favorite segment — “#Hashtag Wars” — is a play-along-on-Twitter game where you come up with funny-clever responses to that night’s given hashtag: recent hashtags have included #BadSciFi (“Alien Vs. To Catch A Predator”), #SpringBreakBooks (“A Clockwork Orange Spray Tan”), and #RuinABand (“Faith No S’mores”) — the show features the winning submission on the next night’s show.

The featured hashtag this past Wednesday night/Thursday morning’s show was #FilthyCelebrities (host’s examples were “Bryan Cram-some-in” and “B.J. Novak”). So, since we were actually up for once and watching live (instead of watching it on TiVo like a full week later), and since we ostensibly write about filthy stuff, we submitted a few. Okay, we tweet-arrhea-ed a whole slew of submissions, which we think might have broken the Internets, since our tweets didn’t show up in the feed (only on our account page). Needless to say, we didn’t win. @Rich_Fulcher’s “James ‘Get In My Van’ der Beek” won. We think @ryanmaglunob — who submitted “Larry the Kegel Guy” — was robbed. Below, please to enjoy our first (and failed) attempts at battling in a Hashtag War:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Excerpt: Revenge, Secrets, and Whiskey in “Deceptive Innocence”

March 13, 2014

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Kyra Davis, New York Times bestselling author of Just One Night, is keeping things steamy with Deceptive Innocence, the story of Bell, a beautiful young woman out for revenge who falls in love with the one man whose secrets are as dangerous as her own. Here’s a taste of the new story (we totally fell for the last line!):

 

Deceptive Innocence by Kyra Davis

From Chapter 1

 

My heart’s beating a little too fast and my eyes keep darting toward the door. He’ll walk through there any moment now. There are only a handful of bar-

flies to distract me, and the kinds of drinks they order don’t take a lot of thought to make. This is not a Mojito Sparkler type of crowd.

Most of the people who come to drink at Ivan’s are men. They come to lose themselves in alcohol and sports. The few women who show up are looking for a special kind of trouble. This isn’t the place you come to in hopes of picking up a nice guy.

I know these women. Maybe not personally, but essentially I know who they are and what they’re about: disheartened or damaged, looking for men who can inflict enough pain to help them forget the pain that’s coming from within. Screwing assholes, making themselves vulnerable to emotional predators—it’s just another form of cutting, really. Every time they smile at a Hells Angels type I can see the unspoken words hovering over their heads.

Here’s the knife. Hurt me so I don’t have to hurt myself. Take away the responsibility and just give me the pain.

I get it, I really do. But it’s not my game, not anymore.

So I just pour the beer, keep the whiskey flowing, keep my smile evasive, cold enough to scare away the more aggressive ones, warm enough to coax the tips out of the passive . . . and keep my eyes on the door.

And then it happens. At exactly seven fifteen, he shows up.

I feel an acute pang in my chest, right where my heart is.

Lander Gable. How many times have I seen this man walk into this bar while I was sitting across the street in a cab or rental car? But now, today, I’m in the bar, and he’s walking toward me, not away. I’ve never been so close to him before. I can almost touch him!

And soon I will.

The ringing of the phone momentarily distracts me.

I pick up and ask, “Ivan’s, can I help you?” The person on the other end mumbles an embarrassed apology for calling the wrong number and hangs up, but I keep the phone pressed to my ear long after hearing the click, pretending to listen while I study the perfect specimen in front of me: a clean-shaven face, bronze skin, a watch that’s worth more than everything I own . . . Only he’s replaced the suit he wore to the office today with a pair of Diesel jeans and a sweater. Less conspicuous, but still a little too clean for this place. His physique hints at time spent at a gym, not a dockyard.

You’d think some of the other guys would kick his ass just for entering their bar.

And yet absolutely no one gets in his way.

It’s not until he’s almost at the bar stool that we make eye contact. He doesn’t smile, but there’s something there—curiosity maybe, perhaps surprise at finding a woman bartending, definitely appraisal.

I’ve gotta give myself a major pat on the back for that one. I must have spent two hours putting myself together today for him. He’s why I’m wearing my wild black hair down, letting it cover my bare shoulders. He’s why I matched the loose, low-slung jeans with a fitted tank that subtly reveals the benefits of my new push-up bra. He’s why I’m wearing thick mascara and sheer lip gloss. I know this guy’s tastes.

He takes his seat, pulls out a ten, and gestures to the bottle of whiskey still in my hand from the last drink I poured. “On the rocks, please.”

“You sure?” I ask even as I fill a glass with ice. “I could make a whiskey sour if you like. Maybe throw in a cherry?”

He raises his eyebrow slightly. “Mocking a patron when you’re new to the job? Risky, isn’t it?”

“How do you know I just started?”

“I’m here a lot.”

“Every day?”

“A few times a week.” He reaches for his drink, brings it to his lips. Over the glass he offers a bemused smile. “I like your prices.”

“Really?” I ask. “Drinks more expensive where you’re from?”

“You make it sound like I’m visiting from some far- off land.”

“Are you?”

His light-brown hair looks darker in this room, his eyes brighter. “Upper East Side,” he says.

“Ahhh.” I take a step back and cross my arms over my chest. “That’s about a million dollars from here.”

He winces. “Not necessarily.” On the other side of the bar a few men burst into cheers as a UFC fighter’s arm is broken on live TV.

“You living at the 92nd Street Y, then?” I quip.

“No,” he answers, his smile returning. “I’ve managed to avoid that fate.” He studies me for a moment, trying to gauge what he’s dealing with. “How ’bout you? You live here in Harlem?”

“Occasionally. I’m a bit of a drifter.” I fiddle with a glass, playing at cleaning it. “So why do you really come here . . . I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

He gives me a quizzical look. “Considering how coy you’re being about what part of town you live in, I feel like maybe I shouldn’t volunteer my name just yet. That way we both have an air of mystery.”

“Oh, I’m only coy about inconsequential things.” I lean forward, put my elbows on the bar, and cradle my chin in my hands. Ever so slightly I arch my back. “I’m very straightforward about the things I want.”

“Really?” He takes another sip. “And what exactly is it that you want?”

“Tonight?” I pause for a moment, pretending to think. “Tonight I want . . . your name.”

His smile spreads to a grin. “You think you can coax it out of me?”

“Maybe.” Out of the corner of my eye I spot one of the regulars on the other side of the bar waving his empty glass in the air. “When I have the time.”

And I walk away to pour the next drink.

The foreman needing the refill is too drunk to notice that I’m trembling while taking his money.

God, is this working? Am I being too forward? Too much of a tease? My mother would have chewed me out for behaving like this.

But when I look back, Lander’s still smiling. I exhale in relief. I have to have confidence. I’ve studied this man; some would even call it stalking, although I’m not sure I see the distinction. But the point is, I know what kind of man Lander is. He’s different. Edgy in that upscale kind of way, and he’s rebellious enough to drink in this dive when he could easily afford to knock back cocktails at The Carlyle.

When I return to him I refill his drink without his having to ask. “So I was thinking about this, and before I resort to coaxing, I think I’d like to take a stab at guessing.”

“I don’t have the kind of name that’s easy to guess,” he says.

“So it’s not Rumpelstiltskin?”

He laughs and shakes his head. His laugh is deeper than I anticipated, appealingly unrestrained. “I’ll give you a hint,” he finally says. “It’s English and it means ‘lion.’”

“Leo.”

“Close. It also means ‘landowner.’”

Another well-weathered drinker several feet off has started muttering to himself, adding an odd soundtrack to the scene. He’s minutes away from falling off his stool.

“Landlord,” I say. “Wait, is that a name? How about Leolord, or Lionlord, or maybe Landlion.”

“My name is Lander,” he supplies.

“Lander, the landowning lion.”

He nods in confirmation. “And what’s your name?”

“Bell.”

“You were named for your beauty.”

I shake my head, a little harder than necessary. “It’s a nickname. B. E. L. L. No ‘e’ at the end. Like Taco Bell.”

“Like Taco Bell?” he repeats. “Did you just say that?”

“What should I have said? A church bell?”

“No.” He takes his drink and downs more than half of it in a gulp. “But maybe like an alarm bell.”

I giggle at that and shake my head in protest, though I’m secretly flattered.

“Care to tell me your real name?” he asks.

“Guess,” I call over my shoulder as I leave to serve another customer. I can feel him watching me and I work to make sure my movements are graceful, too graceful for this place. That’s what he should think. I want him to be curious about me.

I need him to want me.

“Keep ’em on their toes,” my mother used to say. “If they don’t know what’s coming next, they’ll keep coming back in hopes of figuring it out.”

I remember that conversation so well, although at the time I pretended not to listen. I had found it distasteful to be advised on men and dating through bulletproof glass.

Looking back on it, I really hope she knew I was listening.

More customers come in: a chick dressed like a prostitute clinging to a guy dressed like a deadbeat, then a dark-skinned man with a scar, and, a few minutes later, a light-skinned guy with a grizzled beard and a bald head. They all glance in Lander’s direction but none of them bother him. It’s like he’s mingling when he shows up here. He doesn’t belong. He’s no better than those tourists on the double-decker buses, gaping at the sights of the city without ever understanding the first thing about the lives of the people who live in it. Does he know that?

The unspoken question helps me. It sharpens my focus and fortifies me for the next step. When I go back I look him in the eye and silently invite him to restart the conversation.

“Bella,” he says, his eyes moving from my hair, to my eyes, to the antique garnet ring I wear on my right hand.

“That would be too easy,” I say.

“Belinda.”

“Nope.”

“Blair.”

“Now you’re just pulling names out of your ass.”

He almost spits out his drink as he holds back an ill-timed laugh. When he composes himself, he opens his mouth again to continue but I gently press my finger against his lips. The move is startlingly intimate and he immediately falls silent.

“That’s three strikes,” I say as I pull my hand back. “Looks like you’re not getting to first base tonight.”

He cocks his head. “There’s always tomorrow.”

“That depends on how you perform next time you’re up to bat.”

And again I walk away. I serve the other drinkers, and occasionally I throw him a smile or two, but I don’t go back to talk. Not yet. I have to tease this out.

It’s only when he prepares to leave that I grab his hand. “Do come back another time,” I say, my eyes locked on his. Then, slowly, I remove my hand and bite my lower lip teasingly before adding, “For our prices.”

He answers me with a smile, puts down a ridiculously large tip, and leaves.

 

He’s back the very next night.

He arrives earlier this time, takes the same seat, and waits for me to approach. I hold up the whiskey and raise my eyebrows questioningly, waiting for his nod before pouring him a glass.

He throws out a pile of names: Beliva, Bellanca, Benita. The names are foreign to me, unfamiliar, irritating. But I keep my tone teasing and light as I reject them one by one.

The traffic in the bar is also light tonight, but a few distractions manage to pop up. The drunk from the night before is here, the one who almost fell off his stool. This time he’s sitting at a table, with a troubled expression that indicates he’s watching “his” bartender flirt with “the stranger.”

It takes effort, but he manages to get out of his chair and make his way back to the bar. When he puts his empty glass in front of me, he hits the wood of the bar a little too hard so that the placement reads more like a demand than a casual movement. “Empty,” he says, staring at the bottom. On the screen behind me “The Most Interesting Man in the World” opens a Dos Equis as this man before me fishes out six crumpled dollar bills and puts them next to the glass.

I shake my head. “I can’t serve you; you’ve had too much.”

The man shakes his head in return. “I had too much twenty years ago, but the Lord keeps piling shit on.”

“I meant I can’t give you more to drink,” I clarify. “Go home.”

The drunk’s head snaps up at the word home, as if I’ve spoken of some kind of coveted prize, as if I’ve spoken the real name of God. In that moment I know his whole story; the perfunctory telling of it is almost unnecessary. Newly evicted, no family, nothing. The man has no center. I shake my head, whisper useless words of comfort. I recognize his pain, I’ve lived with it before, but I can’t help. I can’t give him a home, or a family. I can’t even give him the final drink that might make him forget.

“You have to go,” I say as gently as I can. “There’s a shelter a few miles from here. Perhaps they can—”

But before I can finish my sentence, Lander slams his hand on the bar, and when he lifts it there’s two hundred dollars there. “For a Best Western,” he says, his voice cool and steady, as if he’s ordering a drink, not a bed. “Find one with a free breakfast.”

The man gapes at the bills before snatching them up and weaving his way out of the bar.

I stare at Lander, who is now occupying himself with his phone. “He won’t get a hotel room,” I finally say.

“He might,” Lander counters. “Not a Best Western, not a hotel that will buy him a moment of human dignity. But he might find a bed, a room, someplace where he can drink the liquor he’s about to buy in private.”

I shake my head, still not getting it.

“I feel sorry for him,” Lander clarifies.

“Because he doesn’t have a family?”

“Because he’s chosen despair over anger,” he says distractedly as he checks his emails. “It’s a bad choice. Despair will kill you. Anger’s more useful.”

I drop my gaze, toy with my garnet ring. Lander’s singing my song . . . my anthem. Again I feel my pulse quicken, just like it did right before our meeting, before I began my game.

I lean into the counter, my hands spread out to either side as if I’m balancing myself. “Are you angry, Lander?”

He looks up from his phone, his expression almost seductive, almost menacing. “Not as angry as you, Bell.”

Immediately I step back. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m—”

“I can hear anger scraping at the underside of every cheery word that comes out of your mouth,” he interrupts. “You’re absolutely draped in anger. And you know what?” He puts a few bills down, more than enough to cover the drink he consumed. “You wear it well.”

My heart pounds in my ears as once again he leaves.

What if he knows? 

Dear God, what if he knows I want to destroy him?

 

Read more of Deceptive Innocence here

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In Defense of Juan Pablo

March 11, 2014

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screenshot from ABC’s “The Bachelor: After the Final Rose”

After spending all season ripping apart Juan Pablo for his sexist paternalism, his homophobia, his hypocrisy, and his all around smarminess, we’re going to do something we never thought we’d do: defend him.

Hear us out.

When Andi, one of the women in Juan Pablo’s final three, spoke up about the nightmarish reality of the fantasy suite, we commended her. She pulled back the curtain of the show to reveal what a sham it is. World travel, exotic locales, novel date activities, and heavy mood lighting do not a relationship make; they — and the cameras — don’t create an environment to truly get to know someone intimately. Andi didn’t realize this until she and Juan Pablo finally had a chance to be alone, away from the cameras, and truly be themselves. Previous Bachelors have been better at keeping up the charade in the camera-free fantasy suite, but not Juan Pablo — his insensitivity and narcissism couldn’t be contained. Andi saw his true colors and, for the first time in Bachelor history, painted a brutal picture of the Bachelor — the man and the show — with them.

Now, with his appearance on “After the Final Rose”, Juan Pablo has done the same: revealing himself to be even more of an dick than we imagined, yes, but also highlighting the utter preposterousness of the show’s set up.

Juan Pablo refused to play the producers’ game; he refused to follow “The Bachelor” script — the script which dictates that when the Bachelor chooses someone to be with at the end of the show, he must publicly declare his undying love…for a woman whom he’s essentially just met. If he won’t propose marriage (god, how annoying and selfish!), he’ll at the very least state clearly and unequivocally, “I love her.” It’s an essential part of the pretend fairy tale the producers are peddling: this show is about finding true love and we’ll all be damned if someone doesn’t find it by the end!

We lost count of how many times Chris Harrison asked Juan Pablo if he was in love, asked him to say he was in love. Harrison even went so far as to say Juan Pablo was in love, but was just refusing to let us all enjoy it vicariously: “This is what we all signed up to watch, and that’s what you signed up to show.”

But Juan Pablo wouldn’t budge — because he’s obviously not in love. At least not yet. And can we blame him, bastard or not? After only two months on the show with Nikki, and several more spent apart from her in hiding, he — like most sane people — need more time to make any grand statements or big moves, especially when he apparently takes marriage very seriously (he didn’t even marry the mother of his child) and doesn’t consider divorce an option. They — yes, JP and Nurse “I’m in Love” Nikki — need time in the real world to figure out how they actually feel about each other, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of Bachelor couples don’t ultimately end up together for the long haul. Juan Pablo said, “We’re starting our relationship.” The key word being starting.

But Nikki said it best (which is not surprising, considering Juan Pablo’s strained English and his proclivity for sticking his foot in his mouth): “I’m not going to force it,” she said. “I’m happy and I know he is too. That should matter more [than the words]…There’s people that have sat up here before and said they’re in love and everyone wants to believe it but they don’t because it’s just not there…Falling in love in a few months and, not only that, but the fact that they were dating other people the whole time, it’s just not exactly realistic…This is a real relationship to us, we’re taking this very seriously.”

To which Juan Pablo added, in a rare moment of eloquence, “I’m sorry the show didn’t end up the way you guys wanted it to but I just have to be honest.”

The couple also refused to reveal their future plans — or even if they had any future plans at all — saying they preferred to keep their relationship private, or at least as private as possible in a post-Bachelor world. This, of course, spurred the ire of Harrison along with Bachelor poster children/good citizens Sean and Catherine: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” said Catherine. She meant that he should be more grateful to the show for the opportunity to find someone he cares about by spilling his guts (though it sounded an awful lot like she was admitting the show is more about making money and publicity for participants than it is about actually fostering true love). But Juan Pablo, having held up the letter of the producers’ laws the entire show, went rogue last night and ignored the spirit of those laws by keeping his innermost thoughts and feelings to himself, proving better than any prepackaged happy ending that these are real live human beings (however flawed) and not the producers’ puppets or our playthings.

Last night’s treatment of Juan Pablo seemed to suggest that in the world of the Bachelor, it’s better to end up alone than with someone whom you’re enjoying dating and getting to know — that’s just so realistic, so logical, so anti-climactic, so real. Everything “The Bachelor” isn’t.

 

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