It’s often said that parents today are an overbearing lot. The reason is frequently attributed to the abundance of readily available information. From the endless dos and don’ts of pregnancy blogs, to Ivy League preparation classes (for children in elementary school), there is no shortage of resources for the zealous parent. My husband and I have always vowed to be mellow when we have kids. “Our offspring will play with wooden spoons; they’ll be toted in slings not Bugaboos!” we’ve said. We were committed to our humble intentions. That is, until we brought our puppy home.
Popular wisdom alleges that acquiring a puppy can prepare you for having a baby. I always thought that was hogwash, until puppy rearing offered me a preview of how psycho a mom I could unwittingly become. Neither my husband nor I had pets growing up, which meant, like any first-time parents, we had questions. Lots of them. Where should puppy sleep? Should we leave his food out or provide it in doses? Why does he exhibit a penchant for eating his poo?
Where did we go for answers? Did we call my husband’s aunt who lives on a farm and has raised dogs, sheep, and donkeys for 30 years? No, we’re 21st-century parents; we turned to the Internet. There we found many answers — tips good, bad, and nothing if not conflicting. Just as one blog would tell us to never scold our puppy for going potty inside, another would suggest sternly saying, “No,” and rubbing their nose in it. There seemed to be an endless back and forth about using “pee pads.” And one girl in a chat forum even suggested our puppy might enjoy Little Caesar’s pizza.
The challenge, however, wasn’t so much which advice to follow — it was clear enough to us that a slice of all dressed is no meal for a pup. A real obstacle, however, was how to curb the desire to get it all exactly right. I was primed to purchase a copy of Cesar Millan’s How to Raise the Perfect Dog when I stopped myself.
Some good advice is definitely a leg up. But when does information overload, coupled with the drive for excellence, become a wee bit too much pressure? When do ski lessons or hockey practice turn into misplaced Olympic dreams? In our case, the quest for a perfectly potty-trained pup in two weeks flat ended predictably in disappointment.
We’ve also now experienced first-hand how focusing solely on our pup’s development can make one, well, boring. Everybody knows the couple that can speak of nothing but their brilliant children; you probably avoided them at a party last week. Well, that was the same response my husband and I elicited going on ad nauseam about our Westiepoo the other night. I don’t have to look at my cache history last month to know it was all puppy searches, zero politics; all training tips, not a stitch of op-ed or news. No wonder I have nothing better to talk about over cocktails.
A certain amount of obsession with new life is inevitable, however I suppose my biggest takeaway from this experience is my awareness of the rate at which care can turn into consumption. Does puppy need booties and a raincoat for Vancouver weather? No, probably not. At least not any more than my hypothetical one-year-old will ever need a Burberry trench. Nonetheless, let’s just say we may have shamefully purchased a certain puppy a particularly irresistible cable knit cardigan.
Alas, if there’s anything I do know about life by now, it’s to never, ever, say never.
For the last couple of years my husband and I have been living on the edge. We’re not skydivers or stunt pilots or Cirque du Soleil performers. No, it’s much less avant-garde than that — we’re simply your regular 30-something, children of baby boomers, navigating a crappy economy and a world of student debt, all the while aspiring to do what we love.
We are a part of an ilk that has been coined “Generation Me.” We become adults later, and our soul-searching 20s have been referred to as “The Odyssey Years.” One of our key defining characteristics is that we were raised believing we’re special and thus deserving of a well-paying job doing what we love. For my husband and me, that translated into masters degrees — his in cinematography and mine in creative writing. We funded our degrees through a combination of government loans, bank loans, and parental support. Combined, our monthly payments are close to $2,000. And we will likely (unless my better half starts cooking meth) be making them for a good many years to come.
Perhaps this financial divulgence is an overshare: They say the Facebooking, tweeting generation tends to do that sort of thing. The reason our monetary situation is on my mind these days, other than the obvious one, is that we recently made a decision to move back to Canada for a while; we have been living in LA for the last five years. In short, there is a job for my husband there, and not one here — at least not one visible on the horizon. That’s how the freelance world works. He never knows when work will come. As for me, I, in the typical writer/personal assistant sort of way, cannot come close to supporting the two of us. Duh.
This is not a woe-is-me discussion. We both feel extremely fortunate in our lives. We call our apartment, decorated in flea market furniture and inherited duds, the poverty castle. We work as the managers of the building to lower the rent. We consider ourselves rich in fortune, if not in bank accounts. But no matter what we call it, our financial life is certainly precarious, largely because of the educational risks we took. Without a doubt, these were chances afforded to us because we were raised by relatively well-off Canadian parents. They invested in us. But they can’t (not to mention won’t and shouldn’t have to) invest in us forever. They, like many baby boomers, have their own retirements to think about. It’s not like they have pensions; they have stock portfolios. And we all know the state of the economy.
By and large, we’re not alone in our month-to-month predicament. It’s a way of life for many these days — some, like us, because of ballsy (stupid?) risks they took. The die has been cast on our student loans and we don’t live looking back. But if we do reflect for a moment, would we do it all again the same way? Honestly, we would have cut up a few more student credit card applications. And my husband might second-guess why he attended a top-tier American school. But we are, after all, doing what we love, or at least working towards it — just like our parents encouraged us to do.
Since generations tend to work in opposition to each other, I have to wonder if we will end up
pushing more financially secure routes for our kids. Will we counsel trade schools rather than broad, “find yourself,” undergraduate educations? Dissuade them from degrees in poetry and film? Time will tell.
Time, and whether we can afford to have kids to begin with.
I’ve attended many a wedding lately; as true to statistical form, we children of the baby boomers are traipsing down the aisle somewhere around the age of thirty. Besides the older median age of marriage, many things have changed about getting hitched since our parents’ day. One is the shared responsibility couples often take in planning their weddings. Gone are the days when the bride’s mother arranged the whole shebang. Grooms today are often heartily involved in everything, from the menu, to the playlist, to the décor.
In fact, a few months ago I received a phone call from a bride-to-be who was beside herself because her groom would not compromise on his elaborate wedding vision. What could I say? The man wanted his linens and china just so, and by golly he would have his way. So, too, when I married did Hubby have an opinion. There were many details that he cared about far more than I did, including having a cheese tray with dessert and which candle holders to use. As I remember it, he was downright emphatic about the GD cheese tray.
In any case, the wedding was certainly “our day.” The cliché has always been that a wedding is “her day.” But is it possible that this norm is slowly morphing into “his day?”
Recently I’ve heard of a couple of weddings where the groom was the star of the show. Okay, maybe I’ve been to one or two, but I’m not naming any names here. Besides their increasing influence on cuisine and ambience, some grooms leave an impression in another way: effusive wedding speeches and Power Point presentations made in their honor. To be fair, this isn’t always the groom’s fault; it’s often a symptom of doting friends and, ahem, mothers. And yet, in these cases, a montage of the groom’s 1980’s hairstyles can easily become more memorable than the bride’s strapless, off-white gown.
It’s clear that equality in gender roles is changing the dynamics of weddings and marriages—as I see it, for the better. I’m all for men sharing in raising children and doing housework. But is this equality leading grooms not only to share in the wedding-planning experience, but also to outshine their brides on the big day? Maybe not quite yet, since the bridezilla cliché still seems to be the norm. But as for whether the grooms of tomorrow are sitting around dreaming of their butter cream, layer cake and perfect tuxedo (and not just homosexual grooms-to-be in the state of New York), we shall see.
If in the next few years you hear of a new reality show called Groomzillas, just remember: you heard it here first.
First published on Betty Confidential
Well, there’s been a whole heap of change these days. It started with a job offer for hubby (sound familiar?) in Vancouver for six months. This time for a reality show called The Beat about the cops in Vancouver’s downtown east side, which for those who aren’t aware, has a rather sizable population of heroin addicts. After some weighing of how much we’ll miss the California sunshine—especially hubby while he’s showing up to overdoses in the winter rain—we decided a job, is a job, is a job. And we need one. So, there you have it. It ain’t porn but it should be interesting.
In light of this, it’s been pretty a-wall around here while I arrange what parts of my old job I can do remotely and sort through the junk drawer for our sublet. I like moving, perhaps since I did it so many times growing up. It feels good to purge and to switch it up. But I especially like that it’s a temporary move because I plan to get me back to these swaying palm trees. I’m quite certain I’m a California girl. Famous last words.
Anyway, while I’m at it with the junk drawer, I’m also going to be making some changes to ye old imarriedapornographer.com blog. First off, this blog is now also under the domain emilysouthwood.com as well. Not to worry, you can still reach me via the old address. But I thought something neutral like emilysouthwood.com might be useful while I’m job hunting. You know, so business types don’t think I’m a creepy pervert, which I obviously am. Besides, my book’s name keeps changing by the minute. While I’m at it with the makeover, I’m also going to change up my look and format, as it’s rather cluttered over there on the right, don’t you think?
And with that I must be off to my last workweek in the Hollywood Hills. Wish me luck! I’ll try to touch down now and again within the chaos of saying adieu and driving the old Hyundai rammed to the gills up the PCH.
Ever feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu with a pal who’s going through a break-up? You thought you’d heard and said everything there was to express about what’s-his-face, and then suddenly, he’s back, starring in Primetime Conversation. A few weeks ago she’d concluded that he was nothing but trouble. But now she’s wearing her rosy colored Ray Bans. What dose of delusion is she hopped up on? Why does she need to go through this, yet again?
Recently, my friend (we’ll call her Rachel) ended up in round two of a difficult relationship. After hearing all about her ex’s negative traits throughout their yearlong breakup, I wasn’t having an easy time supporting her decision to walk back into the fire. So I decided to do a little research on the matter—is this a common thing? What is the draw? I found a Psychology Today article that asserts: 60 percent of adults have gotten back together with an ex at some point. Searching my own relationship’s past Rolodex, I remembered a boomerang love from my early twenties. I think we broke up no less than six times. Oopsie, who was I to judge Rachel?
Reminded of my old erratic flame, I recognized myself in many of the classic pitfalls outlined by the experts interviewed in “On Again, Off Again.” One was going to my ex to comfort me, and basking in the temporary reprieve from the misery of the break-up when we reconciled. Another was the way I’d exaggerated his good qualities and faded out his bad ones during our separations. Convinced of how awesome he was, I’d worry I would never find anyone as great—even though I knew in my heart things weren’t quite right. And finally, I had become somewhat addicted to the highs and lows of the on again, off again dynamic. What can I say? I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. But this kind of drama always comes at a cost.
In Rachel’s case, I could see many of those patterns, as well as a new one. With her, not only did what’s-his-face’s not so savory qualities seem diminished after some time apart, some of her own negative behaviors had improved. At the end of their relationship, Rachel, usually a powerhouse of a woman, had taken several uppercuts to her self-confidence. But after being alone and healing, she’d begun to resemble her old self—self-assured, motivated, and funny without always being sarcastic. With her new outlook, not to mention her new glutes—she worked though much of her pain on the Stairmaster—she fell into the familiar pothole of communicating her newfound clarity to her ex. AKA, calling him up to say: “See how well I’m doing without you? See what you’re missing? Shaft!”
And guess what? She was pretty darn attractive to him. The added ego trip of his renewed advances didn’t hurt. So it’s no surprise that when they reconnected to “talk things out,” the chemistry was electric. All the crappy parts of their past simply melted away. At least for one more knock down, punch ‘em out moment in the relationship ring. It wasn’t easy to see my friend once again vulnerable to the potential stresses and pain.
In the end, I don’t think Rachel will actually wind up back with her ex. She called me up the other day to say that their long-term goals still aren’t similar enough and he remains unwilling to compromise on her key needs. Of course, if round three is a must, I’ll still be here to support her.
As for what’s-his-face, I suggest he walks the other way when he sees me coming down the street.
First published on BettyConfidential.com
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Is cleansing a great, or even necessary, way to eliminate environmental toxins in this dirty day and age? Or is it a quick, possibly detrimental, weight loss gimmick that rarely maintains results? Contradictory opinions on this subject flood the Internet. But one thing seems pretty clear: cleansing is often used as a new word for dieting.
Recently, I’ve heard of seven friends (not all together or even in the same time zone) who’ve tried the Isagenix cleanse. This popular cleansing method involves a combination of fasting, eating normal meals, and consuming snacks and shakes. The nine-day routine costs about a hundred dollars. And I’ve heard it works to shed pounds (about 15) and increase energy levels. Who couldn’t use that? “I probably could!” I thought as I eagerly Googled it. But I stopped myself before pulling out my Visa. I’m skeptical of cleanses that cost money and come in powdered form, as well as of my motivations for doing them.
I’m a highly ambivalent person. Besides my trouble ordering in restaurants (like how if I choose the lasagna, I’ll end up coveting my husband’s shrimp and avocado salad), I waver on many issues. I can’t decide whether to buy the more expensive, natural shampoo; I spend my days breathing LA’s finest, after all. Will my conditioner save me when there are a million other things that may cause cancer? You know, like Tupperware, mattresses, or bottled water left in the sun.
What about buying organic? We’ve all heard that organic produce is more nutritious and exposes us to fewer pesticides and hormones. But it’s also more expensive. Is it worth it? It’s been said that the “organic” labeling craze, like “fat free,” can sometimes be a marketing rip off. I spoke to an Oregon farmer this summer who even argued that the organic requirements are too extreme in limiting antibiotics to livestock. Where the eff should I stand on it all?
There’s no secret to how one becomes this way. There is so much conflicting advice out there. And there’s so much choice: Dawn or Planet dish soap? Tom’s Fluoride-Free Toothpaste or Crest? I was a vegetarian for 10 years. Now I cook a mean roast. To boot, my mother subscribes to alternative medicine. She takes a whole host of herbs for what ails her. My father has two words for her take on health: placebo effect, a.k.a: a bunch of hooey. Talk about mixed messages.
No wonder I have a neither-here-nor-there perspective on cleanses. I’ve tried several during my 33 years on the planet to varied results. I did Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP cleanse a few months back, which left me feeling pretty vital, and yes, skinnier. And a girlfriend and I even pulled an LA Story once and had a colonic on Sunset Blvd. It actually did give me the energy to jump around like Sarah Jessica Parker in ’80s spandex. But then I caught the flu. When I tried The Master Cleanse — the hell where one consumes only lemon water with maple syrup and cayenne — I lasted three days, then wound up with a mouth full of canker sores.
If I’m honest with myself, my primary reason for cleansing has always been weight loss, with a dash of overall health. Like most, I slide up and down on the scale with the seasons, and I’m as vain as the next gal reading Vogue. The thought of shedding pounds in mere days is seductive — whether you’re one of themore than two-thirds of U.S. adults who are overweight, or a Hollywood A-lister with a red carpet event coming up. Not surprisingly, my 30-something friends aren’t signing up to Weight Watchers on a lark, they’re doing cleanses. Detoxifying is hipper. Sorry, Jennifer Hudson I know you’re really pushing Weight Watchers to my crowd.
“I’m on a cleanse,” is met with knowing nods here in LA when declining Eggs Benedict at brunch. “Can I borrow your microwave for my Jenny Craig?” doesn’t have the same ring. Besides, microwaving your food isn’t cool; I hear it could give you cancer.
I just read Time magazine’s “The Oz Diet,” in which Dr. O addresses the yo-yo pattern of food information. He argues quite convincingly that the only diet/lifestyle/cleanse we should be following is: eating in moderation, high fiber (including fresh fruits and veggies), lean proteins, and exercise. And I’m with him on that.
That is, when I’m not eating late night French fries, then going on a fat-burning soup cleanse. Luckily, my ambivalence usually lands me somewhere in the vicinity of moderation. As for whether I’ll be trying Isagenix any time soon, I’ll never say never. For now I’m going to hike in the LA smog, then BBQ up some mostly organic fare.