Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘relationships’

How to Fight…errr…Communicate With Your Spouse

Odd subject for Valentine’s Day?  Maybe.  But one of the biggest secrets to a successful long-term marriage is figuring out how to argue with each other without irreparably damaging the relationship.

Just to clarify, when I say “fight” or “argue”, I don’t mean the knock-down drag-out verbal battles that pop up (hopefully) very rarely in a good relationship.  I’m talking about the little debates about who’s washing the dishes, which car to buy, etc. that can pile up in any marriage.

Couples who tell me they “never argue” just don’t understand the meaning of the word.  Because I firmly believe that a couple that always agrees on everything every day for years on end is in a coma.  And comas aren’t healthy.  Come on – people disagree with each other.  It happens.  Especially when you’re sharing a bathroom.  For years.  If you can disagree without ever raising your voice, as some people claim, that’s great (and please tell me your secret!), but it’s still a debate/argument/negotiation/fight, at least for the purpose of this post. 

I’d love to give an example of the stupid things we argue over, but I can’t remember any.  Why not?  Well, for one thing, sometimes we don’t end our arguments discussing the same topic that we started with.  And that’s the dangerous part of arguing – a silly vent/rant can become a grudge match if you’re not careful.  The little quibbles over crumbs on the counter or empty toilet paper rolls can easily end up drifting to “you don’t respect me”; “you don’t appreciate me”; or, at its worst, “you don’t love me.”  Fortunately, we’ve never reached the point of doubting our love for each other, even when we’re really ticked off.  Healthy debate is an art, and it’s something married couples have to work at constantly to keep the marriage fresh and balanced.   

There are a few philosophies out there on “how to fight”.  One oldie is the idea of holding hands while you argue.  It has merit – how can you stay mad at someone you’re holding hands with?  You can’t stomp away, and there’s no point in yelling if you’re that close.  And trying to stay mad when you’re holding hands usually leads to both of you giggling uncontrollably.  The problem?  Arguments start at the drop of a hat, and once you’re angry (after tripping over his or her shoes for the fifth time this week), the last thing you want to do is walk over and hold his hand!  The hand-holding thing works best when you know a conversation might eventually get tense (“honey, I’d really like to spend our savings on a new flatscreen TV…”).  If you plan in advance, and assume the hand-holding position early on, it can help both of you stay more calm. 

And of course there’s the golden standard – “never go to bed angry.”  I’m not so sure I support this one as much as I used to.   Hubby is one of those guys who just goes to sleep when he’s tired, angry or not.  I’ve been known to poke him to keep him awake so that we can work through some conflict and I can know we’re not going to bed angry, because that’s against the rules.  Which, of course, makes him angry.  Frankly, we’ve gone to sleep mad (or at least annoyed) a few times, and it’s been just fine.  A good night’s sleep does wonders, especially if you’re arguing about something as silly as leaving the toilet seat down.  Just as it’s hard to be mad at someone when you’re holding their hand, I’ve also discovered it’s hard to be mad at someone you’re waking up with…for the 5000th time.  We tend to just give each other a bashful “love you” while brushing our teeth, and move on with our lives, because again, who can remember what started the argument in the first place?  And who has the energy to carry it into day two?

One of my favorite tips came from a recent blurb in Reader’s Digest.  It basically said to treat your spouse like a dog.  Seriously.  If you love animals, then you know how well your dog is treated, right?  After Fido chews up your favorite slippers, sure, you’re mad as hell.  But then he looks at you with those puppy-dog eyes and you know he didn’t really mean it, and you forgive him.  Uses the dining room rug as a bathroom?  Smack a rolled up newspaper in your hands and kick him outside, but you know an hour later he’ll be curled up in your lap getting his ears scratched.  Yes, I’m talking about the dog. 

But the same can work for a spouse – really.  It’s all about intentions. I don’t intend to forget to empty the trash.  Hubby doesn’t intend to leave the cupboard door open.  I don’t intend to put his favorite cotton shirt into the hot dryer.  He doesn’t intend to track mud into the living room.  And aren’t those silly things the primary irritants in a good marriage?  If I can forgive a four-legged mammal for its carelessness, then I can forgive my two-legged mammal, too.   

On Saturday, we were driving through some bad weather on the way to a wonderful Valentine’s weekend get-away.  Hubby was behind the wheel, and pulled out to pass another car in some very dicey snow conditions.  I held my breath and grabbed the door (it was admittedly an over-reaction).  He chuckled and asked me how the brakes were working on the passenger side of the car.  I glared at him, and said “I’m picturing you as a puppy right now…”  And we both laughed out loud.

And that’s the best “secret” of all – laugh.  A lot.  If you remain aware of how silly a disagreement is, and bring that silliness to the attention of your spouse, how can you really stay mad?  As soon as one of us slips up and says something like “you ALWAYS…” or “you NEVER…”, the other will just start laughing and say “Really?  Never?  Never ever?  Are you sure?”  It might start with just a smirk, but pretty soon a smile is there, and then a laugh, and then we’ve forgotten whatever stupid thing we were arguing about. 

Communication is the key.  And that includes communicating when you don’t agree.  And that’s going to happen, so you may as well figure it out now.  I’m happy to say that I think we’ve done that pretty darned well in our marriage. 

So, as we head rapidly towards our 15th wedding anniversary….Happy Valentine’s Day, my Love!

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Boys and Their Toys

Zero-turn mower (no, that's not my house in the background!) {photo: Joseph Barillari}

What is it with men and power equipment?  Have Ryobi power drills replaced swords and spears as symbols of a man’s prowess?  Do men think women are impressed when they wield a “saws-all” and cut a hole through a wall?  And you gotta love the way they swoop in when they see a woman trying to use power tools.  “Oh, let me get that, honey.”  “Honey, you’re not holding it right – let me take it.”  “You’ll never get it done that way – let me do it.” 

In fact, most wives learn pretty early on that the easiest way to get our husbands to do something that’s been on our “honey-do list” for days (weeks, months, years) is to grab a power tool ourselves and fire it up while they’re nearby.  Oh, there may be a curse word or two, but trust me, in the end, the job will be completed…by the husband. 

Disclaimer:  My own Hubby is sometimes conflicted in how to balance our roles, but to his credit, he usually falls on the more enlightened side of things.  Some of my sweeping generalities here are based on other guys I’ve known in the past or have worked with, and other womens’ husbands.  My own beloved at least tries to let me do things on my own, but he still gets twitchy when I grab the Ryobi. 

I don’t think for a minute that guys grab tools away from us because they’re all that concerned for our safety (although, I must admit, I can’t be trusted with any sharp objects, and Hubby knows it).  I just don’t think they want us to learn how much fun they are.

I lived alone for more than fifteen years, including ten years on my own horse farm (with a house that was a hundred years old).  So I had to learn how to make a few basic repairs.  Simple little things like…patching the roof, snaking the pipes, fixing the toilet, thawing out the sump pump, driving a farm tractor older than I was, bailing water out of the basement by hand…just a few little things every girl dreams of doing someday.  So Hubby took on a wife who didn’t expect him to fix everything, and a wife who had her own opinions on how to fix things.  That has occasionally led to some….uh….stress, but overall it’s been a successful match in handling day-to-day tasks.  He refers to my occasional proclamations of “I can do it myself” as my “I am woman, hear me roar” moments, but I think he quietly appreciates that we share the workload.

I’m not in love with running the snow blower, but I can certainly do it when he’s not around.  I’ll bundle up in twenty layers, and I’ll waddle into the garage and open the door.  I spend a few seconds staring at the snow-covered driveway in annoyance.  I’ll push the choke three times and start hauling away on the pull-start rope.  If it doesn’t start on the first pull, I’ll warm the air with a few four-letter words.  If it doesn’t start on the second, I’ll graduate to 5- and 7-letter words, because I know I’ve only got one pull left in me.  But once that sucker starts, I’m off!  Our driveway is three cars wide and 90 feet long.  It’s a bear to clear, but I can do it.  When I’m done, I’m tired, and aching, and usually still annoyed, but I also have a sense of accomplishment and independence that feels pretty good. 

And maybe that’s what guys love about their power tools.  They really do make you feel powerful.  That’s their little secret.  That’s why they snatch them out of our hands so quickly.  It’s not about the operator, it’s about the machine.

I discovered this recently when I finally learned how to drive the “man-machine”, which is what I’ve dubbed Hubby’s new zero-turn lawn mower.  I could drive any lawn tractor around, and I’ve had some doozies, including a big old clunker on my farm that I bought at a garage sale – it would smoke and backfire regularly, but it got me through my last couple years of farm life (before I came to my senses and sold the farm and tractor).  I was even okay driving a 1950 farm tractor and operating the bucket loader on the front.  But just because I could do it didn’t mean I loved doing it, and I was more than happy to let Hubby take over the lawn duties once we settled in suburbia.  And as long as we had a lawn tractor, even the one with the big 4-foot mower, I knew I could help out in a pinch. 

And then he got the man-machine this year.  Hubby coveted this mower for three years, because he drove one at the golf course where he worked part-time.  You sit in front of the engine, not behind it.  And you sit directly over and slightly behind the mower.  No steering wheels here – these things drive with two handles/levers/arms that operate independently of each other.  That means if you pull the left lever back, you turn left.  If you pull the left lever back, and push the right lever forward, you turn left really fast!!!  I’m talkin’ throw-you-off-the-machine fast.  The least little movement on those levers, and you are careening into the garage wall, or the car, or over the top of that little maple tree behind the shed.  Hubby is a zero-turn master.  Me…not so much.  I was more than happy to let that be a man-job.  Until we realized that I would have to mow the lawn at least a couple times while he was out of town this fall.  Uh-oh.

Hubby gave me an impatient lesson last week (I didn’t come that close to hitting the car on my way out of the garage).  I tried to ignore his protests and shouted suggestions and anguished expressions as I ran zigzags around the yard.  You see, I was thinking the man-machine needed a man’s firm hand to steer it.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the key was subtlety.  A light hand on the steering levers allowed you to move around the yard with ease.  Push them forward together, and you go faster – cool.  After a few herky-jerky attempts to mow around some shrubbery without mowing it down (Hubby’s face was priceless!), I figured out the man-machine.  And I liked it.  The neighbors were watching me, and that must have been admiration I saw in their eyes as I wheeled around and spun that mower in a (relatively) tight circle to head back the other direction.  I felt awesome!

I now know the secret of men and their toys.  The toys are fun!!  And the toys are cool!!  And they don’t really require any special “manly” skills.  Okay, men have got more practice running drills and operating zero-turn mowers than we do.  And they often have more upper arm strength to hold that power tool and its heavy detachable battery pack steadier than we can.  But the reason men love those toys is because they get a heady sense of power and accomplishment from using them.  Women should give it a try more often.  And if by chance you don’t like it, just act like you’re going to drop the tool, or bump it up against the wall, or tell him you think you stripped a screw.  He’s sure to grab the power tools away from you with a tsk-tsk and take over the task.  And he’ll be thrilled to have his toys all back to himself again.

Learn to Speak “ESPN”, Ladies!

Fenway Park, Home of the Boston Red Sox

I have come to the conclusion that in business, talking sports can be a really good idea for women.  Before I go any further, let me throw out a few disclaimers here.  Rest assured that I am NOT a proponent for women “acting like a man” to get ahead in business.  I think women bring their own special gifts to the workplace, and that we can succeed just fine by acting like ourselves.  Don’t allow anyone to patronize you or dismiss you in any way.  And yes, I understand that there are plenty of men who could care less about sports, and that’s just fine, too.    

But business is all about relationships, and the best way to build a relationship is to find areas you have in common with the other person.  When you’re a woman in the business world, sports is usually a great ice-breaker.  I discovered this by accident years ago.  I always was a sports fan to a certain degree.  I am particularly enamored with NASCAR racing.  People are always surprised by that – I refer to myself as a “closet redneck”.  I’m watching the race in Pocono as I type this.  Seriously.

Anyhow…I was sitting in the break room at the large call center where I was a manager about ten years ago, having lunch with some of the male managers there.  It was a Monday, and one of the guys mentioned the weekend’s auto race.  He said something disparaging about “my” driver’s involvement in an accident, and I jumped in with a detailed rebuttal explaining why it was really some other guy’s fault.  Along with the surprised looks of “hey, she knows NASCAR!”, I saw something else in the eyes of these guys who were always polite but never exactly friends.  They were looking at me like I suddenly existed.  If you’re a working woman, you know what I mean.  When I saw them looking at me with that strange expression (“Who is this woman?” “Why didn’t we know she was cool before?”), a light bulb went off. 

But not all guys love NASCAR, so I decided to experiment.  I’d sit with the guys and jump into their conversations about baseball, football, basketball, whatever was the sports du jour.  And here’s what I learned then, and since then.

1.        Don’t fake it.  There may be times when you can fake it with men (get your mind out of the bedroom – I’m talking about the times we refer to our brand new shoes as “what, these old things?”).  Sports isn’t one of those times when you can fake it.  Don’t say you saw the fantastic play they’re talking about unless you really saw it (even if it was just in highlights).  It’s okay to say “Yeah, I heard about that catch – they said it was awesome!”.  Don’t gush about what a great game it was just because you saw the score and the home team won.  It’s embarrassing to find out that the win came at the cost of the best player being injured, or that they blew a 10-point lead and barely hung on for the win.  Yes, it’s a win, but it’s what’s referred to as “an ugly win”.  You don’t brag about ugly wins.  You breathe sighs of relief that the team pulled it off.  Learn the lingo, ladies.

2.       Pick a team to cheer for.  You’ll look like an idiot if you rave about how much you love baseball, and then, when one of the guys asks you which team you follow, you gush “oh, I love them all!”  Only dweebs say that.  You’d be much better off saying you don’t follow the sport.  It’s always a safe bet to back the hometown team.  But don’t say you follow them if you’re not ready to do at least a little homework (learn a few names, watch the local scores, etc.).  If you really want to stand out and be bold, then follow a different team than everyone else.  But if you’re going to do that, be ready to take the heat and the “trash talk” (that’s sports lingo for someone belittling you and everything you stand for to throw you off your game).  And also be ready to step it up – you’d better really know your stuff if you’re going to be a Red Sox fan in Yankee country.  Trust me, I know this first-hand. 

3.       Watch ESPN. Really.  You don’t have watch it 24/7.  You don’t have to watch entire games.  But watch “SportsCenter”.  The show runs basically all the time.  Not exactly, but it seems that way – they’ve run more than 30,000 episodes.  It’s on and off throughout the day (and night).  It’s the “CliffNotes” version of the sports world, and you can learn a lot in just one 10 minute segment.  If you want to know enough sports to sound authentic, just watch 10 – 20 minutes of “SportsCenter” every morning.  The show quickly runs through multiple sports headlines, and shows the best and worst plays of the day/week/whatever in their “Top Ten” and “Not Top Ten” clips.  A nice plus is that it’s also pretty entertaining, with some good humor.  Watching it won’t kill any brain cells, I promise.

4.       Be prepared to surprise yourself.  As I’ve mentioned, I never considered myself a true sports fan – other than the stock car thing.  Okay – I’ve always loved the beautiful corny poetry of American baseball in general (confession: “Field of Dreams” is my favorite movie ever), but I really didn’t follow specific teams.  When I met my Boston-raised husband, I was instantly brought into the world of Red Sox baseball, Patriots football, and Celtics basketball (I just can’t get into hockey…).  So those became “my teams” when I wanted to talk sports.  I don’t live in Boston.  I live in New York.  So I have taken a fair amount of heat.  I had to keep up with the teams to hold my own.  And a funny thing happened.  I started to really enjoy it!   Okay, it helps that all three teams have won at least one championship in the past few years (the best way to shut up the trash talk is to win), but even in the tough years, I’m still having fun.

I have learned that guys aren’t aliens when they start talking sports.  Sports can be cool.  Don’t just walk away when the sports talk starts, or when ESPN pops up on the television screen.  And, if you want to learn how to open conversations at work, or in any public setting where you want to build relationships (like the corner bar…), learn at least a little bit about sports.  Keep yourself up to date by scanning the headlines and watching a little “SportsCenter” .  You’ll be surprised what some sports knowledge can do for you, and you may even find yourself liking it!

Marriage = Work

Happily celebrating Christmas Eve 2009 together

Being married is work.  Hard work.  Rewarding work (usually….).  But work just the same.

I was in love with old Hollywood movies when I was a little girl.  I grew up thinking that people just had to gaze into someone else’s eyes and BAM!  – they were in love.  The bells rang, the music crescendoed, fade to black, all was happy forever after.  Often the moment of love occurred in the middle of some big conflict – “Oh you brute!  You’re an awful man!”  Then the hero would grab the heroine by the shoulders and plant a big kiss on her.  She resisted (just for a moment), then melted into his arms.  Ah…love.  It Happened One Night.  Gone With the Wind.  The Philadelphia Story.  The African Queen, When Harry Met Sally, The Proposal.  It’s apparently a very reliable plot line.

This rosy-hued image of love and marriage was reinforced by the gothic romances I was reading.  As a teenager, it was Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, where the plucky governess always ended up with the lord of the manor (who was usually a rogue she had to tame).  As I matured, so did the romance novels, and the scenes became a bit more…um…explicit.  No fade-to-black here.  There was a lot of throbbing and pulsating going on.  I made the mistake of offering a fairly tame novel to my mother back then, and she promptly pronounced it to be “smut”.  But that didn’t stop me.  Janet Daily, Katherine Woodiwiss (“A Rose in Winter”…oh, my…), and Jude Deveareaux, whose “A Knight in Shining Armor” is probably the best romance novel ever (or so I thought at the time).  

But I digress….   The point is, all those romances were about the magical qualities of falling in love, and spent very little time looking at the “ever after” part. 

Falling in love is wonderful.  Staying in love is hard work.  As the glow of the early courtship fades and familiarity begins to settle in, a couple needs to decide how they’re going to make it work long-term.  If you don’t figure that out early and commit to it, a marriage can spiral into complacency – the true opposite of love when it comes to relationships. 

Complacency is always lurking at the edges of a marriage.  Let’s face it – once you reach the point where you’re flossing and toe nail clipping in front of each other, it’s easy for passion to take a back seat.  And all those cute little quirks that were so amusing and endearing when you were dating?  Well, eventually they can become downright annoying.  Infuriating, even.  That’s when you need commitment.  When you have to look at your spouse and see what you love about them, beyond the burps and farts and forgetfulness.  There are times when I am shaking in anger at my husband, and he has those same moments with me.  But we work past them.  We talk them out (sometimes loudly, I’ll admit).  But we keep communicating until it’s settled.

Like many marriages, on paper, logically speaking, there’s absolutely no reason our marriage should work.  He’s full of Irish passion and temper.  I’m a quiet WASP.  He charges through life full speed ahead, with a take-no-prisoners attitude about everything.  I’m the worrywart who frets constantly (“what if they don’t like me”  “what if someone gets hurt” “what if we get caught?”).  I can’t bear to break any rules, right down to insisting on following “use this door” signs as if the police are waiting to arrest me if I don’t.  He lives to break the rules in every way -devil-may-care, live life for the moment.  He’s the ultimate “morning person”, leaping out of bed before dawn, ready to tackle the day.  I am the opposite of “morning person”, crawling out of bed only under duress, and I’ve been known to put the milk away in the pantry and the cereal in the refrigerator.  He won’t hesitate to get in someone’s face for some injustice rendered.  I am mortified at the thought of causing a scene.  He’s loud.  I’m not.  He loves crowds and parties.  I’m happy with a good book and a glass of wine.  I cry at commercials.  He laughs at me while I’m crying.  And yet it works – magically well.

After a certain number of years, good couples (the ones who WORK at it), become not only partners, but each other’s true soul mate.  And more importantly, they become keepers of the secret shared stories. 

Sixteen years ago, shortly after we’d met, my husband and I faced the ultimate test of a new relationship:  assembling an entertainment center from what seemed like 200 pieces of wood and assorted parts that came out a very large box.  We were still “courting” back then, so we were trying to be pleasant.  He was grabbing pieces and putting them together in whatever order he found them in, insisting he didn’t need the directions.  I was fretting over making a mistake, and finally, exasperated, I said through gritted teeth, “Honey, I really think we should follow the instructions they gave us.”  His response?  “Don’t ever call me ‘honey’ in that tone of voice again.”  We stared at each other for a minute, then burst into laughter.  That comment is still one of our touchstones to this day.  If we use the word “Honey” in that exaggerated  tone, it’s a flag that things might be getting tense, and will (usually) lighten the mood – “Honey, I really think you should have taken that last exit….”

That’s just one example, but all good couples have them – those secret stories that can be referred to as a way of setting a current event into perspective.  A word.  A touch.  A look.  The secret language of experience for the couples who have figured out how to navigate the paths of relationship-building.  No one but my husband and I knows why saying the word “woof” can end a heated debate with a smile.  That’s our secret.  And those secrets are precious. 

Every anniversary, we celebrate another year of shared stories, fiery debates, daily laughter, family joys and sorrows, changing waistlines, career challenges, money made and money lost, evening walks hand-in-hand, and cuddles in bed.  We know each other’s faults and gifts in detail.  We have made a commitment to be partners in spite of or because of them.  Hardly a week goes by that one of us doesn’t look at the other and say “we are so fortunate”.   At the end of the day, it’s his smile, laughter and love that are my life support. 

Fourteen years ago today we exchanged our vows on a warm Sunday afternoon.  Whew.  What a ride it’s been so far!  All that work paid off.  I can’t wait to see what the next fourteen years (and more) bring our way.  Happy anniversary, my love.

The Joys of Smugness

Growing older (not “old”, mind you, but older) has its advantages.  Sure, I can sigh over the physical changes I see in the mirror on a regular basis, but there are a lot other things I end up embracing.  Wisdom is certainly one of them. 

Many people talk about their new-found “wisdom” as they grow older.  They make it sound very zen-like – becoming an elder is a sign of honor.  Elders are respected and revered because they have gained the wisdom of life.  We are the beautiful wise ones.  Light the candles and honor us with your gifts and praise.  If we are suitably impressed, we may even impart some of our wisdom upon you.    

Wisdom’s cool, I guess.  It’s earned with years and experiences that the younger folks just don’t have, and after all we’ve been through, if we haven’t gained some knowledge along the way, what’s the point?  When asked, we can definitely share this wisdom.  The problem is, no one asks.

It reminds me of a summer ten years ago, when we had our boat docked at a marina that faced a water area that included a deep channel bordered with a very shallow, rocky area along the shoreline.  Although clearly marked with buoys to warn of danger, and plainly indicated on nautical charts, people with smaller boats inevitably thought they could take a short cut.  Those short cuts always ended with the bang of a propeller smacking into the rocky bottom.  There was a picnic area behind our boat docks, and we would all sit and watch.  Early in the season, we would see the occasional small power boat approaching the rocky shallows, and we would stand and try to wave them out to the deeper water.  The response was one of two extremes:  they would smile and wave back us, assuming we were just being friendly; or they’d flip us a finger gesture, apparently assuming that we were snobs who didn’t want their pesky boat near our beautiful marina.  Despite our best efforts, we never managed to get a boat to avoid problems.  After a month or so of trying to be good Samaritans, and watching boaters ding their props on the rocks anyway, we finally gave up.  Instead of leaping to our feet in warning, we’d quietly say “here comes another one” and we’d wait and watch, shaking our heads is wise sadness when someone disregarded the warnings and encountered the clearly marked shallows.  We no longer accepted responsibility for their careless actions.  Right or wrong…it was a nice feeling.  [disclaimer:  there was no danger of physical harm in this example – that would clearly be a different matter]

I feel that same sense more and more often these days.  The young and foolish dive into dangerous waters that we could definitely tell them to avoid.  But would they listen?  Probably not.  And should they?  Probably not.  After all, how will they gain their own worldly wisdom without learning a few lessons along the paths of their own lives? 

And so we watch, and smile.  Or perhaps shake our heads sadly, knowing we’re viewing a potential train wreck, and knowing that, unless asked for, our advice is unwanted. 

There’s a certain feeling I get when I listen to someone in their twenties telling me of their plans for their lives.  I’m feeling my own life experience just dying to burst forth with advice, and yet I know they don’t care.  I’m mentally sitting back and quietly thinking “there goes another one.”  I’m being smug.  It’s kinda cool.  I just smile and listen.  You know that old saying – “Life is what happens while you’re making plans”?  Well, that old saying surely came from someone in their fifties who had learned the folly of making plans first-hand.  It came from someone who was confident, wise, and smug.  And at the time they said it, no one under forty paid attention.

“Well, first I’ll finish my degree, then I think I’ll spend a year in Europe just bumming around (maybe I’ll find a sexy Italian!), I’ll spend some time in Monaco, and then I’ll come home and get serious, get a job and get married.  I don’t want children until after I’ve gotten my masters degree, established my career and we have a house in suburbs.  Thirty-two would be a good time to start a family.  We’ll have two boys and girl, and they’ll be athletic/artistic/scholarly…. blah blah blah….  Uh-huh.

I like being smug.  I like watching girls pick up magazines like Cosmopolitan, with articles  such as “15 Ways to Amaze Him in Bed.”  Honey, after a few years together, just showing up in bed interested in sex will amaze him, trust me.  There are no tricks required.  And if a guy requires tricks, walk away.  It simply isn’t worth the effort, because he’s more interested in experimenting than he is in pleasing you.

I enjoy listening to younger women talking about their guys from my smugness perch.   “He’s so obsessed with playing basketball right now, but he’ll settle down after the wedding.”  NOT!   “His mom gave him money to pay off his college loans, but he bought a new snowmobile instead – it’s awesome.”  RUN!  “Oh, my God!  We went to Myrtle Beach on vacation, and all he wanted to do was GOLF!  That’ll never happen again.”  OH YES IT WILL.  “He thinks he’s getting a big screen TV for Christmas, but I’m getting us a new bedroom suite instead.”  YEAH, HE’LL THINK THAT’S A MUCH BETTER IDEA…  “There’s just no room in the driveway for that old wreck of a hot rod he’s been fixing for years, so I told him yesterday that he has to sell it.”  CAN YOU SAY ‘DIVORCE COURT’? 

And fashion?  Oh, boy.  The ups and downs of hemlines, haircuts, bathing suits – – – yup, seen it all.  What goes up will come down, and vice versa.  “Stick with the classics, kiddies,” I think smugly.  But of course they won’t do that anymore than we did.  Raise your hands if you wore miniskirts with a maxicoat!  Hot pants?  Goucho pants (horrors!)?  Peasant tops?  Spandex and leg warmers?  Those ’80s power suits with five-inch shoulder pads?  A wise woman told me that if we wore something  the first time it was in style (hip-huggers, hot pants, etc.), then we are automatically too old to wear them the second time they come back in style. 

In the office?  I’ve been patronized, I’ve been bullied, I’ve had the best mentors, and the worst (and best) bosses.  I’ve been given incredible opportunities, and gone further than I probably “should have” without a college degree.  I do my best to mentor my employees and co-workers.  I’ve played all the corporate games through the years, and it always amuses me to see someone trying to “out-play” me.  Mind you, I don’t like playing silly games, but if I’m forced to do so against some fresh-out-of-college whipper-snapper, I’ll break ‘em like a twig.  Seriously.  And I’ll do it with a full and satisfying sense of smugness.

Let’s face it – we’re looking at the world through the lenses of vast experience, and yes, wisdom.  We should enjoy our hard-earned smugness as we watch the youngsters learn their way.  We’re not smug because we were any smarter then.  We’re smug because we made fools of ourselves just like they will, and we know that one day they’ll look back and cringe just like us.  We can’t, and shouldn’t, stop them.   Just smile and wish them luck.  Smugly.

Why Women Can’t Golf With Their Husbands

Golfing In Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland (note sheep in background!)

Okay – this one is for the guys.  Ladies – feel free to forward and share it with your husbands or significant others.  This is for all those guys who are out there dreaming of retiring to a golf community in central Florida somewhere, thinking that they and their wives will join the couples’ leagues and enjoy all kinds of activities revolving around the game of golf.    

It’s sad really, because so many of them will never achieve those retirement life dreams, and they won’t even know why.   But really, it’s their own fault.  Men make it nearly impossible for many women to enjoy the golf course, at least when their husbands are on the same links.

Don’t golf?  Feel free to apply the same general principles outlined here to any activity which, if done with your spouse, is bound to lead to tension – bowling, tennis, wallpapering, etc.

It’s not too late, fellas, but there are a few things you really need to understand.  If you can figure out why we won’t golf with you now, you can make a few “adjustments” and try again.  We’re always willing to give you a mulligan or two.

 THREE REASONS WE WON’T GOLF WITH YOU

 1.        You can’t stop “helping” us. 

We know you mean well – really we do. And we try to keep that in mind…But. You. Are. Driving. Us. Crazy. 

I know it’s because of that whole Mars/Venus thing – you really can’t help yourselves.  Men want to fix things.  The end of the race is the whole point of running.  Women want to connect emotionally to everything we do.  We want to enjoy our journey to the finish line.  That means women have totally differently approaches to something like golf than men do. 

We want to think, practice, and feel our way to a better game.  To you, it’s all science.  “Flex your knees.”  “Turn your hands over.”  “Keep your elbows in.”  “Follow through.”  “Not so far back.”  “Not so far forward.”  “Don’t chop it.”  “Stop trying to kill it.”  And my personal favorite – “Keep your head down!”

By the time we get to the third or fourth hole, you’ve filled us with so many instructions that we can’t even think straight, much less hit straight.  Then you yell at us to stop “thinking so much” before we swing, when you’re the one that paralyzed us in the first place! 

And if we do hit a terrific shot, what’s your response?  “Nice!  Now swing just like that every time!”  Um, if we could do that, we’d be on the LPGA tour.

SOLUTION:  Shut up and stay out of our heads!  We’re golfing with you because we want to be with you and have fun.  Give us advice when we ask for it, but keep your lips sealed when we’re standing at the tee.  If we really need that much help, send us to a pro for lessons.  We won’t take feedback so personally when it’s coming from a professional teacher.  And if we hit a shot anywhere in or near the fairway, tell us it was a great shot.  Even if it’s in the wrong fairway.  Practice the words right now – “great shot, honey!” 

2.        You think we’re much better than we really are (or want to be).

It’s amusing sometimes, the confidence you have in us.  One minute you’re scolding us for “topping” the ball and blowing our approach to the green.  The next minute, you’re strolling across the same green and tapping a spot with your golf club – “Chip it right here, honey!”  Yeah, okay.  Do I look like Annika Sorenstam to you?  “Aim it just to the left of that pine tree out there.”  Uh-huh.  We’re happy if we’re more than 60 yards off the tee and still in view of the fairway, and now you want to confine us to a specific ten foot diameter target? 

SOLUTION:  It’s okay to give us advice, but keep it attainable.  “Try to keep it to the left” is much more acceptable than “Hit it ten yards to the left of the third pine tree and make sure you get it past that little ridge on the right.” 

3.       You can’t stop taking golf seriously.

We’re beating little white balls around a golf course with sticks, not creating world peace.   Yes, the game has to move along, and we can’t be too silly on the golf course.  But it really is acceptable to look around and enjoy the scenery once in while.  When we say “look, an eagle!,” we’re not talking about the play of the foursome on the next green.  We’re probably talking about the flying kind of eagle with feathers, up in the sky.  If we completely whiff a ball (swing and miss it), it’s okay to laugh, as long as we laugh first.  It is NOT okay to launch into a diatribe about keeping our head down, watching the ball, concentrating, and getting serious.  If a par 5 hole is frustrating us, and we’re not in a tournament, it’s okay for us to pick up our ball and just watch you play.  There are no golf gods who will strike us dead for doing so (trust me, I know this).

SOLUTION:  Lighten up.  We know golf is your life, but it’s our hobby (and sometimes barely that).  Save your competitive nature and testosterone for your leagues and tournaments, and enjoy a relaxing round of golf with your wife.  Hold our hand when we’re riding in the cart.  Smile once in a while.  Tell us how sweet our swing is.  Don’t act frustrated, even if you are.    

You may not have a wife with a 12 handicap (and if you do, congrats!).  But if someone forwarded this to you, it means you have a woman who WANTS to golf with you.  There are a lot of guys out there (and I mean A LOT) who would give their left arm to have a woman who wanted to golf and was willing to consider that golf community for a retirement destination.  Once my husband learned to lighten up (I think it was shortly after he realized that he was pushing my last button while I was carrying a long metal club), we started to actually have fun golfing together.  We’ve golfed on the South Carolina coast, watching dolphins and eagles from the course.  We’ve golfed in the Adirondack mountains, with deer strolling across the fairways.  We’ve golfed in Ireland, on the breathtaking western cliffs (in bitter cold weather!) and in beautiful Tullamore in the heart of the country. 

Come on, gents – that’s pretty cool stuff.  So…lighten up, shut up, and stop ‘helping’.  Send us to a pro, help us relax, and have fun golfing with us.

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