Review: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

mating in captivityEsther Perel is a renowned psychotherapist who has been working with couples like forever. One of her main interests are long-term relationships and more specifically domestic sexuality and infidelity. She’s also fluent in 9 languages and in general a very impressive smart thinker. During one of my book shopping splurges I bought a copy of her book “Mating in Captivity” and here’s what I think about it.

“Mating in Captivity” is an interesting read. Theoretical parts of the book are supported with Perel’s clients cases. It’s quite a comprehensive book in some aspects. I did feel, however, like it was written¬†a bit too much on the basis of Perel’s work experience and thoughts and there was too little focus on other books/research on the topic.
The author makes some very important points. She underlines how a good couple is a union of independent beings and how dependence and lack of separation is a desire killer. This is counter-intuitive given our social and cultural programming (just think about the Jerry Maguire everyone’s favorite line to his love interest “You complete me.”). I also liked how she pointed out the importance of society in formation of our expectations and views regarding sexuality and domesticity. As a representative of any Western society, you can relate to most of what she’s talking about. Still, some of her points are very American culture oriented and fall flat with a non-American reader.
The society has a big impact on us but Perel couldn’t be a respectable psychotherapist without mentioning a thing or two about the impact of childhood and our relationship with parents on our sexuality. Last but not least, she discusses the complex reasons why children can be such sex life killers and no, just being tired isn’t anywhere close to the full explanation.

The book provides food for thought and reads well. I do have certain doubts about its use for a troubled couple, though. Let’s say someone, for instance, thinks that spending 100% of your time apart from work with your partner is the blueprint for happiness but after years of doing so is struggling with resentment and a non-existent sex life. I really doubt that pointing out that this isn’t the way to go, even if supported with an appropriate case study will encourage this person to change. In a way, as good as this book is, it does feel a little bit like preaching to the choir. Perhaps the genre of the book is a bit unclear? It has some traits of a self-help book as well as some of a more general “how human works” vibe. Anyway, thanks, Madame Perel for making me feel justified in my judgment of other couples ūüėČ

 

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When Things Change

bloom-blossom-blur-162311Some people dread change, others almost pathologically follow it and then there’s this third group there’s somewhere in between. I’ve been a representative of all three groups at some points in my life. Regardless of what your attitude to change is, things do change so embracing it is just a part of life.

Of course, there are all these unpredictable horrible changes that happen to people. A dreadful disease, a death of a family member, a loss of job or a lover. Life’s full of surprises and many of them are far from pleasant. It’s often not easy to deal with something bad that has hit us unexpectedly, especially that we foolishly consider our lives comfortably predictable and safe. My general make up is more of an expectation of the worst so my relationship with this source of change is weird. It’s not like I’m not angry or sad it’s more like underneath all these feelings there’s a strong undertone of “Oh, hello, tragedy, I’ve been expecting you.” Now, to be honest (touch wood) I’ve been so far spared many of the worst life tragedies and I have had an objectively easy life. Being highly sensitive, however, means that I sometimes take blows that would mean almost nothing or little to other people very badly.

Anyway, let’s not talk about the bad stuff. Change can also be positive but even if it is, it can bring unexpected consequences. For instance, I remember when being a singleton I was the first one to criticize friends who get too comfy with their boyfriends or girlfriends and ditch their friends. Almost two years into being married I still believe that being a separate unit from your partner is crucial to your personal and couple happiness. Say “yes” to hobbies, friends and networking. Still, part of having a functional relationship is spending a lot of time together doing both fun and domestic things with your partner. Even though I used to be so eager to judge, today I must say that life just isn’t the same for a single person as for a person in a committed relationship. When you like spending time with your partner (and if you don’t why are you together?) and they’re your priority, your time for other things becomes more limited. Some things even have to go and honestly you’re quite happy to let them. Sure, it’s nice to have an extended date with your girlfriends from time to time but your preference for a weekend away will be most of the time to be with your partner and/or other members of the coupleverse.

So there’s a partner that will unavoidably change your world in some way. Then there are other things related to being an adult. For some people this means puppies and for other children. The point is, unless you’ve been in the situation yourself you don’t really understand to what extent such things change your life. Surely you’ve been telling people either directly or indirectly “Ah, but you used to be out all the time!”. Of course, when you’re on the receiving end and it’s your friend getting steady with someone or moving abroad or enrolling into a study program on the top of their full-time job you’re the one feeling the emptiness. Unavoidably, however, you’ll be at some point the one changing (and if you won’t is this really a good sign and are you developing at all?). It seems like the best thing to do is to try to get as comfortable with life changes as you can. Both yours and that of others because change is very often a sign of growth and what doesn’t grow is dead (even if just inside!). Also, there’s no point crying over spilt milk and all.

Last but not least, no one changes entirely. Big events in life usually just strengthen the features that people have already had. These moms that tell you they have no time whatsoever for exercise now that they have kids and you’ll understand that one day, in most cases didn’t use to be active before the kids either (just don’t point that out cause they’ll bite your head off!). Active parenthood is a thing and as challenging as it must be many active people fight to upkeep that lifestyle in some modified way.¬† The people that all of a sudden start to be crazy late after they get a promotion using their Responsible Job as an excuse, usually used to annoy the shit out of you with this characteristic before too. Those who can’t keep any arrangements after they found a new partner, become just more flakey than before. In other words, yeah life sometimes changes drastically but people are also full of shit and LOVE excuses. Am I right or am I right?

When things change and they change all the time, try to go with a flow. Sometimes change pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes your life even better than before. Other times it makes it worst.¬†Sure, it’s annoying when you had been happy about something and this something changed but it’s just life. Moan and complain a little bit and then move on!

Sad Spinsters vs. Bachelorettes – Why Can’t ‘Cool’ Women End Up Forever Single?

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Recently there have been some half-hearted attempts at creating ‘feminist’ fairytales where the focus of the story isn’t about the prince and princess ending up together and living happily ever after. Sure, we should give Disney some credit for trying to show the world there can be more to life than finding your prince/princess, getting married, moving to the ‘burbs, getting a puppy, and procreating….you know how it goes. But honestly I think it’s going to be a long time before society really deems it ‘cool’ to end up single and actually accept that this fate a legitimate choice, especially for a woman. Let’s break look at this issue in a little more detail…

Does anyone with options ever really choose to be single?

I’ll admit I’m a bit old fashioned but I honestly don’t believe that humans are meant to end up alone – no man is an island and all. I understand people who’ve had a bit of experience and encountered their fair share of fuckwit humans may justify staying single to save themselves the heartache and stress in the future.

I’ve met plenty of people who have criticised my somewhat unconventional relationships and overuse of Tinder while loudly declaring how they happy they are to save themselves the drama and resign themselves to a life of singledom. Still, I always seem to sense some undertones of bitterness right there.

We all know THAT Aunty! 

Ok so maybe she isn’t your actual aunt. But we all know one of those women. The ones who never got married and had kids or did the conventional thing. Do you have any you actually look up to? Hmm…maybe you do? But I just find that people pity them and question whoever is going to look after them in their old age. God knows?! Perhaps one of the weird and wonderful gold diggers of Obs will go in for the kill and inherit an R2 million house in the process. #truestory!

Why isn’t there a male version of a sad spinster?

I’m not saying society doesn’t frown upon a man who is still playing the field in his 50s. But he still gets way more kudos if he is a Hugh Hefner type than his female equivalent. For me, the connotations associated with a bachelor are somewhat associated with a (sad) spinster. While the eternally single man is always pictured hitting the club, probably being a bit of a perve and plying pretty young girls with drinks while the sad spinster is almost sitting a home in her dowdy nightgown with nothing but a dog (and a jar of peanut butter) for the company. Why do we never hear about an actual female equivalent of a bachelor (a bachelorette if you want to call it that) – an eternally single woman who despite some commitment issues is out having fun rather than being the object of public pity?

So, maybe I just have an old-fashioned mindset but I still think that it’s sad when people give up on (human) love/companionship/whatever floats your boat. I guess for some they just get caught up with other more important things like work and education and by the time they get round to thinking about settling down it’s a too little too late and all the good specimens are already taken. Not everyone is lucky enough to meet their soulmate organically walking down the road, in the library or at the gym. The reality is that most people nowadays are actively looking for love. I do hope one day there will be single old ladies that make it somewhat cool/ok to end up alone but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. And although, being an old bachelor may not seem as dire as spinsterhood I think the prospect of growing old and dying alone isn’t particularly desirable regardless of gender. As #zlotybaby once reminded me when I was busy crushing on an elderly troll/eternal bachelor he is only looking for a young(ish) chick so he can have someone to wipe his ass when he is old and incapable.

Finally, it’s over to you dearest rinsers! Am I just being old-fashioned? Why is it is less cool for a woman to end up forever single? Do you know any female equivalents of a bachelor? And finally does the idea of becoming a spinster/bachelor stop you from giving up on love entirely? Answers in the comments below. Please and thank you!

 

 

 

Review: 13 Reasons Why, Season 2

13-Reasons-Why-season2Like many people who watched season 1 of 13 Reasons Why, I did not expect another installment. The narrative seemed exploited enough and the end lacked the regular baits allowing the makers to continue with the plot. It’s difficult to stop once you’re successful, I guess, and the decision has been made to give the audience more.

Was a continuation of the series a good idea? Season 1 gave us what it promised: 13 reasons why Hannah decided to kill herself. It was a good series for teenagers to feel they’re not alone and for those of us who are older, it was a reminder of how horrible high school can be. I’d lie if I said that “13 Reasons Why” wasn’t a bit trashy. Still, it was actually enjoyable. I can’t say the same about season 2.
There’s always something more to say about a story or a character but it doesn’t mean that it has to be said. It’s okay for the audience to have some questions, doubts and a sense that their appetite has not been completely satisfied. That’s exactly what makes people remember series, movies and books. The financially driven compulsion to continue doesn’t always serve the initial product. If the producers wanted to milk that cow a bit longer, perhaps a spin-off focusing on one of the characters was a better idea. Season 2 doesn’t really add anything valuable to Hannah’s story.

The premise is a mixture of the present day school life with a court case between Hannah’s parents and her high school. Clay is still the main focal point of the narrative but it’s more split among other kids than in the previous season. There’s also the ghost of Hannah that keeps following the poor boy (I know, right?). The plot is pushed in a way to awaken enough interest in us about other characters to watch season 3 and the end is this time very clearly open to tempt us into wanting more.
What we learn from the new installment about Hannah’s life makes us feel like she wasn’t as lonely and hopeless as it seemed in her tapes. The friendships she had now seem much more meaningful. Was she really as lonely as she described it? We learn more about betrayals she experienced as well but they feel more justified, seen from the point of view of other kids. All stuff that happened to Hannah is still horrible¬†but somehow after this season she seems less not more relateable.

I also was quite disappointed in the didactic nature of this season. I understand the need to send the message to kids that they’re not alone but did they really have to include all the painfully scripted conversations that I never think would come out of the mouth of a real person? It just smells of propaganda. The wildly advertised additional resources are a place to go to look for help. Characters should behave the way the would in real life, even if it’s not always commendable.

To sum up, I was disappointed with season 2. “13 Reasons Why” didn’t need a sequel and certainly not the one it ended up receiving. If you enjoyed the series rather skip it to be able to retain good memories of it.

Unpopular Views and Choices

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Having unpopular views and making unpopular choices may be glorified in film and literature but in reality, it doesn’t make anyone’s life’s easier. Long-term “living life on your own terms” can be annoying and occasionally even depressing. Te reality check often happens when you leave the bubble of your comfort zone and you deal with an outsider who has views so different to yours that he or she may seem like an alien from a different planet.

Let’s be honest, going with the herd is just what’s expected. It doesn’t matter whether you don’t believe in any gods, don’t want children, have 20 of them, dyed your hair pink or moved countries. Whenever you do something that most people don’t do and the effects of it are visible, the question you’ll get is “Why…?” and you’ll get it often.
I remember once hearing a father replying to his son’s question “Why does this lady dye her hair blue?” and him replying “Because that’s the colour she’s chosen for herself.”
It is, of course, possible to make yourself more open-minded. Unfortunately, a lot of people prefer to be surprised all the time, stare and ask. And hey, perhaps I’m a bit jealous. If it rocks your whole world every time you see glitter on someone who’s more than 5 than you truly have an exciting life!

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people’s tendencies grow with age. Those who were close-minded get even more into their shells and people who rocked the boat once are not shy to do it again. I think those who by some circumstances were pushed to do something out of ordinary develop a certain liking for it.¬†I mean, it is liberating that you don’t have to do whatever people do and expect you to do but you can rather ask yourself whether it’s your preference.
Such an intrinsically motivated life can be definitely satisfying and sometimes when you’re on your own you can smile to yourself, feeling that you live a life you truly want. However, what people often leave out in their narratives of breaking the rules is the price that they have to pay for it. Sometimes they truly get so self-absorbed in the bubble they created that they forget that there’s a whole outside world out there who judges and disapproves.

Sometimes the meeting with this world is an Uber trip. The driver and I discussed charity. The conversation was full of mutual back-patting related to our amazing awareness of social issues. To improve the good impression the driver said that he’s a Muslim but that’s not why he helps others, it’s because he feels it’s needed. “What religion are you?” he said. Oh dear, I thought but “None,” I replied nonetheless. Then came the silence till I was dropped off and an Uber star rating that lowered my general score. Must be because of this baby I ate for breakfast.
Another time it was my husband’s drunk family member who cornered me in the bathroom at my own wedding, relentlessly trying to learn why my parents weren’t there. The reasons were complicated and none of them was something that I wanted to discuss or be reminded of. She wasn’t accepting any vague replies and eventually, I was saved by another wedding guest pressing bladder.
Yet another time it was actually a funny reminder. A post official misspelled my name and surname in a way that it started to look like a local one.
In any case, making unpopular choices is the easy part, it’s living with them that sometimes is difficult. All I’m saying is: let’s be real and just not forget in our “I’m such a unique snowflake and a rule breaker” narratives that sometimes it’s tough and annoying to be one. Especially, when like me, you struggle to bite your tongue.

Now, even though it can be difficult to express your unpopular views (be it in speech or behaviour), I still think it’s the only way to be. Therefore, what’s left is navigating through the difficulties. Here are certain techniques when people start being nosy and annoying, asking you the question you’ve been asked a zillion of times:

  • Sarcasm

You remember Bridget Jones, the role model of all 30ish singletons? (Btw Poland is so bad in stigmatising being single that I could relate to her in my early 20s!). She had the following exchange with someone at a party trying to publicly shame her:

“- Why are there so MANY unmarried women these days?

– It could be because beneath our clothes, our bodies are completely covered with scales?!?”

If someone is trying to publicly shame you or is asking you a nosy and rude question such as why don’t you have a boyfriend (or when will you have babies or why do you have an accent etc) make a sarcastic remark referring to the underlying cause of your situation this person is suggesting there is.

  • Reply with a question turning the tables

This is my favourite personal technique that unfortunately I often only use afterwards in my head after someone put me on the spot and I got emotional and hurt. Whatever someone’s asking, if you ask them “Why are you asking?” and start drilling, you allow them to embarrass themselves. Ideally, it goes something like that:

– So when are you planning to have children?

– Why are you asking?

A person either gets apologetic and says something like “No reason” or starts to express their actual views, which often end up being embarrassing in the eyes of everyone taking part in the exchange. You can also pull their tongue if they say something too vague with “So is what you’re saying…?” or “So do you think that…?” Expect fun results and blushing!

  • Get emotional and angry

I don’t like this technique but because of my personal characteristics, I use it most often. Many people will back off when you get visibly upset but they also get what they came for. You are, after all, insecure about your silly choice and there is some underlying issue there!

  • Be vulnerable

If you want to shut someone’s mouth forever, being vulnerable is a great option. Sometimes it can genuinely improve your relationship with the person, other times it will at least get them off your back. You can either truly tell them what you think about the issue or share the problems that are related to it. You may end up being accused of oversharing¬†but in this case, it’s a means to an end.

Let me know in the comments section whether you have any more tips or thoughts on the matter! Also, enjoy this sort of related Monty Python clip because Monty Python is always good: