samedi, juillet 16, 2011

The (written) dimensions of desire

I am not easily seduced.

In fact, as I told a fellow tonight, on the phone, I am pretty much "caveat emptor" all the way...or at least until I can begin to trust someone. If they don't scare off, they are either slightly demented, or really want to get to know me.

But I do have a weakness for a well-written profile.

Actually, I like the guys with quirks. "Buddhist boy with a bent for bacchanals seeks naughty nymph for same"...well, you get the general tenor. I don't mind basses, either.

Wait a minute. I just remembered the bacchanals are past my bedtime. (Sigh).

Internet dating sites have lots of men (and women) who can't write their way out of a paper bag. Although why you would want to do that, come to think about it, puzzles me.

Then there are the men who can describe themselves, but sound rather dull.

I've met a few of them. Actually, not all of them are boring. It really isn't fair to judge a guy by his way with the virtual word. If the shoe was on the other foot, it would, equally, not be fair for them to judge me by how well I do sixth-grade math.

But there is something very appealing about a guy who can serve up irony with a little tonic.

And because they are so rare online, I tend to reach out to them, if only to compliment them on their phrase of choice.

Again and again I get emails telling me that I am seeing things in their profiles no one else has noticed.

It's possible that I am seeing what wasn't there - something illusory. A humbling thought.

But I think it's more possible that, in our haste to find the perfect guy (or woman) we miss what is in front of our eyes.

And oh yeah, I haven't been able to "caveat" the first guy - he still wishes to meet me. I shall endeavour not to disappoint -- or was that to disappoint? Probably depends on how odd he is -- and good with words.

Or bad with them.

Before Paganism: the ancient faith of Native Americans

My interview with Lone Wolf, a member of the Ojibway band from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was a great opportunity for me to discover more about the faith of those who seek to hew to an old tradition. I continue to be both fascinated and baffled by our American bent towards syncretism.

And I wonder why the earth-based faith of this ancient people doesn't get more attention -- Native Americans are as numerous as, say.. American.Episcopalians or Jews.

mercredi, juillet 13, 2011

Who made him "King" of anything?

As the debt ceiling limit clock hands head towards midnight, it seems as though we are morphing into a nation of children -- pulling on the rope that is government, one side daring the other to see who can bring it down first.

I can't believe that we have allowed ourselves to move this close to what may (or may not) be a catastrophe for our financial system without coming up with a reasonable compromise. And on one point (but wait) I am firmly in the Democratic camp -- Republican extremism in the defense of "no new taxes" is a scary vice.

Looking at a Gallup Poll released just today, Nate Silver of the New York Times crunches the numbers and finds that the deal offered by Obama seems to favor the bar set by Republican voters (and recall that they are a pretty conservative group):

"Now consider the positions of the respective parties to the negotiation. One framework that President Obama has offered, which would reduce the debt by a reported $2 trillion, contains a mix of about 17 percent tax increases to 83 percent spending cuts. Another framework, which would aim for twice the debt reduction, has been variously reported as offering a 20-to-80 or 25-to-75 mix.

With the important caveat that the accounting on both the spending and tax sides can get tricky, this seems like an awfully good deal for Republicans. Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, the mix of spending cuts and tax increases that Mr. Obama is offering is quite close to, or perhaps even a little to the right of, what the average Republican voter wants, let alone the average American.

However, all but 7 Republicans in the House of Representatives, or 97 percent of them, have signed the pledge of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform stating that any net tax increases are unacceptable. One might have believed this to be simply a negotiating position. But the proposal that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell floated yesterday, which would give up on striking a deal and instead rely on some procedural gymnastics to burden Mr. Obama with having to raise the debt ceiling, suggests otherwise. Republicans in the House really may be of the view that a deal with a 3:1 or 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases is worse than none at all."

I know that many conservatives don't accept that David Brooks is a true conservative, but on this point, he's spot on.

Who the heck elected Grover Norquist King of the House of Representatives? That's going to be a question for the historians. Whether Norquist really holds such Svengali-like power over the Republicans in Congress, or whether they are generally all of the same ilk anyway, they seem willing to blow up the joint to save it -- which is a little frightening.

Whether the financial markets would tank without a deal, or not, it seems to me that it's up to those we elected to run this country to figure out a way to make running it, not "winning" on ideology, their chief priority.

Oh yeah, and that's just the Republicans.

At some point, if we want to do something about the deficit, we're going to have to reform Medicare. And, even though Social Security is not the proximate problem, the fact that younger folks pay into it, and have little reasonable expectation of being able to profit from it, just doesn't seem fair.

The ethic of shared sacrifice isn't just about altruism. It's about us, as Americans, making justice and fairness priorities so that in generations to come, we will prosper -- and that means that affluent seniors might consider supporting a deal that requires them to pay out a little more, or retire a little later. I'm not encouraged by the tenor of "keep your hands off my Social Security" slogans, or the wrath visited on anyone who dares to suggest reform (of any kind), to believe that the public looks kindly upon a future-oriented answer.

There are many creative solutions to the problems affecting this country -- unfortunately, these answers are being drowned out by the din of competing "me, me, me" ideologies.

I'd like to think we are better than that. But it disturbs me that we're leaving it to the last minute to find out.

lundi, juillet 11, 2011

Physical attraction and dating: are you? were you? does it matter?

Tackling the whole question of physical attraction, and of dating, can be a very dangerous enterprise.

You are guaranteed, almost, to offend somebody.

I could go with generalizations and probably not make you irate.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

It's character that counts.

There are many anodynes that do, indeed, contain a grain of truth -- but obscure more than perhaps they reveal.

I think it's an important topic, and so, instead of resorting to cliches (I hope) I'm going to look at it square in its wizened eye.

I want to confine my observations to online dating -- because the advent of online dating has really changed the landscape of dating.

In the good old days, you might meet someone at work, or at a dinner party, or walking your Jack Russell in the local park. That is still a possibility, but becomes more difficult as one gets older, and more settled with a group of friends and work companions.

As you spend time with someone, he or she may grow on you -- the way they smile, the way they listen when you are feeling a bit down, the way they laugh when you crack wise.
But when you cruise through profiles online, you are much more bent towards judging someone's personality through his or her appearance.

And that's true, even though, as we know, not everyone photographs well.

Guys are more blatant about this than women. They generally seem to ascribe it to being hard-wired to judge a woman on her looks, or, in an attempt to avoid the question, to "being shallow." I can't tell you how many times I've heard that and curled my lip (out of sight, of course). Why not just say it matters?

I have a theory about dating -- which is that, generally, you tend to end up with someone at your general level of physical attractiveness. In some ways we are hard-wired to judge someone on the basis of his or her looks.

BUT we all have templates of what we consider physically attractive -- thank goodness, or we'd all be going for the smoldering dark ones and the species would not go on.

I confess that while I don't care about whether a guy has hair atop his scalp, a commitment to physical exercise, and a certain level of curiosity and intelligence are alluring qualities for me. I'm active, and I want someone who will put that near the top of his list - without gettin' all crazy, of course.

However, I don't care about how much money a guy makes, or even what he does (unless it's illegal, and then it would be too much work to care).

So, at the risk of being politically incorrect, I will come out and say that I need to be physically attracted, and not just a little, to a guy to pursue a relationship.

But that's me. Thank God, that doesn't need to be you.

And there are mitigating factors that enter into these choices.

Some of us are willing to overlook classical appeal for security, or intelligence, or the sense that we've met our best friend or soul mate.

Some of us are less willing or interested in tolerating solitude than others.

Others of us are more extroverted, and in need of a foil.

The reasons people get into relationships are endless -- and some women may be willing to compromise on their "ideal" guy (which is a great thing, in my opinion).

As I said, online dating, with its emphasis on the physical, may have complicated as much as it solved in the dating/mating arena.

Which is why, in spite of my prejudices for lean and slightly nerdy, I'm glad to see a classically attractive woman with a not-so-classical guy, or vice versa -- and to find out that they met online.

And after a guy contacted me recently and said he saw my profile and liked my "pics" I wrote back and commented that he'd better like more than my pictures...because I was known to be a bit of a handful. Gracefully taking in my implied challenge, he wrote back with some details about our possible commonalities.

Amor vincit omnia?

Sometimes. Check and see if the moon is full -- it may improve your chances with her.

dimanche, juillet 10, 2011

Online dating, marriage, divorce and the "happy ending"

I don't know how many of you read the "Modern Love" columns in the Saturday New York Times.

Pretty much every week, I click on the link to find out how other Americans are faring at the great game of love.

In the old days, (like a few years ago), you'd run into some typically odd, New Yorkishstories. The one I recall at the moment is about a woman in love with two guys (one on each coast). Eventually, she moved out to the West to be with her lover, bearing the other man's child.

Yeah, well, New Yorkers have a level of hipster cool to which the rest of us can't aspire.

Recently, I've noticed something -- a lot of the stories actually have happy endings. And that includes those about married folks!

Which reinforces what the stats are telling us -- many married people, especially middle and upper-class Americans, are staying together, working it out, looking at divorce as increasingly unacceptable.

Clearly, I'm not in that category. My ex and I spent many years of retreats, therapy (oy) and conversation trying to make our marriage into a healthy venue for all of us -- and we failed.

All that work resulted in a relatively amiable relationship -- but we are much happier when one of us can go home - and it's not to "our" house.

I have many friends who have been married and divorced once. One of my good friends married a man who had been married twice before. I freely admit that I expected her to be a statistic -- but this one is for life.

Many of my other friends are still married to their first, and probably only spouse. It's tough explaining online relationships to them. They just don't get it -- and the compromises we need to make. In addition, as I've said, a lot of married people I know bear some pretty heavy baggage.

Among the men I meet online, many have been married more than once. In fact, that's pretty common.

While I try not to judge (marriage in itself is a rather complex institution in America), I find myself in a strange place -- navigating between those who are choosing to "work it out" and those who have moved on to greener pastures. Or to pastures they see as greener.

I'm not sure what I think anymore. I know that, for myself, it's hard to imagine the relationship, and the guy, who could persuade me that a second marriage was a fantastic idea.

But I haven't given up hope for a relationship that goes the distance.

Only, I have to admit, I'm listening harder to my married friends when they warn me about the perils of building a dream house, and the advantages of a realistic approach to love. It could be that they are saying something I need to hear.