Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

December 25, 2009

Bejeweled Christmas

OK, I'm going to say something and please don't judge. I know how corny this sounds, but it's true nonetheless. Here goes.

There is something truly thrilling when you unwrap a gift from your boyfriend (I'm sure this applies to husbands and all sorts of other romantic attachments) and find yourself holding a velvet box containing some sort of jewelry....

Let me stop you there for a second. This is not an engagement ring. Or any ring for that matter. And I knew that and was in no way expecting one (though I wouldn't mind one either:-). So, now that we have appropriately adjusted expectations, I will continue describing the moment at hand.

...then find yourself opening the box to see something beautiful shining inside. Maybe even something you had admired a few weeks earlier when walking by a window display with your man.

I've never had that experience before today. Actually, I never even considered that I would desire that experience (except the engagement ring scenario, of course). But when it happened to me, my heart jumped a little. Before I opened the rectangular box, I glanced up to see Wine Guy nervously looking on.

See, Wine Guy is NOT comfortable with these sorts of purchases. He is not big on fashion accessories - for himself or his women. Let's put it this way, one of his previous serious girlfriends has a Ph.D. in Women's Studies and is pretty much a stereotype of what you're conservative Republican brother-in-law thinks "feminists" are like - angry at men, tattooed, smarter than them. This also explains why WG has been to more than a dozen Ani DiFranco concerts and continues to go every summer when she's in town (I love her, so that's a good thing). I have been known to call him my Lesbian Boyfriend.

So, to picture Wine Guy walking into a jewelry store and considering the purchases in front of him...well, that's huge. I wasn't going to say anything about it here (for fear of getting my mom's hopes up, but since she "promised" she would stop reading the blog, I'm going to just go for it --hi mom), but earlier in the week we were at the mall Christmas shopping and I had to go to a jewelry store to have some adjustments made on a necklace. He tagged along (reluctantly) and while we were waiting to talk to the jeweler, I wandered over to the engagement ring section, as I have done since I was a kid. I just like rings. Normally Wine Guy stands as far away as possible while this is happening, so I was surprised to find him standing right next to me looking over my shoulder.

Here is where the new strategy I discussed in the previous post comes into play (for Dishy, who requested more examples of my version of male manipulation). Instead of my normal smart ass remark ("Wow, look at these rings. And with Christmas just around the corner." Or "My hand is feeling naked all of a sudden"), I continued to admire the objects, then calmly pointed towards one that caught my eye. Ever so nonchalantly I said, "This is the kind of ring I always liked."

It was a little risky, but I pulled it off. I say this because of his reaction. He didn't walk away. He didn't laugh. He didn't make a smart ass comment. He just stayed there, looking over my shoulder and eventually responding with "Oh, I see." Before I could ruin the moment, I casually strolled to another display case.

Here comes the kicker. He then declares, "Wow. These aren't as expensive as I thought they'd be. They aren't engagement rings are they?" When I assured him they were, he continued to look. Like with his eyes, people.

I said it before and I'll say it again. They need to think it's their idea.

Then the jeweler came out and we started talking about what I needed done.
Thank God, because I was surely about to ruin the moment with my trusty Sledgehammer of Truth.

But I digress. Here we are, Christmas Day. I hold in my hand a black velvet box displaying a pretty silver and black sparkly pendant hanging off a silver chain. I remembered it from the jewelry store. Immediately he jumps in with disclaimers, "This is just a placeholder gift. I think there might be ones you'll like more inside the store. We can go back and pick out another one. You don't have to like it."

I did like it and told him he didn't need to say all of that. I was touched. But eventually we did agree that we should go back to the store together since I had only seen what they had in the window display. Plus, the chain was far too short (always the case with me. Apparently I have a football player's neck).

But none of that changed the fact that he did this - bought jewelry - just for me. Just to make me happy. I always say/whine, "I just want a guy to go out of his way for me, just once." I think it's time I stop saying/whining that.

Again, I know this is corny but I'm putting it out there. Guys, buy your ladies some jewelry. I promise, it's always a good decision.

And yes, mom, you were right.

Wishing you all a Happy Holiday! You are merrily dismissed.

P.S. As my good friends should already know about me, please act as if I never told you the engagement ring story. It's better for everyone not to get our hopes up, right?
(I fully intended to post a photo of the necklace by the way, but something is up with Blogger's insert photo tool. If anyone asks me, I will try again later to post it. And yes, this is also a bit of a test to see if anyone actually reads all the way to the end! )

Addendum 12/30/09 - Thanks for asking :-)

December 21, 2009

Sledgehammer of Truth

I work with faculty quite frequently in my job, trying to convince them to do something totally new that will help them tremendously with only a small amount of extra effort. It took me about five minutes to figure out what needed to happen to get them to act.

Let them think they came up with the idea first.

So why did it take me 20+ years of dating to figure out that men are the same way?

Yes, I am talking about the subtle female art of male manipulation. In the nicest way, of course.

Because I grew up without a father figure or much of any relationship modeling in the house, this is an art that was lost on me. I never really saw how couples interacted day in, day out. How they navigated differences in opinions, household chores, or preferences for what to do on a Saturday night.

Instead, what I saw was a lot of my poor mom hollering at her pack of unruly children. And no one to back her up or help her (shout out to you Mama Jack).

So what does that mean for my relationship with Wine Guy? Take a guess. (And yes, you can feel sorry for him--but just a little.) Sure he is often described as the Absentminded Professor. But the way I've chosen to work with this is more like a hollering mom than a clever partner who knows how to work with what she's got (like I do so easily on the job).

But with two live-in relationships under my belt (not to mention 37 years), the whole "I had no daddy" argument has just grown tired and useless. I finally decided I needed to sort this out pretty damn soon or this relationship was going bust.

So I started talked with my friends-- and my shrink-- and realized I had a very unrealistic, immature idea of what constitutes honesty in a relationship. I'm big on honesty. Partly because it's the best policy, but also because I really suck at all forms of deception, whether it be small white lies, or big purple ones.

How I chose to translate my version of honesty into a relationship was this: I am obligated to say everything that goes on inside my head. No nuance. No sideways inspiration. Just say it. Anything else would be less than honest. And isn't that what love is supposed to be based on?

Yeah, that goes over like a nice, soft sledgehammer. Especially with a stubborn man - the kind I usually pick.

So I decided to take a stab at the more nuanced approach to getting Wine Guy to do something I wanted him to do--join my gym. I've been going since October and have had amazing results in my first 6 weeks. Meanwhile, Wine Guy had stopped all forms of exercise and felt terrible about it.

I figured out very quickly that my gym was the kind of workout experience that would suit Wine Guy perfectly. A semi-private trainer, personalized workouts, uncrowded gym, close to home, and the kind of results I know he's seeking. But when I tried the straight-on approach ("You should join too. It's exactly what you are looking for!"), I got a big fat no.

But by this point I was learning. Instead of getting irritated and insistent, I kept my mouth shut and just kept going to the gym. I would tell him about it occasionally, but for the most part just went about my business getting in shape while he looked on from the sidelines. I went three times a week without fail, all the while knowing that the six-week mark was when my sneak attack would begin. See, six weeks is when they measure you again--for inches, body fat, heart rate etc. Then they compare the results to your stats from six weeks earlier.

I was very excited to learn I had lost 5 pounds of body fat, gained two pounds of lean mass and lost 5 inches overall. All without dieting. Sweet!

But instead of rushing home and gushing about my news to Wine Guy, then restating my request that he join, I simply asked my trainer to write down all my stats. If there's one thing I've learned about men (and faculty) in the last few years, it's that they like cold hard numbers. So she wrote it all down and at dinner that night I calmly read him the numbers.

When I was done reading I looked up from the paper and saw a glimmer in his eye that I can never seem to get with my own sledgehammer tactics. Inspiration. Before I could even react, he said the magic words, "That's it. I'm joining."

Freakin' magic.

This is just one of several successes I've had lately and it has made our relationship so much smoother. I know he recognizes and appreciates my restraint and, even though it's more work for me in the thinking/planning ahead department, it is well worth it.

We've also come to an arrangement that, once he signs on to an idea, I then ask permission to "nag" him about it. See, he is a flake and he knows it. He needs help to close the loop. Now that I know he wants to join the gym (and he thinks he came up with the idea himself), he gives me carte blanche in the nagging (I call it reminding) department. Withing 5 days he was signed up and hitting the gym every other day.

Now he comes home and flexes his muscles, proud of what he decided to do. Sure, whatever. As long as he's doing it. (And the 10% discount I get every month for referring him doesn't hurt either.)

Happy holidays everyone!