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Nov 30

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, inspired by my 7th grade English teacher who was a dead ringer for Barbra Streisand in The Main Event. Sometimes it only takes one person to believe in you and motivate you for the rest of your career… I began mine in Charlotte, NC, working for IBM, first as a magazine writer and then, as an editor. After six years I moved to Atlanta. I told everyone I was moving because I wanted to open my own communications firm, but the truth was, I had dated all of the eligible young men in the tri-city Mecklenburg area, and I needed a larger pool.


 

Which leads me to my topic: sort of a Sex and the City meets I Love Lucy. I’m the author of the recently-released book, Back on Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce. After 13 years of marriage (and 14 years of couples’ therapy) I became the first person in my family’s history to divorce. I may have lost a husband, but I believe I saved our family, and my friendship with my ex. Suddenly single, I thought I’d simply pick up where I left off nearly two decades earlier – but while I was changing diapers, the dating world had gone to the wolves – and apparently, the cougars.


 

My first date after my  was excrutiatingly awkward. When I got home that night, I did what writers do -- I wrote about it. Finding both the humanity and humor in that first date saved me from a life of nunnery. That story was published in a women’s magazine, along with several others over the course of my first year of divorce. And that’s how Back on Top was born.


 


During the writing, I interviewed dozens of men and women and realized there was a strong connection around this topic. We all love to talk about love -- the beginning of it, the pursuit of it, the end of it, the meaning of it. I also saw that there was a lot of uncertainty about dating "rules," online etiquette, dating with kids, dating safety, when to have sex (if we'd ever have sex again) -- none of us who were dating again seemed to have a clue! 

So I took it upon myself to learn and share.  


Beyond the humor and advice, I think my stories offer women acceptance and validation. There's no judging from me, because I’ve been there, too! Today I lead post-divorce dating workshops where I hear stories that many women have never spoken about before because they feel a sense of failure … they think they made a mistake, or didn't try hard enough, or went too wild or not wild enough, and that they'll be judged. My goal is to support women the best way I can, and often that’s through the lens of laughter. It’s how I've always tip-toed through challenges.


 


In my column, I’ll write about what I know: the experiences of a divorced working mom who only a few years ago was baffled by the terms “MILF” and “Cougar” and who is doing her best to stay sane while co-parenting with my ex to raise our teenage son. I will write about my previous dating escapades as well as my current relationship with a man significantly younger than I am (well, the PG version anyway). I will talk to you about the women and men I continue to interview for their takes on dating after divorce, the grace with which so many people handle difficult transitions, and I’ll continue to provide tips and What I Know Now. And I’ll most likely tell stories of my ex, and the well-worth-it benefits of developing a true friendship. 

Most people think we’re a little crazy, but I am thrilled to have the family of four I’ve always wanted … only it looks a little different than what I’d imagined: my boyfriend, my ex, my son and me. 

 



Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.”  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.



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Dec 13

Thanksgiving is an interesting time for my family and me. You see, I typically make the 10-hour car trek to South Florida from Atlanta with my son, my boyfriend and my ex-husband, so we can be with my entire family: mother, father, sister, brothers, and all the teenage grandchildren.

This year marks the 5-year anniversary of my divorce—the event that turned my ex-husband into one of my truest friends.  I tell my ex all the time, “Honey, I’m glad I married you, because you are great to be divorced from."

He knows exactly what I mean. 

Our friendship is an unusual story, I know -- and the truth is, it didn’t just happen. From the moment my ex-husband and I decided to separate (which was a culmination of years on the fence), we asked ourselves: can we create a divorce that isn’t bitter and hurtful? Can we preserve the platonic love we have for each other – for both ourselves and our son? Can we keep all the good parts and toss all the bad stuff?

We decided we could. 

So with small, mostly-even steps throughout a nearly two-year separation leading up to our divorce, we created what is for some of my family and friends, a mind-boggling relationship.

We understand it takes some getting used to. 

The person most confused by our friendship is my father.  My dad – as any father who thinks his little girl has somehow been wronged – wanted to be furious at my ex. I told him that I wasn’t angry, so he didn't need to be mad on my behalf. I think that leaves him a little unsure of how to feel about this ex-son-in-law-good-friend thing.

I’ve told him, “Dad, maybe if you had raised Jon (that’s my ex) he would have turned out differently. But he didn’t have the benefit of having you for a father … maybe you could sort of be one now?”

Still, my old-school dad doesn’t understand how we can all hang out together -- yes, at any given time you can find my ex, my boyfriend, my son and me, bowling or going to dinner or even having a New Year’s Eve party.  We all get along that well. (As an example, my boyfriend was the first one to buy my ex a gift last year for the holidays. My ex is a huge fan of my boyfriend’s technological wizardry. My son adores his dad and really likes my boyfriend. My boyfriend likes my son, which, as an often-surly, frequently moody teenager, is the biggest surprise of all to me.)

When we arrived at my parents’ home the night before Thanksgiving, there were hugs for everyone (including my ex). My ex sincerely loves my father; his own dad died when he was 13, so my dad is the only father he’s had in his life since then. Later, as we were leaving for the nearby hotel, my dad announced he was picking up the tab for all of our rooms. We all protested, but both of my parents insisted.

Then my dad whispered to me, “When you got divorced, I didn’t think I’d be paying for MORE rooms than when you were married.”

I think he was only half-kidding.

On Thanksgiving morning, we arrived at my parents early to help.  My boyfriend lifted the 22-pound turkey into the oven; my ex set the table; my son took out the never-ending trash.  As soon as the rest of my 20-member family showed up, the conversation and laughter level rose to concert-level decibels. Occasionally, someone came up to me and told me how wonderful it is to see Jon here; how great that we can have this kind of relationship. A couple of my nieces, now of dating and marrying age, told me they think it’s great for my son, and asked me if it’s ever weird.

“Not really,” I said honestly. “It’s just the way we’ve done it from the beginning.”  I think it would be weird to do it any other way.  

At the dinner table, it was my turn to say what I am most grateful for. I look at “my boys,” – my boyfriend, my ex, my son … I look at my dad … trying so hard to be new-age with us … I look at my mom, who has never stopped loving Jon… I see my siblings and nieces and nephews, and I realize what I am most grateful for this year is their open arms, open hearts, and most of all, their open minds. I thank them for truly supporting this and deciding that for us, this is what normal is.

Will our son be better adjusted because of his divorced parents’ friendship? I honestly don’t know. He seems pretty well adjusted already. I know he loves being able to be with his dad along with the rest of his family. I know it’s gotta be good for him that there’s no fighting, no feuding, no taking sides between his mother and father. I hope that he learns – as we have – that divorce is not always a tragedy. But just in case this has somehow damaged him for life, along with our son’s College Fund, we might just create his Therapy Fund. Because one day he might be lying on a therapist’s couch somewhere, whining: “Why couldn’t my parents have had a normal divorce?”

Now, maybe I’ve miscalculated; maybe there are dozens of us – hundreds, even – out there shaking up the traditional holiday scene and putting new meaning into “goodwill toward man” – starting with our ex-men. 

Good, bad, sad, mixed -- I’d love to hear about your non-traditional holiday life, too. 


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.”  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

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Dec 27

I remember feeling surprised the first time I realized my marriage was not going to last forever and that I was going to be divorced.

 

No one in my family had ever been divorced.  I had no role models for this. I had no siblings paving the way, no aunts or uncles, no cousins.  No grandmothers or grandfathers. 

 

No one.

 

Despite the fact that 50 percent of all U.S. marriages end in divorce, no one in my family was part of this statistic.

 

I would be the first to blemish my family’s clean record.

 

Divorce wasn’t what I was thinking when I walked down the aisle, blissfully unaware of how long “forever” really is.  And I was too naïve to take into account things like substance abuse and intimacy issues when the Rabbi gave the pros and cons of “For better and for worse, in sickness and health.”

 

No, as I was walking down the aisle, nearly faint with excitement (really, I nearly fainted), I was thinking: “This is my dream. This is my future. I’m sure I can change him.”

 

I know plenty of women who walked down the aisle fully aware they were making a mistake.  I interviewed one woman who said she knew she’d be divorced within a year; another told me it took all her willpower not to turn and run when she saw her husband-to-be standing in front of the minister.

 

Now, I am an absolute Queen of Denial, with a hefty dose of Pollyanna mixed in, but I don’t think I could have knowingly walked into a marriage that wasn’t going to last. I’d be too embarrassed to accept all that china. As it was, even after 13 years of marriage, I felt I’d let everyone down.

 

Have you felt that way too? That you didn’t try hard enough, stay long enough, do everything you could to make a relationship last?

 

I did.

 

I thought my problems weren’t big enough to warrant the dissolution of our family.  We had a young son and I couldn’t bear the thought of raising him alone or being without him every other weekend.  I thought I owed everyone a huge explanation, an inarguable reason, why my husband and I couldn’t stay together.

 

Turns out, the only people owed an explanation were my son, my ex and me.  And looking at us today – divorced, living apart, but healthier and more supportive than we were in our marriage – I see that we made the right difficult decisions.

 

My fears and feelings of failure were unfounded.  In fact, no one said, “Give it another chance. Try harder. Do more.”  Maybe it was because they’d watched us give it one chance after another for more than a decade. I think many of them knew our marriage wasn’t going to work before we did. They’d just been waiting to exhale along with us, and help us build what came next.

 

I wish I had known that.   

 

I wish I had known my friends and family would be more than supportive of me -- they were kind, compassionate, caring. And my closest girlfriends were thrilled with my decision (finally) to create a healthier, more authentic life. I mean, no one actually said, “Damn, girl, what took you so long?” but their hugs conveyed those feelings and more.

My sister-in-law still teases me when I take a long time to make a decision or leave a job or give up a volunteer position: “At least you did it in under 15 years. I’m proud of you.”

 

As I rebuilt my life, my ex did amazing things with his, too.  As many of you know, I consider my ex-husband one of my best friends.  But after years of working on our marriage together (we were in couples’ therapy for 14 years; married 13), just two months after we separated, he went into a program on his own, and has made it work for nearly five years.  Now, he is an involved, thoughtful father to our son and an unbelievably supportive co-parent to me.  I can say with some certainty that this would not have been the case if I had not taken a deep breath and been the first person in my family – to get a divorce.

 

In fact, I believe that all those years of therapy* working on our marriage is what made divorce work for us, and definitely helped us create a healthier, happier relationship on the other side.  

 

Now really – who could have known that?

 

*Stick around for my next few columns, when I’ll share years’ worth of therapy about dating after divorce – and it won’t cost you $100 bucks an hour. (And you won’t have to listen to anyone ask, “So how’s that working for you?”)

 

 


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.”  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


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Feb 28

I had been dating my boyfriend, Jon, for four months when he asked if I would drive from Atlanta to South Florida with him, to attend an anniversary party for his grandparents. This was big – meeting his grandmother would be like meeting the Queen of England. Jon’s Grandma Dorothy was the matriarch of his family, and often ruled it with an unforgiving iron fist. 

But she was no match for a girl in love. Without hesitation, I said yes! After all, my entire family lived in South Florida, and I was just waiting for the perfect time to introduce them to Jon.

Let the Romance Begin

The anniversary party was Saturday night, and everything went beautifully. Jon’s grandparents were gracious and delighted that their grandson was dating a “nice Jewish girl.” We danced, we laughed, we bonded over family stories. To my surprise, my boyfriend showed up at my parents’ home the next morning at the crack of dawn – literally, 6 a.m. With an air of mystery, he told me to grab my flip flops – we were going to the beach.

A romantic stroll on the beach at sunrise with my pony-tailed, one-earringed, guitar-riffing musician boyfriend who normally slept until noon?  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

We walked for about a mile along the sandy shore when suddenly Jon stopped, turned to face me, and dropped to his knees (landing dead-weight on the top of my left foot. Normally I would have cried out in pain, but when I realized what was happening, I was not about to let a few crushed tendons ruin the moment). He pulled out a homemade snowglobe of glitter, and floating inside was a golden ring. He handed it up to me and asked me to marry him.

And of course I said -- or rather, screamed, “Yes!” (The reality of the crushed foot to be part of our story as the years went by, but not today.)

Let No Man Put Asunder

We raced home to tell my parents, who apparently had already been filled in. It was 9 o’clock in the morning, and I was starving. Jon and I left to grab breakfast at Denny’s, and by the time we got back to my parents’ house, my mother had booked the room, the caterer and the florist.

The train was leaving the station, ladies and gentleman, and I was strapped to it.

After all, my mother had been waiting more than a decade for her last child to get married.

Just as our future was looking so bright, our troubles started to surface. Within weeks, my boyfriend – excuse me, fiancé -- began having panic attacks. He felt as if his throat was closing up on him and he couldn’t breathe. Direct correlation to having just gotten engaged? I didn’t know, but as his symptoms worsened and he dropped more than 10 pounds in two weeks, we called for help.

Can You Love Someone Enough To Save Him?

We went to see a therapist, and I discovered that the man I loved had a substance abuse problem. Well, actually, I didn’t learn that in our first session; I just learned that something was terribly wrong and making him scared to death. It took a year of neurotic behavior, obsessive doctor visits, psychotherapy, extreme weight loss, multiple occasions of drug use discovery and severe anxiety attacks until we both learned that his addiction was slowly killing our relationship -- which by now had become a marriage.

Yes, I went full-steam-ahead with our wedding plans during the same year that Jon and I were learning more about each other (and ourselves, for that matter) than most couples learn in five years.

Why did I marry Jon just as I was learning he had a substance abuse problem? Well, for one thing, I had never met an addict before, and Jon’s use seemed very low-key and surmountable. It was nothing like the made-for-TV-movies. But here is the real reason: I was absolutely certain I could love him enough to save him.

I did not walk down the aisle thinking this was a mistake. I did not walk down the aisle thinking this could be heartbreaking. I walked down the aisle thinking, “Jon is the love of my life.” I truly did not have any pre-inklings of separation, divorce or trauma. I was a happy, hopeful, bride-in-denial

The Co-Dependent Dance

For the next 13 years Jon and I built a marriage on a rocky foundation. We loved each other – we even liked each other most of the time – but we were cast in the co-dependent version of So You Think You Can Dance? That dance goes something like this: Jon would stop doing drugs. He would make promises and we would make progress. Then I would notice that something was off. I would ask if he was doing drugs and he would tell me no. Then I would feel bad for thinking he was doing drugs. But the feeling wouldn’t go away so I would ask again, a week later. Jon would deny it and I would feel bad again. And then, eventually, I would discover the drug use. Each time my husband lied, I would feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy promises not to take the football away. And each time we would get extra help from our therapist and we would work to rebuild our relationship. I would love him all over again.

And every so often, I thought to myself, “Maybe I don’t want to do this anymore.” But we had a son by now – a miracle in and of itself – and I could not imagine breaking up his family.

A Changed Perspective Changed Everything

One day, 13 years and 5,000 therapy sessions into our marriage, I suddenly I saw the possibility of divorce from a totally different perspective. This time I didn’t think about divorce as, “how can I do this to my son?” but rather, “how can I not do this FOR my son?”

That slight movement, the understanding that letting go of this marriage could actually be better for my son – for all of us – changed everything. I believe it is what finally gave me the courage to try a separation. I believe our separation is what motivated Jon to get help on his own and me to stop trying to save (control) him. And I believe the growth that both Jon and I did – alone – is what allowed us to ultimately come together and build this strange but authentic friendship. It wasn’t always an easy path, and I hit a lot of road bumps along the way. Click here to learn what happened after we said, “I don’t.”


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.”  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.



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Apr 11

Wow, parenting sure can make me cry sometimes. And I’m not talking about what my son says to me. I’m talking about my own inadvertent stupidity.  That is, what I say or do -- and how long it takes to forgive myself. 

A few days ago, my son was so excited about a hooded sweatshirt he had found online.  He couldn’t wait to show me – and this is not a kid who goes gaga over clothing. But he does goes for unique-looking stuff and he is not one bit afraid to wear what he likes, no matter what others think. (He gets this from his dad!)

I can’t pretend to understand why my son likes a certain song, food or style, so believe me, I did not really get the attraction to a hoodie that doubles as a Batman costume. After all, my son is 14, 5’10, with a voice that any baritone-wannabe would envy. He’s a man-boy, for sure. But he was jazzed about this sweatshirt and he was paying for it, so I helped him order it.

When it arrived in the mail, he ripped open the package and went into the other room to put it on and admire himself in the mirror. When he came out, I could only see his mouth – which, as I look back, was turned up into a huge smile that I somehow missed. Could it have been because THE REST OF HIS FACE was covered in a Batman mask? The hoodie was grey and yellow with the superhero’s emblem and, yes, a detachable cape. This is something he would have loved as an eight-year-old, but now?

Without thinking – without thinking of the day before when he couldn’t wait to order it; without thinking of how excitedly he ripped open the package; without thinking of that beautiful smile and uninhibited saunter as he came out of the bathroom; without thinking about any of this, I said, “Your friends are going to think that is so dorky.”

I completely deflated his upbeat gait and energy.

Now, I have always considered myself pretty empathetic – I get cramps when my best friend tells me she has her period – how could I have been so blind to his joy? Maybe on any other day, any other time, my son would have laughed or dissed me good-naturedly for teasing him – but I believe my insensitivity to his mood offended him, and I can’t blame him. This morning, 12 hours later, I’m still offended at myself, too.

My son ran out of the kitchen and down to the basement, and he was pretty upset. I embarrassed him. I made him feel shame when he had no reason to feel that. And I wasn’t the mom he knew who usually taps into joy at the drop of a hat. (Or in this case, hood.)

I went downstairs and sat next to him and, with a lump in my throat, and apologized with all my heart. “I was wrong,” I stated the obvious first. “I was out of line and I’m sorry.”

My son looked at me and said, “You should be. I never call anyone a dork, Mom.”

“I know you don’t; I feel very remorseful,” I said.

I have tears in my eyes; he has smoke coming out of his ears.

“I also want to apologize for shutting down your feelings. I can’t say I understand the feeling you have for this sweatshirt or why it’s so cool to you, but please don’t let me deter you – you never have before. If you love it, that’s all that matters. If it’s fun for you to wear, then go for it. You have never let anyone get in the way of your personal style before, please don’t start now.”

I want to tell him that we all start out listening to our inner voices, and slowly, insipidly, we let the outside voices drown them out. I have always encouraged my family to fight against the outside voices winning; to continue to listen to our inner voices, voices I associate with being young and unencumbered by society’s pressures.

“When you are less angry at me,” I say instead, “I’d love to hear you tell me what the jacket means to you, if you can; what makes you so happy to have it. I hope you decide to ignore me and keep it; I hope you can forgive me.”

What I don’t say, but what I know from past experience (you didn't think this was the only time I acted like a parental dope, did you?) is that I hope I can forgive myself. To ask God to help guide me to do better, and to at some point, help me let it go.

So I called the only person who could truly understand how I felt – my son’s dad; my ex, my friend and co-parent. I told him what happened and said I didn't know what to do. He said, “I’m not sure there’s much you can do, except feel it and accept it. It’s something that you would and should feel bad about, so you’re just going to have to feel it. And then at some point, you’ll move on.”

He’s right. In an age of pharmaceuticals and therapists and electronic distractions and reality-TV train crashes, I sometimes forget that there’s not a quick-fix for feeling like shit when what you did should make you feel like shit. Yes, medicine and therapy are important for many issues and illnesses, but they can’t and shouldn’t take the place of feeling our mistakes and learning from them. Forgiveness, I read somewhere, does not always come in one fell swoop. Sometimes it’s eked out a tiny bit at a time, like a noose loosening.

Sometimes you just have to feel bad, feel your remorse, to get to the other side.

And I will say, writing it down, knowing you are reading and may even comment—for better or worse—helps a little, too. 

 


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.”  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.




More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

May 09

My son left for Israel today.  

It is tradition in the Jewish school he attends that the entire 8th grade (and most of their teachers) travel through the Jewish people’s homeland as a culmination of middle school and all things Jewish that they have learned so far. “Leaving home to go home” is how the Rabbi phrased it in the send-off blessing just hours ago.

My son and I had spent the previous two weeks preparing for the trip and talking about the generations of family members that had gone before him: his great-grandfather, both sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins; and his dad, who had been there 30 years ago, just about the same age our son is now.  "When you’re at the Wailing Wall," I told my son, "close your eyes. Maybe you will feel the presence of your ancestors standing right where you’ll be standing, lined up across a century."

“Maybe,” he said, with doubt or wonderment, I couldn’t tell which.

I did not talk about the “life-changing” experience of the trip, as described by the school administration. I purposefully stayed quiet. First, as the child of divorced parents, my son has already had his share of life-changing experiences. Secondly, I know that the more I push my son to feel something, the more he resists.  So instead I am silently holding a space for Jake to be open to all the possibilities of Israel, whatever they may be.

Jake and I arrived at the school where he and his classmates dragged their two weeks of clothing, shoes and underwear onto the buses that would take them to the airport. Conspicuously absent in their duffle bags were cell phones, laptops, video players, gaming stations, Facebook and Twitter.  Being unplugged for two weeks could all be life-changing all by itself.

As I sat next to my son at the send-off assembly, I realized we were the only family of two. No siblings begging to use his room while he was gone; no grandparents slipping him twenties; no dad to do the burly man-hug. (His dad had spent the night before with him, riding rides at a parking lot carnival and hugging him tightly when it was time to go. He had reluctantly missed tonight’s send-off due to a show for which he was the technical and lighting director. )

So it was just Jacob and me, surrounded by a sea of emotions. One mother and daughter were fighting just outside the gym doors. I felt for her, having been there many times myself. So I told her what my therapist had told me the first time Jake went to sleep-away camp and we got into a huge fight the night before his departure: Sometimes people who really, really love each other will pick a fight before going on a long trip in a subconscious effort to ease the pain of separation.  “Oh, crap,” the mother said to me and my New-Age-y self, “she’s just a little shit.”

I saw mothers and daughters with mirrored expressions of anguish. I listened as the parents next to me whispered that their son had had a small panic attack just days before. My son and I were calm and dry-eyed, but it wasn’t always this way. I remembered just a few years earlier his own anxiety at entering middle school, and the weeks of patience, tough love, counseling and growing it had taken until my son’s independence returned.  I was thankful, but I also felt for the families who were in the midst of it tonight.

And then it was time to go. I stood up, and my son, towering a good six inches above me, bent to hug me and let me wrap my arms around him a count or two longer than our daily hellos and goodbyes. I stood on my tiptoes to kiss his forehead, his cheek.  I listened as parents gave last-minute pieces of advice: “Watch your purse.” “Drink plenty of water.” “Don’t stay up too late.” “Soak it all in.”

I had no last words of advice. How do you repeat everything you’ve said, shown and demonstrated to your child for the past 14 years in preparation for times like these?  I was simply hopeful that the most important pearls of parenting, from both his father and me, were rolling around in his head and his heart. He’s shown us many times over the years that he was listening even when we thought he wasn’t; he has made choices that we are so often proud of, and more importantly, that he can be proud of himself.

And knowing that he was in the best hands – his own – I climbed into my car, sent a grateful prayer upward … and smiled through tears that decided to come after all.


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.”  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010
May 23

The first time my son went to sleepaway camp he was 10 years old. We flew to New York to meet his cousins, who had been going to the same camp for several years and were excited to have their “baby cousin” join them. 

My son was excited, thrilled – and nervous. When he saw his cousins at the airport, hanging out with their “camp” friends, he moved slowly toward them, not wanting to intrude. He needn’t have worried; his cousin Erica swooped in to hug him, and barely let him leave her side.

The next four weeks went by as slowly as clouds move across a summer sky. I received one letter from my son – five sentences, actually – “Camp’s great. I’m great. Food’s fine. Learned to play poker. Love you.”

Twenty-eight days later, I flew back to Newark to retrieve my son. As soon as he got off the bus and saw me in the airport, he ran into my arms and asked if he could have McDonald’s. I laughed and nodded – I had missed him so much! He could have had just about anything.

My son, who is not exactly the bubbly type, talked non-stop for the next hour. He told me about his bulls-eye in archery; he described all 15 ceramic superheroes he created; he told me he had climbed the rock wall and zipped down the zip line. He said he went to the dance and wore his pink polo shirt and that the girls thought it was cool. He even asked a girl to dance and she said yes.

Ahh. Summer camp.

I sat listening, smiling, staring at my boy who had been gone from my life for the first time ever. His dad and I had been divorced about a year by then, and with no one at home but me, I had felt un-tethered. My son grounded me – he still does – and although I work full time, have a wonderful circle of friends and more invitations than I can accept, I love knowing that my relationship with and responsibility to my son are more important than anything else I do.

I was surprised by my son’s animated conversation, as if telling me made it even better than when it happened. And then, as if on a timer, my son’s storytelling winded down. He stopped talking and laid his head on my lap. He let out a sigh and said he didn’t feel so good. I felt his head and he was burning up; in minutes he had drifted off to sleep.

I thought to myself, “He just needs a little TLC. Then he’ll be okay.” And I remember thinking, “Maybe this is what ‘homesick’ really means.”

As it turns out, our flight was delayed 8 hours and I couldn’t move because my son stayed asleep in my lap. When they began boarding our flight, I gently shook my son awake and he was himself again. We flew home on peanuts and 7-Up.

Today, nearly five years and half-a-lifetime of maturity later, my son arrived home from two weeks in Israel. I had missed him more than I even thought I would; I had again felt un-grounded. But I reveled in the pictures sent via email –  Jake covered in mud from the Dead Sea; wrapped in Tefillah at the Wailing Wall; happily carefree with his arms slung around the shoulders of his best friends.

When we got home, his animated coverage of the trip lasted about thirty minutes, and then he announced he was exhausted. When I felt his forehead, sure enough, it was burning up. This may be only the third or fourth fever he’s had since that detainment in Newark, but it was just as real. Before I knew it, my son laid down on the couch – his long legs dangling over the edge – and put his head in my lap. I stroked his hair and thought, as I did so many years ago, “All he needs is a little TLC.” (And about two days of sleep.)

As he began to snore lightly, I thought that these days would soon be over. In just four years, he’d be coming home from college, probably with a girlfriend in tow. “Homesick” – no matter how you define it – would be a thing of the past, as he’d be making a new home (or several) at school, then wherever he decided to strike out on his own. He might want some occasional TLC from his mom -- or a load of laundry washed -- but I doubted that, in a few years, he’d lay his head in my lap and let me rub his back.

And that’s really the cycle of life, isn’t it? The “roots and wings” we offer our children as they grow from childhood into adulthood?  Someday, if he’s fortunate, my son will have children of his own. They’ll go on their own childhood adventures, come home to tell their own stories, and if my son is really, really, lucky, his kids will lay their heads in his lap and fall asleep.

And maybe as he pets them and soothes them, he’ll remember what it’s like to be on the other end of this kind of love. The kind of love that saved Harry Potter; the kind of love that cures homesickness; the kind of love that gives us roots … and wings.


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 
©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Jun 06

Any of you who have teenaged sons or daughters at home must know what it's like to feel as if you are in your own reality TV show that's a cross between Malcolm in the Middle (remember the voice-raising, hair-pulling, certifiable Mom?) and That 70s Show (where the self-absorbed kids are hilarious and awful at the same time.) 


Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time my son's sarcasm nearly punctured my heart I would be so wealthy that I'd gather up all of you -- my sister-moms -- for a week-long vacay at some tropical island where the pool boys and bartenders all have to be over 25 and sweet – without a single surly bone in their bodies.


Now, if YOU met my son you’d say I was crazy. You’d tell me he’s polite, thoughtful, adorable and mature beyond his years. You might have even glimpsed the rare appearance of his dimple. And I know you would be right.   He is a good kid and has some amazing qualities, it’s just that I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. He’s too busy mulling over the fact that I’ve ruined his life by making him do all sorts of horrible things, like go to school (yes, every day) and call his grandparents and show up for swim team practice (a team he chose to be on BTW; listen, the practices are at 5 a.m. – you know I did not choose this sport.).


It just would be nice if I could play the part of one of his friend’s moms, just for a day. Or his band teacher … or even his dad … none of whom seems to receive my son’s mood-swinging, eye-rolling, one-word grunts on a daily basis. It would do my soul good if I could more often see the sweet and kind person that lived inside this man-boy for the first 12 years of his life. Okay, 10. 

 

But the appearance of that joyfulness is starting to make a comeback, along with the amazing fact that my son wants to talk again. To me, I mean. He’s asking questions. He wants me to listen. And he’s incredibly open – he’d rather know stuff than be embarrassed. Of course, I’m not getting carried away – it’s still a once-in-awhile occurrence, but I’m blown away by what’s going on in my teenaged son’s mind every time we communicate. Recently, after we’d stopped to get some Starbucks frozen drinks on our way home, my son walked into the house and said, “Hey, Mom, come sit on the couch with me and hang out.”


I wanted to run a comb through my hair and put some gloss on my lips, certain I was on some form of Moms Get Punk’d. But when I walked into our family room, my son was nearly bouncing up and down, sitting cross-legged on the couch. He patted it for me to sit down. Yes, next to him. As the mother of a 14-year-old, 5-foot-10, 130-pound wrestler-wannabe, I was naturally wary. But I sat.

And I didn’t move for nearly 25 minutes.


My son became animated as he talked about the things that fill his heart and his thoughts; how he sees himself in the world; what he believes about things like reality, faith, dating, pressure, friendships. He spoke in full sentences. He had a good grasp on three-syllable words. He was open, honest, excited to share.


I know I had a silly grin on my face the whole time I watched him, listened to him, and most of all, enjoyed him.


And I think he basked in my silent acceptance; in my nods and smiles that told him I respected his views, I was proud (and maybe a little surprised) that he had spent so much time thinking about things; that I was not in any way judging him.  


I didn’t ask too many questions, didn’t venture too many opinions, didn’t stop to tell him his drink was melting all over the coffee table. I basically wrapped myself in this communicative connection. When was the last time we talked like this? At his invitation? It was enough to make me stop dead in my snarky tracks, for how I do go on about the walk-through-fire that is raising a teenager. 


Maybe it was just the Starbucks Java Chip Frappacino talkin’, but whatever it was, I’m grateful that it showed up in our world last week.


And it was so nice to see the rare appearance of that dimple.


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Jun 20
We have been looking for a summer job for the past several weeks, my son and I. Yes, I said “We,” even though I have a full-time career.  But at the in-between age of 14 ½, my son requires some help. Of course, he would debate this point. My son believes that if he fills out an application, hands it to the manager and the manager says he will call, the job will soon be his.

What is MTV teaching these kids?


As a mother, I am still at the stage where I believe what I say and do can make a real difference. So one day, I tell my son we are going to work on his resume. Again, there’s that “we.”  Then I take my son to make copies of his resume.  As I tell him about my first “real” job, as a 14-year old office lackey at my eye doctor’s office, it hits me that my son can’t even get a file-and-make-copies-job as he puts his document in the Xerox machine and out comes a blank piece of paper.

It’s not Music Television that’s failing my son, it’s ME.

My enabling tendencies did not disappear the moment my son’s father and I divorced; it appears that they simply transferred to my son, and it is I who needs an intervention, not my son.

I am unable to help myself from “helping.” The following week, I explain to my son that he needs to revisit the places to which he’s applied; I was told by one grocery store bagger that my son needs to update his online application every month and to “bug” the manager.  When I relay this to my son, he clearly thinks this is some kind of sick joke.

“Why would bugging the manager make him give me a job? I’d just be annoying him.”

Now, many of you can likely hear your own parents’ job-search advice replaying in your mind: “You need to show persistence and initiative; let the employer know you really want the job.”

 I remember the summer I graduated from college. I had graduated Magna cum Laude, interviewed with several large companies, had several call-backs, but I still did not have a job.  I came “home” to continue my search.

After four years of living on my own, coming back to my parents’ house was not exactly what I had in mind.  Worst of all, after a full day of interviews, my dad would greet me at the door with unending questions and “helpful advice.” Still, it is my father who instilled in me my deep work ethic, attention to detail, and respect for employers.

I just wish I knew how he did it.


I do know that I reacted to him much the same way my son does to me when asked, “Where did you look for a job today? What did you say? What did they say? Did you look him in the eye? Did you smile?” (The Jewish inquisition is an ancient parenting strategy in our culture. It’s why so few of us ever live at home past the age of 18.)


Although I have a vested interest in my son getting a job and getting off the X-box, my friends tell me I need to let him make it on his own. And my son would actually agree with this.  In fact, one of our funniest moments is him hissing at me as he got out of the car to apply for a job at a restaurant he had never been to. “Let me DO IT on my own, Mom! If I fail, then I’ll listen to you.  I’ve got it under control!”

“You’re right,” I said from the driver’s seat. “Go ahead; the restaurant is in the corner over there.”

My son paused mid-door-slam. “What? Come with me! I don’t know what to do!”

You can’t make this stuff up.

I got out of the car and walked through the parking lot with him, giving the barest of instructions. “Ask if they have any job openings. Ask to fill out an application. Write legibly.” Then I waved him off.  

My son did not get the restaurant job. Or the grocery store job. Or any of the other jobs he applied for. However, he has worked as a volunteer for several weeks at our local nature park, and he’s doing data entry at our community center. He also canvassed the neighborhood with a babysitting flyer and not only got his first gig, he got a call back from the same family.

Obviously, he does know what he’s doing.   And what he doesn’t know, he’ll learn.


With any luck at all, so will I.


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 

 ©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

Jul 04

For those of us who are divorced with kids, we face a recurring question that sometimes keeps us up at night: Is my child simply going through a normal adolescent stage or is his behavior due to the fact that his dad and I are not together? 

 

I realize that “normal adolescence” is an oxymoron -- a fantasy created by Disney imagineers or by parents who, as they age, only remember the sweet parts of their children’s childhood.  And I have read numerous books explaining all about the teenage brain, the different stages of growth, the struggle for independence that is often accompanied by defiant behavior. But I can’t help but wonder what affect my divorce – as unusually friendly as it is – has had on my son and his path in this life.


I’m not second-guessing our decision to divorce.  Today, my son knows his dad as a supportive, present, responsible, involved, loving and sober father.


The thing is, that’s not the man I married.


Throughout our marriage, when our son was little, his dad spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping, as both an escape and in response to drugs and depression. He left most of the parenting up to me and seemed unsure of how to be a father.  His own father died when he was just 13, and he felt he would also die young. Once we split, however, my ex checked himself into rehab and took the program seriously.


To be fair, I’m not the woman I was when I got married, either.  I, too, would have been a different type of parent had my ex and I stayed together. I think I would have been anxious, resentful and excessively attached; hovering over my son in an effort to love him enough for two people, and to get from him all the love I wasn’t receiving.  I believe that would have been the most harmful parenting of all.


Even though we have a divorce that rivals Demi-Bruce-Ashton in terms of friendship and support, it’s still a divorce. It still rocked my son’s world. It still means he lives in two households. It still means he has to tell his friends that his parents are not together. And in fact, he probably has to tell them, “I know it looks like they’re together, because they’re friends and all, but they’re not together.”


 My point is, no matter how great the divorce, no matter how much healthier the family is, no child is unaffected by his parents’ divorce. 


And so that often leaves me wondering, as I witness my son’s ascent into teenagedom, which of his behaviors and actions are a result of the divorce, and which are simply part of the journey to adulthood? Which are cries for help, and which are due to the angst and pressure that most kids his age feel? Which are signs of trouble inside or ahead, and which are simply indicators that he is growing up?


There is no way to know. Our choices have consequences.  And while I believe our choice led to a better life for our son, I cannot deny that it altered his path.


What I do know is that regardless of the reasons behind my son’s often unpredictable behaviors, my role is to be a compassionate and loving mother.  To understand that I will not always understand my son, his moods, his thoughts, his fears. That’s okay. He won’t understand them all, either.  


But I am very much here in his life, and so is his dad.  We are in the background more and more, as our son takes on additional responsibilities, popping up to the foreground when he needs us (sometimes whether he realizes it or not!).  Because loving our son and parenting him together did not end when we divorced.


In fact, in many ways, that’s when it really began.

 

Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 ©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Jul 12

Plus 6 Tips For A Loving Marriage, from the author of Back on Top:


I went to Carrie Underwood’s wedding today.


Actually, I spent the day hovering in our boat outside the Ritz Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee, where her wedding took place.  Carrie rented out the entire resort, and no one but her guests was allowed within 100 yards of the pool, restaurant or golf course. Even the nearest coves were closed.  (How can you close a waterway? With a security guard, a big boat, and, I’m supposing, a big payment.)


Now, it’s not as if I’m Carrie’s fan club president, although I do like her songs and she seems incredibly sweet.  But for this small sleepy town in Greensboro, Georgia, where I have a small sleepy lake house, this was a Really Big Deal: one of our hometown-girls-made-big chose our neck of the woods for her nuptials. And if we weren’t before, suddenly we were smitten.

 

Dozens of other locals-filled boats hovered with me for hours. We swapped stories of spotting Tim McGraw at our local grocery store (apparently false) of seeing a surprise fireworks show the night before (true and fabulous!), and speculating on where the wedding tent was located, since, from where we floated, we could only see a glimpse of white canvas peeking out from the woods.

 

Most of the people on the water were huge fans of Carrie’s, but the real deal for me is that I am a huge fan of LOVE.  And in some ways, I consider myself an expert, having spent 14 years  in couples’ therapy. I know what you’re thinking: my marriage dissolved several years ago.  Details, details. But I am certain that I have one of the world’s most caring relationships with my ex, and that, as I am often told by friends, family and strangers, is a pretty amazing accomplishment.  I am also in a committed going-on-four-years relationship with a loving, capable, beautiful man who is 10+ years my junior.  And all of us, including my son, consider each other family.  


That’s love.


So, from the longest-running couples’ therapy client and luckiest divorcee,`  my wedding gift to Carrie is these top tips for a loving marriage:


1.    Stay true to who you are. Getting married does not mean losing yourself, your dreams or your values to another person. It means sharing with and in each other.


2.     Find your voice. Your husband, no matter how connected you are, will not be able to read your mind (correctly, anyway).  Being silent or passive about your wants and needs will not nurture your relationship and may cause resentment.  Being stubborn or demanding won’t work either. Marriage is a lot like a dance; and Carrie, I know you will find your own rhythm and lyrics. But if you are afraid to speak your mind or be honest about your feelings, it’s up to you to learn to overcome that fear and communicate in a healthy way.


3.    Kindness is sexy.  I interviewed dozens of men for my book, and the quality they notice second in a woman is kindness – how she treats others, including the waitstaff on a first date. (The top quality they notice is not breasts; it is a woman’s smile. At least that’s what the survey showed! ) I have no doubt that Carrie was raised to be a lady, and that goes a long way. A simple “please” and “thank you” when you ask your husband to take out the trash or pass the pasta; the thoughtfulness of bringing your guy a glass of water when you’re getting one for yourself;  the grace to say and show your appreciation on a regular basis. It’s the same consideration we show our girlfriends, because they wouldn’t take anything less from us.


4.    Compromise is an act of faith. My marriage was not much of a partnership – I felt that the bulk of the work fell to me, and I know many women feel the same way.  But how much of that is our unwillingness to compromise?  Does it really matter if the pillows are under or over the comforter? Is it really a dealbreaker if he plays poker with the guys every Thursday night? Will your children truly suffer if they wrestle with their dad right before bedtime once in a while?  Compromising with your husband shows that you have faith in his abilities and decisions, too.


5.    Come from your heart. This was one of the earliest and best lessons I received in therapy. When you have constructive criticism or a complaint (and you will), come from a place of love. Before you say it, consciously think how you love this man, and then say it with that energy in your mind and in your voice. You’ll be amazed how it feels to you, and how much more receptive your husband is to hearing you.  


6.    The marriage comes first, and so do each of you. How can all three come first? Because you stand for the values that show respect toward your marriage and yourselves. I could list dozens of qualities that your marriage deserves, but a few of the ones that should come easily and readily are compassion, honesty, support, trust, forgiveness, humor, and friendship. Stand up for these qualities, and you stand up for yourself.  Compromise on any of them, and the marriage is compromised.


As I sit here on the water, hour after hour, with the man I love (who, by the way, is showing an inordinate amount of patience, particularly since we haven’t actually seen anyone except security guards and paparazzi), I consider my life of love, loss, and love again. And I think to myself, do I still truly believe in love?


I do.

Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author of Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 ©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Jul 19


Usually when we talk about body image issues, we’re talking about girls. But did you know that more than one million boys and men struggle with eating disorders? More than 80% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.  More than 10% of middle school boys have used steroids. These are boys who don’t understand why they should brush their teeth every night; how can they possibly understand the repercussions of starving or using steroids?


Studies today suggest that body image is deeply affected by the media – television shows and movies that show buff, brawny young men and the sexy, slim women who love them.  And in fact, my own son – who at 15 is tall and thin – can often be found facing the mirror sideways, and sighing over the fact that his stomach is not completely flat. What he sees is the 10-year-old version of himself, when his one chin became two and he had to wear uniform pants marked “Husky.” (What marketing genius thought that “Husky” would be a good retail term?) This was the year that his friends at school teased him about needing a “man-bra.” But no one needed to tease him; my son was his own worst critic. Except, perhaps, for me.


I remember being concerned about my son’s weight because his paternal grandfather and uncle were obese. My own mother lost 50 pounds more than 40 years ago, but today, at 5’ 4” and 100 pounds, she looks in the mirror and sees the girl they used to call, “Fat Ferne.” I’ve heard her stories of torment and Hershey bars all of my life; I’ve heard how her voice changes when she talks about someone who has gained weight or “looks heavy.”


But it was more than genetic concern; I knew that society treated heavy people differently, and on some level, I wanted to protect my son. Maybe even from my mother. Maybe even from me.  Gently, I encouraged my son to eat healthy and go outside and play. If you ask my son now, he’ll tell you that every time I said, “no French fries today” he heard, “you’re fat.”  Every time I said, “You need to play one sport each season” he heard, “you’re overweight.”  I wish that I had had a crystal ball; that I had not come from fear of obesity but rather from the joy of being healthy. Because you know what? Many of my friends who are overweight have healthier body images and self-esteem than my thin, gym-obsessed friends.  My son’s own uncle, the one I mentioned earlier? While it’s true he is often losing weight to help his knees or hips, he is one of the funniest, most brilliant, most generous people I know. He is an excellent father and has a loving wife and family. If he wants to be healthier, fine; it’s not because he has a body image issue, I can tell you that.


While I believe the media does influence our kids, I also believe that friends and family are even greater influences.  Back when I was a young teen -- and there were only three television stations and one Teen magazine – I had friends who took daily laxatives, starved themselves until dinner time, and constantly complained about how fat they were. None of them was actually overweight – at all. They were the prettiest  girls – cheerleaders and homecoming queens and dance squad captains. It seemed like something they did for attention, or to emulate their older sisters and mothers. Until one day, the prettiest of them all, couldn’t get out of bed due to a combination of exhaustion and anxiety.


I never dieted as a young girl. In fact, at 11 years old, I can tell you exactly what I had for lunch every Saturday, because I ate at the pool club behind my house: French fries and a chocolate shake. But I do remember wishing, as I pulled on my bellbottom jeans, that my stomach was flatter (and also that my hair was straighter and my skin less freckle-y). Look at the picture (I am second from the left) -- how could I possible think I wasn’t thin? (Let’s not talk about the hair and freckles.)


My point is, we spend so much time thinking we don’t measure up that we miss our own beauty, our own strengths. When I was 16, I was having dinner with my older brother’s friends, when one of them -- a boy named Mark who was blonde, beautiful, smart – was talking about his girlfriend. “She has a small belly roll – it’s so sexy,” he said.


I have never forgotten that. It reminds me that men and women find all kinds of things attractive. One thing that’s not? Complaining about our own perceived flaws. I interviewed dozens of men for my book (www.backontopthebook.com) and the theme that kept coming through is that a confident woman is attractive, but a beautiful woman who is insecure is a drag.  So that wrinkle between our eyebrows? Your man doesn’t see it.  The way you think your butt sags? Your man is watching the way it moves when you walk. In fact, I read an article just a few years ago, and I’ve surveyed half the men I know to see if it’s true. They tell me it sums up the male mentality perfectly:


When a man and woman are getting undressed, ready to tuck into bed together, the woman is thinking,

“Damn, my stomach looks big. My butt is flabby. My breasts are so flat.” 

Meanwhile, the man is thinking, “Yay! She’s naked!”


Next time you start to dis the reflection in the mirror, remember: we are our own worst critics. It’s time we just started saying, "Yay!"


Ginger Emas is a freelance busienss writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of  the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 


Aug 01

Last week I had the honor of talking with a roomful of amazing women … courageous beyond belief and scared down to their bones -- often at the same time. These women were beautiful inside and out – but many of them forgot to remember that. They were sassy and sensitive, kind and kick-ass, vulnerable and heroic, smart bordering on brilliant, and yet each knew the feelings of regret, mistakes, denial.

Aug 15
Quitting smoking is harder than kicking a heroin habit. 

That’s a fact I learned in three different Smoking Cessation programs I participated in more than 20 years ago.  The reason doesn’t have much to do with the substances themselves – nicotine vs. opiates.  It has more to do with using out in the open vs. abusing in private.  As a former smoker, quitting meant not only giving up nicotine, it also meant giving up social rituals that were a huge part of my life. You don’t see many heroin users shooting up during a game of pool. But smokers – particularly 25 years ago – were part of any social scene.

I’m talking about the 70s, when you could find students and faculty smoking side-by-side at my high school’s smoking patio. And the 80s, when it was perfectly acceptable to smoke at work – in my office, not in some area behind the trash dumpsters.  I was a writer for IBM in North Carolina, where it’s practically mandatory to support the tobacco farmers by lighting up. My office came with a computer, an ergonomically-correct chair, and two black, molded-plastic ashtrays.
 
We smoked in restaurants, retail stores and even health clubs.  I remember the year they banned smoking on the tennis courts, meaning we could no longer have a cigarette break between sets. It caused a huge rift among the club’s membership, and “vandals” continuously stole the No Smoking signs.

We smoked on airplanes. The ashtray was built right into the seats’ armrest, so even if you didn’t smoke, you certainly reeked of the habit after your flight.  

And then there was smoking-after-sex. Sweaty and satisfied, my lover and I would pass a cigarette back and forth, sharing a ritual nearly as intimate as lovemaking.

As a writer, I had one particular habit that was as hard to break as quitting smoking itself. I would type the first draft of an article, a speech or a script, then lean back, light up, and review what I had written -- making edits with one hand, tapping ash into my black plastic bowl with the other.  I’d continue writing this way until the project was complete, and then reward myself with yet another cigarette. Whenever I tried to quit smoking, I felt as if I could no longer write. My mind got foggy. My words got lost. I longed for the rhythm of write-edit-smoke, write-edit-smoke.     

This is why becoming a non-smoker meant more than kicking a habit; it meant abandoning a lifestyle. We were young, healthy students and professionals, smoking as an accompaniment to everything else we were doing.  A cigarette was the finishing touch to any meal; a morning partner to my mug of coffee or Diet Coke.  And it was definitely what I held in one hand when the other was holding a cocktail. If you were at a nightclub in the 80s, you were either inhaling your own smoke or that of 90 percent of the other people bellying up to the bar.

I tried seriously to quit smoking three different times from 1988 to 1990. The first few days weren’t so bad, because the initial recovery is so immediate. In just 12 hours of non-smoking, your lungs begin to heal from the more than 4000 chemicals in cigarettes.  “The morning after” took on a whole new meaning as I woke up without the tightness in my chest or that annoying cough. But after a week or two, I would start to forget why I quit; I would conveniently misremember how bad my symptoms were. And by this time, I was in the depths of the withdrawal – depression, food cravings, anxiety, and an irritability that blows away anything I’ve experienced in my pre-menopausal life—at least, so far.  (God help me and those who live with me!)

It wasn’t just the nicotine I missed; it was my pre-quitter life. When I wasn’t smoking, I couldn’t possibly go out to clubs, and what else did single 20-somethings do at night? If I went out, I’d inevitably have a drink, which would weaken my willpower and then I’d have just one cigarette. Then I’d have another cocktail and another cigarette and pretty soon I wasn’t a non-smoker anymore.

And even though I could breathe better with each sunrise, I had trouble waking up without lighting up. That’s when I truly felt as if I’d lost my best friend.  I’d spend the morning sad, depressed and lonely.  I’d go through my day feeling lost and miserable. Today, more than 20 years since I quit smoking for the last time, I still remember that feeling lasting nearly two months.

I also remember feeling trapped by the habit.  One day, I was in a meeting at work that was coming up on two hours. I started getting antsy, tense and distracted.  All I could think about was when this damned meeting would end so I could get my fix.  And there you have it: the real reason I finally quit.  I was no longer willing for anything to have that much power over me. I realized that cigarettes were controlling my mind, body, and spirit. It scared me to know I was so dependent.

And here’s the kicker: I smoked 10 to 15 cigarettes a day. Less than a pack. Any smoker will tell you I was a lightweight.  But there’s no such thing as being “a little addicted.”  It was as hard for me to quit as it was for my mother, who had smoked more than four packs a day for 45 years. I know, because we quit together.

My mother had heard about an acupuncturist/M.D. who had great success helping people quit smoking. Actually, he had great success helping people with a whole host of health problems, including weight-loss.  As a by-product of their treatment, his patients realized they no longer craved cigarettes.  My mother had seriously tried to quit smoking only one other time in her life, and we basically begged her to start again to save our family’s sanity. But when she heard about this acupuncturist from friends who swore by him, she felt he was the guy who could help her quit smoking AND not gain weight, which was one of her greatest fears. Having taken off (and kept off) more than 50 pounds decades earlier, she wasn’t beyond suffering a little emphysema if she could maintain her slim figure. Now she thought she had a solution she could live lithely with.

So my mother and I went together to the acupuncturist and had hair-thin needles put in precise locations in our earlobes.  The procedure was painless and took less than an hour.  The doctor also “glued” small metal circles to acupuncture points on our outer ears so that when we did feel a cigarette craving coming on, we could press the metal circle and it would trigger an acupuncture point that relaxed us and took the craving away.  We were told that the procedure would help right away, and would last anywhere from several months to forever.  In a few weeks, we could peel the metal circles off of our ears with no ill side effects or returned cravings. If we needed a “booster” – a re-treat any time over the next year – the doctor would provide it free of charge.

For the next 48 hours, my mother and I stayed at her house, pressing our ears and helping each other through crying jags, mood swings and food binges.  My mother never had another cigarette; I faltered a few months later and came back for a booster.  I haven’t smoked – or even wanted a cigarette – in more than 20 years).  

My mother and I promised each other we would never start again, because both of us recognized that one of us might not make it through the next time alive: if the cigarettes didn’t kill us, our two-day quitting-induced cravings just might.

What I know now:

    * Don’t start. The surest way not to get addicted to smoking (and not to have to go through the real pain of quitting) is to never take it up in the first place.
    * Smoking is gross. It turns your teeth brown, your fingernails yellow, your hair brittle. It gives you lines around your mouth that no amount of collagen can erase.  It also makes your breath smell like ass. Not to mention the fact that it causes throat, tongue and lung cancer, emphysema, hardening of the arteries, heart disease, stroke, death.  And it’s not just the nicotine; the cigarette paper itself has more than 25 known carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
    * There will come a time when you want to quit. Maybe you can’t catch your breath as you climb the stairs. Maybe you can’t keep up with your kids or grandchildren. Maybe your hacking cough is started to scare you.  There will come a time when you want to quit, and it will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do.
    * Smoking becomes a lifestyle; when you quit, you’ll have to quit your well-loved habits, too. I gave up drinking, even a glass of wine, for nearly a year to keep me from backsliding into my old habit of smoking when I drank.  I had to replace my after-meal cigarette with a breath mint, because for years that cigarette had signaled that I was satiated.  And while I didn’t actually give up sex, I did have a hard time replacing that post-coital smoke with cuddling.  
    * If you’ve failed with other stop smoking programs and patches, try alternative medicine, like acupuncture.  Acupuncture needles are placed at specific points near the surface of the skin which, when triggered, can alter your various biochemical and physiological responses. Smoking cessation acupuncture focuses on significantly reducing the jitters, cravings, irritability and restlessness that come with quitting, making these symptoms more bearable and shorter in duration. Acupuncture also aids in relaxation and detoxification.  It is proven so effective that many courts mandate acupuncture as a treatment for drug addicts.
    * Your kids will do as you say, not as you do.  When I was a child, my siblings and I would hide my parents’ cigarettes or throw them in the trash and risk getting grounded for it. My brother, before he started smoking, would see me smoking in public and literally pull the cigarette from my mouth and stomp it out. And yet, all of us became smokers before we turned 20.  And all of us have horror stories about the many times we tried to quit. As a parent, you are a role model; your kids will emulate you. And second-hand smoke has as many health risks as smoking itself.  Some states are considering legislation that would make exposing children to smoking equivalent to child abuse.
    * Smoking is stupid. Just like texting while driving. Stupid stuff doesn’t have to be outlawed for us to stop before it kills us.    

 
Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of  the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here.

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC
Aug 29


I went to my 32nd high school reunion last month, and I gotta say, isn’t that exactly the event for which SPANX was invented?  My reunion was in my hometown of Hollywood, Florida -- a state that is known for having the most silicone per pair inch.  Now I’m not saying that any of my classmates have had boob jobs (and I’m not saying they didn’t) but I am betting there was more latex in the room that night than in an entire season of Nip/Tuck.  


I was certainly wearing my share.  


I’m a big believer in the look good-feel good connection, and if what it takes are contact lenses or hair relaxer or braces or blonde highlights, or even Botox or plastic surgery, that’s certainly an individual choice.  


For me, I was willing to suffer through SPANX.


So I went to Nordstrom’s lingerie department where I met Cara, the store’s SPANX Goddess – a cross between Scarlett O’Hara’s Mammy and Stacy London from TLC’s What Not To Wear. Cara ushered me into a dressing room to try on half a dozen new-age girdles.


I tried the Super Power Panties, which have “mega-compression zones.”  But I felt a stabbing pain in my ribs each time I took a breath, so I asked if they had something with a mini compression zone for wimpy women. Next I tried the Skinny Britches, which claims you can “wear one to slim, two to shape, and three to transform.”  I defy ANYONE to put on three of these body-casts-masquerading-as-shapewear and try walking without falling over.


I finally settled on the Simplicity High-Waisted Shaper, because my dress was clingy from under my bra to below my hips, and this shaper covered the entire geography. I discovered that if I took very shallow breaths I could walk and talk without passing out. This particular panty had an open gusset (think crotchless panties) which I later learned was the only way you could ever hope to pee in one of these things.


I realize, however, that I wouldn’t be able to eat the reunion dinner while wearing my power panties, which I considered a small sacrifice. I figured I would eat something after the reunion.


Alone.


In my hotel room.


Naked.


As it turned out, just one Vodka tonic into the party and I forgot all about my SPANX. I could breathe, laugh, dance, and make small talk with people I hadn’t seen in 10 years, all without a stitch in my side.

And while it only skimmed about a half-inch from the bulkiest part of my body (my stomach), for that one night, when every woman wants every other woman in the room to think to herself, “Damn, she looks so good I sort of hate her,” I felt that it was worth the light-headedness and $72 bucks.


For the next four hours, I had a great time. I squealed, I hugged, I laughed, I flirted with past boyfriends. I loved seeing old friends, hearing about their children, their lives, their husbands, their exes. And I was so happy to see how happy everyone was, even if half of us were having our circulation cut off.  


When it was time to go home and pour myself out of my dress, my friend Linda was already in her pajamas, reading a book in bed.


Damn, there goes my naked room service, I thought.


I went into the bathroom to strip my SPANX in private – a feat that proved practically impossible as a Do-It-Yourself project.  It seems that SPANX, when combined with perspiration, becomes some mutant material that closely resembles Super Glue. The power panties were molded to my buttocks.


I pulled. I yanked. I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to get outta my innerwear.  I rolled the thing down, starting from my ribs and pushing toward the tops of my thighs. I finally stretched the no-waist waistband, pulled my left leg free, and barely managed to catch myself from toppling into the bathtub.

I opened the door to let in some fresh air, and Linda called, “Are you all right in there?”


“Just fine,” I said, standing in the doorway, hidden by the curve in the wall. “I’ll be out in a second.”


With my right leg still caught in the contraption, I took a deep breath and tugged with both hands while kicking my foot off the floor. Suddenly, the SPANX flew out of the bathroom and landed near the dresser.


“What are you doing?” Linda asked, as she watched my SPANX  hit the floor.


Wrapping a towel around me so she couldn’t see the deep indentions along the sides of my body making me look an aged Redwood tree, I walked as calmly as I could into the room.

“Why is your face so red?” she asked with some alarm.


“I was just trying to get out of my SPANX,” I said. “It was tighter than the gold spandex pants I wore in the 80s.”


“What are you talking about?” she asked, getting out of bed and walking over to her suitcase. “I wore SPANX tonight, and mine was fine.” And with that, she held up this wispy little thing that looked like a pair of nude silky biker shorts – the Heidi Klum version of my shapewear-from-hell.


“What is that?” I asked incredulously. “Are you telling me that works?”


“Yeah, just the little bit I need under something clingy,” she said. “What were you wearing?”

I tossed her my SPANX, which now seemed to weigh about two pounds.


“Gin, this isn’t shapewear,” she said.  “This is neoprene. You could have gone scuba-diving in that thing.”


“Yeah, if I wanted to drown.”


We both burst out laughing.


And suddenly I realized that the feel good of the night didn’t have anything to do with the look good part. It had everything to do with the reuniting of good friends, sharing and laughing.


In the hotel room.


With room service on the way.


 

Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

For more Ginger Emas columns, click
here

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC
Sep 12

This is the first in a series from author Ginger Emas about The Men We Date, and how to open up to new possibilities.


I don’t know when it started – if it even started or if I was born this way. But I have always been attracted to men of a certain “type,” even when I was young and the men weren’t even men yet, but still boys.


I grew up enamored with guys who were different – different from me, different from my family, different from the friends in my life. I was an outgoing child, which naturally meant I was attracted to shy boys.  I had a pretty wonderful childhood, so I seemed to seek out guys who were troubled and brooding.  I was a responsible, type-A personality, and I kept choosing guys who needed taking care of. 


When I was in middle school, and 80 percent of my classmates were inner-city black kids (and about 10 percent of us were white, middle-class Jewish kids), I was fascinated and became friends with people who had totally different backgrounds, lifestyles, family situations.  I was too young to date, but the boy who walked me from class to class every day during the 8th grade was named Waymond –the oldest of eight children.  On the outside, we made quite a pair: my freckles and red hair, his blue-black skin and football player’s build.  But our friendship worked: he needed help with homework and someone to tell the sadness of his home life; I was a wide-eyed A-student who wanted to right the world – one boy at a time.


In high school, when my best friend began dating the handsome tennis team captain, I migrated to his older, painfully-shy brother, and it became my goal to bring him “out of his shell” as my dad likes to recall.


My next boyfriend was literally from the other side of the tracks; he lived in a neighborhood I wasn’t really allowed to visit, his mother and father had a tumultuous relationship, and his dream was to become a carpenter.  This was David, nearly a legend in my family for the anger he could inspire in my father.  He spoke with a heavy Brooklyn accent (a.k.a. Rocky Balboa’s “Yo, Adrienne!”) and he wasn’t afraid to pit daughter against parent.  My dad instantly disliked the qualities in David that made me adore him, and from the hindsight of 30 years (and my own parenthood) I can understand that. Of course, my dad was also confused and slightly afraid that this was the boy who had captured the heart of his “little” girl – now 18.


As I got older, my type included the underdog, starving artists, non-conformists, lone wolves, the brilliant but under-employed. These are the men I chose to love, time and time again. Sometimes I had a major impact on these men – loving them in a way that helped them strive and reach their own potential. But it didn’t always work in my favor. My college boyfriend went from shy and unassuming to buff and beautiful and bold. After three years of dating, he left me to explore his newfound self and other girls. Although he broke my heart, we renewed our friendship 25 years ago and still talk frequently. He tells me I helped him more than I know. The thing is, I do know. That's what I did with "my type."


After college, I remember the time my Aunt Audrey fixed me up with the son of a dear friend of hers. He had his own business, a brand-new sports car, and contacts with everyone in town.  I lived out of town but was visiting my parents for the weekend. He picked me up for our date wearing a three-piece suit and holding reservations to one of the city’s finest restaurants. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway my father turned to my mother and said, “She won’t like him.” 


And he was right – I didn’t.  Looking back, it’s hard to say why, except to say he didn’t, he wouldn’t, ever really need me.  And I liked being needed.


And finally, the man I married. When we first began dating, I was also dating someone else -- neither one exclusively.  I was talking to my parents one day, telling them that I really liked both guys, but suddenly they were each asking me to choose.  The first one was studying to be a neuro-surgeon; the other was a musician. My dad said to my mother, “That poor surgeon doesn’t stand a chance.” 


My dad was right again; I married the musician, as naive to his internal turmoil and substance abuse as I was in my belief in the power of love to fix him.


Now, 30 years later, I think I know a little more.  I know that I was like many women –drawn to the same type over and over again, expecting different results.  I know that some people can’t be saved -- at least not in the way of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and all of the other fairytales I was brought up on.


Six years ago, my husband and I divorced.  While we worked hard during our marriage, we have worked even harder to create an amazing and enduring friendship.  I remember one day, about seven months after we separated, I admitted to him, “All I wanted to do was save you.”


We hugged and he whispered to me, “Maybe you did.”


That was the same day he received his three-month chip for sobriety, having gone to Narcotics Anonymous and rehab on his own, to fight the duel demons of depression and drugs.  And he’s winning.


If you ask me today, I will tell you with sincere certainty that divorce was the absolute right decision for my family. It doesn’t make it any easier – a lost dream, another broken heart – but that’s what it took for me to step out of the way and let the man I loved save himself...



to be continuedThis is the first in a series about The Men We Date. Come back next week to learn more about what type of man you’ve been choosing, and how to choose differently. 



Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. 


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC





Sep 26

This is the second in a 3-part series from author Ginger Emas about The Men We Date, and how to open up to new possibilities.


Okay, so last time I spilled a few truths from my personal experiences about how, for most of my life, I kept choosing the same type of man, expecting different results.  As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?” I can tell you, it wasn’t so great.  And I’m not alone; I’ve interviewed hundreds of women over the years, and most of us have a type and we’re sticking to it – whether it’s good for us or not.


After my divorce, I promised myself that I would not date anyone who possessed the same qualities I have always been attracted to:  “different,”  “misunderstood,”  “brilliant-and/or creative-but under-employed,” “full of potential but lacking self-confidence.”  In other words, I would only date people who were completely capable of taking care of themselves.


Broadening my parameters, I went out with men who were older than I am and men who were considerably younger. (I have ended up as an accidental cougar, but that’s another story. Stick around, I’ll get to it one day!) I went out with men who were very religious (my date with a Rabbi), men who were from Christian sects I knew nothing about, and those who were more “spiritual than religious.” I dated men with children, men who never wanted children, men who were, basically, still children themselves. But most of all, if I got a sense that a man was needy, troubled or looking to be saved by a woman (my previous “type,”), I declined a second date.  I even had one guy tell me that I needed to be cautious; that I exuded a kind of self-assured loving-kindness that men would want latch onto. He said if I wasn’t careful, I could be sucked dry. He added that he was even warning me from himself.


I dated a lot after my divorce--if you call 87 first-dates in two years "a lot." Over the years and the seven dating websites, dozens of singles events, and matchmaking by friends and strangers, I learned enough to write a book about it! I also decided to hold a workshop for women who were also braving the brave new world of dating the second time around.  We swapped war stories, dating stories, moving-on stories. I helped them choose dating sites, profile pictures and a new way to choose men. Because while none of us had ever met before, it was uncanny what we all had in common, and what I continue to see in the several workshops I have given since: we seek, date and marry our “type,” even when time after time that “type” is not a good match.


In that first workshop, all of the women (including me) had been in marriages that involved abuse – their husbands had either abused them physically or verbally, or they had abused drugs, alcohol or all of the above.  I also discovered that each of these women considered themselves the strong ones in the relationship, and many had learned the hard way that they had become enablers in a co-dependent marriage – and not for the first time.


In other workshops, I’ve found women who exclusively dated “the power man” (read: workaholic); “the charmer” (read: cheater); “the challenge “(read: emotionally unavailable).  All of these types seem to come with lot of baggage and a hefty dose of drama.


In many ways, I think I was drawn to the drama as much as the ability to help someone.  Many women tell me the same thing – you get used to the emotional rollercoaster ride. But let me tell you – eventually drama becomes a drag.  Saving someone is not sexy. Trying to change someone to get what you need takes a toll. At some point, you want to grow, and you want your partner to grow, too.


But as we all know, love is clouded by our emotions and hormones. We fall in love with the very things that will eventually tear the relationship apart. In our ongoing search for Mr. Right, we continue to pick Mr. Wrong.


Deciding to date people outside your comfort zone is easier said than done, but with more than a million single men on reputable dating sites such as Match.com, e-harmony and Chemistry.com, we definitely have a wider net.  The sites even have compatibility markers that send you the profiles of men they think you should date – hell, if we haven’t been choosing well for ourselves, what have we got to lose by letting a computer algorithm help us?


Dating differently also forces us to consider just exactly what “different” is. For this, I recommend a Manfile – creating a list of non-negotiables (the things you absolutely will not put up with in a guy ever again) and must-haves (the qualities a man must have in order to be in a relationship with you – or even to get to a second date.) By creating your Manfile, you are going to have to come up with a whole lotta adjectives, qualities and characteristics that are completely different than the ones that would describe your ex, you know what I mean?


I actually followed my own advice, and after all those dates, I started going out with a capable, stable, kind, fun and loving man – one who is as giving as I am, if not more. That’s when I learned that finding someone outside your “type” is only half of the process; learning how to love him – not enable him, not save him, not live co-dependently -- is another process all together.



to be continued…This is the second in a 3-part series from Ginger Emas about “Why We Choose The Men We Do.”  Come back next week to learn more about choosing differently, and how to love a “new type.”



Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Oct 11

This is the last of a 3-part series from author Ginger Emas about The Men We Date, and how to open up to new possibilities. If you missed them, click to read Part I and Part II.


Have you been thinking about all the people you’ve dated and whether or not you have a certain “type,” and if so, what that type is? I heard from many of you who seemed to be slapping your forehead exclaiming, “Oh, wow! I’m a saver, too!” and wanted to break the habit. Some of you wrote to say you are tired of dating guys who won’t commit, but that you are still in a relationship that’s been going on for years.  One of you wrote to tell me that you’re finding a certain religious-based dating site a drag, and realized it was always your mother who wanted you to marry a nice (insert religion here) boy! 

 

Congratulations on all of your self-discovery!  


In my previous post, I mentioned that one of the best ways to break out of your dating rut is to make a Manfile. First, list all of the qualities you will no longer put up with in a partner. I call these your non-negotiables. Many women include things such as “dishonesty” or “self-destructive;” “emotionally unavailable,” “irresponsible,” “abusive.” 


Then, make a list of your must-haves: sense of humor, financially stable, kind, sincere. Some people list “must have kids.” Others list “must not want kids.” Whatever it is you must have – write it down! Your Manfile will evolve over the years, but the important thing is to start it.  


The final piece of the Manfile is all about you: describe who you are today and what you want for your life. Many of us don’t take the time to check in with ourselves; instead we operate on auto-pilot, choosing the same guys, friends, jobs, meals that we’ve been choosing for years. But who you are after you’ve been married and divorced, or after a long-term relationship, is not the same person you were before. Maybe what you thought you wanted all these years isn’t your dream, but what you thought society expected … or what your mother wanted for you. Now is the time to ask yourself: What brings me joy? What am I willing to explore? Who am I trying to please? Hopefully, you’ll begin to see more choices – even if that is the choice not to date. (We should all know by now that having a boyfriend, a husband, or a partner does not guarantee happiness. That has to come from you.)


One of the most fun ways to test out new types is speed-dating (my favorite in Atlanta is www.hurrydate.com -- talk with ten men in an hour!) Another great way to mix it up is at a Lock and Key Party – believe me, you will find all “types!” (Janice runs them in Atlanta – are you bold enough to be the only white woman at the Black Singles party? Or the only one over 50 at the 40 and under group? Why not?) Try a different dating website, join a kickball league, or check out a personal matchmaker!


I left off my last column by sharing “What I Know Now”:  “Finding someone outside my “type” was only half of the process; learning how to love him – not enable him, not save him, not live co-dependently -- was another process altogether.


Nearly three years after my divorce, but just a few months after I finally created my Manfile, I met Sean.  He is a self-sufficient man who loves his work, his life, and has a great attitude despite some tough times in his life. He can cook, dance, and have a great time in any social situation – even with my crazy friends and family! But when we first started dating, I honestly did not know how to be with him. How do I date someone who doesn’t need me to pick up the pieces? What would my life be like without the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows? I wanted to try it – I enjoyed being with someone who was so giving, so secure, and so much fun.  But in the beginning, I had no idea how to receive his love. I didn’t know how to care for someone, instead of taking care of him. After all my years of being in the savior spot (my own bit of baggage, by the way), this healthy relationship didn’t feel normal. Isn’t that crazy? But I knew, deep down, that this was an incredible opportunity to learn to love another way. So I tiptoed into it and took the relationship very slowly. And while I often felt as if Sean was waiting for me to catch up, he never rushed me.  He allowed me my time, my growth, my unfolding.


It’s been over three years now, and I know I have never had a love like this. If I hadn’t taken a chance on dating someone entirely different from the ghosts of relationships past, I would never be here, loving a man who is passionate without the drama; who has created with me a relationship filled with laughter, honesty and communication (yes, this man will talk about stuff!)  He has embraced my son as well as the friendship my ex and I share, and I am grateful that his self-assuredness allows him to be accepting of it all. We are happy just being together … and that feels like enough.


So the next time you hear yourself saying about a guy, “He’s just not my type,” why not give that type a try? Because maybe, after all these years, you’re ready for a break-out role.


This is the last in a 3-part series from Ginger Emas about Why We Choose The Men We Do. Are you ready for a change? Share your break-out dating stories on Sharewik.com!

Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Oct 24

Nearly two years after I began post-divorce dating, I understood this new world well enough to realize just how clueless I was. Right out of the box the first man I met turned out to be married. Another man had posted an online photo that was so outdated when I went to meet him for our date – looking for a tall, slim man with curly brown hair and a nice smile – I literally didn’t recognize the half-centurion who called out my name. Gone was the slim and the hair, and his smile was obscured by the smoke curling out from his cigarette. I even met a man who nearly knocked over our cocktails with his laptop to impress me with dozens of photos of women he had dated previously.  (I actually was pretty impressed.)

After so many false starts, I learned to be more discerning. I could spot a “player” within three lines of an IM; I could mark a stalker after the first post-date text; I even learned the red flags of an already-committed man. But I was still completely unprepared when, several months into my first real relationship as a divorcee, it looked as if I might actually have sex again before I died. It had been years since I had been naked in front of anything but my bathroom mirror, and I was terrified. Worse, I had no single girlfriends to consult. But I did have my friend Graham – young, single, part-time therapist/full-time stylist to some of the hippest women in the suburbs (no, that is not an oxymoron).  He told me about a party one of his clients was having – all single women.  He said I should go to learn more about dating. To get some answers and maybe take a few pictures. He made it clear that Girls Gone Wild was PG compared with this group.

Even now, it’s hard for me to believe I had the courage to go. I must have walked up to the door of the party’s mini-mansion half a dozen times and back down to my car, overcome with uncertainty and nausea. Finally, the door opened and the party’s hostess, Pamelia, smiled at me and said, “Are you ever going to come?” and I remember thinking, this is going to be a night of double entendres.

Giving me a warm hug, Pamelia said, “You must be Ginger, Graham’s friend.  Come on in, we’ve been waiting for you.”

I followed her through an obscenely large foyer and down the marble steps to the “party room,” where the festivities had obviously started some time ago, based on the noise level and half-empty bottles. True to Graham’s word there were only women here, but they didn’t look anything like my neighborhood Garden Club. There were women with tattoos, thigh-high boots, biker gear, and pierced tongues. There were women in short skirts, lingerie, and one in a metallic bikini. And they were in the middle of playing a game where everyone had written down a question on a slip of paper and put it in a jar; whoever pulled out a question had to answer it. As I walked in, the women suspended their game mid-pull, and everyone came over to hug me and make sure I had at least one tequila shooter. They asked me to write down a question right then and there, just as a woman named Mollie announced she had a new piercing in a very private place. There was a group “ooooooh” as Mollie stepped out of her jeans to show us what looked like the most painful thing I could ever imagine (and I had natural childbirth). I tried not to wince.

That’s when someone grabbed my question out of my hand. It said, “What is the current style of bikini waxing?”

I have never seen so many pants go down at once in my whole life, and I used to potty-train preschoolers. Every girl there wanted to show me the very latest in trendy trimming. Note to self: This is not your mother’s bikini wax.

First up, Ellie insisted that bare is beautiful. She was nearly finished with 30 laser treatments to achieve this level of nothingness.

“Does it hurt?” I asked, definitely wincing.

“Like a mother#$%^r,” she said proudly.

Lucinda agreed with bare-is-best, but she preferred waxing. Several other girls declared that a “landing strip” was today’s look. Of course, they had to explain to me that a landing strip is when you remove all of your pubic hair except for a narrow strip in the very center. Oh, and nobody at the party said pubic hair, okay? And I can tell you that no one had the natural look that every Playboy centerfold from the 1950s to the 1980s sported; that’s what I get for divorcing at the turn of the century.

As bizarre as this girl-party was, it was great to have so much new knowledge. Who else could I have asked about trimming and tweezing and Trojans? Now, I thought, if I ever do get naked again, at least I won’t look like a born-again virgin.

Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Nov 07

I have been collecting addicts all my life … starting with my mother. 


But it wasn’t until I was over 40 that I learned what I needed to know about myself, the people I’ve loved, and the seemingly infinite kinds of addictions we face, simply because we are human.


When I was a little girl, my mother was diagnosed with a bone disease in her gums that was eventually treated successfully. However, in the aftermath of pain, her doctors prescribed morphine. This was the mid-60s, and having read much about the research and trials of drugs at the time, I don’t think family doctors were aware of the powerful hold that opiates have on “normal” people – that is, people who were not known drug abusers.  My mother quickly became addicted. Not in a made-for-TV-movie kind of way – no one at the time was even aware of her struggle; not even her. But over the years and looking back, she recalls it with a shudder.


After school, my brothers and sister and I knew to tip-toe into the hushed house through the back door. My mom would be sleeping deeply, escaping her pain.  I never once heard the word “addiction” or even “problem.” She was just my mom. It was what I knew, and I loved her.


As a teenager, my first real boyfriend was a high school golden boy. Sure, he drank beer every weekend, but back then, when the drinking age was 18, what senior football player didn’t? Still, there were signs even I couldn’t miss: the time he saw me driving with one of my guy friends and came to my house later that night – angry, drunk, he banged on my bedroom window so hard it smashed into a hundred pieces.

During a school homecoming pageant, he had had so much to drink that when he had to answer the obligatory “Mr. America” question, he mumbled something and swiped at the stand-up microphone so that it teetered dangerously on the edge … much like he did before stomping offstage.  

 

I dated him on and off for two years, never even considering his behavior a “problem.” It was high school; most people thought we were all just “typical teenagers.”  I loved him as only a girl can love a boy for the first time; I felt grown up when he brought me roses scented with apologies.


Throughout my late teens and 20s, I had at least four boyfriends who were (looking back) functioning alcoholics – some better-functioning than others. And yet I never saw their behavior as serious trouble or grounds for dismissal. Part of the reason is that I was happily enjoying my own version of partying. I drank at parties, danced at clubs, stayed up all night, too. It wasn’t unusual for people to start slurring their words, make fools of themselves, or even pass out.


That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned about those of us who choose addicts: We Don’t Notice. We’re just not that aware or self-actualized. I think back on some situations and wonder how in the world could I think that was normal?


When I was about 26, a boy I’d been dating for about six months told me he was going to an AA program in Colorado. I knew he drank too much, slept too late, worked too little. But at the time, I had no idea how much courage it took for him to enter rehab – and to tell me. I wished him good luck and he invited me to visit him a week after he finished the program.


And I did. I flew across the country never once even reading about the AA program or how it was likely to affect him. I expected him to be just as fun as he always was -- just without a drink in his hand.


Naïve? Definitely. But that is hardly a valid excuse. Immature? Unthinking?? More accurate, but still not excusable.  How could I have been so vacuous?


Once in Colorado, I saw quickly what a huge mistake I’d made in coming. He was angry, confused, and still going through withdrawal. It took two days of tears and confusion to call Delta and pay an exorbitant fee to fly home early. Even then, I didn’t stop to consider the nature of my boyfriend’s addiction or alcoholism. I just moved on to the next one.

And in fact, I married one. A brilliant love-starved man who had been trying to numb out his pain for more than half his life.


And finally, I began to learn. My first year of marriage was like going to grad school for enablers. I began to understand what part I played, and why being in a relationship with an addict felt like coming home. I learned that I loved more like a parent and less like a partner –an addict-magnet for sure. I also learned deep hurt and a loss of self I had never experienced before. Addicts’ energy can be all-consuming; they are narcissistic in a way that leaves little room for anyone or anything else. They are not selfish in a typical way, but in a way that says, “Nobody’s pain is as bad as mine. Nobody understands me; my problems are unique. I am fucked up beyond repair, and I don’t deserve love.”

And that is what makes me love them all the more. I was addicted to addicts! To the way their need made me feel. That is the quintessential enabler.


 My husband went into rehab just a few months after we separated after 13 years of marriage.  And I began my “doctorate” in learning. I went to family therapy, Nar-Anon groups (for families with loved ones who are addicted to drugs), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) support groups and meetings.  For the first time I was supportive of my husband without being co-dependent; I believed in him without needing to control the outcome.  I was no longer filled with fear.


But an addict who goes into rehab enters a new life. The leaders of AA suggest they not associate with old friends. They go to AA meetings every day, or several each day or night. They make new friends in the program, and their life becomes working the program. It may not be perfect, but it has the best record for rehab of any program out there.


I remember at one of the NA meetings, I was given a booklet of quotes from people who had been through the program. There is one I will never forget.  A wife of 20 years whose husband was in AA said, “It’s not surprising to me that so many marriages fail when one partner goes into rehab; what is surprising to me is that any of them makes it.”


My marriage didn’t make it, but my husband did. Is making it, I should say. It’s an ongoing endeavor.


Addicts are individuals. I only know what I know from my personal experiences. But I do know they are not “all bad” or “worthless.” They are, as are we all, deserving of our love and compassion.


Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Nov 21

Now I understand why my dad smoked an entire pack of cigarettes each time he took my siblings or me on the road to practice driving.  I’m sure he tried to quit many times, but every two years one of us turned 15, and it would start all over again.


To tell you the truth, I don’t know how I’m going to survive driving with my own 15-year-old son, seeing as I quit smoking some 20 years ago.


For me, driving with my son has just replaced natural childbirth as the scariest thing I have ever done. In fact, if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired on those delivery room drugs, maybe I can ask for them now.


It’s not that my son is a bad driver. On the contrary, he’s really good, especially for a new driver. He has an excellent combination of caution and confidence.  It’s just that having driven for 25 years, I know how distracted, disgruntled, delirious (and drunk) drivers can be.  And don’t get me started on the impact of cell phones –texting as well as talking.  


No matter how responsible my freshly-minted teen driver is, he is still a newbie. He doesn’t understand the passive-aggressive behavior of a car edging its way into your lane. He doesn’t get that a bus always has the right of way, even when it’s practically bull-dozing your car onto the sidewalk.  (On the road, size does matter.) And with his oh-so- limited experience, he believes everyone is as hyper-focused behind the wheel as he is.  If only it were so. Heck, if only I were as focused as he is when I’m behind the wheel.


Which brings up another point: driving with my son is putting a big damper on my personal catch-up time.  I no longer talk while I’m driving or sneak a peek at my texts at a red light. I know that my son is paying closer attention than ever, and I take my new role-modeling very seriously. So mom and dad, I apologize in advance for missing our daily morning calls. I’ll call you when Jake turns 17.


For the first week after my son got his learner’s permit, I sat frozen in the front passenger seat (now I know why they call it “riding shotgun.”  It is tempting to want to shoot yourself.) With my feet braced against the floorboard, as if there were brakes on my side, too, I drove around with my son, thinking to myself, “Is my life insurance paid up? Do I have on clean underwear? Did I throw out all the sex toys?” All in a vain attempt to assure myself that if, God forbid, we got into an accident I would not embarrass anyone from my grave– including myself. 


After the second week driving with my son, I lost my voice from the strain of providing a constant stream of directives. “Stay to the left. Come to a complete stop. Watch the car in front of you, he’s braking. He’s BRAKING! “


So naturally, I spent the fourth week trying to keep my mouth shut, as it became clear that my instructions were confusing to my son. (“You can go in front of this next car” seemed to translate to “Move over immediately. “ ) 

  

The learner’s permit has been a learning experience for me, too. For one thing, I learned that I am a gasper. When it appears that my son is not going to stop in time, I gasp. When it appears that my son is going to drift into the next lane, I gasp. It has come to my attention that my gasping itself may cause him to get into an accident. Therefore, I have learned to hold my breath instead of gasping. If I am lucky, perhaps I will pass out if danger really does occur.


I have learned that, when my son is driving, holding the handle that’s located above my head is a sign of disrespect.


“Mom, why do you keep grabbing that thing? You never grab it when anyone else is driving.”


“Oh, really? Well, I guess that’s because I’m usually the one driving. I’m not used to sitting here.”


“Well, it’s kind of disrespectful to me, Mom. You don’t do it when Sean drives.”  (Sean is my boyfriend who has been driving for more than 25 years. But okay. )


“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t realize how you felt.” To myself I think, “Damn, grabbing that handle is the only thing keeping me from wetting myself.”


But I am trying to be supportive, so now I jam my elbow into my side whenever I feel the urge to grab the handle that the car manufacturers put there specifically to help Mothers survive the year of the Learning Permit. I think that it is actually called the “Oh, Shit Handle” in the owners’ manual.


And all of this was before he hit the highway.


Let me just say this about that: I never used to have bald spots where my eyebrows grow. I heard that pulling out your eyebrow lashes is a typical response to post-traumatic stress. I’m an overachiever; I do it in response to current-traumatic stress.


Suddenly, everywhere I look, there is a man-child driving his mother around in a minivan. How do I recognize her as a kindred spirit? Her lips are pursed tightly together. The fingers of her left hand are resting lightly against her lips to prevent any sound from escaping. Her right arm is in constant motion, reflexively reaching up for the handle and responsively pulling it back into her lap before her son sees. Her balding eyebrows are arched high above eyes that are wide-open in fear.


In the split second that our cars pass, I take all of this in. I never noticed it before … just how many learners are riding with their permitters.  And I think, “This is not the worst thing.”

The worst thing will be next year, when all the minivans are filled with empty shot-gun seats, our sons are driving alone, and we mothers are waiting with lumps in our throats for them to come home.  


I hope I look good with no eyebrows at all.


Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Dec 05

I live in a pretty incredible neighborhood. It’s not the houses, although they’re nice. It’s the families who live inside the houses … the ones that make this place feel like home.  

 

When I moved here nearly 20 years ago, I was a newlywed, just 11 months into a life-changing first year of marriage.  Of course, I was completely unaware of the transformation that would take place over the next decade. Back then I was just trying not to hyperventilate every time I realized that I now lived OTP (Outside the Perimeter, otherwise known by my in-town friends as “geographically undesirable”) in a brick house with a grassy backyard and four bedrooms that we hoped to fill with children.


[Cue Christmas music from It’s A Wonderful Life. After 15 seconds, scrape needle across record as audio foreshadowing.]


Well, things didn’t go exactly as we planned.  But when is it really ever “our” plan?


Years one through three were a blur of building a life together and hanging on desperately as time after time the foundation threatened to crumble. Instead of the traditional yearly anniversary milestones marked with paper, cotton and leather, ours were marked by heavy baggage, drug use (my ex) and crippling anxiety (me).


In between the valleys, however, we had amazing peaks. We were learning so much about life and love … dreams and reality … honesty and vulnerability, it was like going to grad school for relationships. Year four  was a period of sustenance that we thought we could sustain, and we decided to have a child. The first, we hoped, of many.


We had a slight blip in this plan, but as I said before, it wasn’t ever really our plan. Within the month, I was pregnant.  Within days, we already loved this child. That was an amazing thing: before we ever met him, we loved the little tiny organism growing inside my body.  It’s a feeling I am honored to have experienced.


Fast-forward nine months and our son was born. The year of my pregnancy was one of the calmest and healthiest in our marriage, for both of us. The next two years, not so much. But as any married couple who wants to raise children knows, after a couple of years, you begin to seriously plan for your second child.


There’s that word “plan” again.


Have you ever heard of “second child syndrome?” It is a term fertility doctors use to explain, when there is no explanation, why a couple cannot have a second child. There’s no physical or biological reason … but over the next year, trying organically and with the help of modern medicine, we could not conceive.


Oh, how I wanted that second child! Being the youngest of a family of four, I wanted my son to experience what the love of siblings.


But I fought against projecting these feelings onto my son – after all, he didn’t know what he didn’t know, right? He was experiencing a different kind of childhood, one in which he could not only mix the cake batter, but lick the spoon AND the bowl, without having to call dibs.


I was the one who had to get over it. I had to come to the realization that I would not have the family of four I always dreamed of.  After many long conversations with God (where He did most of the talking) I truly felt at peace when my husband and I decided to “stop trying.”  I marked this day on my calendar with a note: “After what the doctors have said, I feel so blessed to even have Jacob, kind of a miracle child. God knows so much more than I do, and I trust His vision.”


My husband and I briefly considered adoption. Many families in my warm neighborhood had adopted children from all over the world, and I admired and adored them. When my son was in kindergarten, he met the daughter of one such neighbor and asked me what “adopted” means.


“It’s when a child has one mommy and daddy who love her so much they want her to have the best life possible. And there’s another mommy and daddy out there who also love that child so much they adopt her to be in their family.”

My son’s reply was a barely audible, “cool.” Then he said, with hope apparent in every word, “Mom, am I adopted?”


He was visibly disappointed when I said no, and pointed out the dimple he shared with his dad; the freckles he shared with me.


Well into his adolescence now, I’m sure there are still times he wishes he was adopted and could claim no genetic connection to his parents!  And still, there are times when I wonder what kind of big brother he would have been … how it would have felt for him to have the adoration of a younger sibling… and for me to have another child to love, to guide, play Candyland with.


But that wasn’t in God’s plan.  And six years ago, when my son’s father and I divorced, I was overwhelmed once again with the certainty of my faith in His vision. For disrupting the life of one child was difficult enough -- managing our new family dynamics with just one child’s weekends and ballgames and school projects and holidays. Even though my ex and I began this next part of our journey as good friends and supportive co-parents, we both know in our hearts that if we had had more children, our path might never have taken this turn. And for our family, this path – divorce – was the healthiest thing that ever happened. 


We just didn’t plan it that way.


Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 02
Twas the night before Christmas, and I felt kinda blue-ish;
It was the first time I wished that I wasn’t so Jewish.
My boyfriend, a 7th Day Adventist he,
Was bouncing off walls filled with merry and glee.
 
He was wrapping up gifts and caroling carols,
Making hot cider and eggnog by the barrels.
“Could we have Christmas at your house?” last week he had asked;
“My mom called to say she’s not up to the task.”
 
“Of course,” I’d said sweetly, but inside I was balking.
All I know of Christmas would not fill a stocking.
Me with my latkes, menorahs, Oy Vey!
To me Christmas Eve’s just a late shopping day.
 
It’s okay, I thought, I’ve got one week to cram, 
 As Sean called from the kitchen, “We’ll just order a ham.” 
“I’m Kosher,” I cried, “You can’t serve pig here!” 
“It’s tofu,” he said, “they’re all vegans, my dear.”
 
Oh, yes, I’d forgotten what Adventists eat. 
So, an all-dairy Christmas, with mystery meat. 
He added, “No dreidel – that’s a gambling game. 
My whole family will die of original shame.”
 
“We’ll just keep it simple, straightforward, low-key, 
They won’t even notice there isn’t a tree.” 
“We’ll sit around talking, sharing Christmases past. 
We’ll sing, we’ll play cards – honey, you’ll have a blast.”
 
“What? No dancing? No drinking? No family feuds? 
What this party needs is a few boisterous Jews.” 
As if right on cue, there arose such a clatter, 
I set down the blintzes to see what was the matter.
 
Outside it was snowing, but sloshing right through 
Was my whole friggin’ family – surprise! The Jew Crew. 
My brother Avromi and his second ex-wife, 
Who can’t tell a clean story to save her own life. 
 
Behind her I saw Uncle Ben and Aunt Sable, 
Soon they’d be drinking us under the table.
There’s Moisha and Sasha and Bubby and Zada, 
All with their doggy bags to take some “fuh laytah.” 
 
My mom and my dad with a car full of toys -- 
I prayed that they wouldn’t call anyone “goys.”
 
My stomach was churning, Oh! What a disaster! 
Could Christmas Eve please just this once go by faster? 
Before I could faint, Sean’s own family arrived, 
Spiritual and sober -- I just prayed they’d survive.
 
My sister Shoshana slaps them all on the back, 
And tells them she’s no longer addicted to crack. 
My gay nephew Aaron hits on Sean’s younger brother; 
My father – who’s 80 – tries to French kiss Sean’s mother.
 
As Sean’s folks milled around I heard one of them say, 
“How the hell do they do this each year for eight days?” 
But Sean’s family’s not shaken, they’re still very formal. 
They gotta be thinking: This makes our family seem normal.
 
My boyfriend just hugs me and kisses my head. 
“See honey?” he says, “So far no one’s dead.” 
“We’re all here together, there was nothing to fear. 
“Hey, all!” he yells suddenly, “same place next year!”
 
You have to be kidding, my thoughts nearly burst, 
No Christmas here next year, I’ll kill myself first. 
But at the end of the night as the little ones yawn, 
And I take back my jewelry they’d stolen to pawn,
I have to admit my eyes feel a slight mist-ness, 
When my son cries, “I’m Jewish, but I’m glad you’re all Christmas!"

 

 

Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 15-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 16

I don’t know much about this week’s ShareWIK topic, osteoporosis, other than it’s one of the many things I now lose sleep over now that I'm over 50. That’s assuming I actually fall sleep in between hot flashes and pre-menopausal insomnia. 


I also know I must eat right, stay active and see my physician for the seemingly endless series of tests that must be scheduled as a result of having lived five decades. As if receiving my invitation to join AARP exactly on my birthday was not reminder enough that I am officially entering my “senior” years, I am supposed to voluntarily sign up to be poked, prodded and pressed in places I don’t think were meant to be exposed to someone I’m not in a relationship with. And only some of these tests allow for the evasion of embarrassment with a sidecar of anesthesia.


But I will get tested yearly, dark spaces be damned! because my goal is to be a strong, healthy, flexible old lady. Oh, I’m sorry – my 15-year-old son has just corrected me: to continue to be a strong, healthy, flexible old lady. 


Nice, huh?


So while I don’t know much about bone disease (yet), I do know a bit about the unrelated but similarly-named affliction commonly referred to as “bad to the bone.”


You see, as a divorce blogger and author of the book, Back On Top, I have the opportunity to speak to other divorced men and women all the time -- in workshops, in online communities, through emails they write and interviews I conduct … even just standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to get my car serviced. Everyone wants to talk about love -- especially love gone wrong.


I am often amazed at the stories of hurt, revenge, disrespect and betrayal; stories about people who, at one time in their lives, loved each other enough to make promises of “death do us part;” who wanted to be together to make babies and plans for retirement, but who engaged in thoughtless, cruel and often outrageous activities.


But what I’m even more amazed about is human resiliency; the ability of scorned men and women to pick themselves up, move on and trust and love again.


For the people whose stories sound more like a Lifetime movie than real life, I don’t know how they get past the ghosts of relationships past; how they get over loving someone who turned out to be bad to the bone.


But they do.


There are the larger-than-life stories of husbands who had affairs with their wife’s best friend, their wife’s mother, and in one case, their wife’s sister-in-law. (Yes, that is confusing. But after you figure it out it may make you queasy.)


There are the spouses who led an entire second life – another family, another circle of friends, another house payment – in another state.


I know of one husband who found his wife in the arms of another man at the Caribbean resort he had taken her to for a romantic getaway.  Perhaps the husband had not made it clear to his now ex-wife that he expected the romance on this vacation to be between the two of them.


I know of dozens of less dramatic, but no less heartbreaking, stories. The woman whose husband came home one night after 25 years of marriage and told her "I just didn’t love you that way anymore.” The woman who left her husband and child with no explanation – not even a text message. The woman who, the day her husband was killed in a car accident, found a diary in his desk drawer, detailing his secret liaisons over the past several years.


These are heartbreaking stories, all right. But the people who tell them to me are proof that with the proper care, a positive attitude, and often professional therapy, a broken heart can mend and even become stronger.


It’s true that I typically talk to divorced men and women months or even years after the initial pain. They’ve had time to think, learn, grow … and forgive. Forgive their spouses, and most importantly, forgive themselves. For we often blame ourselves for not being smarter; for not seeing sooner; for not being everything our spouses desired.


I encourage forgiveness in my book, in my workshops, in my conversations at the grocery store and car dealership. I believe that carrying around anger, resentment and bitterness only hurts us more. I know that if we can’t let go, we can’t move on.


Of course, sometimes we still feel the pangs of our broken hearts. Sometimes the painful memories come rushing in, stinging our eyes and knocking the wind out of us … again. Sometimes thoughts of what might have been overpower the reality of what we are rebuilding.


But the people I know who have survived these “bad to the bone” stories are moving on. They laugh and date, make new friends and work new jobs, as if they didn’t live through their own personalTitanic. Sure, like me, they worry about financial stability, the effects of divorce on their children, who they will grow old with. But they refuse to let the hurt continue to hurt them. Instead, they use humor, faith and friendship to get them through the rough patches on their new roads.


I am grateful to be part of their lives, to learn and laugh right along with them.  Because from them I have learned “What I Know Now”: that the best medicine for surviving someone who is bad-to-the-bone is to live a happy, healthy life.


Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 15-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, Huffington Post divorce blogger, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared on Good Day Atlanta, Great Day St. Louis, South Florida Today, and dozens of local and national radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.




For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 




©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 


Jan 30

Just last weekend at a party, my friends had tears rolling down their cheeks, they were laughing so hard as I was telling one of my “stupid Ginger stories,” about the time my boyfriend and I were at an art exhibit that was so crowded we had to walk single file down a long hallway. My boyfriend and I were still holding hands as we side-stepped between the narrow walls. People kept stopping me to say hello, which would pull my boyfriend up short, as he was still holding my outstretched hand. 

About the third time this happened, I got engrossed in a story a friend was telling me. While my hand was still stretched out behind me, holding my boyfriend’s hand, my face and body were turned the other way, hanging on to every word my friend was saying. I knew I was taking too long, so I started gently caressing my boyfriend’s hand behind me – rubbing his palm, giving his hand little squeezes, letting him know I was trying to hurry. As my friend finished telling her story, I turned around to continue following my boyfriend down the hall, and I see that I have been holding hands with a complete stranger! Not just holding hands, practically making love to his hand! That’s when he smiled and revealed a mouth full of gold teeth. I stammered an apology, but he and his friends just laughed and said they thought it was a riot. I could see my boyfriend smirking in good cheer a few feet away. There I had been, engrossed in a story, with my hand outstretched behind me, sending private love signals to an urban rap artist I’d never met!



Jan 30

Last night I went to the movies with my boyfriend, wearing something I’ve never worn on a date.

My eyeglasses.

You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal?” Well, I am legally blind without corrective lenses. I’ve been wearing contacts since I was 10 years old, when my mom let me trade in my Coke-bottle glasses – the first of many mini-makeovers.

I have not voluntarily worn my glasses outside the house since 1970.

But last night, I did.

To be honest, I’m not even sure my boyfriend would have noticed if I hadn’t told him.  We’ve been dating for four years, and he’s one of those boyfriends who absolutely thinks his girlfriend is beautiful.

It’s me that makes me feel ugly.

And I’ve been doing it since I was seven years old, when I decided that since I wasn’t pretty, I better develop a good personality.

It’s one of the reasons I write and tell stories; in fact, when we left a party last week where I had been sharing what I call my “stupid Ginger stories” (click here to read one), my boyfriend hugged me and said, “You sure are funny.”

Without pause, I said, “That’s because I grew up ugly.

“From the time I was in first grade, I wore blue plastic cat-eye glasses with lenses so thick they could start a fire; I had a space between my teeth in which you could slide a nickel and a quarter, plus my teeth were gray from some combination of fever and antibiotics when I was little. And on top of all that, I was a skinny, freckled redhead.

“In fact,” I said, “I should have just started there: I was born a redhead with freckles.”

My boyfriend, who must be trying to block out the horrifying image of me as a carrot-topped, gap-toothed, undernourished child, says, “Well, you’re beautiful now.”

“Compared to then, maybe,” I say, though I would never use the term beautiful to describe myself. “But don’t go all magnanimous on me,” I add jokingly, “just because it’s not that hard to date me now.”

And while I am mostly kidding, there is absolute truth in what I’m saying.

Little girls know which other little girls are the pretty ones. They are the ones who receive Valentines and Secret Santa’s. They have boyfriends when they are five years old. They get kisses on the playground.

Suffice it to say, with my cat-eye glasses and curly red hair, I was not getting a bunch of love notes.

But if someone needed help with homework or a friend to lift their spirits, they sat with me at lunch. They hung out by my locker. They came over after school where we stole Hydrox cookies and made up stories and laughed until our stomachs hurt.

And then, at some point – much earlier than I knew at the time – a butterfly started to emerge. I got contact lenses. My teeth grew together and my mother showed me how to use peroxide to make them brighter. There were products to tame my mass of red curls. And freckles didn’t look so bad above a perky 34C.

I did not see the metamorphosis right away; I spent the next 15 years thinking I was still an ugly duckling – not thin enough, not pretty enough, not graceful enough, not worthy enough -- not, well, blonde enough;  never really seeing the girl in the mirror.

When I turned 40, my friend Betty showed me a picture of my 19-year-old self. I simply could not believe it. In the picture I still have red curly hair and freckles. But I am wearing a coral bikini and walking out of the ocean and I am, in a word, hot. I look at this picture in disbelief. I cannot believe my thighs are that thin, my stomach is that flat, my breasts are that … perfect. I cannot believe that mischievous smile is so bright, the teeth so even, the eyes so sparkly. I never, ever, ever felt as adorable as this picture shows that I was – not some Barbie-doll definition, but beautiful as in healthy, happy, alluring. Betty told me to remember this moment, because when I turn 60, she said I’ll look at a picture of myself on this day – at age 40 -- and be just as amazed … and wonder why I wasted so many years believing I never looked good enough.

It hurts me to think of that little girl that was me… how blind she was to her own beauty and how hard she tried to please people to make up for it. And yet, would I be the person I am today if I hadn’t sized myself up and found myself lacking?  Would I have lived the life I have -- using my brain and following my dreams and choosing kindness and love over cynicism and exclusion?

A few years ago, I got my hair straightened. It was the first time I could put my hair in a ponytail. It was the first time I could flip my hair with a flirty toss of my head. It was the first time I didn’t wake up in the morning looking like a cross between Ronald McDonald and that comedian, Carrot Top. I felt prettier than I had in my whole life. 

I smiled at myself in the mirror; I looked good, I felt good, I am, blessedly, good. I started to walk away, then turned back to the mirror and said, "Girl, you may have straight hair, but inside you are still that gap-toothed, frizzy-haired, freckled little goofy girl.

"And don’t you ever forget it."  




Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 15-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, Huffington Post divorce blogger, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared on Good Day Atlanta, Great Day St. Louis, South Florida Today, and dozens of local and national radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Feb 28

Not long after my husband and I separated, I read a report published in Self magazine, which had surveyed 1,500 women across the U.S about the sex they’d had the previous week.  At the time,I had not had sex in hundreds of previous weeks, and this seemed about as close as I was likely to get any time soon.  Wanna know if what turns you on turns on the rest of our gender?


Read on.


The Most Popular Day of the Week


There’s more than one way to see some action on Monday night, and I’m not talkin’ NFL. Apparently more women have sex on Mondays than any other day of the week (77 percent).  It seems as if Monday is the true Hump Day, since Wednesday weighs in at 68 percent.  Thursday is the day most women fly solo, with 31 percent “taking matters into their own hands.”  On Friday, more women engage in kissing than any other day of the week (71 percent), and Friday and Saturday tie for giving (45 percent) and receiving (37 percent) oral sex.  Two more reasons for the four-day work week, if you ask me.


Twenty-three percent of the women surveyed said their best sex of the week happened on Saturday, and 58 percent of the Saturday sexers did it during the day. (Presumably with the shades drawn, but there weren’t specifics on this.)


How’s Your Attention Deficit Disorder?


For me, sex is its own delightful distraction. So I found it was surprising how many women said they were often distracted by other things during sex. Where is that damn Ritalin when you need it?  Thirty percent of women said they were distracted by thoughts of work; 29 percent said having kids at home kept them from giving sex their full attention. Tied at 17 percent were “random thoughts” (quit racking your brain about the year Julia Roberts played Pretty Woman. You can Google it later.) and “concerns about body image” (ladies, the men are just happy you’re naked! Stop obsessing!)  Four percent of women were worried about body odors or passing gas.  (God, I hope I can get these statistics out of my head by Saturday.)


Even more revealing to me was the revelation that 41 percent of women, while engaged in sex, are wondering how soon it will be over; 19 percent are thinking how bad the sex is. Seriously? These women are what give the rest of us a bad name.  At the time I was reading the article, I was thinking any sex would be good sex, especially if it was not my regular Thursday night gig (see Days of the Week, above).  Fortunately, 57 percent of women are thinking the sex they are having is great.


Cougars and High-Achievers


Re-reading the survey today, I was thrilled to see that sex is as good or better with age. Being an accidental Cougar myself (and having written an entire chapter in my book as to why many men like older women) I rest my case on these facts: women ages 35-50 are more likely to initiate sex, a welcome change for any partner who is usually the one knocking on the door.  Older women are also more confident that they’ll have an orgasm and they actually do have orgasms more often than younger women.  (And while we may tell our guy that an orgasm is not always the goal, deep down it may still be the score he's shooting for.)


One of my favorite parts of the survey were tips from women termed “Action Heroines.! Think Wonder Woman in garters and a red, white and blue thong. According to the survey, Action Heroines are women who have sex five times a week.  I know you’re thinking, “When do they have time to shave their legs?” The truth is, when you’re having that much sex (with the same partner) no one gives a damn about your stubble, trust me. The Heroines – or high achievers, as I like to call them – don’t think about being too tired or too stressed for sex; instead, they think of sex as a way to release stress. They think about how sex will rejuvenate them. They also just plain think about sex. A lot.  


And here’s something that may surprise you: 22% of the women having the most sex are Do-It-Yourselfers more than five times a week. Contrary to what you might have heard, women who masturbate do not have LESS sex with their partner; they actually have MORE sex with him. Another myth busted: one is not the loneliest number.


Married Sex is Not an Oxymoron


For all the women who aspire to be married AND have sex, there’s good news: 66 percent of married women had sex at least one time in the week before the survey – the same percentage as single women.  Want more proof that marriage is not the fun-sucker it’s often portrayed to be? Married women are more likely than singles to have an orgasm during sex -- 67 percent versus 50 percent.  (Okay, so maybe sometimes it actually is the goal.)


What Women Want

Here’s the part you need to copy and paste into a text to your man (in fact, according to my own personal survey, sensual texting can actually serve as foreplay).  Top on the list of What Women Really Like: kissing, necking, making out. No matter what you call it, a whopping 87 percent of the women surveyed ranked lip-locking as their favorite intimate activity.  


A close second: 82 percent enjoy clitoral stimulation (good thing this survey was not taken door-to-door, like the U.S. Census).  I admit to being pleasantly surprised that 70 percent of women like having their nipples played with (I think this takes particular skill, as there is a fine line between arousing and annoying). Just over half of the women (66 percent) said they love receiving oral sex/ (Maybe the other 34 percent think it's better to give than receive.)


So where does this leave you on the scale from Not-Tonight to Nymph?  Hopefully kissing your partner while having an orgasm while not thinking about work but instead thinking about how great the sex is on a Monday evening, a Wednesday night and/or a Saturday afternoon.


You just might discover you’re an Action Heroine, too.



Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 15-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, Huffington Post divorce blogger, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 





©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 12

I have this friend … No, it’s not me. I could never write this about myself because I have a teenage son who would be more embarrassed by his mother than usual if he thought this were about me.


So… I have this friend. And until a few days ago, her boyfriend had been traveling the entire month.  And because they have only been dating for four years, they are still at the stage when they were looking forward to “reuniting.”  They planned a quiet evening when no one was home, shared a glass of wine and some spicy Thai food … but something went terribly wrong.


During their reunion, which, contrary to what my friend’s married friends might think, was not “hanging-from-the-chandelier”-type reuniting, but just a regular girl-on-top reunion, my friend’s lower back suddenly seized up.


She had a spasm, which, coincidentally, sort of rhymes with orgasm.


My friend does not think this is funny. 


And although spasm and orgasm sound similar, having the former when you are expecting the latter is not a pleasant turn of events.


At least, that’s what my friend told me. 


And while the reaction to a spasm and an orgasm may even resemble each other: shuddering, moaning, crying out, “Oh, My God!”  the two are not even remotely related physically.  Still, because of this resemblance, it did take her boyfriend a few minutes to detect that something was not quite right. (Of course, she was trying to quietly “breathe through it” so as not to ruin the, uh, moment.)


That’s what she said.


So when the finale of their reunion ended rather abruptly on the heels of this org-spasm, she slid to the floor and managed to get flat on her back, thinking she would just lay there until she died of humiliation or until her boyfriend realized that she could no longer move her body from the waist down.


After an hour, when she could move a little bit without gasping at the sharp pain, she did some stretching, icing and groaning (which at other times might have been construed as foreplay) until she was able to move back to the bed for a night of Advil-induced sleep.

The next day, she decided to work from home so that every hour she could get up from her computer where she toils as a freelance … accountant, and repeat her regimen of stretch-ice-groan.  While stretching, she thought she would turn on the television to drown out her four-letter expletives and self-indulgent cries of, “Why me?”


It occurred to her that she might become the oldest woman ever to adopt an abstinence-only, born-again-virgin lifestyle. “Where do they sell those damn promise rings?” she wondered. 


Hey, I’m just telling it like she told me.


While stretching on the floor and seriously wondering if she would have to lie there until someone came home, she tuned in to a talk show hosted by someone named Wendy Williams.  She had never heard of Wendy Williams, but she immediately liked her candidness. She thought Wendy looked like the kind of woman who actually could have the hanging-from-the-chandelier kind of sex. But she wondered as she studied Wendy, are those her real cheekbones? How did she get to be so damn tall? Where did she get those enormous breasts? Is Wendy Williams a transvestite?”


Remember, she was under the influence of muscle relaxers.


Coming to her senses, she realized she was getting Wendy Williams and RuPaul confused. Don’t laugh – there’s a whole website dedicated to this confusion.  I know because my friend told me when she Googled it.


After nearly an hour of stretching and channel-surfing, she realized that every other commercial on daytime TV is from a law firm declaring that they will help those who have been injured get bigger settlements, more recovery time, a reality TV show.


That’s when it occurs to her: “Hey, I’m injured. Who can I sue?”


The problem is, the only person complicit in her injury is her boyfriend.


Still, she thinks she may have a case. In order to sue, you’d need to prove negligence. He’d been traveling for three weeks – that alone is grounds for abandonment, isn’t it?

And, he is a much younger man, well aware of their age difference. He should have a) started with a warm-up; b) ensured proper hydration;  c) led her in some stretching exercises; d) taken it upon himself to do most of the “work.”


At least, that was her argument.


Upon further reflection, she realized that her boyfriend will be pissed – and mortified – if she files suit against him. It must have been the combination of muscle relaxers and wine that made her think of such a thing in the first place.


Wondering if she will ever again be intimate without her low back forcing her to scream (and then pretending that scream was actually due to the throes of ecstasy, not agony) she calls her mom for advice.


Her mom picks up, gasping for breath, explaining that she can’t talk right now because she just threw out her back putting away the groceries.


That’s it! She’ll sue her parents. They both have bad backs. Did they ever once stop to consider their genetic predisposition to ruining her sex life? Certainly that’s grounds for a law suit.


Satisfied, she smiles. Because she knows that her parents will settle out of court just to keep the word “orgasm” out of her blog the papers.


I mean, that’s what she told me.



Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 15-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, Huffington Post divorce blogger, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.  

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here. 




©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Jan 02

It’s my favorite because by the end of the year, I’m usually a little stressed and the holidays

make me a little crazier.  I’m trying to make sure that the “yours-mine-and-ours” time with

our son, his grandparents, his cousins, his father, my boyfriend’s family and me all

balances out.  This sardonic take on the well-loved poem helps me remember to put it all

in perspective, and that for our crazy family, laughter truly is the common denominator

and the purest demonstration of our love.


Twas the night before Christmas, and I felt kinda blue-ish;

It was the first time I wished that I wasn’t so Jewish.

My boyfriend, a 7th Day Adventist he,

Was bouncing off walls filled with merry and glee.

 

He was wrapping up gifts and caroling carols,

Making hot cider and eggnog by the barrels.

“Could we have Christmas at your house?” last week he had asked;

“My mom called to say she’s not up to the task.”

 

“Of course,” I’d said sweetly, but inside I was balking.

All I know of Christmas would not fill a stocking.

Me with my latkes, menorahs, Oy Vey!

To me Christmas Eve’s just a late shopping day.

 

It’s okay, I thought, I’ve got one week to cram, 

 As Sean called from the kitchen, “We’ll just order a ham.” 

“I’m Kosher,” I cried, “You can’t serve pig here!” 

“It’s tofu,” he said, “they’re all vegans, my dear.”

 

Oh, yes, I’d forgotten what Adventists eat. 

So, an all-dairy Christmas, with mystery meat. 

He added, “No dreidel – that’s a gambling game. 

My whole family will die of original shame.”

 

“We’ll just keep it simple, straightforward, low-key, 

They won’t even notice there isn’t a tree.” 

“We’ll sit around talking, sharing Christmases past. 

We’ll sing, we’ll play cards – honey, you’ll have a blast.”

 

“What? No dancing? No drinking? No family feuds? 

What this party needs is a few boisterous Jews.” 

As if right on cue, there arose such a clatter, 

I set down the blintzes to see what was the matter.

 

Outside it was snowing, but sloshing right through 

Was my whole friggin’ family – surprise! The Jew Crew. 

My brother Avromi and his second ex-wife, 

Who can’t tell a clean story to save her own life. 

 

Behind her I saw Uncle Ben and Aunt Sable, 

Soon they’d be drinking us under the table.

There’s Moisha and Sasha and Bubby and Zada, 

All with their doggy bags to take some “fuh laytah.” 

 

My mom and my dad with a car full of toys -- 

I prayed that they wouldn’t call anyone “goys.”

 

My stomach was churning, Oh! What a disaster! 

Could Christmas Eve please just this once go by faster? 

Before I could faint, Sean’s own family arrived, 

Spiritual and sober -- I just prayed they’d survive.

 

My sister Shoshana slaps them all on the back, 

And tells them she’s no longer addicted to crack. 

My gay nephew Aaron hits on Sean’s younger brother; 

My father – who’s 80 – tries to French kiss Sean’s mother.

 

As Sean’s folks milled around I heard one of them say, 

“How the hell do they do this each year for eight days?” 

But Sean’s family’s not shaken, they’re still very formal. 

They gotta be thinking: This makes our family seem normal.

 

My boyfriend just hugs me and kisses my head. 

“See honey?” he says, “So far no one’s dead.” 

“We’re all here together, there was nothing to fear. 

“Hey, all!” he yells suddenly, “same place next year!”

 

You have to be kidding, my thoughts nearly burst, 

No Christmas here next year, I’ll kill myself first. 

But at the end of the night as the little ones yawn, 

And I take back my jewelry they’d stolen to pawn,

I have to admit my eyes feel a slight mist-ness, 

When my son cries, “I’m Jewish, but I’m glad you’re all Christmas!"


Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a regular blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group LLC

Jan 16

More than one-third of Americans made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight this year.* Sometimes this makes me sad. Shouldn’t we be reaching for loftier goals like world peace? If we put our collective yearning together, couldn’t we find a cure for poverty, an end to domestic violence?

But framed another way (as my friend Andrea suggested), this resolution is really about transforming the way we see ourselves; to believe that we are worthy enough to care for ourselves by eating right, exercising, and finding balance. **

 

So, taking this suggestion to heart, perhaps this age-old New Year’s resolution is not about losing body weight; it’s about dropping the weight of the world ... shedding the burden of taking care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves.

 

Coming from someone who weighs about the same as I did in high school (although a lot of things have shifted to slightly lower latitudes) but who is a master at putting everyone else first, I could really use this transformation.

 

Let me be the first to wish us all a lighter 2012.

 

And just because I’ve mostly been about the right weight for my height (if you don’t count my “Freshman 15”), doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes often wish I weighed less, ate healthier and had better stamina.  Part of it, for me, is that I have a commitment to the clothes in my closet. If I spent $100 on a pair of designer jeans 12 years ago, they are just getting good and vintage right about now and I’ll be damned if I give them away just because they squeeze my muffin top in a way that frequently causes me to see stars due to restricted breathing.

 

I even have an idea for a website about well-loved clothes: How Old Is Your Closet? A place where people can post pictures of themselves in their favorite, oldest clothes that they still wear. (Minus the entire decade of the 80s; even if a jacket fits, we are not doing massive shoulder pads anymore. And I don’t care who’s wearing acid-wash jeans, you are not going to keep that pair with the waistband that’s practically up to your sternum.)

 

So regardless of what I weigh, I am one of those people who weighs herself every morning. This time of year, it’s to ensure that I am not on my weigh way to gaining the eight pounds that experts say the average American adds between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.

 

It’s also to ensure that I will still be able to slip on the $200 silk two-piece top I splurged on more than 10 years ago but that is still my go-to outfit whenever I have a special event that’s neither business nor cocktail (and was one of my first-date saviors when I began dating-after-divorce). I thought this top was extravagant when I bought it on my 40th birthday, but amortized over 12 years, at about 12 wearings a year, that’s less than $1.50 per wearing, and I'm still counting on it. As long as I don't gain any more back-flab. 

 

This morning as I was weighing myself naked in my closet (doesn’t everybody?), my phone beeped to remind me that I had a doctor’s appointment next week. That got me wondering about how much my clothes weigh, as I will be stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office fully clothed (they frown on me taking off my clothes in the lobby).

 

So I weighed myself and the numbers stopped at 123. That’s about right for me, although I’ve been several pounds higher and I admit, for no apparent reason, I prefer when it says 122 and would be stunned and delighted and would have to check its battery if it said 120. I have often wondered what the results would be if they did a study on female behavior that involves changing the scale so it weighs about five pounds lighter every morning. I think if you told a woman her scale showed she’d lost five pounds overnight she would immediately feel sexier, happier and more confident. What does that say about us, I wonder? I bet it would help offset the symptoms of PMS and menopause. How can you be irritable when you’ve basically just been given permission to eat chocolate? Conversely, if you really want to start a war, make everyone’s scale weigh 10 pounds heavier. I would NOT want to work in that office.


So when I go to the doctor, I typically weigh about five to 10 pounds more than my morning scale, and I always just chalked it up to whatever I’m wearing. I decided I should get the real deal, and see exactly what my clothes weigh. (Clearly I don’t have much of a life.) Here’s what I found: my jeans weigh two pounds. Gone are the days of vintage Levis, the jeans that could stop my mother’s washing machine due their water-weight. Now we have spandex and moleskin and distressed denim that keep jeans nice and light. Great.


My shoes weigh just a pound and a half.


My bra doesn't even register when I slip it on and get back on the scale. Of course, that gets me thinking that the combined weight of my boobs has to count for something, but there’s no lady-like way to weigh my breasts so I move on.   

 

By the time I have all my clothes on, I’ve added just under four pounds. Not the five-to-10 that I usually attribute to my wardrobe at my doctor weigh-in. And don’t start with my jacket or my purse – we all know those are the first items we set down. And truth be told, sometimes I kick off my shoes!  So now I’d be down to just two pounds extra!

 

I take a deep breath, slide the scale back under the shelf where it will lurk for another day, and remember it’s not about the number. It's about letting go of the pounds of regret, obligation, guilt (I will never win Mother-of-the-Year), wouldas, couldas, shouldas, and especially the weight of the girl who thinks she has to please everyone. 


It’s about the way I see myself.

 

That’s when I go to the mirror and realize, I gotta do something about those wrinkles.

  

* according to Thomas-Reuters-NPR Health Poll

** If you truly want to transform your life, I highly recommend Andrea Rosenthal, owner of Life & Career Soulutions. If healthy eating is your goal – once and for all – please visit my friend Sandy Dalis at www.cravenutrition.net. Two of my favorite and most inspiring friends!

 

 

Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a contributing blogger for The Balancing Act, Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Apr 23

Nearly two years after I began post-divorce dating, I understood this new world well enough to realize just how clueless I was. Right out of the box the first man I met turned out to be married. Another man had posted an online photo that was so outdated when I went to meet him for our date – looking for a tall, slim man with curly brown hair and a nice smile – I literally didn’t recognize the half-centurion who called out my name. Gone was the slim and the hair, and his smile was obscured by the smoke curling out from his cigarette. I even met a man who nearly knocked over our cocktails with his laptop to impress me with dozens of photos of women he had dated previously.  (I actually was pretty impressed.)


After so many false starts, I learned to be more discerning. I could spot a “player” within three lines of an IM; I could mark a stalker after the first post-date text; I even learned the red flags of an already-committed man. But I was still completely unprepared when, several months into my first real relationship as a divorcee, it looked as if I might actually have sex again before I died. It had been years since I had been naked in front of anything but my bathroom mirror, and I was terrified. Worse, I had no single girlfriends to consult. But I did have my friend Graham – young, single, part-time therapist/full-time stylist to some of the hippest women in the suburbs (no, that is not an oxymoron).  He told me about a party one of his clients was having – all single women.  He said I should go to learn more about dating. To get some answers and maybe take a few pictures. He made it clear that Girls Gone Wild was PG compared with this group.

Even now, it’s hard for me to believe I had the courage to go. I must have walked up to the door of the party’s mini-mansion half a dozen times and back down to my car, overcome with uncertainty and nausea. Finally, the door opened and the party’s hostess, Pamelia, smiled at me and said, “Are you ever going to come?” and I remember thinking, this is going to be a night of double entendres.

Giving me a warm hug, Pamelia said, “You must be Ginger, Graham’s friend.  Come on in, we’ve been waiting for you.”

I followed her through an obscenely large foyer and down the marble steps to the “party room,” where the festivities had obviously started some time ago, based on the noise level and half-empty bottles. True to Graham’s word there were only women here, but they didn’t look anything like my neighborhood Garden Club. There were women with tattoos, thigh-high boots, biker gear, and pierced tongues. There were women in short skirts, lingerie, and one in a metallic bikini. And they were in the middle of playing a game where everyone had written down a question on a slip of paper and put it in a jar; whoever pulled out a question had to answer it. As I walked in, the women suspended their game mid-pull, and everyone came over to hug me and make sure I had at least one tequila shooter. They asked me to write down a question right then and there, just as a woman named Mollie announced she had a new piercing in a very private place. There was a group “ooooooh” as Mollie stepped out of her jeans to show us what looked like the most painful thing I could ever imagine (and I had natural childbirth). I tried not to wince.

That’s when someone grabbed my question out of my hand. It said, “What is the current style of bikini waxing?”

I have never seen so many pants go down at once in my whole life, and I used to potty-train preschoolers. Every girl there wanted to show me the very latest in trendy trimming. Note to self: This is not your mother’s bikini wax.

First up, Ellie insisted that bare is beautiful. She was nearly finished with 30 laser treatments to achieve this level of nothingness.

“Does it hurt?” I asked, definitely wincing.

“Like a mother#$%^r,” she said proudly.

Lucinda agreed with bare-is-best, but she preferred waxing. Several other girls declared that a “landing strip” was today’s look. Of course, they had to explain to me that a landing strip is when you remove all of your pubic hair except for a narrow strip in the very center. Oh, and nobody at the party said pubic hair, okay? And I can tell you that no one had the natural look that every Playboy centerfold from the 1950s to the 1980s sported; that’s what I get for divorcing at the turn of the century.

As bizarre as this girl-party was, it was great to have so much new knowledge. Who else could I have asked about trimming and tweezing and Trojans? Now, I thought, if I ever do get naked again, at least I won’t look like a born-again virgin.


Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

May 22

We have been looking for a summer job for the past several weeks, my son and I. Yes, I said “We,” even though I have a full-time career.  But at the in-between age of 14 ½, my son requires some help. Of course, he would debate this point. My son believes that if he fills out an application, hands it to the manager and the manager says he will call, the job will soon be his. 


What is MTV teaching these kids?


As a mother, I am still at the stage where I believe what I say and do can make a real difference. So one day, I tell my son we are going to work on his resume. Again, there’s that “we.”  Then I take my son to make copies of his resume.  As I tell him about my first “real” job, as a 14-year old office lackey at my eye doctor’s office, it hits me that my son can’t even get a file-and-make-copies-job as he puts his document in the Xerox machine and out comes a blank piece of paper.

It’s not Music Television that’s failing my son, it’s ME.

My enabling tendencies did not disappear the moment my son’s father and I divorced; it appears that they simply transferred to my son, and it is I who needs an intervention, not my son.

I am unable to help myself from “helping.” The following week, I explain to my son that he needs to revisit the places to which he’s applied; I was told by one grocery store bagger that my son needs to update his online application every month and to “bug” the manager.  When I relay this to my son, he clearly thinks this is some kind of sick joke.

“Why would bugging the manager make him give me a job? I’d just be annoying him.”

Now, many of you can likely hear your own parents’ job-search advice replaying in your mind: “You need to show persistence and initiative; let the employer know you really want the job.”

 I remember the summer I graduated from college. I had graduated Magna cum Laude, interviewed with several large companies, had several call-backs, but I still did not have a job.  I came “home” to continue my search.

After four years of living on my own, coming back to my parents’ house was not exactly what I had in mind.  Worst of all, after a full day of interviews, my dad would greet me at the door with unending questions and “helpful advice.” Still, it is my father who instilled in me my deep work ethic, attention to detail, and respect for employers.

I just wish I knew how he did it.


I do know that I reacted to him much the same way my son does to me when asked, “Where did you look for a job today? What did you say? What did they say? Did you look him in the eye? Did you smile?” (The Jewish inquisition is an ancient parenting strategy in our culture. It’s why so few of us ever live at home past the age of 18.)


Although I have a vested interest in my son getting a job and getting off the X-box, my friends tell me I need to let him make it on his own. And my son would actually agree with this.  In fact, one of our funniest moments is him hissing at me as he got out of the car to apply for a job at a restaurant he had never been to. “LET ME DO IT ON MY OWN, MOM! IF I FAIL, THEN I’LL LISTEN TO YOU.  I’VE GOT IT UNDER CONTROL!”

“You’re right,” I said from the driver’s seat. “Go ahead; the restaurant is in the corner over there.”

My son paused mid-door-slam. “What? Come with me! I don’t know what to do!”

You can’t make this stuff up.

I got out of the car and walked through the parking lot with him, giving the barest of instructions. “Ask if they have any job openings. Ask to fill out an application. Write legibly.” Then I waved him off.  

My son did not get the restaurant job. Or the grocery store job. Or any of the other jobs he applied for. However, he has worked as a volunteer for several weeks at our local nature park, and he’s doing data entry at our community center. He also canvassed the neighborhood with a babysitting flyer and not only got his first gig, he got a call back from the same family.

Obviously, he does know what he’s doing.   And what he doesn’t know, he’ll learn.


With any luck at all, so will I.


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author ofBack On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 

 ©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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