Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A long-expected party response post

Belle,

(Finally, I can come up for air! Better late than never?)

I agree that compromise is necessary for any relationship, but they have to be compromises that you can live with and that won't drive you mad by inches, or undermine the connection between you. I was mostly joking about the gravy thing, but if one of you is a meat and potatoes person and the other is a vegan, you may miss out on the joys of being able to share meals together. I think most small annoyances are traceable to a more fundamental conflict of values and priorities. And some levels of difference just bewilder me; this woman is either a saint, or crazy, or both. But if you are comfortable treading the same path in life, stopping at the same way stations, then you're right that silly things like frat membership or musical taste are probably not dealbreakers. Your dealbreakers sound reasonable to me, and reflect more or less what I've winnowed things down to. Maybe add "not gay,": I have learned not to assume anything.

It doesn't actually sound like you could have been happy with your first love, and you weren't. There was no way to keep you from growing apart as people, unless you got married right off the bat and started cranking out babies.* But there's nothing like young love, is there? It's so overpowering and heady.

I normally dislike Caitlin Flanagan, and her generalizations are, as usual, flawed, but there's something there that speaks to my experience, at least, as a girl: The way that reading provided an utterly immersive emotional experience, and how deeply a young woman "wants to know that the boy she loves, and with whom she has shared her body, loves her and will put no other girl in her place." Not that boys can't have these feelings, but it takes so much more trust on a girl's part to do that, if only because it's physically riskier, that being spurned by young men can send you into a tailspin that's hard to pull out of. It sounds like you were willing to risk it all for your first love, and for your new one. That reminds me of this comment from Coates's second post, in reply to Phoebe, in which a commenter notes, in response to a story about someone unwilling to date non-Jewish men because she couldn't see marrying one:
And frankly, good on her. A Jewish guy in one of my college classes said he would only marry a Jew once he was old enough to be ready for that kind of commitment, but was perfectly happy to date the goyim until then. He was completely flabbergasted when the shiksas came down on him like a ton of bricks. It was hilarious; the poor guy truly could not understand the idea that ANY woman would be offended by the attitude that she's not marriageable, but perfectly fine for a rather meaningless sexual relationship.
It's a funny remark, although it presupposes that the guy was being dishonest with the girls, or that they had different goals themselves. Some people can pull off the casual dating thing, or the relationship-with-a-statute-of-limitations thing, and who wants to keep them from pursuing their serially monogamous bliss? But even the well-intentioned can go in with eyes open and expectations set low, and still learn over time that they crave more, and then you have a messy breakup. As a friend of mine says, "Have you ever had a relationship end well? I see it occasionally, but most of them end in unhappiness or death, or unhappiness leading to death." A fatalistic viewpoint, to be sure, but almost universally true.

So what have I been doing for the past week, besides musing on love?

Cooking: This onion tart is now my go-to dinner dish for company. It's savory, easy to make, fragrant, and disappears rapidly. I also made this feta salsa and these stuffed mushrooms, along with carrot cake cupcakes and my standby Bundt Cake of Love & Joy. I also made grilled cheese and this delicious creamless creamy tomato soup.

Partying: Most of the above food was consumed at my little housewarming party. Your Cheer Up! mix CD of middle-school-era R&B favorites was a source of great amusement for all. (I'm also listening to it in my car. Janet Jackson 4eva!)

I suppose this bears on the article you linked; I drink a little wine at parties, and the occasional G&T, but my peers and I are probably closer to Susan Cheever's than Moe Tkacik's in terms of alcohol consumption. Is drinking a feminist act? No more so than anything else, I warrant. That article reeks of lazy reportage and fake trendiness. But much of the woman-targeted media these days is flabby and dull. The XX Factor and Broadstreet are watered down and only marginally justify themselves (they function mostly as enclaves where female writers feel free to be chatty, with little concern for deep or acute analysis), while Jezebel has become, with its latest redesign, unreadable outside my Bloglines feed. Feministe and Feministing are bare shadows of their once-thoughtful selves. What's a lady blogger to do? (And nobody say Ladyblog! I only read it for Phoebe.)

On that tip, reading: My grandparents, generous and loving souls that they are, bought an odd assortment of books from my Amazon wishlist as Christmas gifts: A vampire/zombie apocalypse novel, which owes more than a little to 'Salem's Lot but which is fairly well-written and not "relentlessly simplistic" as some allege of the genre; a true-crime story set in Florence, which was good until the author entered the story, and some Hélène Cixous. That I haven't gotten to yet, being presently mired in some Xenophon.

What's new in your kitchen and bookshelf?

* One of my commenters likes to quip that couples have children so they have an interest in common after they begin to grow apart. This is probably the most misguided theory of relationships ever, in practice; how many times has a marriage in trouble actually been saved by a new baby? For a quick dose of maturity, you're better off in the army.

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