Thursday, July 31, 2008

Guilt Free Cheating

That disastrous ending to a seedy affair sounds about right. What's strange about the couple I blogged about is that they have been married for 14 years, are totally in love, and both have been able to go about their lives with impunity. All six of their kids get along and spend much of the summer together. The five older siblings embrace and include their 13 year old little sister. I’m sure the former spouses are none too fond of these two, but overall the lack of repercussions is striking. I want to know how it is that people who do this sort of thing get away with it—it’s just too unfair that they don’t even have to live with a twinge of guilt! Meanwhile, I feel guilty for having eaten Weight Watchers 2 point cookie snacks.

Be careful what you lust for

The moral of that story is: "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." I can't think of a more apt example than a married person feeling discontented with their own spouse as they lust for the spouse next-door.

It sounds dramatic and whirlwind-romantic, but I wonder about the prognosis for second marriages that begin in that way. You're talking about children who knew one another, probably played together, and knew (and trusted) the parents next-door. Now that parent is moving in and playing daddy? Doesn't bode well.

A friend of mine dated a dentist who had had a long-time practice with a close friend with whom he had gone to dental school. The two families knew each other well and lived in the same town. Needless to say, this successful dentist proceeded to fall in love with his partner's wife, causing both families as well as the practice to blow up. The lovers got married, and he moved into his wife's house with her children. Though the children lived with him for years, they never forgave him for ruining their lives. When his step-daughter eventually got married, he paid $30,000 toward her wedding, hoping for exoneration. Still she hated him. The upshot: husband and wife #2 got divorced. He explained to my friend that the children's resentment and misery ultimately drove him and his second wife apart, destroying the marriage.

So what did they leave in their wake? two broken families, two sets of unhappy kids, a second divorce, and a ruined practice and friendship for the former partners.


After my15 minutes of fame being on tv, plus a wonderful vacation on Nantucket, I’m back to where we left off. We were talking about husbands-- the good the bad and the ugly.

I think we all-- and this is true for both men and women--panic a little about aging, especially those of us who grew up in the ‘60’s youth culture with the mantra “never trust anyone over 30.” Let’s face it: youth rules. Every other article in a women’s magazine is about botox, restylane or Juvederm. And, the models in fashion magazines are mostly 15. The average age for retirement for a model is 24, though there seems to be a recent demand for more “sophisticated” models aged 25 and older, probably because we baby boomers are reluctant to buy skin care products from a girl who’s not old enough to legally order a martini.

It’s kind of natural that when a guy faces 50, he is desperate to hang onto his youth. Normal men buy a sports car or a motorcycle, or maybe take up playing the guitar and that’s enough to help them cope. But, others can’t stop short of abandoning all the trappings of their former life--wife, house, responsibility-- and need to find another woman to start over with. Often, she’s younger, but most important, she’s new and exciting.

I was recently introduced to a couple--he’s 60, she’s in her early 50’s. Fifteen years ago, they were neighbors and each was happily married, she with three kids, he with two. Somehow, they developed a riveting attraction and ditched their shocked spouses for one another. He gave her a massive diamond, they married the day their divorces were final, he moved into her house, and a year later they had a child, bringing the total to 6 kids between them. When I met them, they were holding hands, thrilled about spending a week alone together on a tiny island with no electricity off Nantucket. I can’t figure out if there’s any moral to this story.

Interview on the web

And check out our interview on Divorce 360:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Still Hot on Nantucket

Last Thursday we held a little wine and cheese book event co-sponsored by Nantucket Bookworks and Victoria Greenhood Jewelry Design, followed by an interview with Plum TV’s Kate Brosnan, host of the Morning, Noon & Night Show. Check out our interview on Plum TV:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Can anyone predict the ideal husband?

That priest gave sound, time-honored, indisputable advice. But here's the confusing part for me: My ex met most of those criteria. He wasn't overly tied to his mom, nor did he ignore her. He had a great sense of humor. He had lots of friends, and his parents were good people who shared a happy marriage (though his father was subject to serious depression). My ex had a decent character. Yes, he allowed me to "run" things because his life hitherto had been chaotic, so he was drawn to the stability and direction that I offered. And he wasn't one to balance the checkbook or pay the bills, so that function fell to me. He was freer about spending money than I was, but that made for a healthy balance. We complemented each other in many ways, and we shared the same values.

So I still can't put my finger on why things went so catastrophically astray. I followed that priest's guidelines, and my ex was a good husband and father for nearly 25 years. But he went through a sea change in his fifties that rendered him a depressive, narcissistic, self-pitying, lying philanderer. Did he have a weak character from the git-go that I didn't pick up on? Or can a good husband go bad? Some husbands turn to a younger woman when the gray hairs begin to sprout, while others stay contentedly with their wives. And can we really forecast which husbands will be which?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mama's Boy or Mensch: A Fine Line

If you go online and google anything along the lines of traits to look for in a spouse, invariably a long list of Islamic sites pops up --all stressing the importance of issues of faith. Religious people certainly have a lot to say about the subject.

Sue, the priest you quoted brought up some good points, and actually all of them are inter-personal and have no religious overtones. I think his point #5 is one of the most salient. He asks: Is he overly attached to his mother or her mythical apron strings?
That’s can be a deal breaker for sure, and one that often doesn’t rear its head for years, especially since young or immature men often rail about their mothers and call them only infrequently in an attempt to establish independence.

Later on though, if things aren’t going right, they want Mommy back. How many women, once their marriages are dissolving into divorce, hear a litany of complaints from their departing spouses including accusations such as “ You didn’t invite my mother to join us on the family vacation” or “ Your matzo balls aren’t as fluffy as my mother’s—why did you always refuse to let her show you how to cook?”

I’d advise any woman I know that it’s really important that a man is caring and respectful toward his mother. If he can’t treat her right, there’s no chance he’ll be able to be respectful or understanding toward his girlfriend or wife. If he doesn’t properly acknowledge his mom on Mother’s Day or her birthday, watch out! On the other hand, if he wants to include her and her advice in your relationship, bail out!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hahaha, yes Linda, I KNOW you buy the wisdom on Italian men! And I agree that Jewish men are overrated -- they're as likely to cheat as any other guy. Here's some good advice from, of all people, a Catholic priest who has been lecturing for 40 years on the qualities to look for and questions to ask in searching for the ideal husband:

1. Never marry a man who has no friends. This usually means that he will be incapable of the intimacy that marriage demands.

2. What are his friends like? What do your friends and family members think of him?

3. Does he use money responsibly? Is he stingy? Most marriages that founder do so because of money — she’s thrifty, he’s on his 10th credit card.

4. Steer clear of someone whose life you can run, who never makes demands counter to yours. It’s good to have a doormat in the home, but not if it’s your husband.

5. Is he overly attached to his mother and her mythical apron strings?

6. Does he have a sense of humor? That covers a multitude of sins.

7. The strong, silent type can be charming but ultimately destructive.

8. Don’t marry a problem character thinking you will change him. He’s a heavy drinker, or some other kind of addict, but if he marries a good woman, he’ll settle down. People are the same after marriage as before, only more so.

9. Take a good, unsentimental look at his family — you’ll learn a lot about him and his attitude towards women. Is there a history of divorce in the family? An atmosphere of racism, sexism or prejudice in his home? Are his goals and deepest beliefs worthy and similar to yours?

10. Finally: Does he possess those character traits that add up to a good human being — the willingness to forgive, praise, be courteous? Or is he inclined to be a fibber, to fits of rage, to be a control freak, to be envious of you, to be secretive?

Still Hot Goes to Nantucket

Cool off with Still Hot on Nantucket Island!
Join us for wine, cheese and conversation.
Wednesday July 23rd, 6-8 pm
at Victoria Greenhood Jewelry Design, 5 Easy Street, Nantucket.

Pick up a copy of the book ahead of time at Nantucket Bookworks, 25 Broad Street, and bring it with you to be signed!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Best and Worst Mates

Who makes the best husband – a French man, a Jewish Man, a Geek? It’s clearly each to her own.

From an American woman married to a French man: “I am told the kinds of things every woman loves to hear, I am beautiful, I am an angel and this makes me feel very loved. My husband is missing many of the American things I don't like. He doesn't drink beer, watch football or fart repulsively in front of me. Instead he helps around the house. He is more thoughtful and giving. He dresses impeccably and even takes care of his skin without me having to gripe at him. And I can't even begin to tell you what a French man is like in bed. Ooh la la…”

And in the words of Marianne Jennings, the NPR commentator: “Show me a man who wears his wrinkles proudly and I’ll show you a good husband. Show me a man with an ab machine and I’ll show you trouble... I’ll take a geek, for better or for worse, just the way he is.”

I’ve always heard that Italian men make the best lovers and that Jewish men make the best husbands. I happily buy the wisdom on Italian men. On the other hand, I can’t generalize about who makes a good husband, but if you gauge by the anecdotes on cheating husbands in our book, Jewish men don’t look so promising. I suppose if we’d interviewed a bunch of women from Beijing, we’d have found that Chinese men make lousy husbands too!

French vs. American men

I thought young Italian women looked sexier than French ones too. Partly it's because the women in Rome (when I was there) wore tiny mini-skirts and stiletto heels, while the Parisian women dressed stylishly but more on the classic/elegant side. Also, I'm told that breast implants are very popular among women in Rome, which might explain why so many of them are notably curvaceous.

The distinction between French and American men that I'm referring to has nothing to do with table manners and everything to do with honesty. The young French men I encountered when I was in my twenties and traveling solo in Paris (decades ago) were all very smooth, excessively on the make, and all the while covert and manipulative. I couldn't stand their bogus act and found it tedious to have to be on guard with them. Yes, they were romantic and polished and had the better lines -- but they weren't real. In contrast, the American guys I met while traveling were refreshingly natural and not put-on. They were just themselves -- bumps, blunders and all -- and it was fun and relaxing to hang out with them, even if they too hoped to get laid. So they're not as polished and elegant as their French counterparts, but they're more honest. This generalization is of course based on my personal experiences many years ago, but I did meet lots of men, French and American, on that trip, and truly observed these patterns.

To be fair, the vast majority of American guys have perfectly acceptable table manners -- that pig you described is such an extreme case. And G. Depardieu notwithstanding, the average French guy is smaller than the average American guy. My hair salon is full of French employees and the skinny wasp-waisted men outnumber the Depardieu's ten to one! That may not bother some women, but I prefer a man who is larger than me.

So overall, based on my experiences with both, I prefer American to French men. That said, I can readily come up with lots of complaints about American guys . . .

Monday, July 14, 2008

Diets, Manners, and More

Have you noticed that Italian women, especially in Milan and Rome, are sexy-chic and way curvier than Parisian women? And what could be more cool than an Italian woman in a belted skirt and high heels and huge fashion bag of the moment on her Vespa weaving in and out of traffic? Most urban Italian women seem to eat everything, pasta included, but in small portions. One young Roman, slimmer than most of her counterparts but still healthy looking, told us that she eats pasta or bread only on weekends, and during the week she has side dishes, no main course, for dinner. No diet food, but a diet mentality. Clearly those of us who are mindful of what we are eating do better at keeping our figures the way we’d like them to be. I’ve been giving Weight Watchers a whirl and hope I’ll see some results. The basic premise is that you eat whatever you want in small portions and stay constantly aware of what you’re consuming. Oh, for the days when all I had to do was skip a dinner and have a flat stomach!

As for French men- thankfully, not all of them are teeny tiny and skinny. Case in point: Gerard Depardieu – he’s a universally appealing, completely charming leading man and he’s actually fat. He’s also not slick or polished at all. Maybe that’s his appeal- he’s the anti-Frenchman.

I don’t know how you can place the American Schlub variety on your most wanted list, Sue! European men are taught all kinds of manners--table manners, door-opening manners, appropriate conversation manners. Lots of Americans have good manners too, but your schlub reference makes me think of the many men--and women, for that matter—whom I’ve seen chewing with their mouths open, and slurping. I once (and the operative word here is once) dated a guy who held his fork in his fist like a baby, though mostly he ate with his hands, sucking in as he swallowed, making gross snorting sounds and wiping his hands on the linen tablecloth. He kept asking "are you going to eat this?" and swiped half-eaten food, including a chicken bone, from my plate. I was amazed and thought he must have been brought up by pigs, but then I realized pigs are actually inordinately intelligent and clean creatures. As an added charming habit, he buttered his bread by pressing chewed crust onto the communal butter plate.

Friday, July 11, 2008

French women and men

The French have an admirable attitude about food -- quality over quantity -- and I think that's the key to eating well and maintaining your weight. But for me it would be difficult to forgo the super-sized American portion. During my daughter's year abroad in Paris, her French family didn't appear to worry about weight and they invariably concluded every meal with a cheese course -- a habit that I heartily endorse. She noticed that the French in general turn up their noses at the notion of "diet food" and refuse to eat it. However, the alternative seemed to be starvation. Her French sister-in-law, who was a few pounds overweight and wanted to slim down, eschewed diet food like the rest of her compatriots but instead ate nothing at all -- at most a few nibbles off her plate. She also learned that French women do have eating disorders, but unlike here, it's not acknowledged or discussed.

The fact that their food is fresher, unpasteurized and unprocessed makes it tastier, healthier, more satisfying and, I am convinced, less fattening. We can certainly take a page out of their book. Plus the women are so elegant.

On the other hand, French men are simply too tiny. Who wants to be with a man whose waist is smaller than yours? And when it comes to romance, they're a little too slick and polished for my tastes. I actually prefer the bumbling, fumfering American schlub.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I know that this blog is supposed to be about relationships, but I feel compelled to write about that other thing every woman is interested in—aging attractively. Having just spent a week in the company of three generations including a seventy year old French woman, I now can remove French Women Don’t Get Fat from my intended summer reading list. I saw first hand how a French woman can literally look 20 years younger than she is, have boundless energy, strength, flexibility and still thoroughly enjoy food and wine.
Marianne was up at 6:30 every morning making coffee, which she drinks slowly and in abundance, while she ran around playing tag with her grandkids or squatted on the floor to color with them.
For breakfast she had a thin slice of toasted German health bread with honey and another cup or two of coffee. Lunch was a salad, a couple of slices of cold turkey or ham, and a glass or two of red wine. Snacks- never. Water- here and there. Dinner was fish, shellfish or chicken, vegetables, potatoes or rice, another salad, and another couple of glasses of red wine.
I picked up on some of her“rules”: bread is only worth eating if it is fabulous or accompanied by a small piece of cheese, preferably French. Red meat is consumed only to be polite. Portions should be small and eaten slowly and with great enjoyment. Eat nothing that you’re not completely in the mood for. Once in a while indulge in ice cream or some other treat, but a square or two of dark chocolate is a daily mainstay. Have a croissant every Sunday morning, but only if it is excellent and very fresh.
So that’s the food part. The exercise part was that she was in constant motion all day long playing with the kids, and almost always standing, sitting only for meals. She does no formal exercise but walks everywhere she can.
From a distance she looks 15 and from close up, maybe 55 if she’s tired. I don’t know how much is a result of her eating habits, how much is due to never sitting down, and how much is just good luck, but I learned a lot watching her and hope that it pays off!