Oct 29, 2007

the art of negotiation

i've realized lately that we spend a lot of time negotiating things in our lives. we negotiate prices on cars, furniture and appliances, how much we're willing to pay in rent, our salaries, and the going rate for stuff on craigslist. we can now go to websites, put in our information and have lenders and insurance companies fight to negotiate with us for home loans and car insurance. we negotiate with friends about where to have dinner, what time to make plans, and our mode of transportation. we negotiate with ourselves, doing such things as promising to go to the gym an extra time during the week in order to go to the bar and drink tonight or maybe stay in and save money so that we can reward ourselves with something new that might not have been affordable had we gone out. we even negotiate with "god" when the chips are down and we really need or want some kind of miracle to happen. parents negotiate with kids, lovers and spouses negotiate with one another, consumers negotiate with sellers...the list goes on and on.

so maybe the art of negotiation should be applied to dating. maybe from the intial meeting, we can start to negotiate the terms and extent of the relationship. for example, i could go into the first date asking for a specific rate of return, i.e. every phone call i make to him should yield a return call. i should also ask for an extended warranty to ensure that the relationship is fixable in the event of a malfunction. i shouldn't have to pay anything for the first 6 months and would insist on taking him for a test drive before committing to anything long term. i should ask that if the relationship lasts and we sit down for our annual evaluation, that i receive the appropriate praise and be compensated accordingly. maybe if we go in negotiating certain things - he plays poker every friday night and i reserve 1/2 price wine nights for my girlfriends (of course this includes my gays), he sets the alarm to go off(and wake me) at 5 am so he can go to the gym and i stay up late reading in bed with the lamp on, i ignore his love handles and he ignores my cellulite - we would have a common understanding and wouldn't need to argue. maybe if we approached relationships like we do purchasing a car or asking for a raise we would be less likely to settle for a product that doesn't truly fit our needs.

ta da! glad i got that all figured out. i'll let you all know how the negotiation goes next time i have a date. i should start drawing up the contract now....

Oct 23, 2007

coffee talk

me: (looking up from where i'm typing away on my computer while sitting in a local coffee shop) "ew. it smells like bacon."

roommie: (smiling and inhaling deeply) "i know! i love the smell of bacon!"

me: (gagging) "gross."

roommie: (eyes lighting up) "i wish they had bacon-scented candles."

me: (more gagging) "that's disgusting! i don't know if i've ever heard of anything so disgusting!"

roommie: (smirking) "i'd burn the hell out of a bacon candle. our place would smell like bacon all the time!"

me: (now frightened that i may come home one day and find a wick stuck in a jar of bacon fat) "and i'd throw it out the window. you know how i feel about bacon."

roommie: "what about a turkey bacon candle?! you like turkey bacon!"

me: "still fucking gross. meat products should not be turned into air fresheners."

Oct 21, 2007

where oh where did my octoberfest go?

there are so many things i love about fall and specifically about the month of october. the crisp air, the changing colors, football season, the random unseasonably warm days, etc. i think my sister summed the glory of october up best in one of her recent blogs and i agree fully with every point. in fact, the only thing i found missing was the mention of octoberfest beer. i love octoberfest beer and i love looking forward to its arrival each fall. i know it will begin to surface on the store shelves in late september and be restocked through the month of october, even into the beginning of november if i'm lucky. silly as it sounds, octoberfest beer solidifies for me that fall has indeed arrived.

so, imagine my surprise when i visited my local grocery on saturday, october 20, a full 11 days before the end of the month and found that those wonderful cases of octoberfest beer had been replaced with winter and christmas ales. having planned to eat pizza, drink some octoberfest and watch college football that day, my trip to the grocery should have been quick and easy. when i realized, after stomping around the beer aisle, inspecting every shelf with indignation, that there was no more octoberfest on site, i had to default to a different beer. i left the store disappointed and annoyed.

i've always thought the retail industry was ridiculous in how early seasonal items start showing up on the shelves. there seems to be halloween candy out in august, followed closely by thanksgiving paraphernalia, and by october christmas is in full swing, according to the local cvs or wal mart. same thing with the fashion industry. when i was on the hunt for a swimsuit in late september, i was laughed at and practically escorted out of every department store i visited, as sales ladies looked over the displays of winter coats they were straightening, and shook their heads with pity when i asked about the chances of finding a swimsuit.

i get it - you have to put out the product early so the consumer has the maximum time to buy. fine. i know that if i want a swimsuit, i should buy it in february. i know that i can pick up halloween candy as soon as the back-to-school shelves are cleared and that i could have my place fully decorated for christmas the day after halloween and that wouldn't be considered abnormal. but i expect more from the beer industry. i really do. i expect that for the one glorious month that is october, as octoberfest celebrations are happening around the world throughout those 31 days, i can get my hands on some octoberfest beer. is that too much to ask? please, mr. beer man - bring your spaten, sam adams, haufbrau octoberfest to me. i'll give it a good home, even if everyone else is buying christmas ale to go with their halloween candy.

Oct 15, 2007

let's hear it for the boy

recently, the today show did a segment focusing on one man's decision to have a vasectomy at the ripe old age of 28. he is now 30 and happy as a clam with his decision to thwart those baby-making sperm of his before they manage to wiggle their way to any ready-and-waiting fertile eggs. he cites his decision as one made after much thought and soul searching over the last several years. making a conscious choice to not have children and to undergo a procedure to ensure that decision is upheld makes mr. byrum both a hero and a villain in our antiquated, patriarchal society.

after the segment aired, the today show posted the synopsis of the story on its website and also opened a blog forum for comments on the issue. after reading through these comments, i was somewhat appalled and saddened, though not surprised, to find that people are judging mr. byrum as a selfish, irresponsible kid who has made a decision to piss off god and society as a whole (ok, maybe not quite that rash, but you get the idea) simply because he is choosing not to have children and has taken the next step to prevent that from happening. what is wrong with this decision?! apparently, a lot. here are some snippets of wisdom from those who disagree with mr. byrum's decision about his own life and future: (i've taken the liberty of highlighting those pieces i found most annoying, er, interesting)

Selfish generation - this is another indication of the complete lack of responsibility that this generation is chasing....what a lazy dope - when he can use a condom but is willing to cut off any loving women who want children! I want to ask him who will take care of him when he is old and in a nursing home and wishing he had a child who would be sure he could live out his life in comfort and safely and feel that someone truly cared for him - he will reflect back and realize what a foolish, selfish decision he made at such a young age...I feel sorry for him!

My husband didn't want children at the age of 27 when we got married but after having his first he was never the same. The magnitude of it all really hit him. Now, after FIVE children, his whole life revolves around his kids. We have so much fun doing things together. There has never been anything more selfless nor rewarding as having a family and the love I feel for my husband has grown with each child... Being a good parent really means more than anything else you will ever accomplish in this life.

I am a licensed psychotherapist in MA., and can't help but wonder how much a toxic dose of narcissism fuels Todd's choice. (Baggage from childhood too much or not enough mirroring by his parents??)His choice has set the groundwork for him to focus his energy on pursuits and achievements at the expense of meaningful (and sometimes messy)relationships, but what about generativity (giving back to the world)? His choice and apparent lack of ultruism can result in a lonely old man, with nothing meaningful to review when it comes time to do his end of life stage of life emotional reflection. I do not see his sense of spirituality...is he spiritually bankrupt? I feel saddened for not just his choice about vasectomy, but his focus on self! Leaving a legacy does not only mean having children, but giving back to the world for the next generation. I didn't hear him discuss his ultruistic pursuits, only his "lifestyle"... Being blessed with a spouse and family does not happen to all who hope for it, but he may want to consider his human need for generativity, and spirituality. Todd needs to grasp the mind, body, and spirit that makes up each person and develop each of these parts of himself. It's not all about him, I guess. I hope he doesn't wait to long to discover this

I think Mr. Byrum's decision is a testament to the selfishness of many people in today's society

clearly, there are many recurrent themes at work here.
1) if you choose not to have a child, you are a selfish human being, even though it is extremely selfish of others to expect you to have a child when you don't want one.
2) choosing to be childfree means you care nothing about contributing to future generations. forget the fact that you have nieces, nephews, children of friends, and other kids in your life to help mentor and take interest in
3) if you do not want children, you are spiritually bankrupt. i wasn't aware that children were a prerequisite to spirituality. i bet jesus feels like a failure.
4) nothing you accomplish in your career, social life, philanthropic efforts, faith, and family ties will ever equate to the ultimate success of being a parent, even if parenthood is not a factor in the goals you have for yourself. clearly, you need to add it to the list.
5) my personal favorite - you will die old and alone with your bedsores and dementia in a rotting shack because you chose not to propagate the species and bear spawn simply for the cause of having someone to take care of you on your deathbed. sorry, but by not having children i will save money on diapers, clothing, cars, tuition, books, medical bills, gifts, etc. and will take those funds, build myself a nice little nest egg and retire in style with a hot caretaker.

before i start getting comments about how anti-child i sound, let me just add a few more points. i have the utmost respect for those who have children. i doubt there can be a tougher job than being a round-the-clock parent. but, if i have respect for those who choose to have children, i expect that same respect in return. if i choose not to have children, that doesn't make me a cold, selfish bitch, incapable of all emotion and spirituality. it simply makes me a woman exercising my right to live my life without children of my own, as mr. byrum has. i find it refreshing and liberating to know that women and men alike have taken more responsibility in determining whether they want their lives with or without children. so many people assume, or expect actually, that children are the next step in life - after marriage of course - that they fail to try to understand why anyone would want to spend their life any other way. better to know you are making the conscious decision to bypass parenthood than have children out of - what are we calling it these days? - social responsibility? generativity? moral obligation?

i say, respect the decision, whatever that may be. it's a personal decision and no one else should be able to judge someone for that. if you want a litter of kids, that's fine with me. please just don't give me that pitying look and that smile that says "you'll change your mind one day. i know you will." when i tell you i have no desire to have children of my own. next thing i know, you'll be patting me on the head and giving me a cookie. childfree people are not children, we are adults. adults who are perfectly capable of deciding whether our reproductive organs will be put to use for procreation or just plain fun. either way, please respect my decision and i won't give you that pitying look and the smile that says "admit it. you're jealous that i have all the freedom in the world. you'd trade in your rugrats for a week of alone time in the tropics in a heartbeat." capiche?

Oct 14, 2007

and then i drank out of a pineapple

got back a couple of days ago from the glorious cruise on which i spent my week. it was one of the most relaxing, fantastic, peaceful vacations i have ever been on. if i had any doubts about the joy of cruising before this past week, they vanished the first night at sea as i sat out on our private balcony, stretched out on a chaise lounge chair, sipping a cocktail while the warm wind blew through my hair and i gazed up at the clear night sky, wishing on stars. it was perfection.

we did all things cruisy - enjoyed a complimentary bottle of champagne upon arrival (we were in the grand suite, after all!), smuggled in our own liquor and had cocktails on the balcony, enjoyed the buffets, ice cream by the pool and room service whenever the slightest pang of hunger hit, had the drink of the day every day - and yes, one day it did actually come in a pineapple, floated on rafts in the clear ocean water off the shore of coco cay, played euchre in our stateroom, went to the theater and laughed at the cheesy shows offered nightly, got dressed up for dinner in the main dining room and then went for martinis in the lounge on the top deck of the ship, wandered around nassau and key west, saw ernest hemmingway's house and posed for pictures at the southernmost point of the continental united states, carried margaritas down the street in to-go cups, and spent our extra time on the top balcony of the ship falling asleep to our ipods while the sun tanned our white midwestern skin.

the biggest decisions i had to make on this trip were the following:

- margarita or mojito?
- spf 15 or spf 8?
- float in the ocean or lay on a chaise in the sand?
- is our towel animal (made for us nightly by our fabulous stateroom attendant bob) a fox or a dog?
- turkey sandwich or a veggie panini from room service at 12 am?
- listen to my ipod or read my book while laying out?
- from which deck should i watch the sunset?
- do we stop at the bar on the way to hemmingway's house or on the way back? or both?!
- play euchre or sit out on the balcony?

ahhh. to have those be the most important decisions i have to make on a daily basis would be heaven. we were so sad to leave on friday that we did actually call the cruise line and see if there were still rooms available on the 3 day cruise that was leaving miami the day we returned. alas, they were booked solid so we came back to the cold midwest, donned our sweatshirts and tucked into october weather in chicago.

some pics from the sea....

our boat - majesty of the sea

adam, amanda and gary in nassau

key west

sunset at key west

towel puppy - courtesy of bob