March 18, 2010

Preventative measures


I now understand why great measures are taken to prevent this from happening…

How Men Eat

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March 17, 2010

I love you, you’re perfect, stay SAFE!

I will be traveling quite a bit over the next few weeks and I have to admit, I’ve never given Peter a list nor have I even thought about what he will eat while I am away.   This is how our partings generally go:

Peter:  You’re going to have a great drive!  The sun is out and you’ll see trees!  Maybe even a deer!


Cathleen:  (concerned) I hope I don’t hit a deer…

Peter:  No.  You won’t hit a deer.  (caution enters his voice) If you see one, don’t get distracted.

Cathleen:  (with urgency) I promise to drive safely and not hit a deer!

Peter:  Take plenty of breaks…as many as you need!  I love you!

Cathleen:  I love you too!  Be careful!

Peter:  I will be careful!  Will you be careful?

Cathleen:  Yes, I will be very careful.

All of our psychic energy gets channeled into willing the other into avoiding a terrible, fiery crash while we are apart.  Keep in mind, I’m only driving 3.5 hours and he’s getting on the subway going to work. But once we’re out of sight from each other, it’s every man for himself.

When I’m out of town, Peter has a very specific meal that he eats.  He calls it, “Sad man pizza.”  But… he loves pizza.

-Cathleen Carr

March 16, 2010

G’day mate! (pun intended)

Hello from Downundah! I’m so happy to be here in Sydney with my sister, but I’ve been traveling so much lately, I really miss that tall drink of water I call Jim. This time I am away from home for 10 days. I frequently imagine sharing my experiences here with him (walking Bondi Beach, seeing the 5-day old baby elephant at Taronga Zoo, and trying Vegemite for the first time). Of course, I am comforted that before I left home, I organized meals for my husband, wrote a to-do list for him to accomplish while I’m gone, and even suggested some playdates with friends to keep him entertained when I’m gone.

Jim doesn’t do this for me when he travels on business. There’s no need. In fact, when he goes away, I find solace knowing I’ve packed protein bars and snacks in his carry-on, matching clothes in his suitcase (Jim is color blind and doesn’t always like to be left to his own devices when entering professional settings), and a schedule of times we can call one another in his briefcase.

Am I his wife or his mom? Am I a control freak, or a caring, loving wife? Wait. Don’t answer that.

I’ve considered letting him take care of himself completely, but we’ve both established this pattern over the past six-and-a-half years of marriage, and I don’t want to pull the rug out from under the guy. And he takes care of me in lots of ways too (more on that in future posts). Plus, if it works for us, I guess it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Yet, though it gives me peace of mind to be an überhelpful wife, I wonder if adopting such a care-taking role is somehow damaging. Will I end up resentful at some point? I’ve teetered on that precipice before.

Is it natural for women to nurture their spouses? Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed?

As I left for my Australia voyage, I outlined for Jim all the easy-to-prep meals for him in the fridge. I told him he should eat fresh fruit and vegetables each day, and that he should get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. I had to laugh. Really, what harm is there if he devolves into his old bachelor-like lifestyle while I am away? I fell in love with that guy, after all.

I’ve come to realize: While we’ve chosen not to have kids, part of the enjoyment I get from my marriage comes from being able to take care of another human being.

Oh and Jim – by the way – I haven’t forgotten my promise to determine what direction toilets flush here in Australia. My guess is: downward. At least that’s what I hope.

- Robyn Okrant

March 15, 2010

I’ll grab the cheesecake, you bring the conversation…

I was able to catch up with a good friend this past weekend.  I was crashing on her futon while in town rehearsing a play.  Friends for nearly a decade, we once took a now infamous trip to Ireland together with our boyfriends, my brother and his girlfriend.  We were lured to the motherland by cheap tickets on Aer Lingus and naïve optimism that six people in crumbling relationships could travel well together. Not so!  If you’re planning such a trip, click cancel immediately. The banshee howls… consider yerself warned!

Upon clearing customs, break ups were announced.  Life went on.  My friend and I remained close, standing by one another as we met and married new men.  We settled into our identities of “married women” pleasing mothers the world over.  But as quickly as the china was unpacked from the Crate and Barrel boxes, her marriage ended.

Let me say, she is happier and surer of herself than she has ever been in her life.  Divorce was like a magic tonic that killed off years of insecurity and unhappiness.  Now that she has “been there, done that” she can see the forest for the trees.   And let me tell you, she won’t be clear-cutting that forest anytime soon.  She expressed the awkwardness she feels when she speaks poorly of marriage around married people.  Like she’s offending them.   No sir! I think marriage is to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  I believe in my marriage as much as I believe in her suspicion of the institution. We all marry for different reasons.  For some of us, it is practical and for others, it is purely romantic.  Nowadays, most of us marry for reasons somewhere in between.

“I love you so much…and your health insurance is sooo dreamy!”

Talking about our experiences, both negative and positive is so important.  Marriage is not a salve that heals all previous wounds once applied.  According to Def Leppard, “Love bites, love bleeds…”

Marriage can be like a canker sore in your mouth that you keep biting over and over again.  It always hurts and never heals.  Or is can be like a fabulous vacation in Europe that never ends.  New sights and smells are always just around the next cobbled stone street.

I do not want my “married” status to be a dividing line between anyone else who is divorced or single.  We can and should be learning from one another continuously.  As much as a marriage must be built on mutual respect, so should friendship.  Our community of friends acts as our check and balance system.  And we all know that system only works when we feel free to speak our mind.

-Cathleen Carr

March 12, 2010

And now for something academic…

Stephanie Coontz, who wrote the wonderful book, “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage,”  breaks it down in the New York Times (Feb. 21, 2010).

Today, more men than women report feeling work-family conflict, suggesting that men are internalizing an identity based on their ability to nurture, not just earn money. Conversely, most women now say that having a husband who is capable of intimacy and who shares housework and childcare is more important than having a partner who earns more money.

These shifts in gender norms come with pain and conflict, of course. But they can also be a win-win recipe for marriage. The best predictors of a man’s marital satisfaction are how much sex he gets and how little criticism he gets. And numerous studies show that women feel more intimacy and more sexual attraction toward — and are less critical of — husbands who participate in childcare and housework.

Check out the full discussion here:

Have a great weekend!

March 10, 2010

And the guilty one is…

I feel guilty about 80% of the time.  The other 20% is spent sleeping.  My guilt has become my friend, texting me every so often to update me with my inadequacies.  But always with a friendly emoticon. When I leave crap around the apartment or race to pay my student loans last minute online I get my little text reminders, “Hey girl!  You really are too old to be living like an undisciplined child.  TTYL :)

My little texts reinforce my unresolved ambition to be a rock star in all facets of my life.  Robyn is right.  Claire Huxtable is a beautiful lie.  As I sit here and think about everyone I know, I can’t come up with one woman who is a real life Mrs. H.  Some are better at keeping a tidy house than others, some are more satisfied career-wise and some are having really great sex.  But, I don’t know one woman who has reached such a profound level of accomplishment as Claire. We’re talking the ultimate American checklist here, people.  Lawyer, loving and supportive wife and mother (5 children!) and a brownstone in Brooklyn.  All without a nanny or maid.  Way to go Claire!  Now, that’s what I call a woman.

So, I carry on.  We all carry on.   Time to get real and think about a cleaning service and automatic bill pay.


Cathleen Carr

March 9, 2010

Mrs. Huxtable, you messed me up

Oh yes, that’s right, I’m passing the buck and blaming television for some of my insecurities as a wife. Why, when I know full well that Having It All is a myth, do I still judge myself when I fall short? I don’t even have kids, but I still can’t manage to keep up with everything that I feel should be done around the house. My dirty little secret is that I think my house is dirtier than your house. Also, my career isn’t as fulfilling as your career. My regrets are regrettier than your regrets. I can’t seem to stay in great shape, travel the world, bring home my slab of the bacon, maintain my relationships, keep up with the Joneses, recycle, have mind-blowing sex with Jim 24/7, and put a healthy, delicious dinner on the table every night of the week without LOSING MY MIND or ending up in an early grave. And yet, when I talk about how I want to find balance in my life, what I’m really saying is that I want to find a way to do it all. I’m upset when I can’t keep all my plates spinning and tonight they are crashing around me.

Tomorrow I might go easier on myself. But today, even though I am proud that I bought a microfiber mop instead of continuing to waste Swiffer refills, I’m beating myself up that I’m too tired to use the damn thing.

I can finally relate to the catchline of that old commercial that was so popular when I was a kid: “Calgon, take me away.” (And, Calgon, why you’re at it, please pack Jim’s lunch for tomorrow, balance my checkbook, and clip my cat’s claws. I’m too tired.)

- Robyn Okrant

March 8, 2010

Who wants to be a housekeeper?

I like a clean toilet.  I want the bowl to sparkle and the rim to shine.  My tush deserves first class service when it does its business.  Who’s with me?

But if you hand me a stack of mail or receipts my eyes cloud over and my limbs go cold. 

I hate organizing.  I would rather scrape soap scum off tile with my fingernails than file bills.  I would sooner disinfect a mop used to swab the decks of the New York City subway than decide where to store old holiday cards.  Killing bacteria is easy, empowering even.  Luckily for me, my husband enjoys a filing cabinet. 

Before we moved in together, I could blissfully leave anything and everything in purposeless piles throughout my apartment.  A stack of old magazines in one corner, a mountain of credit card offers in the other.  Scribbled notes with names, numbers and passwords were routinely shoved into one of many designated “junk” drawers.  But when you move in with the one you love…party is OVER! 
We quickly assessed each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  He likes to organize, I like to kill germs.  He likes to cook, I sometimes like to cook.  I enjoy doing dishes.  He hates laundry, I love it.  But despite our seemingly symbiotic cleaning orientations, I still bring a lot of insecurity into our relationship.  It’s not like I enjoy being disorganized, I just am.  Every so often I burn with shame when Peter gently inquires about a new stack of papers I have created. 

“Maybe, when you get a chance, we could go through these and see what you want to keep?” 

It’s then that I feel the weight of several generations of wifely expectations on my shoulders.  And let me be clear, Peter in no way puts pressure on me to assume the traditional role of female housekeeper.  I put the pressure on myself.  Despite a fair division of labor in our household, I still feel guilty that I do not excel at housekeeping and organization.  When you grow up watching women do just that, it’s hard to separate yourself from that role.  I never feel like I do enough.  I can always be doing more.  I should clean the inside of the refrigerator, vacuum under the couch, wash the windows, donate old clothes, clean out of the Tupperware with the weird, old leftovers, and on and on and on…

I think that’s why I enjoy disinfecting, because it’s so final.  You can see and smell the results.  I can point to the toilet and say, “I did that.  I got on my knees and scrubbed that baby clean.” 

Those five minutes of backbreaking work make me feel a tiny bit better about myself.  For a brief moment, I really feel like a woman. 

Crazy, huh?


March 4, 2010

Maybe we all could use a celebrity marriage ref

Knowing that some people are totally against the new show, The Marriage Ref, I need to admit to you that I kind of want to watch it. No, that’s a lie. I really want to watch it. There’s something so comforting in witnessing other married people having ups and downs. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to watch sensationalized troubles so huge that the couple teeters on divorce (read: Tiger/Elin Woods), but I really appreciate seeing intact, healthy marriages displayed in a realistic manner. Guess what? WE FIGHT! We cry, we get sad, we think the other person is a jerk every now and then, we overreact, we even judge each other a little bit. (Is Jim going to keep wearing that hideous shirt, no matter how many passive aggressive comments I make about it?) But we still love each other and want to stay together. It burns my butt when a ‘good’ marriage is displayed in the media as perfect – no arguments, no differing goals, no stress. Puh-lease! Ok, ok, I’ll accept it from Heidi Klum and Seal because they’re just so darn adorable, but they’re the only ones.

I feel there’s an innate problem in the way many of us – including me – protect our marriages from prying eyes. We perpetuate this idea that no one should experience conflict in a healthy relationship. Jim and I can have a horrible day in private, picking at and on each other, but the moment we are out in public and we run into a friend walking in the neighborhood, we’re all smiles and warmth and generosity. We are masters at PR for the Okrant/Stevens household. Aren’t we cute?! Ain’t we a pair?! Look at our crazy forced smiles – don’t we look like we’re having fun?!

I think I’m afraid of being judged. G-d forbid that someone think my marriage is on the rocks because they see us in a less-than-perfect light. What if it appears we’re heading toward D-I-V-O-R-C-E? I can’t have that. I confess: I am just as responsible as movies, TV and the media for making marriage look like sunshine and lollipops to the non-married women in my life who pine for a relationship like mine.

All I’m saying is, none of us know what’s going on behind closed doors. Let’s not judge ourselves or each other based on the tiny slice of marital squabbling or bliss that we witness in others. Of course, I don’t want everyone to discard all propriety and go nuts – furiously screaming at each other in a movie theatre or, worse yet, dropping trou in the supermarket in a moment of unbridled sexual desire – but maybe a little less façade and a little more unguardedness might do us all some good.

So that’s why I’m DVRing The Marriage Ref tonight. I might not be able to relate to the specific relationship woes seen on the show, but I can empathize. And most importantly, if I can find humor in what I see on the screen, maybe I’ll be able to chill out at home and learn to laugh at my own marital foibles. Perhaps if I can relax a bit more, I might eventually find it unnecessary to filter myself in public out of concern that friends will think Jim and I are heading to divorce court.

Speaking of that, I think Divorce Court is on. I gotta go watch. Those people are messed up.

March 3, 2010

Make mine a diamond?

Speaking of rings…
Diamonds! What the heck, everyone? I told Peter before we got engaged that I would prefer a ring without a diamond. After reading some books about Africa in my early twenties, I righteously declared myself diamond-free. My politics often resemble the all-you-can-eat buffet at the IHOP: pick and choose which issue will cause you the least amount of indigestion. After I told him, Peter looked at me suspiciously and said, “Are you sure? Because I feel like a lot of women say that and then get disappointed when it’s not there.”
I promised him I wouldn’t be. And I’m not, most of the time.
I love my engagement ring. Peter designed it with the help of a friend who is a jewelry maker. Once the sketch was complete, he brought the drawing to a man named Sergio (how romantic) who forged it with his own two hands. The ring is beautiful and deeply meaningful. And it has no diamonds.
But sometimes I feel like I’m not in the club. Like I didn’t follow directions during homeroom.
The cult of the diamond can be very strong. How do you feel about diamonds? Are they your best friend or worst enemy?