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Tag Archives: relationships

Why Mea Culpa Matters

Did you grow up with siblings? Remember when Mom or Dad broke up a fight? How about the finger pointing and choruses of “He started it,”  “Noooooooo…SHE did. NO FAIR!”  Or maybe you discovered the blame game in the schoolyard or on the playing field.

Small wonder that as adults we find it hard to take responsibility for our actions in a relationship. Who wants to be the bad guy? Who wants to take the blame? Who wants a time out?

The good news is that there is a big difference between taking blame and accepting responsibility. Blame means being shamed and scolded by another person. Responsibility means holding yourself accountable for your own actions. Blame leaves you feeling weak, while taking responsibility strengthens you.

One of the most difficult lessons I have had to learn as an adult is that accepting responsibility for one’s actions doesn’t mean a punishing trip to the principal’s office or a lonely weekend of grounding.  Owning up, apologizing and offering compensation lead you out of trouble, not into it.

When I first encountered this idea, in a book I was reading for advice on loving an alcoholic, my response was outrage. “What do you mean I have to take responsibility for MY actions in this relationship? No fair. He started it. He’s the drunk. He’s the screamer. He’s the one who breaks promises.”

Clearly I had not learned the difference between taking responsibility and blaming. I was angry because I thought the book was telling me that I had to blame, shame and punish myself. Actually, the advice was just the opposite.

The epiphany that arrived at last is that when recovery gurus talk about taking responsibility, they are talking about looking out for yourself. Taking responsibility doesn’t mean beating up on yourself. It means recognizing the part you play, which is the part you can change in order to take care of and protect yourself. Taking responsibility gives you the power to change the things you can–a core precept of  the Alcoholics Anonymous program.

When you blame, you let out your anger, but beyond that you leave yourself in the role of a helpless victim. If it is HIS fault then you are at HIS mercy. Only he can make things better.

There are other benefits to taking responsibility for your actions. If you apologize for being wrong, you alleviate feelings of guilt. If you don’t admit when you are wrong, you open yourself up to all sorts of negative feelings from the other person and from within. If you apologize for the mistakes you have made you will feel good about yourself no matter what the other person says or does.

Best of all, because you are a grownup, there won’t be any parents, or hall monitors, to scold you. You won’t miss your dinner or be sent to a corner for a time out.

You will feel like an adult, and a sane one at that.

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Chick Flicks Forever

I just saw the movie Dirty Dancing for the first time. I have known for years about this feel good romance but had not seen it until I found it on Youtube a few days ago.

Now that I have seen this gem, in which an adorable resort guest named Baby (Jennifer Gray) loses her heart to a steamy dance instructor named Johnny (Patrick Swayze),  I know why it is considered by many women to be the uber chick flick of all time. I also think I am beginning to understand why we women, or at least many of us, adore these shamelessly idyllic, unapologetically romantic, sweetly sensual, fairy tale films.

Take heed fellas (the few fellas, that is, that might read this blog): If you want to understand the female psyche, and answer the hackneyed question “what do women want?”, watch Dirty Dancing and other famous chick flicks (your wife, sister or girlfriend can give you a list). Then, if you want to please your woman, adopt some of the moves, mannerisms and character traits of the princely male protagonists of these movies.

Are you capable of teaching your lady a dance, any dance? Or any other physical skill that requires that you put your arms around her or position her body as part of the instruction. Archery? Fishing? Shooting pool? Tennis? Swimming? Big turn on. You will become Patrick Swayze in her eyes. Or can you master the hat in hand self-deprecating sweetly masculine mannerisms of Hugh Grant in Sense and Sensibility? How are you at picking up your wife, wrapping her in a cloak and carrying her out of a rainstorm Jane Austen style? Taking her to a doctor’s appointment on horseback or motorcycle might do as well in a pinch.

There is a female form of being turned on that doesn’t respond to pornography or plastic things that buzz. It is the most magical of romantic female feelings and, fellas, if you conjure it, you’ve got her forever. This smoky blend of intense emotion and sexual arousal is mimicked by the chick flick.

Romcoms are equally useful in pointing women in the direction we really want to go when it comes to love. Of course there is hyperbole in Hollywood, exaggeration and perfection you can only attain as a director playing God. If you deconstruct chick flicks, however, you discover the basic elements of female fantasy and desire. Using Dirty Dancing as a guide, these include:

1)Sloooow courtship. The love part has a chance to sneak up behind you and say BOO.

2)Getting physically close without sex (see above). Very important, big turn-on.

3)A lovely setting for the romance (think water, woods, beach, rolling countryside, small town, wide city boulevards with space to ramble). Noisy disco, fluourescent lit Big Box Store , strap hanging on the subway not on the list.

4)Respectful treatment. In the case of Dirty Dancing, the heroine’s position as an innocent young guest at the resort insures that the hero, employed as a resort dance instructor, will handle her with restraint (until of course he can’t contain his FEELINGS anymore).

5)A very light dose of ruggedness, or athleticism. NO roughness, rage or cruelty. Scarface need not apply. Some harmless masculine element, however, like horse riding, soldiering or physical mastery of some sort, is essential. In Dirty Dancing, it’s a soupcon of the streets and of course the muy macho moves of the dance-instructor hero that make it work. In Jane Austen, there’s horse riding, soldiering, brisk country walking and rescuing damsels who have tripped on their petticoats and toppled over in rainstorms.

Not only are chick flicks useful in deconstructing what turns us on as women. They perform other functions as well.

For instance, the best chick flicks soothe broken hearts. That might sound strange at first. I mean, isn’t it difficult to see scenes of happy love when one is in romantic despair? Actually, no. The secret of the best chick flicks is that they are inclusive. The heroine is someone one can identify with. She’s a girl’s girl, a regular person in some sense. She’s goofy, or quirky, or makes mistakes. She’s human, she lets us in on the relationship. Indeed if the chick flick is successful, we have occupied her body by the third scene and cannot distinguish ourselves from her. If we are lonely and lovelorn, she gives us hope and a vicarious thrill or two.

They also help rehabilitate those who have recovered more or less from heartbreak and want to get back into the game. Watching a chick flick, one has a chance to remember, in a safe environment, what love felt like. It helps us recall why it is that we want to stand up and try again. No, I am not talking about getting hot and bothered. I am talking about remembering the feelings that we women really want to feel. The slowly building heartbeat, the dance that gets closer and closer over time, the sensuality and excitement that cannot be separated from a feeling of growing intimacy, budding affection and yes, that four-letter word: LOVE.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2010 in Chick Flicks, Essays

 

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