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Addiction, Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

The Proposal

March 28, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Andrea Jarrell

Brad and I met making get-out-the-vote calls for an aspiring California State Assemblyman. In the beginning, our love for each other and for the city of angels was entwined. I’d moved back to L.A. after my breakup and was happy to be home again claiming my city. Brad lived in a neighborhood I’d never known existed – a barrio recently discovered by a few hipsters from nearby Hollywood. Rival gangs tagged the apartments along his street. There was a guy we thought might be homeless who sat on a nearby wall drinking tallboys, his belly hanging over his pants. We good-morninged him and the rest of the neighbors in the determined but naïve belief that being neighborly was all it would take to get past the recent Rodney King riots.

The first time we went out was a Friday night dinner, which turned into breakfast the next morning. Saturday biking in the Santa Monica mountains turned into slow dancing in his living room that led to Sunday brunch that led to the late show of Blade Runner at the Rialto – on a school night, no less. Sunday night led us to Monday morning carpooling to work. We moved in shortly thereafter. From the start everything was easy with Brad. Even that first weekend when I’d waited for an inevitable awkwardness – when surely we would realize we needed our own space – but that moment never came.

The night he proposed, we were having dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, a kitschy Italian place on Vermont where the waiters served thin-crust pizza on tall table stands and sang opera. We were sitting in a red leather booth when he turned to me and said the very words: “Will you marry me?”

It’s all happening, I thought. Those words I’d anticipated all my life. “Yes, yes,” I said. “Of course. I love you. Yes.” Afterward, we went to the Dresden Room – a lounge next door – to toast our future over Manhattans.

But five months later, while talking with friends about our impending nuptials, he denied he’d been the one to say the words. I tried not to cry when he said it was I who’d asked him. Our friends tried to change the subject. Like a needle scratching across a record, the evening came to an abrupt halt.

Perhaps because we were so in sync about everything else, it didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme. The proposal became like a spill of red wine on new carpet, gasp-worthy in the moment, then a fading stain you winced at only when you made yourself notice.

We planned to go to Paris for our honeymoon. We chose rings, a cake, and a wedding meal to serve to family and friends. Along with nine other couples, we went to a Making Marriage Work class that was like a version of The Newlywed Game. At one point, we were asked to switch partners and converse with the opposite-sex member of another couple. “Notice your increased heart rate with a stranger,” our teacher instructed us. “Your quickening pulse, the flirtation, the intrigue, the pressure to seduce. That’s how it was when you first met your partner, right? Remember that. Keep it alive.”

Listening to the other couples in class, we counted ourselves lucky that we didn’t have the kind of meddling parents they described. Our parents, divorced and married more than once, cast a sober eye on the whole endeavor and gave us money – an equal share from each – to do with what we wanted. By then, my mother had married and left my father for the second time. I wasn’t even telling my father about the wedding for fear he’d show up drunk.

Our class teacher, who was a marriage therapist, told us that sex, money, and not agreeing on big issues (such as having children) before the wedding were always the underlying causes of broken marriages. We wondered who would be dumb enough not to agree about the kid question before getting married? Wanting kids was something we’d talked about early. As for money, we’d already opened a joint bank account and pooled our resources. And when the teacher read (anonymously) everyone’s answers to the question of how many times we wanted sex each week, I just knew that we were the two who’d given the highest numbers. We took satisfaction in the fact that, if we’d been playing The Newlywed Game for real, we’d be winning.

On a sunny September morning, we married. Making our entrance at the same time, we descended opposite marble staircases in an historic building in the heart of downtown. I wore a dress made of vintage French lace. The candidate we’d volunteered for when we met officiated at the ceremony. We had a wedding lunch on the deck of a low-key, but trendy restaurant off Vine Street in Hollywood. Instead of rice, our friends tossed environmentally-friendly birdseed. They gave us a pair of new mountain bikes festooned with bows. And when the Chateau Marmont where we’d planned to stay for our first night of marriage – another L.A. icon – felt more like a grandmother’s dowdy guest room than the elegant suite we’d envisioned, we made our first important decision as a married couple.

The bellhop had just left. Champagne was on its way. We turned to each other and said, “Let’s leave,” in unison. We practically skipped out of the lobby, checking into the Bel Age on Sunset instead. In plushy bathrobes the next morning, enjoying breakfast on the balcony overlooking the city, we congratulated ourselves for not settling. We were elated that we each knew the other’s heart and mind so well.

* * *

Five days short of our first wedding anniversary, I’d gone to bed early. I had a big day at work the next morning – alarm clock set, my suit, shoes, and jewelry laid out. I’d left my husband in the living room watching television after bending down to kiss him goodnight.

Hours later, I remember waking with the moon shining gray-blue through the curtains. He was beside me, then over me, his randy mood obvious. He didn’t know that, in that moment, he’d reminded me of my ex—and the salty guilt I’d sometimes felt in my previous relationship when I would wake to find that other man taking off my clothes and I would go along with him just to keep the peace. Sometimes submitting timidly, victimized. Sometimes responding fiercely as if I could get back at him through sex. My husband also didn’t know how relieved I was that, in the dark of our room, I didn’t feel fear as I had with my ex. That I knew I could tell him I needed to sleep, and he would still love me.

The next morning, we were standing in the kitchen dressed and ready to go our separate ways, when I said, “I didn’t know who you were last night.”

In his starched white shirt and navy tie with the little green squares that I liked, he looked at me, startled. He’d been about to take a sip of coffee but stopped. “Why, what do you mean?”

“You know,” I said. “It was just kind of weird. You knew I had to get up early to get ready for my meeting.”

Through gold-rimmed glasses that always struck me as a Clark Kent disguise, his blue eyes searched me. He didn’t tell me then – coffee cup in hand, me on my way out the door – but he had no idea what I was talking about.

* * *

It wasn’t until after work that evening, sitting in our living room, that he told me his version of what had happened the night before. He had no recollection of coming to our room. He didn’t remember waking me. He didn’t remember me pushing him away or telling him no. I learned that morning had been like many other mornings we’d shared: him asking me questions, gathering intel, trying to piece together the previous night’s blackout. Only this time, I’d said something that scared him: I didn’t know who you were.

Then he confessed that he’d thought it would be different with me. That from that first weekend we’d stayed together, I’d become the talisman he held up to an addiction he’d been hiding since he was fifteen. He told me that after I’d gone to bed, he’d finished the wine we’d opened at dinner and then he’d finished another bottle. And then he wasn’t himself. And for the first time, I’d seen him that way.

As we sat on our Sven couch from Ikea, I looked at our wedding picture on a nearby shelf. I stared at my stupid smiling face and bouquet of gardenias. I’d been duped. I didn’t really know my husband at all. How had the child of an alcoholic, gambling, pill-popping family ignored the clues? Why hadn’t I noticed these morning interrogations as he tried to reconstruct our activities together?

Or had I? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, parenting

All In.

March 12, 2015

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By Ryane Nicole Granados

For anyone who has been married for any reasonable amount of time you know that time is one of the biggest commodities you have to offer your spouse. It’s more valuable than wild pearls, more rare than a royal flush. Time. It’s a game changer, a bartering tool, a poker chip in the name of love. Whose turn is it to change the baby? Whose morning is it to get five more precious minutes of sleep?

“What do you mean you watched one of our favorite shows without me?”

“The DVR was getting backlogged and I knew you wouldn’t have the time.”

“Your betrayal is profound.”

Time is in a constant sprint while you’re kicking with all of your might during the uphill portion of life’s marathon. Each day ends much like the one before it. Victory is the hot shower to wash off the grunge of the day met by the letdown when you climb into bed to find your wife partially clothed, one leg peeking out from under the sheet because she can’t decide if she’s hot or cold. She always claims to be cold, yet to you her skin is warm like fresh baked bread. You tell her so, but she is already asleep drool collecting in the corners of her mouth. To wake her would make you the boor of the century, so you convince yourself it’s not the right time. Instead, you set your alarm then watch the remainder of the episode you missed so that the two of you can be all caught up. True romance is about catching up and relishing those moments when you’re perfectly in sync. I’m the one leg in one leg out sleep drooler and my husband is the guy who catches me when I least expect him to.

“Babe, do you think it’s possible to breathe life into an inanimate object?”

“What?” I scream over an inconsolably crying, sorely teething baby.

“I said, do you think it’s possible to breathe life into an inanimate object?”

My husband is always asking these esoteric questions and while we’re both artistic in our own mediums, he never seems to be impacted by the poor timing of his inquiries.

“Yes I guess you could do that. Like with characters in a book you mean?”

“Nope that’s not what I mean at all.”

And with that he walks confidently up the stairs with a mission to show me exactly what he means. Weeks pass and I don’t think much of his question. Schedules begin to get particularly hectic and phone messages get subsequently longer. Texted to-do-lists interspersed with sexually laden punch lines serve to remind us that despite it all, we still actually like each other and that is a feat worth celebrating.

Even more weeks turn into months and the calendar rounds the corner to a new year. Time continues to fight against the white knuckled grip of our harried existence. This time, over the sound of our 7 year olds’ drum practice, I shout, “We should go to Vegas.” My revelation carries with it a tone of immediacy. I envision us boarding a plane following a spirited game of freeze tag where we zoom across Nevada state lines before our frozen embryos even know we’re gone. My husband sensing my urgency yells, “Like, now?” His sarcasm rings louder than the 8th notes of our son’s rendition of “Welcome to the Jungle.” Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

Another Seven Years.

March 1, 2015

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By Megan Birch-McMichael.

After almost a decade together, our shared language is both oral and visual. A wink means, did you see what our kid did? A sigh, what’s wrong now? A gentle nudge with a big toe on a calf in the middle of the night, please stop snoring already. Our words have meanings that only we understand, our promises to love each other through sickness and in health made with knowing smiles at the altar after having lived through a premarital spring, summer and fall of ailments that would precede another four seasons of tests and uncertainty.

Starting as a pre-med in college, though I wouldn’t see it through, I learned a language of medicine and science, names for various bodily systems and afflictions, words to describe how one is feeling. The language of love, our words that we speak to one another, has the staccato rhythm of a heartbeat, an electrical impulse sent to the tiny metal disk that rests underneath the surface of his skin, shocking his essential pump into a steady beat when it threatens to stop completely. The disk that was implanted two years ago when just after his 32st birthday, and right before my 31st, the fear of widowhood rose with bile in the back of my throat as I listened to the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Pick me up now.”

Thump.

“My heart stopped.”

Thump.

“I have to see the doctor immediately.”

Thump.

“I love you.”

Thump, thump.

The first time he collapsed, in our fourth year together, he 29 and I 28, we were at a diner with my mother and my brother two days after Thanksgiving. I did not yet have a ring on my finger symbolizing our marriage yet to come (that would come two weeks later on the National Mall in the freezing cold moonlight), and when he laid his head on my brother’s shoulder as we sat at the breakfast table, we laughed it off for a moment.

Continue Reading…

Addiction, Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

Seventy-Seven Reasons Why I Can’t Marry You, Sean.

February 8, 2015

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By Sally Howe.

Callie finally shipped you your things in July. When we opened the boxes we saw she’d written fuck you on almost everything.

You believed that it was your mom’s fault that your sisters were not speaking to you.

On my twentieth birthday, I locked myself in the bathroom and read Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry. You tried to coax me out, first conciliatory, then sharp, then with your fists on the door. I sat silently on the bathmat with the book tucked into my lap, nodding to myself, pretending that someone sympathetic was watching.

You kissed me on a beach at night. I took off my shoes to walk with you and the wind filled them with sand.

The year before we met I bought a tiny cactus for my dorm room. I thought, here is something I can’t possibly kill. But I did; it turned brown and tipped over and I had to throw it away. I saved the story, though, carrying it around with me like an ID: here I am, destroyer of all things.

This is a story you told me about the time you lived with Callie, then your fiancé. You were in your car, with a hooker in the passenger’s seat, driving through wintery Minneapolis at two or three in the morning. Callie heard the beep of your seatbelt being unbuckled over the phone line and asked you where you were. You shot a frozen glance at Destiny or Chastity or whatever, and into your phone, you swore that it was the microwave and that you were on your way to bed.

We met in rehab. You should have known better.

I should have known better, too. I had finally, recently, truly become one with my self-loathing. You smiled at me and it was as if no one had ever been kind to me before.

You need someone on your arm. You like having a sidekick.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts, Marriage

Dear Life: What If We Can’t Figure It Out?

January 18, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by one of my nearest and dearest: Ally Hamilton!

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in London for my workshop on Feb 14th

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Dear Life,

I turned thirty a few months ago. I’ve been married to my husband for nearly six years. I bet you know where this is going. We’ve always known we wanted children, but we’ve been putting it off. It’s never been a real consideration until lately. We have dogs and cats and a house and busy lives and full-time jobs that have kept us challenged trying to balance our four-legged friends, our social lives, and our marriage effectively. The thing is that we have done it effectively. We are financially stable, healthy, and enjoying life together.

My husband and I are happy together, but lately, the child question has arisen, and we’re undecided. A big part of me just wishes we’d have an accident so we wouldn’t have to make a conscious decision about creating or bringing a child into our home.

I know there is time. That there are more fertile years ahead (assuming our bodies are in working order for procreation), that we don’t have to rush. The thing is that, lately, I’ve been wondering: why wait? We’re not getting younger. We’re pretty settled together. And yet, I have nagging uncertainty about the whole thing.

Are we going to miss late nights that led to miserable hangovers? Will we have to actually eat dinner before 9:00 at night and not spend three hours at the gym socializing on a Wednesday after work just because? Will we even be able to keep going to the gym? How can I birth a baby if I can’t even manage to birth this second novel draft? How will I keep writing and working full-time and effectively fulfill my duties as a parent? Who would even watch our baby? What if the dogs don’t like the baby? What if we don’t start trying now and wait and then can’t have a mini-me? What if we put it all off and decide on adoption and then have to wait even more years? What if adopting a child instead of having a biological one because I don’t want to push a baby out of my body is a bad reason to adopt a child? What if we adopt, then we can’t have any kids ourselves, and we want really badly to see what a combination of ourselves would look like? What if I get fat? What if we just aren’t ready? Is wanting to give my parents the opportunity to be grandparents a good enough reason? Is wanting to bring someone into our tiny family just so they can be loved a good enough reason?

I’m the kind of person who goes all-in for people she loves. My maternal instinct, despite what people think, is and has always been extremely strong. I’m scared to have a child and then have that child become my everything. I’m scared because I want that. I’m scared that I want that because that’s what I’m supposed to want.

I’m scared to lose myself. And for my husband and I to lose each other.

I don’t really expect much of an answer to these questions past “there’s never a good time to have kids,” which seems like reason enough to plan for a happy accident. But what if it isn’t? What if my husband and I can’t figure it all out like we think we can?

Thanks for anything you have to offer.

–M.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, Relationships

Playlist- “The Long Run.”

December 16, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Karen Lynch.

I know how to shoot to kill, but I can’t shoot a gun out of a man’s hand. Civilians always think cops can do that, but only Annie Oakley could have pulled off that sort of trick. I know how to stay married, but I don’t how to keep passion burning in a long marriage, and maybe I also view those who say they can as I do Annie, rare, unlikely, and highly skilled.

Staying married for decades is like living with a roommate who plays his favorite music on an interminable random shuffle. When you first fall for him, you may love six out of the ten songs in his mix. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and you immediately love nine of his songs, or maybe like my husband and me, you only love a couple of each other’s songs, but you wait with great patience through the tunes you despise, because you remember a long time ago, he once played you a song so beautiful it made you cry.

When the annoying earworm you have grown to hate, maybe “The Long Run,” by The Eagles, comes up for the hundredth time in a month, you must remind yourself that the song you love is still in the mix, though you fear you may never hear it again. And honestly, I can’t guarantee you ever will. If you want to stay married, you may have to settle for the certainty that the song you once loved so much is still in the shuffle somewhere, and that thought alone will have to be enough to keep you listening.

My husband, Greg, is not my soul mate. He is not my best friend. But my husband is a true partner, and in my world that’s a rank above best friend. He is also one of the few people on the planet who has been willing to listen to my playlist for 27 years, and I have listened, with frequent complaint, to his. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, Relationships

10 Tips For Staying Married Forever.

September 30, 2014

By Jeanne Faulkner.

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Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

 

My husband and I just celebrated our 32nd anniversary.

We got married way too young and the odds were probably stacked against us and yet, here we are so many years later and we’re still together. What’s the key to our longevity? We’re happy together, we like each other’s company and we’re still genuinely in love. That accounts for most of why we’ve been able to stick it out while other couples can’t. We have other keys though and here are ten of them: Continue Reading…