As the Calendar Changes, a Look Around

The first thing I did in the New Year was pay my American Express bill (well, technically it was the second think I did, after picking up the broken champagne flute and depositing the empty bottles of Veuve in the recycling.) Next, it was on to the gym. When I got home, I baked butter tarts and cheese biscuits, then googled “Oscar Isaac relationship status.”

If these acts kicking-off my 2016 are in anyway indicative of some underlying, motivating New Year’s resolutions, those resolutions would have to be:

  1. Continue to improve personal financial solvency.
  2. Obtain fitness model physique.
  3. Consume more carbohydrates.
  4. Marry Oscar Isaac.

If I really think about it, I’m fairly confident I can achieve all of these in the next 12 months (even if Nos. 1 and 3 seem in complete competition and I didn’t get a FitBit for Christmas). #4 seems particularly obtainable…

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Oscar Isaac… Swoon. (New Year’s Eve had included seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D.)

On Wednesday, the last day our offices were open in 2015, my boss called to riddle off a few final requests and bid me an enjoyable long weekend.

“2016 is going to be a great year for all of us,” she said.

“Well, I certainly hope so…” I immediately envisioned the upcoming 12 months — a long list of projects which forecasts a relentless, Sisyphean push uphill scrolled across my mental computer screen. I think I threw-up a little in my mouth. “Yes. I mean, yes. Of course it will be a fabulous year!”

sisyphusThe changing calendar triggers a flurry of contradictory feelings. Nostalgia — for the year closing and years past. Excitement — the chance to start afresh and the promise of new adventure. Fear — a lot of life happens in a short period of time; can I handle what lays ahead?

“Your Year Ahead” emails, complete with horoscopes, exercise plans, shopping “musts,” and travel suggestions start hitting your inbox on Boxing Day. If you hadn’t had a chance to think about what’s next, you certainly are now.

Resolutions emerge, our proposed answers to the question: how will I “show up” this year?

2015 was pretty fabulous year — the first 7 months were loaded with firsts, with successes, with travel, and fetes. In turned 30 and with a new decade came the summer — a slower paced season which brought changes, more travel, and a little illness. Fall was a mixed bag, highlighted by still more travel, but otherwise a slog. The year closed with the flu, but great family and friends. In general, I felt that I was always running to catch up and to get ahead. The changing calendar was the first time I had a chance to look back and enjoy, because from the moment the datebook read 2015, I’ve been looking ahead… into March 2016, September 2017, February 2018… If only I had a crystal ball.

There is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming months — exhibition openings, a wedding, arty parties, travel, an extra week of paid vacation — little exclamation points on my calendar that await sentences to fill the lines between them. Generally, I walk into the pages of this new year with excitement. Who doesn’t love the start of a new story (especially when Oscar Isaac is cast in the cinematic adaptation…) Let’s leap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why the Sports Illustrated Sportsmanship Award Needs a Revision

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The Facebook Share that started a war… and an education

When I shared an article from the LATimes with the title “Are Fans Right to Be Upset that Serena Williams Beat American Pharoah for SI Sportsman of the Year” on Facebook, it launched an unnecessary comment-box debate with a 19-year college male. I don’t really support facebook as an appropriate space for “discussions,” but there are certain buttons you don’t press with me… like telling me to “keep your feminism in check.” Enter the dragon.

I call the debate “unnecessary” because by definition, an animal cannot embody sportsmanship. A horse is not a person and, as one of my friends pointed out, it is dehumanizing to even entertain a comparison between American Pharaoh and Serena Williams. Any back-and-forth should have ended with that simple reality.

But it didn’t. And the exchange that followed highlights a few important truths about institutionalized sexism (racism too, but I’m only going to tackle one mountain at a time) in sports (and beyond.)

Let’s start with numbers…

The Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year was created in 1954 to  recognize “the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” 75 people have received the award since then, 10 are women, and only 3 individual women athletes have won the award outright (as in, haven’t shared it with men.)

17 winners are baseball players or teams. 12 are men’s basketball players or coaches. 10 are football players or coaches. 4 are hockey players or teams.

57.3% of the winners represent the major US domestic male pro and college sports. Is that inherently a problem? Nope. Baseball is America’s sport. Football is a multi-billion dollar industry. But none of the basketball recipients have been college or pro female athletes. Are the female athletes not posting impressive numbers? If there’s a LeBron there must be a LaBron… No one watches professional women’s basketball? Why is media attention a criterium for selection?

Do I have to ask the Linda Nochlin artist question in sports? Why have there been no great sportswomen?

You know the answer is no. 

In 1980, the Miracle US Men’s Hockey Team won the Sportsman of the Year award. Their legendary win over the Russian team became symbolic of the larger political-economic battles of the Cold War. It’s a great story. Meanwhile, the US Women’s Hockey Team has won 15 World Championship titles. In 1998, they won a historic gold at the Olympics… the first time Women’s Hockey was ever contested at the games.  In 1998, the award was shared by Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa… both tested positive for doping.

111102_participationIt’s true there are more male professional sports than female professional sports,  and of the 23 million who read SI, 18 million are men… so we can give the editorial board a bit of leeway… the split doesn’t have to be 50-50, men to women recipients. But let’s remember, women have been able to compete in the Olympics since 1900, and as of the 2012 London Games, represent more than 44% of the field. 191,131 women compete on NCAA teams (43% of all NCAA athletes.) If we need a model and are using the Olympics, the highest level of competition for any athlete, then 13% is just too low…

Now, let’s look at the 10 women…

In 2011, Pat Summit was the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Basketball history. She shared the award with Mike Krzyzewski, a veritable legend, but holds the most wins in Div 1 men’s basketball, only.

You might argue that men’s basketball has a longer history or more teams. Lame. Stop. Just stop.

So with the exception of Pat Summit and the 1999 US Women’s Soccer team, the remaining 8 women all won individual titles at an international, World Championship, or Olympic level (let’s be more specific — 3 are tennis players who held multiple Grand Slam titles, 2 won historic Olympic Gold medals, 1 was a golfer who held 6 major pro titles, 1 held multiple World Championship titles and records, and 1 was a Pan-Am games gold medalist.) But let’s not discount the US Women’s Soccer team — they won the World Cup in 1999, soccer’s main stage. (An aside: Do you know when the men’s team had their best performance in the World Cup? 1930. Oh, and they were 3rd.)

And what about Serena? She also held all four major titles in 2002-2003 and broke all sorts of barriers. In 2003, the award was shared by 2 male basketball players.

Do I need to highlight again the percentage of male recipients who were on teams in sports whose “World Championships” are really only domestic championships?

So these numbers beg a handful of questions…

First, are men and women held to the same standards when the editorial board sits down to make their selection? How much does readership play into selection? If readership plays a major factor, is the award a legitimate representation of the best sportsperson across sports that year? Or is primarily marketing tool for the magazine? Is the SI editorial board making a concerted effort to find viable female candidates and giving them equal consideration? Does the award represent, not the readerships’s demographics, but the sport world’s demographics? If it doesn’t, why? Is there a reason why SI doesn’t recognize both a man and a woman every year?

The question is not, well what woman athlete should have gotten it over a male athlete? The question is, is the SI Sportsmans of the Year relevant, and what does its awarding say about how we value female athletes?

The lopsided distribution of the SI Sportsman of the Year is symptomatic and representative of continued inequity and sexism in the arena of professional (and amateur) sports. Serena Williams still makes less than her male counterparts. It wasn’t until 2012 that women competed in every sport on the Olympic program… and on it goes.

The fact that a college-aged male in 2015 would think that the SI numbers and the horse vs. human question isn’t indicative of a problem  indicates a pretty big problem…

Is SI a sexist publication? It’s hard to say no when it purports to be a sports magazine but it’s biggest issue features swim suit models... in the tiniest swimsuits possible…. and when the recipients of it’s biggest award don’t accurately represent the demographics of the field it claims to recognize.

All that being said, Serena Williams is an icon, a role model, a consummate professional, and a classy sportswoman. She embodies all that is great about sport. Her crown has far more than 3 jewels in it…

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Changing Decades: I’m OK with not Turning 29 Again

“Are you terrified of turning 30?” my lovable Gallery Coordinator asked me when she realized by birthday was a few days away.

“Terrified! Try ecstatic!” I replied with a little skip. “I mean, you only get to change decades once every 10 years…”

It’s my birthday. My 30th birthday. And while many of my friends have found it difficult, nay, painful to leave behind their 20s, I’m stoked.

So, this is 30...
So, this is 30…

Birthdays, are often a time of reflection, and as I look forward to the new decade ahead, I can’t help but notice how much things have changed…

When you’re turning 20, a night out with your best girl friend involved your highest, most uncomfortable heels, perfectly coiffed hair, high hemlines and low necklines, and at least one bar you can’t afford and two you can. Your important question of the night: Are we cabbing or taking the subway?

When you’re turning 30, a night out with your best girl friend, is most likely a night in, at her place… making soup. You know you’re not going anywhere where anyone is going to see you, so you don’t even bother with mascara. Your most important question of the night: Can you find your pasta maker, or should I bring mine?

When you’re turning 20, your social media feed is littered with your friends uploads from parties, semesters abroad, backpacking trips, weekend campus hops, house parties, and dive bars. You think: Oh, god! Everyone is having so much fun! I’m having fun. Wait. Let me take a selfie.

Let me take a selfei
Let me take a selfie

When you’re turning 30, your social media feed oscillates between wedding news/pictures and baby-bump shots. You think: Oh, God. That guy I had a crush on when I was 20 looks so hot in that gray suit… too bad he’s the groom. And gee whiz! Didn’t anyone read that “Your Body, Your Birth Control” pamphlet in the GP’s office? Seriously. I get it. You’re “preggers.” All your BFF’s are “preggers.” You’re all one, big, happy “preggers” family. But do I really have to watch this for 9 more months. Oh! Look! A “hide” feature on my timeline! Thanks, Facebook.

Hide.

When you’re turning 20, you celebrate your birthday by lining up as many (semi-illegal) shots are you can stomach, and you keep the party going as far past sun up as you can. Two days later, you’re still wearing the same dose of mascara, expect now it’s eyeliner, and you think the valet still has your car... where did you park your car???

When you’re turning 30, you decide you’ll invite your friends to brunch. Not since spring break 200X were you all able to day drink, and Brunch is classy day-drinking… because, you’re real adults now, and real adults do classy things, like brunch. Plus, all your married-with-children friends prefer brunch because they can get home in time to put Junior to bed and you can get home in time to binge-watch season 3 of “House of Cards” on Netflix… and still make your 10PM bedtime, without fear of a hangover the next morning.

When you’re turning 20, you order $5 margaritas at happy hour, when they don’t card, because that’s all you can afford.

When you’re turning 30, you’ve figured out how to get someone else to pay for your $15 top-shelf martini, with a twist.

When you’re turning 20, everyone asks what you’re going to do when you’re done with college/grad school/your internship. You have some kind of lofty, made-up answer because you only half know.

When you’re turning 30, you get to lead with a business card. You’ve had a promotion, or two, and while you still may not know where you’re going, at least you know where you are and where you’ve been. You’re still a little green, but you’ve earned some color round the edges. You were smart. Now you’re savvy.

When you’re turning 20, your heart gets broken by a “player” and your best friend says: don’t worry! You’ve got plenty of time to find someone else. Players gonna play.

When you’re turning 30, your heart get broken by a “player” and your best friend says: Players gonna play, but you’re getting too old for this. Have you ever thought of trying Match.com? I hear that’s where all the serious guys go.

When you’re turning 20, your idea of “dressing to seduce” involves showings as much skin as is legally permitted. Hemlines go up, necklines go down. Your crop-top barely covers your nipples and when you bend over the whole world can see the top of your very tiny panties.

When you’re turning 30, your idea of “dressing to seduce” is still “less is more,” except your less is, less skin, and your more is “more designer labels” and “more butt coverage.”

How Crop Tops look in different decades...
How Crop Tops look in different decades…

(Note: Summer 2015 is the summer of the crop top. Of the 6 shirts I brought with me to my birthday celebrations in Napa Valley, 4 are very tiny….)

Turning 30 can be scary, because it’s crossing a threshold. You have to leave behind excuses of youth and naivety and take responsibility. You’re accountable to something — to a boss, to a dog, to a spouse, to a family member. You’ve hit significant milestones and most of your first are behind you. It’s exciting because it’s the start of your prime.

29 was awesome — a memorable year with magazine covers and mega successes. An exclamation point to a well-enjoyed decade. Now, I get the fun of starting something new.

30 is the new 20, anyway.

Nuff said
Nuff said

One Dress, Two Women: Or One Size Doesn’t Fit All (Actually and Metaphorically)

My best friend Liz and I wear the same dress size. I won’t tell you what that size is, but we wear it well. Take the same slightly fitted shift dress, hand it to each of us and this is what happens…

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Liz and I are physical opposites. My bra is like the equivalent of pasties on her, while her bikini bottom becomes a thong on on me. She has long lean legs, while my lower body turns every dress into a Hevre Leger bandage dress. She’d spend the whole night checking her neckline to make sure “the girls” were in check. I’d probably go braless, but spend most of the night checking the hemline to make sure my butt cheeks were still under wrap.

In short, Liz and I could wear exactly the same dress, but it wouldn’t look like the same dress. We’d wear that same dress entirely differently.

Now, I’m gonna go ahead and make a philosophical and metaphorical leap here…

Just as no two women wear exactly the same dress on the hanger in the exactly the same way, no two women wear the dress of womanhood in exactly the same way. Life presents us with experiences that are ours and ours alone, that shape our individual identities. And yet, as women, there are experiences universal to the Sisterhood.

We’ve all gotten our periods at the most inopportune moment — like on the morning of a big athletic event, or when we’re wearing white, or when we’re on our first sleep-over with the new plus one. We’ve all faced some kind of gender based discrimination at some level — whether it’s in little league (girls can’t pitch!) or in the corporate office (women make $0.70 for every dollar a man makes.) Big girls don’t cry. We’ve all sat on the couch with a friend, and talked trash about the man or woman who most recently broken our heart. Etc.

Some of these shared experiences transcend “Woman” and are universally “human” — like broken hearts, feelings of inadequacy, moments of joy, the euphoria of love, etc, but some are ours and ours alone as women.

While we all wear the dress of womanhood differently, we’ve been growing into it and altering it as our custom piece of couture from the day we were born.

Elinor Burkett was making a similar point in her NYTimes opinion piece “What Makes a Woman?” — it takes a lifetime living as a woman to really BE a woman, because womanhood isn’t just about biology (and that is part of it.) Being a woman is about sets of shared and individual experiences.

About a year and a half ago, I started work on an exhibition about feminine identity. My driving thesis is that femininity, and gender generally, is one big performance art piece — a sort of play within and against socially constructed norms and personas. A battle between self-definition and societal-definition.

I am most certainly a product of a generation raised on the doctrine of inclusivity, to acknowledge and embrace differences. To understand that the world doesn’t exist in simple binaries — straight or gay, black or white, etc. And yet, I am also the product of a society that is built on a system of binaries — us or them, male or female.

Language is surprisingly limited.

In the sandbox on the playground and into the sandbox of my adult life, the Battle of the Sexes was always simple — us vs. them: Girls rule! Boys drool!

So while I’m embracing of the transgender community, and everyone’s right to live as he or she chooses, I can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea that a born man can, with the help of medicine and performance, transition to a woman and get to be a She in the same way that I am She.

The Monday after Burkett’s piece ran in the Times, we had a meeting with women leaders from my community to discuss how we’re partnering on this exhibition. We talked about the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover and Burkett’s op-ed feature. One of the woman shared an apt analogy:

“If your 4 year old child came up to you and said, ‘Today I am an adult!,’ would you accept that at her word? Or would you tell her she still needs some experience? That she has some growing up to do?”

Caitlyn Jenner is a she, but she wears the dress of womanhood differently than a 65-year-old born woman wears it. Ms. Jenner metaphorically walked into the store, tried on the dress, and bought it. I was handed that dress in the womb… and so was every other born woman. We didn’t get to chose the dress. We’ve spent our lives breaking it in, figuring out which angle is the most flattering, where it should be nipped or tucked so it fits like a glove, patched the holes we’ve picked up along the way…

Ms. Jenner can wear the dress too. That’s okay, and welcome to the club! But I’m not sure it fits her yet, not just yet.

Trying on dresses with the gal pals... we're not sure this one fits Caitlyn.. but it will, eventually.
Trying on dresses with the gal pals… we’re not sure this one fits Caitlyn.. but it will, eventually.

When Santa Gives You Pole Dancing Lessons…

My mother gave me pole dancing classes and this awesome card for Christmas. My mom is cooler than your mom.
My mother gave me pole dancing classes and this awesome card for Christmas. My mom is cooler than your mom.

“Make it bounce!”

There are a few things I’m used to hearing in a fitness group class. Bounce like you’re riding your favorite man is not necessarily one of them. In comparison, my spin instructor Dave tells me not to fear my best… now crank up that resistance!

Lasha, my pole dance class instructor, told me to slap my ass.

It was a Thursday night at fencing when I casually mentioned that I wanted to take pole dancing classes. My friend Madge was in ear shot.

“I’ve been taking classes at S-Factor,” she chirped. “For 10 years. I’ll take you one day and then when you’re hooked, we’ll have to get you a ‘naughty drawer’!”

It’s amazing what you’ll learn about your friends when you think you know everything.

If you’ve been a long-time reader, or if you’re a real-life friend, then you know my mother and you know she’s not your typical buttoned-up, “now, Kathleen, behave yourself,” kind of mother. On my 21st birthday, she bought me my first legal Gray Goose Cosmopolitan (and my second legal Gray Goose Cosmopolitan). Her recent relationship advice sounds like this: don’t go to his place on the 3rd date… show some restraint! Be a Lady. Wait till your 4th…and then make it worth it.

And for Christmas, she bought me pole dancing classes.

Madge was my designated chaperon, and after a flurry of email exchanges, we had settled on a Sunday afternoon.

I rode down to Chelsea, a neighborhood in the city I had watched transition over the years from shady, to “Gay town,” to “familyville,” to home of the High Line and tourist destination. Ambling down 23rd street, with the S-Factor address in my hand, I wasn’t sure what to look for. I’d made my way down this stretch of block before, but couldn’t recall ever seeing what looked like a pole dancing studio. The address brought me to a banal building entrance, sandwiched between a cupcake shop (YUM!) and a bodega/smoke shop. There was no real directory inside the lobby. Was I lost? Could this be any sketchier? This didn’t scream fitness. It screamed house of ill repute.

A pair of other twenty something with long straightened blonde hair and equally confused expressions slipped into the lobby.

“S-Factor-bound?” I asked.

“Yeap!” they replied, and together we figured out what floor and made our way to the elevator and up to the 3rd floor.

The minute the doors parted, a chorus of happy “hellos!” greeted us… along with a mannequin dressed in a g-string with neon pink fringe and light-up, 5-in stilettos.

This probably wasn’t what I was expecting but it was going to be awesome.

I walked into Studio B with Madge as my guide. It was like no other fitness studio I’d been in — there were no mirrors and the only lighting was a single dim spot light in the center of the room and a handful of lamps, draped with red cloths a la your stereotypical bordello. Three poles extended from ceiling to floor and in each corner was a large leather “lap dance” chair.

Clearly, more than my core was going to get a workout.

The class was one of the most liberating and physically challenging 90 minutes I’ve ever been through. Liberating, not because I was free to “feel my curves” or swirl my hips or “do whatever feels good,” but rather, because I had to trust my body to be strong enough to keep me in the air. Like most women, I have a difficult relationship with my body. There’s nothing more terrifying than wearing a bikini in public or taking off my shirt for the first time with Mr. New. But in the low light, with no glass to reflect back on me, and with an acrobatic task at hand, I had to let go of fears of judgement, of self-consciousness, and throw my feet off the floor, and twirl like the pretty, pretty (seductive) princess I wanted to be when I was 5.

In the lighting, I looked this hot and there was no one and no mirror to tell me otherwise.
In the lighting, I looked this hot and there was no one and no mirror to tell me otherwise.

I looked as hot as Demi Moore in “Striptease,” and there was no person or mirror to tell me otherwise.

The next morning, I ached all over, with bruises on my shins the size of bananas, self-inflicted from overly-aggressive approaches to the pole. Few workouts these days inflict any lingering pain. I was sold.

There are reasons to be skeptical about pole dancing your way to fitness. It’s not for everyone, even though I think every woman should try it at least once. Pole dancing is a “feminine movement” movement, not a feminist movement, per say. Taking to the pole is not about upended any power structure between the gaze and the subject of the gaze. There are no men allowed and no one is going to be stuffing dollar bills in my g-string in the near or distant future (even if the extra disposable income would be welcome… #alternativejobskillz.)  It’s not about learning tricks you can bring home to the boudoir, or even about sculpting better abs — though, those are absolutely excellent perks that makes yoga seem soooo 2005.

It’s about not fearing your best, most beautiful, strongest self. I can’t imagine a better post-workout feeling than that. Now, make it bounce!

Blogging in the Post Carrie Bradshaw Era

“Your friends must be really boring if you’re contacting me after all this time,” I typed into a gchat box that emerged without warning from a user I had long ago hidden from my chat list.

“Not the case here. All of a sudden I remembered your blog and wondered how you were doing.”

A little over 2 years ago, I had parked my car in an upper west side garage, a stone’s throw from the American Museum of Natural History (read: a neighborhood with premium parking rates) and met a 30-something lawyer for lunch. It was my second date of the day, having already breakfasted with an artist/industrial designer turned tech-recycler (is that a thing? Maybe his official title was Project Manager…). I had been seeing the Designer for about a month by this time, but it was going nowhere about as fast as a black hole. The Lawyer had potential, and he had been appropriately (maybe inappropriately, depending on your degree of conservatism) aggressive in his pursuit. I’d met them both online. I knew to temper my expectations.

After our date, which was a challenge, I went home and ranted on my blog. It was the first time I had ever railed against a guy, and I grouped him in with a string of unsuccessful online dates, belittling him and some guys who were, at the core, decent guys but just a bit oblivious. The Lawyer called me out, and I retracted the post and replaced it with an apology and philosophical definition of what this blog is all about. We didn’t speak again, until this week when he felt the need to apologize (!?!?! Wasn’t I the one who behaved badly?)

It happens with surprising frequency that I go out on a date and for some reason, mostly because he’s done his due diligence and researched me prior to our rendez-vous, my blog comes up. Most never read past the title or the “About Me” section, and so they proceed under particular assumptions.

The Professor, who is 20 years my senior and was a lunch companion earlier this summer: “Now, I don’t want to see our conversation end up in a blog post!”

A guy I think I briefly dated in 2011: “Feel free to write about me all you want. Just make sure you let everyone know how awesome I am.”

My Ex, who is the only ex to get a capital E (I think he actually read the blog, and might still): “I want to make sure you won’t have anything to write about any more.”

What they all assume is that this blog is “tell-all” dating blog. But here’s the thing: if I write about how terrible a date was, or how stupid a guy might be, then to do it fairly, to make it a post that says anything, then I need to turn the lens back on myself. Most single-girl blogs read like this: I went on this bad blind date, I had this one-night stand, this is my hook-up buddy, Why can’t my best guy friend figure out that he should be in love with me.

Writing a typical single-girl dating blog is relatively easy. But I’ve never been a fan of what’s easy.

I want you to read something of substance. Not everything that happens on a date or in the bedroom has substance. And, the simple truth is, some things need to stay inside a relationship.

If single-girl/dating blogs are a by-product of the Sex and the City era, most of us do Carrie Bradshaw a great injustice. When Carrie wrote about the men that breezed through her life, she tried to reason through a moral – didn’t every episode start with a “philosophical” question? What we saw play out in each episode where not only Big’s flaws, but Carrie’s… and in turn, the flaws in romantic relationships and even friendships.

Writing to ridicule men is boring, or at least it’s one tone. And if part of your impetus for blogging is a general frustration with men, perhaps getting hung up on all the ways men fail you is part of why we’re single. The way I see it is: it’s more interesting when you look at why YOU were hurt or disappointed, and what that says about you, your expectations, and your relationship goals. He’s only ½ the problem.

My Lawyer is case in point – he was a decent guy who felt bad sparks didn’t fly. I never gave him a chance, I just attacked him on the internet. “You are entertaining,” he wrote last week, 2.5 years after our infamous lunch. “We should have stayed friendly.”