The Conversation Women Are Having In Secret

Over the past few years, much of the debate about women’s lives has centered on our roles in the workplace. We have been coached to Lean In, assume the Power Pose and balance career and family in Unfinished Business. While the approaches differ, they share one essential call to action: Women must fight for greater acceptance, equality and leadership roles in our chosen careers.

With the rise of Tinder and the hook-up culture, much has also been written about how women are owning their sexuality in a similarly independent manner. But when it comes to actual romance, many women appear far more conflicted. (Yes, this is a big generalization, to say nothing of assuming hetero-normative roles. For the sake of argument, work with me here.) The truth is, we are not there yet — and many women are struggling not only with their own behavior but conflicting messages from men.

I co-founded Jyst, the crowd-sourced anonymous relationship advice app, to give women a place to open up about their lives in a supportive environment where we can share, ask, advise and help each other out without judgment when it comes to some of our most intimate concerns. One of the biggest surprises has been how many women struggle to break free of traditional roles, even self-proclaimed feminists. A few representative questions: “I’ve been dating this guy for the past four months, but he hasn’t asked me to be his girlfriend yet. Do I wait or ask him?” “Does it ever work out to ask a guy out first?” The answers are split between ‘You go, girl’ pep talks, admissions of similar insecurities, and shared experiences that men do not always react positively when women take the initiative. For women who pride themselves on being assertive in other areas of their lives, this is an uncomfortable dialog to have in broad daylight.

While issues of women’s rights in the workplace and controlling our own health must be central, it is also time to have a more open discussion about the stereotypical roles we continue to play in relationships. After all, the personal truly is political — and the political is more personal than ever. (Just ask Hillary.) The dialog must include men as well as women for we are all participants and we will all be the beneficiaries of change. Relationships are clearly in a state of flux, and if we are to come out of it in a better place, it’s time to be honest about our desires, confusion and vulnerabilities. As with all matters of the heart, that may just be the hardest thing of all.

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How to Deal with Your Ex During the Holidays

You caught your partner texted with his ex. Should you be worried??? You can’t stop thinking about your ex. Should you give it one last shot? The ex you thought was out of your life just reap…

Source: How to Deal with Your Ex During the Holidays

Forgive, Forget or Flame Out?

They cheated.Or maybe they cheated. They want forgiveness. They want you to trust them again. Should you forgive, forget or flame out? As the great Beyoncé asks, “What’s worse, looking crazy or jea…

Source: Forgive, Forget or Flame Out?

The Upside of App Anonymity

News headlines are justifiably concerned with the risks that anonymity can present, from very real physical danger to the snarkiness and bullying that some apps devolve into as people use avatars to cloak their worst behavior. At its best, though, anonymity and crowdsourcing can allow people to share problems they might not otherwise feel open to discussing, especially when it comes to personal relationships, and realize they are not alone. With such rapid changes in both how we communicate, we all have more questions that ever. Crowdsourcing can be especially useful in situations where friends might tell you what they think you want to hear rather than offer objective advice.When we launched Jyst, we were well aware of the dangers of both anonymity and crowdsourcing and put safety measures in place. As the community grows every day though, what has been most gratifying to see is the empathy and supportive nature of the conversations bubbling up. Is this because Jyst is a safe zone created by women for women to share relationship dilemmas? Are women, given the right environment, inherently more supportive of each other? It’s hard to tell, in part because there are still so few apps that grew out of uniquely female behavior. Admittedly, there are generalizations inherent to this argument, but if Jyst is an example, the answer appears to be yes. There has been an overwhelming display of empathy and kindness, a lack of judginess and absence of put-downs, proving that anonymity does not have to lead to animus; that personal questions do not have to lead to put-downs.The Jyst: The power of technology to unite and empower, to prove that no matter how far apart, we do not have to feel alone, is the best of both anonymity and crowdsourcing. We look forward to seeing more of it.

Source: The Upside of App Anonymity

The Jyst of It: Women, dating and apps

Jyst cover photo (1)

Recently, my co-founder of Jyst, Nadina Guglielmetti, and I went to a panel discussion on funding start-ups at WeWork.

In a room of well over 75 people, we were among the very, very few women – and we were certainly the only people over 30. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against smart young guys making apps. But the best apps are grounded in behavior and often in personal experience. And while men and women have many things in common, our interactions are often different.

Women ask women for honest romantic advice – and we love giving advice.  Example: Last summer, I was dating a guy who sent me the most confusing emails. I constantly sent them to Nadina (who is married) for interpretation. At the same time, my college-age daughter had friends sending her a gazillion texts asking, “What did he mean? What should I do?” No matter what age, it’s complicated.

That’s how Jyst came about.  It’s not about snark, it’s not about competition, it’s not about put-downs. It’s rooted in the deeply female behavior of sharing, asking for advice, sometimes admitting confusion and supporting each other.

Could a man have come up with Jyst? We doubt it. Do we hope men check it out? Absolutely.
In the meantime, I  strongly believe that more women – of every age – should start creating apps that speak directly to their own experiences and take a larger place in the tech world.

My Modern Love Story: What the Sea Took Away

Sharing my piece from the New York Times Modern Love.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/13/fashion/Modern-love-What-the-Sea-Took-Away-a-Daughter-Restores-.html?_r=0

Fourteen years ago, my husband vanished. A talented sculptor whose work was in major collections, he had been in a downward spiral for over a year, unable to finish a single piece of work, tumbling into alcoholism, paralyzed by depression.

After 10 years of marriage, he moved into his studio in Lower Manhattan while I stayed in our nearby apartment with our 5-year-old daughter, Sasha. We spoke every day, often more honestly than we had in years, about the drinking that was destroying our marriage, the demons he had faced and triumphed over in the past and why he couldn’t fight them now.

Most of all, we spoke of Sasha. He adored her and, despite everything, remained a doting father. I hoped the separation would make him face what he was in danger of losing — his family, the ability to create art — and get the help he needed.

Instead, he went to Florida to stay with a woman he had dated in college and fell further into an alcohol-soaked haze, filled with self-blame, unreachable. At midnight on an August night, a few days before he was to return home, he apparently swam into the ocean as far as he could go and didn’t come back.

“Apparently” is the word that came to define his death, and my life, for years to come. My husband’s body was never found. The woman he was staying with waited four days to call the police. When they arrived, they found his ID, credit cards, unused airline ticket to New York and two drawings. One said: “Drowned.” The other: “Lonely Head, Dead.”

For the first few days, I told Sasha nothing. I clung to the hope that my husband would be found in a hospital, would magically appear at the airport for his return flight or, worst-case scenario, that his body would be discovered in some weedy cove.

None came to pass. And I discovered there is something worse: absence without answers. Finally, I had no choice but to tell Sasha her father had disappeared and we didn’t know what had happened. Each night she asked if there was news, her legs twirling in agitation, the horror of losing a much-loved parent exacerbated by the quicksand of uncertainty.

If the world could swallow up one parent without a trace, what protection is there? Six weeks later, as I began to accept that we might never have answers, I lied and told Sasha the police knew for sure her father had died. We held a memorial service and Sasha began to heal.

Questions naturally arose. When she was 8, Sasha turned to me out of the blue and said, “Mom, the police don’t really know for sure what happened, do they?”

The story she was so ready to believe at 6 was proving leaky. She began to make up better endings. In school, she wrote tales of a man who ventured into the ocean at night only to discover he had forgotten how to swim.

Always, in her stories, he was rescued by mermaids or suddenly reclaimed his aquatic ability. (And upon his return to shore, his wife was furiously yelling, “What were you thinking?”)

I held firm in my conviction that her father had died that night. I wanted most to spare Sasha the realization that there would always be a black hole in the center of our lives.

For the inevitable question, “Where is your father?” I gave her a pat answer: “Just say he drowned. You don’t need to explain more than that.”

I had found in my own life, particularly as I started dating again, that the surreal and open-ended nature of what had happened was as disturbing to listeners as to me. Nevertheless, Sasha instead replied, “I have no father.” On school forms, she wrote “none” rather than “deceased.”

The few times she tried to explain the situation in more detail, she was bombarded with questions she could not answer. Still, I found it unsettling that she was erasing a father who despite his struggles had loved her deeply.

Eventually, I published a novel based on the story, and while the act of shaping the narrative helped me to move on, I was worried how Sasha, then 14 and an inveterate reader, might react. I prepared a speech to give her with the book, stressing that I would be happy to answer any questions about her father’s death, and I waited.

But the novel languished on her bedside table for three years before she opened it. She claimed to be too busy. She kept pictures of her father in her room, but she never again inquired about the details of his disappearance. My version was her version, my life story hers.

Until now. Sasha, 20 years old and a junior in college, received an assignment to write a life story only she could tell. “I want to write about Dad,” she texted me.

At first, she intended to make it an impressionistic essay about how his death had shaped her, but her professor had another idea. She suggested Sasha approach it as an investigative piece.

My first response was outrage. How could this woman have any idea of what she was asking? I had long tried to shield my daughter from the vortex of uncertainty; the last thing I wanted was for her to start poking around, reaching out to people from years ago who may harbor conflicting theories. (One lone police detective still insisted my husband must be alive somewhere, and it had taken me seven years to get a death certificate.)

“My professor said you might be a bit hesitant or protective,” Sasha said. “It’s my life, too, and I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while.”

We tell our children the stories of our lives to shape our shared history, to give them identity and meaning, and sometimes to protect them. At some point, though, they will yank the story from our hands and make it theirs.

I agreed to help Sasha. Nevertheless, my inclination was to try to control the flow of information. I called my husband’s best friend from Florida and his brothers, alerting them to Sasha’s coming inquiries. I asked them to keep the door closed on any questions they may have about his death, though they assured me they had none.

A few days later, Sasha emailed to say she had decided to turn the assignment into a multimedia project. She asked for photos of the police reports, the Coast Guard charts of the tides the night her father died, the private investigator records. On a wintry afternoon, I opened a box that had been shut for years and began snapping pictures with my iPhone: the official documents, the unused airline ticket for his trip back to New York, the address book the police found that still had the hearts he had drawn around my name when we first started dating.

For all of my fears, though, it was not her father’s death that ended up interesting Sasha. She accepted it as fact: sad, bizarre, haunting, incontrovertible. It was his life that she wanted to learn about.

His single-minded determination awed her.

“Did you know that Daddy lived in an abandoned building when he was in college and ate canned soup so he could put all his money into his art?” she asked me.

It was that burning ambition, that will to create, that I first fell in love with, I told her, realizing now how little I had spoken of it.

“Do you have any idea what made him so committed to sculpture?” she asked.

I remembered a photograph of him at 7 with his mother, a dressmaker in Germany, standing at the table while she cut patterns, eerily similar to his later work. I hadn’t looked at it in a decade, but I sent it to Sasha along with photos from his shows, a list of his collectors, reviews of his work before the bottom fell out, stories I willfully had forgotten in the effort to forge a new life.

Sasha was hungry for detail, and I did my best, digging up shards of a past that felt at once distant and immediate. But the sadness that descended on me did not spill over to her. She was too busy filling in pieces and stitching them together.

It is a particularly American story, I told her, of a boy who came to this country at 8 not speaking a word of English; a teenager who left a difficult home and put himself through college and graduate school; an artist who succeeded magnificently and failed miserably, felled by his own addiction.

In the end, the story she wrote was about a man who redefined himself through art, a man of overwhelming talent and fatal flaws. I had spent 14 years trying to protect my daughter from her father’s death, and she gave me back his life.

The CitiBike Diaries

Citibike Diaries: Part 1: The People Who Love/Hate People Version

Time from gym to work: 15 minutes

Time spent developing road rage against pedestrians crossing in middle of the street while walking/talking/eating: 4 minutes

Time spent looking for open dock: 5 minutes.

Time spent talking to cute guy also trying to dock bike: Not long enough.

****

Citibike Diaries Part 2: Calories Burned: The New Math

Bad News: Biking slowly (hard to go fast in Manhattan with cars/pedestrians/trucks coming at you like pinballs) does not burn a lot of calories.

Good News: Cars/pedestrians/trucks coming at you like pinballs causes fast spike in heart rate and blood pressure, thus turning leisurely ride into intense cardio interval.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it!

*****

CitiBaked Diaries Part 3: The Hot and Bothered Edition

# of docks it took to find a bike last night: 3

# of docks it took to find open slot to dock: 3

# of unjustified over-charges on credit card: $187.27

# of responses to my complaint: 0
The love affair isn’t over but we might need couples counseling.

*****

Citibike Diaries: Part 4: The Summer Friday Edition*

(Note: This post has not been approved by medical authorities)

The Plan: No biking today. Drinks with friends on roof at Eataly.

The Reality: Drinks with friends on roof at Eataly. Row of tempting bikes a block away on way out. Couldn’t resist. Flip-flops, dress, rosé, no helmet- and yet….hey guys, it was just a few blocks. And it made me happy.

*****

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