During a blank eyed bit of channel surfing, I happened upon a HBO special about strippers. I was immediately drawn in despite self-assurances that I was above watching such tripe. As I continued to gawk, a strange mixture of disquiet and sadness over took me. Now, I have never had a problem with female nudity or blatant sexuality in general, but something struck me as odd in a I can’t-put-my-finger-on-it type way.
As exposes go, it was what you’d expect, controversial and titillating although I don’t recall very much of it. The scene that does stick in my mind, was one where a fifty-ish stripper was auditioning for a club. The owners, looking amused throughout the woman’s performance, allowed her to dance, but told her afterwards that she wouldn’t work out on the basis that she was “too old’.
This part of the show made me a bit angry, for a myriad…
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I’ve been married and divorced three times, which makes me one of those people the Wall Street Journal describes, delicately, as having “a complex marital biography.” For most of my life, this has been a source of shame. But lately I’ve begun wondering if I’m really the one with the problem.
I’m certainly not alone. Among people ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has doubled over the past 20 years, according to sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University. Further, having been married previously doubles the risk of divorce for those ages 50 to 64, while for those ages 65 and up, the risk factor quadruples.
The most obvious reason is that people are living longer. My three marriages took place over a 30-year period and produced three children — not exactly a night in Vegas. My mother, also on marriage number three, followed an early divorce with a successful 30-year marriage to husband number two. Several years after his death, she tied the knot with a fellow retiree — again, not what I would call party-girl behavior.
So here’s a revolutionary thought: What if marrying more than once was actually okay? What if we (and by “we” I mean people of any gender, or as I like to call them, “people”) could enter into legally sanctioned relationships with individuals we loved — and then, if the unions no longer served us or our families, end them?
I have this fantasy of sitting on the couch with my kids, leafing through the family album. “Here’s Bob,” I might say fondly, patting a photograph of a hippie-haired young man in ripped jeans. “We spent 12 great years together, writing music and traveling all over the world.”
On another page, a smiling man on roller blades, flowers peeking from his leather backpack. “This is your father the year I met him,” I would tell my daughter. “He taught me to skate, and brought roses every week for no reason.” And here, my sons’ father, sturdy and tall just like they are. “Remember our summers in Montauk?” I would ask. “We’d sing for hours on the drive out.”
Do I regret any of these relationships? Not for a second. If I met these men now, I would probably make different choices (as would they). But I can’t imagine my life without the experiences we shared or the children we created.
After all, what makes a life well lived? Taking chances. Making mistakes. Loving others. And maybe even marrying the wrong person.
So let’s try looking at marriage as an exit off life’s highway, rather than an irrevocable dead end. Maybe it will lead to a road we want to follow forever; that would be a great blessing. But if not, we should be free to head in a new direction without feeling like we failed.
Chinese young people, especially women, are under so much pressure to present acceptable boyfriends to their parents that some rent fake sweethearts, as Tan Weiyun reports on the Chinese Single’s Day today.
Clean-cut, bespectacled and financially secure Matthew Fan, 27, started to “rent” himself out as a fake boyfriend two years ago. He’s single.
“I wanted to earn some pocket money when I had just graduated from university and started to work,” says the Chongqing native who works full-time as an accounts manager. “This rental business isn’t bad, especially during the Chinese Lunar New Year when there are family reunions.”
Fan might not be handsome, but he’s attractive enough and he’s definitely reassuring to anxious parents who want their daughters to demonstrate they have a viable marriage prospect, a steady boyfriend.
On Chinese Single’s Day today, Fan and other rentable young men note that as the year ends, there’s more need for their services at New Year’s Eve parties with parents and the endless Spring Festival family parties of the Chinese Lunar New Year (beginning on January 30, 2014). Mid-Autumn Festival is another lucrative period of family reunions.
While some young singles are getting high at singles parties, some are quite low because they’re alone. They know they will soon be faced with ceaseless, annoying inquiries from nosy parents and relatives: Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet? When are you going to get married? You’re getting old.
Come on. Not again. But this badgering annual ritual cannot be avoided, especially at reunions, and some single men and women are turning to rent-a-boyfriend/girlfriend services to keep their parents and relatives off their back.
Fan, and advertises online — charges 800 yuan (US$131) per day in China and 1,500 yuan per day in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. There’s a three-day minimum and his employer pays transport, accommodation, dining and other fees.
“I only rent my time, not my body — you know what I mean,” Fan says. He has a girlfriend who doesn’t know about his moonlighting.
Type the keyword rent boy/girlfriend on Taobao.com, China’s largest online shopping website, and more than 250 search results pop up. They provide a range of services and prices range from 500 yuan to 8,000 yuan per day, or around 50 yuan an hour on average.
Services include accompanying clients back home to see their parents, chatting with parents, attending social gatherings, going shopping and taking part in various other activities.
The price list per hour can be quite detailed. In some cases, dining is 50 yuan an hour (the employer pays), shopping 30 yuan, seeing a movie 30 yuan (double price for a thriller). A by-courtesy-only kiss costs 50 yuan, which will also include a free embrace, free hand-holding and a free goodbye kiss on the cheek or forehead.
“It all depends on how you look at it. If you look at it as a business, then it’s much easier,” says 26-year-old Xu Li from Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, a postgraduate of Shanghai East China University of Sciences and Technology. He works part-time as a simulated sweetheart.
Usually, he and his client exchange photos online and settle on services and prices. Then they meet beforehand for a rehearsal. She briefs him on her situation and her family; they establish the boyfriend’s job, salary, family background and how they fell in love.
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” ~Havelock Ellis
Imagine that you have to move in two days. Would you be able to pack all your possessions in that time and clean out your house completely?
How about your mental baggage? If you have only two days left to finish all the important projects in your life, would you be able to do it?
Three years ago I left the country where I was born and raised and moved permanently to a different place half way around the globe.
Packing was not easy because there were so many things that were meaningful to me but of course I couldn’t take them all. But even more difficult was the part of leaving my friends and family behind. I couldn’t put my friends in a suitcase and smuggle them across the border.
However, the hardest part was still ahead. Soon after I got to the US I realized that I had to let go of a lot of habits and even my lifestyle. Everything was so different from where I grew up.
I had two choices: to hold on to my past, complain, and be completely miserable or let go of everything that was no longer relevant and start a new life while still holding on to my authentic self.
You may not have had to go through such drastic changes in life. However, we all face the dilemma of letting go and holding on.
A lot of times if we are not forced to let go of something we keep dragging 10, 20, 40 years of mental and physical baggage behind us. At some point that baggage becomes so unbearably heavy that we just decide to stop moving forward and start living in the past.
We stop having new goals and dreams. We stop meeting new people. We stop trying new things. We stop learning. But, ironically, we still keep buying and acquiring more physical clutter to fill our homes and closets.
Of course, on the other hand if you throw away everything you love and enjoy, then suddenly you lose your personality. Frankly speaking, you cease to know yourself then.
So, quoting Havelock Ellis again, how do you mingle letting go and holding on? The answer to this question will give you the ultimate inner peace and balance.
1. Physical clutter.
In the world where buying is easier than walking (buying a new gadget requires minimum energy—pick up the phone and order it) it’s really difficult to keep our houses clutter free.
When you try to clean up, throwing away stuff that you no longer use comes easy—like a sweater that has stains from a barbecue party or your kids’ toys that they no longer play with. But how about things that you are emotionally attached to? It’s a totally different story.
Make a stack of things that have meaning to you, look at every item in that stack, and ask yourself “What does this thing really mean to me? If I don’t own it, will I still be able to keep the memories that are dear to me? Can someone else in my family have better use of this item?”
It’s even better to ask someone else to go over this stack with you. While you are emotionally attached to all these items another person (your friend, spouse or a family member) will give you logical reasons why you should or should not hold on to this thing.
Hold on only to a few mementoes that remind you about a particular joyful period. Find a good way to display them where they don’t obstruct your living space or devote only one closet to all your mementoes. Whatever you can’t fit in that closet has to find another home.
2. Dreams and goals.
As years pass we grow and change. Your goals and dreams should grow and change with you.
Can you imagine if all of us held on to the dreams that we had when we were 6-7 years old? Who did you want to be back then? I wanted to be a teacher, not because I wanted to teach others but because I liked to grade papers (in my mind, grading papers with red ink was THE coolest thing in the world.)
At each stage of our life we are allowed to have different dreams and goals. As we mature we can let some of our dreams “retire” because we discover goals that are more important to us. Letting go of a dream doesn’t mean that you have failed at reaching it. It means that you have cleared space for a more meaningful and mature goal in your life.
Hold on to the dreams and goals that are authentic and that represent who you. Let go of the ones that you don’t feel so strong about anymore and always create new ones.
One of the worst things in life is always trying to meet somebody’s expectations.
If you are always trying to reach the approval of others then you will never be able to live peacefully. None of us is perfect in the eyes of the others. None of us is perfect, period. The only way that we can be successful and perfect is if we set our own standards and follow our own road in life.
Of course, hold on to some social norms and politeness and also consider the feelings and wellbeing of the people you love. Being authentic and true to yourself doesn’t mean becoming selfish or thoughtless.
4. Bad habits.
Is there any reason to keep bad habits in your life? Constant improvement is a sure sign of a balanced and happy person. A lot of times letting go of a habit is difficult. That’s why so many of us (me included) fail at this goal.
The only way that you can change your lifestyle is to plant a firm decision into your head. You are not doing it for someone else, you are not doing it because you are expected to. You are doing it because you want to live the best life and you care about the people around you who might be suffering from your bad habit.
Choose one habit that you want to work with and “prepay” 20% of your success. It’s a marketing strategy that works great for attracting customers as well as tricking your brain into starting a transformation.
If you want to lose some weight what would you much rather do—get on a strict diet or stop eating sweets after lunch? Unless you are a disciplinary freak of nature you would choose not eating sweets after lunch. By doing that for a week you have “prepaid” for your success. Next week it will be easier for you to start cutting your portions or move from an egg and bacon biscuit for breakfast to some healthy oatmeal.
Hold on to some of your habits (for right now). One of the main reasons why people fail at transforming their bad habits is because they do too much too fast. Choose just one habit and work on it until you have succeeded.
5. Memories and experiences.
Our brain is hard-wired into noticing and holding on to negative events five times more effectively than positive ones. This phenomenon is called “negativity bias.” It’s the reason why we keep dwelling on a negative conversation with a colleague at work instead of noticing the roses bloom outside.
The only way to fight this built-in negativity is to focus on positive events and make sure that your brain remembers them as vividly as it does negative ones.
Hold on to your positive memories by writing them down. A recent study published in Psychology Today suggested that it takes 5 positive events to outweigh one negative one in your life. Whenever you start feeling the attack of negative thoughts think of as many positive events of the day as possible.
Focus on the joys of present day and stop dwelling in the past.
Sometimes we have to make a decision to let go of people in our lives.
It’s in your best interests to let go of difficult and negative people, those who constantly bring you down or undermine your efforts to improve your lifestyle. If they are unwilling to understand your current goals then you are better off without them.
If you are not able to let go then you might want to minimize the time that you spend with them.
Hold on to your close friends, your confidants. Whether it is your spouse, your family member or a friend please make it a priority to spend time with them, to share your joys, ask for advice, and have fun together. It will make you happier and more positive and it can even improve your health.
Letting go is not as hard as it seems. Every little thing that you let go of today makes room for something new and amazing in your life. A life of genuine balance and peace starts when you learn to let go without regret and hold on with gratitude.
Much of daily life tends to be ordinary and unexciting. Making steady efforts day-to-day can be trying. It’s not always going to be fun. But, when you fall in love, life seems filled with drama and excitement; you feel like the leading character in a novel.
But if you lose yourself in love just because you’re bored, and consequently veer from the path you should be following, then love is nothing more than escapism. What you are doing is retreating into a dream world, believing that what is only an illusion is actually real.
Even if you try to use love as an escape, the fact is that the euphoria is unlikely to last for long. If anything, you may only find yourself with even more problems along with a great deal of pain and sadness. However much you may try, you can never run away from yourself. If you remain weak, suffering will only follow you wherever you go. You will never find happiness if you don’t change yourself from within. Happiness is not something that someone else, like a lover, for instance, can give to you. You have to achieve it for yourself. And the only way to do so is by developing your own character and capacity as a human being; by fully maximizing your potential. If you sacrifice your own growth and talent for love, you will absolutely not find happiness. True happiness is obtained through fully realizing your own potential.
There is no season more polarizing than the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. For some, it is eagerly anticipated as they welcome the time with family and tradition. For others, it is a season filled with dread, as it has an uncanny ability to highlight what we do not have. For those in transition from one life to another, from partnered to single, from big family to small, it can be a tricky season to navigate but a little effort and reframing can go a long way. The following are some tips for the divorced and separated that can can help you reclaim your holiday rather than hiding from it.
Let Go of the Way it Was
It will not be the way it was before. Don’t even try to make it stay the same. It is an exercise in futility. But here is the most important part –…
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