Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods's apology, Mia Michaels's brilliance, and the Addictive Dance o' Death

Kayla & Kupono, "Addiction" dance
I know. It's the Year of the Tiger, and today Tiger Woods's gave his long-awaited statement to the press in the wake of his sex scandal. Yet before I comment, I want to summon one of the most powerful and eloquent portrayals of addiction I've ever seen. The brilliant Mia Michaels, who choreographed the dance for SYTYCD, said, "I think everybody at one point will have or has had an experience with wanting something that's not good for you." Yes, and some of us have made a lifelong pattern of it. That's one hallmark of addiction. The repetition. The enslavement to the wanting. And the inability to let go, even when it hurts.
"You are the Addiction," she told Kupono. Kupono knew addiction firsthand. He said a good friend's addiction to drugs had "almost destroyed my family, almost destroyed my friend." He didn't want to dance this character, or be that drug -- even for a minute and a half performance. Then he broke down. His emotional engagement clearly ignited the dance, set to Sara Bareilles's "Gravity." Check it out:
"Addiction" dance - Kayla Rodomski & Kupono Aweau, dancers; Mia Michael, choreographer
This dance reminds us people can be destructively, uncontrollably hooked on a person. People can be addicted to love as well as sex, as well as drugs, as well as alcohol. Some people use relationships as a drug. As a love junkie, I did this. I confused sex for love, and I entered into the territory of sex addiction through love addiction. This is often the portal for women, as Dr. Drew noted on that Oprah episode with cast from VH1's "Sex Rehab." Lots to chew on, and think about in terms of Tiger and this addiction. Like Elin, I also was drawn to sex addicts -- people who were never just satisfied with me. If that's not a prescription for psychic hellaciousness. 
[Note:  SYTYCD without Mia Michaels, without the choreographers on the judging panel, is greatly diminished for this viewer. The choreographers brought gravitas, passion and artistic vision to the discussion of dancers. Mia Michaels was the queen. No wonder she won an Emmy for this piece. I no longer watch SYTYCD. It got too big for its Danskins.]
Tiger Woods, victorious
On top of the world - flip side, "I felt entitled"
Check the above photo of Tiger. Then this one below from the press conference today:
Tiger Woods at press conference
1st public statement post-scandal, 2.29.10
Do yourself a favor, and watch the 13 minute statement. Whatever you think about this world-class athlete personally -- his statement is powerful. Someone on Twitter today asked me if he was in recovery-recovery or celebrity recovery-recovery. My sense is that he is ready to get better. I checked in with Benoit Denizet-Lewis today, and we both concurred. Tiger had come across vulnerable, sincere, and willing to take responsibility. There are no guarantees, of course. But what his public statement can do is crack open the cultural awareness about sex addiction. That's why it matters in the bigger picture of our health as a society. Further, his dedication to rigorous rehab can perhaps help educate people about the treatment and hope for sex addiction -- and other process addictions as well as substance addictions. When he brought up the spiritual dimension, and his training in Buddhism, I applauded him further. This aspect is key to true recovery, and often left out of the more general public conversation. Then he went on to say he had a long way to go. That, too, is crucial to convey to people -- that there is no quick fix here. In the end, I was simply moved by the emotional openness of his speaking. I believed. And that is the biggest testament of all. I say bravo to Tiger for putting a face and voice to this pervasive addiction.  Perhaps it is not just the year of the Tiger, but also the year of deepening awareness of such wildly destructive process addictions.
What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wake up, Twilight Generation! Pay No Attention to Robert Pattinson: Time to Celebrate The Power of Pussy!

Superdiva Ann Magnuson
demonstrating pride in pussy, awesome creative femaleness 
& ultrasonic smart humor

Wake up, Twilight Generation! Not only is the Twilight entertainment franchise teaching you toxic lessons in love that'll help lead you to bad relationships and full-blown love junkieness (check this excellent recent post by Libby Cudmore about it here: No Valentines for Twilight Generation ) -- but now one of the stars has publicly voiced his squeamishness and distaste for female genitalia. Don't take it. Don't buy into it. Just say no to self-hatred and cultural misogyny, however disguised -- or not. 
Here's the link to the TMI interview where 23-year-old actor Robert Pattinson unwisely let his misogyny rip:  Robert Pattinson really hates vaginas [Interesting to note he is currently the same age as Lady Gaga, who takes as a matter of pride standing up for sexual fluidity and LGBT rights. Take a moment to juxtapose the female representations of Bella and Gaga, if you will. Let alone our loose-lipped vamp.]

To help combat Pattinson's damaging message, I've summoned the brilliant, eternally relevant Renaissance woman Ann Magnuson, still going strong. Pulled one from the vault to remind us all how to celebrate the power of pussy, embrace being women. And conduct ourselves in love and relationships with both swagger and grace.
I remember going to a release party for this vid decades ago -- was it at Les Deux? - and exulting in the presence of Ann, the no-holds no-genders-barred vibe. Years before, I'd championed the electrifying, uber-sexy Ann to play the Mrs. Robinson character in "A Night In The Life of Jimmy Reardon" with the enviable task of seducing up-and-comer River Phoenix, then a 16-year-old golden boy.]
Take a listen and see if it doesn't have an instant superdiva effect. [Note:  You must be 18 or over to view.]Bongwater's classic "Power of Pussy" 

Now wrench those vamp teeth from your necks, fling the glittery gaunt stalker from your tail, and rock on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

"This Thing Called Love" - provocative essay from Glasgow's Sunday Herald

Isn't that 50s illustration scary? Reminds me how vindicated I felt, and relieved, when I saw gnarly portraits of love and coupledom as a kid. Like in "Klute," which my mother took me to see at the drive-in when I was maybe 7. Sure it was disturbing. Inappropriate. It also strangely opened up a richer world of relating. Including erotic. Something screamingly absent from this starched illustration. But I digress.

Recently, a Scottish journalist, Teddy Jamieson, contacted me about an essay on love he was composing. It was to appear on Valentine's Day in the Glasgow Sunday Herald magazine. He said he'd been intrigued by my book, Love Junkie, and that he thought maybe I could contribute some of the darker colors to his portrait. A week later, we spoke. What he used from our conversation is in parts distorted. Yet this is what often happens when one collaborates on creative projects. It's an opportunity to let go, get Zen about the flow of ideas, imagination. The creative commons. Sampling. I think Teddy is a helluva writer. A probing interviewer. His essay on the color white which was previously published in the Sunday Herald left me breathless. I am eager to hear your thoughts on his whole vision of love as reflected in this essay. Or whatever sparks you, or makes your heart leap, or sink. Or pulse brightly in recognition. After all, Jamieson includes delectable Don Draper, the ultimate cynic of love. When I get some comments, I'll respond to the misrepresentations of my quotes, in service of maintaining clarity about my position as a love junkie -- which is neither victim, nor sex-negative. Au contraire. Enjoy! As we continue the ongoing dialogue about love, sex, romance, relationships -- what constitutes health and what toxicity, and what, perhaps, straddles those lines and vacillates betwixt and between. Happy post-V-Day! I hope it was a beautiful one for all of you. RRxo
[NOTE:  In order to read the article, simply click on the page you desire and a bigger, readable size screen will pop up.]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Letting Go of the Fairytale: Happy Valentine's Day!

A true princess yearns eternally (mother hunger). Waits for love and stays faithful despite receiving little or no nurturing (deprivation). Suffers for love (masochism). Insists on multiple feathered mattresses (entitlement). Puts exaggerated stock in her locks (addiction to haircare, vanity, the externals). Remains always a princess, never a queen (arrested development). Fantasizes the same dream of Your Princely Arms swooping her up (obsessive, addicted to fantasy -- easier when one is always dressed in a flowy gown). Pines for love, yet is either never or rarely satisfied (masochism, plus victimhood, plus dramaqueen). Gets deeply hooked when presented with challenge and rejection (seriously fucked up, overly driven to fix, and prolly PTSD -- Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome - like so many of us due to our childhoods. Not to mention the cultural messages! How are we to be both sexy bad girl and marriageable good girl? As Kelly McDaniel states so eloquently in her must-read Ready To Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction, this results in a cultural double bind. Which results in self-hatred. What's a girl to do?)
Ah, Andrew Lang. I fed on your pretty-colored fairy books as a child. I devoured your tomes. Traced the romantic illustrations. Dreamed of locking myself away in a tower, pricking my finger with a thorn so blood would spill onto snow and prove my love, enduring pestilence and plagues for my man. You know -- the one in disco-shiny armor that still showed off his muscled limbs, the one thundering on horseback, toward me! To rescue the broken one, the girl incomplete without a knight, a prince, a king.
Since I grew up in a chaotic household, where my mother was crazy and self-medicated with alcohol and my father was not in the picture -- I retreated into books. Specifically fairytales. On one occasion, I strode into my mother's bedroom where she had lain all day, hungover, depressed, though it was already dinner time -- and presented her with a list of chores I should be assigned. "To build character," I said, steely-eyed as only a 'tween can be. She laughed, then sank back into the twisted bedclothes. "Get out," she said. "I don't feel like being a mother." 

So I plucked my ideals and honed my morals from fairytales. This has gotten me into trouble all my life.

Imagine my pleasure when I was invited to talk specifically about this one aspect of a love junkie's journey. How childhood fairytales exacerbated an already vulnerable psychic and chemical condition, one created out of parental chaos, attachment disorder, lack of rules and boundaries, absence of love, trauma.

Upon return from the East Coast, where I participated at Sex Week At Yale (will cover in a separate blog post!), I spoke with lovely Kim Iverson out of Austin, Texas, about Letting Go of the Fairytale. Turns out her radio show producer, the way cool Casey Acevedo, is a self-proclaimed princess who's struck out when it comes to love. I tried to set her straight in a quick 7-minute interview. Here's the link! Check it out. I'd love to know your response.
If you are so inclined, post comments here, and/or on the radio show's blog. Consider it a virtual Valentine -- if not to me, then to all the girls and women out there struggling with their own ideas of love, romance, and their beautiful yearning hearts. Love yourself. That is the best Valentine of all.


[Let me make clear:  I am an ardent fan of fairytales. The real ones. The harsher the better. Bring on Grimm. Check out Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment for illumination on how these potent archetypal stories can help and heal a young psyche still unable to articulate dangerous emotions. It just so happens in my case these stories brewed together with other elements to provide a problematic, unrealistic storyline. That narrative, the story I told myself for years, is the one that needed to be changed. And which I did, in part, in Love Junkie:  A Memoir. Stay tuned for more talk about the transformational power of writing memoir. And of narrative therapy, as invented by David White.]

Friday, February 5, 2010

Break The Love Junkie Habit! CalStateLA pre-Valentine's presentation

This past Monday, I had the pleasure and privelege to read and discuss Love Junkie for a packed house at CalStateLA's groovy Student Union. Rhonda Mitchell, a way cool and super-talented former writing student of mine from Mediabistro's 12-Week Novelist Bootcamp before Writers On Fire was born, invited me.  The event was part of their ongoing Cup of Culture series at the Cross Cultural Center. 

We thought maybe there'd be 10-20 students dropping in between classes. Mostly writers. Instead, it was standing room only and they sold out of books. The students' palpable hunger for straight talk about love and sex, romance and relationships from an older adult perspective was beyond inspiring. "Tell us what 'Sex and the City' doesn't talk about," they said. To illustrate how love junkieness can take root in childhood, I read a bit from the Blue Flame chapter, then a section about the boy with the longest eyelashes in the world, my six-year-old crush. Fielded questions about relationships. Addiction. Attachment. Students opened up with amazing courage. Some cried as they shared about being involved with people who didn't treat them right and yet they couldn't stop going back. I also read from the Phuket section. It's so important to let go of judgment, shame. What better way than sharing such a story. One girl told me afterwards that she was so inspired she was going to start a blog about relationships. No longer would she waste all her time chasing phantom love. 

Here's what Rhonda said the students wrote in their evaluations:

1) I learned the true definition of a love junkie
2) I learned that you should love yourself first
3) I learned that love can turn into an obsession
4) I learned about the complexity of relationships and love
5) I learned that love can be addictive

They rated their interest in this event as “high.” They thought the length of the event was “just right.” They also rated you as “excellent. They would make no changes to the event.

Glad I didn't know they were evaluating me as I was presenting!

Days later, I am even more inspired and certain that colleges and other young adults would benefit from this frank discussion of love addiction. What a perfect way to prepare for returning to the Yale University campus tomorrow for SWAY, Sex Week At Yale -- a weeklong exploration of intimacy, relationships, sex and love featuring everyone from transgendered sex workers to cultural anthropologist and love expert Dr. Helen Fisher. I'm honored to have a chance to bring honest talk about love and sex and romance addiction to people who're young enough to wake up and change the course of their lives. It will be my first time returning to the Yale campus after graduating a quarter century ago.

As I wrote in student book inscriptions, here is a virtual Valentine for us all:  
Remember to love yourself first.


Friday, January 1, 2010

On the anniversary of my mother's death

Jane's high school portrait
Windsor School

Today marks the anniversary of my mother's death by suicide, over 30 years ago. I pay tribute to her and continue to honor her memory by doing my best to embrace life and live fully, slaying demons along the rocky, sparkly-glorious way. Let there be hope for all those suffering, all those considering ending their own lives now or in the past. I hope you choose life. Go where the love is.
Jane on Commando, jumping
10 years before I was born

About my mother's high school portrait:  Windsor School. All girls. Bostonian blueblood prep. She was so full of promise. Troubled, yes. Also a crack photographer, killer field hockey player, a graceful equestrian, and played Creon -- interestingly, andrognynously -- in the school production of Antigone. I still miss you, Ma.

And so ends another holiday season, which for me -- and I know for many other people who suffered or suffer difficult family relationships, history, or have none -- brings pain. We have made it through. We have triumphed. Let the rest of the year be about celebrating life.