There’s a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of [the] sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life – an underground of brutality and lonely fear. Those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished. Those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others. And governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery.
President George W. Bush
New York, New York
September 23, 2003
If you’ve had your ears on during the last decade, you’ve heard of human trafficking. This particularly horrific crime and scourge on our world has crept to every shore, and there is something that every last one of us can do about it.
Someone who is doing quite a bit about it is Sean Morrison, founder and CEO of Morrison Security, Inc. The national security firm conduct investigations across the U.S., and provides elite bodyguards, canine drug and explosive detection units, armed security guards and more.
Within his 500-plus person security firm, Mr. Morrison has created a pro-bono human trafficking task force (Operation Restoring Innocence) that has been credited with safe rescue and recovery of over 85 victims of human trafficking.
He is here to share tips on how all of us—women and men, no matter our age, location or parental status—can be part of wiping this pox from our planet and our communities.
[Italics mine throughout text.]
Constance Dunn:I understand you are a security expert and in this field, you have a lot of information to share. Can you share the most indispensable top tip or two on how a young girl or woman can avoid being a victim of human trafficking?
Sean Morrison: Yes it is imperative for girls to be extremely aware of their surroundings especially when going into social engagements meaning parties and the like. If you feel like you are in danger you may really be in danger and protect yourself by leaving immediately or don’t communicate with strangers. Our recommendation to all girls is to be careful of whom you are communicating with (i.e. strangers via the Internet or social media) as you never really know who they are or what the real intent is.
They need to never let their guard down, even when with friends and family members in social activities. A very common technique is the drugging/or spiking of a soft drink or alcohol drink. Always tell a family member or friend where you were going to and with whom in case you do become a missing person.
Trust your instincts if you feel nervous about a place or situation and get out.
Constance Dunn: I feel the sisterhood is powerful, and women can be a great resource in protecting other girls and women from these monsters. Your thoughts?
Sean Morrison: Yes that is absolutely correct. It starts at home with mothers and grandmothers and aunts and older sisters, do not be embarrassed to talk about this plight, parents will often talk about drug prevention but fail to protect their children from falling victim to this real threat. We always tell families to talk with their children about the real threat that exists with sex trafficking of minors and explain to them that there are predators out there that will drug them or talk to kidnap them.
Also train your family and friends mentally; tell them that God forbid they should fall victim to this, they should do everything they can to escape and to contact their parents or police. If they only have a few seconds, simply dial 911 on a phone and put it down and it can alert police of their location. If they see a fire alarm, pull it without hesitation.
Those same moms and grandmothers and aunts and sisters need to be aware that this predator danger does exist and our loved ones are all potentially at risk. They need to be on the lookout to make sure that normal activity or behavior doesn’t change with their minor daughter. If your child gets a new iPhone or iPad or gym shoes for example that you didn’t buy, question them, where did the gifts come from? And, be prepared to detect deception and question and respond. Often girls are lured into sex trafficking over a slower period of time and there are often signs along the way.
We have female investigators at work within our company and they are terrific role models. In your conversations with your family, it is critical to point out that there are MANY females in roles such as teachers and doctors and lawyers and police officers, reporters and nurses etc. and that’s what they can aspire to be, no female has to lower their expectations, and get into a bad situation.
Constance Dunn: Good men everywhere are appalled and angry about human trafficking. Do you have any advice for men who want to join the battle against human trafficking? Is there something they can be doing in their everyday lives to protect girls and women, and bring these vermin to justice?
Sean Morrison: The advice for women also applies for men; for fathers, for uncles, and for big brothers. We must be vigilant and we must be on the lookout for signs that something may be awry. Do not be embarrassed to talk to your daughters and even your sons about the potential threat of becoming a victim of a predator unwillingly placed in the trafficking world of child exploitation.
Explain to your sons and your daughters that this is a crime that is blind to race, religion, gender and blind to social status. Every minor is a potential victim of a predator. Also encourage them to tell you about any friends or any other minors they know that may be ensnared in this world. The best way to prevent sex trafficking is to shine a light on it; the general population needs to learn about the real danger. It is vital that we raise the general overall awareness of this danger.
One face was a fawning fan…but her nature was that of a devious understudy. Anne Baxter in All About Eve (1950).
I know a woman. She works in casting. She has a fool-proof way of selecting the right talent for her clients. She poses as the underling whose job it is to sign in the actors and models as they come in the door for their auditions.
This helps her spot the wheat from the chaff personality wise. Behavior wise, really. Her job is all about booking the right talent for her clients. Not just the best actor or model with the best look—but the best person.
The one who will show up on time, with a good attitude and a pleasant vibe. A person who won’t be a pain in the arse, in other words. Bad talent doesn’t make for great shoots. And clients tend to not be fond of casting directors who send them annoying talent.
When actors and models meet the casting director or a decision-maker, they are typically all smiles, all sunlight and rainbows and amiability. This is not always the actor or model’s demeanor when they meet the intern, the assistant or so on.
Stepping back, into a position of perceived lesser status, enables this woman to see the true person, right off the bat.
The etiquette lesson is not to pretend to be nice to everyone at the risk that the coat checker is really the CEO. But to disperse your arsenal of good cheer evenly amongst your fellow Earthlings, regardless of their rank, serial number or how much power you think they happen to possess at the moment.
Want to land with your fine booty still in the saddle? Play pretend.
Horses are sensitive creatures. They are also big and tend to speed off in unexpected and unplanned directions when scared. Therefore, when your 100-plus-pound self is riding on its one-ton frame, it’s imperative to stay calm and controlled and confident. One day I was riding, and feeling squirrelly too, while headed off on a serpentine jumping course.
I did not feel things would end well in my current state. I tried a bunch of pleas with Kate the riding instructor to avoid completing the course. She responded with a “Yeah, you’re not getting off that horse until you finish that course.” She was also holding a riding crop.
I looked up at the empty stands that circled the riding ring. I pretended it was show day. I pretended the stands were filled with supporters and friends, all cheering me on and smiling their familiar smiles. I pretended I was on a winning streak and nothing could go wrong.
I smiled, straightened up on the horse and focused.
Since horses feel everything, my four-hooved buddy took notice and started gliding in a more amenable, attentive way. After all, we had a ribbon to win! We buzzed through the course and by its end, I had actually begun to enjoy myself.
It built a new history of jumping for me. One of exhilaration, not fear. I built on this baseline of confidence in subsequent sessions.
What does this have to do with you?
● Use a bit of pretend the next time you are out and about, and feeling squirmy or dorky or seriously not up to the task at hand.
● Pretend you are calm and confident and completely in control. Feel it and believe it.
● Breathe it in and smile. Lift your shoulders. Your friends are all around you. They love you! They think you’re great! They are cheering you on!
Try this. It works. (At the very worst, it will keep your anxiety from deepening.) At best, well, you’ll fly around the ring with ease and a big ole’ smile on your face.
The other option, of course, is to be hurled into a muddy paddock.
[Related note, kind of: I loved riding the horse that’s in the above picture. He was championship-level and smooth as vermouth in the ring. What I call a point-and-click horse.]
Ah, the charm of a great conversation. Have you ever spoken to a beautiful shell–someone smartly groomed and dressed to the nines–who you struggled to speak with for longer than a few minutes? Yeah.
Being a good conversationalist is a beauty essential, and has the power to turn even this guy into a charmer. Look, women are chasing him!
In Practical Glamour I go on about how holding your own, conversation wise, is a big part of a woman’s (or man’s) allure.
But being an engaging conversationalist requires you to have a bit or more of knowledge about the world. This will contribute much to your social ease, make your get-togethers more interesting and bump up your beauty and charm quotient considerably.
Do we remember what a person wore, their watch or the color rouge they sported? No. What we remember is how we felt around them.
No doubt, hanging with a sparkling glitterball of a conversationalist is far richer than struggling for words with a blank-faced one, no matter how symmetrical their features.
So,knowledge is the key to powering your social conversations.
Here are 5 easy, painless ways to sneak more of it into your brain, and become more beautiful as a result.
1 – Discs and iPods, too. Sandra Mitchell is a busy woman. She is a journalist and anchor at CBS Los Angeles and does a gazillion other things too. She told me she learned French for a trip to Europe, and did so via language CDs she played in her car during fun LA traffic.
The hours can add up in that metal thing you coast around in. Why not have those hours mean something more than a staring session at brake lights in front of you? Learn a new language or pick up info about an entirely new topic. Download something inspirational on your iPod to stay calm while driving and to keep your mental mind machine humming. And if you commute by foot, train or rickshaw, do the same!
2 – Radio Lives. There’s plenty to learn about in your car, from politics and relationship counselors to sports. I can analyze debates, and tune into sports talk from time to time because it’s interesting to hear others so passionate about something I’ve got no stake, or even strong interest, in. Also, I find Jim Rome and Jay Mohr to be pretty clever.
Public radio arts programming tends to be very well crafted and engaging. Plus it spotlights new works and maybe goings on in your city or town that you’d probably otherwise never know about. How the heck else did I learn that skin master Dr. Murad is also a painter (above, the painting in the photo is his) and was having an exhibit at a local university?
3 – Small Books Make Great Fellow Travelers. To boost your mind salad and improve your conversations, carry a book with you. Yes, that’s a copy of the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence peeking out of my bag.
Your book doesn’t have to be the size of a dictionary, either. Kindles and Nooks qualify.
The problem that some people (me included) have with whipping out a smartphone for learning a go-go is the tendency to stare at stuff that does zero to advance your mind. Or worse, numbs it or puts you in an annoyed mood.
There’s also something to be said for taking a gadget break, and feeling actual paper against your fingers. If you’re incredibly disciplined, though, and can immediately bypass the distractions to dial up the Swedish Word of the Day or something that has intellectual value, go ahead. And congratulations on the discipline part, Missy or Mister.
4 – Food, Too. I was at makup shop MUD in Burbank recently. (Side note: They have complimentary makeup classes in LA and New York.) After walking out the door with yet another tube of Lip Glaze, I realized I was famished.
I ended up wandering into a nearby Korean barbecue place and learning a thing or two about Korean cuisine over a big ole’ bowl of Manduguk. My point? We’ve all got to eat sometime. Why not stir in a bit o’ learning? Find out what distinguishes China’s Szechuan cooking from Hunan. How are Indian dishes from the North different than those in the South?
Becoming a better conversationalist is not about becoming Knowledge Master of the Universe as much as it is about broadening what you already know. Dipping into alien subjects, gathering up a slew of cool facts and becoming more astute about the world around you.
5 – Work Out Your Head. The reality of grasping a new language is that you’ve got to use it. You’ve got to stand in line? Make it Rehearsal Time or List Time. Mentally run through new vocabulary or verb tenses.
Or use the time to ponder something you’ve been studying. If I’ve got a speaking or teaching gig coming up, I’ll rehearse it while taking a walk. Tip: When running lines say them aloud. I think I’m past the point of caring too much if I look kooky to strangers, but here are two ways to practice what you want to on the down-low: Keep lip movements small and your volume nearly imperceptible.
Bonus Learning Move: Make meeting up with a friend more than just a gab session. I have a friend who is at the same level of Spanish proficiency as me. We have Spanish-only conversations over coffee or dinner that have been pretty great for moving my skills forward, mostly because it’s a no-embarrassment environment to try out new tricks, language wise.
This is being written in the first week of January, but it could just as well be written after July 4th weekend, or any other holiday stretch that involves partying, socializing and imbibing more than your share of the sweet nectar. Which is to say, you’ve been drinking more beer, wine, martinis, scotch or whatever-else-floats-your-boat than usual. And you’re thinking about embarking on a dry spell.
There is something called “Janopause,” which is a January without alcoholic beverages of any kind. As you can imagine, there are benefits of this: Preliminary research conducted by New Scientist research Andy Coghlan on a small sample found that those who de-boozed for five weeks lost approximately 3 pounds, plus cut cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Compelling, isn’t it? You no doubt have a mix of personal reasons for putting the break on boozing, whether it’s related to thinking more clearly, not being a public buffoon, drinking and driving, budget reasons or the mere fact that you realize you don’t particularly like the feeling. Or the horrible, day wasting hangovers that ensue.
Even if you’re the lightest of social drinkers, completely abstaining can be tough. Alcohol is often part of our social rituals, whether it’s the camaraderie of an after work get-together or the clinking on high of wine glasses at the start of a meal or to tag a celebration.
Being the dude with the glass of water can be tough. For starters, other people will want you to be drinking alongside them. Not drinking with them lands you in the out-group, to take a page from social psychology.
Of course, you could spend the night listing for others the very responsible, rational reasons you are not drinking, above the music and laughter. This, however, tends to be not very fun and not convincing to someone who’s in full-blown Party Mode. And you’ll land further from the in-group, socially, and more in the group with the teetotaling aunt and the grandpa wearing the button-front cardigan.
Here are strategies to help you stay off the alcohol while still remaining very much in the heart of the festivities:
•Look at the glassware. Is everyone drinking beer out of red plastic cups? Sipping something fizzy from glass flutes? Select the same glass and fill it with something non-alcoholic.
Bonus if your choice visually resembles an alcoholic drink that some or many are consuming. Pour yourself a ginger ale is champagne is what everyone’s drinking, or an ice-filled glass with something that could very well be rum and cola, or a vodka tonic. Complete it with a garnish, like a lemon or lime wedge, for authenticity.
•A glass in hand is worth not having a horrible hangover. Keeping a glass in hand is not just a good visual cue of being part of the ingroup, it is a physiological cue for you that will help keep you in the festive spirit, particularly if you are accustomed to always having a glass in hand at social events.
The glass-full mentality is also a big reason that people end up drinking too much. After a few, they are on auto pilot, and the empty glass is refilled without thinking. If you’re at the party or club long enough, one vodka tonic becomes three, which becomes six.
•To the question: What are you drinking? You can just raise your filled glass and smile. Very different than being the dude with the steamy cup of chamomile tea.
One of the most succinct rebuttals comes from a friend of mine, who happens to be a bodybuilder and a socializer. He trains heavily and has never been a drinker, and when people ask him why, he tells them something along these lines: Drinking usually helps people be more relaxed and social. It does the opposite for me. It makes me want to immediately go to sleep.
It works like a charm. No one wants to put their fellow partygoer to sleep.
If someone is being pushy but otherwise benign, you can say, “Sure, I’ll have a …….. ” Take the drink. Thank them. Don’t drink it. If they get uber-pushy (which they won’t) as in, “I want to see you drink it,” you have a choice. Smile, and dump it over their head.
Or just dump it over their head without the smile.
•Be a fun guy.Sober. Dry. None of those words really help promote the idea that a non-drunk guy is still a fun-as-heck guy!
I have a friend who doesn’t drink a speck. But you’d never know it because she’s always the life of the party. She smiles, chats, giggles, flirts, dances. She’s always having so much fun that no one ever thinks to hassle her about drinking. In their buzzed state, others assume that she’s had a few.
•Get in the habit. The first few times you socialize without booze are going to be tough unless you have some strategies in place. Without getting into why, it is much easier to softly detour an existing habit than dynamite a longstanding ritual and start from scratch. Relying on the force of your iron will and white knuckles to change is hard.
Refining an existing pattern is easier. Let’s say you are meeting friends for drinks after work. Without thinking, you probably are used to heading to the bar or nearest cocktail server and placing your order. You recite one of your usual concoctions or you lean into your closest buddy and ask, “What are you drinking?”
You turn to order and say: “I’ll have that.”
Don’t have that. Have your nonalcoholic drink order on the tip of your tongue when you walk into the place. When you’re finished, reorder it. Just like that.
•What are we here for? Over time, you maynotice that it’s the balm of positive social contact that relaxes people more than the booze itself, which is ultimately a prop. You’ll notice it in about 20 minutes, when everyone is finishing their first drink and showing noticeable signs of unwind.
Good luck to you on your no-booze journey. And while you’re at it, lift a glass to you: To better health and a more beautiful body and mind.
Let’s say the holiday spirit has hit you later than usual, and you’re thinking: Hey, let’s have a party. Here are tips to help you produce a fantastico groovy holiday get-together in a short period of time.
Q. What’s the best way to invite guests in a time crunch (only 1 or 2 weeks of planning time)?
A. A combination of email and word of mouth. Send an email first, then follow up with a phone call if the size of your guest list allows. You don’t need to make explanations or detail your time crunch, either.
Simply let guests know you are throwing a fabulous little holiday soiree, and their presence will make it that much more wonderful. This added personal touch, particularly in an increasingly arms-reach society, will add a warm, welcome note to your invitation and increase the likelihood of acceptance on short notice.
Since parties are plentiful during the holidays, highlight one or two characteristics that make your party unique or somehow different from other festivities, whether it’s the fact that other attendees will round out a group that is never able to meet up, or you’ll be featuring an offbeat theme or item, like December in the islands or Christmas cuisine from around the world.
Q. What should you have on hand to make guests feel comfortable and welcome?
A. If your party is intimate, say, 20 people or fewer, consider featuring cuisine, beverages or a style of music that you know will be incredibly popular among the majority of the group.
This move is akin to a monogram; a bit of personalization you offer guests to communicate that you considered them and what they enjoy. Let’s say it’s a group of ex-Philadelphians getting together in Los Angeles: Letting them know that cheese steaks, Tasty Cakes and Yuengling lager are on the menu is like dangling catnip in front a cat’s nose. PS. And you can get most of these at Philly’s Best.
Side note: Party essentials: Handling Your Hellos and Goodbyes.
In the end, no matter how the invitations are extended, what you serve or how beautifully you decorate the room—your guests will remember the total experience. Chiefly, how they felt.
So start the experience off on the right note by greeting each one personally, inviting them into the fold with a drink or food item. At the end of the evening, see your guests to the door personally, if possible, and thank them sincerely for attending.
A warm spirit of welcome and belonging will linger in a guest’s mind much longer than their memory of the decorations, or what brand of liquor they drank.
Junior Party Planners Might Like to Be In on the Action…
Q. If you’ve taken on too much, or are running out of time, what is the best way to ask for help and who should you ask?
A. Brainstorm to come up with two or three seriously close friends or family who you’re almost positive have the time and complete interest in lending a hand. It can even be a child who you know would jump at the chance to be part of something cool and grownup like party planning. Contact each person individually, keep tasks small, and tailor each request to a person’s interest or passions.
You may loathe lighting and decoration duty, but have a friend who is super creative and has an eye for such things. Offer a prospective party helper a choice of tasks, and let him or her choose their favorite. This move will increase compliance and follow-through.
Oh, and make it beyond easy for them to say “No” or even “Hell no!”
Think of a creative way to thank those who have helped out, whether it’s a small gift or an outing to their favorite spot for brunch or a night of cocktails and catching up. During the party, make sure you give ample props to helpers by public acknowledging their contributions. Channel any compliments back to those who had a hand in creating the item, whether it was the awesome music playlist, authentic paella or some other aspect of the awesomeness that was your last-minute holiday party.
Follow these table conversation guidelines when it comes to discussing politics or you’ll wish it were here you are dining
Q. Shouldn’t I be free to express my political beliefs at the table with family and relatives?
A. One should be free to express their political beliefs with their relatives and, particularly if you are politically engaged, you might find it impossible not to. Religion and politics are lumped together precisely because, in addition to involving deeply held personal beliefs, they reveal to others who you are right now.
And it’s hard to have a tight relationship with someone who doesn’t know what you think, feel or believe!
The cost of engaging in what is called “cross-cutting political communication” at the dinner table, though, comes with the high probability of egging on conflict and making others uncomfortable in a setting designed for people to come together and enjoy each other’s company.
Japanese friends have introduced me to a great saying, “TPO,” which stands for “time, place and occasion.” This serves as a great social compass, a consciousness of one’s environment that is the soul of etiquette—which is the practice of positive regard for the places you go and the people you encounter.
Q. How do you keep yourself from joining the fracas when you hear something that arouses your political buttons?
A. Remembering my role and goal can keep me from jumping in the fray. Host duties come with the responsibility of being a referee, if not the outright peacemaker, in the interest of captaining an enjoyable event. And being a guest means bringing positivity, or at the very least, not bringing conflict to a party.
This doesn’t mean that you are agreeing or endorsing opposing political views, either, it means you are choosing a higher goal at the moment. The success of the saying, “We’ll have to agree to disagree,” has to do with the fact that it acknowledges that differences do exist while simultaneously conceding to bury the hatchet, at least for the moment.
Though you might not always be successful in keeping the environment as smooth as vermouth, you will have no regrets for having tried. By joining in, not matter how justified or right it might feel at the time, I am simply adding more noise to the conflict. I’m sorry to say I’ve been there, and it never felt good afterward.
Q. What do I do when I’m the odd man out at a table of people who share the same political identity—and my party or candidate is the verbal piñata?
A. If silence in this situation is, for you, suffering then I recommend you suffer no more. You have options, such as politely asking that the subject be changed or even making a joke, perhaps something along the lines of, “Well, I am happy to see diversity is alive and well in our family” or “I see the apple has fallen far from the tree. Okay, it’s in a different orchard.”
If the hint is not taken, and the bashing persists, along with the rise of your inner ire, you can restate your request that the subject be changed or suggest that another time might be more appropriate for the discussion. If you feel the situation is becoming one of harassment or even verbal abuse, you are well within your rights to excuse yourself or leave the situation altogether.
Q. What option do I have if I’m a guest and the host wants to have a spirited political debate at the table?
A. Spirited political debates among folks holding opposing political ideologies are about as common as seeing the Easter Bunny moonwalk down Seventh Avenue. I am thinking you’re referring to those saucy table debates that have little chance of blooming into full-scale fighting words because they occur among those who share political premises, such as collectivism or individualism, but differ on aspects of similar policies or support candidates from the same party.
Assuming that politics does not bore you to spinnakers, there is usually no harm in such debates, because the probability of negative conflict is low. If, on the other hand, your host is fond of seeing his friends brawl, then I suggest a reassessment of the relationship and pressing pause on the acceptance of further invitations.
If you happen to be caught on the sidelines, a silent bystander of a debate that has gone from spirited to mean-spirited, you have the option of excusing yourself from the table. Hopefully by the time you return, the topic will have become more palatable and the room full of good cheer.
An emergency measure remarkably effective at achieving verbal cease-fires is to firmly remind everyone at the table that you care about them more than you will ever care about any politician.
I don’t need to tell you that there are a-plenty of perverts in this world. But it helps to know that you can do something that’s very simple to keep their hell-bound eyes out of your life: shut down your laptop camera when it’s not in use.
The simplest way to do this is by slapping a colored tab or post-it over the lens, like so:
The stories of victims, mostly women, whose computers have been hacked seem to get more outrageous each day. I don’t need to reiterate them here. The numbers of cases are growing, so does the ease by which these cretins can infiltrate your life, if the amount of step-by-step information available via a Google or YouTube search is any indication.
If such a thing happens to you or someone you know, contact the FBI, and do so stat. This is considered cyberterrorism and they take it seriously.
Not very glamorous stuff, but important to know. So cover up that camera immediately, even if all you have on hand is a piece of tape and a Sharpie to cover that sucker up. Even a lip liner will do. And spread the word to every lad or lass you know with a built-in camera on their computer screen.
So I have been taking meditation classes. They’re not just meditation though. They are led by a monk who also gives a lecture. Always about something excellent and interesting that lingers in the mind forever. One week’s topic was desirous attachment. Also known as misery.
The best way to define desirous attachment is to say what it isn’t. It is not optimistic yearning or healthy ambition or confident possession.
It is shackles and wanting so desperately for something—and probably not a good something. Drugs come to mind as the easy example, but desirous attachment can also mean being tethered with a big ole’ rusty chain to a guy who is poison, to a friend who is betrayal, to a family member who uses and nothing else. An abusive boss or client or coworker or person who is in some position to lord over your life in a big or small way. You get the picture.
When you are finally ready to leave, shake off that attachment, it can happen in a quick flush and be gone. Like a wave that pounds the sand then retreats, leaving little more than a stain that is dried up by the sun.
Something that meant so much all of the sudden means nothing at all. Or close to it.
It’s surprising how fast it takes. The run up to this moment, though, can take years. And there’s no escaping the work it takes to unwrangle that desirous attachment from your life. When you’re ready to embark, the road out of jail can be populated by a limitless mix of helpers, from a great therapist and kind network of friends and family, to meditation and physical exercise—or whatever mix destiny kindly hands over to help you. When good bonds are strengthened, rotten ones fade away.
But you will be better for having experienced it. You should consider overcoming it a supreme personal achievement.
What does all of this have to do with glamour, with presentation and communication, you might ask? It’s fundamental. If you are not free, with a light and peaceful soul, your true beauty is hindered. And that just won’t do.
Former girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. They both mean the same, but do they? Well, they pack a different punch, emotionally, so use former or ex based on what you wish to communicate about the subject and his or her relationship or standing to the thing in question.
For instance, you would use “former” to indicate a relationship that is in the past but where there is no animosity, loss of position or negative reserves to communicate. And where a relationship, in the sense of still possessing the skills or honor of the position once held, continues. You are a former scientist, or he is a former Marine, for instance, since once a Marine, always a Marine.
“He is a former boyfriend” or “She is my former spouse” is suitable to suggest a person whom you have no hard feelings towards. Or when you want to be Switzerland about the situation, and don’t want to let on how you feel about the person or relationship one way or another.
Ex on the other hand, sounds closely like “axe,” which is precisely the instrument that you may have thought about employing in relation to this person on more than one occasion. If that’s the case, he is indeed an ex-boyfriend, she is most certainly an ex-roommate, and that gnome is an ex-employee.
In other words, axe the ex is a good way to remember this rule, and refer to any ex-person, place or thing that is nicely tucked in the rearview mirror of your life. Or, you could always just say, moodily and mysteriously while gazing into the distance, “He is someone from the past.” Ah.
I had a funny experience last week. I was a guest on a radio show, which is an experience I always enjoy. Quick, spirited and accomplished in my living room. It was something of a last-minute booking, so I didn’t do much research on the show, and received something of a curve ball when the very charming host opened up the segment, post-intro, by asking me for sex tips. That was, after all, the theme of the show.
“Sure,” said I, who does not actually specialize in sex advice, per se. I then launched into something along the lines of sex-ish tips. The host seemed to like this, and the rest of the segment whirled into a great exchange on ways to up your mate game, including tips on improving your conversations (be learned about various topics, be passionate about something and don’t kvetch no matter what) and some non-cheesy ways to charm your date.
Don’t give it all away, lad or lady
The Art of the Tease, Generally
Okay, back to the sex-ish tips. My top tip was about how important it is to understand and practice the art of the tease. If you’ve been dating someone for about two minutes, or have been married for about a gazillion, it is up to you to understand the importance of and the art of keeping desire intact. (I’m assuming here that you want to be in a romantic relationship with the person to begin with.)
Desire, lust and attraction is not some nebulous thing that just “goes away” on some random day. It is a living, breathing organism of sorts that needs tending.
And you, madam, are the gardener. Sure, it takes two, and I’m a firm believer that these things are contagious. That, as keeper of the flame, you will inspire your mate, if he is not as dedicated—or simply does not know how to do this tending—to follow suit.
Two broad strategies to become keeper of the flame include:
Don’t Overshare: Sure, compatibility is a necessity in relationships. After all, you must have something in common with and admire your mate. However, I caution against the “my best friend” mentality when it comes to romance because the best friend designation is a different dynamic than the intimately close, man and woman one. Best friends engage in a complete and utter spilling in a manner that doesn’t seem to jive with romance, at least to me. In other words, a woman should have her secrets.
Keep a Veil, Smartly: Speaking of secrets, if you wish to be treasured, desired and admired, practice a certain type of restraint. This means, essentially, don’t let it all hang out in everyday living. For example, prancing around the house in the buff everyday, no matter how fantastic your figure, will become visually old hat at some point.
That and other activities that one usually engages in private should not be shared with your mate if you want him to continue treating you like his luscious little temptress. Why would I want to see a guy floss his teeth? Flex his biceps, yes. Walk around in a nicely fitted pair of boxer briefs, yes also.
Before I veer too off the subject, I’ll conclude with this nugget of truth to guide your keeping of the flame: Allure requires exclusivity.
Arnold Scassi is a legendary American fashion designer, having dressed many a First Lady, movie star and debutante from the 1950’s and beyond. I happened to pick up a copy of his book, “Women I Have Dressed (and Undressed!)” at a library sale at one of my all-time favorite spots, The Society of the Four Arts King Library, located in one of my favorite places on Earth, Palm Beach.
The book was a fun read, and one of the things that stuck to me is this: At the outset of his career, Scassi decided that he would not give away his clothes for free. To anyone. Ever.
So when Jacqueline Onassis came calling, her staff interested in having Scassi dress the First Lady – but for free – Scassi had to refuse. Bear in mind that being a designer whose gowns are worn by a First Lady is like being automatically crowned King of the Design Universe, so it must have been very painfully hard for the young designer to utter, “Pass.”
But here’s the thing – he did – and it was a smart, smart move. If he gave away his designs, he would be perpetually fending off requests for free stuff for the rest of his career. Plus, the rebuffed women would no doubt feel a trace of bitterness as they signed their checks to him, feeling that they did not rate enough for a free Scassi gown. Given the gargantuan egos of the women he dressed (Barbra Streisand and so forth), this would be a problem and dilute his super-luxury brand over the long run. Not to mention be a persistent, Grade-A annoyance.
Putting aside the supreme tackiness of someone asking you to hand over your art, your skill, your work and effort for zip, zero, zilch compensation — financial or otherwise — Arnold Scassi had a tactful way of dealing with those who came asking.
He would explain that his no-free-gowns rule had to do with the fact that he didn’t sing, dance or act. He created clothes. That was his skill and his gift and how he earned his living.
Perhaps Scassi’s standard is a helpful reminder if you are a person who is perpetually being asked to give, give and give your products, work and time. And have a hard or itchy time saying no. It has helped me.
And remember, it is easier if you outline your standards at the outset and stick to them — but it’s never too late to change.
Find your mate’s favorite childhood comfort food, and learn how to cook—and serve—it the way he or she likes. Tomato soup and grill cheese delivered on a tray in bed, accompanied by a gazillion smooches on his face and head, when he is sick. Strawberry pancakes loaded with fresh whipped cream on your girl’s birthday, because that’s what her mother did for her every year. A homemade milk shake made with chunky ice cream served to him in an oversized mug. Home-cooked chicken soup made with the tiny, star-shaped pasta.
This domestic glamour move will make your mate happy. It will make him or her feel like you care about them. This in turn will make you feel happy. Good ole’ rational self-interest at work.
Tip 1: To learn about your mate’s favorite comfort food, be crafty. First, speak naturally and enthusiastically about yours. They will most likely offer up theirs as part of the conversation. If not, oh-so casually ask them outright. Casually. Listen carefully to their answer.
Tip 2: This domestic glamour move works best on somewhat established relationships. By somewhat established I don’t mean the 2nd or 3rd date. There should be a basis of friendship, romance and intimacy involved, lest the move come off as contrived, or worse, as an unwelcome push towards an intimacy that is premature or not desired.
I had the TV on some sweet C-SPAN over the weekend, watching these super-bright college kids giving speeches at a DC conference. Aside from reflecting that zero of my college weekends were spent giving sophisticated talks on the U.S. Constitution, I noticed that some of the speakers spoke in conspicuously breathy tones, their voices a little unsteady and sometimes quavering.
Ah, I though, speaking in public. In front of a TV camera, no less. Before one of the first speeches I ever gave, I remember fighting to keep my voice from busting into an outright squeak. I had downed two cappuccinos mindlessly, thinking the caffeine would give me a certain energy. It did. I had buggy eyes, sweated and probably set a record for saying the word “Like.”
When nerves start permeating your speech, the effect can be distracting. Even the message of the most brilliant speech can be lost if all the audience hears is anxiety. Here are some public speaking tips to keep your voice smooth:
Practice. Basic but true. The more familiar you are with your material, the more secure you will feel. You will be less anxious, more calm and natural when delivering your speech, and it will show in your voice.
Sing. When I began to do public speaking on a semi-regular basis, I borrowed some choral tricks to keep the quaver out of my voice. One was to join the words of the speech at points. The effect is that your voice will sound smoother. Just remember to enunciate the words to avoid Mumbleville.
Deep Breathe. Also called diaphragm breathing, deep breathing is marked by expansion of the abdomen (rather than the chest) when inhaling and exhaling. To get into diaphragm breathing put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Slowly inhale though your nose or pursed lips. As you do, push your belly/ stomach out and feel your stomach expand with your hand. Try singing “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” while exhaling air from the diaphragm. Your shoulders should stay put when you diaphragm breathe.
Acknowledge it. Evading or pushing away the fact that you are nervous unfortunately won’t quench it, or keep its effects from your body. Consciously identify your anxiety and where it hits you the most in your body. Remind yourself that you are nervous but are prepared, and that you and the world will go on as always before, after and during your speech! Try to channel the nervous energy into excited, motivated and fun energy instead.
Keep your fire. In an effort to control my voice, I used to push the tone low and space out my words. The effect was a Lauren Bacall-ish robot with little to no spirit. And I still said “like” way too much. Evolve your speech so it sounds mellifluous, but not overly mellow. And, of course, still authentic to you. Spend a few moments thinking about how you’d like your voice to sound. What characteristics do you wish to project? How do you want others to feel when they hear you speak?
Adopt a ritual. Pinpoint some little ritual or exercise or habit that will calm and connect you to the room, the audience and the material beforehand. If pre-speech makeup or hair is involved, use the time to breathe and smile.
Makeup and hair…an ideal place for you to de-edge before public speaking
I think there’s some truth to the idea that romantic relationships are living things. Like plants or flowers, they need certain nourishment to not just get by but flourish. And not just the water and sun type either, but creative jolts of air that move a relationship forward. Nice surprises to pop on your mate that communicates that you care about him, you value him and that you know and like certain cool truths about him.
As a woman, some of the best romantic ideas for men are the simplest. Popular his and her psychology has, for a while now, put forth the idea that men tend to demonstrate love with action versus greeting cards, poetry and kittens. Making sure the oil is changed in your car and the tires are rotated before you head out on a solo road trip versus getting on one knee to recite a poem. So start to speak his language. Offer him warm, unexpected acknowledgements of him. In other words, act, don’t say.
Here are a few ideas to file under the romantic ideas or dating and love tips department:
Food, Wine, Love: If you don’t already know, figure out his favorite food. Better if it’s something he doesn’t eat a lot, is exotic or not readily available where he lives. Find a tiny restaurant that specializes in his favorite fare and take him there on a date. PS. And if Berlinersylta makes you gag, cheerfully keep it to yourself and order something you can stomach– food martyrs are not sexy.
If your guy’s not really the culinary type then transfer your detective work to beer, and stock his fridge. Get him a few bottles of wine or a very nice bottle of his favorite spirit. No definitive likes in food or wine? Be a profiler and pull together the traits of what he chooses to eat each day. Then introduce him to something fabulous and new that has all the characteristics that he enjoys. Who knows, you might turn him into a cheese fanatic or make him nuts for Vietnamese pho.
Find His Flattering Colors:If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about style, it’s rare that I can get through a column or article without mentioning color, and how the right shades and intensities can do natural wonders for your hair, skin, and eyes. And, of course, when you’re looking radiant it’s almost impossible to duck feeling pretty darn good also.
I have found in my various travels and adventures that the menfolk are less schooled on color selection then we ladies. (But they are really fast learners, by the way.) So the next time you’re sitting across from him, consider which colors flatter him, and think about those colors that you’ve never seen him in, but would probably look fantastic on him. Get him a scarf or shirt in that color, and when that uncertain look crosses his face while opening it, tell him how you think it will look great on him, and encourage him to try it on to see for himself.
His Health & Wellness: It can be as small an item as a lip balm with sunscreen in mint that is packaged in a masculine shape because you know a.) he likes mint b.) his lips get burned or chapped because he’s outside a lot and c.) and has a thing about putting on tubed lipstuff in public. Other ideas: a natural herbal sleep remedy because you know he’s been stressed lately…a small, no-maintenance chili plant because he loves hot food and this way, he can chop up a fresh chili and sprinkle it on pizza when he feels…herbal or natural skin ointments if he’s prone to oozing, cutting or bruising. (Arnica cream for bruising; for eczema, a chamomile cream; or a witch hazel antiseptic preparation for cleaning wounds) Tip: Avoid the coy Nurse Suzy looks or trying to dominate his health and eating habits unless you want him running for the hills.
Bond in the Great Outdoors: One of the grooviest things about being in a relationship or dating a guy who has a lust for life in him is the excitement of trying out new activities together. Even in the gnarliest of weather or the most one-horse of towns there are fantastic things you can do outdoors. And no, going through a fast food drive-through with the heat cranking is not among them.
Figure out an activity that you think he will really enjoy, then set it up for the both of you. Cross-country skiing…horseback riding…paddle boarding…ice skating…yoga…whale watching…golf…hiking…deep-sea fishing…sledding. Because you know how easy it is for well-intentioned plans for outdoor vigor can dissolve over Saturday morning coffee in an oversized t-shirt, be Captain Stubing: Make the reservations, pick up your guy, drive to the activity and pay for everything. He will not forget it. PS. Did I mention that showing enthusiasm and interest during such dates has the power to make or break them? In other words, if you’re not feeling it, and not a good actress, then pass go.
A fun outdoor adventure will bring you closer…
Personalize It: In the movie The Wedding Singer Drew Barrymore’s character gives her love interest music composition paper stamped with his name. Sweet. Easy.
Does your guy write letters or even to-do lists? Order a high-quality paper item that he’ll actually use with his name or a short quote or saying he’ll like printed on each sheet. It will be hard to not think of you each time he puts pen to paper.
So, back to the original idea of nice things to do for your guy. No matter what date or outing you set up, or what item you get him, remember that doing these things is not really about giving a gift. It’s about engaging in romantic communication. It is nonverbally saying: “Hi, I was thinking of you. I thought you might like this because I am someone who knows you, likes you, values you and likes to increase the amount of pleasure and happiness in your life. So here.”