Tag Archives: john edwards

Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons The Elegance Of The Hedgehog Is For Grown Ups

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week I’d like to take a page from Gretchen Rubin, who blogs over on The Happiness Project. From time to time, Gretchen will identify a book or movie that she thinks encapsulates certain key ideas about happiness and blog about them. (Here’s one example:  a post about the movie Junebug.) I did this recently for adulthood and the film Up In The Air.

In that vein, I’ve just finished reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance Of The Hedgehog for my book club. This is a very small, intimate novel about an exceedingly well-educated concierge in a Paris apartment building and her relationships with its tenants. In addition to thoroughly enjoying it, here are five reasons I think that this book is essential reading for grown ups:

1. It’s about social class. Not a very American topic, I grant you. (Unless you bought into the whole John Edwards “Two Americas” thing- oh those were the days…). But boy, does it resonate over here in the U.K. right now, where social mobility is a major theme in the upcoming British elections. (Not to mention a time-honored theme in France, where the novel is set.) And to me, that’s a very grown-up topic for a novel.

2. It’s about the possibility of change. Which is – perhaps more than anything else – what defines adulthood, at least for me. Sure, all those personality tests I’ve taken basically confirm that I’m the same person I’ve always been. But growing up is about being open to change. It’s about knowing that  – however sure you are of yourself – there’s always a possibility that you’ll discover something new. Or find out that something you thought was closed off to you is actually within reach. Or just recognize when it’s time to make a bold move.

3. It’s about love. But not of the sappy, head-over-heels variety. Rather, it’s about the love of one’s friends. It’s about the love you can experience when you connect with strangers. And it’s about the possibility – but just that – of romantic love.

4. It has an appropriately bittersweet ending. Some will no doubt be disappointed by how this book ends. I won’t spoil it for you. But as a die-hard fan of feelbad movies, I loved reading a book where the ending was less than 100% hunky-dorey. That’s life, as they say.

5. It’s about Paris. And what – pray tell – is more grown up than that?

*****

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the central role that women voters will play in the upcoming British General Election.

Image: Hedgehog skin by gari.baldi via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Stay Monogamous

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. This week’s topic is Five Ways To Stay Monogamous.

I think we all know that this hasn’t exactly been the summer of matrimonial bliss. From Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to author/radio personality Sandra Tsing Loh to our about-to-possibly-be-impeached Senator Mark Sanford, marriage has taken a real kick to the groin. In all of these cases, infidelity was the alleged culprit.

Not everyone’s bothered by infidelity, of course. Newsweek recently ran a story about poly-amorous couples and how people make it work when there’s more than one partner involved.

And some people are more bothered by it than they arguably should be. In this month’s in Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan rants against the cultural trends leading to the likes of John Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter. (See also Amy Benfer’s deliciously scathing review in Salon.)

But assuming you count among those who are interested in sticking it out with one person, here are some tips for keeping it real – as opposed to Rielle (sorry, couldn’t resist):

1. Acknowledge That Monogamy is Totally Unnatural. Face it, it is. Which is probably why so many people have affairs. Polls show that although 90% of married people disapprove of extramarital relationships, 15% of wives and 25% of husbands have experienced extramarital intercourse. This doesn’t mean monogamy isn’t noble, enviable, worthwhile, efficient, healthy, and any other adjectival “good” you wish to throw at it. But it is not a natural state of affairs. So begin by acknowledging that with your partner and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

2. Choose a Partner With Whom You Share Many Interests. In my humble opinion, one of the main reasons people wander is that they don’t have enough in common with their partners/spouses to begin with. While you don’t need to have completely overlapping interests (see below), with so many things clamoring for your attention – work, children, aging parents – you do need to enjoy doing the same things in your free time.

3. Keep a Private Space. At the same time, don’t suffocate one another. It’s healthy to have your own space and to enjoy the freedom to pursue interests that your partner doesn’t share. My husband likes watching concert videos. He also enjoys eating sushi. I like pop-tarts and going to musical theatre (though not at the same time). We don’t try to do those things together. Thank God.

4. Develop an Adult Crush. This is perhaps the best recipe for staying faithful. Just as you had crushes in junior high, it’s OK to have them in adulthood as well. It’s a safe way to feel like you’re still alive outside of your main relationship. I used to have a crush on my son’s first pediatrician. These days, it’s a staffer at one of the local book stores. I only see him once every other month or so, but there’s always a small frisson when we exchange pleasantries (most recently, over his hatred – and my love – for The Sound Of Music.) And because I only see him every so often, and don’t even know his name, it’s no big deal. Plus, my husband knows all about him.

5. Avoid Situations That Allow for Infidelity. If you really don’t want to have an affair, don’t put yourself in a situation that allows one to occur. I have a good friend who developed a crush on a bartender. She found (per #4) that she was frequenting his bar more and more on her own to chat with him. Then one day she actually brought her laptop to the bar and started working there. And at that point she realized “What am I doing? I’m working in a bar!” She fled the scene never to return. Good for her.

Image: Rings/Yüzük by Caucus via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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