Nostalgia for the 90s

December 29, 2011 at 6:39 am (Uncategorized)

…NOT always a good thing.

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Before the new year dictates the end of reflection check out another reason why 90s nostalgia can end badly: DiabloCody’s Young Adult.  Dark and fascinating this flick proves rewriting the past is as satisfying and nutritious as comfort food.  Unlike Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, a glossy history lover’s fantasy celebration of prior epochs, Young Adult focuses on personal, delusional nostalgia brought on by depression, loneliness, and one too many stiff drinks.  Both protagonists are struggling writers sharing a nostalgia-as-escape hobby.  [Spoiler alert] In the end, only one of them gets the girl.  The characters pick and choose aspects of historical record and their own story that expose just the exact angle and light they find most flattering.  Nostalgia is mac and cheese for the idle brain.

New Year is for new starts.  So the 90s are over.  So your youth is over.  The prom kings and queens have nowhere to go but down, reaching the height of their glory as teens, while the rest of us soar into adulthood where we know and learn things about the world and about ourselves.  We know things like to not vote for Newt Gingrich.

Oh, and Young Adult has some fun 90s references!

Happy New Year!

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Tiffany Jewelers Presents: The Ultimate Push Present!

November 20, 2011 at 11:37 pm (Uncategorized)

The elegant balustrades and sweeping arches of Venetian architecture are translated into intricate designs that closely resemble your baby mama’s birth control.  What better way to say “thank you for having my child” than an 18k gold reminder to take the pill daily.  $1,300

Original designs copyrighted by Paloma Picasso.

Paloma Picasso-palomas venezia stella medallion pendant

I’m not sure which is crazier, calling a gift a “push present” or the fact that Tiffany will sell a necklace that looks like a  gold-plated birth control for $1,300 this holiday season.

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Passwords: A Cautionary Tale

June 11, 2011 at 2:14 am (Uncategorized)

There are many perks and pesky annoyances working for the federal government.  If “water club” means anything to you, you understand what I’m talking about.  The frequent changing of bureaucratically long passwords with an appropriate number of characters (which do not include “f&*@this”) is one of my pet peeves of government work.  Even if you are not dealing with state secrets every computer is protected this way.  I have multiple extremely long passwords for various databases at work.  Trying to find creative ways to remember them all is getting harder with each dreaded software update.  I sometimes wonder if my parents or a close friends could ever figure out how to hack into my password protected files on their own?  For example, how many Bostonians have “yankeessuck” “yankeessuck1” “yankeessuck12” and “yankeessuck123” as a password?  I could commit identity theft in picturesque, puritan towns left and right across New England.

During a conversation with a VP in my office the other day, he told me the story of a son who sadly passed away in his 20s.  He suffered an illness from birth.  His parents wanted to notify all of his friends and knew that email was probably the best source and contact list.  They couldn’t figure out his password and asked one their son’s IT whiz/hacker friends to help.  The friend easily cracked the code: “DukeSucks!”  Yes, this young man went to a rival school.  The VP just laughed when he told me how they had no clue he was so into sports!

When I was a freshman in college, my first boyfriend and I shared our school email passwords with each other.  I don’t remember why we did this, but at the moment it seemed intimate.  While my password was clever and historically accurate, his was “[first name] thegreat69.”  Looking back, there were signs.  I probably should have ended it that day, but my 18-year old haze was adjusting to daily kissing. I never shared a password again.

So let this be a lesson to the kids, teens, rising political stars from Brooklyn/Queens, you never know when some tragedy requires others to discover your passwords.  Don’t make yourself look like a juvenile tool to your loved ones in their time of grief!

What is Congressman Weiner’s Twitter password? Probably “Anthonythegreat69!”

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White Diamonds, Brown Family

April 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm (Uncategorized)

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The recent passing of Dame Elizabeth Taylor was not a surprise, but it was poignant.   Taylor’s legacy includes Oscar-winning performances, important AIDS awareness work, and marrying the same man twice.  For me, the passing of Elizabeth Taylor summons two words: White Diamonds.

Taylor released White Diamonds to the masses in the early 90s.  I was 11-years old when her signature faux diamond perfume bottle would become a fixture on my mother’s vanity.  Twenty years later, I still don’t know if she likes the fragrance, or if, like many aspects of married life, she has learned to live with it.

How did this happen?  How did my family become obsessed with White Diamonds?

The day we bought our first bottle was a routine Saturday morning on Long Island.  My mother worked every Saturday in Brooklyn so my father and I did things we weren’t supposed to do: McDonald’s, baseball games, inefficiently running around town to accomplish errands, Saturday morning cartoons which one day transformed into Saved by the Bell.  In contrast, weeknights my mother and I had a strict regime of homework, the PBS NewsHour, ballet on Mondays, piano on Tuesdays, Tap or Jazz on Wednesdays, and Thursday was a free night for Must See TV (when I wasn’t enveloped into my dad’s secret Masonic world).  Saturday was Dad’s day and had no rules.  We mostly drove around town in his 89, taxi-shaped Chevy Caprice and listened to CBS 101.1 oldies station until I learned about Z100 and Hot 97.  My first lessons in negotiation were shotgun radio station diplomacy.

My dad is a good guy and a bad gift giver.  He doesn’t have a clue. He hates shopping.  It was some upcoming Valentine’s Day or anniversary or a birthday and we were at Roosevelt Field or Green Acres Mall to buy a gift.  Offering to put my dad out of his agony, I told him to buy the new Elizabeth Taylor perfume.

I did it.
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Maybe it was the bling packaging, or those over the top TV commercials, but my 11-year old self fell for the marketing campaign.  My dad was thrilled to not have to think anymore.

We poorly wrapped the gift in a way only a preteen and Dad could.  My mom seemed excited to use the new celebrity fragrance and put it on her vanity next to her Hillary power headbands, big earrings, and numerous bobby pins.

Holy Headband!

Every morning, before she went to work she applied White Diamonds.  We were satisfied with our choice until buyer’s remorse quickly took over my nose.  From my next door bedroom I was convinced my mother swam in the perfume.  I would rush to vacate the top half of the house when I saw her reach for the sparkly bottle for fear of dying by White Diamonds asphyxiation.  One random Tuesday morning, she used half the bottle.  I imagined myself slowly drowning in liquid White Diamonds–even Dame Elizabeth Taylor couldn’t save me.  Every now and then my timing was off and I didn’t get out of her bedroom before the perfume bath commenced.  She would tell me to stop being a baby as my eyes watered and my nose itched.

We thought she loved White Diamonds.  My dad never had to think of a new gift again. A win-win!  For every occasion he bought her another bottle.  We had the industrial size, the small one topped with the delicate bling bow, and who could forget the spin offs: Diamonds and Emeralds, Diamonds and Rubies, and Diamonds and Sapphires. I could never really tell the difference in their scents. We even bought the CVS package sets with travel sized bottles and scented body lotion that burned my dry skin.  At this rate, I was convinced our family single-handedly financed Taylor’s eighth wedding reception.

Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds bottle

It never occurred to us in the decade that followed that the reason my mom drenched herself in the fragrance was because by the time she drove to Brooklyn it wore off.  My mother, a dentist, is very conscious of closeness and always has a breath mint on hand before she gets all up into your cavity.  Perhaps she was trying to finish the bottle quickly so that she could buy her own preferred perfume without insulting her present.  This tactic was consistently foiled by my dad’s self-congratulatory immediate buying and stocking of White Diamonds.  If New York is attacked, they will run out of bottled water before bottled White Diamonds.

As I got older, it finally occurred to me that mother was just being nice.  How do you tell someone the gift they have given you for every birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day for the past decade is not that great?  “Let me guess, White Diamonds…what a surprise…” was a constant phrase in our house during Valentine’s Day.  I don’t think my dad detected the tone in her voice matched the diamonds on the bottle.

How did I let this get out of hand?  I was 11 when I made the gift suggestion, I didn’t know my father would bind me to decision for the next ten years!  I started to make jokes about White Diamonds, hoping that my dad would get the hint.  I figured if my mom wasn’t going to say anything, then I should be her advocate.  “Why don’t you get her real diamonds next year?”  My mother just gave a knowing smile and never took a side.  The White Diamonds bottle became a symbol of their marriage—always there through thick and thin, through cancer, but not necessarily the most exciting thing in the store.

The year the doctors found a grapefruit-sized tumor in my mother’s colon was the year I put my foot down.  How do you celebrate your wife’s birthday after her first chemo session?  Not with White Diamonds.  I was brainstorming ideas for my dad…she always wanted a classic Coach purse, but would never buy one for herself, was a luxury car too much?  Travel is clearly out of the question.  My dad was fixated on the idea of perfume and stubbornly unable to think outside the CVS locked glass perfume box.  Drawing on those early 90s radio station negotiation skills, and a good friend from work who lived these tumultuous years with me, we decided on Chanel No. 5.  Classic, upscale, fashionable, but not edgy, all in all the perfect perfume gift for mom.

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My mother has been in remission for five years.  My father’s gift for this joyous milestone?  Chanel No. 5.  It is the smallest bottle you can find, but for the past five years it sits next to the 90s headbands, big earrings, and numerous bobby pins.  A place of prominence next to the White Diamonds.  We still don’t know if she really likes Taylor’s perfume, but she keeps the bottle.  A reminder of how far we have all come.

I happened to be visiting home the weekend after Taylor’s death.  I went to my mother’s vanity and spritzed White Diamonds.

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Peter King is a Dick

March 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Persian American intellectual and a minor crush of mine, Reza Aslan, just put it out there last week on Colbert.  Long Island Representative Peter King is a dick.

King “represented” my family’s district for many years until redistricting, thankfully, put us in The Honorable Carolyn McCarthy’s camp. King’s recent attack hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in America is an old attention seeking tactic for a once known friend of Nassau County’s Islamic community.  Peter King joins the ranks of a long line of illustrious Long Islanders like Amy Fisher, Lindsay Lohen, and Jwoww.

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If Tom Friedman and Carrie Bradshaw had a Baby…

March 6, 2011 at 7:24 pm (Uncategorized)

“How can Islam get to its future, if its past is its present?”

“Later that day I got to thinking about global civilizational warfare. There are wars that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that take you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant clash of all is the one you have with your own civilization. And if you can find a civilization to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

“Maybe Arabs and Israelis aren’t from different planets, as pop culture would have us believe. Maybe we live a lot closer to each other. Perhaps, dare I even say it, in the same ZIP code.”

“The Jacuzzi was nearly full when Ayman al-Zawahiri, former surgeon and now Al Qaeda’s head of operations, slid in.”

http://www.observer.com/node/49253

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Who are These People? Round DC

February 19, 2011 at 9:08 pm (Uncategorized)

In the spirit of history and my new year resolutions–eat better, exercise more, and go easy on DC–here are some nonscholarly Wiki fueled facts about the men (and one woman) that give Washingtonians the walk around.  As one of my recent holiday gifts was a subscription to the Sunday Washington Post; I think I’m already taking appropriate steps this year to eat my veggies.

Dupont Circle

Samuel Francis Du Pont by Daniel Huntington

The most famous of DC circles for decades of SAISers and geigh men complete with a shout-out in The American President and a working fountain, Dupont Circle is the king of NW.  Its arteries include the famed diagonals of Massachusetts and New Hampshire Avenues.  Construction started in 1871 as Pacific Circle, but in 1882 Congress changed it to Dupont after the Civil War Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont.  There was a statue of the man in the center, but in 1921 the fountain was added representing the sun, stars, and wind.

Dupont was born in prestigious Bayonne, New Jersey (fascinating!) and was the first of his generation to capitalize the “D” in his name.  I believe this is a solid American break from the grammatical traditions of the Old World.  He served in the Mexican-American and Civil Wars and is believed to have helped modernize the US Navy.  He was controversially blamed for the Union failure at Charleston during the Civil War.  He married his first cousin.

Logan Circle

The most beautiful circle in DC and setting for the excellent book The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Ethopian-American author Dinaw Mengestu, Logan Circle feels like the best of Boston in our nation’s capital.  It was Camp Barker in the 19th century, a refugee haven for newly freed slaves from VA and MD.  It was called Iowa Circle, which is why the stately turn of the century condominium building on 13th Street south of the Circle is the Iowa.   In 1930, the circle was renamed for General John Logan who fought for the Union during the Civil War and was a Senator from Illinois.  He is credited for founding Memorial Day.

Thomas Circle

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Known as the divider between 14th Street and Downtown Washington, Thomas Circle is named for Civil War Union General George Henry Thomas.  Thomas sided with the Union even though he was from Virginia.  Famous for being slow and deliberate in taking military action, he was a very successful General, but didn’t promote his legacy. Even in the 19th century, nice girls finished last.

Scott Circle

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Famous for its cherry blossoms and the art deco One General Scott Apartment Complex, Scott Circle is named after “Old Fuss and Feathers” General Winfield Scott.  Scott served on active duty longer than any other man in the U.S. Army history.  He worked under every president from Jefferson to Lincoln and ran for President in 1852 as a member of the Whig Party. *Warning! If you live on Scott Circle for too long you will absorb some of Old Fuss and Feathers fussy tendencies…it’s important to leave while you are still young!*

Washington Circle

George Washington

The most famous of men, if not circles, Washington Circle is dedicated the same man as the city itself.  It was the first traffic circle established in DC and the Statue of George Washington was raised in 1860.

Sheridan Circle

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In the famed Embassy Row area, Sheridan Circle is named after Civil War Union General Philip Sheridan.  He was prosecuted for his role in the Indian Wars of the Great Plains and was also involved in the protection of Yellowstone National Park.

Barney Circle

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The lesser-known Barney Circle is a triangle located in the Capital Hill area of SE Washington.  It is named after Joseph Joshua Barney, a hero of the War of 1812.

Truxton Circle

Truxton Circle is a trapezoid in NW DC between New Jersey, Florida, New York Avenues and North Capitol Street.  The old traffic circle was demolished, but it was named after Captain Thomas Truxton.  Born on Strong Island, although before the Irish and Italians it was known as Long Island, Truxton was a privateer during the American Revolutionary War.  The town of Truxton, somewhere in upstate New York, is named after him.

Anna J. Cooper Circle

A traffic circle between 3rd and T Streets, NW in LeDroit Park.  It was named after Anna Julia Haywood Cooper in 1983.  Cooper was an author, feminist, and educator.  She was the fourth African American woman to earn a PhD.

Benjamin Banneker Circle

A partial traffic circle in SW.  It is named after Benjamin Banneker an African American astronomer and almanac author.  He wrote a letter to Jefferson asking for justice for African Americans.

Columbus Circle

Dedicated to the famous Italian Christopher Columbus, Columbus Circle is by E and First Streets, NE.  It is located between Union Station and the Capitol.

Ward Circle

At the intersection of Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues in NW, it is surrounded by American University and the Department of Homeland Security.  It is named after Major General Artemas Ward, a General during the Revolutionary War and a Congressman from Massachusetts.

Garfield Circle

Located between Maryland and First Street SW, this circle is near the Capitol Reflection Pool and Botanic Garden. It is named after 20th President of the United States James A. Garfield who was killed in office after only four months.

Grant Circle

Ulysses S. Grant in a formal black and white photo. Grant is seated with arms folded. Grant looks weary and his beard is greying. This is the photo used for the $50.00 bill.

Grant Circle is at the intersection of New Hampshire and Illinois Avenues and Varnum and 5th Streets in the Petworth area of NW.  It is named for President and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant.

Sherman Circle

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Another NW traffic circle in Petworth named after Civil War General William Sherman.

Tenley Circle

Tenley Circle is in the Tenlytown area of DC.  It is named after John Tennally, a tavern owner and resident in 1790. Tenlytown is named after him.

Up next? Square DC.

Parks included.

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An Alternative Christmas Carol

December 23, 2010 at 5:29 am (Uncategorized)

In three years, I’ve made one native Washingtonian friend.  I love hearing her tales of growing up in the nation’s capital and the inside scoop she brings to the conversation.  Last month, we went to DC-centric Brightest Young Things monthly variety show–a mixture of music and stand-up comedy and beer.  I discovered a new band, the Mynabirds, with a beautiful voice.  Their alternative Christmas Carol and Zombies cover dominate my iPod this month.

With this week’s chatter about the  anonymous $20k+ “dream Christmas wish list” randomly left on a Metro-North train from NYC to the “gold coastof Connecticut (and published here on Velvet in Dupont’s blog), I felt the need to publish another woman’s list.

Happy Holidays and New Year!  Friends, “we all have just begun…this will be our year!”

The Mynabirds
All I Want is Truth (for Christmas)

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Have it while you can
Cuz the scientists predict another record level year
It will be warm enough outside for all the birds to stay right here
And without the migratory patterns we won’t know where to go
Cuz next year we’ll learn to celebrate without a snow
Have yourself a happy little New Year
Have it if you can
Cuz the politicians will be at their same old arguments
Should we start another war or should we raise another’s debts
And the elders in their robes will be wondering where we stand
But we won’t care—we’ll sip our coffees
We’ll watch our TVs—yeah they're all flat screens
But whatever you do, don’t turn on the news
All I want is you for Christmas
Just a little truth this Christmas
All I want is you for Christmas
Just a little truth this Christmas
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
I know that I will
Cuz I’m bagging all the packages in pretty little bows
And I’ll take them to the old Salvation Army up the road
And I’ll sit down with my love and we’ll remember what it means
To celebrate without a single store-bought thing

All I want is you for Christmas
Just a little truth this Christmas
All I want is you for Christmas
Just a little truth this Christmas


This Will Be Our Year (Zombies Cover)
The warmth of your love
Is like the warmth of the sun
And this will be our year
It took a long time to come 
Don’t let go of my hand
Now the darkness is gone
And this will be our year
It took a long time to come
And I won’t forget the way you held me up
When I was down
And I won’t forget the way say, "Darling, I love you
You give me faith to go on"
Now we are there
And we all have just begun
This will be our year
It took a long time to come 
The warmth of your smile
Smile for me little one
This will be our year
It took a long time to come
You don’t have to worry
All your worry days are done
This will be our year
It took a long time to come 
Yeah, we all have just begun
This will be our year…

It took a long time…
To come

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Home Is Where the Job Is?

December 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm (Uncategorized)

DC’s nouveau yuppies face an interesting legal predicament: where do they live?  If you were not born and raised in the District, are you a Washingtonian?  When do you become one?   And what if you prefer to live as an expat in your own country?

Rahm Emanuel and I have struggled with these questions.  Our licenses, voting ballots, and permanent bedrooms reside in a different state–where do we live?  In Emanuel’s case, the philosophical turned political to legal.  He is being sued for illegally running for mayor of Chicago.

Did Mr. Emanuel, who lived in Washington while he worked at the White House until October, maintain legal residency in Chicago, a city that requires candidates for mayor to be residents for at least a year before an election?

How does Emanuel prove that he is a true Chicagoan?  How does anyone in today’s globalized world prove where they are from, where they live, and where is home?

Mr. Emanuel has, in response to those objecting to his candidacy, provided all sorts of information to elections officials (and, as a result, the public): copies of his (Chicago) birth certificate, (Illinois) driver’s license, tax returns, voting record and a list of items — Ms. Rule’s wedding dress, clothes Mr. Emanuel’s infants wore home from the hospital, Mr. Emanuel’s grandfather’s overcoat, a piano, bed and golf clubs — that still sit in the Chicago house Mr. Emanuel rented out when he left for the White House…They say that Mr. Emanuel’s period as chief of staff was always intended to be temporary, and that he has long been a Chicagoan through and through — his car was always registered here, he owned a house here, and his legal residency never shifted.

Our President is a White Sox fan, our Vice President takes Amtrak back to Delaware every Election Day, and I bet our former White House Chief of Staff never changed his cell’s 312 area code.  Do we have the right to decide where home is even if we don’t shower there?  When does “intended to be temporary” job situation become a permanent address?  If I pay taxes in Washington, my monthly Pepco bill is mailed to a NW apartment, and I have a Smart Card, but my family albums, precious possessions, childhood diaries, and graduation tassels live elsewhere,  where is my home?

My friend, a very smart lawyer, recently gave me some free legal advice on the matter.  The law states we should officially change our residency when our living situation is no longer temporary.  There are all sorts of legal and ethical questions we expose ourselves to by not declaring the new status.    Legality, yes, but a smidge silly if I actively root against the new home team.

Let Emanuel run; let the people decide.  As long as he didn’t evade taxes or criminal charges–I’m fine with the Illinois voters deciding his Chicagoness.   If Illinois native Hillary Clinton can be a New Yorker and Bostonian Michael Bloomberg can be three-term NYC mayor with three different political parties, surely Emanuel has some Chicago street cred.

Our founding fathers established the United States so we could freely move and work between them.  Perhaps they knew back in the late 1700s that one day young, urban, professionals would follow their intellectual and professional dreams to strange, southernesque, city-towns, but their hearts would lie across the Delaware River where cheap Bolt buses would soldier on in the cold night toward brighter lights, bigger cities, and suburban home.

File:Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851.jpg

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My Life as a Third Wheel

December 9, 2010 at 10:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Things I’ve Learned from Other People’s Relationships

I sit in the back seat of the car while my friend and his/her significant other navigate up front.  Sometimes they fight over directions, sometimes they kiss at the red light, often they roll their eyes…I am silent as a child witnessing her or his parents’ marriage.  It can be a little awkward at times, but as an only child it’s oddly familiar being the odd wheel.

In the past few years, I have been on vacation with couples, shared a hotel room, enjoyed long dinners and drives, popped out of the back seat to wish a “Happy Anniversary Guys!” from time-to-time…I’ve even helped pick out the wedding cake.  I am either a hopeless case or really lucky to genuinely enjoy the company of my peers and their life partners.  My amazing friends never make the third wheel feel insignificant to the conversation.

Third Wheel

Contrary to popular belief there are some benefits to third wheeldom.   I’ve learned a few life lessons from my front row back seat.

  1. Pay Attention! The hardest things are always the most obvious.  People often tell you what they feel if you really pay attention.  It’s so hard when you are emotionally involved, when you have so much history, but from the outside, without bias or personal agenda it’s clear.  Paying attention could be the easiest way to avoid half of the petty disagreements that clutter quotidian life.
  2. Power is Fungible, Don’t take Advantage! While I hope for a truly equal partnership, other people’s relationships have proved that power is fungible.  The give and the take, the ebb and flow, and hopefully it all comes out in the wash.  Some people are more natural givers, others are natural takers, one month you’re up and the next you’re penny-less, insurance-less, and crying in a public park.   It takes mental strength and love not to take advantage of the other’s inclination or luck.
  3. Find Someone Who is on Your Team! When you are dating it is easy to be attracted to various opposite dynamics–the competitor, the cheerleader, the fan, the coach…each in its own way has an interesting, exciting, flattering, or comforting proposition.  But, ideally, in the long-term, we need someone who is an active player on our team.
  4. Just Say Congratulations. When an former love tells you s/he is engaged the appropriate response is “Congratulations.”  Congratulations Period. Not Congratulations Exclamation Point!
  5. Everyone Has Their Thing! Gambling, smoking, chocolate, Taco Bell, casual clothing, tucking/not tucking their shirt, religion, talking too much, drinking, pets, in-laws, no presents rule during the holidays, an obnoxiously loud laugh, time management issues, video games, constant High Five-ing, immigration status, an ex that will never go away…everyone has their thing.  I don’t know if it’s important to keep the “thing” in check or to let it slide every once in a while, but it’s good to know before the next relationship comes along that everyone will have their thing.  It just needs to compliment my thing.

Lastly, contrary to popular 70s film belief (that may or may not have been based on the now defunct Al and Tipper Gore love story…) love does mean having to say you are sorry.

Of course these lessons will only matter if they are put into practice in the heat of the moment when it counts.  Easier said than done.  The third or fifth wheel is by definition an odd character, but with years of amassing knowledge and advice from good friends it can one day get even.

Or call shotgun.

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