slamilf asked: At what age do you think it is appropriate to start discussing with your children the difference between healthy attractions and unhealthy attractions (assuming I can figure it out myself)? Check out "Paperman"- Disney's short film shown before the KID movie “Wreck-It-Ralph”- and you'll understand why I'm asking. Needless to say, I just about puked up my chocolate covered pretzels in the theater!
I actually saw Paperman — I have a soft spot for 3D animation — and I know what you mean. What is a charming meet-cute moment from one perspective is a scary stalker story from another. Most classic rom-coms, in fact, if lit differently, could be rebranded as slasher epics: “The flowers are coming from inside the house!”
Is this animated misguided missile a teaching moment? I don’t think so. Most children will naturally come to an intuitive understanding of the difference between fact and fiction as they mature. Little Tommy only needs to jump off the dresser in his Superman Underoos once to figure out that people cannot actually fly. If Tommy is still dropping anvils on the cat when he’s old enough to lift an anvil… well, then some parental intervention may be required.
The lovestruck Romeo in Paperman, while hardly a good example, was still a cartoon. Pepe le Pew may well be a date rapist, but I don’t think he’s a danger to our children. Shakespeare’s Romeo is of much greater concern to me, frankly. Just think of all the murder-suicides inspired by that timeless tale.
The best way to teach your kids about healthy relationships is to have a healthy relationship with your kid.
by Shabana Malone
Television has a rich tradition of making heroines out of love addicts. Teen girls had Angela Chase in ‘My So-Called Life’, Thirtysomethings have Carrie from ‘Sex and the City’, and college girls have ‘Felicity’. Webster’s defines the word felicity as,“the quality or state of being happy”; show creator JJ Abrams must have been using a pinch of irony when he named his protagonist Felicity, for she spent much of the 1998 series crying; crying over Ben, crying over Noel, crying over Ben and Noel.
Felicity, I have no doubt, was a love addict. How do I know? It takes one to know one.
But another hint is the premise of the show: A girl scraps Stanford University and moves across the country to follow her high school crush. She does this because of something he wrote in her high school yearbook! If that’s not a love addict, I don’t know what is.
Played expertly by the gorgeous Keri Russell, surprisingly convincing as a brainy loner, Felicity idealized popular athlete Ben (played by Scott Speedman) for four years in high school, even though they never spoke. She later acknowledges that the fact that they never did speak was why she had those “intense feelings”. After she realizes “I came to New York because of Ben, but I’m staying for me,” she becomes receptive to the advances of her Mr. Nice Guy Resident Advisor, Noel (played by Scott Foley). Noel is almost as hot as Ben, but without the brooding, mysterious, aloof sexiness that Ben embodies. Alas, Noel has a girlfriend back home he hasn’t told Felicity about.
Too good-looking for her…. already taken… Felicity is covering all the unavailability bases.
The entire series is about Felicity’s constant struggle of “Ben or Noel? Noel or Ben? Ben or Noel?” interspersed with other guys she doesn’t care much about but who are only there to distract her from Ben and/or Noel. Felicity repeate4dly chooses Ben, even though he proves fickle time and again. Noel (the epitome of Captain Save-a-Ho) is always there to pick up the pieces.
An undercurrent of the show is that Felicity’s biggest reason for leaving Palo Alto for New York, we come to find out, is to get away from her overbearing parents. This is especially interesting because Pia Mellody (author of Facing Love Addiction) would argue that having overbearing parents would cause Felicity to fear “engulfment,” and likely become a love avoidant, not a love addict. By the same token, Ben — with his alcoholic, abandoning father and codependent mother — should be a love addict, and not the love avoidant he appears to be. Another hint that Ben is a love avoidant is the fact that he is all about the chase. He mostly shows interest in a girl when she is otherwise involved or ignoring his calls. Once she falls for him, he often loses interest.
Noel’s parental issues are shadowy, but he is certainly a love addict as well. Hence, he and Felicity found each other.
Felicity also has intimacy issues. You would think she would lose her virginity to either Ben or Noel, right? Wrong. She slept with an art student she barely knew, played by Simon Rex, who sent her flowers the next day. Incidentally, I slept with Simon in real life and I’m still waiting for my flowers! Damn you, reality!
But I digress. The second person she slept with was neither Noel NOR Ben, but some random grad student she was dating. She seems more comfortable sleeping with people she barely knows than with the men she professes to love. She didn’t sleep with Ben until well into the second season, and Noel until Season 4! Intimacy issues much? Underneath, Felicity does want to find herself. It’s slightly more fun and less stressful to think about “Ben or Noel” over “What am I going to do with my life?”
I have a therapy client who reminds me so much of Felicity. She also moved across the country (from New York to Los Angeles) for a boy. She is now on a journey to find herself, and I theorized that she was not only running away with her boyfriend but also running away from her controlling parents. She watched the show, and she agrees with my assessment. Love addicts do want to have a self, deep down. It’s just easier to hide behind a guy than to do what it takes to get one.
I’ll give writers JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves a break on these oversights. They’re not therapists, and I’m sure they didn’t research Love Addiction and Love Avoidance for the show. They had their hands full writing such a rich and complex character as Felicity. How two men wrote such an accurate female love addict is beyond me; especially considering they based the character on a girl they barely knew in high school. Art imitating life (sort of).
Some have said that Angela Chase was a high school version of Felicity Porter, who was a college version of Carrie Bradshaw. Love addiction is an ageless phenomenon. Felicity is a classic example of television’s romanticizing of love addiction. After all, she got her man. So did Angela Chase. So did Carrie Bradshaw (eventually!) After all, this is not real life. Damn you, reality!
Shabana Malone is a marriage and family therapist and television fan living in West Hollywood, California.
In his book “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, “David Kessler — former head of the Food and Drug Administration — posits that the modern food industry intentionally layers fat, sugar and salt in its products to trigger our craving for more food.
“They aren’t selling just any commodity,” says Kessler. “They’ve designed highly stimulating products, substances that excessively activate the reward circuits of the brain, and consumers come back for more.” The end result is a population in a desperate, lifelong battle to control its ballooning weight… much like Kessler himself.
This is the scientific basis for banning 64-ounce sodas in New York City movie theaters: junk food doesn’t just take advantage of food addict. It turns us into food addicts. Well, sugary food isn’t the only easily available, highly stimulating product on the market with a risk of triggering obsessive and destructive behavior. Internet pornography is the junk food of sex and love addiction. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg should google “free streaming porn” next time he enjoys his 8-ounce glass of unsweetened iced tea. Internet porn is to monogamous sex as salted caramel ice cream is to baked chicken and a green salad.
Now, I am no more anti-sex — or anti-porn — than I am anti-food. Food and sex are both vital to human survival, and curiosity about human sexuality (e.g., images of people having sex) is normal and healthy. The question I propose is, is salted caramel ice cream really food? And is Live Cam Teen Asian Double Penetration Party really sex?
It used to be, sex outside marriage and French fried potatoes were both rare and special treats. One involved ruining a pot and wasting a load of cooking oil. The other involved spending cash and risking public exposure, if not actual arrest. Today you can get both fries at MacDonalds and sexual fantasies on your smartphone 24/7. No wasted oil, no being rousted by the Vice Squad. For most teenage boys, access to pornography 24/7 generally means pornography, 24/7. But there’s a larger problem: the nature of the sexual fantasies themselves. Like the complex, supercharged flavors of pretzel M&M’s or chocolate-covered bacon, the intensity and variety of pornographic images available online go right for the brain’s reward circuits, creating that instant gratification feedback loop that easily turns into an addictive groove.
Recent studies show that watching pornography stimulates more brain activity in the dopamine receptors than having actual sex does. Dopamine is the neurochemical that signals not just pleasure and gratification, but the anticipation of pleasure and gratification, which is often even more exciting. (For me, sorry to report, the anticipation is almost always more exciting than the event. Whatever the event may be…)
As rock star John Mayer told Playboy magazine in a revealing interview, “It’s a new synaptic pathway. Internet pornography has absolutely changed my generation’s expectations. You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora’s box of visuals. There have been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed.”
Mayer may not be speaking for his entire generation, but he certainly speaks for the percentage who have gorged themselves on the junk food of porn to the point of clinical sex addiction. Maybe you are (or know someone who is) one of them.
How do you know when you’ve become an addict? Mayer describes his own invisible line pretty well: “You’re looking for the one photo out of 100 you swear is going to be the one you finish to, and you still don’t finish. Twenty seconds ago you thought that photo was the hottest thing you ever saw, but you throw it back and continue your shot hunt and continue to make yourself late for work.”
Addiction: A chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive use of a mind-altering substance despite negative life consequences. When you continue to do it (whatever it is) despite the fact that it makes you late for work… your spouse leaves you… you feel ashamed and dirty… it costs money you don’t have… this is what we call negative life consequences. I don’t care if the mind-altering substance is ingested or if you manufacture it in your brain by masturbating to pornography.
Addiction is a hunger that can never be satisfied, and junk food will never truly satisfy your hunger. Both the food and porn industries know this, and they are not above using it to their advantage. Nothing is more profitable than a consistent demand. Why else do we get ink jet printers, cartridge razors… and the Kardashians?
everythingsquestionable asked: I realize I'm a love addict and I don't like it. I wanted to use the 12 steps program for addicts but I don't like the religious aspect of it. Is there another recovery program I can try?
Yeah, I don’t like being a love addict either. If I could choose addictions, I would definitely have gone with anorexia.
The 12 steps are intentionally spiritual, not religious, and even an agnostic like me can get a lot from them. (I come from a family of Matzoh Ball Jews — we don’t believe in God, but we are passionate about soup.) I suggest looking around for an SLAA, SA or LAA group that wears its Higher Power lightly.
If that’s not available, there are therapists and recovery centers who deal with the issue sans steps. Some people work with church groups, although I’m guessing that won’t be your best alternative! There are bulletin boards and discussion groups for love addicts all over the internet. But personally, I suggest face-to-face sharing and a like-minded community where the addict can be accountable.
Because IMHO, the problem most people have with 12-step programs isn’t the God part. It’s the Abstinence part. Remember, the well-intentioned alcoholic who founded Moderation Management for people who “just need to cut down on their drinking” ended up killing two people while driving drunk.
That Time of the Month: Funny Female Storytelling PRESENTS “Boobs”
Storytellers include KELLY LYNNE, KEHAUNANI HUBBARD, SHELLEY DAVIS-WISE and ETHLIE ANN VARE
Mindy Kaling may or may not be a love addict in real life, but she sure as hell plays one on TV. Kaling first came to our attention as worker bee Kelly Kapoor on THE OFFICE (she was also one of the show writers); now. she has her own series, THE MINDY PROJECT, in which she plays ob/gyn Mindy Lahiri. Both characters are pitch perfect, batshit crazy, hope-to-die love addicts.
The problem is: Does Kaling know that love addiction is a chronic, relapsing, and fatal disease? Does she care? And does the audience want to watch her character circle the drain for 23 minutes (I skip commercials - sorry, Fox!) every week?
We were only able to get a hint of Kelly Kapoor’s insanity on THE OFFICE, as she was a supporting player with limited camera time. We saw her obsession with co-worker Ryan (B.J. Novak), though, and her total inability to hear his oft-repeated “I. Am. Not. Interested. In. You.” Now, her romantic fantasies are the subject of the entire episode. Do normal people enjoying cringing at love addict behavior, or is it so delusional and alien to then that they’ll soon abandon the show? I don’t know the answer to that, honestly. Most of my friends are as nuts as I am.
Here’s the series premise: Mindy Lahiri is a smart woman and good doctor, but filled with expectations nursed on romantic comedies that her love life is a rollercoaster with neither brakes nor a drive train. In the pilot, she makes such a drunken scorned-woman drama out of her ex’s wedding that she ends up in jail.
“Did you think Tom was going to ditch the wedding and run off with you?” asks her friend.
“Kind of, yes,” she replies. Even in the cold light of the morning after, she can barely grasp how warped her thinking is.
While doggedly hunting for Mr. Right with an arsenal of sequined tops and a literal shopping list, Mindy is casually banging the hot Brit, Dr. Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) when he whistles for her. “I am not good at saying no.” she admits. “One time I left a flea market with a samurai sword.” Besides, he tells her he’s beautiful. He tells every woman he sees that she’s beautiful (“I’m not addicted to sex. I’m addicted to attention.”) but that’s beside the point.
Like she tells her patient about paid-up health insurance: “It doesn’t have to be true. I just need to hear it. I do this with guys all the time.”
It’s an incredibly self-aware line from a blatantly un-self-aware woman. Which makes me think that Mindy the writer has more insight into love addiction that Mindy the character does. I hope she does. I don’t know if I can cringe my way through many more first dates with this nightmare. Some things, I don’t need to relate to.
This story landed in my Facebook message box (you know you can find me on Facebook, yes?) because whenever love addiction is in the news, you can count on my network to give me a heads up:
NUCLEAR SUBMARINE COMMANDER FAKED DEATH TO END AFFAIR
Karen Florin and Jennifer McDermott reported in the original piece for The Day in Connecticut that Navy Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II, accused of having an affair with a 23-year-old Chesapeake, Va., woman and faking his death as a means of ending it, had been relieved of his duties as the commanding officer of the USS Pittsburgh.
The woman said she met Ward, 43, on a dating website in October. Ward, who is married with children, told her he was separated and that he worked in “special ops.” She said he got her pregnant and then, in an effort to end the relationship, faked his death in an email communication in July.
According to a press release from the Navy, he was removed from his post “due to lack of confidence in Ward’s ability to command based upon allegations of personal misconduct.”
Here are the details of said misconduct, according to the article: The woman said Ward sent her emails using the name Tony Moore, explaining that he had to use the name because of his position in the special forces. He told her his real name when they met, but shortly he left for a six-month deployment. He returned in June.
On July 6, she received an email from his address purporting to be from a man who worked with Ward. “I am extremely sorry to tell you that he is gone. We tried everything we could to save him. I cannot say more.” The email goes on to say, “He loved you very much.”
The woman said that on July 9, she drove with family members to Ward’s house to pay her respects, and learned that Ward was alive and had moved to Connecticut. She said she then became ill, was hospitalized, and learned she was pregnant. She said she has since lost the baby.
Pretty much all the coverage — and there has been quite a bit, unfortunately for Commander Ward (ex-Commander Ward?) blames the guy for being a liar, a cheat and, let’s face it, an idiot. But stop for a moment and look at it from the perspective of love addiction. What if it’s the lady who’s insane? What if the guy is just your average philanderer cruising the web for a bit of strange. Unless he has a pattern of doing this over and over, despite obviously poor results, he’s nothing more than a garden variety asshole. But the woman? She’s a danger to herself and society.
Take the facts chronologically: Mistress X (she doesn’t reveal her name, not wanting to risk losing her job) connects online with a guy 20 years her senior. This is in October. When they meet up — which has to be before December, because he’s 20 thousand leagues under the sea by then — he tells her he’s been lying about his name, but she’s fine with that and sleeps with him anyway. They have a long-distance, catch-as-catch-can affair which lasts 6 or 8 weeks, tops — probably less, because I’m guessing he spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with his kids.
Having accomplished his goal which, as we mentioned, was to have sex with someone not his wife, he leaves for Bahrain and the UAE. She, however, will not be dumped. She is in looooove, pursuing this fantasy relationship to the point that he has to pretend to be dead to get rid of her. And even then she persists! She drives her family to pay respects at the funeral. Was she invited to a funeral? Was she even told where said funeral was going to be?
Now, I haven’t met or interviewed this unnamed woman so I could be talking out of my ass. But if I were a betting woman — and I am not, Gamblers Anonymous being about the only 12-step program I do not qualify for — I would put my money on her being the ass-talker here.
How do I know? Because I have been in fantasy relationships like that, except for the submarine part. I have been naively, childishly convinced that the romantic clichés, the obvious lies and the hollow flattery were true because I wanted so badly for it all to be true. I have driven miles for joyful reunions with men who had no idea who I was.
I got better. I hope the crazy lady does, too.
Ticker as in tick-tock. Why is my watch so often set on The Perfect Future? In this latest Huffington Post blog, I explore the concept that our problem isn’t always gravitating to Mr. Wrong. It’s gravitating to Mr. Blank Canvas and assuming he’s Mr. Right … based on no evidence whatsoever.
I don’t know about you, but when I feel fat, the first thing I want to do is eat. When I feel poor I run out and spend money, and when I feel lonely, I lock myself in my room and isolate. My brain is wired backwards. I have what the professionals call a “paradoxical relationship” to everything from St. John’s Wort (it depresses me) to estrogen (it gives me pimples.)
I think this backwards wiring is something addicts share. For example: Drug addicts invariably get hooked on to what you’d think was exactly the wrong drug. Alcohol is a depressant, but who drinks the most? Depressives! That guy you saw crying into his beer was crying when gravitated to beer in the first place, and he’ll probably be whimpering in AA meetings if and when he sobers up. The roommate who already eats more than his share of the pizza will end up as a pothead, and the one face-down in the carpet listening to jazz is the one who eventually graduates to heroin. And me, the freaking Energizer bunny on the natch, immediately reached for the cocaine.
There’s something going on here more than self-destructive behavior. Some say that the addict’s head is only keeping the body below alive because it needs the transportation. I think there’s a whole ‘nother thing going on. You know that the preferred treatment for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is speed, right? Ritalin is speed; Adderall is speed. The current go-to drug for adult ADHD, Vyvanse, is Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate — as if spelling amphetamine with an “f” makes a difference. It’s speed.
Why do they give uppers to people who are already hyperactive? For the same reason I reached for cocaine. For us, it has a paradoxical reaction. It gives us focus. It calms us down.
The problem is, as often as not, an addict will usually overshoot the mark. I’m trying to find the Lee Marvin-in-Cat Ballou moment, that perfect balance of Xanax, brandy and Dexamyl (or whatever), and somehow I end up in San Rafael with an unemployed bass player. I never meant for that to happen; I overshot the mark.
None of us never meant to stay up until the lawn sprinklers went off and the damn birds started singing; we just overshot the mark. We didn’t mean to get so drunk we barfed on the boss’s shoes, but we overshot the mark. And as for the love addicts: We didn’t mean to sleep with him on the first date… we were kissing, and we overshot the mark.
I mention this because while an estimated 10,000-20,000 Americans die annually from the effects of illegal drugs, 100,000-200,000 die from physician-prescribed medication. Some of them get prescribed to love addicts desperately trying to ease the twin agonies of obsession and withdrawal. If, like me, you have brain wiring that is maybe upside-down, keep that wacky mind in mind when you pop those pills.
Death is a mark you just don’t want to overshoot.
And we’re back. Still working my way through the pile of reader questions from JEZEBEL. Hoping to have it completed before October, when I will be the Guest Expert of the Month at www.AddictionLand.com (“Easy to get in, but can you get out?”) and the floodgates will open once again.
So far, the top contenders for my Dear Abby/Ann Landers’ Evil Other Twin name are: MISSED MANNERS, ANN BLUNDERS, DEAR ABBY-NORMAL and the one up there in the header, DOWNTOWN ABBY. Feel free to add your own.
Minnesota 2012 asks: Why do I continue to have sex with someone who doesn’t care about me? I know it’s a waste of time, I know I deserve so much better, blah, blah, blah - This doesn’t change that I still do it. Willingly. What is it about the sex act that makes a woman forego all logical self-respect?
It’s not the sex act; it’s the neurochemicals produced by the anticipation of sex (dopamine) and the cuddling afterwards (oxytocin) — not to mention the barrage of endorphins during the delightful bits in between. And it’s not all women; it’s you. Also me, and a bunch of us who are addicted to said feelgood brain chemicals.
So while the logical and rational front brain is saying “This guy doesn’t care about me, it’s a waste of time, I know I deserve better,” the lizard brain tucked way in the back is saying “Oh baby, oh baby. harder faster more.” It’s a contest the lizard brain will always win… unless you stack the deck. The process of recovery is learning how to stack the deck: a supportive group, a counselor, contrary action, bottom lines/abstinence, blah blah blah.
You gain self-respect when you behave in a way that respects yourself. I have to act myself into right thinking, because I can never think myself into right acting. Stupid lizard brain always gets in the way.
Woman 23 asks: I would love to hear your thoughts on jealousy, open relationships, etc..
When I was in the throes of love addiction, I was pathologically jealous. I was the kind of girl who would read his journals and freak out over women he was with before he ever met me. When I was getting clean from cocaine, I gave up four months of sobriety because I saw the guy I liked dancing with another girl. (I say “girl,” but I was 35 at the time and assume she was about the same. This isn’t the junior prom we’re talking about, here.) I never actually cut up anyone’s clothes or burned his car — I know women who have done both — but I have fantasized about it.
I’m not like that any more, thank God. I wouldn’t be with a guy I didn’t trust, for one, and I also know that having a man’s attention 100% of the time is not the stairway to heaven. That being said, open relationships are not for me. I don’t poke sleeping dogs with sharp sticks, and love addiction is a very large, very dangerous dog. I could pretend I had no problem with polyamory, either out of sheer denial or in vain hopes of converting the guy to monogamy, but for me that’s just a heartache looking for a place to happen.
And Precious Little of That asks: How do you convince a stubborn Baby Boomer to get into therapy when they don’t want to see a “head-shrinker?” I’m asking for…um…the child of a friend.
You’re singing my song, sister! I tried to get my hypercontrolling, manic-depressive, gambling addict mother into therapy, into Gamblers Anonymous, into Alanon, into anything that might help her heal. For probably 20 years. Not only didn’t she go, but she resented that I judged and criticized her all the time and kept wanting her to change.
Kind of like I resented her all my life for judging and criticizing me, and forever wanting me to change. Go figure.
In the end, we can never change anything but our own actions and our own attitude. The weird thing is, that changes everyone around us.
In your… um, friend’s case, I recommend being as happy as possible and, if asked, credit your tiny, shrunken head.
Erin Gloria asks:I once read that your romantic sophistication/development as a person ends when a long period of never being single begins — say, if a woman spent ages 20-3o hopping from boyfriend to boyfriend and suddenly finds herself single, when she tries to go out and date, she’ll approach it like a 20-year-old would.
What would your experience say to that? Do you believe that constant relationships impede personal development? Did it impede yours?
For most people, I credit this more to acculturation than personality development. Dating habits are formed when you were last dating, so you’ll revert to that until you learn new habits. Other than creating some awkwardness that will make cute dinnertable chit-chat on your next internet date, I don’t see it as a big issue.
In the world of addicts (AdditionLand! Easy to get in, but can you get out?), however, it’s a different story. An addict’s personality development and life coping skills stop when they start using. For most of us, this is smack dab in mid-adolescence because, after all, there’s nothing to make you need a drink like puberty. So we begin our “sober dating” life at 30 or 40 or 50… with all the romantic sophistication of a 15-year-old.
This is past awkward to the point of potentially lethal, like underage driving. We should all get learner’s permits.