Valentine’s Day Ideas

VANESSA SMEETS

Ever the romantic, I decided to rack my brain for original ideas. These can be applied to both men and women.

“All you need is love, love is all you need…”
– The Beatles

  • Not a poet? Create a poem with your lover’s favourite song lyrics. The Beatles and Queen have incredible lines…
  • Love_flowerPlace petals on the bed, spelling the letters of their name. Too long a name? A letter for each petal.
  • Lingerie too expensive these days? Wrap yourself in a large bow. He must unwrap only using his tongue and teeth.
  • Prepare the room like a beach getaway. Pour champagne upon your darling… Cool water and bubbles, just like the ocean.
  • After showering together, tell him/her to meet you in the room. Come back only with whipped cream on the important bits… Shower again. Hehe…LOVE_naughty
  • Prepare breakfast in bed, but unique in that under each item he/she finds a word. They spell out whatever he/she means to you.
  • Buy a rose for his/her mom… She raised him/her after all.
  • Try making a card instead of buying a soppy one. “I took time for you…” says so much more.
  • Love_quoteTake him/her on a picnic. Prepare a type of treasure map of the park you choose. Every tree or bush indicated on the map hides a word describing what he/she means to you.
  • Go to the movies early, ask the people in charge if you can insert something before… “John, I love you…” “Thank you for everything, Jane…” He’ll be so surprised when you start watching the movie.
  • Spell their name out with adjectives:

e.g. IAN…

Incredible
Athletic
Naughty

The trick to romance is pure originality and knowing what your lover likes.
Is he/she a racer? Prepare a trip around in a McClaren, or whatever his/her favourite car may be. Test drives are free or cheaper 😉
A boxer? Get him/her new gloves with the words “Love” and “You” on each hand.
A tour guide? Surprise him/her with a tour of your body. Blindfold him/her. And explore you, tongue only.
A doctor? Play his naughty nurse side-kick… “Doctor, I’m not quite sure how to turn you on… Mind showing me?”

There’s only as far as your imagination can take you…

Unrequited Love…

VANESSA SMEETS

Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

burning desire

CHASING A DREAM: Sometimes the burning desire to be loved in return leads you astray from the one person with you every step of the way: yourself. PIC: Internet

After years of searching for love in unconventional places, it hit me… Love is neither word nor feeling. It is action: 

Listening.
Dreaming.
Being.
Seeing.
Becoming.

But, this is not necessarily accomplished through others, but through the only person that can ultimately love you 100% in return: yourself. And once you fall in love with you are, the rest happens naturally… Not in the narcissistic kind of way, of course. Unfortunately, millions of people are dealing with unrequited love (devoting attention to people who feel very little for them) in their daily lives, leading them to becoming martyrs and masochists, allowing them to replace love with lust.

Love heals old wounds through patience and kindness, lust temporarily blinds you from them.

unrequited love cartoon

HEARTLESS: Wearing your heart on your sleeve only to have it getting lost or broken. PIC: Internet

With over 7 billion people on earth, the search to find one’s soul-mate that sets your soul aflight, wipes away your fears and whom you can ultimately share a family with, has become a life-long dilemma. In ancient Greece, soul-mates were believed to be souls who had been cut in half, left to search the world for their missing halves. For centuries, this search has fascinated poets, philosophers, song-writers and playwrights.

William Shakespeare based most of his plays and poetry on it. Ophelia in Hamlet believes he is the love of her life, only to discover that his obsession with his mother borders on incest. She literally drowns her sorrows by throwing herself in the castle’s moat, left to search for love for eternity. At first, Hamlet shows no remorse or guilt towards her death. But at her burial, he loses it completely, throwing himself into her grave: “Forty thousand brothers / Could not, with all their quantity of love, / make up my sum” (V.i.254–256).

Plato mastered the search for love in his Symposium. He cleverly deciphered erotic, selfish love (eros) from giving, selfless love (agape). He explains that true contentment only comes once one realizes the difference and gives up his soul not to someone else, but to the wisdom rejection brings.

unrequited love charlie brown

OH, SCHULTZ: Even Charlie Brown was fascinated by unrequited love, searching his world for that little red haired girl. PIC: Internet

In contemporary society, the search for love has been both infused and confused with physical satisfaction. Magazines like FHM and Cosmopolitan, have led readers to believe that guys give love for sex and girls give sex for love. The man who falls into this trap continues to mislead women he is worth her while and dotes on her every move. Like the little schoolgirl being chased on the playground through the game, “kissing catchers,” she is flattered but scared. When she finally cracks and kisses or sleeps with him, he loses interest.
The more he rejects her, the more she yearns for him. This yearning can last for months or years, until she finally sees him with someone else.

Many women who have been victims to this, try to get revenge by turning the tables and sleeping with a guy first and then trying to break his heart later. Even if the guy is finally “Mr Nice Guy,” she feels tempted to cheat on him in order to justify her past mistakes. Or, she cheats on herself by becoming destructive towards him. She’ll act like the jealous, insecure type to see how much she truly means. All this, because she doesn’t believe she is special or unique enough to be loved, so fills the void by degrading herself and putting herself into tempting situations. The physical becomes the all, in order to avoid the emotional. 

Unrequited love is a lonely but inspiring quest:

It is the slow realization you are discovering the world in someone, only to realize they’ve conquered you already.

unrequited love - time

TIME AFTER TIME: They say time heals all wounds… Disagreed. It’s what you do in that time… PIC: Internet

The question is: can you conquer your own insecurities and fears to meet your true soul-mate? The one reflecting years of experience, staring at you in silence from the mirror, wishing you would notice them just once and not go back on that futile quest.

Here’s a short guide to distinguish love from lust, helping you to walk away from that which leads you on, only to lead you astray…

LOVE LUST
Focus on future Focus on present
Compassionate communication Constant fighting
Their needs Your needs
Feeling of renewal, growth Feeling of restraint, insecurity
Discussions focus on emotional: dreams, aspirations, goals Discussions focus on physical: sexual positions, past partners, libido
Security causing release: you want the best for them, even if that means letting go Insecurity causing control: you want him/ her all to yourself, all the time
Long-lasting, compassionate Quick-fix, competitive
Sentimental gifts (thoughtful/ nostalgic) Material gifts (expensive/ impressive)
A journey of emotional discovery A roller-coaster ride of physical satisfaction

Searching for satisfaction…

VANESSA SMEETS

A look on the 5 type of guys to avoid and how to enjoy singledom…

singleness

LIVING COLOUR: Your colourful past, certainly makes way for a brighter future. PIC: Online

You’re in your late twenties or early thirties, everyone around you is either getting married or having kids.

The best thing about being single? Less questions on where you were.
The worst? More questions on where you’re going…

There’s a lot of pressure on women of today to, as well as having a fulfilling career, be romantically fulfilled as well. No matter how independent or well she’s been doing.

This leads to her falling desperately for the wrong type of men, starting with…

The Ex

Things ended because he moved away and you had to pursue a career or studies. You both still like each other and still secretly have virtual sex. Big mistake. The truth hits you when pictures of his new girlfriend show up on Facebook. Delete that chapter. Delete him. For good, this time…

This new chapter leads you to…

The Rebound

Why I'm single

The honest truth… PIC: Online

You meet him at a bar, share a few beers. The attraction is pretty insane. The sex turns out to be mind-blowing, but you have absolutely nothing else in common. Stop having sex, it’s preventing you from meeting someone more worthwhile.

However, your loneliness leads you to that elusive…

The One-Night Stand

Out of the blue, you meet someone incredibly smart and attractive. Problem is, you’re still not emotionally ready, so you come across as desperate and smothering. You end up liking him too soon, not knowing this is the type of guy to lose interest when things become too sexual. In a moment of passion, you end up sleeping together. The sex turns out to be average, but you’re kind of determined to find out where this could lead. He, however, is not:

“Listen, I’m not blown away by you. That was fun, but that’s all it’ll remain. Have a nice life.”

You feel like a dirty tramp and turn to…

single dilemma

The flying solo dilemma… PIC: Online

The Best Friend

He’s liked you for years, but you’ve kept your distance. After all, could there not just be one platonic male presence in your life, for goodness sake? After hours of crying on his shoulder for the umpteenth time, you look into his kind, genuine eyes and end up making out. The next time you see him, it’s really awkward, so you end up flirting with…

The Colleague

He’s the guy kind enough to offer you a lift to work or leave post-its while you’re out on a smoke break. Mixing business with pleasure has as many perks as risks. You two soon become office talk.

It’s time to break the vicious cycle many women find themselves in and rather embrace singledom.
In the words of Sex and the City:

“Some people are settling down, some people are settling for less and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.”

Things to embrace while you’re single:

men to avoid

  • Flirt shamelessly with strangers. It’s okay to practice… Practice makes perfect. Just avoid taking them home.
  • Explore the world. Finally you can go on that Contiki tour with your best friend! Do it!
  • Take up new and strange hobbies. Start pole-dancing, hip-hopping, silk painting… You’ll certainly be more interesting to the next lucky fish.
  • Become adventurous without inhibitions. Take up that job offer in South Korea! Go become a photographer on a cruise ship! Au pair while you still can! So many more stories to tell…
  • Focus on what you want, not what you need. Neediness is unattractive. Want is ambitious. Not keen on divorce? Don’t marry that average guy from the dentist’s office.
  • “Water” your friendships. The Sims illustrated this part of social life perfectly. Remember that girlfriend you stopped hearing about once she got hitched? You’ve become her, without the ring. Catch up with a cocktail party or ladies’ night. Liking their Facebook status is simply not enough, by the way.
  • Realize that marriage is more than just a piece of paper, it’s for life. Could you really marry that rebound guy that litters your place with dirty dishes?
  • Play safe. So your heart is broken, wait till you’re emotionally ready to take up something physical. Getting physical too soon means the next guy won’t have time to get to know you on an emotional scale.
  • Keep a diary of your weaknesses, as well as your achievements. Some guys are mean to girls in order to move on more easily, don’t take all their insults to heart. However, if all relationships ended because you were obsessed with your girlfriends or cat, it may be time to overthink some things.
  • Stop complaining, start living. Remember Carrie’s addiction…nagging on and on about Mr Big? So unattractive, even to your closest friends.
  • Find your inner child. He used to steal your lunch, now he’s stolen your dreams. He used to flirt with the teacher, now he flirts with your best friend. Move on. Mr Nice (yet Good-looking) Guy exists… Someone wise once wrote: “Nice guys always finish last, but isn’t that what women want in the end?”

How to scare away Mr Right, now!

VANESSA SMEETS

So you’re back in the dating game, ready to meet Mr Right or Mr Right Now, whichever one comes first. LOL… It’s a daunting feeling: back to gym, the hairdresser, the beauty salon.

Does one dare to colour and cut when you finally meet your blind date? Does one wax for a first date?

Movies like The Ugly Truth and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, as well as series like Sex & the City and books like He’s Just Not That Into You have paved the way for how to date effectively. Yet many women still find themselves making the same mistakes over and over again.

These are the worst things to do when you finally find him (thanks to my guy friends for sharing). Basically, it’s a compilation of “How to lose a guy in 10 minutes…” That easy!

good girls

  • Flirt with his mates and ignore him the whole evening. Some ladies think by being friendly to his mates, you’ll score points with him. There’s a fine line between friendliness and flirtiness, my dear.
  • Wear a wedding dress to a first date. Ummm, yeah… Too eager, perhaps? Wedding dress can refer to anything that hints at moving along too fast: showing bra-straps/ g-string, a garter…
  • Sms/ call him constantly. So, you like the dude? Let him do the chasing! How can he miss you if you never go away?
  • Fall for his best friend. They look alike. They hang out constantly. He’s bound to rub off on you too… Try to keep your distance.
  • Become a sexting slut. Funny enough when you meet the right guy, or what seems to be, you lose inhibition and carry on flirting like madly. Be careful of scaring him off with your tie and bondage fantasies. He may also expect them in real.
handsome

Courtesy: E-cards

  • Rearrange his stuff. So he’s finally allowed you to check out his place? Lucky girl! Don’t ruin it by doing his dishes or laundry; may get too cozy for comfort.
  • Insult his mother or sister. No matter how badly he may talk about them (even just once), never say anything bad about them!
    This is a test to see if you really want to be with a guy who can’t even respect his feminine ties and a test to see how sweet you really are…
  • Insist on knowing everything about his exes. “Did she touch you like that?” is as bad as saying “I love you” on a first date. Don’t go there!
  • Ask him to change his hairstyle/ wardrobe/ way of speaking. You fell for him the way he is, so why go and tempt fate by changing him… that includes his drinking or smoking habits.
  • Cyberstalk him. Declaring your undying love via Facebook will kill it solid! This includes insisting on becoming Facebook official (The worst kind: “In a relationship with… and it’s complicated.” Does everyone need to know you’re not having sex regularly?), liking each one of his profile pics, commenting on photos he’s just been tagged in (unless they’re with you) or dedicating a whole album to him.
  • Wait for him in his office. This may sound romantic at first, but may totally freak him out if it becomes a stalkerish habit. “Are you openly spying on me?” will be the first thought on his mind, no matter how sexy your little outfit under the trench-coat is.
  • Use him as a rebound. Transfer all your feelings about “your amazing ex” onto the new guy. So amazing he didn’t last… Don’t do it to this guy.
  • Tattoo his name on your ass or back. It’s called a tramp stamp for a reason, to every guy who gets to see it after your beloved. Look at what Johnny Depp had to do to his Winona Ryder tattoo… Wino forever!
keep her

Courtesy: E-cards

  • Wear something skanky to your first date… Do you really want to leave nothing to the imagination?

This includes…

  • Having sex on the first or second date. Some guys have admitted it turns them on when a girl rubs herself seductively against his crotch, some have complained these are the girls to avoid: the cockteasers. Even worst are the girls unable to close their legs. Sorry hun, whatever your excuses (It’s been months! He smells great! I was drunk!) are never good enough when realizing you’ve been played. As the old saying goes: “Why buy the cow, when the milk’s for free?”

Now, after all that, time to sit back, relax and enjoy!

Online Bait?

VANESSA SMEETS

blog falling in love

PIC: Online

I found myself joining one of South Africa’s most popular dating sites three weeks ago. Why? It was a mixture of dread, hope and curiosity: the dread of trying to get over ex flames, the hope of meeting new people and the biggest social experiment of my entire life.

At first, such dating sites feel a lot like a popularity contest: you are asked to put a head-shoulder pic of yourself (this already makes one feel scrutinized), asked to answer various questions (on your looks, occupation, income… quite personal, but luckily it comes in the form of multiple choice), then asked why people should get to know you (this is the tough one!) and describe your ideal match (where most people exaggerate or “feed” readers things they are expecting).

Risks with online dating:

–       You might be conned into giving away your credit card details (really?)

–       You risk wasting a lot of time (this is where speed dating out-does online dating)

–       If you’re the guy always paying, it gets expensive in the long run

–       Your details can be used on other dating sites as demographic experiments (e.g. if you say you’re Afrikaans, you may find yourself on liefie.co.za)

–       You may bump into someone from your past

BDSM description

Biggest risk? Meeting a bunch of freaks, like this guy trying to convince others BDSM is kosher… PIC: online

Rewards with online dating:

–       You get to chat to many strange and interesting people, whom you don’t have to date but can become activity partners with, e.g. in mountain climbing, martial arts, video games

–       His alias tends to warn you kind of guy he is. Do you really want to date someone called LittleBoyLost or MrHuge?

–       You meet people outside of your social circle (this for me was the most thrilling… even Facebook doesn’t cut it there)

–       You have tons of interesting stories to tell your friends (that’s if you’re brave enough)

Here are some of them…

Phase 1: “The Big Plunge”

By Day 2, I had 100 fans and my inbox was spammed, by being put on people’s favourites’ list.

By Day 3, I had been already offered a threesome by another “adventurous” blonde in Joburg. When I wrote adventurous on my profile, I didn’t mean promiscuous. She didn’t take my response too well and blocked me after first insulting me. Yip, dating sites are a great way for people to vent out all types of fantasies and frustrations.

By Day 4, I had been offered my second BDSM invitation and was starting to fear humanity.

BDSM invite

SAY WHAT?!? My second BDSM invite… not by the same guy. Strange and to the point. PIC: online

By Day 7, I had reached the most popular list and my email went haywire! Weirdos from all the over the world (including Austria and Israel) were asking me if I would relocate for them. Seriously?

By Day 10, I had been contacted by my 5th or 6th married man, looking for someone to make his sex life more exciting.

Those were the shockers, but I decided to persevere… Was there hope in mankind after all?

Phase 2: “Getting to know you*”

* These are not their real aliases on the site

By Day 14, I was brave enough to start chatting via WhatsApp to about 5 guys. The first one “Mr Charming” was the most interesting. He was clever and good-looking, but seemed a little too good to be true.

The second one “Candyman” was sweet and kind, but kept on insisting I write to him by paying for my subscription. It was a great way to continue with the experiment free of charge.

The third one “Smooth Lips” seemed kind and fun but became more pushy as time progressed.

The fourth one “Chatty Matt” would bug me with so many questions, I had no intention of meeting him in person (what would there be left to talk about?).

The fifth one “Gamer” decided to play the 21 questions game, which became tedious and too personal. The game involves asking your “opponent” questions that reflect at the same time a lot about you. The risk of exaggerating the truth becomes quite tempting in such a game, especially that your answer tends to lead to their next question.

Phase 3: Teasing

The trick with juggling so many guys and chats is the teasing. Every guy you meet will react to teasing differently.
Teasing comes in various forms:

  • not answering a question straight away (= I have a life apart from this site)
  • answering the question with another question (= I don’t like your question and have a brain of my own)
  • answering the question indirectly ( = I’m mischievous) and
  • not responding (I don’t find you that interesting or compatible)

Phase 4: Actual Dating

Dates are called DATEs for a reason: Dauntingly Awkward To Everyone. Especially the first one…
Before deciding what to wear, you have to decide what information you’re wishing to divulge. Maybe avoid anything too personal for now: exes, sex, religion and politics. Nice topics are hobbies, sport and places you’ve visited.

My first date with Smooth Lips was literally an anti-climax. After the awkward first hug, I realized I towered above him. He had sort of lied about his height:

“The height on my profile is my height! With shoes!”

Well, then I should technically be 1m90. He wouldn’t let the topic go, which bothered me more than his actual height. It showed me he could exaggerate any “tiny topic” and showed his insecurity and pushiness.

Candyman was just too sweet, which makes me wonder if he’s really sincere. Chatty Matt turned out to be quite cool, but I was a bit taken aback by his gift (a beautiful bracelet). First dates still have boundaries.

I’m not sure if I’ll make plans with Gamer. He seems to be a good manipulator, who remembers everything thoroughly. I have yet to meet Mr Charming; kind of scared things will fall apart once I do. But at least this futile quest may be over. Sigh…

 profile

Watch out for the guy who is too descriptive and whose life seems over the top… How could you ever top his endless list? 😀 PIC: online

Phase 5: Choosing

This phase is more frustrating than confusing. It’s better to choose from a handful of guys you’ve already met than to continue being on the site.
This short experience has taught me that the guys just get worse as time progresses, as your automatic compatibility (set up by the site) lessens. Also, things are more exciting and fresh in the beginning and it gets extremely tiring talking about your favourite movie for the 20th time.

Fish fast! Fish efficiently! Look at every aspect, especially his replies regarding children and religion. Does he avoid these questions? Seems like he’s not very serious on his background or future plans.

Rules for online dating:

  • Safety first: always meet in a public place. It doesn’t matter if this is a fourth date: psychopaths are psychopaths.
  •  Never give out your real name on the site (this could lead to major cyberstalking, especially with Facebook’s new timeline, not as full-proof as before)
  • Always tell your family/ close friends where you are going, as embarrassing as online dating may seem
  • Take care if you’re on WhatsApp rather than BBM (via Blackberry)… this means another freak may have your number rather than pin and may end up calling you randomly, all the time.

Playing a Player: The Big Bad Wolf

VANESSA SMEETS

 

Beast/ wolf-man

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Beneath the exterior of Mr Nice Guy, there's the beast who is able to steal your heart and eat your dreams. The band Duck Sauce has opened up a whole new debate: What if this beast is woman, not man? PIC: Online/ Wolf-man movie

The new Duck Sauce song “Big Bad Wolf” is bringing the notion of ‘player’ to a whole new level: that it can apply both to men and women.

The video is 18-rated for explicitly showing men on the prowl, hunting for hot girls. After finding the chosen targets in a bar, the ‘leader of the pack’ unzips his pants and you are horrified to find a head in the place of his “package.” The second guy follows suit and their heads howl in unison towards the ladies. They take them home and, shockingly, the women also have heads instead of their ‘delicate areas.’

Ah, the bitter-sweet wolf-whistle. Some girls thrive on its power to make you feel sexy, others hate it for demeaning women as pieces of meat. For many girls, the video shows the disturbing truth of being confronted by sex every day. You cannot wear cleavage, a short skirt or red lipstick without being stared at constantly. But, the video also shows another interesting dynamic: women who think more like men about sex. The girls in the video are just as keen to partake in making out and sleeping with the lustful heads.

But, is this the effect guys anticipate? A guy friend once told me:

“Girls don’t dress that way (short skirts, red lipstick) for guys. They wear that for each other. It’s a constant competition of who is hotter and who can keep your attention for longer.”

Duck Sauce wolf

MIND GAMES: Are men and women thinking more and more alike? The new song "Big Bad Wolf" argues yes. PIC: Online

What the other guys say:

“Dressing sexy may attract me. But personality is what keeps me.”

“Girls are thinking more like men. It’s all about: ‘I am hot. I need sex.’ While the men are thinking: Damn! My heart will be broken again.”

“The more skin I see, the more I lack respect. Come on, leave something to the imagination!”

“Girls must stop thinking I want to talk dirty constantly. Sometimes ‘How was your day?’ will just be as meaningful. Knowing you care about me is a massive turn on all on its own.”

“She broke up with me when I told her I needed a break from all the sex. Yeah, it hurts at times down there! She didn’t believe me, thought I had someone on the side…”

“I can’t take it when I’m in a club enjoying the music and some random girl rubs herself against my crotch. I’ve been slapped for not reacting. Sometimes I just wanna listen to the music!”
“I think Cosmo and programmes like Sex and the City are breeding the man-eater generation. She wants sex with Mr Right Now, not Mr Right.”

“I’m scared of those girls who plaster themselves in make-up and expect you to take them home. I just want the real deal, stop trying to give me America’s Next Top Model wannabe.”

“Women are the hunters these days, but I still wanna do the chasing. There’s no fun in it being the other way around. I’ll lose interest too quickly.”

“Girls these days keep asking me if I’m a T ‘n T (Tits or Toosh/ Ass) guy. They are horrified to find I’m a smile or eyes kind of guy. Those attributes keep me dreaming…”

The better to smell you with

This miscommunication between men and women may have been caused by the girl’s unfortunate meeting with “the Big Bad Wolf,” once upon a time. This is the guy who’s been emotionally present in a girl’s life for a few weeks, months or even years. He listens to her problems, comforts her with the right words and NEVER makes any comments on her physique.

She comes to believe that he is neutral; that, unlike other guys, he really cares about her. Indeed, he does. It boosts his ego to know how powerful he is to her. She makes the fatal mistake of idolising him.

wolf pack

MOB HYSTERIA: Are men or women more dangerous when they hunt in packs? Who does the chasing, after all? PIC: Online

The better to see you with

This was the case for Michelle. For two and a half years, she dated such a man. At first, their relationship was based on duty and role-play.

She had to clean his flat, massage him and give up her friends to make time for him. Slowly, their relationship transitioned into something romantic, only he would control her by never kissing her on the lips. He only kissed her when she was “well behaved” i.e. when she did exactly as she was told.

She didn’t realise she was just another girl and just another trophy. He never openly flirted with anyone, but his charm kept his popularity intact. She continued to believe they were a happy couple, when in fact it was the most torturous emotional prison. She soon lost her friends, identity and almost her life. After their twentieth break-up , she tried to commit suicide.

Beast

TRUE LOVE: Little girls are led to believe that true love can break any spell and Prince Charming will one day magically appear. PIC: Online/ Beauty and The Beast Disney movie

The better to eat you with

The Big Bad Wolf comes in various forms:

  • Mr Nice Guy: He listens diligently and has the kindest eyes. He also writes to you regularly. You come to believe he truly cares about you. But, one night, you spot him kissing someone else. He casually explains you guys were just friends anyway. You fall for those kind eyes again… until you see him kissing yet another girl the next week and the next.
  • Sweet Talker: He’s full of amazing compliments (mostly about your intelligence/ ambition/ ideals) and takes you for midnight rides in his Merc or BMW. You really believe you are special to him. One night, he kisses you passionately, then asks for your best friend’s number the next time you meet up.
  • Adonis: You meet him at gym. A few months later, he becomes your Personal Trainer after casual talks outside. One night, he asks you out for a glass of wine and takes you back to his place instead. He removes his shirt and casually says: “You can look, but don’t touch: I’ve been in a relationship for five years. But, G*d, you smell good…”
  • Prince Charming: He’s the geeky guy at work that helped fix your car, your computer and your bad back. What talented fingers! One night, you invite him out to thank him. He shows up with his boyfriend. Arghhh….
  • Night Knight: He’s your ex-flame who calls you up each time he’s in town. Each time you tell him no, he ends up sending you something sentimental: the clip of the first song you danced to, a bottle of the perfume you wore when you first met. His memory is excellent, but luckily so is yours…

Happily Divorced?

VANESSA SMEETS

 

Divorce

TORN APART: Divorce continues to have repercussions on children, even in adulthood. PIC: online

Emma was just eight years old when she realised her parents’ marriage had ended.
At first, it was through subtle signs: constant arguing over new toys, the silent treatment, lack of time and increasing lack of temper. She even found herself counting the number of times they would fight a day: once, twice or at every meal. The last sign hurt the deepest: she placed their hands together at church and they pulled them apart.


From an early age, she had realised it wasn’t an easy marriage. She sometimes felt like her birth and the birth of her brother had been ways for them to stay together.
Little did she know her 8th birthday would remain the most significant birthday of her life:

“It was the happiest day of my life. Mom and Dad had gone out of their way to make me happy. Maybe they knew it would be my last birthday with both of them present.”

Family divorce

GAME OVER: Children often find themselves as the pawns in their parents' failed marriage. GRAPHIC: Vanessa Smeets

All of her friends from school were invited to the first pool party of the year. It was finally spring in South Africa! Her dad looked after everyone swimming, while her mom made sure everyone had enough fun games in the garden: playing catchers, throwing each other with flour and eating a lot of cake.

Six months later, Emma was in a new house.


“When is Daddy joining us?”
“He’s not coming, sweetheart. We’re now divorced.”
Divorced? What’s that?”

Divorce: she had heard about it at school: Teacher Sarah can’t come to school. She got divorced.
It sounded like a horrid contagious disease.

“Mommy, is it a disease? Are you sick?”
“No, not really. The marriage is sick. It’s when a marriage doesn’t work anymore.”
“If it’s broken, it can always be fixed.”

“No, darling. This time we can’t fix it. It’s when two people who once loved each other go their separate ways.”

Loved. Separate. The words spun around in her head.
“You and Daddy don’t love each other anymore?”
“It’s complicated. We still love you and your brother. That will never change. We are doing this because we love you both.”

For a child, this was extremely hard to comprehend. How could taking away the love between two parents be love in the end?
It took years for Emma to understand. She asked her father about it. For the first time in her life, she saw tears in his eyes:

“It’s complicated. You’ll understand when you’re older.”

Family divorce

KIDREAM: Children often believe their parents will get back together, no matter the circumstances. GRAPHIC: Vanessa Smeets

“DON’T DO THIS TO ME!” she screamed in her head, but didn’t dare tell him.

Those words haunted her for the next few years. It hurt that her parents saw her too little to understand. She was old enough to understand the silence was painful and that she and her sibling were caught somewhere in between a silent war.
They never really spoke of how it fell apart, so in her mind Emma believed it was her fault:
Maybe I should have never kept that dog that made Daddy so angry.
Maybe if I had been a top swimmer like he wanted me to be, he would’ve stayed.
Maybe I shouldn’t have teased my brother so much. Mommy wouldn’t have had to protect him so much from Dad’s harsh words.
Maybe we shouldn’t have been so spoilt; maybe he would have made more time for us.

It took almost a decade for Emma to stop waiting at the phone or door-step for her dad’s visit, or to stop visiting her old house which was only two blocks away. She had to let go of those memories, because they became increasingly bitter.
The shared custody was the worst. She dreaded each weekend in her old house. The walls were cold and the memories were stale. Even running around the garden was a constant struggle of juggling new memories with old ones.
It made it easier when her father moved away. Although she missed him everyday, she could create new memories each time they saw each other.

Ten years later, she asked her father for that chat he promised her years ago. She slowly made peace with all of it and realised it was indeed love in the end. Although it took years for her parents to make peace, it finally happened. Being friends was more loving than a tense and uncomfortable marriage. They were there at her 21st, at her graduation and even when she fell extremely ill.
Emma also finally made peace with the lost little girl inside of her, explaining:

“Two people you love dearly don’t necessarily have to be together. They remain great parents, separately. Once upon a time, they were deeply and passionately in love, but changing lifestyles and conflicting personalities pulled them apart. Not you.”

She continued: “Look at them now, talking and laughing. Those present memories are just as precious. Maybe one day, you and I will be brave enough to love too…again.

Advice to divorced parents:

  • Do not keep it a secret or wait until the last minute.
  • Tell your child together with your spouse.
  • Keep things simple and straight-forward.
  • Tell them the divorce is not their fault.
  • Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone.
  • Reassure your child that you both still love them and will always be their parents.
  • Do not discuss each other’s faults or problems with the child.
    Source: the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_divorce

Through the ages

How children react to divorce depends on their ages:
Infants
lack the cognitive development to understand what is happening, but they sense and react to changes in emotions and energy levels of their parents.
Preschool children may fear abandonment and often feel they are the reason for the divorce, by misbehaving in some way.
Preadolescent children have a better understanding of the divorce, but also greater self-awareness of their own pain.
Teens can feel overwhelmed with the stress, anxiousness and loss of parental support in coping with becoming an adult.

family divorce

WHOSE FAULT IS IT ANYWAY? Graphic: Vanessa Smeets

Divorce Facts:

  • Divorce can be either fault-based or no-fault. Fault-based means that you will have to prove your spouse is to blame, through: adultery, abuse or addiction. No-fault means that no one is to blame, claiming “irreconcilable differences.”
  • Couples who live together before getting married are more likely to divorce.
  • Children living with only one parent are more likely to suffer from poor health.
  • Divorced people are more likely to suffer from mental illness, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions. This is caused in part by the stress and long lasting trauma of divorce and the fact that married couples tend to have better health habits and thus live a cleaner and healthier lifestyle. Source: http://www.divorceadviceformentoday.com/divorce-facts

Forbidden Fruit

VANESSA SMEETS

“There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable,”
Mark Twain

Forbidden fruit

TEMPTATION: Eve's undeniable hunger for the forbidden continues in modern women of today, through dangerous and flirtatious friendships and relationships. PIC: online

For years, he’s been your best friend.
You call him every time you’re sad, sick or have just broken up with someone.
For years, he’s called you to go for a beer, a movie or a spontaneous road-trip.
He makes you smile, laugh and feel like the most special girl in the room. That is until he starts dating that girl from work and is really serious about her.
“I think she may be the one…” he tells you a month later.

Another month later, they go on a two-week holiday. During that time, you can’t help but think of him constantly:
Is she worthy of him?
Will he still have time for us?
Do I need to see him less now?
Do I have to become her friend too?

The thinking turns into missing. He returns from his trip, but doesn’t call you immediately.
A few days later, he lets you know he’s back. You feel hurt. The difference has already begun.

The new happy couple invites you for supper. You suddenly realise how lonely you really are. They touch. They hug. They kiss. You feel terribly uncomfortable, but why?
What is this irritating nagging feeling that won’t go away… Is it jealousy?
What is this gaping hole that deepens with every silent passing day… Is it longing or, even more complex, love?

You try to concentrate on your other friends, but everyone can’t stop talking about the “amazing new girlfriend.” The label sticks for weeks, months, a year… and it hurts you more and more.
Why can’t I just be happy for him? Why do I find myself constantly thinking about our time together?
It finally hits you: I HAVE FALLEN FOR MY CLOSEST FRIEND!
Were we that… were we a couple without ever placing that damn label?
Did the innocent touch of his hand to reassure me after every heart-break mean something more?

“Of man’s first disobedience…the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
brought death into the world and all our woes,” John Milton, Paradise Lost

friendship?

MIND OVER HEART: Is it possible to just be friends with the opposite sex? Or does that hint of attraction make it even more seductive...? PIC: Online

You decide to find out and confront him.
“Shaun, I’m really worried about our friendship… I don’t see you as much.”
“Judy, I have a girlfriend now. It’s totally normal.”
“Yeah, but…umm…we only go for coffee once a week.”
“At least it’s once a week. What’s the big deal? You’ve been in the dating game in the 10 years of our friendship. Did I complain once?”
“I guess not. I’m just concerned. You’re acting differently towards me.”
“Listen, enough of this. Sally is pretty concerned about all the time we spend together. Once a week is quite enough.”
“Enough? We used to spend every day together.”
“That was in the past.”
“So… I can’t be part of your present…or future?”
“Why are you talking like this? What are you getting at?”
“I think… I know… I miss you…”
“I have to go. I’ll call you next week sometime.”

The week passes and it’s the longest week of your life. He never calls.
A few months later, you call him and it’s constantly engaged. Sh*t, HE’S ENGAGED!
He never bothered telling you. The invitation arrives: You are happily invited to bless Shaun and Sally on their new journey.
“Bless it? Is this what I’m supposed to do when I curse the day they met? Do I have to give my blessing every time they decide to have a baby?”

Your head spins. You decide to tell Sally how you feel.
“Sally, I need to know how you feel about Shaun.”
“I love him.”
“I know that, but how do you feel?”
“Happy. He makes me happy.”
“So, happiness is a good enough reason to rush into marriage?”
“We’ve been together for a year and a half.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve known him for 10 years.”
“What are you getting at, Judy?”
“Is Shaun happy? Is this what he wants?”
“You should ask him that. But, yes, I believe he is. He’s finally moved on.”
“Moved on?”
“You really hurt him in the past; how you compared ex after ex, when the man truly in love with you was standing right there.”
“He’s in love with me?”
“Was. He’s assured me it’s over.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Umm… I’m not sure if you still want to come to the wedding.”
“That’s probably not a good idea. I should escape, get away from all this.”
“We like you, Judy. Don’t do something that drastic. You still mean a lot to Shaun.”
“I can’t. I can’t…. Oh my G…”

“While forbidden fruit is said to taste sweeter, it usually spoils faster…” Abigail van Buren

You don’t go to the wedding. And, surely, nine months later Sally gives birth to a honeymoon baby.
Shaun calls you: “I want you to be the Godmother. Jayden will need you in his life the way I needed you. I know you’ll be there to comfort him, advise him, show him the magic in life.”
You accept. Your love for Shaun fades the more you see the three of them together.

Sally was right: he’s really happy. You focus all the love you had on Jayden now. Shaun remains forbidden fruit. His ripe season was simply not the same as yours. Seasons continue to come and go; yet he remains firmly attached to his family. You finally walk away from the person you shared the same fears and memories with. The first rays of summer dance upon your skin; it is harvest time elsewhere. 

forbidden_fruit body

DESIRABLE: The more innocent the touch, the more there is to explore. PIC: Online

Forbidden Fruit Situations:

  • You study together. Starting something while studying may seem like the perfect way to balance work and fun. It may also cause you to stop concentrating, fail or drop out if it ends sourly. If he’s messing with you, what’s stopping him from tasting the other girls in the class?
  • You work together. There are highs in mixing business with pleasure: a secret rendez-vouz in the photocopying room now and then, gentle kisses in the bathroom. But, there are even more extreme lows: disapproval and gossip by colleagues, complexity when breaking up or sexual harassment charges.
  • Different religions. As much as you may love each other, your in-laws may be at constant loggerheads about marriage, the home and raising the children.
  • He’s your boss. No! No! Someone wise once told me: “Don’t sh*t where you eat!”
  • You’re blood-family. Come on, seriously? Only Jerry Springer made a living out of this…
  • You live on different sides of the world. Some argue long-distance is romantic, adventurous and fun, it is also an extreme test on your energy levels of jealousy, trust and creativity. How much passion do you have to keep it all going?

25 Lessons

VANESSA SMEETS

My first quarter of a century is up! 26, already?  Inspired by the voice of Baz Luhrmann for the Sunscreen song, I’ve come up with my own 25 lessons to honour the last 25 years that have passed by quietly or with a bang, on my eternal quest for love and truth.

love family

YES, DAD: A beautiful day in Zimbabwe with my dad (1986) PHOTO: CVU

1)    Learn from your parents’ mistakes. Although marriage seems like a tempting way to consummate one’s love for one another, it rather comes from hours of proper communication and compassion. Yet, happily divorced parents tend to give great advice…

2)    Write down your grandparents’ tales. Parky (Grandpa) used to tell his World War 2 tales under the stars. Wish I wasn’t too little to really understand how precious these memories were…

3)    Speak to strangers. As children, we are taught: “Don’t talk to strangers.” But, in adulthood meeting new people adds colour to one’s own world. You’d be surprised at how many similar experiences you actually share. Today, I spoke to an Afghan refugee. It was the most thought-provoking conversation in a few years.

cocktail times

BICYCLE DIARIES: Happiness in the middle of the night PHOTO: CJ

4)    Ride a bicycle in a cocktail dress. Late one night, a friend and I jumped onto bicycles a little tipsy. We never arrived at our initial destination. Instead, we spent an amazing 40 minutes trying to perfect riding a bicycle in a cocktail dress and trying to stay on it without the cops suspecting we were a little over the limit…

5)    Don’t fall too hard in love, although it hurts just as much every time. After a few excruciating heart-breaks, I must say the shortest one was the most painful. Although you become a little more cynical after each failed relationship, you also make the huge mistake of settling for less. DON’T!!!

6)    Keep your girlfriends near. Many girls once in love brush away their friendships in order to make room for their new guy. A true gentleman will allow a wonderful girls’ night out, where you can recharge your batteries away from him.

7)    Ask your guy friends for direction. Blessed with wonderful guy friends, they have taught me how to laugh at myself, step away from abusive relationships and help make the right career move.

Valencia

SERENITY: The beautiful aquarium of Valencia, Spain PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

8)    Travel. Try the Paella in Spain, the white beaches of Mauritius, the beer-gardens in Munich, the apfel-strudel of Austria and the Table Mountain of South Africa. So many languages and cultures to explore, even in your own country.

9)    Write love letters. Somehow, emails never have the same impact. If someone really means a lot to you, the relationship is bound to last longer than a few weeks. Getting a letter written when everything was burning hot re-ignites that spark!

10)  Gain wisdom from children. Two years as a pre-school teacher taught me enough to last the rest of my life. The joys of being human come from our unique gifts: speech, creativity, compassion, reason and enough laughter to keep it all going strong.

11)  Give pseudoscience a chance. This year, I fell in love with Reiki, a Japanese technique of finding out what is bothering you and allowing you to heal in your own time. I also realised graphologists (people who analyse handwriting) contain a lot of truth. Even the way one presses against the paper means something exceptional.

12)  Leave the ex alone. As tempting as it is to flirt with an old flame, you have to realise it’s preventing you from meeting someone new. This is your turn to shine for someone who truly appreciates you.

13) Study in different countries. Travelling is somehow not enough in seeking solace for one’s soul. By living 11 000 kilometres away from home, I‘ve come to appreciate South Africa so much more. Yes, Internet and transport efficiency is amazing in Europe, but the sun doesn’t shine as much, the people tend to keep to themselves and you have to make the effort of getting to know them first. Long live the days of “braais” around a pool…

14) Be prepared to be criticised and criticise. Although I hate conflict, a little conflict with some of my closest friends taught me there is joy in reconciling only a stronger friendship.

15) Keep a journal. Writing your experiences, struggles and feelings helps you meet the person you will spend the rest of your life with: yourself.

Faith through Ibrahim

FINDING FAITH: Ibrahim gets paid a minimum salary for being the care-taker of Stellenbosch's (South Africa) only mosque PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

16) Have faith or find it through others. Whether it comes from believing in G_d or Allah, it gives one direction in living a purpose-filled life.

17) It’s never too late to fall in love. When I saw my grandmother smiling in the old age home because of a certain someone, it hit me that it was never too late to fall in love again. Although at the same time I realised I don’t want to find the love of my life in nappies.

18)  Fear only fear itself. In high school, we were taught by watching Strictly Ballroom that a life lived in fear is a life half-lived. I wouldn’t be where I am today (travelling like a nomad with little knowledge of what’s coming next) if I had feared this ocean of incertitude…

19) Party till the sun comes up. Watching the a sunrise over a beach or mountain at the crack of dawn gives life so much more meaning and so many more reasons to appreciate every day as TODAY.

20) Make peace with your past. My childhood friend passed away this year. Although we hadn’t talked properly in years, her death hit me hard. I found  our old letters and photos we had taken 13 years ago. I made peace by her saying goodbye in this way…

21) “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” declared Einstein. The world is so much more colourful when you stop over-analysing situations in exchange for creating new dreams and desires.

22) Appreciate everyone, even the bergie (beggar) that will one day save your life. When I was being followed in Stellenbosch after a late night working at the newspaper, I bumped into Moksie (Stellies’ famous bergie). By being nice to her the week before, she “took care of” the people following me.

23)  Embrace your childhood. Time for the clichés: run like you’ve never fallen, laugh like it’s your first time, play before it’s too late, love like you’ve never been hurt and find your inner child again!

school days

PRECIOUS MEMORIES: Laughter and sunshine with school friends (2003) PHOTO: VS

24) Trust your teenhood. If it wasn’t for that first cigarette or terrible first kiss, we wouldn’t appreciate the real taste we have now.

25)  Feast your adulthood. People take for granted the ability to savour each new memory or experience. It comes from soothing your soul. You need time-out from work, friends and family to reflect in solitude. Ever listen to your own heart-beat? It’s possible…

The Art of Sexting

VANESSA SMEETS

Some do it while in the bath, others at their office desks or as they rush to the bathroom. Some smile or giggle nervously when preoccupied. Others turn blood red and some are so good at it, they manage to hide their sweaty palms.

The art of sexting is a silent phenomenon. It involves gentle fingertips playing on the keyboard of your cellphone or computer. Even the shortest word like “now” has power. Some would argue it’s more difficult than the real act of lovemaking, as it involves eloquence and confidence for hours at a time. You have to be prepared to go “all the way” by exploring your most personal needs and desires…

sexting condom

SAFE SEX: Is sexting so much safer than real sex? Some will argue the risks are so much longer-lasting... PIC: Online

At first, it encompasses the art of seduction beyond erotic novels. You have to fish for someone willing to play with. Your protagonist then has to be willing to frolic in the ocean of persuasion with you, floating in euphoria.

Some see it as a chess game in the art of seduction and release.

You have to be willing to expose your most vulnerable assets: your willing heart and craving mind. At the same time, you must seem completely detached to keep him/her interested.

sexting cartoonOr, like the stalking game, your prey has to be willing to escape just a little longer, as you come up with a different approach of attack.

This attack has to be so subtle and innocent that, at first, he/she doesn’t even realise they are under your enchantment. When he/she does, they must be willing to want and explore more.

As you start formulating delicious words, Kylie’s Minogue “All the lovers” starts to play on the radio:

I’m on fire, fire, fire. If love is really good, you want more.

Your fingers are ready to flow with your mind’s unholiest desires. Forget about “What are you wearing?” Too clichéd. Try the next best thing on the menu: “Do you have space for dessert?” as he/she returns from lunch.If they’re in a meeting, try “I promise I wont distract you. You can find me under the desk.” A winking face, an ellipsis or a licking face often follows this. The fun lies in them deciphering their own intentions through your messages.

Their response is often the “make or break” of your potential relationship. A boring person will respond “Oh, that’s hot.” The one with potential will not respond straight away, but may ask you in a few minutes: “If you’re still there, it’s worth it. Tell me more…”

It’s exhilarating at first. You feel rejuvenated by your erotic skills. You have managed to battle your low self-esteem by exuding online confidence. However, there are limits. Never give more than you originally intended.

sexting Hudgens

SEXY STARS: Vanessa Hudgens was criticized when her naughty pictures to ex-beau Zac Effron were found on the Internet. Sexting also led to breaking up the marriages of Tony Parker, Tiger Woods and, almost, David Beckham. PIC: Online

Beyond the heat and excitement, there is a dark side to sexting…

According to a survey by Cosmo.girl in 2008, 20% of teens (13-19) and 33% of young adults (20-26) have sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves. Sexy images often land up on the Internet after a heated dispute. Be prepared to gamble with your dignity and reputation.

As you keep these not so appealing facts in mind, go ahead and sing along the concluding words to Kylie’s song in front of the mirror:

All the lovers that have gone before, they don’t compare to you…

As your content heart beats to the music, it’s clear you don’t need to find your potential reflection in that ocean of persuasion after all. For, after all that hot conversation and attraction you have mastered, how can that lover ever compare to you?

TURN ONs:

“Hi, are you still awake? I wanna explore some of your dreams…”
“Are you wearing what I think you are? I’m only wearing that fragrance you love.”
“I need to meet you right now. Bring any hot thought.”
“What’s your wildest fantasy? I wanna see if it matches mine…”
“I can’t stop thinking about the way you tasted earlier.”
“Don’t miss me yet. I’ve got so much more on the menu.”
“I need to touch you slightly longer next time.”
“I’m not quite sure what made you so ‘happy’ last time. Care to remind me?”
“I miss your fingers dancing on my tummy.”
“Next time, just close your eyes and enjoy.”

sexting iPhone

iSeeYOU: Is it really for his/ her eyes only... Mmmm..... PIC: Online