Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dear Teens: A little advice about relationships and trust

So there was this story in the New York Times today Young, in Love and Sharing Everything, including a Password. Apparently:

 It has become fashionable for young people to express their affection for each other by sharing their passwords to e-mail,Facebook and other accounts. Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes even create identical passwords, and let each other read their private e-mails and texts.
Already, I'm shaking my head and feeling all "get off my lawn", but I continue reading.

In a 2011 telephone survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30 percent of teenagers who were regularly online had shared a password with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.
 SMH. I am reaching for my Tums and my box of Clairol Perfect 10. But wait, there's more!
Rosalind Wiseman, who studies how teenagers use technology and is author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” a book for parents about helping girls survive adolescence, said the sharing of passwords, and the pressure to do so, was somewhat similar to sex.

Sharing passwords, she noted, feels forbidden because it is generally discouraged by adults and involves vulnerability. And there is pressure in many teenage relationships to share passwords, just as there is to have sex.

“The response is the same: if we’re in a relationship, you have to give me anything,” Ms. Wiseman said.

And the part that made me go "WTF? Seriously, what are these kids ON?!!":

“It’s a sign of trust,” Tiffany Carandang, a high school senior in San Francisco, said of the decision she and her boyfriend made several months ago to share passwords for e-mail and Facebook. “I have nothing to hide from him, and he has nothing to hide from me.”
“That is so cute,” said Cherry Ng, 16, listening in to her friend’s comments to a reporter outside school. “They really trust each other.” 
Okay kids. Hold onto your hats. Auntie Sarah is about to rant.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert on relationships. I have been in...well, a LOT of dysfunctional relationships in the course of my forty-something years.

But let me give you the benefit of my many, many years of experience and therapy.*

Reading each other's emails and texts isn't intimacy. It's spying. It does not, actually imply that you trust each other. It reveals the exact opposite about your relationship.

Just like a fire, a relationship needs oxygen. It doesn't get that if you are stifling each other. Relationships work best when you are both your own person, confident in yourselves, each with your own interests and passions and your own private spaces. THEN you come together to share and reveal, slowly, gradually in a process that can take a lifetime if you are both thoughtful and evolving human beings. Therein lies the intimacy.

Anyone else find this article seriously depressing?

*This is one of the advantages of getting old if you get therapy. You learn things from your dysfunctional experiences as a youth and it enables you to live a happier life when everything is starting to sag and you're reaching for the Clairol Perfect 10 box. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why I enjoy revising my will

I met with my lawyer to revise my will yesterday. The last time I did it was in 2007, not long after my divorce was finalized. I figured given the acrimonious nature of my divorce, it probably was a good idea that I change my advance medical directive so that my ex no longer was the person who decided if they should pull the plug on me in the event I was incapacitated, or had power of attorney over my affairs.

When I signed that revised will,  I was so happy. The lawyer and the person who witnessed it said that they'd never seen someone so thrilled to be signing their last will and testament, but I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me, because I'd organized things so that if anything happened to me, I knew everything was organized for my kids in what I hoped would be the best way possible, and with the values I'd tried to teach them while I was alive.

I was prompted into this revision by two things. Firstly, a tweet from Neil Gaiman linking to old blog post of his about literary trusts .  This was something I'd never thought about before. My literary legacy. When I did my 2007 will, I only had one book out. Now I have four out, not to mention eight years worth of published political columns, several essays, and many archive boxes full of unpublished work. So the literary executor became something I really needed to consider.

The other thing was that The Awesome Boyfriend, who I'd only been dating for a short time when I revised the will in 2007, is now a permanent and important part of mine and my kids' lives. We aren't married, but if anything happened to me, I wanted to make sure that the courts recognized that.

Looking back over my old will and thinking about the changes I wanted to make, made me appreciate how much my life has changed for the better in the last four years. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the crises that hit on a day to day basis (because OMG, they do) but sometimes it takes revising your will and looking death the face to make you realize that you've actually come a long way, baby.

If you haven't made a will, please don't put it off, especially if you have kids. It's SO important.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A little rant from the mom of an Aspie

On Boxing Day, the New York Times published a really lovely article about two college students with Asperger's Syndrome, Jack Robinson and Kirsten Lindsmith, and how they are navigating the difficulties of a relationship in which both of them have similar problems reading social cues. I don't say "lack of empathy, because as the mother of an Asperger's son, I've found him to be extremely empathetic. It's just that he has a hard time reading faces and social cues, so he doesn't always know when you're upset unless it's VERY CLEAR. (Crying hysterically is usually a dead giveaway, but I try not to do that in front of my kids too often.)

I mean let's face it. It's hard enough to manage relationships when you're allegedly "neuro typical." How many of us have misinterpreted our partner's expressions or actions? *raises hand*

When my son was going through the diagnosis processes at age five, I pretty much knew it was Aspergers because it explained everything I'd been worried about since he was 18 months old perfectly. I read everything I could get my hands on, and although in some ways it was comforting, because I finally knew what I was dealing with and could take action to help him, instead of having all these amorphous worries, in other ways it created a whole host of new anxieties. I woke up at 3am, crying, and asking my now ex-husband, "Do you think he'll ever get married?" It wasn't the actually married part I worried about - it's that I want my son to have connections, because to me, human connection and relationships are the most important part of being on this planet, and I could already tell from observing him on the playground at school that unlike kids perhaps further along the spectrum, my son wanted them but couldn't figure out how to initiate them.

So I loved this article. It gave me hope.

But then I started seeing people making jokes about a correction that the New York Time posted afterwards.

Okay, I admit. It's kind of funny to see a "My Little Pony" correction in relation to a front page New York Times story.'s the thing. I don't think the a lot of the people who are laughing about this understand why this correction is so important to Kirsten Lindsmith, who referred to Twilight Sparkle as the character she visualizes to cheer herself up when she feels sad or anxious. What they need to understand is that a person with AS could perseverate about a mistake like that for days. Months. For my writer friends, imagine you were featured on the front page of the New York Times and they got the name of your book wrong! Do you think you'd be laughing? I think not. I can just imagine the angsty phone calls to publicists and agents. "THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEW YORK FREAKING TIMES AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN GET MY BOOK TITLE RIGHT!!!" *sobs* *reaches for tissues and chocolate*

So imagine you're Kristen and you have this safe place, a strategy that you have to help calm yourself and you just told the world about it and then...some reporter effed it up!! And now people are laughing about it when you try to make it right.

All I'm saying is, it's okay to have a chuckle. But at least while you're chuckling make an effort to understand.