Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Living With Your Body…For Life

“I hate my thighs – they’re too big!” 

Although it’s distressing to think of any person hating their body, it’s especially hard to hear statements like this coming from girls as young as six and seven years old. Of course, each era and fashion trend conceives an ideal body image, and women of all ages end up comparing their bodies to that type, but it seems that only in recent years have very young girls joined in on this unhealthy activity.  Sadly, most people who participate in comparing themselves find their bodies lacking, and although few go so far as to become obsessed, I think there are far too many women with a negative view of their bodies.

     Yesterday, my friend S and I ended up discussing the issues so many of us have with our body image.  We bemoaned the effects of the media, discussed young girls we know who are already comparing themselves to the "ideal," and even talked about the cultural differences that seem to support or deny these kind of comparisons.  S had recently attended a baby shower for an African-American couple we know, and spoke with awe about the gorgeous Black women she saw there. She was amazed at how comfortable they seemed in their own bodies and marveled that the women were unafraid to be seen eating in public.  (What kind of world do we live in where it’s unique to feel comfortable eating in front of others?)  I get what S was saying; I distinctly remember a time I went out with some female acquaintances and directly experienced the ways women pressure each other to feel ashamed of food and eating.

Is this a dinner?
      On that night, a group of women in a social group I’d joined got together for dinner after shopping together. There were about 10 of us, and when our waitress came up to take our orders, I was the first person she turned to.  I’d planned on eating dinner and was quite hungry, so I ordered an entrée (complete with protein, starch, and veggies) and added a trip to the restaurant's healthy and fabulous salad bar.  As the women to my left gave their requests to the waitress, I noticed that the amount of food each one ordered was smaller and smaller until we reached the last woman.  She ordered a cup of soup. For dinner. She gave us the beatific look of a saint among sinners, and many of the other women looked chagrined and even angry.  When the food arrived, there seemed to be a competition to see who was the least hungry (and, thus, most virtuous) as several of the women pushed nearly full plates away, saying they were "stuffed."  I was appalled, but I still had to fight hard to eat the amount of food my body actually wanted, because the urge to join them in starving was very intense.  Mind you, this was with a group of women I didn't know well nor particularly admired. Imagine if they'd been mentors or idols of mine! 

     I’ve fought with food and body issues for most of my life.  It’s scenes like the one above that drove me to eat tiny portions around others, then binge when I was alone and safe from judging stares.  I hate to think of what that environment is doing to the women I know, their daughters, and any future children I might have. 

     Yesterday afternoon, I came across the following quote in a comment Nancy A. made to a blog post by Claire:

I went to a Catholic school, nuns and all, and I had one crusty teacher who used to get on the girls' cases about body image. That wasn't the term used back then, but that's what she meant. Anyway, if she ever heard any of us complain about our bodies, you know, "I hate my elbows!" she used to march us up to the mirror on the back of the classroom door, make us look at our elbows, and apologize to them--because those were our elbows and we were going to have to live with them for life. Believe it or not, for a gawky 13-year-old, the idiotic words "I'm sorry, elbows" (and we had to say it out loud in front of her) is remarkably cathartic! It brings great inner peace. It lets go of the noun-clutter of objects and brings life back to just living.

I loved this idea!  Although I’m not sure that the logic used by Nancy’s teacher is the entire reason we need to make peace with the body we currently have, I do think that apologizing to your body is a great step towards learning to love it.  We all have different bodies, but there is something lovely about every single one. S mentioned that she wished she could do something to help women see that loveliness, and perhaps Nancy’s teacher’s technique is one of those ways.  Maybe, in addition to apologizing to our body, we need to have a conversation with it, view it with our own eyes without the “noun-clutter of objects” and see what we, personally, find beautiful about it.  

Although it’s more of a tactile than visual experience, I have to say that one part of my body I enjoy is my belly, which is much, much larger than I’d like it to be (because I’m comparing it with the way I’m “supposed” to look, mind you…otherwise, how would I know how large it’s meant to be?). Regardless of its size (or perhaps because of it?) my belly is extremely soft, not just because of the fat below the skin’s surface, but the skin itself: it's like a baby’s.  I have no idea why that is, but the contrast between the immensely appealing texture of my belly (and the calming sensation of having this “forbidden and ugly” part of my body touched in a loving way) causes great consternation in my soul.  I think it may be because an appreciative view is so at odds with the highly negative way I usually regard that part of my body. This experience makes me think it’s quite possible that one of the best ways to challenge our media-influenced views of beauty may be to honestly assess how we, ourselves, view our bodies.  What do we like, regardless of what society might say?

Beyonce and her incredible thighs...
Last night, after the conversation with S and reading this quote, I found myself flipping through channels and landing on the first installment of Oprah’s Surprise Special.  One of the performers was Beyoncé, who was wearing a modified tuxedo that ended at the top of her thighs.  Her toned and gorgeous legs were very much on display as she danced with incredibly energy and skill, while singing about the way women run the world.* In spite of the excitement and inspiration I felt as I listened to the words she was singing,  I realized that I was, subconsciously, comparing the width of her thighs to the size of the dancers’ thighs around her and to the ideal I, apparently, keep in my head for important times like this. What is that insanity and why is it in my head?  I had a crazy conversation with myself about Beyoncé’s thighs and whether they are too big.  How insane is that?  I worked hard on convincing myself that her legs are absolutely gorgeous and, obviously, very functional, but I can’t help the feeling I have that somewhere in my brain is the belief that she needs to be skinnier.

Sigh.  Obviously, it will take a lot of hard work to uncover and destroy the millions of messages I’ve taken in over the years about how women have to be in order to be beautiful and worthy.  I think the fight is worth it, though—if not for us, then for the girls who follow us: we all deserve to feel good about our bodies, even our thighs!

For more discussion of loving our bodies and the disturbing trend towards emaciation in our "role models," check out my post entitled "Sexy?".

*You can see Beyoncé’s performance in this video. It’s amazing!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Emotionally Needy" vs., um... Being Human?

"Emotionally needy"?
     Today I read the fabulous SARK's eLetter, which was about being "emotionally needy." (Don't know about SARK? Get thee to your closest independent bookstore and check out her amazing titles. My favorites are Wild Succulent Woman and Eat Mangoes Naked, but they are all worth reading.)  

     She describes a recent article that says her work appeals to "emotionally needy adults."  SARK was not thrilled by this phrase, since it seems to demean her readers:
"Are adults who have needs, needy? It implies that people who exhibit emotions are flawed.
As someone who, like SARK, has often been told that she's "too emotional, too sensitive," I feel uncomfortable with the term, too.  It's horrible to feel that your need for human contact might repel those around you; that your desire for emotional connection with people might actually drive them away... it's shameful and terrifying.  Even worse is the implication that one would need to classify the "emotionally needy" as a group, implying that there is also a group of people who are not in need of emotionally interactions and, of course, that those people must somehow be superior. But maybe that's my overactive sensitivity talking...

     After some musing, SARK makes her decision: 
I don't believe that adults with emotional needs are needy, and I believe that too many adults don't understand how they feel or how to tend to their feelings ... So I stand in opposition to the description; emotionally needy. I offer instead; emotionally aware, sensitive, human beans who can be openly vulnerable.  
I totally concur, especially the part about being openly vulnerable.  For those of us who are, as my mom puts it, "super-sensitive," it's especially hard to put yourself in situations where you feel open to hurt, but it's those very situations in which you are also open to joy, love, and growth.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself when I'm opening the door to yet another new experience that has me shaking in my orthopedic flip-flops.  As for being emotionally aware, that's something I have to work on every day.  Who knew that feeling your own emotions took so much work?

     How do you feel about the term "emotionally needy?"  Do you think that it's derogatory?  Do you think it's needy to have emotional needs? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Unique Stress Relievers

I had a really anxious day last week. Sometimes I'm amazed by how much jittery energy can flow through my body at one time, considering the “healthy” dose of anti-anxiety meds I'm on. In spite of "better living through chemistry," from time-to-time I find myself in need of something else to help calm my wild nerves. I've collected a couple of rather unique ways to cope, and I thought I’d share them with you in hopes that you find some inspiration!

1. At the Carwash ("work, and work...")
About a ten-minute drive from our house is an oasis of calm and peace: the Magic Carwash. There's something immensely soothing about this drive-through carwash:  from the shush, shush of the bright blue brushes that swirl around the car in a shower of foamy soapsuds, to the susurration of the long blue strips of chamois as the slide over the hood, and even the gentle swaying of the car as it's guided past each station. Sometimes, I imagine that I'm under the sea in a slowly swaying kelp forest, and since the ocean is one of my favorite places in the whole world, this fantasy gives me a sense of calm and rest. By the time my clean, shiny car slides out the other end, my spirit is restored and I'm ready to face the world with a peaceful heart.

Wheeeee....there goes my stress!
2. On The Swings
I've never been any good at sports, but I did learn one athletic skill in elementary school: how to pump my legs while swinging so I didn't need anyone to push me.  Even though I'm scared of heights, I’ve always found swinging to be a source of great joy. I still love an occasional ride on a park swing when I'm down, but the time when this brought me the most peace was when I was in college at CLU.  My junior year was the most stressful time I had as an undergrad, and I found myself in great need of a stress-reliever after tests or big presentations. I'm not sure how it started, but I developed a ritual of making the time to always spend 15 minutes on the swings in the park near my dorm room after each tough assignment or test was over. It always calmed me down, and sometimes, I even convinced a friend to join me!

3. My Bathroom
Okay, this one’s weird enough that I even contemplated keeping it to myself, but I find my bathroom to be one of my favorite places for stress relief!  We renovated our upstairs bathroom a couple years ago, and it has truly become my haven.  Decorated in my favorite colors, with a periwinkle blue floor and bright yellow walls, I find it both peaceful and energizing.  There are three huge windows under an eave, so I am able to enjoy sunshine without being too hot in the summer.  There are a million lights around our mirror, and every bulb is full-spectrum, to chase away my winter blues, but we have them on a dimmer, so I can turn them way down to take a comforting bath with candles.  My latest book is usually there, too.  The fact that it’s a place where I can shut the door and shut out the world has a lot to do with why I find my bathroom a perfect place to cope with anxiety.

4. The Beach…on an overcast day
Notice: gloomy beach = happy Laurie! :)
While I’m fairly certain a sunny beach is a favorite place for most people to relax, I find the beach helps me most when it’s overcast and deserted.  I like to walk on the cool, wet sand, listen to the seagulls and waves, and breathe in the sea air. Just the smell of the salt water makes me shoulders sink down to a healthy position and drives away any anxiety that has me in its grip. The gloomier the weather, the better…probably because it means I can be alone with my thoughts and enjoy my favorite place in the world on my own terms.  I stay away on those hot, sunny days when the beach is covered in sun worshipers, but if it’s overcast and cool, you can bet I’ll be down by the water!

5. Laughing!
Scientists have frequently touted the health benefits of laughter, and I’m sure you have your own “research” that supports their claim.  It’s hard to feel stressed or gloomy when you’re laughing until your sides hurt!  So laughing itself is hardly novel, but I find that what makes me laugh usually is.  You know when you’re in a theatre watching a movie and suddenly, you hear someone laughing loudly although everyone else is silent?  That’s me!  I have a strange sense of humor and things that make me laugh seem to rarely inspire others to the same response.  I find that absurdity and irony provide the kinds of laughs that make me feel everything will be alright, so when I’m feel anxious, I keep a look out for those kind of things.

Now that I’ve shared some of my more unique ways to handle anxiety, I’d love to hear what you do.  Please share your tips and tricks in the comments section; I look forward to learning some new ways to keep my cool!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Handsome" in Pink?

When I was a teen, I spent one summer as a camp counselor at a local Jewish school.  If all the campers went home early, I was sometimes recruited to help out with the day care for preschoolers.  During one of these stints, a preschool teacher explained why one of the little three-year-old boys ran screaming away after a little girl offered him a pink toy.  Shaking her head, she said, “That’s Samuel. His favorite color was pink, but his father was so worried about what that might mean [insert meaningful look here] that he told Samuel that going near anything pink would make his penis fall off. Samuel’s been terrified of all things pink since then.”  We fell into a troubled silence as we contemplated the long-reaching effects of Samuel’s father’s fears, how he handled them, and what damage this had already done to Samuel, who was a loner and seemed quite anxious at all times. Granted, I’ve often seen this kind of fear in parents in my years of working with children, but never to this extreme, and although nearly twenty years have passed, I’ve never forgotten it.

Then last fall, I read an inspiring blog post by Nerdy Apple Bottom (NAB) that seemed to present the opposite side of this issue: her five year old son decided to dress as his favorite female character from Scooby Doo for Halloween and she fully supported it.  However, his choice to dress as “Daphne” didn’t go over as well with some of the mothers of his classmates.  The issue here is not a boy dressing as a female character: in fact, as NAB notes in her blog post, the whole point of Halloween is to dress up as something you are not; e.g. dressing as a ninja doesn’t mean your child is suddenly going to have martial arts skills, nor does anyone think that he/she will grow up to become an actual ninja. The problem isn’t even with how her son was received by his peers (high fives from some and no notice from others), but how his peers’ mothers reacted.  They tried to bully NAB and her son into following their rules about what is and isn’t acceptable.  They reasoned that this was the best thing to do because if their rules weren’t followed, the kids would make fun of NAB’s son.  Yet, that wasn’t actually happening. 

Although the reaction of the other mothers is appalling, I found it more worrisome that NAB’s son, even at his young age, was already aware that other kids might make fun of his choice, and was concerned about wearing the costume, even though he really, really wanted to.  What kind of world do we live in where a five year old preschooler has to worry about being made fun of by his peers?  I realize it’s part of human nature to make fun of those who deviate from our norms, but it’s not something our society should accept, promote, or ignore: it’s our job as adults to help kids learn how to interact in a civilized, polite way with others, and that includes telling them that making fun of others is simply not allowed, period. I learned this lesson long before preschool, but it was certainly reinforced there.  Worst of all is that this boy was attending a preschool associated with a Christian church.  If this preschool is teaching the values that Christ promoted, how would making fun of others be allowed?

The J.Crew ad that set off "Toemageddon 2011"
          As you can probably tell, I have some strong views about letting kids—especially boys—express themselves in whatever way works for them.  Watching this video on the Daily Show brought those views into play, yet again.  Jon Stewart noted that a recent advertisement for J. Crew, which featured an employee of the company, Jenna Lyons, and her son, Beckett, playing, had led to "Toemageddon 2011" on the major news networks. The issue? Jenna’s son likes pink, and in the ad, she has painted his toenails in his favorite color.  All of a sudden, everyone was discussing whether this could make her son become gay or transgendered, whether the ad was "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children," and even suggesting that encouraging children to participate in activities outside heteronormative gender roles could lead to adults who have no interest in having or nurturing children.

As I watched Stewart’s segment, I couldn’t help but wonder why people feel so threatened by any challenge to the gender roles they cling to?  We have an undeniable need to separate the world into black and white dichotomies—it’s something I find myself falling into often—but that doesn’t mean that doing so serves us well. In fact, I can’t think of any time that dividing the world into two categories has ever been beneficial, although I could easily be overlooking something.  Overall, however, I think we’re able to function better as a society when we embrace and get to know our “gray areas” as they actually are.  Is it not better for us, as a society, that girls wear clothes that allow them to move and do not endanger their health, as the clothes of the past did?  Nonetheless, people of even seventy years ago would probably be appalled to see women wearing pants. I think, instead of giving in to our urge to compartmentalize the world, we must fight our instincts: we must admit that not everything fits into a category, and we must see how that can benefit us, rather that assume if it doesn’t fit, it’s either a threat or not worth our time.  I explored this issue at length in my blog post, Binary Categories, so I won’t say more about it here.

Instead, I’d like to focus on why we think it’s possible for the application of nail polish in a color we consider “girly” (even though it used to be considered a masculine color until the 1940s…) to make a boy gay or transgendered.  You cannot make someone gay or transgendered. Nor can you make a gay person straight or convince a trans person to happily live as the sex they weren’t meant to be. A gay person’s attractions are just as naturally occurring as a straight person’s: one never knows from where they arrive, and they are utterly outside of our control.  A dear friend of mine, S—who has a gay mother and sister—shared a story with me about her early dating life that illuminates this fact.  S had brought another female date home when her mother drew her aside to tell her that she should really stop trying. She knew S wasn’t gay, and told her that she would love her no matter what.  S was trying, very hard, to make herself gay, but it didn’t work.  She’s happily married to a man now.  Research shows the adopted children of gay parents are no more likely to be gay than those raised by straight parents.  You simply cannot “nurture” someone into being gay. 

Transgenderism is, likewise, not something you can be made to feel. Transgendered people truly suffer, feeling that they are trapped in a body that does not reflect their gender. A recent survey found that 41% of transgendered people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide. This is “more than 25 times the rate of the general population, which is 1.6 percent. And among trans people ages 18-44, the suicide attempt rate was 45 percent.”  Other studies I have read show that trans people who receive hormone therapy have a lower rate of suicide attempts, though it’s still greater than the general population.  After sex-reassignment surgery, the rate of suicide attempts for transgendered persons drops to the same as the general population. Those facts convinced me of the great need for support of our trans community.  Obviously, running ads in which a boy’s toenails are painted pink doesn’t do that, nor could it possibly be the intention of J. Crew.  While some pundits may consider a boy who follows heteronormative gender rules in all ways except for pink nail polish to be “transgendered,” they couldn’t be more wrong.  In addition to support, we obviously need to do a lot of education in order to help our fellow Americans understand the plight of our trans friends and neighbors.
This little guy enjoys getting his nails painted!

Our world has enough stress in it as it is, and our children grow up so much faster these days.  Can’t we reduce the pressure on them and let our kids play in whatever ways—and with whatever colors—make them happy?* 

*Like, for instance, the way this mother has…

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Letting Go of Perfection and Asking for Help

Lately, I've started several blog posts, only to abandon them when a couple days have passed and I've been unable to edit them--usually due to attempts at keeping the puppy out of trouble.  My need for perfection is standing in the way of blogging, so I'm giving myself permission to post sometimes without spending time editing and polishing my work. As my first therapist used to say, "Laurie, you can be perfect later." Amen.

That said, here's what's on my mind tonight.  After reading SARK's eLetter about asking for help and talking with my cousin, who's still on crutches after skipping a step on the same day as I did, I can't help thinking back to the last time I was on crutches and how hard it was for me to ask for help then.

This was in the spring of 2006.  I'd taken my very first spinning class and, not knowing much about the way the bikes worked, thoughtlessly took my foot out from the cage on the pedal and ended up having it whip around and do considerable damage to the front of my right shin.  An ambulance ride to the ER and many stitches later, I returned home on crutches with the fear that if I put weight on my leg, the stitches would not stay in place (to put it delicately).  I learned quickly that crutches leave you without any way to hold on to things as you travel from place to place, and they are not fun to use while climbing or descending stairs (I spent a lot of time bumping up and down on my butt!).  At the time, I was happily unemployed, but I felt the need to prove my worth by doing far more with each day than I had while working. I honestly don't know what felt so urgent to me, or why I was so stubborn and prideful (my mother would say that's my natural state...), but my determination to deal with the situation on my own and avoid being a burden in any way not only made things much, much harder for me, but caused a great deal of consternation for my caring, considerate, thoughtful husband, Sean.  He tried to help me in every way possible, and he never made me feel bad about the situation, even though it meant more work for him, regardless of my rejection of his help.  My reaction to his offers of assistance was downright surly, and left him very confused.  Within a week, he'd stopped offering to help, and I felt bereft and angry at myself.  My internal critics jeered, "Well, now you're stuck doing it yourself. You can't go back now and ask for help after you convinced him you're fine on your own..."

I remember thinking (when I was alone and no longer under the spell of the green-eyed monster who seemed to control my tongue) that rejecting Sean's help felt a lot like my experiences as a child: I wanted to be able to do things on my own, even if I failed. Not being able to do a task felt better, at least, than the failure of having to ask someone else to do it for me. I believed this even though I also believed--at the same time--that my injury was God's way of forcing me to slow down my pace after I'd ignored fifty less dramatic messages from Him.  Why didn't I take advantage of the experience to slow down?  Why did it matter so much to prove that I could still make dinner from scratch, even if I had to scoot around the kitchen in an office chair to do it?

It seems I spent most of my days feeling terribly alone, crying in frustration at what I couldn't accomplish, and cursing my body for being unable to do what I needed it to do.  Nevertheless, I turned away offers of help from Sean, my neighbors, and my friends.  I wish I had a pithy After School Special ending to this story, but I don't: eventually my body healed and I went back to my usual schedule, convincing myself that the experience had taught me to move at a slower pace. In many ways, I did learn that lesson: I became aware that it was possible for the world to go on even if I wasn't controlling every minute particle of my environment.  However, I didn't learn the most important lesson of all: asking for help, especially when you need it.

Even though I know that giving a friend the chance to help you can sometimes do more for your friendship than anything you might give or do for your friend, I still find it terribly hard to let others help me.  My therapist has guided me into asking for assistance more, and I've learned some new things from those experiences: not only do people appreciate the chance to help, sometimes they even find it fun!  For instance, every year before our big holiday party, I invite my female neighbors and close friends over to help me make food for the party.  We have the best time!  I feel guilty about it every year, but those who come truly seem to enjoy it and look forward to our time together.

I have a long way to go towards feeling comfortable asking for "more and more" as SARK encourages in her eLetter, but I have hope that I'm moving in the right direction. Hopefully you're doing that too...or maybe you've already learned how to accept help!  If so, I'd love to hear about your experiences and advice on how to get there.  If you're working on it, let me know what you have learned and what you hope to do in the future. 

Let's work on leaning into the support others offer us, just like we did when practicing "trust falls" at camp, where we yelled out, "Falling!" to let the others know we were about to lean back, trusting them to keep us from hitting the ground.  I have faith that, if we let ourselves fall into their offers of help, our friends will catch us.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Bad Boys?

After years of wondering why I’ve never found bad boys attractive, I finally have an answer: I only like the canine ones.

He can sip from my drink any day...
Even though I was relatively young when the Star Wars movies were in the theaters, they loomed large in my peer group.  All the girls wanted their hair wound into danishes on the sides of their heads like Princess Leia, thought the Ewoks were adorable, and were in love with Han Solo.  That’s where I found myself adrift: I could get on board with the danish hairdo, had no trouble finding the Ewoks cute, but did not get the attraction to Han Solo.  He was rude, dirty, messy, and worst of all, he constantly broke the rules. The horror! In short, he was a bad boy, and I couldn’t figure out how that was attractive.  Personally, I found him annoying and didn’t see why he had to be in the movies at all!  I may have been the only person watching Star Wars who was devastated to find out that Leia and Luke were siblings, because it meant they couldn’t be together. I thought Luke was perfect: he was kind, humble, clean (check out that white outfit that had nary a spot despite trips through garbage compactors, deserts, and weird bars!), and, most importantly, he was good. He didn’t break rules (or at least, he didn’t do so without a lot of consternation and thought), and he did the right things, even when it wasn’t fun or easy.  I was truly perplexed: who would choose Han Solo over a guy like that?

Sadly for me, I found that my friends’ fascination with bad boys wasn’t a childhood folly: as we passed into our adolescence, I began to see that this was a central theme to almost every girl’s attraction to boys. Though the level of “badness” varied, running from rakish pranksters like Kurt Cameron, Sean Astin, and Mario Lopez’s “Slater” to the hard party boys like Corey Haim, River Phoenix, and Emilio Estevez, it seemed like every girl I knew had a crush on guys who either misbehaved or played characters who did.  Meanwhile, I found guys like Wil Wheaton’s character on Star Trek: Next Generation attractive: clean cut, thoughtful, conscientious, and good.  Of course, the very fact that I was watching Star Trek might have given me a clue that I wasn’t likely to fit in, but that’s another story…

Obviously, I was odd woman out when it came to being attracted to bad boys. This has been true my whole life, so I’d pretty much given up on ever understanding my friends’ attraction to roguish boys when I finally experienced it myself.  It happened on a cold, snowy day in upstate New York, and from the moment we met, I knew that I’d adore him, no matter how cheeky he might become … and probably because of it!  My husband and I were traveling with our dog, Angel, to check out a possible companion for her. When his foster mom introduced us to Otto, a St. Bernard mix with springs for legs, I fell instantly in love.  His naughty tricks only made me find him more attractive: stealing toys to play with them in the snow after his mom told him no, standing on his back legs to snuffle along any surface he could reach and grabbing whatever was there, doing a play bow and expecting the rabbit to fetch, jumping up to eye-level from a standing position right in front of us, shaking ice and mud everywhere…I found all of it utterly adorable and amusing. Somewhere outside myself, like in one of those dreams where you watch your dream self behave in odd ways but are powerless to stop it, I realized that I should have been dismayed by Otto’s behavior, but I just wasn’t.  I thought he was such a catch and couldn’t understand why Angel wasn’t running after him with her tongue hanging out and hearts in her eyes.

Who needs a laptop when you have a cute puppy boy?
When we got home, having decided that Otto wasn’t the right fit for us (mostly due to my husband’s clear head), I rationalized my experience, figuring that this was a one-time happening and had nothing to do with misbehaving males.  After all, Otto was fixed. How could his sex have any impact on my finding his behavior adorable, even if he were intact?  Oh, how I underestimated the allure of the bad boy!  We went on to meet several other dogs, some female, some male, and while I enjoyed the girls (who were, in general, very well behaved), it was the goofy, unruly, adorable boys that I found myself yearning to bring home.  I’m sure that’s part of the reason that we ended up adopting Cody, a 10 month-old Chihuahua mix, to be Angel’s companion.  What I find darling, she finds obnoxious, so I doubt we based our entire decision on her response. No, I’m pretty sure that the enthusiasm both my husband and I had for Cody had a lot to do with bringing him home… and with the reason our house is now turned upside down!

Cody has the cutest grin you’ve ever seen. You often see it right before he tears through the house, growling, rolling on the floor, and trying to rip the slipcover off the couch. He can jump several feet in the air and even do acrobatics while he’s up there.  He loves to give kisses and will sometimes sneak in an inappropriately intimate exploration of your mouth when you aren’t looking. We found out on the first day he was with us that he enjoys leather.  I’m not talking about a fetish for jackets and chaps, I’m talking about leashes.  Cody finds them extremely tasty, and managed to chew through two of them before noon.  Did any of this bother me? Of course not!  It seems the more he misbehaves, the more adorable I find him.  I even thought he was especially smart to have chewed through the handles rather than the middle of the leash. What a cutie! 

Not our dog, but isn't he cute?
When we met him, we noticed that Cody likes to dig, using his foot long legs to make quick work of whatever pile of snow or dirt is in front of him.  Of course, I found that darling.  He’s been with us for two weeks now, and I’m already wondering if they make crate pads that are indestructible: he’s dug through at least one bed and is working on finding China on the other side of a couple others.  It’s not the fact that I’m totally nonplussed about this digging that really lets me know how far gone I am, though: it’s my total inability to get upset about Cody’s aim.  Obviously, I’ve never had a male dog before.  Although I wasn’t surprised to see that Cody squats when he has to “do his business” rather than raising a leg, I was a bit surprised to see how poor his aim is, as far as most humans would see it.  Cody continually manages to hit his front left leg whenever he pees.  You’d think this would gross me out or, at least, bother me a little.  But I think it’s hysterical!  I joke about it with my husband, and I don’t even fret when I realize I’ve forgotten to wipe off his leg after coming inside.  I’ll even cuddle with him in spite of knowing where his leg’s “been.” 

Perhaps it’s not so much that I’m attracted to mischievous male puppies that makes me adore our Cody already.  He’s incredibly affectionate and loves to snuggle.  When he’s sleeping, he looks like a little angel.  A former puppy mill dog, he’s been through a lot in a short time, and it’s clear that he’s still learning to trust that things can be good in his life. The need to protect and comfort him runs strong in me.  But the way I respond to his crazy antics, in spite of my usual need to control the universe, tells me that something is definitely different with this one.  I guess I’ll have to admit it: I’m attracted to bad boys…just as long as they’re canine.