Archive for December, 2010

photo by: Cambo

In one year and out the other.  We welcome each new year with pledges…promises…resolutions.  We await the first exciting moments of 2011…the infamous NYC ball drop against the vivacious single-life backdrop, the eagerly anticipated first luscious lip-lock of the year, the glass of bubbly responsible for making us…uh… “bubbly.”  As we anticipate these iconic symbols marking the onset of a new year, we dance a flirty samba with the new year’s most intoxicating, most alluring symbol of all…Hope.  We reflect on good memories, bad memories, accomplishments, failures, regrets of one year…and limitless possibilities of the next.  Fingers crossed!

In the days leading up to that momentous midnight marker, we imagine an “ideal” us…the us we’d like to be, but recognize as “lost” in some sideways universe.  We’d like to stop procrastinating, get our butts on that treadmill we’ve been passing off as interpretive artwork in our living room, lose 2 jean sizes, stop smoking, eat healthier, get out of debt, go back to school…essentially, conquer all of our weaknesses, forsake all traces of imperfection, and become “master of our domain.”  Of course, this is about as likely as waking on Christmas Eve to find St. Nick making whoopee with the Easter Bunny on our couch, our love for candy forever tainted.  The sweet tooth may never recover from that Santa marshmallow “peep.”  🙂  We’re all painfully aware that an ideal us will never materialize, but we can dream…can’t we?

We dream, therefore we survive…and thrive.

We look forward to the upcoming year with hopes and ambitions to somehow tap into our “ideal” selves.  How do we become tangibly close to our mirror ideals?  So close we fool even ourselves?  Simple!  We make resolutions.  We determine the one or two things we’d love to change…and we assert that we will, indeed, change those things…change us.

We hope.

We mean well, but that’s where we draw the line…somewhere between hope and intention.  Psychologists say of those who make New Year’s resolutions, an estimated 80% fail to follow through with them.  Why?  Because we never intended on follow through to begin with.  New Year’s celebrations are about hope…not intention.  We hope for changes, but don’t really expect them and aren’t committed to executing them.  That’s work, after all.  We can pay to have ourselves lifted in the rear, but shifted into gear…not so much. Luckily for us, the declaration of intended change, alone, gives us what we seek…immediate gratification for our self-perception.  Much in the same way as the glass of bubbly, the first kiss, and the firework eye candy provide immediate gratification for the senses…taste, touch, and sight.  Once we “decide” to change, we feel empowered, walk taller, and emanate success.  The false intention to change is like a drug to us.  A hallucinogen.  It’s an illusion…granted, a fun illusion, one that allows us to feel superior to our old selves…but an illusion just the same.  And like a hallucinogen, the illusion is fleeting.

So why bother?  Are New Year’s Resillusions worth the consumption of our brain cells?

5…4…3…2…1…Yes!  We need our illusions.  Ironically, they protect our sanity, stroke our egos, boost our self-esteem, and sometimes, nudge us in a productive direction.  The assertion that our present self is as good as it gets is downright depressing.  It keeps us from pushing the envelope.  Drowns us in our own personal whirlpool of self-doubt.  In essence, we surrender to our own negativity.  But positive thought, hope, and ambition…even in deceptive form…keeps us pushing the envelope.  Whether we barely make contact with the envelope…or push it into oblivion.  Once it stops moving, so do we.  In order to improve our present self, we need hope for our future self.  So lick it, seal it, and give that envelope hell!

And before you begin the countdown to a new year of possibilities, dare to make New Year’s Resillusions.  Dream… and dream big.  Because, as we all know, size DOES matter!  😉

Resolve to hope.  🙂

Happy New Year!

Chick Hughes

“Hope is the dream of a soul awake.” ~  French Proverb



photo by: ZoofyTheJi

Beauty.  Society contrives it.  Cover Girl revives it.  Our eternal quest drives it.  It’s possibly the most sought after, most elusive Godiva truffle in life’s box of Hershey’s chocolates.  Unfortunately, every box of chocolates has at least one poser…appearing deliciously scrumptious on the outside, but revealing its bitter treacherous flavor upon cracking its beautiful shell.  Women, and increasingly men, will do anything to attain “beautiful” status. Diets, creams, Spanx, injections, surgeries, implants, human microwaves, electrical facials…body parts return and exchange at the customer service desk of our local Body Shop.  “You hate it.  We fix it ~ More bod for your buck.”  And that’s just America.  Other cultures are equally extreme when it comes to achieving beauty.  That’s right…the quest for beauty doesn’t discriminate based on gender, skin color, religious beliefs…or planetary location.  It’s a global phenomenon, and we’re but its mere minions.  So, what IS beauty?  Who defines it?  Cosmo?  Vogue?  Playboy?  Modeling gurus?  Photoshop?  Culture?  And why are we so eager to conform?  Why do we refuse to think outside the “beauty box?”  The recipe for beauty is spelled out for us through pop culture.  But maybe we should alter the ingredients, shake things up a bit…add more spice, more variety…see how the flavor changes.  🙂

Psychologists say we’re born with an innate knowledge of what’s beautiful…and what’s not.  When shown different facial images, babies show a preference for attractive human faces over unattractive faces.  They linger and look longer at faces adults would consider beautiful.  Why?  Because babies, like adults, prefer symmetry.  Whether it’s patterns or faces…they choose to gaze upon symmetry.  And symmetrical faces are synonymous with beauty.  So, some experts hastily conclude that we’re born armed with a universal definition of beauty.

I’m skeptical.  Do we like beauty because of symmetry, or symmetry because of beauty?  Which is the predictor of the other?  Whatever the “chicken and the egg” answer, one’s idea of beauty is much broader than symmetry alone.  According to the Journal of Psychological Science, our idea of attraction seems to follow a prototype…a look we’ve come to anticipate after seeing it repeatedly…something familiar to our brains.  They reported that what we find attractive is whatever requires the least amount of effort for our brain.  If we grow up around a particular impression of beauty, we’ll likely maintain that impression throughout our lives.  This theory would certainly explain the cultural aspect of defined beauty.  Our lazy brains are forcing us to take the easy way out and conform to “beauty in a box.”  Guess it’s too much effort to run the brain around the block every now and again.  😉

Beauty, when allowed to be, is an abstract individual concept.  But because we need a concrete tangible outcome to strive for, we’ve boxed it in…narrowly defined it and labeled any and all differing physical attributes as “unattractive.”  Pity.  It limits not only our own beauty, but our dating pool as well.  And we’re not alone.  In any corner of the world, we find a localized limited definition of beautiful…one boxed in by the boundaries of that particular culture.

For instance:

~ In Japan, beauty is…smooth, extremely light skin tones ~ porcelain-like.  Japanese women feast on collagen-infused foods to lighten their skin, scour the market for the best face whitening creams money can buy, and apply nightingale bird feces as facial masks.  Wait…porcelain-pooping birds?

~  In Thailand…very elongated necks.  At 5 years of age, young girls begin wearing brass rings around their necks and add more rings as they age.   As their necks elongate, they’re considered more and more beautiful.  Sounds awkward…but hey, with an elongated neck, they now can “look down” on their suppressors.

~  In New Zealand…lip and chin tatoos.  The most desirable women have full, inky blue lips.

~  In Ethiopia…scar patterns on the stomach.  The elders make cuts into young girls’ tummies to form patterns and prepare them for their impending man hunt.

~  In China…tiny feet.  For centuries, women have bound up their feet to attain this “ideal” …but only managed to deform them in the process.  Foot binding is no longer in practice…turns out walking did trump beauty after all.

~  In Iran…a perfect nose.  Women aren’t allowed to appear sexually suggestive and must cover every part of their bodies except the face.  Because the nose is the only thing to flaunt, they flock to plastic surgeons to get pricey nose jobs.  And because the surgery is considered a privilege, they wear the bandages longer than necessary as status symbols.  Iran is the “nose job capital of the world.”  Seems you can’t suppress sexual competition after all.  When all else fails, the “nose knows” how to get a man.

~  In West Africa...full heavy figures.  Thin is considered sickly and undesirable.  Plumpness, stretchmarks, thick ankles, big butts, and juicy arms are what land a man.  Young girls are force fed to fatten them up and make them more attractive to men.  Baby got back!  😉

It’s obvious we don’t share a universal idea of beauty…preference for symmetry maybe, but that’s where it seems to end.  Blonde, tan, and unrealistically thin may represent American beauty, but it would be repulsive in some cultures.  Beauty means something different according to who you ask and where you ask it.  For the most part, it seems beauty is largely defined by our Cultural Beast and propagated by mass media.  And, mass media is our reference point for beauty, unfortunately.  Self-mutilation, self-degradation, self-starvation…it seems there’s nothing we won’t do to attain that “beauty.”

In our perpetual attempt to open life’s treasure chest of love and approval, we find beauty is the key.  So, we conform…or contort…ourselves to get our hands on the “key.”  We want to feel beautiful, and we take extreme measures to fit into our cultural “beauty box.”  But once we box ourselves in, there’s no room to grow.  We become stifled and confined.  True beauty comes from within.  It’s dark in a box, and if we’re miserably squished into a dark space, our beauty can’t shine through.  However, outside the box, away from the confines of the Beast, our beauty can grow…evolve…change…thrive.

So, don’t box beauty in and tell her what she SHOULD be.  Open your mind and let her show you what she CAN be.  Define your own beauty.

Challenge the beast.

BeYoutiful!

Chick Hughes

“Beauty is not caused. It is.” ~  Emily Dickinson

Photographer: Suat Eman

Bad health leads to doctors.  Doctors to health insurance.  Health insurance to stress.  Stress to bad health.  Round and round we go.  Nothing revs our ailing engines more than America’s five-star health careless system…a system riddled with fickle coverage loopholes, high premium sinkholes,  deep deductible manholes, and pre-existing condition hellholes.  Notice the common denominator?  All holes leading to the big daddy…the health insurance Black Hole!  We pull money from our asshole, throw it down the insurance black hole, and end up digging our own financial hole.  The holes are many, and regardless of our tap dancing talent, we fall in repeatedly.  When faced with failing health, we’re forced to take a crash course in the crooked ways of our greedy private insurer’s coverage plan.  If we weren’t sick before, we are now.  If only we could fund our ever-rising insurance premiums with the money our sue happy lawyers won on our behalf for the emotional suffering inflicted by the complications of “our policy.”  You know…give them a taste of their own “money.”  Tell them where they can stick “our policy.”  If only we had a choice!  We may not have a choice when it comes to going to the doctor, but we may have a better health care plan already in place that can help us avoid the doctor…one free of loopholes, sinkholes, manholes, and hellholes…one secured by our better half.  A happy marriage?  Could it be that Dr. Love is our best insurance policy?  That marriage actually promotes our health?

Medicare, Medicaid…Medimarriage?

All experts agree…YES!  A happy heart is a healthy heart!  Countless studies confirm that a happy marriage helps keep our bodies healthier and private insurers poorer.  But scientists say marriage itself isn’t the key.  That it’s the relationship or commitment — not the institution — that keeps us healthier.  A matter of how close we are as a couple.  The intimacy we share, rather than the space.  A disconnected, stressful marriage is, in fact, worse for the heart than single or divorced life.  Stress is the bearer of bad health.  It manifests itself physically via high blood pressure, low immune system, depression, gastrointestinal problems, rashes, or emotional disorders like anxiety.  And let’s face it…avoiding daily stress is about as easy as making actual eye contact with Jessica Rabbit.  Her eye color is as much a mystery to us as the elusive stress-free day.  Marriage itself can create extra stress, but a stable loving connection with our sweetie combats that psychological stress and keeps it from physically running amuck in our bodies.  How?  L.O.V.E.  Love lowers the stress hormone, cortisol…less stress translates into a happy heart.  It boosts our immune system and reduces heart disease.  Those who are happily married are healthier, less stressed, and live longer than those unhappily married, divorced, or single.  The happier the marriage, the healthier the spouses.  The more hostile the relationship, the weaker the immune system.  When stress takes over, our body falls apart.  But when love is the artist, it’s a “work of heart.”

Psychologist John Gottman says the benefits of a happy marriage are “better health, more resistance to infection, fewer infections, and a reduced likelihood of dying from cancer, from heart disease, from all major killers.”  And those benefits are consistent across age, race, education, and income groups.  Love is a universal band-aid.

Interestingly, for singles or unhappily married adults, having a network of supportive friends didn’t improve health.  Only when the heart is involved…when we have that unconditional bond of love…only then does it reduce our stress hormones and promote better health.  What does that mean?  Marriage is all heart!  🙂  When our heart is happy, our bodies reap the benefits.  When our heart is unhappy, our bodies pay up…as do our wallets.  The sicker we are, the more insurance costs…until eventually, we’re “too sick” to cover.  Yes, apparently there’s only so much “sick” the private insurance companies will tolerate.  Health coverage only for the healthy?  Hmmm, corporate sarcasm perhaps?

Some scientists speculate that the reason we’re in better physical health when in a happy committed relationship is that our spouse inspires us to drink less, smoke less, get regular health checkups, and have better nutritional intake.  Well, isn’t that obvious?  But there’s more to it than that, right?  Even infants thrive with loving skin-on-skin, heart-to-heart contact and deteriorate without it.  Maybe everything begins and ends with the heart.  Our heart thirsts for a connection, a bond, an unconditional love.  When that thirst is quenched, our bodies thrive.  But when that thirst is denied, we deteriorate.  We need love like we need water.  Without that bonded love to ground us, we fry when handling life’s electric stress.

Our heart/body relationship seems to be like any other…surviving on the give and take.  A loving bond gives the heart what it needs.  The heart reciprocates, lowers stress, and keeps the body healthier.  Give and take.  The heart may regulate the physical body, but love regulates the heart.

So, next time you’re stressing over the latest in “hellthcare,” or getting one too many doses of daily stress…slow down.  Find your better half.  Cuddle, connect, and let love medicate you.  Look into your sweetie’s eyes, and say, “Do you need a checkup?  Possibly an XXX-ray?”

“Lay back…the doctor is in.”   😉

Chick Hughes

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” ~  Mother Teresa

LotusHead

Give and take.  Push and pull.  “Come” and GO?  Wait…no fair!  It takes two to tango, right?  The sexual tango is best when both parties crash from exhausted pleasure.  But that dance doesn’t always go off without a hitch.  And that hitch can be a bitch…in the form of a selfish lover.  Most of us have been on one end or the other of the selfish lover see-saw.  The selfish lover goes up, “comes” down…and leaves his partner hanging in unfulfilled expectation.  Where’s the fun in that??  Obviously, an overly self-gratifying, greedy lover who completely disregards our sexual needs isn’t winning Best Sex Coaster of the theme park award:  most twists and turns, ups and downs, ins and outs, and adrenaline pumping excitement.  Not a chance.  More like Best Kiddie Coaster:  no meandering, no unexpected tummy flippers, no adrenaline, just straight from point A to point “O.”  What a snoozer loser!  But is a selfish lover all bad?  Don’t we prefer a lover who knows what he/she wants and is confident, direct, and uninhibited enough to  take it?  Is a selfish lover oh so good, oh no bad, or oh…somewhere in between?

When asked, most people scream “bad” faster than it takes to flip that selfish sex partner the middle finger.  Even if we enjoy pleasing our partner…eventually, we’ll want something in return.  And if that person is unwilling to return the favor, it could mean all bets are off.  At some point, we’ll tire of doing all the work while our partner’s greedy hand is out and his drawers are down.  The day will come when we enter the bedroom adorned with a sign hanging from our neck reading “Payment expected upon services rendered.”  Is that direct enough?  😉

What drives a person to selfish lover status?

Insecurity…A person who has yet to embrace his/her own sexuality won’t likely be interested in embracing that of his partner.  Some people are afraid of their sexuality.  Afraid or not, it’s there.  Embrace it.  Only then do we enjoy it.

Inexperienced…He/she may honestly not know how to give pleasure.  In this case, it’s time for a little “show and tell” …wouldn’t you say?

Inability to prolong the fun…Some overly anxious participants simply can’t wait to reach orgasm.  If so, it’s time to drop the “F” bomb with them…FOREPLAY!

Unwillingness to reciprocate…For whatever reason, some partners just refuse to return the favor.   Advice:  GO ON STRIKE!

Insensitivity to partner’s needs…Then there are those who simply don’t care about anyone other than themselves.  In this case, forget the strike…QUIT altogether!

While we say we don’t want a selfish lover in our bedroom, experts are proving us hypocrites yet again!  A study conducted at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver revealed that, as usual, we have no idea what we REALLY want.  We like to think we want what sounds socially acceptable…appropriate.  But again, we overestimate ourselves.  We lie to our egos.  Why?  To protect ourselves from the animal ugly lurking just under our perfectly superficial tanned and toned exteriors.  This study found that “as a partner’s sexual self-focus decreased, their partner’s satisfaction decreased.”  Say what?  Even the experts were stumped.  It would seem to our idealistic self-perceptions that we would reject the sexual “taker” and prefer a lover who is overly generous and zeros in our needs.  Now who’s being selfish?

Selfish lovers are better lovers?  It would seem so…to a point.  Results from the Vancouver study showed that younger couples reported having sex for purely selfish reasons…to satisfy personal needs and sheer horniness.  On the other hand, older couples reported having sex to show affection for their partners or because it’s part of the “weekend routine.”  Obviously, the younger couples reported greater sexual satisfaction.  It’s hypothesized that selfish lovers make sex more enjoyable for their partners simply because they really wanted to have sex.  But could it be that simple?  If our partner is enjoying him/herself, it’s not only a turn on…it’s an ego boost.   It means we’re doing something right.  If we know our partner is having a good time, it frees us up to indulge in our own naughty selfish pleasures.  But if our partner is completely dependent on us for a good time, we feel pressured.  It’s possible to get so caught up in whether we’re doing a good job pleasing our partner that it hinders our own pleasure.  We’re over-thinking it.  Too stuck in our head…can’t get off in bed.

Here’s another perspective.  One can try TOO hard in the pleasing department as well.  Just as one who is TOO selfish can seem overbearing, one who is TOO eager to please can seem needy.  And that’s a turn off.  If our partner is trying relentlessly to bring us to orgasm, it can make us feel pressured and on the spot.  Result:  NOTHING!  Or maybe a fake-out.

What’s the saying?  “A watched pot never boils.”  But if our partner is a little less caught up in us and a little more caught up in themselves,  the pressure if off.  And the heated moisture will transition to a boil, which will inevitably release into steam.  Or so says science.

According to us, we prefer generosity in the bedroom.  According to the experts, we prefer a bit of a selfish partner.  Some degree of sexual self-focus is required to keep our partner satisfied.  So, there you have it.  We seem to prefer both…a fair amount of generosity doused in selfishness.  Give and take.  So, selfish sex…not oh so good, not oh no bad…but a healthy mix can lead both partners to the “O” Scream!

I scream, you scream…maybe a little whipped cream?  😉

Chick Hughes

“There are two kinds of egotists: Those who admit it, and the rest of us. Dr. Laurence J. Peter