Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, Venting

Sex and Suburbia, Venting
By Julie Stankowski

When Carrie Bradshaw and her fabulous single friends in NYC were in a bad mood and needed to vent, for whatever reason (PMS, a zit in the middle of the face, a boyfriend who has a mind-boggling sexual fetish), what did they do? They called each other, met at a cool New York diner and spewed and vented and compared complaints, at any hour of the day or night. They discussed everything from relationships, to clothes, to sexual satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), to sexual techniques of those they were dating, to being broken up with on a post-it note, to adultery, to marriage, to death, to cancer. They were comfortable with each other. They trusted each other. They made each other feel better. They were (generally) nonjudgmental. It was okay, and easy, to vent.

And they were single in the Big Apple. And you’re thinking, “That matters why?” It matters for two reasons. One, because being single in the city means a very open schedule allowing friends to convene on spur of the moment notice. Oreos and wine at an impromptu pajama pity party at someone’s apartment at 1:00 a.m. Sounds good to me. It matters also, and this is a big one, because when you’re single, you do not have to consider the privacy or the feelings of a spouse or partner and are free to discuss anything you want during your girlfriend bitch sessions. It’s quite a special phenomenon, one that significantly transforms when there is a partner and kids involved. It’s like adding hot sauce to your chili - - the flavor totally changes.

When you’re having sex in suburbia, what do you do and where do you go when you feel the need to vent? Do you go to your best friend who has already heard it a million times and now is either dreadfully picking up the phone when she sees your number on her caller ID or guiltily ignoring it, like she does the telemarketing calls and her stalker mommy friends. Do you go to your mom and/or dad who have also heard from you ad naseum and who, if you were to vent anymore, will end up despising your spouse, your employer, your friends and maybe even their precious grandchildren. Okay, exaggeration. The precious grandchildren will always be on a higher pedestal than you - - what’s the saying - - my parents would drown me in a spoonful of water for my kids?

Anyway, do you go, not to your best, but your good friends? Those with whom you and your husband and your children socialize. The ones who have a Leave it to Beaver picture of you and your family which will shatter should you start to vent. Say one thing to this group, while venting, and perhaps they will surmise that your entire life is a sham. That you are on the verge of divorce and bankruptcy. That your kids need some really established psychiatrists. That you need a really established psychiatrist. One with the ability to prescribe multiple medications including Ativan, Prozac and something for that IBS and PMS you always complain about! Or, do you go to your husband, the one person you wish you could vent to (unless you’re venting about him), but he is either working, taking care of some sort of problem, watching ESPN, locked in his bathroom sanctuary or has had enough of any and all types of communication for the day that the only kind of venting he wants around him is the kind where cold air is cooling him off.

I think venting is a misunderstood phenomenon. I am a ventor. As such, I would like to clarify a few misconceptions floating around out there regarding the world of venting. Here is my attempt.

To my Non-Ventor Friends and Family, with love:

The universe is made up of ventors and non-ventors. Generally speaking, ventors are women. Not all women, of course, but a good portion of us are ventors. It is something we need to do in order to avoid spontaneously combusting. It is like our mind and body are so full of thoughts, complaints, worries, neuroses, ideas etc. that we just need to get it out. We need to DISCUSS it (eewwww, we know men hate that, but . . . !). It helps us decompress.

To the fabulous men we love. Sorry for being redundant, but simply for comparison sake, think of how you feel when you finally get to your bathroom haven and sit on your royal throne so you can have an uninterrupted hour to read all of your sports magazines and catch up on fantasy baseball. You guys feel better after sitting alone with anything sports related and relieving your body of its unwanted matter. We feel better after sitting together with other women with anything alcohol related and relieving our bodies of our complaints. Get it? It is not the verbalizing of true, serious problems for which we are looking for solutions (more on this point below). Nor is it a sort of confiding that we do when we actually do have serious problems. It is simply a non-thoughtful, non-edited spewing of everything in the world that is bothering us that particular day. We would be just as happy to vent to a stranger in the supermarket or our dry cleaning man as we would our husband, family or friends. Because it’s more about our pissy mood that day than anything else. And having someone to listen. To whom we vent is irrelevant. It is just the pure ability to vent that we find a necessity.

And venting, by the way, does not call for solutions. Listen up, guys, this is a very important point. Generally speaking, when a woman is venting, she is not coming to you with a problem for which she needs a solution. When we are venting, we just want to be heard, understood and maybe even coddled. I promise it is not that hard. Here is an example of what to do when your wife is venting. Just say, “Yes, dear,” or “I understand.” That’s it! You’re done! And you’ve earned major brownie points just for looking your wife in the eyes, pretending you were listening to her and saying only two or three words! Here is an example of what not to do. When we vent about hating our brand new expensive Viking dishwasher being the worst we ever had because it doesn’t get the dishes dry like our 20 year old Maytag used to, don’t say, “Read the manual, there must be something that you’re missing.” And don’t say, “Didn’t you do any research on the different dishwashers out there before you chose to buy this one?” And don’t say, “Call a technician out.” We feel bad enough. We are not stupid morons. We already did those things. We made an expensive mistake and we know that. We’re just venting!

To the fabulous women we love. We “ventors” really want to be able to vent to our friends without judgment. When we say how pissed we are at our husband that day because he forgot to let the dog out before he went to work and we had to clean up smelly pee-pee after changing our son’s smelly poopy diaper and then take out the trash cans he forget to take out and then miss our girls’ night out because he couldn’t get away from the office as early as promised and then go to bed with no sex or cuddling because he had such a stressful day at work and then get up in the middle of the night with our crying child (disclaimer: this is fiction, my husband wouldn’t do any of these things) . . . we are just venting! We still love our husbands! We are not getting a divorce and we do not need marriage counseling! When we spew about the fact that our son hit our daughter and our kids wouldn’t listen to a word we said and we needed to pop a pill to avoid a nervous breakdown, don’t suggest that our kids may have ADD or need to take a social skills class. They are awesome, awesome children. We just had a bad day and we are venting!

Sometimes, we want our ventees to vent back to us. Misery loves company. Take the dishwasher scenario I talked about. We would love to hear a fellow ventor or ventee complain about one of her stupid purchases. We love that! It makes us feel like we’re not alone. When we’re venting about our husbands, tell us how yours leaves his dirty socks and underwear all over the place or gets mad at you over the electricity bill because you always leave all of the lights on in the house. When we’re venting about our kids, tell us about the time your daughter bit the boy next to her during circle time at preschool and then threw a major temper tantrum at the supermarket which was so unbelievably bad that you had to leave your full cart in the middle of the aisle to get out of there and avoid any further embarrassment. We will not judge you! Ventors are non-judgmental ventees.

Whew, all that writing about venting felt good! So, are we all clear now? Let ventors vent and if you have to, just pretend you’re listening. Don’t offer any solutions. Say you understand, even if you don’t. Get in on the action and try venting yourself. It could be cathartic and you will be making your fellow ventor feel great by becoming a ventee. Finally, do not judge! We all live in glass houses. Even Carrie and Big have an enormous penthouse with floor to ceiling windows!


Anonymous said...

You are sooo right! Men need to read this so they can finally realize that listening to the problem, not solving the problem, matters. Thank you, and keep the articles coming!

jmk said...

Love your Blog! I just added you to my Favorites! I can't wait for your next entry.