Archive for the 'My latest greatest' Category



Have yourself a dysfunctional little Christmas

Stress and holidays go together like overcooked turkey and dry dressing and what’s more stressful than the thought of a new love interest meeting your entire dysfunctional family?

Seriously, what do you do? Bring your new squeeze home to meet your scrapping siblings or come up with a glib excuse to keep them away? Warn them about Uncle Toby’s drinking problem ahead of time or cross your fingers and hope he doesn’t attack them under the mistletoe?  

I’ve certainly been in the unenviable and (awkward!) position of introducing a new date to the dysfunctional family fold — as have many others – and thought it might be a fun topic to explore for Match.com’s Happen Magazine.

According to psychotherapist Tina Tessina, prepping a new love interest for the family dynamic is crucial (i.e., “By the way, honey, if my brother-in-law offers to show you his stomach surgery scar, tell him no or else you won’t be able to eat dinner”). Secret signals can also come in handy, like a finger across the throat when your new girlfriend keeps encouraging Grandpa to discuss his recent teabagging escapades (political and otherwise).

Wondering how you can reconcile a new boyfriend or girlfriend with an alcoholic dad, a hoarding mom and/or a trio of sniping sisters-in-law? Then click here and read on. And as always, feel free to share your own stories of dysfunctional family gatherings (is there any other kind?).  Merry Christmas, friends and readers, and all the best to you — and your families — in 2010.  

Fairy tale romance or fauxmance?

knight-in-shining-armor (2)We’ve all seen the personal ads, heard the familiar phrases. Brainy blonde looking for my knight in shining armor. Investment banker in search of his queen. Prince or Princess Charming, where the hell are you?

From televised tripe like The Bachelor to essays in The New York Times (where a writer recently lamented that she “would love to experience life as a pampered princess, at least once”), you’ll find some single people clinging to dreams of royal romance as desperately as some folks hang onto their bad high-school-hair.

I’ve got a new piece out on Singularcity.com (the same folks who publish the slick, sensational Singular Magazine) that discusses the pyrite-like allure of fairy tale romance and what life was really like for kings, queens, princesses and those handsome knights in shining armor.

According to social historian Stephanie Coontz, most royal unions were nasty, brutish and short – especially on love.

“Princess Diana’s situation is typical as far as the historic tradition goes,” says Coontz, author of Marriage: A History and director of education at the Council on Contemporary Families. “Once they got the woman to give them their heir, the king or prince went back to whomever they really liked.”

Princesses were usually pampered by their sycophantic servants rather than suitors and those dashing knights weren’t exactly handsome heroes (or all that hygienic).

For the full story behind the “happily ever after” stuff we’ve been reared on all these years, click here.  Warning: reading this story may be hazardous to your Disneyesque  ideals of  romance.

Are you a dating ‘dick’?

are-you-a-dating-dickYou stop into your favorite watering hole after a long week at work and what should happen but you meet somebody cute. And not only are they cute, they’re seemingly single, obviously interested and there’s even a bit of a spark.

So what do you do?  Give them your card?  (That’s backfired before.)  Give them a deep wet kiss in the back of the coat closet? (Only to be surprised by “sudden spouse syndrome” three weeks down the line.) Or do you pull out your iPhone and do a quick background check while they’re in the loo so you can find out if they’re a creep or a con man or a convicted pedophile before things get out of hand.

My latest Tech story for MSNBC.com looks at DateCheck, a brand new mobile phone app that (for a fee) lets you plumb a slew of public databases to find out if Mr. or Ms. Seemingly Wonderful is married, a convicted felon or worse, a weekend clog dancer.  

Some singles love having a “private dick” in the palm of their hands; others feel this sort of access to private information — i.e., a person’s address, employer, property tax records, a record of their unpaid parking tickets — is a bit of a slippery slope. Or just plain old unethical.

What do you do think?   Would you want to get the 411 on a complete stranger (and/or have them be able to get it on you?). Or do you prefer to trust your gut when it comes to potential suitors. Discuss among yourselves. I’ll be in the coat closet awaiting your answer.

Yes, there’s an app for that, too

are-you-appnoxiousMy story on “appnoxious” smartphone users went live today on MSNBC.com. In a nutshell, the story’s about people who’ve become so enamored by all their fancy phone applications that they’re driving everyone around them insane. Or as I put it in my reported piece:

Thanks to a wave of popular new apps, our phones are now capable of passing gas, passing judgment, and annoying our friends, family and colleagues in a much more efficient, high-tech manner. They’ve also granted us the power to instantly correct — and/or alienate — anyone around us in a matter of seconds because of Web access at our fingertips. “I was at a restaurant with friends and said something about Ralph Macchio being in a movie and pretty soon somebody’s got IMDb (the Internet Movie Database Web site) out on their phone and they’re looking it up,” says Jonathan Acuff, a 33-year-old copywriter from Alpharetta, Ga. “You can’t casually say, ‘I kind of like that guy in that movie’ anymore unless you’re sure he was in it. Now they look it up and somebody else looks it up and they’re like, ‘You’re wrong.’ ”

I didn’t include info on this in the story, but there are also a slew of new mobile phone dating apps. Speeddate.com, which offers 3-minute online speed dates using instant messaging or live video has just come out with a new free downloadable Android app (apparently there’s an iPhone app already) that allows people to speed date through their smartphone as opposed to their computer.

Other mobile dating apps include BumpChat 1.1, a new “location-aware” mobile dating and chat application for the iPhone, and Are You Interested? an iPhone application for mobile dating that ties in with the AYI? website and Facebook Connect integration. Whatever the hell that means.

Also just released (and you knew this was coming): 140love.com, a new Twitter-based dating service, where you can sign up, peruse members’ online dating profiles and see if anybody’s  140-character communication stream sets your heart “a twitter”.

If it just me or does it seem like we should all save ourselves a lot of time and trouble and just start having sex with our computers? My guess is there’s an app for that, too.

Happy Mother’s Day, Viva

viva-mapesA week or so ago, I took a break from my usual reported stories on health, lifestyle and dating issues to write a personal essay about losing my mom — and finding her again in my four sisters. The essay went live today – Mother’s Day — on MSNBC.com. Here’s a link.

As I mentioned in the piece, my mom was quite a character. She loved to laugh, loved to cook and especially loved gathering her five daughters (and their husbands and kids) around her. Family get-togethers at the Mapes house were raucous affairs: barking dogs, squawking birds, screaming kids, clanging pots and pans, loud laughter, a blaring TV, and somebody inevitably pounding on that one lone bathroom door.

I miss it like crazy. I miss her like crazy. Thanks to the cookbook Viva gave me in 1998, though, I’m able to at least conjure up some of the wonderful dishes she served up for her “girls” during those infamous family dinners. Today, in honor of my mom and mothers everywhere, I thought I’d pass along Viva’s recipe for what my sisters and I used to call “Moldy Green Salad” when we were little.

Back then, none of us would touch this light green concoction save my sister Mary, who was always pretty fearless. Since we’ve gotten older, though, we’ve all learned to love “MGS” and it’s now a regular part of our holiday lineup. You may want to add it to yours since, as my mom notes in the cookbook, “it goes good with turkey.”

Molded Green Salad  “Mary’s favorite recipe”
Note to readers: My mom would usually include a brief notation as to who liked what with each recipe. One of my favorite notations, under Margaritas, simply reads “Mark likes.”

1 small package lemon Jell-O
1 small package lime Jell-O

Dissolve above in 2 cups boiling water. Stir well and cool. Mix together in a large bowl:

1 # carton cottage cheese
1 # can crushed pineapple
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup whipped cream (unwhipped)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon horseradish (note: I never include this)
Dash of salt

Add cooled Jell-O to above mix. Mix well. Pour into rectangle Pyrex pan. Let set in refrigerator overnight. Serve with ripe olives on bed of lettuce.

And, of course, lots of love. My mom always did.

Are you allergic to sex?

no-sex-please-im-allergic4My story on oddball allergies went live today on MSNBC.com. In it, I cover all kinds of strange allergies, everything from nail polish to cockroaches to celery to cell phones to, well, sex.

Or perhaps I should say human seminal plasma hypersensitivity, otherwise known as semen allergy.

According to experts, semen allergies can result in redness, burning, swelling and even blisters wherever the semen has contacted the skin. In rare cases, having sex with someone to whom you’re allergic can even result in anaphylactic shock (not to be confused with a really intense orgasm).

Symptoms usually start within minutes after contact and can last from hours to days. Although men may be at risk, the allergy primarily affects women.

Treatment usually involves “desensitizing” the woman to her partner’s seminal fluid by injecting her with shots containing small doses of semen. Frequent sex is also recommended. As is using a condom — provided neither partner has a latex allergy.

To read the full story on MSNBC.com about weird allergies, click here. For more information on semen allergies — which are rare but often go unrecognized — click here or here.  To read Esquire’s sex columnist’s advice to a single guy whose new girlfriend turned out to be allergic to his sperm, click here.

Do I make you horny?

wang-the-human-unicorn-2My piece on cutaneous horns went live today on MSNBC.com’s Body Odd blog. 

What exactly are cutaneous horns?  According to Dr. Clay J. Cockerell, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, they’re a rare malfunction of the body that can occur in response to an  injury or some type of disease.

“The topmost part of the skin is the stratum corneum — it protects the body,” Dr. Cockerell told me in a phone interview. “But if the stratum corneum is damaged due to disease or something along those lines, then it can actually make a different kind of layer.”

Sometimes that layer can blister or become white and scaly, similar in appearance to a psoriasis outbreak. Other times it can become as thick as the hide of an elephant or a rhinoceros. Or start to form a very thick cornified layer in an upward spine or spike. That’s when you get a cutaneous horn, such as the 14-inch spike sported by the Chinese farmer (pictured at top) who appeared in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! in the 1930s as (naturally) Wang, the Human Unicorn.

Cutaneous horns don’t just grow on your head, though. They can occur all over the body and have been reported on the nose, eyelid, ear, lip, chest, neck, shoulder, forearm, leg and hand. They’ve even been found on the penis, in fact, one poor guy in India had multiple cutaneous horns on his penis.

For the full story — including some fun history — click here.

The gift of being single

gift-of-being-singleJust noticed that an essay I wrote for Singular Magazine a few months ago has now been added to their website, SingularCity.com.

The essay, The Gift of Being Single, talks about how I used to be one of those women who hated to be without male companionship, but finally figured out there’s worse things in life than eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom alone.

Here’s the top of the piece:

At age 22, I married a man I’d been living with for a year and a half. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision made during a road trip from San Francisco to Reno. The fact that I chose to tie the knot in the divorce capital of the country should have clued me in to what lay ahead. By 30, I realized things weren’t working and moved out on my own. I was miserable. I still remember moping around my studio apartment, writing bad poetry and crying into my canned ravioli dinners. I wailed to anyone who would listen. How could people stand being single? The loneliness, the despair, the interminable quest for meaningful companionship!

And that was after just three weeks.

For the next few years, I fell in and out of a series of unfortunate relationships — sort of like that Lemony Snicket book, only with more sex — but when I hit 35, a funny thing happened.

And here’s a link to the whole hot tranny mess, as they used to say on Project Runway. Speaking of hot, check out that fabulous artwork by John Ueland.  I may have to learn to drive just so I can keep up with my illustrated alter ego!

Speaking of hot dates …

I was tapped for an interview about dating dealbreakers the other day by Judy McGuire (How Not to Date), who in addition to writing the hilarious Dategirl column for the Seattle Weekly, does a regular column on dating do’s and dohs! for The Frisky. 

As someone who’s pulled some pretty big dating boners in my life (so to speak, anyway), I told Judy about the first time one of my long-term boyfriends spent the night and I attempted to impress him by whipping up a hot and hearty home-cooked breakfast. Heavy emphasis on the hot: I accidentally set off the fire alarm.

This wouldn’t have been so bad except the fire alarm in my apartment was hooked up to the fire station. Within minutes, I had six strapping firemen at my door — in full uniform. We’re talking boots, axes, firehats, hoses.  I was mortified, but the firemen — and my young man — thought it was all pretty entertaining. I remember they stuck around for quite a while, waving towels around and offering healthier, less flammable breakfast alternatives (“Have you given any thought to cereal with fruit?”). 

Click here for the whole sordid story. And feel free to pass along some of your own bone-headed dating moves.  Surely, I’m not the only one with an alarming past?

Are digital diaries the new Dear Abby?

dear-bloggy-artwork2My story on married couples who blog about their relationships, Dear Bloggy: Digital diaries tell all, went live on MSNBC.com yesterday. It seems that quite a few people are using blogs as a way to communicate with their spouses, letting them know when they’re upset about long hours, undone laundry or that annoying collection of dead stuffed animals out in the garage.

Amelia Zatik-Sawyer, a mother of two and self-proclaimed Chefswidow.com explains it like this:  “It can definitely be like a digital marriage counselor at times. It enables me to express how I’m feeling without yelling at him. Instead, I can collect my thoughts and write about it and he can respond to me in person. It’s 100 percent helped us out.”

Obviously, there are good points and bad points to blogging about your partner. On the plus side, it allows you to sit down at a keyboard and get your feelings across without interruption (something that’s sometimes difficult to do during a discussion, much less a knock-down-drag-out fight). On the down side, though, blogs are public (although they often don’t feel like it), which means you run the risk of airing dirty laundry. Or, should the temptation grow too great, to use dirty laundry as a way to increase those almighty hits.

It’s an interesting topic that’s fueled the usual amount of reader debate. For instance: 

MOST EXCELLENT THERAPY INDEED!…. As long as you don’t mind putting YOUR BUSINESS ON THE STREET! The computer age has probably been more responsible for the BREAKDOWN OF HUMAN RELATIONS than anything.

I would rather be known as someone who shared things virtually and gave back to my community or a group of people on the Net rather than in real life.

So what do you think? Is blogging about a relationship helping to destroy life as we know it? Or is it just another way to give back to the community — even if it’s just a community of two?  Do you blog about your spouse? Your kids? Your boyfriend? Your boss?  Do they read what you write and then blog about you?

Would love to hear your thoughts. Would also love to give a shout-out to Duane Hoffman, the talented news artist who did the illustration for this piece (pictured at top). Now THAT’s something to blog home about.


What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

Follow me on Twitter!

July 2021
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