The Feminist and the Cowboy

The Feminist and the Cowboy: An Unlikely Love Story
by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez  is a real life love story that will give hope to single women over 35 who are still looking for love in all the wrong places.
Smart and sassy, the bestselling author of The Dirty Girl Social Club books ends up moving home with her divorced father when she hits a dry spell. She is forced to sell her Lexus and pricy home when she hits a “financial dry spell,” as she puts it. She and her young son move back home with her semi-retired professor father.
Finally, at age 42, Alisa is forced to confront the demons in her past when she decides to date again. She falls for a man who seems to be the antithesis of all her feminist values. Unable and unwilling to deny her attraction to a tall, handsome cowboy who is unmistakably attracted to her, Alisa must explore her past as an angry, man-hating, feminist who denied her own womanhood.
Valdes often digresses from her personal narrative to expound on the roles of feminism and gender roles in romantic relationships. However, by sharing her own story, she articulates a common conflict many women feel today between their desire for a strong masculine romantic partner and intellectual and economic equality.
She endearingly admits to a guilty desire to be pretty and sexy while also wanting to be a sassy, intellectual bad ass.
The Cowboy and The Feminist is a fascinating personal memoir as well as an interesting discourse on finding love in the new millennium.
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You’ve come a long way bitch?

Pretty Kim and her sisters toss the word Recently, a smart, accomplished friend pointed out the proliferation of the word "bitch" in the title of popular books by and for women.
We just ran an item from the authors of Taming Your Alpha Bitch. I admit the title gave me pause, but the book did have excellent advice, so I decided to follow up with the authors.
I remember cringing when I first heard Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie call each other "bitches" in casual conversation on their reality show years ago. Their non-stop cursing was still enough of a novelty to raise eyebrows. Now the popular Kardashian sisters on their money- making reality franchise regularly refer to each other as "bitches". Titles like Skinny Bitch in the Kitch compete for slots on the bestseller list. I still recoil at the word, and heaven help the fool who calls me the "B-word."
And if we didn’t have enough trouble with the word "bitch," Rush Limbaugh upped the ante by declaring a woman a "slut" for simply advocating for the right of women to have access to contraception. The radio show host "apologized" after advertisers began pulling their sponsorships. I’m sure he was really sincere.
It is as unacceptable for Limbaugh to have called Sandra Fluke a slut, as it is for women to call each other "bitch." Words are too powerful to toss around as Limbaugh found out.
Growing up in the feminist era, I remember women who objected to being called babe, doll, honey, or sugar. Yet, this same generation loved the hip slogan (ironically used to sell unhip cigarettes) "You’ve come along way, baby". The ads featured a sexy, good-looking woman executive emerging from old-fashioned Victorian clothes. Now, bitch is casual parlance. Oh baby, what are women thinking?
Some of the young teachers in my exercise classes play hip-hop songs with lyrics that repeat the words "bitches" and "ho," with other female-unfriendly appellations and lyrics. I find it disheartening and unappealing, to say the least. It disturbs me that women do not see the disconnect between embracing words like bitch and ho and objecting to violence against women and other dangerous and demeaning behavior. Equally disturbing is how easily they embrace a "boy's-club" culture that abuses, discards, and demeans women.
Calling women bitches robs us of our power and our dignity. Think about what a man means when he calls someone "his bitch." It is not pretty. I am neither a priss nor a prude, but, darlings, I am nobody’s bitch.
When women call each other bitch, they also give license to the Limbaughs of this world to attack women even more.
Being a bitch, or being called a bitch, is never a good or fun loving thing. Using the B-word and embracing it does not rob the word of its power, but it may rob you of some of your power. Think about it. After all, you’ve come along way, baby.

An act of elegance

Young and stylish --Emma Watson pens her thanks.Historically, all the best people have written thank you notes. Jackie O was known for hers. Grace Kelly wrote charming notes. Marilyn had a habit of scribbling hers on 8×10 glossies. According to a recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, Emma Watson, Claudia Schiffer, and Lisa Eisen also pen notes of thanks. Real royalty always write thank yous — many in their own hand. We hear Oprah even has her notes custom-designed.

Email has forever changed how we write thank you notes. It’s not a bad thing. Purists shudder, but l love the immediacy of the e-medium. There is a certain charm to having bought a lunch or done a deed, and returning home to find a thoughtful email heaping with heartfelt emotion.
Today many people feel a spoken thank you will do. But believe me, darlings, nothing does it like a note. Notes say I care, you wowed me. But it’s funny that so many people who write thank you notes by rote for business, never think to send one to a friend or loved one. Notes are simple, elegant gestures at a time when “style” often vacillates between careless neglect and wretched excess — and when money and power may be mistaken for taste and manners.
Think about an email whizzing across the continent in response to precious gifts just arrived via courier, or hand-carried in an acquaintance’s suitcase from faraway loved ones; email can be charming. Digital photos and elegant fonts can elevate an electronic “note” to ascetic heights beyond a commercial greeting.
I do still adore my pens and paper. A Mont Blanc pen, emerald ink, boxes of Smythsons or Cranes correspondence cards and even a bit of sealing wax, and I am in heaven. Beautiful art cards and reproductions work for me too. It’s all about sending something fabulous — emotionally and visually.
For special occasions or holidays I like to print or affix a special photo directly to a creamy correspondence card. Our own Karin Pacione is a master of this art. Fun and easy, it makes for a very personal keepsake of the occasion or gift. You can find everything you need at and You can also check out companies such as
Thank you notes should be thoughtful, thankful, and detailed – but that doesn’t men you have to or even should pen an epic. If it’s for a just gift say why you love it. Notes for a party or a dinner should mention details that you noticed and adored.
I’m sure there is something special to say. After all, aren’t your friends and family wonderful, unique, and special? Can you ever tell them too often? I don’t think so.
The best thank you notes are written hot — in the heat of the moment. Keep your supplies ready and just do it. Send one today. You must be thankful to someone in your life! If you have children, teach them to do it too. It’s an act of elegance and authenticity in an increasingly fragile and careless world.

Bad manners bring bad karma

Becki Newton as Amanda Tanen-Sommers on Ugly Betty was a nightmare!  She had bad manners and bad karma!One of the tackiest ways of trying to curry attention is the ugly habit of bragging by complaining.  

Recently, a woman I know slightly was guilty of this. It was painful to witness. She works as a part-time receptionist, and also as a fashion journalist and blogger. She “complained” to me about her schedule for the week, and all the fashion events she “had” to attend. Soon, it became clear she was not so much bemoaning her fate as broadcasting her “glamorous life” in the world of fashion.
I understand why she is so excited to be part of industry she loves. What I don’t get is her crashing lack of manners. Obviously no one has ever taught her that it is bad form and bad luck to complain about good fortune. It was so uncomfortable to listen to her boast to her colleagues about the demands of her fashion job, that I quickly ended the conversation and left.
She is not alone with her bad manners. I still have not forgotten the young man who shocked me a few years go when he complained that his friends “were not in his snack bracket any more.” He had made this crass, bizarre, and dismissive statement within minutes of meeting him at cocktail party, in response to a query about whether he had been enjoying the summer. It had been lovely in Toronto, with plenty to do.
Complaining about parties, travelling, vacations, or wealth courts bad karma. It is also rude and foolish to assume anyone listening buys it.
Some may recognize it as the desperate attention-seeking behaviour that it is.
But others may be plugging away and longing for the very things you are moaning about. So darlings, if you have been of whining about an embarrassment of riches –knock it off.
Good manners haven’t changed. The rules you should have learned at school still apply. If people aren’t invited to the party, don’t mention it in front of them, unless it happened far away or long ago. Save your chatter about events, trips, and other goodies for your best friends, mother, or colleagues who are on the same path in life. It is fine to mention an upcoming vacation or share cute photos with casual friends, but when in doubt downplay things.
Enjoy your accomplishments and the rewards they bring. But be discreet and polite –no one likes a braggart. I felt awkward and uncomfortable as the young woman at the reception desk tried to use me as sounding board for her thinly-disguised boasts.
And beware, as I warned her, if you complain about things too often they have a way of disappearing.
Bad manners often bring bad karma.

Do you connect?

Do you really connect?Recently, I have come home to find mascara smeared under my eyes after a vigorous workout or on a particularly steamy day. I wondered why none of the several women I had spoken to mentioned it to me.  It was annoying. While my mascara is no one’s responsibility but mine, it seemed to be just another example of the lack of common courtesy and self-absorption that has become the norm.  

I often wonder whether the women who didn’t mention the mascara even saw me. It is not as if I interrupted them to converse. Often I didn’t even initiate the conversation.
I have been wondering if it is just me who was annoyed by this one-way type of exchange. Am I the only one tired of empty conversations with people who aren’t really there? I don’t think so.
Another day, a smart and up-beat woman I know had the same complaint. After speaking with people, she noticed that she had a large piece of food in her teeth. She was annoyed and mystified that no one had told her. When I floated the idea that people are just too ‘into’ themselves these days to even notice if another person is on fire – never mind react to their feelings or personal news – she didn’t disagree.
Too many people today think it is okay not to return phone calls because they are tired or stressed. To be clear darlings, we aren’t talking about humoring stalkers, naggers, or anyone you should avoid, but calls from family, friends, and colleagues. You may be busy, but who isn’t these days? And no one will put up with you setting the social agenda for long – not unless they work for you.
These same “neglectors” want their calls retuned, but they don’t seem to understand reciprocity or phone karma. And darlings, I have seen phone karma in action as the neglectors sit and wait for calls or contacts they “desperately” need or want that never happen.
I not saying that one has to leap to the phone the minute it rings. But if you don’t return friends or colleagues calls within two days on a regular basis, the relationship will suffer. And don’t count on irritated friends to tell you how disappointed they are; they may just fade away after putting up with your self-absorbed behavior for a while.
The secret to a sweet life is realizing it is a two-way street. No one worth knowing will put up with a selfish person unless they are a celebrity or the boss – and even they get dropped if they are too obnoxious. Remember, even Hugh Hefner got dumped.
Facebook often exposes those who are in love with the sound of their own voice. We have all experienced the one-way communicator who seldom reacts or comments on someone else’s photos or events. Yet, their pages shout look at me! Others react and they share things that matter to them: quotes, music, and old photos – that tells you about them too. It is a conversation and it is generous. People have their own style of communicating on Facebook, but it is easy to spot those who are in it only to get an audience.
No one likes being ignored even if it is not “cool” to say so. A hip young stylist told me recently that he didn’t think much of a young woman we both know. She ignored all of his comments on Facebook after friending him.
Many people these days are desperately trying to make connections for love or work, but they find it so hard to pay attention to others. Too many of us have become “broadcasters” as opposed to conversationalists. And common courtesy and relationships have suffered.
Some experts say there is a new breed of individual who doesn’t care about friends, family, or even having a partner. They consider themselves as celebrities, even when they are not. We used to call that being shallow and boring. In the end it often doesn’t lead to a sweet life or having anyone you can count on.
Darlings, life is too short to spend endlessly chattering or in frivolous relationships. Taking time to connect — really connect — with people makes life sweeter.

Save something

Ramona Singer, Real Housewife of New York, admits she is sometimes guilty of blurting “too much information”!How many of us now automatically “Google” anything or anyone new? These days your profile in Facebook may the first thing anyone learns about you. And first impressions last. Like it or not darlings, your Facebook page, in many ways, is your calling card to the world.  

Recently, I attended a luncheon for young women in the foster care system. The speaker, Stephanie Hunt from Swan Noir, a finishing school in New York, cautioned the girls about the dangers of Facebook and Twitter. She reminded them that, like it or not, your profile in Facebook and any information that it contains may be viewed by employers, future employers, and clients.
She advised the girls to “save something.” I love that old fashion maxim. I think of it as having mystique and common sense. It’s worth thinking about.
Facebook is just one example to be aware of when it comes to over-sharing. Why not do as Ms. Hunt suggests and keep a lock in your FB privacy settings. That way you can save your “party pictures” for close friends. Make sure your friends are on the same page when it comes to posting pictures of you.  
Ask yourself if you really want the world viewing your bikini beach photos or New Year’s Eve snaps. When it comes to Facebook, maybe it is time to define the word ‘friend’ a little more carefully before granting access to your private life.
Over-sharing doesn’t stop at Facebook. I am constantly shocked by the private information people drop into the most casual conversations.
Recently, Ramona Singer of The Real Housewives of New York felt compelled to talk about her period when Andy Cohen asked her if she had really thought she could be pregnant. This was after she had taken a pregnancy test on the show.
Ramona is fabulous looking over-50 woman who works hard to stay that way. That might explain why she told," I am having my period right now." She went on for several awkward moments about her young “genes.” A simple “yes, I did think I could have been pregnant” would have done.
But Ramona’s period talk is nothing compared to some of the “confessions” I have heard at dinner parties. Between the soup and nuts, I heard women talk about their abortions, divorces, lovers, and surgeries, as well as “very personal” subjects.  People may listen politely, but darlings they are either cringing or bored to death by the tell-all confession.
I am not suggesting anyone should be ashamed about any of these things, but why the over-sharing? None of these topics is casual dinner conversation.
I often wonder if over-sharing isn’t a desperate bid for attention. I have noticed that women who drop these bombshells like to stop the conversation and grab the floor. Do they ever wonder about being known mostly for their confessions rather than their accomplishments? I wonder. 
Some men over-share too, but they are more likely to brag about business, money, or conquests. Its equally distasteful, but less damaging if they can back it up and stay away from graphic sex talk. Women are often compelled to babble about the type of intimate details that make others uncomfortable.
Men often drop women who on the first date who feel compelled to share their deepest secrets. On Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker you can watch this happen over and over as successful men and women flee from those who tell all. One attractive young woman felt the need to talk about her past eating disorder within the first five minutes of a “mini-date.” Is it any wonder that relationship fizzled.
A friend of mine recently dated a new guy. She felt some chemistry and they had a lot in common. But a red flag went up when talk about his ambitions turned into bonuses and dollar amounts. It was too much information too soon. I had to ask, what message was he trying to send her?
Darlings, most interesting people have an element of mystery. It takes time to get to know them. It can be hard to believe in the allure of mystery, that when the Kardashians are making millions by exposing every detail of their lives for the camera. But you will notice that Kim, the star of the group is the most elusive. She edits her exposure. It’s no accident she is star. She is pretty package that people want to unwrap.
That, my darlings, is the key. Learn to be the package that people want to unwrap, Think before you speak. Learn the difference between fascinating and scandalous. Screen legend and sex symbol Sofia Loren said “sex appeal is fifty percent what you’ve got and fifty percent what people think you’ve got.” She knew the power of mystique.
Remember darlings, when in doubt – save something.

Be socially dazzling!

Be on time! Chronic lateness spells social death and you may never know why you got dropped! Be late in business and it is the kiss of death!When was the last the time you thought about manners or etiquette? Chances are unless you’ve attended a formal event or are raising small children, the subject hasn’t crossed your mind.

 Good manners are not complicated, but they do make life so much sweeter.

So here is a guide to modern manners and being socially dazzling.
Be on time
Punctuality is easy and tells people you value them. While occasional delays can happen to anyone, close family and friends will forgive you if you are hardly ever late.
As for chronic lateness, it is disrespectful. It says ‘your time is worthless – so you can wait for me.’ If you are late often, you will simply not be popular.
Tardiness for work or an interview can be the kiss of death. As the old French proverb goes, “people count up the faults of those who keep them waiting.
Say thank you
Darlings, no one owes you their time, hospitality, or a gift. So thank them. For a gift, special treat, or a job interview, write a note. You can send elegantly-composed email these days in place of a regular note.
A young friend used to pooh-pooh my suggestion that she send thank you notes for job interviews — until she tried it. She noticed that she got noticed. Lesson learned!
And what hostess, who took the time to plan a delightful dinner, doesn’t appreciate someone who took the time to send a note of thanks?
Be discreet
This is simple and not as tricky as it sounds; learn to be interesting without spilling others’ secrets, or your own. The best people, those worth knowing on every level, never respect anyone who uses malicious gossip or shares too much "to hold the floor.” Learn the difference between a good story and loose talk. No one needs to hear about your horrid ex-husband or college sexploits. The same thing goes for bragging. It’s tacky at any age. The only people who are impressed with boasts or name dropping are not worth much. Others will judge your worth based on your accomplishments and your ability to be gracious, charming, and interesting.
Be socially dazzling
Being socially dazzling means having a good command of current events, a sense of humour, and being a good listener. It doesn’t hurt to have good story with a killer punch-line either. Never tell off-colour, racial, or religious jokes.
Don’t interrupt or correct
I am stickler for the truth, but a bore ruins a good anecdote with petty corrections. When someone is having their moment in the spotlight, it doesn’t matter if they get a detail or two wrong. Let it go. Correcting them ruins their rhythm, and it is the height of bad manners. Also darlings, you might be wrong yourself. I cannot tell you the number of erroneous “corrections” I have heard in my life. I assure you, if someone is telling a good story about a celebrity or historical figure, no one cares if they get his eye colour or dog’s name wrong. Hush up and enjoy the story.
Also, if your have your own fabulous celebrity story, wait your turn. Do not chime in; it’s rude. The crowd and attention will still be there for you, so settle down.

Remember it’s a party, so keep it light and breezy
You can have a quick wit. It is good thing. People like to laugh, but try not to "cuisinart" other guests. No one likes a bitch. Don’t start nasty political or religious arguments. These days politics is incendiary! Learn to back away from overly-heated debates in a social setting with a gracious “let’s agree to disagree.” Be charming, never say “whatever,” or be abrupt or dismissive to anyone. I particularly dislike it when women try to dictate conversation by saying “enough about that now.” It’s so rude.
If you are having a personal drama, leave it at home. Send regrets if you are so consumed you can think and talk of nothing else. No hostess invests her times and money on a party for you commandeer her table with your issues.
Life is better with good manners. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ cushion any request, as does a smile. Etiquette makes life easier. It is a roadmap of accepted behaviour. Good manners make life so sweet.


Being committed is not for everyone todayI’m a bit put off by Elizabeth Gilbert

The author of the phenomenally popular Eat, Pray, and Love has been on TV, promoting the paperback edition of her sequel, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. In it, Gilbert applies literary analysis and self-reflection to the subject of marriage.

Ms. Gilbert — who has embarked on her second marriage after much soul-searching — recommends that couples write down and disclose their five worst character flaws.
What silly advice!
She told an interviewer that romance and seduction lead to marriage; you show yourself in your best light. But then the reality of marriage cannot sustain it.
 I worry about people who would rely on a list for that information. They are obviously rushing into a marriage with someone they don’t know well at all. Gilbert is not wrong that we need to know the character of the person to whom we pledge our troth. Frankly darlings, right before marriage is a little late to discover a person’s character flaws – at least for my taste.
People don’t change
The biggest mistake women, and some men, make when they fall in love is thinking a person will change. Few people do and even fewer ever change for love. Cheaters keep on cheating, spendthrifts spend, and slobs, well, you get the idea.
Many people can be little lax about their behavior in university. They may party it up or be a little sloppy. But a year or two out of school, you should have a pretty good preview of who you will be getting as a partner. If you are dating someone in their thirties or older, shut off the oven — they’re cooked.
So, if there are things about them you don’t like — stinginess, bad temper, big debts, or some other deal-breaker — move on. Odds are they won’t change. Trust me darlings, he may be fabulous fun or good looking, but if he has huge debts, is crazy jealous, or has some other fatal flaw, move on.
Men are better at spotting trouble than women. I know a lovely woman. She is accomplished and talented, but she is an emotional handful. Men sense the drama and leave her quickly, despite her good looks and charm.
But you can fine tune
I had another friend, whom I am pretty sure will always be single. She nit-picks every man she meets. She wants her ideal man to speak several languages, be brilliant and well-traveled, and have an impressive job. She is cute, but a little pudgy. She speaks several languages and has a good, but not fabulous, job. She does not find too many men who meet her standards. I could also mention the competition she faces from younger, prettier women as she has reached 40, but I don’t think that’s her real problem. Her biggest problem is one I see all the time; she can’t see possibilities. She never spots a good fixer-upper. She is so full of her own demands and sense of entitlement that she is blind to what some very nice, successful guys have to offer.
You can’t change people but you can change their clothes, their apartments, and even some of their annoying friends. Men who are good, kind, smart, and fun — but a bit scruffy — often are waiting for a good woman to spiff them up.
Getting noticed
Wise woman and single-girl maven Helen Gurley Brown talked about a woman’s total package of assets. Helen’s definition of ‘package’ included looks, personality, wealth, career, and fame. She is a practical woman. She also said it is hard to attract men who had a much better package than you. Like it or not, she wasn’t wrong. So if want a lot in mate, do as Helen Gurley Brown suggested, and increase the value of your package.
Troubles can a rise from different domestic, financial, or child-rearing styles and expectations. Deal-breakers are personal. They are things on which you just can’t and won’t compromise. It’s insane how many women try to hide their true likes and dislikes in the initial stage of relationship. It’s crazy too. If you don’t like sports – I loathe them – can’t he watch them with his friends? Why pretend to be someone you are not, to attract someone?
Deal-breakers include big- and small-ticket items. They include fidelity, finance, and children. They can also include things such as having your own bathroom or study. I need my own bathroom, it’s my sanctuary.
Make a list of your deal-breakers and keep track of any potential partner’s “deal-breakers” too. They are easy to spot, if you look.
Financial disclosure
Anyone who marries today without financial disclosure is insane. It’s that simple. A good friend, almost on the eve of her wedding, discovered that the person she was about to marry had no assets and was in serious debt, despite a good income. They are happily married today, but the spender had to surrender his credit cards to the saver — before the ceremony.
Romance and seduction
Darlings, I have been lucky to know too many people who have good marriages. It is becoming a rarity. Marriage is not for everyone, but it can be a wonderful, if you enter it knowing that no one marries a perfect person – not even the person who marries you.
I remember two newlywed diplomats in Russia. They constantly bragged about the perfection of their union. They even had the same first name; it was too cute. Soon we were all rolling our eyes as they held forth on how they conducted their “dream marriage”. They lectured us happily long-married couples on the merits of banning TV in favour of long dinners and baths together. Before they left Moscow they took to declaring they “couldn’t wait to go to Italy and have babies”. None of us were surprised to hear they had divorced – in Italy.
I think romance holds a marriage together. If you lose your sense of romance, then you have one of those marriages that people dread – dull, boring, or worse. But it requires small daily acts of romance, not the big daily show, as the doomed newlyweds had attempted. Taking time to make your home attractive, to share a cocktail and a good dinner are the things that season a relationship with romance. Love notes written after years of marriage are romantic and affirming. Flowers for no reason and taking pleasure in a shared glass of wine may be clichéd, but they are the stuff of everyday romance.
If you are looking to be “committed” for the long run, take care of the practicalities, but never my darlings, forget the romance.