Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Birthday Boys: A Gift To Fans and the Comedy World

The Birthday Boys IFC

I’ve got a new love, and yes, my husband knows about it, and no, it isn’t a new man…not exactly…it’s seven of them, who together are the comedy troupe, The Birthday Boys: Mike Hanford, Matt Kowalick, Jefferson Dutton, Tim Kalpakis, Chris VanArtsdalen, Mike Mitchell, and Dave Ferguson. And executive producer of their sketch comedy show of the same name, Bob Odenkirk, most recently known as Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad.

Bob Odenkirk

Bob Odenkirk

In 2007, The Birthday Boys, who were all staging monthly sketch shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, officially combined their talents as a group. They’ve performed at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, as well as several other festivals. A variety of live shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco were the result of recently collaborating with Odenkirk. Together, the group has acquired writing credits for IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! and the MTV Movie Awards, and have been involved with projects for Comedy Central, Fox, and Funny or Die. In addition, shows such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, Childrens Hospital, Conan, NTSF:SD:SUV:: and Portlandia have featured appearances by group members. Their most crowd-pleasing online work includes the videos “Ham Hat” and “Pooljumpers.” (source: The Birthday Boys IFC page)

When I decided to write about The Birthday Boys this week, and began to pull some research together, I kept wondering how the comedy troupe arrived at the name The Birthday Boys. Surely, I thought, someone else had wondered this, too. That I would eventually stumble upon that nugget of information. I didn’t. Dare I attempt to reach them via the wonders of social networking? Would they continue their pattern of awesomeness by responding? Or would they be aloof and ignore my inquiry?

Well, they (or someone who works for them) wrote brief, but friendly correspondence back. Of course. What else?

Now, in my scouring of the Internet, I had also come across mention of a novel called The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge, but immediately dismissed any connection to our charming IFC Birthday Boys. We all know the Internet can sometimes seem to have a sense of humor with the occasional presentation of red herrings. Alas! The response I received was mainly a mention of said novel, which according to Amazon.com, published in 1995, the English, award-winning Ms. Bainbridge had created a fictionalized account set in 1912 of Captain Scott, the leader of a “doomed” expedition to Antarctica and one of the five Birthday Boys (the other four being his team members). This tale of “misguided courage and human endurance” is narrated by each of The Birthday Boys, but the hint that not one of these men are “reliable reporters” is revealed as the story unfolds. Possessing a “cocky optimism” that is “both ghastly and dangerous,” the five “lunatic, amateur and gentlemanly” gentlemen  though brave, find themselves in a fatal situation.

“Ominous stuff, huh?” ended the email. Indeed, but certainly not the awaiting fate for these Birthday Boys. (Later, a follow-up email read: “As far as the lore of the name, it changes with the wind! But glad this intrigues you…” Ha! Ok, not sure if they were messing with me or not, but I like the Bainbridge explanation.)

One version --out of a handful-- of the cover of The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge

One version –out of a handful– of the cover of The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge

Ok, I’ll just admit it outright: I’ve got a crush on Kalpakis. I mean, seriously. Look at the photo below and tell me that isn’t one of  the most charming smiles you’ve ever seen. I’ll wait while you scroll down…Oh, you can’t say his smile isn’t charming? That’s because I’m correct.

Tim Kalpakis

Tim Kalpakis

But that’s not why I was drawn to and have been watching the new IFC sketch comedy every Friday since the pilot on October 18th (even though it is the best 30 minutes of my week!). It is because of my general love of comedy, and my respect for Odenkirk, love of his work and fandom of him ever since his Breaking Bad role (which, yes, I am still mourning over the conclusion of the series, as many of the other fans have been). Coming to understand, appreciate, and adore the genius of The Birthday Boys has just been a pleasant bonus.

The Birthday Boys specialize in satirical comedy and commentary, both of which they do well and intelligently; most of which I agree with and have thought about myself. Two examples of my favorite sketches, which display my previous statement incidentally both feature Kalpakis, my favorite Birthday Boy.  The first example of this is the sketch, “Catching Up On Shows,” where, as variety.com TV reporter AJ Marechal noted, the guys detail “the kind of trauma that can result from cleaning out your DVR each weekend.” It begins with Kalpakis leaving behind a week of work and walking home, all the while turning down dates from pretty ladies and invites out with his buddies to…you got it, go catch up on shows. In his attempt to do this, Kalpakis ends up “with a bloodied, bandaged thumb” and a meltdown that leads to his exclamation: “‘There are too many shows!'” Definitely a sketch that elicits chuckles and commiseration.

In the second example, Kalpakis plays a drummer named Skip Dickey in “Keepin’ the Beat,” who even though is in the background of a music video with his band, Ghosts and Harvests, does what I have always felt drummers are either really trying to do, or fantasize about doing —  grabs the full attention of the camera and does so in a very cutesy, playful way. Not only that, but in spite of the somewhat emo track that is being performed, “Struggling Hearts,” Dickey’s solo cutout is upbeat and cheerful. Even though I have watched this sketch at least half a dozen times, I can’t seem to tire of it, hence the inclusion of it here (oh, you’re welcome!):  

One other favorite moment of mine thus far, has been when Ben Stiller — who, with Odenkirk created previous scintillating sketch shows in the 1990s, such as The Ben Stiller Show — guest starred in episode 4: Rock and Roll. Oh, yeah. Stiller is also an executive producer. (source: Dan Snierson of Entertainment Weekly). Of this connection, Matt Zoller Seitz of vulture.com says: “… the troupe takes its structural cues from Monty Python’s Flying Circus rather than Saturday Night Live — by which I mean the sketches aren’t neat and self-contained, with easily delineated beginnings, middles, and ends. One bit will just sort of bleed into another, and you’re not always entirely sure where one ended and another picked up.” But, this is part of the fun, as it gives the parts of their audience that are already loyal a sense of being in on things, and a ready understanding of just what exactly is going on.

Even though the first season is only comprised of 10 episodes, two weeks remain, and when it comes to The Birthday Boys, that is far better than no weeks! (Where have they been all my life? How did I ever enjoy television without them?) This week is the premiere of the eighth episode, entitled All Your Favorites Are Back, where The Birthday Boys find themselves sidelined in a green room after being booked as part of a comedy event where the line-up is endless. That straight-forward description is directly from their page on IFC, but I know without question that hilarity will ensue.

The last time I had such fond feelings for a sketch show was during the early 1990s back in high school when Canadian-produced Kids In The Hall was still on air …wait, hang tight. Deon Cole’s Blackbox, which aired for six weeks this summer on TBS from June 10th forward, also entertained me highly. Of course, his was of a different format — comedy news talk show, as classified by IMDb, but for me, solid comedy is solid comedy. (I personally think Mr. Cole would fit in just fine with the IFC family…has anyone else had this thought?…Just sayin’…)

The Birthday Boys are on Fridays at 10:30 on IFC (as well as whenever the network does additional airing of episodes), or catch up on this show (see what I did there?..It’s a Birthday Boys reference..) here: http://www.ifc.com/full-episodes/the-birthday-boys. You can also download a majority of Season 1 from amazon.com, iTunes, or Xbox for your viewing pleasure.

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The Positive-Negative Compass

Imagine a compass. Now, instead of four points indicating north, south, east, west, picture only two marking positive and negative. Let’s say you carry this compass around in your pocket. If you were to take it out and look at it right now, which way would it point?

positive-negative compass

Over the last year, as I’ve consciously pushed myself to become an even more positive person, I’ve found myself subconsciously imagining this and inquiring with myself on my direction. Unfortunately, my trend has been that when I think to ask myself this, it’s because I’m feeling kind of cruddy and somehow already know which way the compass will be pointing: negative.

But when this realization occurs, I stare it down, no matter how uncomfortable it can be, and vow to realign with the positive. It takes longer than I’d like at times, but I get there. Just like I ever got there at all. Time, constant reminder, constant willingness to change.

After growing up in a generally toxic, negative environment, it took me years to realize that life could be happy, that people could be better, that I was much more than I believed and definitely than what I was tolerating others in their labeling of myself. The person that I used to be cared much more than she should have about what people thought of her — and usually, it was over people who didn’t even deserve my thinking of them in the first place! And so, if I gained awareness that someone was speaking ill of me, regardless of if the person knew me at all or not, and regardless of if what had been said was truth, fiction, or a twist up of the two, anxiety would kick in full force over what else this person might say, and further, if anyone was listening to them and had believed them.

With life experience though, comes knowledge, strength, and calm. The person that I am now has put the past so very much in its place — behind me (which was extremely challenging, and I have to work to keep it in the rear view) — that if someone were to treat me like a topic of gossip as opposed to a person, I’d have no reaction because like Lorde says (and if I may change the context of the words), I’m not “caught up in your love affair.” My meaning is, things said about me, especially speculation or lies, have nothing to do with me. Instead, they are a reflection of the person who’s mouth has gaped open, a spotlight on the issues that might exist within. And it seems to me that the best and easiest way to show that you’ll not be tangled in or associated with a person or a subject is by saying nothing at all and keeping on with your life as you were.

Besides, my take is that when this happens, it sure makes it easier to weed out who to know versus who isn’t worth the time, because those of us that truly are grown-ups don’t have an excess of time to waste getting into word wars with others who have merely progressed in age.

The help of some good souls sprinkled throughout my life assisted in a majority of the crappy, indecent individuals falling away. Unfortunately, in that process, I also lost some of the good souls. The ones I retain in my life…and in all the ways that they have helped me to become the version of myself that I am now…they are invaluable. I sometimes wonder if they know who they are, and how grateful I am to them for bringing out the best in me, for changing me for better forever.

At the inception of this blog, back in June, I had a running theme weaved into most — if not all — of my post titles, navigation. There were two thoughts behind this: 1) my love of all things nautical and 2) that life is simply a continuous navigational journey for everyone. And because life is this way — always a work in progress — I’ve come to believe all the way down to my bones that you need to stay positive. It’s worth it. Can’t do that? You’re not to blame and you’re not alone. You’re human. Each of us have good and bad thrown in our paths on a daily average. Just redirect and return to being positive. Always.

It’s easy to say, and even easier to do with patience and practice. Patience while you wait to honestly arrive at happiness. Practice in choosing to be happy. And really, when someone says that they choose happiness everyday, I feel that what they are really saying pertains to perspective. Certainly, when I’m in a negative mood or frame of mind, I often literally say to myself: You’ve got to change your perspective.

But perspective is just one element that contributes to whether or not a person feels, lives, conveys all that is positive. I rely heavily on my vices — healthy ones — with comedy and laughter as the one I lean on most. My sources for this are many: Ellen DeGeneres and her weekly talk show, and Conan O’Brien and his weekly broadcast, with side banter involving another favorite funny man, Andy Richter, as well as other funny people and their funny shows: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Rob Lowe, and Aziz Ansari, of Parks and Rec; Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar, of The Big Bang Theory; Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, and Alyson Hannigan, of How I Met Your Mother; Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet, Ed O’Neill, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, of Modern Family; Sean Hayes  and Thomas Lennon, of Sean Saves the World; Will Arnett and Jayma Mays, of The Millers; Andy Samberg, of Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Bob Odenkirk and The Birthday Boys, of The Birthday Boys; Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts, of Comedy Bang! Bang!… and the list goes on. I love to laugh. In turn, I love comediennes.

Exercise and general physical activity is something else that I depend upon to help keep or bring back a positive approach. It’s not just about making the outside look better. Speaking from my personal struggles not only with negativity, but with depression as well, ever since I got serious about working out almost four years ago following the birth of my daughter, the long-term pro to developing a habit — heck, a need — to exercise has facilitated my ability to cope with life more naturally then I would be without it. And even though I am still an extremely sensitive person who gets sad at a rate that would seem to come out of nowhere to others, (I sometimes even get emotional while working out) movement is what our bodies are made for and movement is what makes us feel better, especially when we need it most. I find that sometimes just a brisk walk around my neighborhood is enough to clear my head and set me back on the right track to positive. And the impromptu dance parties that my daughter and I occasionally have serve as a positive boost in several ways themselves: a fun moment with my girl, a bonus in calories used and an instant mood elevator.

In my quest for positivity I have found that basic nutrients make me feel better and more positive — like physical activity does — than eating foods that are not as close as possible to their original form. Certainly, if I find myself eating an apple later in the day then I’d like, I can forgive myself, worry about it less, and not feel as awful as I would if I found myself eating a bowl of ice cream at the same late hour. Refined sugars, over processing, sodium. These are some of the things that I feel not only take a physical toll on health of the body, but also bring down a person’s spirit, which in turn causes trouble for someone who is striving to become more positive.

Sleep, one of my favorite activities, becomes a commodity once you’ve entered parenthood. But this is another one of those simple health moves we’ve all heard about — make sure to get your rest — that I feel is true. To me, sleep is a reset button of sorts. I love sleep for all the obvious reasons that anyone does, but also because  while in slumber and unconscious, some positivity can be attained on the compass, and in the most effortless way. There have been times that I’m worrying so much about some situation or problem..whatever…that it all turns to negativity. Negative thoughts. Negative responses. All negative. There have been nights that I’ve had to just send myself to bed and sleep it off, like a bad hangover. 

Another way that I influence my imaginary compass to point back to positive is through creativity. It’s amazing what clarity lies behind everything else in your head, what ideas…and how they are uncovered through the process of making something. This is part of why I got into creating my own greeting cards. Even though I haven’t been at it as long as other card crafters, it provides a sense of peace after I’ve worked on one, and a sense of accomplishment once one is entirely complete. It gives my mind either a break from whatever else is going on in my thoughts or allows me to think about life and all its concerns in another way. Normally, if when I sit down to spend time crafting a card and I am not in the best frame of mind, I definitely come away from it thinking happier thoughts.

Maybe this post is helpful to someone. That is certainly my hope. Maybe you’re out there, desiring to be more positive, but just don’t know how. Start small. If not with what I do to turn myself around, then with some thing else that makes sense for you and in your life. It certainly takes time to be fully aware of your own negative nature, especially if you’re completely engulfed in it, like I was. Or maybe the opposite — you’re a naturally positive person, trying to understand why people are ever negative in the first place. Might you have additional suggestions on how anyone can change their own thinking in order to either achieve or reclaim the positive? Feel free to share them below in the comments area of the page.

“There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative”. ~W. Clement Stone

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Can Creativity Be Taught? Can It Be Bought?

I love art. I love its universal nature. I love its timelessness. I love that it can be interpreted differently from person to person, depending on perspective. I love the unending mediums that can be used to create art, as well as the also limitless forms of art. I love that it doesn’t have rules, and when there are instances that others claim that there are rules, they can be broken. You can still express yourself naturally, organically. Still execute your art your way, even while drawing inspiration from others.

Art class seems to be an oxymoron.

What I mean is, is it really something that can be taught? To be an artist? To be creative? Isn’t that all just inherent? Something already an element of a particular soul?

Further, can creativity be bought? What true price does it deserve?

Not knowing what my answers truly were, I decided to take a few art classes at my local art center, since it had been awhile since I had. And even though just a few classes don’t make me any kind of authority and are not definitive sources for answering my questions, a sampling still helps one make up the mind about which way the thoughts at least lean.

I spent the evening of Thursday, October 3rd taking a 2.5-hour art class called Tooltime for Scrapbooking, taught by LizAnne Ramos, a teacher and Stampin’ Up representative and all-around nice woman, who seems to be around my age.  I was one of three students. The other two women were older than myself, but also pleasant, and the four of us ladies had a fairly low-key and cozy time, for having just met.

I think that getting to see someone else’s creative process on anything is always interesting and worth whatever amount of time is spent doing so. Specifically, my art is crafts with a focus lately on card-making. Ms. Ramos has been making cards for an unnamed but obviously long enough set of years, and is advanced to the point of owning and often using the larger, expensive tools that are available, such as the Cricut she demonstrated, which does die-cuts. Now, I feel all the more part of the crafting world for having been shown a bit of the fancier equipment, and I already knew that some people make their own die-cuts because they prefer it.

But I am used to the other way around — buying die-cuts (usually on clearance) then working around what I’ve got. For me, for now, that’s perfectly viable until I feel acclimated further to the point of then purchasing a die-cut machine. And, not to knock anyone, but I feel that working with what you’ve got takes creativity all on its own.

She also seems to spend more on ribbon than I do. While I agree that it is supremely useful in crafts, especially card-making, I feel the truly best ribbon is recycled (that goes for all crafting really) — much of my ribbon inventory is still leftover from my bridal shower more than 7 years ago. Keeping a positive frame of mind, I said to myself: I don’t have to spend a lot to be creative. I don’t have to do things exactly the way she or anyone does to still enjoy classes, crafting, to still make neat cards myself. There is always more than one way to do anything. My approach is still fine. Regardless, I did enjoy Ms. Ramos’ class and the tidbits I learned from her.

My friend, Stefanie and I attended a 3-hour class called Ink Paper Scissors on Sunday, October 13th at a small craft supply store called The Queen’s Ink in Savage, MD. The woman who owns the store instructs the classes. It seems like a very functional business model to me.

Close to a dozen students were taught — or refreshed on — a handful of techniques including embossing (I love the results!), blending, dyeing ribbon to match a project, as well as how different a stamped image can appear on various types of paper.

Since this instructor was very particular, she wanted everyone to follow her directions to an exact, which is fine, but at some moments seemed to slow down comprehension for me and the process itself. I understood though, why she might have operated this way, and appreciated that what she was trying to do was educate, not just make pretty (no)things.

The class was overall a pleasant experience, aside from one woman and her two teen daughters (or possibly her nieces) who asked endless questions, while referencing previous classes they took with the instructor, creating a sense of alienation for anyone who did not attend those classes. The reason this began to really bother me was that it felt like they were trying to monopolize instruction time, which took opportunity away from the rest of us to ask questions. In any case…

This class, like the one ten days previous, provided a little take-home package of all the materials we used. In some ways, this one was better, had more to it. I’m looking forward to signing up for more classes at The Queen’s Ink.

Then on Monday, October 21st, I took another class with LizAnne Ramos, Intro to Papercrafting, also 2.5 hours long. With only one other student in the class — a woman who also took the Tooltime class– things truly felt friendly and the three of us had plenty of time to enjoy crafting two cards. Ms. Ramos talked more about Stampin’ Up, mostly because I had inquiries. I hadn’t much previous knowledge of Stampin’ Up, and was weighing the possibility of becoming a representative myself. (Ultimately, I decided against it.)

The two cards we made are really cute, and I’ll be using them, but it sort of bothers me that they are not my designs.

At home, I had two occasions very recently where I was faced with learning from mistake and oversight. I call both Creativity as Problem-Solving (and I wouldn’t rule out scenarios of this type in my crafting in the future, being a fallible human and all). Incidentally, they occurred on simultaneous, back-to-back days.

The first was on Sunday, November 3rd, when while organizing my materials, and deciding on the spur of the moment to try to glue down a detail that came loose on a birthday card for someone I’ve known for her entire life, I was too quick and impatient with a glue that I don’t use often, and (re-)learned an invaluable lesson: Don’t Rush When It Comes To Your Art!

The tube of glue — a brand I won’t buy again because its packaging is an unreliable wild card — would not release the glue, so I squeezed a few times, trying to get it out when — OHHH GOD! –I broke my own heart as tons of the clear, yet potentially destructive substance deposited all over the front of the card! Ironically, the piece that needed more adhesive now has enough to hold a few other pieces down with it. Now, true creativity had to come into play. With no other sheet of paper like the one I used for the main body of the card, I had to figure out a solution to fix it. And I didn’t feel like starting over anyhow. I ended up doing the only thing I could think of, the only suggestion my husband had, and probably the same thing other crafters have had to do — mask the glue stain with additional embellishments matching ones that I had already used. That worked as I have finally finished the card (it took some time for a full vision to form). If I didn’t just sit here and tell you about it, you would have never known.

The next day, Monday, November 4th, I realized that even though my 7th wedding anniversary had been at the forefront of my mind, especially because I had been working on the post about it, that some of you may have read last week, I hadn’t been thinking of it in the terms that I normally would have been: I’d like to get my husband a card. I’m a card person, as in I like to give them and I like to get them. (And of course, I really enjoy making them.)

It finally occurred to me late in the a.m. that day — the day before our anniversary — that I didn’t get or make him a card. I felt seriously remiss. I decided to use the card-making skills that I have been honing lately, and hustle a card together. I aimed for it to only take an hour; it took three. That’s a lot of time when you already have so many things in your day that you are driving to get accomplished, as well as your child to care for. But because I normally take 4 – 6 different sittings to fully create a card, I was in full scurry. I forced myself to push my skills further in this shorter time frame…all in the name of marking my wedding anniversary. And even though it isn’t my version of perfect, it came out well, and my husband really appreciated it.

So, back to my original questioning, in my opinion, there is both a yes and no answer to whether creativity can be taught — following directions is simply that, following directions. Not being creative. In that vein, it can not be taught. Learning and retaining a new technique though, goes a little beyond just executing steps. Newly acquired techniques can be used in a myriad of ways, and prove invaluable to any kind of artist. To me, that is creativity derived from education.

Creativity can be bought. I feel this is a simple, cut and dry answer. But passing it off as your own is cheating, and cheapens the artists’ work. Not only that, unleashing your own creativity is much more fulfilling than having in your possession a pretty thing that came from someone else’s soul. You’re not going to have the same connection to it as you would if it came from you.

“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.” ~Edward de Bono

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Seven-Year Itch? I’m not itchy…. Or Our Seventh Wedding Anniversary

Today, my husband and I mark our seventh wedding anniversary, which is also by sheer coincidence, Guy Fawkes Day for any fellow Anglophiles. (When I realized this during the planning process in 2006, I was pretty tickled, researched it further to have a better working knowledge of it, had a hoodie made with part of the famous “Remember, Remember the 5th of November” poem printed on it that I wore the morning of the wedding as an easy-off after hair and makeup, and just generally distracted myself with it as a way to forget I was stressed out at the time.) As its approach gained momentum over the last few weeks, I rolled that thought around in my mind, the simultaneous long and short of my marriage thus far (which feels longer due to being together for 8 years previous to being wed), until it occurred to me why I was thinking about the number so much: the Seven-Year Itch.

We’ve all heard that term. Seven-Year Itch. There was even a movie made about it in 1955 starring Marilyn Monroe, that I’ve never seen. Maybe I am meant to see it this year? But, what does that really mean, to have the Seven-Year Itch? I’ve never given it real consideration, as this is the first time in my life that it would ever possibly apply to me. And if it means what I think it does — gasp — are either myself or my hubby experiencing or exhibiting it?

Or, am I being silly even asking myself this? After all, for the various ways that he and I have already changed as individuals and as a unit in a quick seven years, what remains consistent — and should through time ahead — is that our relationship has always had a foundation built on friendship, respect, understanding, trust, and love. Even though I possess plenty of confidence in our relationship — especially knowing that parenthood has not been the first time we were presented with challenges — I like and prefer to educate myself on anything that I am not certain I understand…and I just get curious. So, onward with some information.

According to Wikipedia,  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_seven-year_itch) the phrase originated in 1845, and even though it initially correlated with a lengthy and uncomfortable situation — contagious skin outbreaks of herpes and/or scabies — it later came to be known as “an expression of imagined appropriate punishment for antisocial behavior or simile in the difficulties of receiving relief.”  Further meaning came with the film, The Seven Year Itch, indicating infidelity in marriage. In psychology, the term implies a drop in marital bliss after seven years. In 1955, North American marriages were reported to average seven years, according to statistics.

Expansion in the definition eventually included “cycles of dissatisfaction” with many other aspects of life such as life itself, other relationships, and employment.

“Statistics show that there is a low risk of separation during the first months of marriage. [Unless you’re a celebrity. But, something tells me public figures weren’t included in this study.] After those ‘honeymoon’ months divorce rates start to increase. Most married couples experience a gradual decline in the quality of their marriage, in recent years around the fourth year of marriage. Around the seventh year, tensions have risen to a point that couples either divorce or adapt to their partner.” I am not sure which part of that last sentence is saddest. While I don’t feel that divorce is the answer for everyone, putting up with someone that you’ve grown apart from, who makes you miserable and possibly vice versa seems devoid of hope and lacking in options, as well.

Because love is physical and derives from the brain — as opposed to being ruled by the heart and emotions — sex, lust, romance, attachment, hormones, and physical responses are controlled by the grey matter, as well, even though they can be confused with connection.

I like and respect science, but I’m also a bit of a romantic, too. My rational side can see how overpowering the entire process can be (which is more fully explained in the article that I pulled the information from), but my humanity feels that there is more to all of it than this. Beyond the physical, love is also great memories, how your other half treats you and makes you feel about yourself, and the binding force of these as well as other attributes that keep a relationship from falling apart.

Even so, chemicals “create the perception of an intimate attachment” and “the brain does change over time.” Researchers have presented the idea that the brain itself goes through a seven-year cycle, and that the chemicals coincide with it. As these chemicals collide with changes in the brain, jealousy, depression, and anger become possible results of the seven-year itch process. While this process begins, the body desires the effects of dopamine that early on in a relationship trigger emotional response and “control the pleasure centers of the brain.” The article claims that this also leads to a new partner, which while I believe has been true in some instances, I know is not an absolute. After all, here we are, with no plans to go separate ways.

Ever since Ms. Monroe’s role in 1955’s Seven Year Itch as an object of fantasy, made so by a married man in her new neighborhood, who remains behind for his job while his family goes off on summer vacation, the topic garnered media confabulation, and the film gained the status as the most frequent reference to the topic.

The notion of the seven-year itch sparked a strong fascination on the heels of the film’s release — whose married character ultimately attempts seducing the new lady on the block (Monroe), but when “things go awry” and he worries that his wife will realize his temptation to commit adultery, decides not to act upon his thoughts — and in turn, couples created a mainstream practice of mutually consenting to terminate their marriage upon the seventh year.

“A famous example of this is a Bavarian politician who has been divorced twice. He essentially suggests that a marriage last only seven years and then at that point it would expire. If one would like their marriage to continue, they would simply renew their vows and continue on for another seven years.” I have an idea. We could just be grown-ups, ignore the ridiculousness of what the Bavarian presented, and actually take responsibility for the promises originally made at the alter.

“In our society, women are now starting to have children outside of marriage and are becoming more economically independent. That means that what is keeping people together is love and commitment which is very fragile.”

Commitment. That, to me, is the difference between marriages that last beyond the first seven years — or any length of time for that matter — and the element required to outfox the science of the brain. While I see nothing wrong with women having children on their own as it shows strength, I can’t concur with the usage of changes in the brain as a reason for something that is supposed to be sacred to simply end.

I think it is worth noting again that the seven-year itch once only had a literal meaning, having to do with a skin malady lying dormant before flaring up and causing havoc for the unfortunate person. To give real credence to the concept that it evolved into is to steal away true logic, and to mark all marriages off as doomed at the start. That comes across as counterintuitive  to me.

In conclusion, to answer my own question posed at the top (are either myself or my hubby experiencing or exhibiting the seven-year itch?): neither one of us currently has an irritating skin outbreak; in spite of what changes have occurred and how from time to time we both have small quirks in our personalities that often madden the other, there has not been such a drop in our caring for each other that divorce would be anywhere in either of our minds; and speaking for myself, I am dissatisfied with other aspects of life, but nothing that has direct influence on or comes from my marriage. We’re still growing together. Our love is passed the physical, and has refined a bit into something more concrete and reliable. The brain has nothing to do with it, because the heart is in control.

Happy Anniversary to my husband…Happy Anniversary to us!

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