Don’t Slap Your In-Laws, Text A Friend

NOTE: This does not apply exclusively to in-laws, in-laws just sounds catchier in a headline than plain old family or houseguests. Also, this is not about anyone in particular and is more about how I manage my personal flaws than anything else.

I am an overly sensitive, moody, introvert and if you’ve read Earl Grey—Black, you know that my home is my haven, my sanctuary. Although I love my family and friends, I have to mentally prepare for their visits days before they arrive because if I don’t, having these kind, loving people over for an extended period of time will feel more like an invasion than an opportunity to spend quality time together. This may have a lot to do with the fact that we live in an apartment, not a house and don’t have the luxury some homeowners do of a guest suite that includes a bedroom, bathroom and sometimes even a kitchenette. Instead, what we have is a spare room/library/playroom and an air mattress. As much as I may prepare myself mentally for visits, I can still find it emotionally draining and stressful, especially towards the end of a visit and that is usually when I make the most of text venting.

Don’t slap your in-law, text a friend or text venting, is my version of not sweating the small stuff when we have houseguests. I love my people, even if they squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle and have left the bathroom not swaddled in the towel I so carefully laid out for them but in my bath towel. While in my head, I scream, in reality, I take a deep breath. I try to remember that I’m only in the throws of anxiety and these are not infractions worthy of a slap across the face or throat chop.

I want my guests to feel welcomed and at home in our home so when they leave the bathroom floor wet, fail to wash their dishes thoroughly or throw away items that can clearly be recycled, I dry the floor, I re-wash the dishes and I pull that plastic take-out container out of the garbage and do it with a smile dammit! And when my guests, precious little lambs of Jesus that they are, are out exploring the City or deep into another thrilling episode of Matlock, I text a friend or two, documenting every single infraction. Why? Because I am judgmental by nature and when I’m put under the stress of having houseguests, I am even more so; text-venting helps.
I try not to vent to my husband. He’s right there in the trenches with me and there is no need for me to add to the already very complex dynamic of friendship and extended familial relations with gripes about who didn’t put the top back onto the milk immediately after using it and just left it open while they ate their cereal allowing God knows what to fall into the carton. Wait, I was trying to make another point…. Oh yes, so, unless there is a real issue, we give each other knowing nods and grimaces and keep it moving until the visit is done.

The perfect ventee is an impartial listener who gives not one whit about the situation or the people involved. I pick a close, non-judgmental friend, let them know I will be text venting my petty frustrations and when the time comes I let it out. Seeing it all spelled out in a little dialogue text bubble confirms that I am indeed being petty and nit picking but the thing is, if I’m going to smile and nod and be the best host I can be, I need to let it out, regardless of how small I’m being in the moment. It’s either that or losing my shit in the middle of a five-hour shopping excursion to the Ladies’ Mile, and no one wants that.

In text-venting I can get over my petty self more quickly and may not even press send or if I’m really feeling some kind of way about a situation, I get the immediate gratification of an “Are you serious?!” reply from my friend to which I can respond, guilt-free and smugly, “Right?! I’m not crazy! Who does that?!”, and then get back to some serious quality time uninterrupted by the sound of my teeth grinding together. I’m much more pleasant to be around when I text-vent, and for the days that they stay with us, our houseguests are hopefully happy too.

On Finding A Muffin

Once I receive emails from you lovely people, Kettle Talk will look a little something like this:


Dear Kettle Talk,

I would like nothing better than to tell you my how we met story but lately, my love life has been one disappointment  after another. Do you have any tips or advice?




Dear Disappointed,

I am sorry you’ve been experiencing disappointment in your love life. Finding the right person to be in a relationship with can be challenging, to say the least. Without knowing the details of your disappointment, I can only give you general advice. I hope you find it useful because I would like nothing better than to read your how we met story!

Before I met my husband, whom I lovingly nicknamed Muffin, I took my time at the metaphorical dating buffet table. I sampled a variety of dishes before deciding I wanted to settle on only one. I have long forgotten where I heard about it but some self-help guru or another suggested that making a list of the things one wants in a life partner was helpful in finding one. I decided to give it a try and made a detailed list of what I was looking for in a relationship and it was very helpful. I wrote down things like, he must love a variety of genres of music (my Muffin plays the guitar and was a DJ), be intelligent, able to relate to all kinds of people and have nice feet. The have nice feet thing wasn’t a deal breaker but I wanted to be as specific as possible because I do believe that you get what you ask for. As luck would have it, my Muffin has great feet.

The process of making a list forced me to focus on what was really important to me and what I wanted in a relationship. I also found that the process made me more mindful and open to relationship possibilities.


Before you get to list making, a good question to ask yourself is, why? Why do you want to be in a committed relationship? It may seem like an absurd question but it will help you hone in on what you desire and what you expect in a relationship and sometimes what you desire and what you expect are diametrically opposed to each other. If they are, are you certain that being in a committed relationship is what you really want?

Who Are You?

Once you have your whys sorted out, to cover all your bases, you may want to consider making two lists—one of who you are and one of what you want. For the first list, Who Are You?, make a list of your characteristics and also ask your most trusted friends and family for their input. Have friends brainstorm words and phrases that spring to mind when they think of you. Pay special attention to those things that come up repeatedly from different people. If you are going to date online, this will also give you quality fodder for creating a screen name, headline and the body of your profile. It will also give you insight into how others’ perceive you which is always helpful. Be honest with yourself. Do not include things you wish were true about yourself. You want to attract someone that will be interested in who you are right now, not who you wish you were or who you think you will be. If you present “fantasy” or “future” you to the world (online and in reality), it is likely that you and your prospective date will both end up disappointed and possibly resentful of each other if the relationship progresses beyond dating.

What Do You Want?

For the second list, What Do You Want?, make a list of the qualities you are looking for in a date or life partner and why. For those looking for a casual date, their list will be rather short. For example, age 21-31, must love to hula hoop because hula hooping is fun. But you, Disappointed, are looking for a committed relationship so your list should be as specific as possible. You may notice that you have been so specific and restrictive in your expectations of the perfect mate that no one could possibly fit all of your criteria. Re-read your list, edit, dig down to what is really and truly important to you. Include ALL deal breakers and dissect why they are deal breakers. Think back to past relationships. What worked and didn’t work for you in those relationships? Keep all aspects of a relationship in mind. How important is appearance to you? Do you care if he/she pays bills on time? Chews with an open mouth? Only visits the dentist once every ten years? Be specific about the things that are most important to you. If you are a dancer and write on your list that your true love must love to dance too, ask yourself, is it more important to you that she be a good dancer or that she dance with all of her heart?

After digging through your wants, desires, expectations, examining and clarifying them, hopefully you come away with a clear of what you want and giving you the confidence to quickly shift through want you don’t want and recognize your muffin when you find her/him.

Now get back out there, Disappointed. Pay attention, do not ignore your list of deal breakers and enjoy the journey!

In need of relationship advice? Click here.

Harpo, Who Dis Woman?

This woman is not Sofia but, I like to think that in an alternate universe, we are bosom friends — my calm demeanor balancing out her fiery one, her fists saving me from the bad habit my mouth has of writing checks my a** can’t cash. In the reality of this universe, I am Lydia of Brooklyn and merely a fan of The Color Purple and Anne of Green Gables and this is my blog, The Kettle Is On.

The inspiration behind The Kettle Is On is my love of two things—a good cup of tea, preferably Earl Grey, and my love of life stories, specifically, how we met stories. How we met stories are my favorite life stories, right up there with birthing stories. No matter how ordinary the tale may be, hearing a couple tell their how we met story always gets me in the feels and I reflexively awww every single time because, a how we met story is the beginning and beginnings fill me with hope and warm fuzzies. I met my husband on an online dating site. I know a couple that met on a movie set. They locked eyes across the make-up trailer and BAM! love at first sight. I know of another couple that met when they got into a car accident with each other, yeah, go ahead, awwww! I know! It’s like the Fates were trying to make them happen by any means necessary. AND I know of at least two couples that were high school sweethearts and are still very much in love and happy after more than twenty years together! Are you not filled with hope and warm fuzzies?!

These awww inducing relationships and those with our siblings, in-laws, co-workers and favorite baristas, are all fascinating and what make life interesting but once you pass the blissful how we met phase, relationships can become very tricky; fraught with misunderstandings and less than amiable human behavior. It is when things get tricky that you feel the need to put the kettle on for a cup of tea, talk it out and perhaps get some good advice. Enter, me, Lydia, tea enthusiast and lover of stories of human entanglement. I’m not Oprah, I don’t know anything for sure, but I’ll share my experiences with you and if you want my advice, I will gladly share that with you as well.

My How We Met Story
The roots of my how we met story can be traced back to a dear friend from college that I will call Snipes. One of my favorite forms of procrastination back in the day was visiting chat rooms. Snipes did not get the point of chat rooms but she encouraged me to say outrageous things in them to see how people would react and teased that I would meet my husband on the Internet. In the years after graduation, Snipes did her best to make sure that this came true by insisting that I create online dating profiles. It was through one of these sites that I received an email from my future husband on New Year’s Eve 2001. At the time, he was visiting his family in Iceland for Christmas and New Year and I had just come back to NYC from visiting my family in Texas. We emailed back and forth for a couple of weeks and in that short span of time I began to feel giddy at the sight of his screen name in my inbox. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about with any great detail. It was the usual getting to know you chit chat mixed with what I did today exchanges. I have them saved somewhere in a format that, most likely, only an ancient operating system can decipher.

I was nervous and excited when we decided to meet for dinner on a very cold January day. I know, you’re thinking first meeting with a guy you met online should NOT be dinner and I would agree. I have no excuse to offer other than it felt right, like this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I decided on the place, the now sadly closed, Chat ‘N Chew on E 16th Street. We met on the corner of E 16th Street in Union Square in front of Coffee Shop. He was tall and strikingly handsome. I was (and still am) small and geeky but to hear him tell it I was beautiful (awww! This is what you look for in a muffin folks!). My only memories of our dinner are that we discovered that we are both vegetarians and that he, with his naturally stoic face (also known as resting viking face), gives nothing of his inner thoughts away. I liked his email persona and found that I also liked him in person but, I couldn’t tell if he liked me or not. I prepared myself for his polite good-bye after dinner after which he would never call or email again. To my surprise, he didn’t say good-bye but suggested we go somewhere else afterward for coffee, for him, and tea for me. I’m pretty sure I rambled quite a bit between tea sips and I remember seeing what seemed like hundreds of cabs streaming down (3rd?) avenue outside, all with ads for the Broadway show Urine Town in their light boxes. Afterward we walked downtown and talked—again, about what I have no idea—but I do remember that it was bitterly cold and my shoelaces kept coming untied. He joked that maybe I didn’t actually know how to tie my shoes. We stopped walking at the West 4th Street subway station. He invited me to a joint birthday party he and one of his roommates were throwing at his place in Williamsburg. At the time, I was an uptown Manhattan girl and saw Brooklyn as a wilderness to be visited only rarely and where streets had names, not numbers, and thus was barely navigable. It is a testimony to the power of love that I said yes without hesitation.

Earl Grey—Black
I am not a morning person. When my alarm goes off in the morning, the tinkling sounds of crystal emanating from my phone do not inspire me to leap out of bed ready to tackle the day but instead make me snuggle deeper into bed. I convince myself that I don’t really need to take a shower and so can spend another fifteen, even thirty minutes in bed. One of the few things that make getting out of my warm and cozy bed worthwhile is the prospect of drinking a hot cup of Earl Grey tea—no milk, no sugar—black. I feel downright giddy as I fill our orange kettle with water, push the red button on the handle and hear the hiss of the rapidly heating water. When that boiling hot water hits those tea leaves releasing the steamy, bergamotty (it’s a word to me!) aroma—bliss! I’m sighing right now just thinking about it!

I place the tea on the kitchen table, I sit, I cup my hands around the warm mug and despite the madness of the world outside, in that moment, absolutely nothing is wrong. Tea is my haven within a haven, my primary haven being my apartment. [Sidebar: One of my other havens is Korean dramas, which I highly recommend if you are ever in need of escapist, melodramatic, occasionally 1950s rom-com style fabulousness.] Most of life’s problems can be put into sharp focus and calmly dissected over a cup of tea.

We humans can be both phenomenally fantastic and colossal assholes and when we interact, especially within families and as couples, it can be intense and overwhelming. To be clear, I’m not expert on anything but I’m fairly rational and an avid, some would say keen, observer of human behavior. Whatever your relationship issue or problem, tell me all about it. The kettle is on.

I’ll pour a cup of Earl Grey and get back to you with my two cents but consider yourself warned, I give my advice the way I take my tea, without sugar or cream.