Life in Washington is still as hard on romance as the Old West is said to have been on horses and women. The city has the illusion of romance and the glamour of Camelot, but in reality most Washington men would prefer to dine with a power broker rather than a beautiful woman. The outlook can seem equally bleak in our other two Shuttle cities. So many movers and shakers in New York are intent on the pursuit of money — keeping their eyes on Wall Street and their careers rather than making intimate connections. And in buttoned-up and tweedy Boston, well, perhaps the adjectives say enough. Not to mention that a cold New England snowstorm doesn’t do much to fan the flames of a budding relationship during the month of Valentine’s Day.
What’s an aspiring romantic to do? The Shuttle Sheet’s Washington editor asked America’s pre-eminent psychosexual therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, for advice. Her top suggestion: Don’t panic. “For Valentine’s Day 2003, for all three cities and all ages, take a big breath,” she says. “Take stock of your life. Times are not easy.” In her bubbling, sweet manner and in her signature German accent, Dr. Ruth shares six keys to overcoming obstacles to romance.
>1. Singles: Go on the offensive.
“Take a moment to think where you are going to be 10 years from now. Most people want to have somebody they can rely on, a significant other. If you are not in a relationship, take time to go out and actively find a person.
“Older people, and those who are divorced, go out and look for someone. Find the energy to do something. There are midlife opportunities. If you’re on the Shuttle, look around and see who’s there.”
>2. Couples: Go on the offensive.
“Those in a relationship, tell yourself how fortunate you are. Don’t take it for granted. Do something about it. I don’t mean buy a gift. Think what you could do that would really please the other person.
“You have a moment on the airplane. As you are reading this, something not connected with the advancement of your career, make it a moment of decision. Say to yourself, ‘We ought to go to that little restaurant.’ Make a reservation. [But remember that] restaurants are open late at night. You don’t have to go to the early bird dinner. Take a bubble bath, sip a glass of wine, have good sex and then go out for dinner.”
>3. Washingtonians: Skip the power trip.
“In Washington, take all of your ambitions and pressures and make a package and put it outside you bedroom door — not in the hallway to get stolen — it will be there the next day. Say to yourself, ‘Yes, there’s pressure, but look how fortunate I am to be a part of it.'”
>4. New Yorkers: Strive for balance.
“When one of the couple is very successful and satisfied with their life, it is a big test for the relationship. It’s too easy to say, ‘Rejoice in the success of your wife or husband.’ It doesn’t work. I have to find myself to be satisfied intellectually and emotionally, and then it will happen sexually. It’s important not to sabotage the relationship. If she has to go out to social functions, she has to say, ‘It’s our anniversary and I’m not going to go tonight,’ or make a plan for the next evening. We must be careful not to let things slide because of being consumed.”
>5. Bostonians: Computers off!
“Computers can be very damaging. Shut off your computer. Pretend it’s not functioning, that it has a virus. In intelligent households, either he or she sits in front of the computer until they are too tired to make love.”
>6. Everyone: Into the kitchen!
“Use your imagination. Make believe you are actually taking a bubble bath in chocolate pudding. Take two washcloths that you’ve already sewn together on three sides like a European mitt. Then wash each other and go on the kitchen floor, imagine the chocolate mousse and have good sex. Of course, make sure there are no children or in-laws at home. Yes, the kitchen floor — you haven’t made love there before have you? And if the tiled floor is too cold, put a rug under you.”