TIME Family

My Mother Died Three Months Ago and I’m Still Figuring Out How To Grieve for Her

Flowers and graves
ilbusca—Getty Images/Vetta

It's hard to get out of bed, most days. I am drowning in her

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

This has been, to date, the most difficult essay I’ve ever written. Usually, I can bang one out in a day or two. A week, even. But writing about the death of my mother has been a series of stops and starts, deletions and revisions. How do you write about something that feels as if it happened yesterday and not three months ago? How do you distill grief and heartache in a few paragraphs?

It’s hard to get out of bed, most days. There’s a heaviness in the air, and it’s hard to breathe. Sometimes the grief paralyzes me. I’ll lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, silently willing myself to get up and start the day.

“Mommy, I wanna see grandma.” The toddler always makes this demand casually, usually as I’m picking him up from school or fixing him dinner. Sometimes he’ll ask looking up from his tablet while watching one of his favorite shows. Three months later and I still can’t find the words to tell him she’s gone for good. “We can’t see her right now,” I’ll say, knowing that in a few minutes he’ll forget he asked.

For two months, I’ve been staring at a cardboard box. It is roughly 5×7, and it’s blue. It contains what is left of the woman who taught me everything from tying my shoes to picking greens. Her last name is misspelled on the side. The blue box sits on a shelf in my bedroom, amid books and clothes. Boxes filled with her personal effects crowd the hallway of my apartment. Furniture from her oversized studio take up my dining room. Pictures from her photo albums are strewn across a table in the living room, the same table where I ate dinner until I went away to college. The “Thank You” cards I bought a week after her memorial are in a bag on my desk, untouched.

Every morning I’m greeted by these reminders, and I summon the strength to navigate around them. I will occasionally glance at the blown-up picture of her, perched on a barstool wearing a black dress and a demure smile. It’s tucked in the corner of my living room, near the window. I replay our last conversations while I’m working on an assignment, or look at the blue box as I’m brushing my teeth.

I am drowning in her.

Last month, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law, my husband bought me a copy of Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters. Edelman, a mother-loss survivor herself, interviewed hundreds of other women who had lost their mothers at various points in their lives. While the book is geared towards women whose mothers died when they were young, it has helped me a great deal. I no longer try to suffocate Grief with a pillow, or stab it with a fork; I hold on tight and ride the wave until the tide settles, until the calm returns. This isn’t a process, Edelman says, but a life-altering event.

“Expecting grief to run a quick, predictable course leads us to over-pathologize the process, making us think of grief as something that, with proper treatment, can and should be fixed. As a result, we begin to view normal responses as indicators of serious distress,” Edelman writes. “The woman who cries every Christmas when she thinks of her mother—is she really a woman who can’t let go of the past, or just a woman who continues to miss her mother’s warmth and cheer at holiday time?”

One of the last hospital visits, days before she passed in mid-June, taunts me. We’re sitting on the couch and it seems like she’s back to her old self. I am brimming with hope. I’m telling her of the plan to move her into our apartment, to take care of her the way she took care of grandma years ago. She’s excited at the prospect of living with her grandson, of us being under the same roof again. I wondered if I could handle caring for her and a four year-old boy. I had support, but those people had lives and responsibilities of their own. If she fell while my husband was at work, I’d have to find a way to pick her up. I’d be responsible for her diet, her health, her overall well-being. The enormity of what lay ahead frightened me, but this is what I wanted, for her to live out the last years of her life surrounded by love and family, not in a place I no longer trusted. In the Nicholas Sparks’ version of her last days, she quietly slips away as she sits in her favorite chair, catching a final view of the lakefront from our highrise as she goes.

She asked me to stay a little longer. I couldn’t. An appointment to enroll her grandson in Pre-K had been scheduled for weeks. I remember the feeling of relief I had as I left her room, the feeling that everything was going to be okay. Three days later I’d be standing over her body, clasping her hand as the warmth evaporated from her body, as blood spilled from her nose. The third attempt to revive her after another cardiac arrest had done the most damage. In my head, I’d had years to prepare for that moment, years of hospital visits and grave diagnoses. But no amount of preparation will ever soften the blow.

Even as I watched my mother’s health deteriorate in recent years, I still held fast to a glimmer of hope that somehow, someway things would turn around. Maybe she’d get bitten by a radioactive spider, regain full mobility, and take up crime-fighting. It didn’t hit me until hours before she passed, as I sat in the hospital chapel after visiting her, that she was literally in the process of dying. But that’s how denial works. Though it’s taken some time to accept, I realize now that she left when she was ready, and that I knew my mother well enough to know that when she was ready to go, there was nothing you could do to stop her.

Edelman says that most motherless daughters my age process the loss differently than our younger counterparts because we’re able to confront it with a relatively intact personality and more mature coping skills than a teen or a child. “Losing a parent at this time violates fewer assumptions she has about her future,” she explains. “A motherless woman continues to renegotiate her relationship with her mother throughout her life, changing her perceptions and trying to fnd a place for each new image as it develops.”

In my case, my mother’s death has forced to reexamine choices made and opportunities given. That she died in my 37th year, the same age she gave birth to me, is not lost on me. It signifies rebirth. Renewal. A chance to accomplish the things she wanted for me, all the hopes and dreams she’d share throughout the course of my life. It is her legacy that I carry with me wherever I go, and I am grateful that I was loved by such a remarkable woman.

Jamie Nesbitt Golden is a journalist originally from Chicago.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

Why Dating Someone Younger Shouldn’t Be a Big Deal

holding-hands
Getty Images

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

One of my friends only dates much younger dudes and it’s not a good look for her. She always end up in super casual relationships where neither of them seem to take it very seriously, but I know she wants to have a family one day. I get that everyone has “a type” but I care about her and don’t want her to keep wasting her time on these scrubs. Should I say something?

Natalie Ruge, Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist

If your friend seems to truly be enjoying her casual relationships and is okay when they don’t last very long, then sounds like it’s more your problem than her problem. A younger man may feel like more of a challenge, give her a sense of control, or just be a better match for her — sexually or otherwise. Some women enjoy being assertive with a younger man, making the first move, and confidently telling him what she likes and doesn’t like. And, if that’s the case, then more power to her! The world needs more people who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it, regardless of social norms or peer pressure. It could even be said that the older woman-younger man pairing results in a more equal power dynamic, and research shows that mutual respect and high regard is a strong indicator of a long-term, successful relationship.

(MORE: The Worst Questions Women Get When Online Dating)

I believe that your concern comes from a good place, but it does sound a little bit judgmental. Are these men “scrubs” just because they’re younger, or not in the kind of careers that you consider successful? And, why do you assume that she can’t have a family with someone younger than her? Maybe settling down with an age-appropriate finance type sounds like a death sentence to her. Just because you’re friends and have things in common doesn’t mean you have the same romantic interests. And, that’s a good thing — at least you’ll never fight over an S.O., which is never a good look.

(MORE: Dating 101: The New Rules)

On the other hand, if you’re just curious and want to know her better, there’s no reason why you can’t start a non-judgmental, but honest, conversation about what you want in a committed partner and then ask her what she wants in hers. However you handle it, just remember that for the most part, unsolicited opinions are rarely received well. No matter how nicely you say it, the message will be that you know what’s better for her than she does. If the guys she’s dating treat her like an adult that’s fully capable of making her own choices (and it seems like they are), you should too. Unless a friend is hurting herself or someone else, it’s best to live and let live.

There’s a difference between concern and control, so unless the issue is somehow affecting you directly, or if she seems unhappy about said partners, keep your opinions to yourself and enjoy your friend’s scandalous cougar tales. Maybe she’ll even convince you to give it a go yourself — have fun!

(MORE: Why I Dated a Guy Who Hated My Body)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 8

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Quotas can cause lasting change. Rwanda’s new parliament is more than 60% female.

By Eleanor Whitehead in This Is Africa

2. With open communication and smart procedures, we can contain Ebola.

By Atul Gawande in The New Yorker

3. A simple plan to begin saving for college at kindergarten helps families thrive.

By Andrea Levere in the New York Times

4. Teach For America is sewing seeds for education reform in unlikely places – by design.

By Jackie Mader in Next City

5. How Bitcoin could save journalism and the arts.

By Walter Isaacson in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

15 Guys Explain Why They Date Women Over 30

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Tom Merton—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Here's why older is better in some men's eyes

We’ve all heard the sobering statistics: given a choice, straight men of all ages would rather date women in their twenties. Women, on the other hand, prefer guys closer to their own age. In September, a study of 12,000 Finns reaffirmed what prior research had already established.

But there’s something fishy about all that data. If dudes were really so set on their caveman-era mating habits, wouldn’t we see more single ladies over 30 home knitting tea cozies on Friday nights? (Then again, just because a guy wants to date a younger girl, doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to date him!)

As a woman over 30, I decided to try to get to the bottom of this conundrum by asking a series of straight, unmarried men in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s to find out why some actually prefer to date “older” women. Turns out, there’s lots to love about women of a certain age.

Men in their 20s date women over 30 because:

“They understand better how to interact in a relationship.”
— José Fernández, 24 (single)

“I appreciate the grace and expression of slightly older women. Certain facial features, like smile lines, can be charming.”
— Niv, 25 (single)

“They know what they want. There is more of an end game. So if you meet their criteria, they’re good.”
— Billy, 27 (has a girlfriend)

“I think women in their 30s are in their prime. Sexual maturity, the way that they carry themselves — for me something about it screams woman.”
— Alex Sanza, 28 (single)

“They are more stable.”
— Solomon, 29 (just started seeing someone over 30)

While men in their 30s say:

“Generally more expert at the multisensory/theatrical aspects of the whole dance.”
— Anonymous, 30 (single)

“Much better sex”
— Anonymous, 32 (actively dating)

“When I was in my 20s, I was drawn to older women because it gave me a certain level of confidence because she was established. She’s not as needy.”
­— Peter Bailey, 34 (“not married”)

“More nurturing.”
— Percy Baldonado, 38 (single)

Men in their 40s add:

“Women over 30 have stopped putting metal through their lips and tongues which makes it easier to kiss them. And they’ve figured out their makeup routine so they won’t keep you waiting as long when you’re trying to get to an event.”
— Anonymous, 49 (seeing someone)

“Age has never really played a role in who I date … I have dated my own age, younger than me, and older. What it comes down to is, I like this girl, she’s cute, and I’d like to see her again.”
— Chris Dinneen, 41 (in a relationship)

“I always liked somewhat older women for their maturity, self confidence and poise, finding those qualities quite attractive and usually absent in younger girls.”
— Daren, 45 (in a long-term relationship)

And men in their 50s prefer women over 30 because:

“We have similar life experiences and similar pop culture references. It’s a little more comfortable.”
— David, 50 (seeing someone, not exclusive)

“Given that I’m 52, I can’t really relate to dating someone in her 20s — too much of an age difference.”
— Patrick, 52 (single)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 7

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Learning from our mistakes: Global response to the current Ebola crisis should improve our handling of the next outbreak.

By Lena H. Sun, Brady Dennis, Lenny Bernstein, Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post

2. A blueprint for reopening the tech industry to women: be deliberate, build a new pipeline that is openly focused on women, and attack the archetype of tech success.

By Ann Friedman in Matter

3. We need to change what’s taught in business schools and the narrative about business success that dominates boardrooms.

By Judy Samuelson in the Ford Forum

4. A health system that learns from its experience through data analysis can change medicine.

By Veronique Greenwood in the New York Times Magazine

5. A long overdue move to align our international development with climate reality could trigger sweeping policy changes around the world.

By Charles Cadwell and Mark Goldberg in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrity

Aziz Ansari Explains Why He’s a Feminist and Why We Don’t Need to Be Scared of That Word

With a metaphor about Beyoncé and Jay Z to help make his point

According to Aziz Ansari, most people are feminists — whether or not they actively call themselves that — because most people believe men and women should have equal rights. The comedian discussed this theory with David Letterman on The Late Show last night after explaining that his chef girlfriend is a “big feminist” and has turned him into one too. Here’s the thing, though: he doesn’t give some big, dramatic speech about feminism. To Ansari, being a feminist just seems like a no-brainer.

“If you look up feminist in the dictionary, it just means someone who believes men and women have equal rights,” he says, after asking fellow feminists in the audience for a round of applause. “But I think the reason people don’t clap is that the word is so weirdly used in our culture. Now, people think feminist means, like, some woman is gonna start yelling at them.”

He continues to add his signature humor to the topic, which is clearly important to him. “I feel like if you do believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re a feminist, you have to say yes, because that is how words work,” he quips, adding a metaphor about a doctor who treats diseases of the skin but deems the word dermatologist “too aggressive.”

Then he throws in another metaphor about Jay Z and Beyoncé and basically this whole speech is perfect and it makes us feel like this.

 

TIME society

Subway Thinks You’re Too Fat for Your Halloween Costume

Woman wearing Halloween mask
Steffen Thalemann—Getty Images

Subway has built up an entire empire around shaming people into losing weight

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

October is upon us. If you can battle your way through the riptide of pink and back to shore, you may have noticed a large social preoccupation with costumes, and considerable discussion thereof. There’s the explosion of cultural appropriation that happens every Halloween, the endless debate over whether women are or aren’t allowed to wear skimpy/slutty/skanky costumes, the subsequent argument about whether fat women are allowed to wear them, and…oh, right.

The on-point marketing crew at Subway know how to sell a soggy, limp, tasteless sandwich on cardboard with a few slices of American cheese between leaves of wilted lettuce: By appealing to our universal cultural fear of being fat. In fact, “The Subway Diet” has become such a ubiquitous part of our culture (thanks, Jared Fogle) that the company has successfully convinced people that eating Subway sandwiches is totally a good way to get (and stay) slim, despite the fact that, actually, for calorie counters, its sandwiches may not necessarily be any better than the much-maligned Big Mac.

Now that summer is over and Subway can no longer market to people terrified at the prospect of not having a bikini body, they’re having to search further afield, and they landed upon a brilliant ploy: Convincing women that “costume season” is upon us and that their bodies are far too disgusting to be sandwiched into a skimpy costume. (Apparently they all put the weight they lost during bikini season back on during the intervening two months.)

The company did so with this charming ad:

It features three coworkers sitting at a table, two women and a man. One of the women exclaims: “You’re eating burgers?!” in shock and horror, and when the man looks skeptical, she explains that it’s COSTUME SEASON, don’t you know? She then proceeds to model a series of classic “attractive nurse,” “sexy devil,” “sexy viking princess warrior,” etc etc costumes, reminding the viewer that it’s critical to lose weight so she’ll fit in them properly.

There are a number of things that bother me about this ad. The first, obviously, is the constant cultural imperative to lose weight; do this, or you will be gross and unwanted. I dislike that Subway has built up an entire empire around shaming people into losing weight and promoting its products as a way to do this, though I have to admire the effectiveness of the marketing strategy nonetheless.

I am, of course, also bothered by this whole “costume season” thing and the idea that women (because the ad is very clearly aimed at women, not people in general) should lose weight in order to look their best at Halloween — that they wouldn’t be sexually appealing without being their thinnest. It’s just another iteration of the bikini season and one wonders how much mission creep we’re going to endure. What’s next, sweaterdress season?

It pisses me off to see an ad advancing not just the idea that women need to lose weight for Halloween, but that fat women in costumes are not okay. It’s another reminder that fatness is not welcome or acceptable in the public sphere, that fat women have an obligation to cover and hide their bodies lest they offend people. A fat women in a “skimpy” costume might have visible fat rolls or muffintop or bulges or other unsightly, unpleasant things, and as such, she needs to lose weight if she wants to don that kind of costume.

There’s also a deeper whiff of sexism here, a kind of underlying judgement about “slutty” costumes that reminds women they’re effectively screwed either way. You should lose weight so you can wear a sexy costume, but if you do, you’re a slut — and no one wants to be a slut. But, on the other hand, if you wear something that covers more of your body, you’re a prude (or, you know, a fat person sparing the world from Mt. Adipose). This ad is taking place within the context of a larger cultural conversation that shames women for wearing revealing costumes at Halloween, and thus, it leans on that conversation a lot.

If you’re going to be a slut, at least be a thin slut.

Notably, Subway has since taken the ad down, but the Internet never forgets (as evidenced above). Once you run an ad like this, it goes viral, spreading across the Internet to a variety of sometimes surprising locations. I expected to see it turning up on Jezebel, where Kara Brown rightly skewered it, but I was surprised to see it turn up on Consumerist, which is not normally where I go to find discussions about sexism (though chronicling badvertising is a long tradition on the site).

So congratulations, Subway. You managed to piss off a broad swath of the Internet with your gross, fatphobic, sexist, misogynistic ad. Thanks for reminding me that a) You exist and b) You are terrible.

S.E. Smith is a writer, agitator and commentator based in Northern California.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

Campus Sexual Assault: What Ever Happened to Common Sense?

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

Parents, don't let your daughters grow up to think they have no agency

According to much of the media, there is an “epidemic” of sexual assault, including rape, on our college campuses. The problem is apparently so bad that California recently passed a “yes means yes” law that requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” on campus, and President Obama announced a new national initiative to put a stop to it. Not to mention the countless rallies, awareness sessions, YouTube videos, and so-called SlutWalks aimed at telling men to keep their parts in their pants and their paws to themselves unless otherwise directed.

There’s been an ocean of ink spilled on this subject, most of it falling into two camps: the first reasons that no matter what language or set of rules colleges and universities adopt in an effort to curb sexual assault, most cases of alleged abuse comes down to “he said, she said.” This camp also tends to assume that, in any given case, the male party will be found guilty by default, fairly or not. The second set of voices points to a culture of male dominance — one that all too often leaves young victims of sexual assault without recourse to justice (especially on campuses where certain members of the student body, especially prized athletes, aren’t held accountable for their crimes), such that action from the top needs to be taken immediately to stop the assaults.

Both sides of the debate have validity. However, what neither seems to recognize is that much of the time, young women have agency. There are of course exceptions — the football player who pushes a girl into a closet and rapes her, the drunken frat boy who doesn’t stop at “no,” the ex-boyfriend who, allowed into the confines of his ex-girlfriend’s dorm room, forces himself on her. Even so — at least in my view — women are not, and certainly don’t need to be, helpless victims of a misogynistic endgame.

This is the point at which I think the debate has gone powerfully stupid. Where, in all this spillage of verbiage and amping-up of anger and outrage, is female agency, the ability of young women to make their own fates and claim their own power? What’s feminist about teaching our daughters that, as victims of a sexist culture, there’s no use in taking control of their own bodies, not only in terms of using birth control, but also when it comes to drinking, dressing, and representing themselves? What’s pro-female about ignoring the reality of non-verbal communication, of nuance and gesture and expression?

I have a personal interest in all this because of my own undergraduate twins and their older brother. My oldest son’s freshman year roommate had a different girl in the room with him every night — a major source of misery for my son — and was eventually booted off campus after being charged with sexual assault. My younger son, currently at a college in Massachusetts where frat life is minimal, claims that campus assault is a real problem, and anyone who thinks otherwise is being willfully ignorant. And yet my daughter, in South Carolina — where Greek life dominates — says that she has never known anyone, or of anyone, who has been assaulted. “But if you get completely wasted at some frat party,” she said, “and you wake up naked with some guy next to you, you might not even remember what happened.”

Yup: that’s college all right. If memory serves, college is a time when that heady brew of youthful idiocy, curiosity, and horniness is likely to result in at least one misadventure between the sheets. Just add copious amounts of alcohol or drugs and, voila, a potentially potent brew of disinhibition, peer pressure, confusion, desire, and even memory loss (with alcoholic blackout). Thus my own memories, garnered both from my own and my friends’ experiences, of trying it on, acting it out, experimenting, bowing to peer expectations, having a one-night-stand, disregarding the inner voice that’s telling you to get out of there, indulging in a quickie and waking up with a morning-after hangover of regret and perhaps shame? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. But assault? Not so much.

Not that sexual assault is something to take lightly. In my view, sexual assault is a crime and needs to be treated as such, period, end of story, no matter how scantily clad, or wasted, the victim. But if there is in fact an explosion of sexual assault on campus, why now, after decades of feminist consciousness raising and “take back the night” marches?

My daughter-in-law thinks that in fact there isn’t an uptick of sexual assault on campus, just a greater willingness to report it. Perhaps. But that equation leaves out the cultural swings toward even greater confusion (and instant gratification) that her generation was raised on, as compared to my own desperately confused generation. Because at least in my own desperately confused generation — during which the “three date rule” stipulated that you owed it to the guy to sleep with him after three dates — we had grown up with parents who, more often than not, themselves grew up with notions of what was then called virtue: i.e., good girls and good boys waited (or at least didn’t spread it around).

Compare that to today’s college students, whose parents grew up with easy access to birth control and may themselves never have figured out that the anything-goes culture of our own youths was less than ideal.

What keeps coming up for me is the old song “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” except in my version, it’s “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Stupid,” with additional lyrics, including a refrain, that exhort fathers to accord their daughters both love and respect and teach their sons that real masculinity lies in restraint.

Take back the night? I’m all for it. But while all the conferences are being held and the marchers are marching, it wouldn’t hurt to stop ignoring the complexity of human interaction, the birds and the bees, and the remarkable power of alcohol to make otherwise intelligent people stupid. Young people who find themselves in sexually confusing situations might want to emulate their grandparents and resort to common sense. And if, God forbid, they are victimized, they need to report it immediately, and get help.

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

Subway Wants Women to Stay Skinny So They Can Wear Sexy Halloween Costumes

This new ad reminds you that it's never time to stop dieting

You thought it was over. You thought it was finally safe to sit down at lunch and eat one, just one, burger. Subway wants you to know that YOU THOUGHT WRONG.

Thank your lucky thigh gap the sandwich chain, which recent research asserts is just as unhealthy as McDonald’s, is here to remind you that it’s your moral obligation to stay skinny. Because “bikini season may be over” — that’s an actual quote from the company’s YouTube page — “but there’s more reasons right around the corner to stay fit.”

Namely: To wear skimpy Halloween costumes. Cue a video montage set to the tune of waiting room music where an excessively perky woman models an array of sexy costumes.

Except, Subway clearly isn’t allowed to say sexy. Rather, it’s a “hot devil” (too literal), “sassy teacher” (literally smacking a ruler against her hand), “foxy fullback” (please, let’s get into how women feel about the NFL right now), and our personal favorite, “attractive nurse.”

Luckily for Subway, there’s an emerging sexy (albeit bizarre) Christmas costume market, so that they can keep their “it’s never ok to break a diet” campaign going.

Your skinny coworker lunch buddy will be watching you!

TIME Opinion

New Adam Levine Video Confuses Violence and Love

RAINN released a statement slamming the stalker-fantasy music video

Updated October 2, 2:00 pm E.T.

In the new Maroon 5 video, ‘Animals,’ Adam Levine plays a hairnet-wearing, meat-hugging, blood-drenched stalker of his real-life wife, model Behati Prinsloo. But don’t worry ladies, he’s still totally sexy! Take a look:

Wait, the whole stalker thing doesn’t do it for you? You’re not into a guy who hugs a blood-drenched cow carcass while he imagines having sex with you? Well, you’re not alone. RAINN thinks it’s horrible too.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network slammed the video Wednesday for “trivializing” stalking, warning that it could romanticize dangerous behaviors. “Maroon 5’s video for ‘Animals’ is a dangerous depiction of a stalker’s fantasy — and no one should ever confuse the criminal act of stalking with romance,” RAINN VP of Communications Katherine Hull Fliflet said in a statement. “The trivialization of these serious crimes, like stalking, should have no place in the entertainment industry.”

Mixing stalking with romantic pursuit is exactly the problem, and the fact that the girl in question is played by Levine’s real-life wife makes that line even blurrier. Levine and Prinsloo only married in July, which makes the whole bloody-murder-fantasy seem like a perverted newlywed game. And because there’s a real relationship underneath all the fake blood, the video risks making stalking seem like a legitimate or even attractive version of normal courtship behavior.

This isn’t the first time Levine has used violence to talk about love– Maroon 5’s 2010 video ‘Misery‘ featured Levine getting beaten up by a girl in a sort of love-dance. But ‘Animals’ takes that violence to a whole new level.

It’s disturbing to see Levine glamorized in this video as some kind of hopeless romantic, because all his psychopathic behaviors are recast as attractive qualities. Is he supposed to seem tortured and artistic because he has hundreds pictures of this girl that he developed himself in his dark room? Maybe we should think he’s adventurous, because he sneaks into her house to take pictures of her while she sleeps. We can see that he’s fit, because he does all those pull-ups in his meat-hanging room. Plus, he can cook!

Take, for example, the part where Adam Levine stands outside Prinsloo’s window watching her through his psychopath-glasses. There are tons of examples of lovelorn men standing outside a window to signal their devotion– it’s a romantic staple that’s so common it’s become a corny trope. Think of John Cusack in Say Anything, James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues, Freddy Eynesford Hill in My Fair Lady, Romeo in the balcony scene. But in this video, that’s a violent act, not a romantic one– because Levine has a camera and a meat locker full of bloody carcasses.

But that blurry line is exactly why Levine’s creepy obsession could be easily misinterpreted as adoration. How many impressionable girls are thinking, “I wish Adam Levine loved me enough to break into my house and take pictures of me while I sleep! Why isn’t anyone following me into nightclubs and refusing to back off?” The fact that he was crowned Sexiest Man Alive last year doesn’t help, because even when he’s trying to look creepy, there’s an element of self-conscious hotness.

Adam Levine rolling around in blood and pretending to be a murderous stalker is scary enough. But casting his real-life-wife as his target suggests that this kind of stalkerdom has some place in healthy relationships, like violence is the underside of love. And coming off the summer of domestic violence stories, that’s the last thing anyone needs to see.

 

 

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