A New York State of Mind

The Big Apple is a feast for the senses

By Dr. Pepper Schwartz May 14, 2024

New York sunset and the Statue of Liberty

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

I love the Northwest, but there’s no place like New York City. Recently, I was there for some meetings. As I walked from one neighborhood to another, taking in the intellectual stimulation and people-watching, I understood the importance of adopting a New York State of Mind, at least occasionally. Let me explain.

To begin, all the senses are aroused. Most storefronts confront you with intriguing possibilities. Along my walk to lunch, I passed a children’s bookstore and got lost browsing in it for a while. I noticed the clothing stores — none of them franchises. I didn’t dare go in any, but admired the pricey outfi ts. Every half hour or so, I would pass a small museum. My favorite was the photography museum, where I couldn’t resist buying a poster.

Second, there’s the architecture: a mix of buildings, each one interesting to scan from bottom to top. Some have helicopter pads. The 18th-century buildings have exquisite and ornate detail. Skyscrapers boldly change shape halfway up. I imagined the penthouses at the top, a place only true titans of business can afford.

Third, infectious enthusiasm is evident on every street. High volumes of people walk together energetically, sharing snippets of conversation. Their confidence shows in the way they cross the street. Not one person waits for a “walk” signal. This is a town of extreme chutzpah, where the walkers own the streets.

Fourth, the people themselves are fabulous entertainment. Every race, ethnicity, age, class, and fashion — not to mention the full spectrum of mental health — is represented. My favorite was the stereotypical East Side matron, pushing a dual carriage with trickedout 3-year-old twins. Both had designer haircuts and elegantly tailored suits, ties, and Brooks Brothers shirts. You don’t see this in Seattle.

Fifth, the intensity of places to eat: bagel shops, fruit and vegetable markets, and streets filled with sidewalk tables. Italian, Greek, Japanese, Armenian, French — restaurants not too much bigger than their doorways, each with their own boosters in the neighborhood. The only thing that stopped me from multiple drop-ins was the fact I was heading to a business lunch.

So why am I sharing this with you? Because you should go. As one of the few great cities in the world, New York is reasonably accessible to us. The experience wakes us up. It broadens our perspective and creates ideas. Yes, there are a lot of problems like potholes, poverty, and politics. But New York will make you feel as though you’ve plugged into a socket and new energy is coursing through you. Your mind will go into hyper-speed. You’ll feel expansive, creative, and grateful for the new experiences. All this, just by walking across town.

Q: I love my husband. He is a good man, and we have an OK sex life. So that’s the problem — it’s just an OK sex life. My husband will not do anything fancy, and by that, I mean oral sex. He just doesn’t like it and won’t do it. But I miss it. I was married before him and that was a great part of our sex life, and it made it easier for me to have an orgasm. How do I get him to get over his distaste for something I like so much?

A: My first question to you: Did he ever do oral sex? With anyone else or early in the relationship? If he did, there might be a hygiene issue. Even married people sometimes don’t give each other accurate information on why they do or don’t like a specifi c sexual act. Perhaps you have a bacterial infection or do not get nicely washed up before sex — it could make a difference. So that’s at least worth looking into, even if it could be an awkward discussion.

If that’s not the issue, and if he has never liked oral sex or practiced it with you (or practiced it infrequently), you have then acquiesced to the lack of oral sex in the relationship. Making it a big deal now might genuinely upset him. Thus, you have two choices: Live without something you really miss (because you have already done so for quite awhile) or get the two of you to sexual therapy, specifi cally one that has getaway weeks or weekends where you can get support to reinvent your sex life.

These getaway therapies really can change habits. It’s hard to change them otherwise. But there are some great therapists who do them, and if you write to the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists, they can tell you who is licensed in your area and what avenues of research could help you find the therapeutic situation. Of course, this requires that you and your husband would be enthusiastic about this kind of experience, and you could afford it, so there are a lot of “ifs.” But if oral sex is very important to you, then it’s at least worth considering some therapeutic intervention, which would require meaningful discussion and some guided experimentation.

Q: I need some help. My husband is very impulsive, and I don’t know what to do about it. He thinks I am a grouch and overly cautious, but he has gotten us into financial trouble. Examples: He bought a huge TV without us discussing it. We already had a big TV. He bought round-trip nonrefundable tickets for a trip that I cannot go on because of a business function. He bought our children an iguana that neither of them wanted. What to do?

A: Impulsiveness can be a very hard habit to break. Some literature suggests it can have a genetic component. That said, it can be very dangerous both financially and physically, so while I am going to give you some advice, I think you might want to think about some therapy — perhaps starting as couples therapy (because he thinks it’s your problem and you need a third party to convince him that he has an issue that is not just a result of a difference in your temperaments).

Basically, most very impulsive people are nervous and have recurring anxiety. Buying something expensive or jumping at some chance that might not really be the right opportunity (either at that time, or ever) is soothing to them. It gives a sense of power and, oddly enough, control. Once it rewards a pleasure center in the brain (the same immediate way chocolate or a sexual climax can do), the impulsive moment tugs at the person because they yearn for repeating that “high.”

There is major reluctance to change because the thrill is so rewarding. Even if there is buyer’s remorse or some other negative consequence (like your reactions, for example), the impulsive person doesn’t want to forgo that excitement and momentary rewards.

You can talk about it with him and see if there is some middle ground. For example, when he gets excited about buying something or going somewhere, agree to meet and talk about it, promise to not always be a “downer,” and see if there’s a way to accommodate his desires. He might be willing to do that, and that could help a lot. Or agree that impulse purchases have an expenditure lid, and that you both agree to stick to that limit.

Start there, but if there is no way he can modify his impulsive pattern, then some couples counseling, and ultimately, some individual counseling for him, really needs to happen if anything is to change.


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