Autumn Phillips: Significant advice

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On this Valentine's Day weekend, I would like to discuss a love malady specific to ski towns. No, this is not about the ratio. Or the Peter Pan syndrome.

This is something that can tear apart the most solid of relationships in an afternoon. The malady of which I speak: the boyfriend/girlfriend ski lesson.

Consider my own case:

It was Sunday. The "packed powder" conditions felt more like 164 trails of solid ice. (Wow. Wasn't Tuesday nice?) Instead of torturing myself with another day of East Coast skiing, I decided to focus on my bumps technique.

My male companion and I were standing at the top of Surprise. At this moment, we had been having fun all day -- talking on the chair lift, enjoying the runs as much as we could. We were on our way off the mountain with smiles on our faces, when I made that one mistake. I told him that I wanted to get better at the bumps.

Like any good boyfriend, who just happens to be three times the skier that I am from almost a decade of living in a ski town, he started giving me tips.

He showed me what I was doing wrong with my pole placement, with my skis, with my body. He said, "Watch me." And he headed down the hill exaggerating his movements so I could learn.

I did not hate him yet.

I did not hate him until after I finished the run, and he started correcting what I had done. The anger started rising up in me, and I could not control it. This is what I wanted -- to get better. I wanted this advice. But for some reason, you just can't take advice from a significant other. Not ski advice.

We went down one more bump run. He was waiting at the bottom, and I shouted, "Don't watch me!" I was becoming a child.

And when we turned onto a cat track, he skied up next to me and showed me how I could practice what I had just learned while I was skiing on a groomer.

On any other day, at any other hour, this guy is the love of my life. But on that cat track, I was imagining boy kabobs on my ski pole.

It's a matter of power.

Within every relationship, even if the man is a sensitive New Age man, and the woman is a yoga-loving, Goddess-worshipping vegan, there is an unspoken power struggle. It's the nature of compromise, and compromise is the cornerstone of any relationship.

I've seen it with all my friends when their husbands or boyfriends give them ski or snowboard advice. Their jaws clench a little. Their faces flush. They smile the "don't you see how much danger you are in right now if you don't shut up" smile.

Two days later, O happy day that it was, I headed down the same Surprise on my own. I kept my poles in front of me. I moved from the hips and not from the shoulders. I used all the advice that I'd been given, and I was a thousand times better on the bumps, thanks to the ski lesson that had made me feel so angry not long before.

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