Category Archives: Relationships

He (almost) had me at chrysanthemums.

The thing about being a superstitious person is that when a year ends in 13, you immediately feel uneasy. The entire year has the potential to be a calamity, and so you resolve to do the only thing a quasi-intellectual can do– combat irrationality with reason. In other words, you identify the components in your life you are most fearful of, and employ logic (rather than emotion) to assuage those fears.

For example, you fear the sanitation engineer of 2012 was the closest you may have come to finding your one true love. After all, he loved vanilla, The Wire, and chrysanthemums– three of your favorite things– and he still didn’t quite pan out the way you had hoped.

Now, in the darkest part of the night, when this fear seems more reality than irrational fleeting  thought, you begin to reason with yourself. You are a lean, mean, ambitious tv-making machine. And just because you haven’t had a wealth of (positive) relationship experiences doesn’t mean you are incapable of finding at least one– and potentially even with a college-educated lean, mean, ambitious ______ (insert professional career here) machine.

Of course, your reasoning is soon met with a second fear– “Kosherlover69,” which according to JDate is your 100% match. 33 years old, career-less, and sporting a long scraggly beard, JDate is convinced this is the best you can do. And what if JDate, the authority on everything Jewish and dating, is right?

But then again, you only answered three questions regarding your personal life– your favorite food: coffee; your career: entertainment/media; and your city: NYC. With such a limited number of details, you’d probably make an excellent companion to about 5 million other tri-state area men. Ok, maybe 250,000 when you factor in the religion component.

However, if there are SO many possibilities, how will you ever narrow it down to one? You fear you are ill-equipped to handle the selection process. Since you were a young oh so feminine girl, when faced with the dilemma of which color shoe to buy, you’d convince your mother to buy it for you in every color. [insert JAP judgement here]

Men are not shoes, though. And perhaps if you stopped comparing them to inanimate objects or absurdly misplaced metaphors, you’d have a little more luck in the romance department. That, and a lot more sleep.

A treatise on JDate

There comes a time in every single Jewish girl’s life when she downs just enough Diet Coke to propel her to make unwise decisions. In this particular case and with this particular girl, the unwise decision was making a free JDate account.

Now, in order to take view your potential future husband, you must answer a serious of asinine questions, including but not limited to, the three items that are found in your refrigerator at all times. (Not that it’s of value, but mine are Chobani yogurt, sliced pineapple, and carrot sticks. And though I may sound like an anorexic girl, I’m far from it.)

And after you have taken these steps, you learn the following insights about New York male Jewry:

1) Finance. Finance. Finance. Perhaps I am overly sensitive on this professional matter because I live with two individuals who live and breathe this industry. But, seriously, are there no Jewish plumbers these days? The first 15 matches I got listed “finance/accounting” as their career. And while I can play the private equity vs hedge fund game at cocktail hour, I’d hardly call this career my soulmate.

2) ThatIsMe and GeneralMan. Despite the fact that JDate explicitly states in creating a username, one should make sure to employ both creativity and common sense, 99.9% of men on this site appear to ignore this warning. Instead, they turn to their two year old nephew and seek his advice. And before you know it ThatIsMe is flashing before your eyes over and over again.

3) Lots of babies. Unlike some secular dating sites, men on JDate want wives and children. And lots of them– the kids, not wives. I’d venture to say the average guy wants 2-5. Oy, my uterus is hurting just contemplating those numbers.

4) Baseball: the sport of the Jewish people. Though a Yankee fan by birth (Bronx pride!), I couldn’t name more than two players on the team. Well, apparently that does not bode well for my dating future because these boys like their baseball teams. And any woman worth her salt better buy a pack of baseball cards and brush up.

5) Height exaggeration. As my own network has shown through the remarkably popular show-Catfish– people invariably lie about something in their dating profiles. And with Jewish men, it’s height. Our people are notably on the short side, and yet the typical JDate profile height is 6’1”. That’s statistically impossible, unless the only Jews on JDate are of Scandinavian origin.

Now given these discoveries, I have decided to proceed no further with my JDate account. I’ll cling to some Hollywood notion of romance, or I’ll adopt a cat. At least the cat would not make me know baseball stats.

Relationship advice from the girl no longer in a relationship

My mother always says that if women remembered the pain of childbirth, the human race would have died out thousands of years ago. Magically, mysteriously women forget and repeatedly embark on the most painful bodily experience over and over and over again.

This is sort of how I imagine breakups. There is an initial excruciating pain; one in which we swear to never ever let someone in again. And then some time later– in the distant or the not so distant future– we do. We allow ourselves to love and be loved again.

Of course in the moments right after a relationship comes to its untimely end, we find it incredibly difficult to imagine repeating such a process. Or at least I do. I stop imagining a world with a brownstone, stoop, child, and pancake-making hubbie, and I start perusing the animal shelter websites. I start to accept a future in which it’s me against the universe, and I try to make peace with that rather bleak reality.

I tell myself, ‘Look at Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagan! They are single and rocking only the most impressive bench in the country.‘ They are strong, independent thinkers undefined by the absence of a male or female companion in their lives. And years from now, when history professors compose their biographies, there will be no pages wasted on the success or failure of the marriages that never were.

But then I think I am not a US Supreme Court Justice, and there will likely be no biography written about me. And even if there were, would it be such a big deal if a few pages were devoted to the person who wooed and cooed me?

Kubler-Ross thinks there are five stage of loss and grief, and maybe invariably some people will pass through all of them, but for most of us one or two stages will be most relevant. I naturally gravitate towards stage two: anger. I despise my current situation and swear off the possibility of ever encountering this stage again (see every single paragraph above).

Eventually, though, I work through it. I create a playlist called “Picking Up The Pieces,” and I begin to reassemble the broken chards of my failed relationship. I end the playlist with a little Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive,” and I listen to it on repeat. Not because I believe the words today or even tomorrow, but because someday– in the distant or not so distant future– I may. And like a mother giving birth to her second child, I may allow someone else in.

[Spotify playlist here]

On perusing the Vows section

I’m not a hopeless romantic, not in the slightest. In fact, when I watch romantic comedies, I never watch the final 15 minutes– the part when true love triumphs and the Celine Dion soundtrack begins. Truth be told, I’ve never seen the ending of “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” or the classic, “Pretty Woman.” My motivation for viewing such films is simple– mindless entertainment, and at the moment when the characters are overwhelmed with emotion, well, I stop being entertained.

But every so often there is a story– usually in the Vows section of  The New York Times— that makes my heart smile ever so slightly. In this week’s edition, a couple, who met while working at the Disney store in Edison, NJ, fall in love and marry despite the husband’s terminal case of colon cancer.

When Michael asks Angela if she will stay with him despite his grim diagnosis, she replies, “Why would I leave?” And while any rational semi-pragmatic slightly logical individual might question her sanity, I didn’t. I’ve never known that kind of love– or perhaps any at all– but if I should ever happen upon it, I hope I would give a similar response.

I hope those four words would be the only ones my lips could form. And if we should both lose our jobs, our homes, and the money to satiate our somewhat extreme caffeine addictions, I hope I can maintain that devout sense of loyalty.

Part of the therapy process, at least for me, has been about defining what I want emotionally. Given the fact that I’ve devoted most of my life to answering an entirely different question, one steeped in cognitive thought processes and academic pursuits, this has been a tremendous challenge. To turn to myself and say, “But how does it make you feel?” And then to respond just as quickly, “You don’t have to apologize; you are allowed to feel that way” is no easy task.

But in beginning to ask these questions, centered almost exclusively on feelings and emotions, I have learned that I want to feel so passionate, so loyal, so interconnected with someone. To that point that a terminal cancer diagnosis does not make me cower in fear and recede into the quasi-intellectual projects in my life. To the point at which I embrace the vulnerable side of myself first and the academic side of myself second.

And with that I am off to watch the ending to “Pretty Woman.”

On having a “seriously?” moment

“Wait, are you telling me we are the only two single biddies in this here office?” Astonished, disturbed, and determined to get to the root of the matter, I pressed my coworker D for an answer.  Her response: a rather remorseful nod.

On a floor of 30+ people– primarily under the age of 30– D and I were the only two unable to find gentleman callers. And given our above-average intelligence, well-manicured nails, and basic appreciation of the English language, we were genuinely perplexed by this reality.

“Seriously? When did the 20somethings become such a love fest? Does no one subscribe to the single girls code? Also, since when are 25 year old boys ready to commit to long term relationships?”

D smiled and said, “Girl, I feel you. The whole thing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But, you know what, maybe we have higher standards? We know what we want, and we aren’t ready to settle for the first six pack we encounter.”

“But do we really have high standards? I mean, yes, I’d like him to have some direction in life; perhaps semi-permanent employment; and an address that isn’t his mother’s basement. Beyond that, though, I am pretty open to all possibilities.”

D stared skeptically and then turned my attention to her computer screen, where we proceeded to go through a google-image inspired montage of men. At each screen shot, she would say, “So, would you date him?” And a majority of the time I would say, “Hell no.” We then called over a fellow co-worker, currently in a long term relationship with her boyfriend, and showed her the same set of visuals. Her response, “Any of them have potential.”

D repeated this experiment with several other non-single office mates, and much to my chagrin, everyone seemed to think the men on screen had something to offer. Everyone but D and me, that is. Her point proven, she turned to me for a comment. But all I could think is, Seriously? Everyone in relationships can’t possibly be in relationships because they happen to have lower standards?

My therapist, of course, had a field day with this romantic experiment. “Why do you think you have such high standards,” she inquired. I knew– on a cognitive level– the answer: it’s because I have incredibly high standards for myself. I seek perfection because I am a perfectionist.

But on that emotional level, which I am so hesitant to explore, I could only speculate that a perfect man, as Lena Dunham so eloquently phrased it, would be less likely to make “monkey meat” out of my heart. And if I were going to give up the big V– my vulnerability– then Mr. Perfect needed to treasure and romance it. And, well, Mr. Imperfect would most definitely do the opposite, making it that much harder for me to crawl out from under my shell a second time around.

But as my therapist concluded our session, she challenged me to be a little less cautious with the big V– to use this next decade to explore it– and to learn that even when relationships fail, I will still come out in one piece.

Challenged accepted (I think).

 

On having a heart treated like monkey meat.

The thing about therapy, at least in its effective form, is that it makes you feel things. Things you didn’t expect, and things you had forgotten. Like that one summer when you suddenly realized you had hormones and stalked a boy and then wrote a book about him. You named it, “Getting Over Curls,” and wondered if it would ever make it to the big screen. If it did, you hoped you could afford to buy the rights to “Build Me Up Buttercup” because clearly that would be the film’s anthem.

And while recalling this middle school ditty during one Tuesday morning session you begin to cry because you realize that’s the most action you’ve ever gotten (and you never even touched him). You were the PG kind of stalker. And despite the fact that nearly a decade has passed you are not one step closer to figuring out the whole relationship thing, or yourself.

But every so often you do try to move forward. You embrace chance, go out to a dinner, drink, or mermaid parade, and watch as another one– slowly but surely– bites the dust. You ride the train home alone, listening to Ingrid Michaelson’s “End of the World” and attempt to hold back pockets of tears, but G-d damnit, you can’t.

And when contemplating your next therapy session, you anticipate the inevitable question: “And why do you think you felt that way?” You know the answer, though. Because not since Curls (who distributed your book throughout his public school) have your attempts at romance resulted in anything but loneliness. Loneliness of the urban variety; the kind where you are surrounded by 20 people who claim to have a stake in your well being and all you can think is, “I need a coffee… with rum.”

You realize that the only two people who have any sense of how you feel are retired 70s folklore singers named Simon and Garfunkel. They somehow intuitively knew that the pain of disappointment was worse than that of any another variety, and so they composed “I Am A Rock,” with the deeply moving lyric, “If I never loved I never would have cried.” And while you are quick to tell your Tuesday listener that you have never loved, per se, you still feel the lyric relevant.

But after two months of these sessions you can also predict her response to your 45-min self-deprecating interlude, “And? What’s your solution? Feel like the perpetual fifth wheel as your boyfriend-bound roommates galavant around the city? Take long walks in the West Village and hope to encounter the one straight, single Jewish male roaming about Perry Street?”

And this is when you realize you have 36 hours to think of an appropriate and equally witty comeback.

 

On being one intimidating lady.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a newly inhabited New York apartment is in need of an appropriate christening. This christening is commonly referred to as a housewarming party, and this past Saturday night my friends hosted one such party. I attended– bottle of white in hand, of course– to pay my proper congratulations and rejoice in their new beginnings.

And in true Wellesley women fashion, the party was 90% female. In fact, when the first male appeared, a silence overcame the room. Who was this unknown specimen? Brother? Cousin? Or, worse yet, boyfriend? We paused in anticipation. And then the kicker came– ex-boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend was accompanied by three other boys/men/no longer boys-not yet men.

I instantly approached the tale brooding one. Ok, perhaps not instantly. I strategically manipulated my movement in such a way that we just happened to find ourselves two inches apart. Given our proximity, conversation became inevitable. And in typical me fashion, the following transpired:

ME: So what’s your name?

TALL BROODER: Greg.

ME: What brings you here?

TALL BROODER: points at ex-boyfriend. 

ME: And where did you go to school?

TALL BROODER: F.I.T.

Yes, my tall brooder was a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate. And for those who have not yet grasped the obvious, he and I shared only one commonality– our preference for men. After exchanging a few more meaningless words, I sulked away in defeat. I wasn’t meant to find my prince charming that night. In fact, I secretly suspected my prince charming had taken an early retirement… in Miami. If I expected to meet him, I was going to have to purchase a flight ticket.

In the cab ride home, I kvetched to my roommate about my failed attempts at romance. Even though I had made a New Year’s Resolution to no longer outwardly express my disdain for my lack of love life, I was tipsy enough to violate it. And for the first time in the nine months since we’ve been living together, my roommate gave me a reality check: “Yaffa, you are extremely intimidating. You come across as this insanely smart person who has her shit together.” Oh, the irony.

My grandmother, though in a slightly less profane manner, has expressed similar sentiment. Only she follows up her romantic diatribes by saying I should therefore be seen and not heard; be a dutiful housewife and not a professional bulldozer. And while I can dismiss her remarks as remnants of antiquated thinking, my roommate, a fellow Wellesley woman, is not so easily ignored.

I subsequently talked over the matter with my one true confidante: Aldie. On our walk to school this morning, I explained my predicament– my inability to form a healthy romantic relationship with a heterosexual male. After digesting the magnitude of my love life woes, Aldie responded, “You are one intimidating lady.”

“And,” I exclaimed. Was that all he had to offer– a reaffirmation of a statement I believed to be completely and utterly false? Well, Aldie reasoned, if I wanted to “catch a fish”– a term he uses in reference to male-female relationships– I should perhaps talk less at the onset of an interaction, and instead listen more. Ask the right questions. And then after I have lulled the “guppy” into a sense of safety and security share a few of my colorful anecdotes.

And, Aldie said, if the “guppy” then exhibits signs of intimidation, I should move along, or “just keep swimming.” Eventually I’ll encounter a fish larger than me.

The six year old reprimand.

“Yaffa, you can’t have a play date with that Yale boy.” Aldie, my favorite six year old, informed me that I– a young woman– could not have a casual foodie date with my best guy friend in the city. “It’s simply not natural,” he exclaimed.

“I can play with Isaac [a fellow kindergardener] because he and I are both boys. But you and that boy are not the same gender. And you can’t be platonic and play.” While I paused to contemplate if Aldie actually had used the word “platonic” in casual conversation, Aldie went on to explain that men and women are biologically engineered to procreate… not casually coffee.

And in that moment I was reminded of every high school rabbi I had, every one who informed me that there was no such thing as being “just friends” with a boy/man/not a boy, not yet a man. It went against every hormone in our bodies.

But unlike my high school rabbis who I simply disregarded, Aldie actually made me think perhaps there was some truth to his madness. Before I studied abroad, I can safely say I had no [straight] male friends. And even today I can count on one hand the number of gay and straight male friends I have.

Blame it on the years of women’s only education, but I am beginning to believe that subconsciously Aldie, my rabbis, and I are all aligned. Somewhere deep in my psyche is the belief that men and woman are lean, mean baby making machines.  They are meant to propagate, not be playmates.

And yet since returning to New York, I have made every effort to dissuade myself of such adolescent notions–to diversify my social circle, and to watch a basketball game or two with a guy and beer or two.  Does it feel natural? Certainly not. I must make a conscious effort to move beyond my sisterhood ways, but if the last eight months of my life are any indication, it is possible to be friends.

I say possible, not probable. Age, estrogen, the inevitable urban loneliness all pose challenges to this possibility, but over time I believe I will achieve a happy equilibrium. Or perhaps just arrive at a point where I can have a proper comeback on hand when Aldie challenges my fraternizing ways.

The right age to introduce your children to coffee.

As an employee of city government, I am theoretically forbidden from kvetching about the incompetencies overt within the system. But every so often I find myself standing in line in some local government office for three hours at a time, watching as precious minutes of my life pass me by, and think, “Seriously, G-d, is this regarding the time I lied in second grade about having a house made out of knishes? Because I thought we worked that out 15 years ago.”

Today was DMV Day. And true to Murphy’s Law, everything that can go wrong, did go wrong, including yours truly forgetting to bring critical paperwork with her and having to board a train to Mama B’s home to reclaim said paperwork.

And, of course, when I finally had gathered together all  my documents– proving I was neither an illegal alien nor a convicted felon– I was forced to wait in three separate lines. The first– to have my photo taken. The second– to have someone review the validity of my identifying documents. And the third– to inform me I would not receive an actual copy of my brand spanking new license for 7-10 day business days. Or as the DMV lady phrased it, “Good luck trying to get into a bar this weekend!”

Now I ask you, were three separate and distinct lines really necessary to carrying out the simple task at hand, which was renewing my license? If not for the assortment of colorful characters who both work and frequent the DMV, I might have gone entirely mad. But between the Chinese man who seemed uncertain of his permanent address (red flag!) and the old Jewish grandma, who had forgotten her glasses, and had therefore filled out her forms incorrectly, there was lots of noise and distraction.

My personal favorite, a.k.a. saving grace, was a seven year old boy who must have sensed I work in childcare, because he ran up to me as soon as I entered the DMV and announced, “You are my new best friend.” We talked about legos and Star Wars and the right age to introduce your children to coffee (I said 7, he argued 5). And at the end of our schmooze, I was already through line one.

His mother, sadly, had just completed line three. Hayden, my saving grace, was forced to depart, but not before bidding me farewell and asking his mother if I could “come over and play Risk sometime.” She winked and whispered, “I think someone has a crush on you,” oh so conspicuously pointing in the direction of her hyperactive son. Now if only I could attract men my own age…

And this is why I don’t live in Utah.

On the first day of 10th grade my class merited the infamous Rabbi Francis lecture on why men and women could never be platonic. We– the ladies– were show dogs, and every man’s objective was to land the the winning show dog. He noted that said dog dressed modestly, spoke little, and knew how to bake one hell of a challah.

While I stared in disbelief at his rather absurd pup analogy, my classmates nodded in complete agreement. They were content being compared to animals on display, and more importantly they truly believed that was how every boy with a yarmulke viewed them. In that regard, my classmates determined to wear the longest skirts possible, pursue professions within the confines of the Jewish community, and master the art of Friday night dinner.

I, being the difficult one that I have always tended to be, grimaced in the corner. This, of course, attracted Rabbi Francis’s attention. And when he questioned my response, I said, “I disagree.” Fearing I had male friends, he invited me to schmooze with him about the matter after class. During said chat, in which he chastised my liberal ideology, he informed me that Orthodox Jews were not the only ones who thought in this manner.

And seven years later, while I still vehemently disagree with his claim, I have discovered that he was right in regards to the latter issue– that other groups of people, in this case Mormon, shared his sentiment. And hence, avid readers, I have decided that I will under no circumstances move to Utah. No matter how fabulous their Tabernacle Choir may be.

Below I provide audio-visual proof of my aversion to Salt Lake and Co.: