Category Archives: Weddings

Two Jews walk into a Muslim wedding.

And no this is not the beginning of some awful grandpa joke. It’s actually the introduction to my Midwestern adventure, during which I crossed two state lines (what up, Missouri and Kansas?), discovered a small town called La Plata, and experienced the union of two 20somethings in the absence of any alcohol.

I should preface this by saying that my exposure to the Midwest has been limited to the Chicagoland area. As a college intern at PBS, I traversed the city and its immediate suburbs in search of relevant news stories. However friendly the residents were, they still maintained an air of cosmopolitan curiosity.

Kansas City, Missouri- though one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen with its myriad fountains and Spanish stucco architecture- offered a distinct contrast.  Though technically a city, Kansas City maintained a small town charm and conservative idealism I’d never quite experienced before. [In other words, I talked little of politics or religion.]

And while politics and religion color many of  my New York conversations, there was something rather refreshing about taking a break from the same old chit chat with similarly minded people. For once in several months I was outside my comfort zone, and instead of discussing the impending Supreme Court decisions plaguing my sleep I was focusing my attention on arranging a variety of flowers for an impending Muslim wedding.

I then watched in amazement/with amusement as the young Muslim women removed their hard scarves and robes once the men departed; how they danced like they were in the midst of a Beirut disco; and how they seemed perfectly content to adorn their scarves and robes when the  men returned later in the night.

And after the wedding festivities were through, I returned to a beautiful Christian home– where my mom and I were staying- and stared at the taxidermy lining the basement walls. Nothing like a dear’s head to startle you at 1 o’clock in the morning! And to remind you that, Toto, you are indeed in Kansas.

But the most shocking part of the weekend adventure was not the taxidermy collection; it was the reaction I had to the whole Midwestern experience. I genuinely enjoyed it. As I boarded the plane back to New York, I became emotional, unable to embrace the East Coast reality that awaited me. There was something so comforting (and cheap) about this area of the country, and I wasn’t quite ready to depart.

The beauty in the situation is that I can come back; the people who had opened their doors and hearts to me would let me back in again. They valued friends and family and time spent together, and they were willing to stop the corporate madness of everyday life to savor those moments with each other.

After eating my first salad post-Midwestern getaway, I  just had to smile because Little Miss New Yorker had found value in the unlikeliest of places: Chick-fil-A country.

I need to get married.

And I don’t mean now, or even in the near future, but someday.  In preparation for that someday, I have begun choreographing my father-daughter dance. While such a dance is unheard of amongst Orthodox Jewry, I have been inspired by the following dynamic duo:

Now I know what you must be thinking. If dancing stereotypes have even a wee bit of accuracy, my father and I simply cannot compete. But, avid readers, father-daughter dances are not competitions. They are, however, an opportunity to surprise many unsuspecting guests. And if properly rehearsed, they have the potential to wind up on YouTube.

If we’re honest, what more could two semi-rhythmic family members hope for? Well in the case of my father and I, a whole lot more rhythm. While my father may envision himself a fourth  member of the Bee Gees (and photos of him taken in the 70s confirm this delusion), he was neither graced with their accents or their moves. And no amount of Saturday Night Fever viewings can change that reality.

But fortunately for Father Fredrick, his daughter does not have two left feet. And if she (being me) sets out to choreograph a memorable wedding diddy, he can and will master it. I recognize, though, that this may take a significant amount of time, and so in preparation for a wedding years-in-the-making, I have employed the 2′ x 4′ empty patch of floor in my bedroom to bust a few moves.

Of course, said patch of floor is conveniently located in front of a full-length mirror. And so I have been able to both smile and cry at my attempts at rhythmic movement. But as the late Aaliyah once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again.” Did I mention this lyric has become my life motto?

But I must return to my choreography work. If you are still interested in listening to me babble– only this time about bare legs– head over to A-Line Fashion for your daily dose of autumnal styling.

I feel like such a tulle.

I am pleased to inform my readers that today’s entry is brought to you courtesy of Slightly Shiksa, the shortest WASP I have ever had the fortune to meet. Not to fear, what she lacks in height, she makes up for in witty and highly sardonic commentary… particularly on my favorite subject: marriage– or a lack thereof.

NB: She uses quite a bit of Hebrew and Yiddish terminology. For translation, please consult here.

Well everyone, it’s June again. A time when many a goyim‘s mind turns to thoughts of a respectable union with a another goyim of similar parentage. As Tevye would say, “tradition…TRADITION,” or as Scarlett O’Hara would say: “fiddle-dee-dee, Brent Tarleton.”

It’s also the time that my mind starts to work overtime spitting fire and bile over the American Wedding (and weddings in the modern world in general). I have big drama with the wedding industry At Large.

So, everybody hold onto their kippot, sheitels, and (if you’re one of my people) sweet-ass British wedding lids, and let’s get started.

My problem with the whole wedding schpiel is that it seems explicitly designed to say: “The Bigger the Wedding, the Better the Love.”

The idea that there is a direct relationship between the amount of money spent on a wedding and the strength of the commitment between two people is utterly preposterous. Yet, the entire industry seems to tell women this, and we SWALLOW IT. I consider myself an independent, free thinking woman, but I’m just as prone to buy in. It’s insidious!

In my experience, the things that test a commitment are ill health, children, and finances. When you’re down to the bone in a relationship, you’re not going to be much comforted by the extra thousands you spent on an extra course at dinner. You may wish that money were back in your pocket, and you may even think what a sham that extravagant wedding was in hindsight.

It is widely stated that pornography is a threat to our collective moral health, but what of monetizing the most elusive and precious of human emotions? I’m a big fan of sexual desire, which is what pornography is monetizing. But love? Commitment? It’s so much more corrosive to sell women the idea that you have to spend x amount or else You’re Doing Love Wrong. Don’t get me twisted, there are a lot of ways to do love wrong, but “frugally” isn’t one of them.

It’s not that I don’t think we should acknowledge marriages. Rites of passage are important! I’m enough of an English major to know that. But what of those left out? What about our LGBT brothers and sisters?

Yeah that’s right, I know I just shocked some of you, but I believe I explicitly stated everyone needs to HOLD ONTO THEIR SHEITELS because I have a point to make.

As I was saying, our LGBT brothers and sisters mostly can’t get married, full stop. And what about a young couple who can only afford a city hall marriage? Are their loves and commitments lesser for their lack of a hefty price tag? NOPE.

No two relationships are the same, and yet we all seem to march lockstep up the same aisle.

Of course, what really grinds my gears is that I still find the idea of a fancy wedding deeply appealing, and I’ll probably have one. I want an engagement ring…but it’s about the most anti-feminist thing in the history of history. Humans are easy to market to, and I’ve been good and well taken to market. So, you know, hand me the check and I’ll pay it. But I’m not HAPPY about it, and I definitely see how my imagination was hijacked by an industry that fundamentally doesn’t have my best interests at heart.

Oh, and did I mention I’m twenty-four and single? I can’t believe I even have to have feelings about this!

For the record: spring green and white, outdoor ceremony, mermaid gown – cutout back – must have sleeves.


Questions? Comments? Concerns? Email, and in the words of Madonna, “Express yourself.”

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”

Instead of bemoaning my singledom or my failed attempts to find romance with a heterosexual male, I am embracing my crazy spinster aunt status. And by embracing, I mean procrastinating on my film paper by watching 27 Dresses, a rom-com of mediocre, yet memorable quality. And one, which with every bridesmaid’s dress I procure, I find myself identifying with more and more.

The tagline of the film– “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride”– is clearly going to be my Wellesley yearbook quote. Perhaps instead of the requisite baby photo, I will substitute in images of me in some of  the artfully crafted dresses that have graced my body (and now grace the cyber walls of e-bay). In the meantime, I have resigned myself to over-analyzing the following sequence from 27 Dresses, which juxtaposes two of my favorite men– one gay and the other married with two kids: Elton John and James Marsden.

Katherine Heigl, the lead, forms an attachment to both men, and a pattern emerges– her desire for both the biologically (Elton) and the morally (James) unattainable man. It may be a classic case of wanting what we can’t have, but I have a theory, as a woman of the Heigl variety, that another psychological principle is at play. Watch as her alcohol-induced stupor leads to musical shenanigans and see if you can decipher an alternative principle.

Bagels and lox cupcakes, or, the reason I will need to diet before my wedding

Now I must preface this entry by saying I am not planning on wedding in the immediate future. However, I recognize that the caloric decisions I make at 21 may adversely affect my marriageable opportunities. To cite my biology lab partner, “Fat is the substrate that prevents you from mating.” Her prescription– building protein or lean body mass.

Sadly finals has resigned me to a sedentary state, in which I  refrain from exercise that builds the aforementioned lean body mass while consuming foods of the fatty acid variety. On this particular day, when I am homesick and in desperate need of a bagel with lox and a schmear, I have determined to craft the Bagels and Lox Cupcake. Though, in theory, it sounds like a horrific amalgamation of two delicious lipid-filled food products, I can assure you that the title is anything but literal.

Taking my cue from Hello, Cupcake!, a wonderful cupcake blog and book, I  have devised a baked good guaranteed to induce hip-expansion upon first taste. The recipe yields 24 cupcakes, each featuring a sliced mini-doughnut, sprinkled with poppy seeds on top of its base. The doughnut–designed to mimic the bagel– is filled with Starbucks fruit chew, which serves as the “lox” and adorned with strands of green Twizzlers, or “lettuce.”

Dear G-d, It’s Me, The Caffeinated One

Well, really, I should say the highly under-caffeinated one, as I am foregoing the chemical wonderland known as Starbucks in order to comply with the fasting requirements for the Day of Atonement.

The saddest sign in modern history.

Despite my lack of energy, though, I plan to use the fast day as one of serious contemplation. In the last twenty four hours, I have participated in a few unusual conversations– the punch lines of which I am still trying to decipher– and imagine will fill the moments I am not begging You to be sealed in the Book of Life.

Let us begin with the Natick taxi driver, who drove me this morning to Boston South Station so that I could once again return to the Empire State.

DRIVER: Good morning, my dear! Better to be early, rather than late. So where are you headed?

PRE-STARBUCKS ME (PrSM) Um, New York for a–

DRIVER: Wedding, right? You seem like the type.

PrSM: (nervous and fidgety) What type?

DRIVER: The type that hasn’t been jaded by marriage yet. The type that still sheds a tear every time another one of her friends walks down the aisle. The type that hasn’t been married and divorced twice, and still believes that the legalized union serves a purpose besides the production of three daughters– all of whom you cannot afford to actually support.

PrSM: Oh, I shed tears, but not for the reason you think. It’s more of a “bloody, Moses, now that she’s married, I have acquired another bridesmaid dress for which I have no purpose or space.” Also, I’m going home for Yom Kippur. It’s like a wedding, only without food or drink.

But seriously, is the taxi driver and father of three, actually on to something? Yes, he is bitter and cynical and old, but perhaps those are the requirements for a wise man these days. And frankly, I am certainly a member of the former two categories, and feel like I have the body of a senior citizen most mornings. What is the purpose of marriage, and why do all of my high school friends feel the desire to rush into it? Lord knows I am not ready for my uterus to open up shop.

And the second conversation– between my editor and myself– in an adorable Greenwich, Connecticut cafe that I stopped off in on route to New York.

EDITOR: Yaffa, you’re wearing comfortable shoes.

POST-STARBUCKS ME (PoSM): Indeed I am. I am a fan of boots– in all shapes and sizes.

EDITOR: You need to learn to walk in heels.

PoSM: I am in the process. In fact, I have finally acquired a comfortable pair that I use for the myriad of weddings I frequent.

EDITOR: You need multiple pairs of heels, dear. And you need to master the art of walking in them– confidently and gracefully. It’s the only way to make it a male-dominated media industry.

Ironically, my editor is a woman raised in the 1960s, when Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were advocating equality in the work force and bra burning on the streets of every major North American city. You think she would argue for a dismantling of the patriarchal hierarchy. But perhaps she is onto something– in order to break the rules, must we first master and abide by them? And what rules should I be looking to break in my final year of college– the last year I can blame my missteps on the cult classic “Animal House.” Oh no, now I am going to be daydreaming  in synagogue of a twenty-year old version of Kevin Bacon (a lead character in the aforementioned movie). Is is wrong to contemplate a future with a man whose name is infused with porcine?

What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?

Not to fear, Seth, this post is not an ode to “Avenue Q” or any other musical that celebrates puppetry antics. Instead, it is the place where I promote my recent guest blogger’s new website, which is appropriately titled, “What do you do with a B.A. in English?” As an English major at Wellesley, Torie has faced this question more often than I have been invited to , participated in, or worn an awesomely 80s bridesmaid dress for a wedding. Please, avid Green Straw readers, frequent her blog and shower her with words of encouragement and love.

“You’ll be married by August 31st.”

Yes, I knew that title would grab your attention. It certainly grabbed mine, when my employer, a highly successful journalist, bid me adieu on Thursday with those parting words. On route to Chicago to relive a summer gone by, and perhaps introduce myself to Ms. Gaga, I departed from my internship with a new understanding of myself and the impression I make on others. Apparently, when people think “Yaffa,” they think New York’s most eligible bachelorette. And by eligible, they imply the kind of desperation I feel between the time I awake and the time I arrive at Starbucks– the period of severe caffeine deprivation during which I may not be held accountable for any of my actions or decisions.

And while I know a good ten matchmakers in Brooklyn who would agree with that assessment, or at least the desperation part of it, I am not sure that accurately describes where I would place myself on the relationship spectrum. In the past few weeks, I have experienced a new round of shidduch (matchmade, in this case by friends) dates. Though they have been entertaining, and provided much fodder for future blog entries, they have also reaffirmed the fact that I am definitely not ready to make a death till us part vow, not now and not in the not so distant future.

This recognition– of my own position on marriage– came to me in the middle of a Chicago karaoke bar, during which I found myself on stage belting out Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” to a crowd of rowdy Midwesterners, shocked that a white girl like me would tackle a classic Motown song like that. I must admit, if you had told me a year ago, I would ever agree to sing in public, on stage, with a live band, I would have thought you had lost your mind. But somehow, with little to no alcohol in my system, I believed that Saturday night would be the perfect night to show the world that Lucy Ricardo and I have a little more in common than a propensity for 50s housewife dresses– we also lack the ability to carry a tune.

Energized and inspired by my first attempt at live performance, I also proceeded to do a rendition of  Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me.” What I didn’t realize was that a certain someone was watching me with innocent ex-Amish eyes, and he was planning to engage me in conversation upon the conclusion of my second and final performance of the night.

Ex-Amish boy– we’ll call him Daniel– greeted me, as I exited the stage and said, “You and me, we’re a lot a like.” Assuming this was a pathetic attempt at a pick up line, I nodded politely and moved in the direction of the bar. But he pursued the topic further. “No, seriously, I can tell you grew up in an insular world not so dissimilar to my own. The way you started out the song, really unsure of your surroundings and questioning how you actually got there. You’ve got the look of a girl raised in an Orthodox setting.”

Though it is entirely possible Daniel tells all the ladies he stalks at karaoke night in dingy pizza bars this line, my curiosity was piqued. We began a lively discussion about the challenges of balancing our traditional value system with a fairly secularized culture, and indeed he was correct– we faced a similar daily dichotomy. In his case, he had chosen to leave Lancaster, PA behind at age 18 because his father had arranged a not so pleasant marriage for him and a girl he could only describe as “dull and with child-bearing hips.” After chastising him for criticizing a woman with a little extra junk in her trunk, I let him continue.He basically did not want to marry; he knew the world beyond his Amish bubble had something to offer, and until he fully explored and discovered it, he would be discontent settling down into any marriage, Amish or other.

I completely empathized. Even though no one had arranged a marriage for me, I had certainly had my share of bad dating experiences, i.e. a boy who kept exclaiming, “Oh, you’re too cool. Too Cool. Too Cool.” Yes, he was a tool. And I learned from those experiences that I was far from ready to wed, start a family, and put my child-bearing hips to good use.

Appreciating each other’s similarly awkward positions, we agreed to let go and for one night only, “Just Dance.” And yes, ladies and gents, I did see Lady Gaga up close and personal at Lollapalooza this weekend:

The Woman, the Myth, the Legend.

The Wedding Blessing, or Perhaps Curse

For those whose favorite genre is the romantic comedy, weddings represent the material manifestation of a wondrous cinematic fantasy. For me, however, they are a constant reminder of just how unorthodox an Orthodox Jew I am. The following conversation– had between myself and tonight’s bride, Annette– captures this divide quite well:

BRIDE: So, Miss Yaffa Fredrick, where have you been? Last I heard you were wandering around Europe.

ME: Well, sort of. I was studying at Oxford this year.

BRIDE: (pauses to think and readjust her veil) Hmm… never heard of it.

ME: (incredulously) Of Oxford?

I wished I'd had an image of Oxford to show.

BRIDE: Yes, where is it?

ME: In England.

BRIDE: Oh, Yaffa, up to your academic antics, are you?

ME: Antics? I guess so. As much as HIV/AIDS policy-making can be considered antics.

BRIDE: Um, wow, I don’t know what to say, except I think I need to give you a bracha (blessing) now. What would you like me to say?

ME: (not missing a beat) That I succeed in overcoming my materialistic obsession with Anthropologie dresses, and actually make a difference in sub-Saharan Africa– rather than hiding in my Ivory Tower and theorizing on it.

BRIDE: Um, ok,  I had something different in mind. Tell me what you think of this: May you find the perfect husband in the coming year. May he be in awe of the One Above, may he be a serious learner (referring to Talmud and other texts of Jewish wisdom and angst), and may he be able to support you as a wife and mother… of hopefully many, many kinderlachen (children).

To say I responded with a hearty thank you would be as far from the truth as to compare Starbucks grande skinny vanilla lattes to McDonalds McCafe coffee.  In actuality, I nodded, wished her a meek mazel tov, and then took my seat amongst the few lonely single girls– all notably two years my junior. Yes, at age 21, the single girls pool is quite small, and I am barely keeping myself afloat in it. Or so the random matchmaker who proceeded to sit beside me a few moments later informed me. Apparently I exude “single, not ready to mingle” vibes, and well, a girl my age “can’t afford to seem too full of herself.” She also gave me her card– which somehow, between the wedding hall and my Washington Heights residence– I seemed to have misplaced.