Sunday, July 08, 2007

Still confused

Saturday night I was all set to write about the wonderful Shabbat I had, playing with Batya and Tikva. But my intuition was telling me it wasn't going to work out with Hude, and I couldn't focus or calm down enough to write.

I absolutely loathe waiting for the phone to ring, and he had said that we'd go out to dinner soon but hadn't suggested a time, so I decided to send him a brief email:

Hey Hude -- my week is filling up fast. Are you available Tuesday or Thursday evening? Ayelet

At 2:29 a.m. Sunday morning, he thought that was a good idea:

Hi Lettush... boy you are a busy thing lol... tuesday tough, thursday might be nice... what time and where? How are you? Have you thought bout things...?

By 4:52 he'd changed his mind:

Ayelet... been tossing and turning... not sure about this..., must think this through more.... sundry thoughts... on hold... conflicted.

What happened to "Lettush"? Yikes. I immediately began to feel anxious and sad. I tried to use cognitive-behavioral thought restructuring:
  • It's only been one date.
  • Even though he's handsome and successful and funny, I shouldn't pin all my hopes on him.
  • There are plenty of things about him that I don't like, such as his political opinions.
  • If it doesn't work out, it's not my fault or for lack of trying.
  • He's not the only fish in the sea.
  • I really should stop dating this kind of recently divorced guy, especially when he looks like Little Marty and almost every other toxic divorced guy I've been entangled with.
It didn't help. I wrote back:

I have thought about things. It's not a slam-dunk, but I think there's potential. I talked to some very wise friends, and they agreed that a couple doesn't need to agree on everything to work well together. The ikar is that you and I communicate well and we get each other, we make each other laugh and we respect each other even when we don't agree. Covering hair, children's schools, long sleeves, that can be negotiated. However, if you're really troubled by my career track or my liberal opinions, then that could be a problem. Also, maybe you need to date more than one woman after your divorce to get back into the game.

You still owe me earrings, regardless ;)

The earrings were for a bet that he proposed and I won. When we went into the bar and sat at a table in the rear, I assumed someone would come to take our drinks order; that's how it works in most upscale-ish bars. About 2-1/2 hours after we got there, the bartender strolled over to tell us there was no wait service, and if we didn't order drinks, he needed the table.

As he walked away, Hude said, "He's Irish."

"He is so NOT Irish," I said.

"He's Irish on both sides, Lettush."

"You're so wrong, Hude." The bartender was short, dark, and stocky. Half Latino or Italian and half Irish, maybe. Definitely not 100% Irish.

"Care to make it interesting?"

This was getting ridiculous, so I decided to play along.

"Okay, Hude, if he's not 100% Irish, you have to buy me something."

"Buy you what?"

It's a principle of bargaining to start at an extreme and gradually moderate your position. If you're buying, you low-ball; selling, you high-ball. I decided to high-ball. If I ask for earrings, I thought, he'll laugh and say that's ludicrous, and then I'll ask for a book.

"You have to buy me earrings," I said.

"Fine," he said. "What do I get if I win?"

I had no idea, because I had no expectation of getting him to agree to earrings! We decided that if he won, I'd buy him that book on psychopathy I'd told him about.

Leaving the joint, I bellied up to the bar and caught the tender's eye. "Settle a bet," I said to him. "Are you Irish?"

He looked at me as if I'd asked, "Are you Klingon?"

"No," he said, gently and patronizingly.

Hude and I walked out, and I told him, "I like pearls. Dangly earrings. Set in yellow gold."

But like a total IDIOT, I repeated this story to a few friends at school. Also speculated with them how I'd cover my hair if I married him, how long my sleeves would have to be, etc. The kind of talk that can give you a real ayin hara -- counting chickens before they're hatched.

If I don't even go on a second date with him, and collect the earrings, I'd look like an idiot in front of my friends. But actually, he's the one who'd come off looking bad, not I. Talk about ayin hara -- dozens of indignant people would be wishing him ill. He'd rack up some seriously bad karma.

I managed to convince myself that I didn't have to feel embarrassed in front of my friends. But this getting up and dashing of my hopes is just so exhausting! Why did he take me out (and ask me out again, then waffle) if he can't see a future? I can't take this kind of disappointment again. Well, I can, but I hate it.

Hude wrote back:

lololol... oy, you're good. Yes, you've smartly taxonomised the issues, and obviously, my conflict here lies in the career and the 'liberalism', though I didn't think you were egregiously liberal. Your ear was a compromising one, was nicely surprised at your forbearance... but oh the world we step into when its joel steinberg on monday, and susan smith on friday... that plus the disparite 'family' situation... less important, but still something... Not sure bout the dating-other-girls comment, I try to assess any situation independently and on its own merit... still clamoring internally... and yes, some earrings are due....

By "Joel Steinberg on Monday, and Susan Smith on Friday," Hude references my interest in working with parents who abuse their children. Hude believes that I would be coarsened by this kind of work, important as it is.

I told him I felt confused, and he said so did he, he needed time to think. Argh. I want to be patient, but not a doormat; assertive, but not pressure him. I wrote back:

Take all the time you need. One thought, though: every relationship takes work, and not everyone realizes that, which is why so many people have relationship problems. You and I will never fall into that trap, because we're always conscious of the work we're doing.

He responded:

Thank you, I agree, which is why I'm conflicted... certain components of your lifestyle here which are out of your control... I've virtually no doubt bout the things w/in your control... like your clarity of thought lettush

ARGH! It's not like he's the only one in this relationship with these kinds of doubts. He possesses many opinions that I fervently disagree with -- but since they're primarily political opinions, I'm inclined to agree to disagree. But I didn't emphasize that point. Instead, I decided to take the most-high road:

Have you spoken to your Rav about all this? Maybe he could help you achieve some clarity. Also, I don't know if you and your ex ever went for marital counseling, but premarital counseling has helped a lot of people.

I want you to know that burnout -- or "coarsening," as you put it -- is a risk anyone in a helping profession encounters. The important thing is to be able to maintain a clinical distance and to compartmentalize -- to differentiate between the people with whom you work and the people whom you love, have friendships with, parent, etc. I won't know how good I am at compartmentalizing until I start working with that kind of population. If I started to feel that the people I work with are changing who I am, I'd have to examine the job I was in and the agency where I was working. There is a lot I can do with this degree, and a lot of different populations I can work with.

He wasn't feeling that:

Lettush, I dont believe in counseling, pre/present/post period. As far as a 'Rav' goes, they've no soveriegnty on logic or relationships... we are at our own devices in this world, at least I am... our words ring true but cannot come w/a certified garuantee, would be impossible... there's a gamble here, irrespective of my presence/absence, there's a gamble, surely you must know that... you can plan out your ideals, but momentum and inertia are stronger than matrimony and love... believe me to know this for a fact (not talking about me)... "a mentch tracht, un der abieshter lacht"... man plans, and G-d laughs....

I felt aggravated. Also confused. He doesn't believe in therapy? Why is he dating a therapist?

I honestly wondered why I'm trying so hard to make this work. Part of me thinks it shouldn't be this hard, and I should give up on him. But another part of me KNOWS that this guy gets me and appreciates me and thinks I'm beautiful. That is so hard to find!

I'm really starting to think email is not the right venue for this kind of discussion, but a few things:

1. If you don't believe in counseling under any circumstances, how can you have any respect for what I plan to do with my life? I'm training to be a therapist! If you think therapy is always a complete waste of time, I'm surprised you wanted to go out with me at all.

2. A Rav's opinion isn't dispositive, but he can give good advice. Mine does. That's all I meant. I didn't say talk to "your Rebbe." I didn't tell you to ask him what kind of shoes you should wear or how you should clip your toenails.

3. "Man tracht, Gott lacht." I've heard that expression numerous times. What it boils down to, Hude, is this: Are you willing to put in the time and effort to see if we can make this relationship work, or are you looking for excuses to bow out before even trying?

Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I don't believe in beating around the bush.

He wrote back:

Lettush, therapy works for a particular and peculiar type of person, there are ppl who will respond to therapy, esp. the severe and clinically diagnosible cases... nobody is talking about that sort of therapy here. Furthermore, my gut tells me that a couple who need pre marriage therapy are pre certainly doomed from the getgo, your experiences notwithstanding. I don't bs Let, trying to vet things thru here; last thing I want is a commitment of time and a struggled effort (from either of us) to change you or your inclinations; the one collossal unknown here keeps asserting its hump... Maybe I will have a casual exchange w/a bright fellow I know, L

And that's where it stands.

So I was unable to do much studying today, but it wasn't a complete waste. I did do some research for the three papers I have due in the next three weeks, along with two major projects. (Why did I ever think social work school was easier than psychology school?)

And I had a date with another guy. It would have been fantastic -- he's brilliant, charming, attractive, sensitive -- but I found out why his first marriage failed: his wife had bipolar disorder.

Type I, not Type II like me, but I doubt he'd be interested in another ride on THAT crazy carousel. Also, after two hours in Starbucks, he said he was going to go hang out with friends (he's in from out of town, another less than ideal aspect). So I wrote him a nice little email saying that I had a great time, but didn't sense much chemistry, and he wrote back agreeing.

I also spoke on the phone with another guy I met online. I hadn't been much impressed by his website profile or his emails to me, and when I got a message from him on my voicemail, my heart sank. I just didn't like the way he sounded. I can't quite describe why; words like "charismatic" and "confident" and "poised" make it sound like I expect every guy who calls me to sound like a radio announcer, which is not the case. But I just wasn't impressed, excited, or drawn to him.

I called him back, and we talked on the phone, and the more we spoke the less impressed I was. He just didn't do it for me. And I've learned through painful experience that if I don't enjoy the initial phone call, I am going to have a miserable time on the date. So I told him I needed to think about things and I'd get back to him. He didn't sound pleased, but what could he say?

Later I emailed him to say that I'd thought about it and didn't think we were compatible -- he seems like a very nice guy, just not what I'm looking for. Maybe it's cowardly, but I'm feeling too exhausted to expend any more effort on guys I know have no potential. I'm too old for that.

I'd kind of like to end this post on a positive note, for my own sake if for no other reason. So I'll write about Batya and Tikva.

I went to shul to check in with the rabbi and see if he'd told the new executive director I'd be calling to discuss community mental health programming, and the Exec Dir is expecting my call. On my way out I ran into Adir and Batya; Alona was at home with a sinus infection. I decided to walk home with them to say hi to Alona, then proceed to Ruchama's for lunch.

Walking down the avenue, Batya was much friendlier to me than usual. She spontaneously reached for my hand when we crossed the streets, letting her father push her stroller. We counted the number of steps it took to cross the street, and then if there were 15 steps, there were 15 Aunt Ayelets -- one to run with Batya, one to stand on a stone, one to read a book, one to bake cookies, one to burp, and so on.

When we got to the apartment, Alona was conked out on the couch, so I said I'd just wash my hands and leave.

"Come to my room, Aunt Ayelet," commanded Batya. This was a first. We spent about 15 minutes playing with Barbie dolls, mainly putting their shoes on and hooking purses on their arms (the purses slid off unless you put the arm into taxi-hailing position; I guess that's appropriate, since the dolls do live in Manhattan). It was the first time Batya had spontaneously asked me to play with her.

Then I went to Ruchama's, where Tikva immediately made a beeline for me. She came at me from behind and head-butted my behind sharply.

"Ouch!" I said. "That hurt. Did that hurt your head?" I asked her.

"No," she said.

"Well, I guess my tushy is softer than your head," I said.

She thought for a moment, then gravely said, "You have a very soft and comfy tushy."

Later, I let Tikva work her magic on my hair as Ruchama watched, laughing. I asked Ruchama if she was familiar with the Audrey Hepburn quote about how to achieve beautiful hair.

Tikva's sister Bruria, just turned nine with newly pierced ears, hollered from the other room, "Ayelet's already beautiful!"

"You're getting earrings for your birthday, Bruria," I said.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. "Lettush", I understand that you like this guy, but I don't know if chasing him is the best way to go.
    I think one of the key ingredients in order for a relationship to work, and work well, is for the guy to be really into you. If he isn't, then trying to rationally convince him isn't going to do it. You want a guy to want you. Not for him to be convinced.

    I think that if he suggested dinner, and you haven't heard from him, then as frustrating as it may be, you need to wait and see what he does. If he was looking forward to seeing you again, he would have initiated dinner. If he hasn't called - there is a reason (as you found out). You can't read his actions if you force him into actions that he might not have chosen himself. ["When do you want - Tuesday or Thursday?" "Thursday". Thinking: "Oh wait, I was put on the spot with that question, I am not sure about Thursday either (which is why I hadn't called)"]

    I know you are a liberal thinker, I know that in this century a woman can ask out a man, etc., etc.,etc. I still believe that you need to give the guy space to let HIM court YOU. Relax, sit back, and watch the show. If he's into you, you'll know it. If he's not, you'll know it too. But you need to let them do it themselves. Guys need the chase. Let them! Think twice before you reverse the roles and chase them.

    We want the best for you!

  2. I would also urge you to note that comment about both of you investing effort in order for YOU to change; no mention of HIM changing, is there? Hmm.