Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Relaxed, and a little sad

"Cute necklace," I said to Jerusha when we met up for dinner the first night of our vacation.

"Cute? These are real, Ayelet!" she said, fingering the gumball-sized South Sea pearls dangling from her ears and around her neck. They were a 15th-anniversary gift from my brother-in-law, who is a quiet but passionate man. Fortunately, I didn't really like the mixed shades -- gray, white, green, peach, and gold -- so I wasn't completely overcome by envy.

I was staying in one bungalow with my mother (Dad couldn't make it), my cousin Yaffa, and Yaffa's girlfriend, Christine. Shoshana's parents and sister, Yonit, were in another bungalow with Yonit's husband and children. Jerusha and her family were in a third bungalow.

Yaffa and Yonit are from the not-religious side of my family, but Jerusha and I are very close with them; we grew up in the same town. We're scattered now, in California, Illinois, and New York, but we try to get together at least every other year. It was so wonderful to see Jerusha's kids playing with and loving Yonit's kids, and to think that the closeness will extend to the next generation.

These vacations are a little tough for me, though. The kids love Aunt Ayelet, and everyone wants me there -- I considered bailing on the trip but reconsidered after being pelted with disappointed emails. But being single amid all that married hurts. I include Yaffa and Christine among the married; they've been together for about ten years, bought a house together, and wear wedding rings. Yonit's children, whose father is Israeli, call them Doda Yaffa and Doda Chrissy. Jerusha's kids call them Aunt Yaffa and Aunt Chrissy, but are still a little confused by them.

Shira and Malka are obsessed with marriage and relationships -- how everyone is connected to everyone else. Yesterday, lounging by the pool, Shira started asking me questions.

"Aunt Ayelet, I'm related to you by blood, and Daddy is related to you by marriage, right?" Shira asked. I told her that was correct. "Are you related to Shimmy by marriage?" Shimmy is my brother-in-law's nephew; his family lives in Israel, and he was in the U.S. for about a month to visit his grandparents and uncle. He joined us on the trip.

"Shimmy and I aren't related," I told her. "Mommy is related to him by marriage, but I'm not related to him."

"So you could marry him?" she asked.

"Shira, Shimmy is 13. I'm almost three times his age."

"But you could," she persisted.

"Legally, not for at least five years. Morally... never."

She certainly is determined to get me married off. I wish her parents had one-tenth her enterprise in that regard.

Yaffa came over and sat down, sprinkling us with chlorinated droplets. "Aunt Yaffa, why aren't you married?" Shira asked.

"Hello to you, too, Shira," said Yaffa. "I can't marry Christine, and if I can't marry her, I don't want to marry anybody else."

Shira pondered this, furrowing her brow. "You don't want to marry a boy?" she asked.

Yaffa has always been very discreet when describing herself and her life to my sister's kids, who haven't really met many lesbians. She said, "You know how your mommy loves your daddy? That's how I love Christine. We live together and we love each other."

Malka was bewitched by cool, omniscient Aunt Yaffa, with whom she enjoyed long nature walks in the woods and cooking vegetables for dinner each night. She wanted to spend as much time as possible with Yaffa and suggested a sleepover. "Can I stay in Aunt Yaffa's room tonight?" she asked me. It's funny how Jerusha's kids will sometimes ask me for permission to do something, and even funnier that I actually do have some authority over them. They often obey me more willingly than her.

"You can sleep with Shira," Malka wheedled. Shira has been feeling slighted because when I visit them I sleep with Malka in her double bed, and not with Shira in her twin. I had told Shira we'd sleep together in the Catskills, but Malka didn't want to take my bed in the room with my mother, who unfortunately snores. She was brainstorming alternative sleeping arrangements.

"There's only one bed in Aunt Yaffa's room, Malka."

"I can sleep in the bed with her!"

"She sleeps in the bed with Aunt Chrissy, Malka. I don't think there's room for another person."

Aunt Chrissy was surprisingly game. "We usually sleep with three dogs and four cats," she said. "There's probably room for a small person."

But I managed to talk Shira out of a Catskills sleepover with Aunt Ayelet by promising to sleep in her new trundle bed over Rosh Hashana, so Malka wouldn't have to sleep with Grandma. I didn't have a problem with her staying overnight with Yaffa and Chris, but I wanted them to have their space. They love children, but they have dogs and cats. They were playing and spending a lot of time with the kids, and I didn't want us to impose on them too much.

Shira's conversation wasn't the only one that hit home. On a walk with Jerusha a few weeks ago, she'd been pointing out houses in the neighborhood that she might like our parents to move into when they get older. Today I told Mom about that -- how Jerusha looks for ranch houses close by so the parents won't have to climb stairs or walk too far -- and Jerusha said, "Yeah, I'm looking for a house for you and Mom and Dad."

Ouch. She doesn't believe I'll ever get married. I know she's looking out for me -- obviously doesn't want me to be elderly, homeless, and alone, and, as she put it, "I can't afford to buy three houses." But it still stung. I was kind of relieved to hug everyone and go home.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Okay, so I HAD to get in just ONE more post...

"That won't fit you," said Jerusha, as I took her "skinny skirt" out of the closet. Whenever I bring Shabbos clothes to the suburbs we never go to shul, and since we're going straight to the Catskills tomorrow, I tried to pack light and only brought casual clothing.

But Jerusha had forgotten I was coming for Shabbat, even though we discussed it on Tuesday, and had accepted a lunch invitation, which was gracefully extended to me, last-minute, by the hostess. (In the spirit of Elul and dan kaf l'zchut, I should mention it was a hectic week; she went away for a few days with my brother-in-law to celebrate their 15th anniversary, is supervising extensive reconstruction and redecorating of her home, and was planning for our time in the Catskills.)

I put on my nicest knit top and Jerusha said, "Too casual," although she wore a knit top as well. I asked if I could borrow something, and she grudgingly agreed. "I feel like you never bring enough clothes when you come and you always end up borrowing mine," she groused. (Some sisters actually enjoy sharing clothes. Not in this house.)

"I feel like whenever I bring nice clothes we don't go to shul, and I shlep them in on a long subway and bus ride for no reason," I rejoindered, taking the "skinny skirt" off the hanger. "You're right," I said, zipping it and dropping it loosely onto my hips. "It doesn't fit -- it's too big." I'm too small for an Ann Taylor 12!!!! I rummaged around for another skirt and top.

"Don't ruin that skirt," she warned balefully; it's one of her favorites, even though odds are she'll never squeeze into it again. "I won't," I snapped, "I'm not wearing it; I'm borrowing something else." The green silk blouse that revealed too much of her ample cleavage was positively Borough Park tznius on less ample me. Green's not my color, but I wore it anyway.

"Ayelet, I remember you -- you're the PR girl!" said the host when I walked into his living room.

I haven't worked in PR for more than a decade. It was a little disconcerting; I was amazed he remembered me, although granted, not many frum girls work in public relations. I vaguely remembered meeting him and his then-fiancée. He and I had several mutual friends who used to host many Shabbos meals on the Upper West Side. Now all of them, including him, are living in the suburbs with two, three, four kids.

I wasn't oppressed by too much husband-bashing, although in this setting at least a little is inevitable. I just wish married people would be just a little more sensitive around single people. They have houses, spouses, kids, cars -- stop complaining and start appreciating! A good friend of mine reminded me that shalom bayis brings moshiach, and these kvetches are definitely not doing their share.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, August 24, 2007

Vacation

I'm off to spend a VERY long weekend (until Wednesday) with Jerusha and various other siblings, cousins, and children. We'll be in the lovely Catskills, where there's no wireless or cell phone reception. As usual, I'm the only single, childless one. It's either going to be a barrel of laughs or torture -- or somewhere in between.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Face it -- I'm NEVER going to Prime Grill

Narcissus promised to take me there and never did; he never took me anywhere. G.I. Josh refused to go there. Hude said we'd go there on our second date -- one of many broken promises. And HVAC just canceled on me, again, at the last minute -- again.

We were supposed to go to Prime Grill two days ago. He called in the morning to reschedule for tonight because he had to work. I canceled a strategy meeting for an advocacy project I've been trying to get off the ground.

I didn't hear from him all day, so I finally wrote to him via the website where we met:

Subject: are we on for tonight?
Message: I need to know when you're picking me up.

He wrote back:

i got to work tonight again
i have shutdown in a nut house

It's already 4:00!

When were you planning on telling me? I canceled other plans to go out with you tonight, you know, and now it's too late for me to reschedule. That's very inconsiderate of you.

He hasn't responded. I hate sounding like a nag; starting out a relationship like this can't be a good sign. I think I should probably just give up on him already. It's probably not shayach -- how can I date a guy who never goes to a museum? -- and he clearly doesn't have very good manners.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Two stations and a million miles away

My second-year internship is two subway stations and a million miles away from The Bad Place. It's a billion miles away from The Other Bad Place. And I love it. Love the people, love the work I'll be doing. It's perfect for me, and I'm going to learn so much. I might even start a client newsletter/writing/poetry reading/therapy group.

Everything happens for a reason, and somehow things always end up more or less okay for me. I usually have to suffer emotionally and physically, and end up losing money -- but it's only money. I finally feel confident that I'm going to finish my schooling on a high note and graduate knowing enough to actually get a job.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Baby brides

The fun blog Manolo for the Brides posted a link to a hilarious series, "Britain's Youngest Brides." I can't get over the Traveller bride's hideous wedding gown, easily the tackiest and largest I've ever seen. It makes her walk like a pregnant polar bear with the worst spray-on tan ever. Then again, her friends and family aren't exactly a page out of Italian Vogue either.



Scary to think she's going to pass along her genes to the next generation. (Actually, that holds true for several of the featured couples, especially the hungover groom whose fiancee is pregnant with twins.) And of course I think the 51-year-old used car salesman with the 18-year-old wife is fundamentally creepy. On so many levels.

But the Pakistani bride, whose marriage was arranged when she was 11, is gorgeous, liberated, and completely happy. She's married, she's starting med school, she adores her husband. Makes me kinda wistful...
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Stop breastfeeding!"

My 300th post -- and 40th post this month. (It's been a slow month.) I've got an interview tomorrow for my second-year internship -- wish me luck!

Things seem to be falling into place. I'd like to spend Rosh Hashana with Bina, Asher, and Ziva, my newest niece. It would be fitting -- I spent last R"H with Bina, right before her wedding. I'd also get a chance to get to know Ziva.

Bina is working really hard at breastfeeding. Contrary to what one might think, it's not always a natural, intuitive thing that new mothers just roll over and do. Sometimes you have to work at it, and bless her soul, Bina's trying hard.

Several years ago, before I started taking lithium, I spoke with my then-therapist about how I feared it would preclude me from nursing. She looked at me narrowly.

"Ayelet, do you have a baby?" "Uh... no."

"Are you married?" (Sigh) "No."

"Do you have a boyfriend?" "No."

"Stop breastfeeding!" she exclaimed. It became a little mantra. I'm a yekke, a planner, and I usually try to live 10 steps into the future. This is not healthy or even practical. "Stop breastfeeding!" became a good reminder to focus on my current health and situation.

My sister Jerusha comforted me, saying that plenty of smart, healthy babies were bottle-fed. Heck -- I was breast-fed for going on three years (my mother won't give me an exact count, just says she stopped when I started biting her and laughing) and I've got allergies, digestive problems, acne, bad joints, and bipolar disorder. Studies have also shown that breastfeeding doesn't boost I.Q. as much as previously believed, although it does have other health benefits, and it's certainly cheaper than formula.

But still I mourned. I've always thought breastfeeding was such a nurturing, intimate, loving interaction. I wanted to be able to do that for my children. I didn't think they'd miss not being breastfed, but I knew I would miss not breastfeeding them.

Turns out, I might be able to, after all. Several recent studies have shown that the amount of lithium excreted in breast milk is minimal, with little to no effect on the baby.

Find me a husband who can knock me up, and I'm ready to start breastfeeding!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Another vanishing act

Last week I saw an intriguing profile on a dating website and just had to write. He defines "modern orthodox-machmir" as

I wear tzitzis AND I shop at the Gap. I say tehillim AND read Eugenides. There's a secular world and a Jewish world, and I love both of them.

I like Eugenides. Here's how Mr. MO-M describes himself:

I genuinely appreciate the details. I read a lot, run a lot, go to the zoo and movies a lot. I play music -- badly. I like a night out with friends to see a great band. I like staying in and watching "Arrested Development," too. I like learning with my chevrusas. I like hooded sweatshirts. I'm honest, sincere and loyal. If I'm OK at one thing, just one thing, it's writing. I can be a little irreverent, but I know when to say when. I'm funny. Whatever it is, I want to talk it through. I care deeply. And I'll take mercy over justice most of the time. And the other day, I was listening to Daniel Johnston while learning Sfas Emes. Does that mean anything to you?

Don't know who Johnston is, but I like the sound of this guy. He's articulate, edgy, witty, and loves to read. What kind of woman does he seek?

You live in this world and are happy to do so. You are balanced and comfortable in your own skin. You're curious. You're a music snob who can appreciate a good sweatshirt and a ballcap. You read a lot. You are funny. You have no strong preferences about cold fruit. You're active, adventurous. And you're so kind, people can sense it when you walk by.

Cold fruit? I suppose I prefer my fruit cold, but I never really gave it too much thought. As for the rest -- curious, living in this world, avid reader, funny, kind... sounds like Ayelet. So I wrote him.

Subject: I liked Middlesex.

Actually, I only read the excerpt in The New Yorker, but I thought it was very well written. What kind of music are you snobby about? (Must confess I haven't heard of Johnston -- is he a jazz musician?)

He responded:

It's the best book I've read in 15 years.

I'm snobby about all music. Anything from classics like Van Morrison and Dylan and the Stones to college music like Yo la Tengo and Neutral Milk Hotel. Daniel Johnston is a schizophrenic, extremely troubled musician who might write and perform the truest music I've heard.

Your profile is very straightforward. I like that.

I have facial hair. Kids dig me. And what is casual passion???

In my profile, I mention that I'm not crazy about mustaches and beards; that's why he warned me about the facial hair.

Thanks for liking my profile ;) I had to make it as unambiguous as possible because I was getting tons of unwanted and inappropriate (i.e., old enough to be my father) contacts.

I love classic rock -- anything with good guitar. Clapton, Beatles, folk music, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, Eagles, Johnny Cash. I also love Motown, especially Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Ray Charles, the Commodores, and the Temptations. But I'm not a snob. I absolutely LOVE Shakira, I love Billy Joel (Movin' Out, the musical, was a tour de force; I've never loved modern dance, but I had a fantastic time), and I think Weird Al Yankovic is a genius.

I probably know people who are Daniel Johnston fans -- I'm very involved in mental illness rights advocacy. I'll ask them.

How attached are you to that facial hair? ;) Some guys wear it well, but I have to say, there are a lot of guys on here who wear the most unattractive mustaches. It's just ooky. If you're not Tom Sellack, a mustache is almost always a mistake.

"Casual passion" is also known as "no-strings-attached" or casual sex. And sadly, I've gotten a lot of requests for it from guys on here. I block them and report them, but that's about all I can do -- aside from being completely upfront about NOT being up for it.

He was shocked.

Wow. I'm shocked. On THIS website!?! They know this is a site for (or used to be for) religious Jews, right? Good grief.

And ... Wow II. You might not admit it, but you're a music snob. And Motown, no less. Is someone feeding you these lines? I LOOOVE Motown. Aretha Franklin's "Say a Little Prayer" is one of my top 3 songs ever.

I'm attached to facial hair -- literally and otherwise -- for a couple of reasons. My job doesn't mind, so I think, halachically, I have to have at least some. I also think Jews should have facial hair. That's what we do. A clean shave is minhag hagoyim -- just my opinion, but I'm fussy like that. In any event, my beard doesn't get too much longer than it is in my profile photo (except during sefira and the Three Weeks).

Still blown away by your last paragraph. I love love love The City, but maybe there's an advantage to living in the midwest. That would NEVER happen here.

I decided not to point out that "Say a Little Prayer" was sung by Dionne Warwick, not Aretha.

Yes, Virginia, there are orthodox horn-dogs on this website. (Technically it now has non-frum as well as frum members, but the non-frum ones have never made me any indecent proposals.) I don't think it's a NYC phenomenon; those guys write me because I'm (at least theoretically, or in their dreams) locally available. But I'm sure it happens in other areas as well. It's a factor of modern life and the alienation of intimacy from sex.

I am NOT a music snob. How can a music snob LOVE Billy Joel and Celine Dion and LOATHE jazz? I am not a jazz fan. I'll go to a jazz club because it's a fun thing to do, but I won't pop in a jazz CD to while away the hours. I think it's boring. And how is Motown music snobbery? It's the music of the people! One of my favorite scenes from Blues Brothers is the music store performance, when Ray Charles whales out "Shake a Tailfeather" and the entire neighborhood dances. Don't tell me you're a Weird Al fan too -- that would be "a consummation/Devoutly to be wish'd."

Beards, as I said in my profile, are often tolerable. Your photo's still under review so I can't judge yet ;) It's really mustaches that I have a visceral distaste for. I always thought a clean shave was a litvishe minhag, not a non-Jewish minhag. Do you have peyes? Do you love to shop for bargains? If not, does that make you a shaigetz?

His response was a bit incoherent.

No peyes, love bargains. Either way, those aren't deal breakers. I think a beard is (btw, my photo is available).

I have no thoughts on Weird Al. I'm ... speechless.

A shaigetz!?!?

Sorry so short. On deadline. Good Shabbos!!!

I didn't really get it. But he's a journalist, and he got busy, so maybe that's why his response was so disjointed. I wrote back:

Weird Al is a brilliant cultural critic. He stays on top of every trend and satirizes brilliantly. He makes me laugh out loud, and that is a rare feat.

Now's probably not the time to mention how much I hate it when guys wear baseball caps in their profile pics... A beard is not a deal breaker. A mustache, maybe, but not a beard.

Let's play a little Jewish geography: do you know Joshua Meltzer or Sammy Berger?

Four days went by. He'd read the note. He hadn't responded, and I'd seen him on the site several times.

What did I do wrong? Was he so annoyed that I criticized guys who wear baseball caps in their profile pictures? (I just think it's misleading. You can't really see someone's hair when he's wearing a hat. If you're losing your hair, be honest about it.) That seems kind of petty. Then again, I'll never be shocked by the shallowness of petty men. Saddened, maybe, certainly disappointed, but never shocked.

Finally my curiosity got the better of me:

Hello again -- haven't heard back from you. Did I offend with my baseball cap quip? If so, I'm sorry; that was not my intention.

His rejoinder:

My skin is a little thicker than that (somewhere between armadillo and turtle).

Sorry I didn't get back to you. I'm "busy" with someone right now.

Best of luck, MO-M

Thanks for letting me know, dude.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Chopped liver

Mrs. Mutter called Bina to congratulate her on the birth of her daughter. She read about the blessed event in our synagogue's weekly newsletter. I have no idea how she got Bina's number, which definitely isn't in the local white pages.

Yet this lady can't pick up the phone to invite me for a Shabbos meal. I know she has my phone number, and even if she didn't, I'm in the book. I don't get it. I know Bina's lovable, but what am I, chopped liver?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Just how good is your therapist?

It's hard to find the right therapist, and therapists routinely overestimate how well they're doing with their patients. According to an article in the New York Times,

[P]sychologists at Brigham Young University gave psychotherapy patients a questionnaire about how they were feeling and functioning. They randomly gave feedback from the questionnaires to half the patients’ therapists; the other half received strengthened feedback, which included patient self-assessment plus specific information about how the patients viewed their therapists and their social supports. These two groups were compared with a control group of patients whose therapists received no feedback.

The researchers found that giving feedback to therapists clearly improved treatment outcome: When therapists received no feedback, 21 percent of their patients deteriorated. With therapists who received regular feedback, 13 percent of patients deteriorated; with strengthened feedback, 7 percent of patients deteriorated.

The clear implication is that therapists are not always the best judge of how their patients are doing, perhaps because they are blinded by their own optimism and determination to succeed.

Ouch. I hope that after I get my clinical degree and license, I can find people to give me that kind of honest feedback. Dr. Incompetent certainly could have used some.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Crafty Ayelet

I was less than pleased when the clasp broke on my new Moon River Pearls necklace. I told them it broke and they're sending out a new one forthwith. (Really, they have excellent customer service. They also gave me a 15% discount to use within the next 90 days, so I bought a fab bracelet. You should definitely check out their sale.)

What to do with the rest of the necklace, which was intact? I am not an artsy person. My grandmother is a talented painter and potter, my mother sketches beautifully and makes incredible craft projects, and my sister Jerusha used to blow glass and make jewelry. The artist gene skipped me entirely. I can't draw a straight line; I can't even doodle.

But: I can take a hair elastic, attach it with two small safety pins to either end of the necklace, and -- voila! I've got a gorgeous pearl headband that matches my earrings and necklace. The connecting part doesn't look so elegant, but it's completely hidden under my hair.

Not a bad day at home. I had to do something besides blog and play Scrabble on Facebook.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Ain't that a kick in the head -- but wait...

I sent HVAC an email asking how he slept and if he thought of me today. He sent back:

Hi Ayelet,

I read your profile, but I did not think we would make a good match. Much success in your continued efforts.

HVAC

It's the standard "thanks but no thanks" automatically generated email from the website where we met. Kind of stunned me, but I wasn't entirely surprised. Not real classy, but what do you expect from a guy who's never been to a museum? Who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men? Ayelet knows, baby. I've seen guys do a 180º before, and choose to break up via impersonal computer messages rather than by calling and actually talking to me.

So I deleted every email HVAC had sent me and I'd sent him, and prepared to move on. I quickly thought about the things I don't like about him -- the brusque Brooklyn accent and manner, the frequent use of coarse language, the utter lack of -- and disinterest in -- high culture. How could I have gone out with him even once? He's so obviously wrong for me.

However, that email was quickly followed by another: send [sic.] that thing by accident

I responded: Okay, good. I was about to be very annoyed ;)

I guess we're still on for Prime Grill tomorrow.

My life is never dull. Annoying, exasperating, frustrating, confusing, painful, exhausting, mind-boggling, devastating -- yes. Never dull.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Feel the burn

I love music, I love youtube, I love to dance, and I need to exercise. Do the math....

A few weeks ago, I got the idea to put together a list of tunes that make me wanna dance in a youtube list and use it as a soundtrack; that would force me, despite myself, to get some exercise. Today I actually put it to use.

My knees have been really hurting lately -- could be changes in barometric pressure, we've been having really erratic weather lately -- but I felt good enough to dance vigorously for about 10 minutes. And I can feel a slight burn in my legs and arms -- I wore hand weights and put my hands in the air, waved 'em like I just don't care....

Unfortunately, my knees are killing me, but since the very expensive MRI showed that there was no real damage, it's just meaningless pain, not pain that indicates injury. I took a tramadol and ignored it.

Research shows that as little as 10 minutes of exercise can boost mood. If I do this every day, or close to every day, I'll be very boosted. Maybe even a little slimmer.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Gray skies are gonna clear up....

Not literally (at least not today in NYC), but I just heard about an even better second-year internship that the school is putting me up for. It involves work with a severely and persistently mentally ill population, teaches you a very effective treatment approach, you finish the year with certification in that treatment modality, and it pays a small stipend. I'd also get to work with a professor I like, who supervises the citywide evidence-based practice project, of which this internship is a part, for New York State. I sent them my résumé, and hopefully they'll bite.

In your face, The Other Bad Place!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

A good date, for a change

Well, Darna's always good for a nice dinner, but I actually enjoyed HVAC's company too. At first I was nervous because he kept glancing around the restaurant -- I thought he didn't want to look at me or didn't find me attractive.

"Are you okay? You seem a little nervous," I said.

"I'm fine," he said. Apparently he likes to get a sense of a place if he's never been there.

The conversation was pretty good, although he's very Brooklyn. It's hard to imagine that a person could grow up in NYC, travel throughout Europe, hit Japan and Australia, and never go to a single museum. He's a bit crude, and not "intellectual," but very street-smart.

He's also very straightforward and easygoing. He let me decide pretty much everything about the date -- where we went for dinner, where we went afterward to chat, when we were going on our next date.

Although I had to ask him outright. "So do you want to go out again?"

"I want to if you want to," he said.

"Not good enough. I want to know if you want to go out again," I said.

"I want to go out again," he said.

"Okay. So when are we going out again?" I asked.

"When do you want to go out again?" Again shifting the decision to me.

"Tuesday."

"Works for me."

"Where are we going?"

"Where do you want to go?"

"Prime Grill." He had been surprised to learn, earlier in the conversation, that I'd never been there. I was surprised he'd never been to Darna, since he lives on the Upper West Side and he's half Moroccan.

"Okay, we'll go to Prime Grill."

There's something to be said for a guy who lets you make all the decisions, even when it's going to cost him a lot of money. Some might say he's just a wuss, others that he's just too lackadaisical and doesn't care about anything. I say, why look a gift horse in the mouth?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lukewarm kiddush

A "hot kiddush" is usually served to celebrate a special occasion, like an aufruf or engagement, and includes cholent, kugel, and other delicacies a cut above the usual herring, cake, and seltzer. This week, a new caterer was on the job -- the caterer that Little Marty works for. He was supervising.

I went up to say hi and congratulate him on a job well done; the food was unique and well-presented, although I thought the fruit salad could have been cut a little later, since some of the pieces seemed a little slimy. We chatted for a few minutes. That was it.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mr. Disingenuous

The Arabian Knight IMed me last night.

Hi -- just wanted to see how you're doing.

I didn't respond. Let him wonder. A guy who breaks up with a woman via offline IM doesn't deserve any consideration.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Best served cold

Several weeks ago, Dr. Dragon sent out a mass email to all students at The Bad Place -- they haven't gotten around to taking my name off the list, which she keeps in the "To" and "cc" lines, not "bcc" -- telling us about a new psychology grad student publication seeking articles. I sent in a copy of an assignment I initially wrote last fall for Dr. Jerk and revised for Human Sexuality this summer. Just heard back from the magazine -- pending some changes, they want to publish it.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. This one's coming straight out of the freezer.

I thought about writing a lovely thank-you note to Dr. Dragon, expressing my appreciation for bringing the student journal to my attention. But I decided against that. It would be trés déclassé, for one thing. I also don't want her mobilizing resources against me to quash the article or queer things for me at my current school.

Speaking of school, I heard from the internship director that there might be a spot for me at one of the HHC hospitals. They have a large inpatient and outpatient psychiatric practice, and since it's a public hospital the clients are mainly persons who haven't had much access to health care and who consequently suffer from severe and persistent mental illness. As the Brits would say: my meat and drink, chappie! I'm supposed to meet with them next week.

The one niggling doubt I have is that this HHC hospital is affiliated with the same medical school affiliated with The Other Bad Place. I hope the departments don't compare notes. At least this time I know how to answer questions about why I had to be removed from my first internship: the incident of bias speech that the ASSociate Director participated in. That should be 'nuff said.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Never assume

I may have spoken a bit too soon.

I complained about a guy I met online, spoke to for about an hour on Sunday, and was supposed to hear from Monday or Tuesday evening. When I didn't -- and when I saw him on the website later, every time I visited -- it bothered me. I'll call him HVAC, because he has an HVAC business and because he seems to blow hot and cold.

I met HVAC because I took the first step. He had visited my profile numerous times, but because he's six years younger than I am -- and caps his potential spouse's age as five years younger than I am -- I didn't think he'd be interested in me, so I didn't write him. But he kept visiting my profile -- four, five times a week. Finally I sent HVAC my photo password and told him to satisfy his curiosity. He thought I was hot and sent me his phone number. I told him that I wasn't looking for NSA fun; he said he was serious and ready to get married. So I called him and we talked for a while but didn't make a date. And he said he'd call, and didn't.

Every day this week when I saw HVAC cruising the site, and not calling or emailing me, I waxed increasingly wroth. I am so sick of being blown off, ignored, and treated like yesterday's garbage. Finally I decided to do something. What did I have to lose? If HVAC wasn't interested, he'd let me know; if he was, I'd light a fire under him.

Hi HVAC -- If you decided not to call after saying that you would, it would have been polite to drop me a note to that effect. Pulling a disappearing act is not good derech eretz.

He responded almost immediately:

chas veshalom
I have been working nights
at a public school

(Which is actually almost a perfect haiku.) Chastened, I wrote back:

Apologies -- it's just that sometimes guys do run hot and cold, inexplicably, and I feel like don't know what's happened or what's going on. I also don't like waiting for the phone to ring -- not that I was sitting at home doing nothing waiting for the phone to ring... ;) I am sure you have to finish this job in a rush before school starts and that's why you've been so busy. As the French say, "Tout comprender, c'est tout pardonner" (understanding everything explains everything).

He told me to call him on his cell phone and I did. He's been working really late on a big project and hasn't gotten home before midnight in days -- and thought that would be too late to call me. We talked for a bit, but I sit in the midst of other cubicle denizens and didn't want to burden them with too great a window into my private life. I told him we should make a date to get together.

"Do you want to hang out with me tonight before I have dinner with my cousins?" he said. He has steak and Johnnie Walker Blue with them every Thursday.

I was offended. I'm not just a time-filler! "No -- shouldn't you and I be having dinner at some point?" He was immediately apologetic, said he was free this weekend, and told me to pick the date, time, and venue. So we're having dinner this Sunday at La Creperie.

But I'm wondering if I can take this guy seriously. If he really wanted to be dating for marriage, wouldn't he have made more of an effort to get in touch with me? And why do I feel like I'm pursuing him? That can't be a good thing -- men like to be the pursuers, not the pursued. But waiting around for men to get around to things makes me antsy, and I like taking initiative.

Worst of all, HVAC's first marriage ended because his wife failed to disclose, before they wed, that she has schizophrenia. Even if I was completely upfront with him about my illness -- as I will be with any guy I date very seriously -- I really doubt he'd want another wife with a mental disorder, even one who copes with it as well as I do.

I don't know. I'm definitely going to order the dulce de leche crepes on Sunday. Aside from that, I have no idea what will happen.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thanks for not swimming in the gene pool

I always think nothing can shock me in terms of what guys post on their online dating profiles. And then new guys join a website, their profiles show up in a search, and they say the dumbest things.

This gem describes himself as

born and bred out of town... no category fits me. I am in the middle caught between the yeshivish hypocrisy on the one hand and shallowness and modern orthodox ambivalence and contradictions.

Negative much? That's kind of off-putting. Well, let's see what he's looking for:

sensitive, caring, beautiful in and out, good potential mother, not interested in labels, out of town

Wouldn't "out of town" qualify as a label? And if you're a college professor, why aren't you looking for a woman who's at least moderately intelligent? Interesting.

Another fellow, who is 39, made me laugh out loud. His first sentence in "how I describe myself" is

I am looking for someone who loves children and is very family oriented.

In other words, she better not have a career, since she is meant to be a baby machine. He enlarges on that in the "what I am looking for in a mate" section:

PLEASE NOTE I DO HAVE AN IDEAL AGE REQUIREMENT AND WILL NOT DATE ABOVE 34 years of age. PLEASE CHECK PROFILE FOR SPECIFICS. As for divorced women, I will date someone who has been married a year or less, but not someone in a long term relationship.

I am open to most backgrounds of observance, however if the girl lived a wild life in the past and has finally "decided" to settle down, I am not for this type of person. I do not want any game players or people with questionable reputations. I want a good girl, not perfect, but good.

He's obviously read somewhere that women's fertility declines after age 35, and has decided to hedge his bets. What's funny is that I actually went out with this guy a few years ago, and I'm not that much younger than he is. Some guys don't revise their "ideal age requirement" upward to match their own age; the older they get, the younger they date (or try to). It's also weird how he goes on and on about not wanting a former bad girl. Protesting much?

Such rigid and/or bizarre requirements may well keep these guys out of the dating pool, and possibly the gene pool. That might not be a bad thing.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Mental illness and marriage in the blogosphere

The blogosphere has started discussing mental illness and shidduchim, and I couldn't resist inserting my $0.02.

A Jewish mother asked whether she and her husband should tell the girl her son is dating that he has bipolar disorder, well-managed with medication. One of the comments read:

"under control" is not cured, like diabetes

It's genetic, meaning that the tendency can be inherited. Some rabbis would even annul a marriage if it's discovered later.

I fired back:

Plenty of people have medical conditions that can be managed with medications, and they lead good, productive lives. Should diabetics, those with a family history of heart disease, epileptics, and so on just never get married? You'd be eliminating a lot of wonderful people from the dating pool! Moreover, mental illnesses are not 100% heritable. Your attitude betrays a lot of ignorance and prejudice.

Another blogger took up the topic, and again, some of the comments really bothered me, so I posted:

Plenty of people with bipolar disorder 1) have no family history of it and 2) lead happy, productive lives because their condition is well-managed by medication (the side effects of which can be slight or nonexistent). I know because I am one of them.

It is ignorance and prejudice, however, that keeps me from being open about this disorder. I'm not ashamed to have it -- I work extremely hard to function extremely well. I worked full-time while earning my first master's degree and am now earning a second master's degree. I'm a loving and beloved aunt to many great kids. I have terrific friends and relatives who value my presence in their lives.

I am single, and I don't want the first thing people know about me to be my diagnosis, because it doesn't define me 100%. If you truly think that an intelligent, competent, kind, giving, and attractive woman should remain single for the rest of her life and never have children, you're not only cruel, you're short-sighted. Mental illness can afflict anyone at any time. I've already proven that I can cope with it. If you're unable to see that as a sign of strength, it's your narrow-mindedness.

I was happy to read another post from the wife of a man with bipolar disorder, who told her about his condition on the third date. They struggle, but they're pretty happy.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What do men want?

I must have too much time on my hands, or too many troubles on my mind. I don't normally post four times in one day, but right now I'm completely fed up with men.

I've been corresponding on a dating website with one guy. He doesn't answer my last email. Then I see him cruising the site later. Obviously looking for someone else. Another guy and I spoke on the phone for almost an hour on Sunday -- he said he'd call Monday or Tuesday. He hasn't.

However, I have heard from some truly bizarre creatures. One sent me the awful chrain in Spain joke and said "I hope you liked my joke and my profile." Um, you're older than I said I was interested in, you didn't go to college, you have a really weak sense of humor, and you're chassidic -- yet on my profile it says, "I am not chassidic and not looking to become chassidic." In what bizarro-world universe would I be interested in you?

I just wrote about Sparky, the over-sharing IT geek. And seconds ago I got a note from a really angry young man:

I used to be chassidish, now I'm apparently just angry. I wish I could find a woman who could calm the anger. I know I could make that woman very happy. I don't think I care very much now for a woman who'll cover her hair at all. If it's beautiful show it. If you look good in a pair of pants I would think you should wear them. That would be most women just NOT Hillary Clinton. She would look best in a burka!

This is from his profile:

I grew up in a yeshivish black hat home. Approximately ten years ago I became chassidish. I truly felt that I'd find my niche there but for some reason although they treat me wonderfully I'm not good enough to marry them. The "yeshivishe" community doesn't want me because I don't have the right look. Do I really have to wear a 200 dollar borsalino to be good enough? Open your eyes! The best litvishe boys obviously don't want you! Don't you read the Yated? Look closely at yourself. If you're looking online for the best in the whole of Lakewood you must be crazy and I wouldn't want you either. I ranted enough already. For all of these reasons I'm not quite sure where I belong.

I'm looking for a warm and loving gentle woman who won't judge me by who I look like but rather by who I am. I password protected my photos because I was being overlooked by the most openminded women on the web. I've already learned the hard way to never judge a person you don't know by outside appearances.

In other words, "Bitter -- party of one." I responded:

You're obviously very angry, which is clear both from your note to me and your profile, and I have to say -- it's not an attractive quality. You need to temper that anger before you'll be able to attract a woman who will want to spend more than 30 seconds in your company. I strongly suggest you seek therapy.

By the way -- I'm a registered Democrat, so gratuitous Hillary-bashing really doesn't turn me on.

Why do these guys keep bothering me? Obviously my freak flag is flying, drawing in the weirdos and scaring off the normal guys. What am I doing wrong?

Then again, maybe it's the guys on this website that are damaged, not me. I just read this gem in someone's profile:

This is what I am looking for in a mate: beautiful physically -- but a better person with an incredible heart; driven and ambitious -- but more interested in building a family than a career.

Does such a woman even exist?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Oh no, I've said too much... I've had enough

For years, on various dating websites, I've been hearing from a computer geek, Sparky, who lives out of town. He invariably starts his posts with the phrase "I saw your profile and I just had to write" and gets markedly odder from there.

I've always blown him off because he sounded too oddball, but I'm really trying hard to be openminded and willing to meet a broad variety of men, and he didn't seem petty or mean-spirited, just kind of weird. So the most recent time Sparky contacted me, I responded in a friendly manner. He actually sounded pretty normal this time:

I saw your ad and I just had to write. My name is Sparky, and I am a mature, self -confident man who works as a LAN Manager for a global company . Previously, I was working on national projects for another company so I was not around much and did not have a lot of spare time to myself, but now things are different and I finally have some spare time to myself. I guess you can say that I am a spontaneous type of person and enjoy trying new things and meeting new people. I am extremely introspective, spiritual, and reflective. I am goal oriented and try to win when ever possible. I have also lived in Philadelphia as well as Columbus Ohio. How I landed in Columbus Ohio is a long story, to long to going into, but it was a great experience living in the Midwest.

I am interested in outdoor sports including sailing in the summer and skiing in the winter. I like to finish the day by delving into my creative side by cooking a gourmet meal for special friends and family.

When the spirit moves you let me know more about yourself.

Doesn't sound too bad, does he? Sparky sent me his phone number, which I called but got no answer; I emailed him to let him know and he said, "Sorry but believe it or not I gave you the wrong number." With a sinking feeling, I believed it.

I should have given up then. I wanted to. But, still trying to be openminded, I called him tonight. It was a mistake. Apparently if you keep your mind too wide open, your brains fall out. My gut impression of him was right -- he's very weird.

I've only just met the guy. The first thing he starts talking about -- and talks for five minutes without interruption -- is how much his boss the micro-manager annoys him and the other employees, how this job is a real step down for him professionally, how much he misses his previous job working for the state, how he's tried to get another state job at a lower salary and rank, etc., etc., etc. Granted, I asked how things were going at work, and I kind of knew he wasn't entirely happy there, but I didn't expect such a tirade.

Note to guys trying to make a good first impression on a woman: Don't tell her how much you hate your job, it's beneath you, and you feel like your career is stagnating. This does not inspire confidence or admiration. Pity, yes; disdain, probably; annoyance, you betcha.

I finally broke in and said it sounded like things were really bothering him, and had he considered talking to anyone about it. He spun off another tirade about the injustices unleashed upon him and the IT team by management and how he'd complained to HR without recourse. Taking a leap, I told him it might really help him to talk with a therapist about the situation, because it really seemed to be bothering him -- and that expressing all of this negative personal information was not the best way to embark upon a friendship or romance. I don't know if he really took in what I said, but I had to make my escape.

Sparky made me wonder about how I present myself to others. I've talked to fellow students and acquaintances about my experiences with the internship department. They've always seemed to listen and sympathize. But they're mostly social work students; we're trained to listen well.

Maybe I should take a lesson from Sparky and, to be fair, my mother, who a few weeks ago at my niece's birthday party suggested I not share every internship frustration of mine with a guest's mommy, who is also a social work student. Maybe I should kvetch a whole lot less about my lot in life. Because it really wasn't attractive in Sparky. At all.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Remember where you come from

I love the Mordechai ben David song "Yidden"; it's great fun at weddings. And I guess I somewhere knew that it was based on another song, but I have to thank The Muqata for posting videos of the source.

Warning: if you're lactose intolerant, beware -- it's one of the cheesiest things I've ever seen.





They're kind of a cross between the Village People and Fleetwood Mac, and they dance like the whitest of white people. Apparently the only thing scarier than German soldiers is German disco dancers.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Kwitcherbeefin'

A few weeks ago, Alona and I got into a minor tiff. I told her I had the worst luck in the world. She pointed out that many would believe Holocaust victims and survivors, say, had worse luck. She was right, of course, but I didn't want to hear it at the time; I was upset.

Research shows that venting -- or kvetching, or complaining, or bellyaching, or whatever you want to call it -- can do more harm than good. Fixating on your problems, railing enlessly against the injustice of it all, can agitate more than soothe you. So when Shimona called me yesterday to complain about the unfortunate circumstance of her own life, I'm afraid I wasn't as empathetic as I could or should have been.

I genuinely feel for Shimona. Without going into detail, she's had some pretty tough breaks. As another "older" single (although younger than I by several years) who's tried so hard to find her bashert, she's fed up with hearing about others who met their soulmates effortlessly. The latest offender is a younger cousin of hers, who while in college met her future husband during a fire drill. She wasn't even thinking about marriage and for a long time they were just friends, until she was ready to date seriously. Now this pisher is getting married in a few weeks, and Shimona is gritting her teeth against the onslaught of im yirtze Hashem by you's.

Stories like these are infuriating. For example, my sister Jerusha met her husband during freshman orientation week at college. He saw her at a Hillel picnic and thought she was cute; her initial impression was not quite as positive, but he was persistent, and five years later they got married. She's never had a blind date or another boyfriend. It's absolutely disgusting. That's one reason she really just doesn't get me.

But Shimona kept going over and over the same point: it's not fair, it's so easy for other people, it's so hard for me. I felt awful for her pain, and tried to engage her in a little CBT -- and I shouldn't have. First because my training as a practitioner is far from complete, second because a person in the throes of misery cannot think rationally and shouldn't be pushed.

I was going to call her and apologize, but since she reads my blog: Forgive me, Shimona. I shouldn't have tried to cut you off; I should have let you express yourself.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, August 13, 2007

A decent day

It's my last week at this internship. Yee-haw! I visited several of my favorite deep-discount neighborhood stores, buying a little thing here and a tiny thing there. Two very inexpensive but dramatic headbands. Leave-in conditioner, at the lowest price I've seen on- or offline. Some rhinestone sparkly nail decals for the next time I do manicures with my nieces. A skirt and a top.

This time, changing in the communal dressing rooms, I didn't look at the thinner ladies -- or the thicker ladies. I just looked to see if the clothing fit and if it was flattering. Some items were too small -- and that was fine, even when they were labeled "large." (Interestingly, a skirt that was labeled size 6 was actually a bit large on me. Not sure what country that skirt originated in -- Mauritania?) Looking in the full-length mirror at my reflection, clad only my undergarments, I actually felt okay about my body. I thought it looked nice -- a mite upholstered, but well-proportioned and attractive. (At least until I turned sideways.)

I came home to two deliveries. A pink silk dress and a purple stripy top, which together cost only $20.93 (including delivery). They fit like they were made for me. I also unwrapped my wonderful Moon River Pearls purchases, which are gorgeous -- lustrous, larger, and even more fabulous than they looked online.

Right now, my life feels almost abundant enough.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The next best thing

I didn't meet my own true love this weekend, but I might have furthered the cause of true love for some friends.

Yiska (she has the same Hebrew name as one of my great-aunts, and I've never met anyone else with that name) is a sweet girl I met several weeks ago on the Great Lawn and spent time with this past weekend. She and Amitai, the younger brother of one of my former roommates (I can't stand her, but I always really liked him and his parents, who will be the world's most awesome in-laws), were at lunch with me. They hung out at shalosh seudos and the pizza party, but he didn't take her phone number.

She and I spoke this morning, and I offered to contact him, via a mutual dating website we both frequent, to see if he's interested. She agreed. So I wrote him:

Hey Amitai -- it was really nice catching up with you this weekend! I was glad to see you and Yiska shmoozing at the pizza party and seudah shlishit. Please let me know if you need her contact information; I know she'd love to hear from you.

He responded:

Nice seeing you this weekend as well.
I spoke with Yaffa (the shabbaton organizer) this morning. She said that she was going to call Yiska today. The only issues I have (not really an issue) is that Yiska is leaving to travel for two weeks tomorrow or Tuesday so I do not think we would get a chance to either speak or get together before she leaves.

I shot back:

Okay -- remember what our host said at lunch, how he went to Hawaii for a few weeks and all he could think about was the girl he was dating, who is now his lovely wife? If you both think about each other while she's away (and it's not like she's going to meet anyone eligible while she's there), and you're both still interested after she gets back -- kol b'seder. :)

He rejoindered:

Good point.
I didn't see you at the pizza party, how long were you there for?
By the way, what was Yiska's last name. For some reason, I can not remember it.

I sent the rundown to Yiska, adding:

So I wrote back and told Amitai I left round 'bout midnight -- and gave him your email address. I hope Yaffa got back to you too.

Have a fabulous time traveling -- and when you get back, someone's waiting for you... ;) Please keep me updated. If things work out with you and Amitai, I only need to match one more couple, and then I can be as naughty as I wanna be.... ;)

She wrote back:

Hey Ayelet,
You are so cute! Thanks for finding out the scoop with Amitai. You handled it really well (I thought the play-by-play of the conversation you had with him was cute too). I still haven't yet heard from Yaffa, but I'm sure I will soon. Thanks again, and I hope to speak to you when I get back from my trip B"H.
P.S. I hope it does work out between Amitai and me JUST so that you can be as naughty as you want to be.
Take Care, Yiska

Hey -- if I don't have my own love life, I can live vicariously through my "clients" ;) Kind of like Hitch.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Almost forgot to mention...

I looked sexy but frum and fabulous rockin' all my trendy, inexpensive, hip new clothing. It's great to feel like a million bucks when you spent less than $100 (including accessories and jewelry) on your outfit. Also, the henna tattoo was a moderate sensation -- attracted a reasonable amount of attention and inspired some nice conversation.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Mission accomplished

Not that I met the man of my dreams -- at least I don't think I did; if I did, he's playing his cards very close to the chest -- but I had an amazing Shabbat. I met tons of wonderful people; I haven't spent much time in this particular suburban enclave, but my hosts were beyond gracious and lovely. They picked me up at the train station, gave me my own room and bathroom, and treated me like an honored guest. Everyone was very friendly and supportive, the food was beyond delicious, the Scotch was at minimum 15 years old, the weather was sublime, and I made a number of terrific new girlfriends.

I joked with a few people that I go to singles events to meet women, not men. I've made a number of good female friends at these events, and this one was no exception. I knew that as the oldest girl at the party, the number of men who'd be interested in me might be limited. By expecting only to have fun and mingle, I enjoyed myself exceedingly. I also got to spend time with a few friends that I didn't know would be at the shabbaton, which was an unexpected bonus.

The shabbaton was small and intimate -- fewer than 100 men and women. We had small meals at our hosts' homes, mixing together a few guys and girls, and we also spent time together as a group, at davening, shalosh seudos, a shiur, and a pizza party on Saturday night. I suggested a match to a gentleman and lady I knew before the shabbaton, who were both at lunch with me, and they spent some time getting to know each other. Here's hoping! I also met a nice young guy that I'm going to introduce to sweet Simcha.

At the pizza party I tried to be a wingman. Rafaella is a sweet young lady who wasn't officially on the shabbaton but lives in town, so I met her over the course of Shabbat. At the party I introduced her to the guys she thought were cute. I had to leave just as I'd connected her with the last of them, but I'm hoping to hear good news -- they were talking and smiling as I left ;)

I'm pretty proud of how I acquainted them. The target (and his friend) were standing near the refreshment table; they hadn't been at the shabbaton but came to the pizza party, which was open to anyone with $10. I didn't know either of the guys, and neither did Rafaella.

"How are we going to meet them?" she asked.

"They're standing near the snacks. I'll go get one and introduce myself, then you."

"You can't do that!" she exclaimed, aghast.

"Watch me," I said. I walked up, took a pretzel, and introduced myself to the guys. I chatted them up for a few minutes, then Rafaella strolled up casually and I introduced her to him.

I also met a really hilarious character during Shabbat, a real estate agent who moonlights as a shadchan. I've seen him a bunch of times on a dating website we both frequent; he's supposed to get back to me with some eligible possibilities. (Since he's checked out my profile several times, and we're not right for each other, he must know enough about me to promote me to other fellas.)

It was interesting seeing in person so many guys whose profiles I've seen on dating websites. Some of them have obviously put up the best picture they have ever taken. "Is that really so-and-so?" I would wonder. "His head looks so much smaller in real life" or "He's really lost a lot of hair/gained so much weight since that picture was taken!" If a picture is worth a thousand words, real life is worth a million pictures. It's funny -- I always think I'm much prettier in real life than in any photo of me; I suppose the opposite is often also true.

It was a little intimidating spending time in the stately mansions where most of the hosts reside. My hosts' house dwarfs Jerusha's, which I thought was pretty big and fancy. It's meticulously decorated but not at all pretentious; for example, the living room right off the foyer has 500 pictures of their children on the walls and a big ping-pong table.

My hostess is a former accountant who now dabbles in interior design -- she's got tremendous attention to detail, an indispensable element of both professions -- and the host is part owner of a major league baseball team. Not the usual crowd I hobnob with. But they were so friendly and down-to-earth. I felt completely comfortable shmoozing with them, and they were so gracious and interested in my life and goals. They included me as an equal; when some of their friends dropped by Friday evening after dinner to visit and chat, they included me completely in the conversation and really listened to what I had to say.

[I was intrigued to learn that a number of the frum married ladies are apparently carrying on with a Latino personal trainer at their gym, who encourages them to get tons of plastic surgery interventions; now they all look like a bunch of Stepford Wives with enormous breasts and lips bursting with collagen. (Not my hostess, of course -- her husband is what they call a "Silver Fox.") I know loshon hora is a tremendous aveira -- probably why it's one of my favorite sins -- but it was tremendous fun to listen to. Since I didn't meet the ladies in question, I hope I'm more or less off the hook for listening to the rundown.]

I also got to learn about how not to present myself from another attendee. The Gunner is a nice guy who just talks way too much, way too fast, and way too loud. He's not a law student -- ironically, he's a psychology professor and researcher who seems to have no insight into his own behavior or how he appears to others. (Reminds me of a certain Dr. Jerk, although this guy at least means well.) One of his online behavior studies had been picked up by the popular news media, and he was being quoted and written about in a number of newspapers, magazines, and websites.

And we heard all about it. The Gunner dominated every conversation, every Shabbos table, every shiur. No one could get in a word; he even delayed the conclusion of every meal because he hadn't finished holding forth. People were talking about him, and not in a good way. "Nebuch," they'd say. "He's a nice guy, but he's so annoying. Someone should talk to him about the impression he's making."

In some ways I understand and identify with The Gunner. He's a very bright guy with tons of specialized knowledge that he loves to share. But he overdid it. He tried too hard, and instead of winning friends and influencing people, he alienated everyone. Which is a real shame. I tried to learn from him -- to listen more than I spoke, and to limit my discourses on esoteric topics. I think it worked; people seemed to like me fairly well.

It was a terrific break from the Upper West Side. I had fun, I relaxed, I even got a ride home! Can't ask for anything more. And if two of the matches I facilitated lead to marriage, I'm set for afterlife. My first match was Alona and Adir; I gave Alona the website where she found Adir's profile, briefed and debriefed her before and after every date, and generally supported her through the courtship and engagement (and of course continue to do so).

It's rumored that a person who facilitates three marriages gets into heaven automatically. If two of my weekend matches work out, I can be as bad as I want for the rest of my life ;)
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hard out here for a TOTAL narcissist

Actor Terrence Howard was nominated for an Academy Award for his extremely realistic portrayal of a pimp/hustler who becomes a hip-hop sensation. (Who would expect that to happen? Oh, wait... Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Lil Kim... never mind.)

Apparently the nomination went to his head. "I like women who look like me," he told Elle magazine. "Generally, you're attracted to women who look like you, because the most beautiful thing in nature is your own reflection."

No wonder I have problems with all those blond recently divorced guys I've tried to date. I'm a brunette.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

War paint, aka "You Gotta Have a Gimmick"

So I'm going to be the oldest woman at this singles' weekend. I definitely won't be the thinnest, and I probably won't be the prettiest. How do I make myself stand out without appearing to beg for attention, maintaining my slightly ironic detachment and mystique?

War paint. In the war between the sexes, that means artfully applied cosmetics, flawless nail lacquer -- a scarlet mani-pedi that matches the lipstick that matches my new dress -- and my secret weapon: a henna tattoo. I can virtually guarantee I'll be the only chick there rockin' one.

I got the tat on impulse, walking toward Century 21 to buy a house gift for my host family. There was a little hole-in-the-wall eyebrow threading/henna tattoo parlor on (ironically) Maiden Lane; I walked in, asked to see a design book, was told the designs were all "up here" (indicating the forehead), and decided to trust the artist. Scant minutes later, I had a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind "bracelet." Not as elaborate as the illustration above, but still very unique and eye-catching.

It's an instant conversation starter:

Curious guy: "What the heck is that thing on your arm?"

Ayelet (nonchalantly): "Henna tattoo."

CG: "Aren't tattoos assur?"

Ayelet (looks him in the eye, then glances away flirtatiously): "It's temporary. Lasts about 3 weeks." (Casual hair-toss; resumes eye contact.) "I just like the look of it."

CG: "Cool... you are the most fascinating woman I've ever met."

Okay, maybe that's a little optimistic. But I'll definitely get their attention without saying a word. In other words: it's a gimmick, as the burlesque dancers from Gypsy would say. (Warning: that hyperlink leads to some very immodest and scantily clad lady performers.)
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Pearls of wisdom

I love pearls. They're my birthstone, and I adore their gentle glow. No other stone is as elegant and versatile. A woman can never have enough pearls.

Hude was supposed to buy me pearl earrings set in gold to settle a bet. We all know how that turned out. I didn't want to feel deprived, so I bought myself a pair. Didn't spend a ton of money -- I got them at Overstock.com, and they're gold-filled rather than solid gold. (I'm wearing them today, for the first time, and they look fabulous.)

Later I visited Moon River Pearls, one of my most-visited, albeit not often patronized, jewelry websites. I noticed that three of my favorite designs, which I had bookmarked and yearned for again and again, were on sale for only $19.99 each -- a significant markdown. And I had a 20%-off site coupon to use.

Now, as someone who in the past has done a fair amount of hypomania-fueled shopping for stuff I did not need, I had to seriously consider whether I actually needed to get all three items. And I decided I did. Not only because they were each an incredible bargain, but also because I want my life to feel abundant, not deprived. I'm not shopping to fulfill a manic desire to possess everything I see and covet. I'm shopping so that my life doesn't feel any emptier than it has to.

I don't have a husband, but I shouldn't need one in order to feel like I have everything I need and enough of what I want. Same reason I bought myself a new gold watch. Being single is painful enough; I don't have to punish myself any further. On the contrary, I need to make myself happy, since no man has yet stepped up to assume that responsibility (at least in part).

I'm not in debt, I'm saving for retirement, and I manage my money responsibly. If I want to buy two pairs of earrings and a coordinating necklace -- all for less than $50, thank you very much -- I can, and I should.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ya gotta read this

A man 10 years my junior peeked at my profile on one of the dating websites I frequent. So I looked at his, and found this:

Dear Bashert,

How can I begin to tell you how much I miss you and I've never even met you before. You are my life, my wife, my reason for being. Without you, I barely exist. Even now, I live the life of a single, solitary, lonely soul walking around, trying to create meaning where there isn't any. I am lost. I need you right now. Where are you? How long must Hashem make us wait? I know if we're truly meant to be, then we will find one and other. As I write this letter, tears gently emanate from my eyes, and I listen to the quiet, still meditative music of the thought of seeing you for the first time. Am I too deep, too "out there." Not for you. You understand me. You can feel me right now, just as with the grace and help of Hashem we can feel the heartbeat of our children inside your womb. I want to be a good husband to you, and a good father to our children. I must act now to build the type of life you my wife will and do want. I'll do my best. Find me.

I can't decide whether it's refreshingly direct, sweet, open, and vulnerable -- the way we wish all men were -- or too Tom Cruise in "Jerry Maguire."
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

She ain't heavy, she's my sister

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how sweet my sister Jerusha has been to me lately. She called tonight to discuss family vacation plans and commiserated with me about my stupid internship follies. (She went through similar meshugas during med school.)

It's really wonderful to have a sister who listens to you respectfully and sympathetically, condoling with your troubles. I just wish she were like this more of the time.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

A joke in need is funny indeed

Thanks to The Muqata for my most recent favorite joke of all time. I can't link to the post directly, so I'll repeat it:

Two astronauts land on Mars. Their mission: to check whether there is oxygen on the planet.

"Give me the matches," says one. "Either it burns and there's oxygen on Mars, or nothing happens."

He takes the box, and is ready to strike a match when, out of the blue, a Martian appears waving all his arms... "No, no, don't!!"

The two astronauts look at each other, worried. Could there be an unknown explosive gas on Mars?

Still, he takes another match... and...

A crowd of hysterical Martians appear, all waving all their arms, screaming: "No, no, don't do that!"

One of the astronauts says, "This looks serious. What are they afraid of?"

The other says, "We're here for science, to know if man can breathe on Mars."
Ignoring the Martians, he strikes a match. It flames up, burns down, and... nothing happens.

So he turns to the Martians and asks, "Why did you want to prevent us from striking a match?"

The leader of the Martians says, "Today is Shabbat!!"

I needed a laugh after my incredibly aggravating day. I met with Eleanor again; apparently I'm a few hundred hours short of the time I need to log in order to complete my first year of fieldwork. Through no fault of mine -- because of the lollygagging, idiotic, antisemitic idiots at my first placement, and the rudeness, intransigence, and incompetence of the school internship office, especially Dean Evillene.

If I'd started either of the other two internships I was offered to replace the first disaster, I'd be closer to finishing this endless first year. I would have had a more enriching educational experience, instead of twiddling my thumbs while my current clients cancel their appointments and blow me off. I might even have made some money -- one of the places would have hired me as a consultant after my internship ended -- and put my name on some journal articles.

Thanks to Dean Evillene, I've lost time, money, and academic prestige. I can't tell you how much I despise that big ugly woman. She's an absolutely execrable social worker -- a shameful counterexample to every value and technique the school is trying to inculcate in us.

I've lost all respect for the school administration, which seems to operate on the Dilbert Principle. If it weren't for the professors and students, I'd say screw it. As it is, I no longer recommend the school to people who aspire to become social workers. And they're not going to see a dime of my money as an alumna. However, I do intend to make the most use of the school's prestige when seeking jobs and promoting myself. If I haven't earned it, I've bought it.

When I started this internship, Eleanor told me I would have to work two weeks in August. Today she was expecting me to work five days a week through Labor Day. And that was not acceptable. I need a break.

Fortunately, she came up with a decent compromise that won't force me to waste any more time than I have to at my current internship. Instead, I'll have to agree in writing to make up the hours at my second-year internship -- that is, if Dean Evillene approves. (She better damn well approve. I will kick down the school dean's door -- hell, I'll kick down the university president's door -- if I'm denied this.)

Again, I'll waste my own time and lose money -- I could be working at a real job while I make up for the time that other people forced me to waste -- but hopefully my second internship will be in a setting where I won't be harassed and I'll learn a few things, so spending more time there will actually benefit me.

That would be a novelty.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"