Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bogarting the baby

Went with Shuli, Avner, four-year-old Elimelech, two-year-old Meital, and baby Baruch to Spanish-Portuguese today. It's not a cuisine -- it's a Jewish congregation that's been in NYC since 1654. Her friend Harriet was giving a kiddush to celebrate the birth of her baby son Milton (named after his grandfather), who's a few weeks younger than Baruch.

Shuli was looking forward to showing off her new baby, too. Unfortunately, she didn't get much of a chance because as soon as Avner lifted him out of the snap-n-go, I took him.

"Ayelet!" protested Shuli, empty-armed.

"I had to say goodbye to all my clients this week," I said truculently. "I need to hold a baby." She couldn't argue because she's got a thing about not making a scene in public -- a trait I had cleverly planned to exploit. Also, I happen to be much better at burping Baruch than anyone else, so I decided it would be in his best interest for me to give the next bottle.

"What a beautiful baby!" one of the congregants said to me.

"Thanks, but I'm not his mom," I said. "I'm the weekend nanny."

She must be from Morocco (the synagogue caters to Jews from Morocco, Turkey, Greece, and other non-Ashkenazi lands), and she must have taken me seriously and assumed I'm from Latin America, because she immediately began speaking to me in Spanish. She was particularly taken with Baruch's nose: "!Esta narizcita! !Que linda!" (It is pretty cute, but I love his big blue eyes and the way he smiles with his whole face.)

On the way out of the synagogue Avner and Shuli ran into a woman he'd once dated, who married someone else, now has several kids, and looks about 70. She's gaunt, wrinkly, and has bags under her eyes that Paris Hilton could use for a weekend getaway. (Avner and Shuli are remarkably well-preserved and look much younger than their years.)

"You made the right choice, dude," I said to him. "She looks terrible!"

"See how you look after you've had three kids!" said Shuli. "Gd willing."

"Well, if she could do it, I guess I could," I said. "She probably had her first when she was about my age, right?"

"I think so," said Avner.

Tomorrow I'm going to be the official baby holder at Elimelech's birthday party. I also need to buy a bathing suit, which I'm not looking forward to shopping for, but the party should be nice. I'm still sad about leaving my clients, but I know I need to move on.

I also need to do something to regain the upper hand with SB. (In the immortal words of George Costanza, "I had hand!") When I was juggling SB and Ikey, I was a little lukewarm on both of them. I had a very clear sense of their flaws and shortcomings. But after Ikey decided not to renounce the priesthood for my love, I've only had SB to focus on. Not that I haven't been looking for other options, but he's the only one I'm dating now. And I have no idea if he's anywhere near ready to get married. Whereas I am and I want to. This puts him in a superior position, strategically.

SB was trying a lot harder to make me like him right at the start. I found it annoying, but at least it showed his eagerness. He's gotten a lot calmer lately. I'm not saying he takes me entirely for granted, but he's not falling all over himself to impress me. And he's not constantly calling and texting me the way he used to. (He's also no longer poking on Facebook, but I think that's because I gave the impression that I found it annoying.)

So what do I do? I'll try to play by The Rules. Don't call, don't text, don't email. If he contacts me, only respond sporadically. This exploits what behavioral psychologists call an intermittent reinforcement schedule. Because the animal is only rewarded some of the time, it is spurred to perform the behavior more and more, in order to up the odds of being rewarded. Gambling is a great example of intermittent reinforcement: winning one hand, or one pull of the slots arm, can keep you playing (and losing) for hours.

SB is on Facebook right now. So am I. He hasn't IMed me, and I'm actually a little annoyed about that. But I'm not going to IM him. If he IMs me, or calls, or texts -- I'll respond. But I won't initiate anything.

We have plans for him to make me dinner Tuesday night and then drive me to the airport for my redeye flight out to the coast. I won't contact him before then. If he doesn't contact me -- well, then he's not the most reliable ride to the airport, and I'm best off finding that out sooner rather than later.

I hate playing games. But dating the way I have been for more than a decade -- wearing my heart on my sleeve -- has obviously gotten me nowhere. I'm trying to be more strategic in how I interview for jobs. Might as well practice behaving strategically in more than one domain of my life -- the only way to get really good at something.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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