Thursday, April 30, 2009

R' Nachman was right

It is difficult to say tikkun haklali with the proper kavannah. Maybe because my Hebrew is weak and I don't understand all the words I'm saying. I said them this morning while the quiches were baking.

I hope the quiches are edible. It's been so long since I've really cooked. I can't remember the last time I made them, and I forgot to insert the second layer of cheese. The recipe I use instructs you to put a layer of cheese into the crust, then pile on the vegetables, put on more cheese, and pour in the custard.

The custard. Too salty or not salty enough? Too much cream? Did I bake them too long? Will the quiches be tough? Oy. I'm so out of practice. Anyway -- so I said tikkun haklali, with my mind wandering from work to friends to naughty thoughts. I'll try harder tomorrow. I also set aside three coins for charity. I'll do this three more times, then take the coins to a Jewish store or restaurant with a pushka.

On my lunch break I hiked up and down Court Street in my FitFlop clogs, huffing and puffing, for about half an hour. That should make up for my laziness yesterday.

I also got another fan letter. Let's call him "Andrew."

I've been reading your blog, per a friends suggestion. I too have been diagnosed with type II bipolar. I'm interested in how you're able to work in the health care industry. I've recently decided to work on my MSW with a focus in interpersonal therapy. What sort of work are you involved in, if you don't mind me asking. I'm just wondering how difficult it's to do work with people who are also in difficult situations. I know even the smallest things can set me into a state of despair. If you have time, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I always have time for my fans.

Right now I'm a substance abuse counselor. Two of my clients have serious psychiatric issues, and the rest just have "issues" ;) I'm more into CBT than IPT, although there's evidence for both.
How is it that I'm able to work with people in difficult circumstances... I don't know. I think it's about maintaining your boundaries and protecting yourself even while feeling and expressing real empathy for your clients. It can be very draining; it's important to have a lot of emotional support for yourself outside work. Some days I come home and just don't want to talk to ANYONE, other days I'm okay. Some days I'm energized by my clients. They're extremely entertaining, usually inadvertently.

Thanks for saying hi! Who was the friend that recommended you?

Like the Elephant's Child, I am insatiably curious. How did he respond?

I wanted to study psychology at the start of my university career, but then became sort of disenchanted with it. I guess I looked at the student body in psych and didn't see a group of committed people. Only recently, with the death of my grandfather, has the notion of helping people really resurfaced. I figured that since it has manifest itself once more in my life, that it is perhaps my calling. That, and a number of my therapists have been MSW's. Ultimately I am interested in CBT, since I've been under the influence of it for so long.

[He's not impressed with psychologists. I like him already.]

I feel like the maintenance of boundaries, and personal emotions, is so hard, namely because it's hard to keep myself from becoming over involved in my own life, if you know what I mean. I can't help but feeling that my answers, and my purpose in life, lay somewhere out in the world helping others. I don't know yet. I feel like I'm not on completely solid ground some days, and so I worry. It's good to know that, with work and dedication, it can be done by people with our disposition!

Just ask my boss. I am very good at boundaries.

My friend is a woman I met at work. She's an Orthodox girl and has been helping me with some of my Jewish issues. Essentially I'm a convert, but I found out (shortly after my pull towards Judaism began) that my father's side of the family is Jewish. It doesn't fit in the Halakhic sense, but I still feel Jewish in many ways. Of course, she knows how I am mentally etc, and mentioned your blog. I don't know if she ever mentioned how she came across it. I know there is a big stigma in the Jewish community about mental illness, along with other things, that inevitably get discussed in such liberal University environments. I'm assuming some of her friends read your blog as well.

Okay, so he won't give me her name, but apparently people are reading the blog. If I appreciate my anonymity, I can't demand that all my readers identify themselves.

I know exactly what you mean by overinvolved in your own life ;) In some ways, having other people to worry about can distract you from your own problems. However, that said, it's really important to have love and support in your personal life in order to be a good counselor for other people.

There are many counselors and therapists who have diagnoses or issues. As long as you have a good psychiatrist, a good therapist if you need one, and good friends and family, it's possible to do this job. Whether you're suited to it -- only you can decide.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How is this my fault?

At 8:30 this morning I was scheduled to put in two hours of enriching play with the baby who has Down's Syndrome. I got to her apartment at about 8:35. The door was opened by a guy I'd never met, who said that her parents (and she) weren't there. He didn't seem to know when they were expected back, if ever. I figured some emergency had come up and went home.

Then I got an email from the frustrated mother:

I heard from the guy staying at us that u came and did not wait. I am so sorry if there was a miscommunication. I left early to go to a dr appoint. My husband took the baby to drop our other kids at school. Usually he is home 8.20 but today there was traffic so he got back 8.40.

I probably shouldn't have felt offended, but I was. I "came and did not wait"? How about I "came and you weren't there"?

But I tried to respond diplomatically.

I'm sorry, too. The person who answered the door didn't seem to know when you were expected back, so I thought something must have happened. I'm glad to learn it was just traffic.

I suppose no good deed goes unpunished.

I should have baked a couple quiches today, but I wasn't in the mood. (Ditto my 10 minutes of exercise.) I was up at 3 a.m. again with terminal insomnia. It's very annoying that the remedy for better sleep is actually worsening it. However, I'm in better spirits and relapse prevention group didn't totally kick my ass yesterday, so I guess I'll continue the melatonin.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, April 27, 2009

Quest for oil

I'm hosting a very small Shabbat dinner this weekend. Not in my apartment, which as we know is unfit for human habitation. A new-ish friend of mine lives around the corner, and she suggested we throw a potluck. Since her apartment only seats six, I volunteered to do all the cooking; she'll take care of the challah and dessert, since I don't bake very often.

What to serve? Well, since two of the guests are vegetarians, I decided to make quiche, which I'm good at. Or used to be -- it's been years since I've made one. I didn't want to drive myself crazy, so I decided I'd make two quiches (spinach/garlic, broccoli/cumin), baked sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and two salads -- Israeli salad with chickpeas, and Weird Salad.

I invented Weird Salad, and I'm proud of it. Years ago I was invited for a meal and asked what I could bring. The host wasn't sure if another guest was bringing vegetables or a green salad; their last conversation was apparently somewhat ambiguous.

"I'll bring a weird salad," I said, "something unique, so that if someone else brings a green salad, it'll still be different." Then I went to the supermarket to scout out ingredients.

The base had to be romaine lettuce -- most West Side Shabbos salads are based on iceberg. What unique things go well with romaine? Avocados, sure. And they were on sale. I saw a can of hearts of palm and grabbed that. And I saw a bottle of garlic olive oil. It was kosher, so I took that as well. I had balsamic vinegar at home. So I assembled those five ingredients and came up with an amazing salad. Everyone loved it.

I've made Weird Salad on several other occasions, so I thought it would be fun to serve it this Shabbos. Problem: my local supermarket no longer stocks kosher garlic olive oil.

That was annoying, but I figured I could just cut up some garlic, marinate it in olive oil, and use that. Which I reflected in my next Facebook status update:

Ayelet is annoyed at the lack of kosher garlic-infused olive oil. I have to do EVERYTHING myself...

Well, it's not quite that simple. A friend of mine let me know that making your own garlic-infused olive oil can lead to botulism. Weird Salad has only five ingredients, and none of them are botulism. So I decided to search for kosher garlic-infused olive oil. After all, I'm on the Upper West Side, home of as many foodies as Orthodox Jews. Surely Fairway has kosher garlic-infused olive oil.

Surely not. Neither does Zabar's, or Food Emporium, or Broadway Farm. Or Kosher Marketplace. Or Supersol.

Dr. R and I had discussed me starting a modest little exercise program -- ten minutes a day -- after Pesach. The bad cold I contracted in Israel delayed the onset of this program. I suppose I could have started yesterday but I wasn't in the mood.

Well, I made up for it today. I trudged from store to store for about an hour and 45 minutes, looking at dozens of bottles and cans of olive oil from all over the world, until I finally found kosher garlic-infused olive oil in a store I haven't patronized in years. It's about nine blocks away from my apartment, which in Manhattan might as well be nine miles.

I was so happy and relieved, I bought about 10 pounds of locally grown apples as well as the oil. Maybe I'll cook the sweet potatoes with apples. Not sure yet.

The store's layout has changed, and apparently I misunderstood how to stand in the checkout line.

"There's a line," barked a woman as I hesitantly approached one of the cash registers. I thought I'd gotten there before she did, so I walked over toward in front of her.

"I was here first!" she snapped. Oh-kay. I walked behind her. "Thank you," she hissed.

I held back from saying, "Apparently you need something to cling to, and I guess line etiquette will do ya...." But I wonder if I react that unpleasantly when I'm on line and other people seem to be trying to get in front of me. Food for thought.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

General remedy

Dov has finished his three visits to the kever of the Rebbe of Zvil. This weekend Sheera goes to Uman, where Rav Nachman of Breslov is buried. While she's there, my part is to give 3 coins to tzedaka every day and to recite the tikkun haklali, or "general remedy."

I wasn't familiar with this tikkun, so I Googled it. The tikkun haklali was created as a means of atoning for a number of sins, primarily nocturnal emissions. I'm pretty sure that sin is one I've never committed. But my other sins are numerous -- lately, I've been feeling like I rank somewhere between an ax murderer and Bernie Madoff. And while I've been much better in terms of not violating Shabbat by turning on lights or the computer, I've been isolating. Not davening with the community. Not davening at all, in fact.

So I really should try something, if I want to merit the brachot I feel I'm being denied. After all, it's just 10 psalms once a day for four days. But R' Nachman predicted something very scary in his instructions:

When my days are over and I leave this world, I will still intercede for anyone who comes to my grave, says these ten Psalms, and gives a penny to charity. No matter how great his sins, I will do everything in my power, spanning the length and breadth of the creation to cleanse and protect him....

It may seem like an easy thing to say ten Psalms. But it will actually be very difficult in practice.

My sins are great. Anger. Despair. Apathy. Envy. I sound more Catholic than Jewish, but all of these feelings reflect a lack of faith and acceptance of Gd's will. Even more than I need to get married, I need to heal these wounds before they destroy me.

And it's going to be hard for me to say these tehillim. Very hard. I hope I can do it. But I can't outsource all my prayer, so I've got to try.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why is it always the wrong men who like me?

A Facebook friend posted a status update lauding Donald Trump. I responded:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! You cannot love the tackiest, creepiest, most narcissistic person in the world!

Among several responses was this one from a guy named Stu:

He imparts dubious values and represents a dreadful aesthetic. He creates nothing worthwhile and 'plays' the system like any other fat cat without conscience. But I'm sure he's a good host and nice to children.

I liked that and commented:

Donald Trump said that men who can "afford to date supermodels" and do not are "stupid." He said, "If Ivanka weren't my daughter, I wouldn't be dating her." He is an absolutely revolting human being. Peter, love sometimes defies expectations and sometimes it just boggles the mind. This is a case of the latter. Also, what Stu said.

Another commenter exhorted us to "love one another." Stu commented:

I now ♥ Ayelet.

Fine, whatever, he's being cute. I'll play along:

feeling's mutual, Stu ;) How do you do the heart?

He sent me an email:

subject: now you have it

That does me no good.

How do I deploy it -- cut and paste?

I asked.

oh no, it's not that easy. first you have to unlock it by finding me irresistibly charming, then we have to fall in love for real, and when you move in with me you will know the secret to all effective fonts. . .but yes, cutting and pasting will do in the meantime. what a nice punim.

That's a little forward.

I never live with a man. It's marriage or nothing. But I do find you very charming.

He replied:

let's start with facebook friendship, ms equally charming. if it's bashert--so be it! :-)

I accepted his friend request and said:

Done. First step, that is.

He said:

oh, someone took coy 101. i like you already.

It would be really funny if this were the way I really met -- but wait. His FB profile gives his religion as "salad-bar Jew." That's not exactly "modern orthodox." This could be a problem. And how old is this guy? His latest status update is:

My heart breaks for Jimmy Breslin, who yesterday has lost his daughter, Kelly, 44, to a latent heart condition. He also lost his daughter Rosemary a few years back, another angel. (I was her editor at New York Newsday.) I was Jimmy's copy boy 30 years ago at the Daily News, and I know him to be a mensch under that gruff manner, a more-than-decent human being who must be suffering today, and I really feel for him.

He was a copyboy 30 years ago? I was very young 30 years ago. And I should look at people's profiles before starting to flirt with them. Let's pour some cold water on this dog.

Mind if I ask how old you are?

much older than you, we both know this. 52, or 104 in facebook/aol years. but i have a pulse, and i am a good dancer for a white straight guy.

Too old. Not frum. Why is it all the wrong men like me, and the guys I want have no use for me? Well, no use drawing this out. I told him I wasn't comfortable with the age difference.

that's all right, i'm not comfortable with the sudden loss of charm in your expression.

Ouch. But what did he expect? One of the reasons I can't stand Donald Trump is the way he objectifies women -- anyone over 40 is over the hill in his eyes. Shouldn't that indicate I don't want to date men who are an entire teenager older than I aim?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thus ends another blessed week

It's been pretty awful, I don't mind saying -- trying to run groups and do therapy while my mind is churning like a volcano. I think I need to start the melatonin again -- didn't do much for my sleep, but I think it improved my mood. And my mood needs improving. I cried on the subway home last night. How can I facilitate anger management group when I'm seething with rage?

Minka called last night and I talked to her about my anger. How invalidated I felt by everyone's responses to my envy, including the inference that my anger -- and lack of control over it -- is at the root of my singledom. She understood.

"There are two things I think people don't really understand, no matter how you try to explain," she said. "Pain and loneliness."

Minka's struggled with back pain for years, as I have. And she's watched all of her younger siblings get married -- one of them twice -- and procreate. She didn't lambaste me at all for feeling miserable watching younger people get engaged. Which I appreciated.

I also got an interesting email from a Facebook friend named Sheera.

hi ms. ayelet survivor.

despite having never met you, i responded positively to your friend request a while back after taking a few days to get over your scary profile pic of Frida Kahlo. i confirmed the request after checking out our mutual friends.

Scary? I love that picture. It even looks a little like me.

i have read your posts and find them darkly hilarious and resonate a lot with their depth (of anguish.) i am familiar with this particular place and even familiar a bit with what it may take to get out of it (if you really want).

so you don't know me from hole in the ground and i don't know much about your background or what you've done / tried until now with yourself spiritually, but i want to make you an offer, you can take it or leave it obviously. but it will take courage and trust on your part.

i will be traveling to rebbe nachman's gravesite in uman (ukraine) in a few days and will be there for just under a week. if you want, write me a note to bring to him. but it has to be ruthlessly to the point and completely honest. you can ask, complain, beg, explain, whatever you want, but make it to the razor point as to what you truly want in life.

regarding confidentiality, the catch is that the only way really to send it to me is by fax or email and i can either take it and read it there for you "on site" (which is commonly done) and deposit it in the little box next to the grave, or simply print it out without reading it if that is what you prefer--and that would take you trusting me.

although i have went many many times to uman with various notes and names, i did this type of thing only once before for someone in a similar "hopeless" place about 11 years ago. today she is married (happily), living in israel with more than a few children. (not saying that is where you need to be either, but i am giving you her current facts). the condition was that she had to write straight from the heart and to the point. words cannot describe the place i had to literally climb into in order to get that note out of her--the fact that she agreed and actually wrote it was an astounding miracle in and of itself. i will never forget the miracles that occurred to her. the real miracles of a transformed life. it was a process, but it actually happened.

I'm not opposed to other people visiting tombs on my behalf. This is an incredibly loving and generous offer. (To give credit where it's due, Dov has gone to the kever twice and will go again this Monday.) What should I say?

R"Nachman: I want to get married to someone I love and respect, who loves and respects me. I want good physical and mental health. I want emunah and bitachon. I want us to have children. I want us to have a good parnossah and good ahavat yisroel.

That oughta cover it. I think those are all the areas that need improvement. I'm not sure how you're supposed to phrase these requests, though. Am I being too rude and abrupt?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to lose friends and alienate people

Believe it or not, I do listen to the comments people leave on here, even when I don't like what they say. I do try to reflect on my own behavior and reactions, to see how others perceive them, since that often differs from my own perception or intentions. And I hold back from saying things that I know would be both deliberately hurtful, even if true, in response to criticism.

I'm not sending out any negative energy to anyone. I'm not trying to hurt anyone. I'm just trying to make sense of my own hurt and portray it honestly. I wouldn't blame Shimona if she stopped reading my blog, although I'll certainly be more careful if I post about her again.

I don't know what else to say. I wouldn't want to think that my own bitterness about being single is blocking me from getting married, as some have suggested. If I can't vent on here, what am I supposed to do -- suppress my feelings entirely?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's not all about YOU -- it's all about ME

Shimona did not appreciate my blog post on being her chocolate emissary:

I just read your blog and felt punched in the face. I am trying not to take this personally. All I can do is respectfully ask you to try not to harbor any ill will towards me. Contrary to what you think, my life is not a bed of roses at the moment. I have a major problem brewing that has made me lose sleep, and is very upsetting to me. So, believe it or not, I don't have it all right now, and I need all the positive energy I can get.

This annoyed me tremendously, and I've been struggling with it for two days. First off, it's not like Shimona hasn't expressed the exact same sentiments to me countless times: tired of being single, tired of watching other people -- younger people -- get engaged. It hurts. No matter how much you like the happy couple, it hurts not to be that happy yourself.

Second, I'm not exactly sticking pins into a little Shimona doll wearing a wedding dress. I truly wish her only happiness, and I'm sorry she's going through family issues. And I know how rough it is to be losing sleep, since I cope with that on a regular basis. But I'm entitled to my feelings, too, and this blog is how I cope with them. I haven't claimed my envy is a noble sentiment; I am ashamed of it.

I wanted to write something really snide, like, "I promise not to tell the rape victims in Darfur how much my life sucks if you promise not to tell me how much yours does." But that seemed a little extreme, even for me. So I just wrote back:

You shouldn't take it personally, because it's not about you. And you shouldn't joke about needing reasons to live around people who actually have to work on finding reasons to live.

Her "reason to live" status update really bothered me. Just like my blog post really bothered her. We're both personalizing.

And I'm still struggling with this damn cold; I had a headache all day yesterday, which made relapse prevention group even more agonizing than usual. So clearly I'm out of sorts, and even more inclined to be annoyed at minor things. But I don't like being accused of actual malice toward someone else when I'm really just unhappy about my own situation.

Also, I wish Shimona would make arrangements to collect her damn chocolate, now that I shlepped it in for her. My apartment is crowded enough.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, April 20, 2009

A casualty in a holy flamewar

Nefesh, the professional organization of orthodox mental health clinicians, has a listserv. As with ABCT, I'm often unable to resist responding to others' posts.

Like this one:

I would like to add that, even when there are chromosomal abnormalities, there can be a strong environmental component. For example, a man with Klinefelter's Syndrome (XXY) may as a result have a large, rounded body, enlarged breast tissue, and small testicles, and that may well lead to the kind of peer rejection that one so often sees in the childhood history of men with homosexual attractions. A man with Klinefelter's might therefore experience homosexual attractions and attribute it solely to his genetic makeup, when in fact it may be not so much his genes that are responsible for the homosexuality, but rather the wounds and problematic gender self-concept that arose from having gone through childhood looking quite different than the average guy.

The original topic was intersex children -- people who used to be called "hermaphrodites." But pseudoscientific blatherings like this annoy me. It's purely hypothetical and sounds like it oughta make sense. But does the writer have any proof? I'll ask him:

I'd be interested in seeing any peer-reviewed studies showing that men with Klinefelter's Syndrome experience more peer rejection in childhood and/or are more liable to grow up to be homosexual because of that. I'd also be interested in seeing any studies demonstrating that homosexual men experienced greater peer rejection as children, which then caused them to become homosexual.

I would think it more likely that boys who grow up to be gay men are less likely to relate well to boys who grow up to be heterosexual men because even as children their interests and personalities are incompatible.

You can't just say it might be true. You have to have statistics. Does he have statistics? Nope, and neither does this other doofus, who wrote in:

The leading psychiatrist that speaks to social or peer wounds as the principal causative factor for homosexuality is Dr. Gerard van den Aardweg, a Dutch doctor who has written widely. After reviewing several studies, he states in one of his books, "The strongest association, then, is not found between homosexuality and father-child and mother-child relationships, but between homosexuality and peer relationships [...] It should be made the prime suspect in any explanation of homosexuality. [...] Feeling less masculine or feminine as compared to same sex peers is tantamount to the feeling of not belonging. (Gerard J.M.Van den Aardweg, The Battle for Normality: A Guide for Self Therapy for Homosexuality, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1997, pp. 41, 48.)

Even some gay identified mental health professionals believe that when healthy, non-sexual bonding occurs during childhood, homosexual orientation is avoided. Indeed the psychological team of David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison [both gay men, one a psychiatrist and one a psychologist] conclude that the earlier boys experience same-sex attraction, the stronger the indication that they "apparently failed to make close-knit associations with other boys, and thus their developing ego formation was not influenced by the powerful molding forces of peer conformity." (McWhirter and Mattison, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1984, p. 136.)

My own personal experience, having worked with ego dystonic SSA men for the past ten years, leads me to unequivocally state that the majority of individuals I have seen that are affected by same sex attraction experience during childhood both a great loneliness and a profound sense of alienation for others of the same sex and that these feelings caused them to seek male connection and bonding through homosexual fantasies and/or behavior.

I hope this is directly responsive to your question; the literature is relatively clear that a lack of healthy bonding with the same sex is a substantial cause and not the result of homosexual ideation.

He hasn't shown me anything from any valid scientific literature that shows that. Ignatius Press? That's not a scholarly journal; that's a Jesuit organization. According to its founder, "our objective is to support the teachings of the Church." Which means they're not going to publish anything about biological or genetic causes of homosexuality. He's not a leading psychiatrist -- he's a led psychiatrist. And the other book is 25 years old.

Thank you for responding, Doofus. However, I'm a bit troubled by the sources you cite. Even though the authors of "The Male Couple" were themselves homosexual, relying on a 25-year-old book to substantiate an argument is not best practice. In 1984, physicians still believed that gastric ulcers were primarily caused by emotional stress.

The fact that Dr. van den Aardweg has written widely about homosexuality does not render his conclusions valid if they have not been replicated by other researchers. I was unable to find any recent articles (written between 2000-2009) by van den Aardweg in the EBSCOhost database or via Google Scholar. Nor was I able to find any articles in that time period that cited van den Aardweg's works as a reference.

I was, however, able to find a meta-analysis and several studies suggesting that fraternal birth order -- being born after several brothers -- correlates significantly with homosexuality. I was also able to find many articles that suggest experiencing peer rejection -- i.e., bullying -- can lead to a number of psychopathologies, including psychosomatic symptoms, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use. Virtually every school shooter in the past 20+ years was the victim of years of particularly harsh peer rejection and suffered from severe psychopathology.

If anyone has any recent studies clearly demonstrating a strong correlation between peer rejection and homosexuality, I'd be most interested in seeing them.

How did Doofus take that? Not lying down:

To denigrate classical sources in the field because of their age does not speak to their validity. Do you believe that Freud, Jung, and other classic theoreticians in the world of psychology are outdated? Are their findings null and void? Let us not forget that the majority of writing today struggles to keep in tune with the politically correct culture prevalent today; in doing so, many unsubstantiated gay affirmative theses are set forth. A new study to be released shortly in the Journal of Human Sexuality will cover a response to many of the fallacious arguments set forth by these gay affirmative writers.

However if you would like a most current citation that sex same peer wounding is a cause of homosexual ideation, I can refer you to parts of the article by Fitzgibbons, Sutton, and O'Leary, "The Psychopathology of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Assessing its Medical, Psychological, and Ethical Appropriateness" that just came out in the Spring 2009 National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. Strewn throughout the article are many references to the fact that same sex attraction issues come from childhood wounding. One example out of many is their suggestion that "Therapists are often unable to overcome patient resistance and uncover the underlying problems---serious emotional weaknesses of low self-esteem, sadness, and anger associated with the failure to develop secure attachment relationships in childhood and adolescence." (p.119). You may also wish to review the recent book (I think it came out in 2008) entitled "Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing" by Richard Cohen that provides reports to the same effect.

I can also state from personal experience in working with men (in particular) and women with unwanted same sex attraction. In case after case, the client explains how he was rejected by his peers as a young child or perceived himself as separated from his same gender peers. In turn, he began sexualizing an envy of others of his same sex. When we who work with this population are able to provide support groups for him and ultimately explain to him the opportunities to receive healthy, non-sexual bonding with others of his own gender, his same-sex attraction is generally either severely diminished or totally evaporates. Homosexuality is, after all, simply an emotional adaptation (and non-genetic) and a by-product of a confluence of risk factors, including certain unfilled needs for attachment and bonding with his own sex. When those can be filled in healthy non-sexual ways, the homosexual feelings dissipate.

This is fun. He is completely full of crap, and I'm going to pierce his thick skin and let it all ooze out.

Doofus, even groundbreaking theorists such as Freud must be subject to modern critique. Freud famously asked, "What does woman want?" after concluding that in order for man to be happy, he needed love and work. It apparently never occurred to Freud that women might also need work to be happy. Instead, he postulated that they felt incomplete because they lacked penises.

While I'm oversimplifying a bit, my point is that many theories are developed within a narrow cultural context but do not generalize accurately to a wider population. From my understanding, even contemporary psychoanalysts have moved beyond a strict adherence to Freudian theory. But to compare van den Aardweg or McWhirter and Mattison to Freud strikes me as rather premature.

I confess I am not familiar with the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. According to its publisher, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, "The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly addresses the ethical, philosophical, and theological questions raised by the rapid pace of modern medical and technological progress." It does not publish original research.

Furthermore, its title (and a brief overview of its website) indicate that it is as biased against a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality as you state the "PC" studies and meta-analysis I mentioned are biased to find such bases. I would be very interested in seeing the references Fitzgibbons, Sutton, and O'Leary cite that demonstrate how peer rejection in childhood causes homosexuality in adulthood. It is possible that a child who at an early age demonstrates homosexual tendencies might subsequently be rejected by his peers. Childhood memories might not be a very precise determinant of which came first.

Nor does one clinician's admittedly vast experience, and genuine concern and caring for clients' suffering, prove causation. Even Freud was bound by the limitations imposed on his outlook by his culture and upbringing. Without controlled and widely replicated studies by numerous scholar-practitioners, any amount of clinical experience is still anecdotal. Such experience is no doubt invaluable in providing effective therapy and treatment, but it cannot always ascertain the etiology of a person's troubles.

I could not find any reviews of Richard Cohen's book in the scholarly literature. According to the
Washington Post:

[Cohen] is not licensed as a therapist, he explained, because he "didn't want to jump through the hoops and deal with the heterophobia and anti-ex-gay attitudes." He circumvents the licensing requirement by asking for donations to his foundation. "I am not doing therapy per se," he said. "I'm coaching."

In 2002, Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association (ACA) for multiple ethical violations. Permanent expulsion is a rarely used sanction, according to David Kaplan, chief professional officer of the Alexandria-based organization. Kaplan said Cohen was found to have violated six sections of the ACA's ethics code, which bars members from actions that "seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients," those that exploit "the trust and dependency of clients," and for soliciting testimonials or promoting products in a deceptive manner....

Touch plays a central role in his therapy, said Cohen, who does not treat women. He recommends that clients develop intimate friendships with heterosexual mentors who will cuddle them in a parental, nonerotic way, making up for the love they did not get from their fathers. "You've got to feel it to heal it," he said (emphasis added).

It is possible the ACA has been conducting a witch-hunt to weed out anti-gay sentiment among its members. However, Cohen was expelled for inappropriate conduct. I only have one female client -- I work with parolees and most of my clients are male -- but I have never cuddled her. If I did, I'd lose my job and quite possibly my license. I do not think Mr. Cohen, M.A., will rival Freud anytime soon.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with such experienced and eclectic clinicians.

I threw that in to be polite. I'm really eviscerating him. He's not proving anything, and his "experts" aren't scientifically valid. How does Doofus respond? He evades the essential issue.

You are right in that Richard Cohen was the subject of a witchhunt. You are in error however that "Cohen was expelled for inappropriate conduct." The specific action for which he resigned--he was never expelled--(he chose to not waste time nor energy on a trade group that was a non-licensing agency) was that one of his clients actively worked to promote his books and videos. That was interpreted in the filed complaint as seeking to meet his own personal needs at the expense of clients, having clients solicit and promote products that he created, and thus exploiting the trust and dependency of clients. He was never accused of cuddling a client by the ACA and indeed if you read his website, you will see that he specifically states that a therapist should never hold a client. It always amazes me how the false information gets regurgitated and the true information gets lost.

Is that the case? Not really. And the proof is on video.

One minute into this video clip, Mr. Cohen demonstrates his "holding" technique, which he describes as a substitute for the affection his client's father failed to provide:

Mr. Cohen indeed left ACA after being accused of ethical violations other than holding his clients, but hold them he undeniably does.

Moreover, I cannot believe any responsible clinician would recommend that any client see a person who refuses to obtain a license and abide by the accompanying oversight and standards. Psychiatrists must be licensed in order to prescribe medications. Should we expect anything less from therapists educated as social workers or psychologists? Should we encourage anyone to style himself a "coach" or therapist and proclaim his ability to heal psychopathology without any kind of supervision? What is the next logical extension, exorcisms to rid gay people of their demons?

We have strayed from our main point of disagreement, however. As yet, no one has furnished this listserv with any solid evidence that peer rejection in childhood causes homosexuality in adulthood. Indeed, even Mr. Cohen attests that homosexuality is rooted in the child's failure to bond with the same-sex parent.

Why is Doofus only citing unlicensed counselors? Because Doofus... is an attorney. He has no scholarly or clinical credentials. But apparently I'm not allowed to say that, because it would be perceived as mean-spirited.

I'd share the rest of the exchange with you, but I think it's probably only of interest to clinicians. If it's of interest to anyone. The main point is, Doofus has no valid basis for his interventions or theories, no clinical training, and no oversight. He has a license to practice law, not to give therapy. I don't offer to defend people in court; he shouldn't mess around in people's heads.

Anyway, while Doofus and I duked it out, several Nefesh members emailed me covertly to support my point of view. Including one, Dahlia, who wrote:

I am writing this back-channel just to you alone.

I sincerely hope you are going to go on for a doctorate, publish up 'the pedudies'; teach in university and work as the wonderfully gifted clinician your posts suggest you are.

May emperors around the world be warned and know that your eagle eye has seen them without their 'finery' and for themselves.

I hope you have zillions of children, grandchildren, etc.,etc., etc, as your 'smarts' are too great a gift not to share.

How comprehensive a bracha is that?! I wrote back:

Thank you so much, Dahlia. I probably will end up getting a doctorate, and if I manage to get married, I hope to have children. I very much appreciate your support :)

Which led to... ugh:

Speaking as someone who married after high school, and began the long road to BA, MS, PhD and whatever else as a mother, grandmother and I'm honored to say great-grandmother, you have your priorities out of order!

Get ye that husband, start on the kids and go on for the doctorate and post-doc etc.

All the best and looking forward to meeting B'EH at the Nefesh Conference in L.I., NY in Dec. or in Jerusalem in January.

Keep writing.

Sigh. I know she means well, but that hurts.

Dahlia, you cut me to the heart. I've been seeking a husband for more than 16 years. Believe me, that would have been my first choice, but it hasn't happened despite my greatest efforts. It's wonderful that you married young and didn't have to endure the slow-motion soul destruction known as "dating," and that you're a distinguished matriarch. I'm very glad some of us are able to perpetuate Am Yisroel. 

In contrast, getting 2 master's degrees took me less than 5 years. I know I could get a PhD and teach if I want, and I'll probably also publish more. I think my career will become my major focus in life, because at 38 I'm starting to think that marriage and children will not happen for me.

You and I met briefly at lunch at the last Nefesh conference, but I look forward to seeing you at the next one!

Doofus might be one casualty of this flamewar, but so am I.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Get your own damn chocolate

I am a spiteful, vengeful, bitter person. I'm tired of rejoicing in others' good fortune. Even though I have friends who call me when I'm blue, or expend 80,000 frequent flyer miles to wing me halfway around the world. Even though I have a good job that I'm good at and my family loves me. I never see the glass as half full, only 90% empty.

Dov's younger sister and her boyfriend of about 7 weeks spent Shabbat with Dov, Tovah, and me. By the time they left Saturday night, they were engaged. She is 13 years younger than I am. Granted, that makes her close to an old maid in her very religious circles, but it kills me when younger and much-younger women get engaged and I don't.

Another one of these women teetering on the verge of an engagement is Shimona. Who has been nothing but supportive and helpful to me. And who saw her younger siblings, one by one, walk to the chuppah. She's not even that much younger than I am, but she is younger. I want to be unreservedly happy for her, the way I was with Bina. But I can't.

Knowing nothing of my resentment, Shimona messaged me on Facebook:

I don't know if you can do this, but can you buy me a box of Cadbury Roses? It's chocolate, obviously. It comes in a purple/blue box, if I remember correctly. I'll pay you back, of course. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Cadburys but seldom get any, since I don't live in the UK.

I know I have a far too transactional view of mitzvot. I shouldn't expect to "get" anything if I do something nice for someone. The last major mitzvah I did left me with a major cold, babysitting the frightened baby. Being a great friend and support to numerous engaged friends before and during their weddings did not put a ring on my finger. But I irrationally resented Shimona for asking me to do this. She has everything I want -- why should I go out of my way for her? All that and chocolate too?

I got really mad when I read her next status update:

Shimona now has another reason to live...Cadbury's straight from London! Yay! :)

Shimona's not the one who needs to find reasons to live. Ayelet is. I'm coming up on the eighth anniversary of my suicide attempt, and sometimes I wonder whether I'm happy I was saved. Some of that bitterness leaked out into a comment I left on her update:

Give me a break. You need reasons to live right now?

She took it in stride.

It was an expression of excitement b/c I love the chocolate so much...not to be taken so literally... :)

Well, right now I'm living those words. Even after a nice vacation, I go home to an empty apartment. My birthday's coming up, and every year it's a huge disappointment. I'll be alone on my birthday again this year, no closer to being settled and having a real future.

I know dwelling on this isn't healthy. And I know life isn't fair. Over the holiday, one of Dov and Tovah's neighbors, a father of eight, died days before his son's bar mitzvah. That is a tragedy. My life is just a colossal disappointment.

I don't begrudge Dov and Tovah their happiness, because they deserve it. They are exemplary parents and community members. They are always trying to help other people, and I think it's their strong love for each other and consistent work on their relationship that enables them to do that.

I honestly thought that after this vacation, I was going to try to be more grateful for what I have rather than obsessing about what I don't. I don't know why that's so hard for me to accomplish.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nobody in Israel thinks Ayelet is a grown-up

I have a cold, because over yomtov I babysat a baby with a cold. The baby belongs to Dov's sister Ayelet (no joke) and her husband Yisroel, who came to spend the last day of the holiday with Dov and Tovah. They have four other children, but only the baby and parents had the cold. In order to let the parents have an afternoon nap, I volunteered to babysit.

This wasn't easy because the baby is 11 months old and has severe stranger anxiety. So severe that if his mother hands him to one of his siblings, whom he presumably knows pretty well, he starts to scream. But we discovered that if he couldn't actually see his parents and I bounced and sang with him, he'd attach happily enough to me and only start screaming if someone else tried to take him from me. Which was flattering. As faithful readers know, I am very good with other people's children, especially babies. Or, as his nine-year-old sister said, "He likes you because you're also an Ayelet."

Dov's four-year-old, Yarden, wanted to hold the baby. I tried to hand him over, but he started screaming so I took him back. Yarden started wailing in frustrated Hebrew, and Tovah tried to soothe her. Yarden shook her head furiously, insisting something, and Tovah started laughing.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

"I told her that the baby doesn't like being held by kids, only by grown-ups. Yarden said, 'Ayelet's a kid, she's not a grown-up!' I said you were a grown-up, but she doesn't believe me."

Yisroel entered the room, and the baby immediately leaned toward him and started wailing. I handed the baby over and asked Yarden, "Why am I not a grown-up?"

Yarden smiled at me and buried her face in her mother's neck.

Later, Tovah told me that Yarden was distinguishing between me and her aunt as "Ayelet with kids" and "Ayelet without kids." My niece Shira decided I wasn't grown up because I wasn't married. I guess Israeli standards are a little stricter.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A slow day

I was supposed to get together with a Facebook friend today, but she called to say she was having stomach problems. Alona's in Israel with her family, but apparently they are also having stomach problems. I'm choosing to think none of this has anything to do with me being in the country, but it leaves me with some free time today. Which, since I'm on vacation, is perfectly fine.

So how has my trip been? I got to Newark airport hours before my flight -- I don't know why they make you arrive so early, but fine. There was a kosher meal on my flight to London. Unfortunately, it was not kosher for Pesach, but I brought some snacks. British Airways gives you a pretty good selection of new releases and "classic" movies (didn't know "Ice Age" was a classic, but whatever), so I watched "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (which seemed to take as long to tell the story of his 80-odd years as it took him to live them), "Doubt" (I liked the nuns' funky hats), "Life is Beautiful" in the original Italian with subtitles, and most of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (an actual classic).

I knew I was feeling better when I deplaned at Heathrow, went to find my connecting flight, and realized I had regained my will to shop. I passed by several duty-free stores. Normally I'm not tempted to buy cartons of cigarettes, let alone anything I'd actually use (airport markups are horrific), but I eyed everything covetously. I ended up getting a couple of books and enjoyed the improved mood.

I landed in Tel Aviv and realized I'd forgotten several things in the more than a decade since I've been here:

1. How they interrogate you when you're coming in. "What are you going to do in Israel? Who are your friends? Where do they live? Where in Jerusalem?"
2. How disgusting the toilets are.
3. How rugged and beautiful the countryside is.

I got to my friends' house and had a little breakfast, then we drove into the "territories" to go to a crafts fair. Shiloh was the seat of the Tabernacle, pre-Jerusalem and pre-Temple. The current residents apparently practice some of the same crafts that the original residents did, including spinning, weaving, making incense, and assembling paper models of the Ark of the Covenant. I hung out with Dov and Tovah and watched their kids dabble in yarn and clay.

All of us went on a nerve-wracking (for me) jeep ride in the semi-desert. I say "semi" because much of the land is being cultivated. Primarily with olives, but there were a few vineyards and wheat fields.

Our driver/tour guide, who was extremely hot -- as are 97.2% of Israelis in their early 20s -- very nicely tried to give me the gist of his patter. He would speak for about 5 minutes in Hebrew, and I would understand roughly one word in 50. "Son..." "king..." "field..." "olives..." Then he would say something like, "Em, so the son of the king, he planted olives here."

I just enjoyed the view, when I wasn't panicking that the jeep was going to plunge off the road and down into a steep, rocky canyon. Apparently jeeps really are built for that type of terrain, because it never happened, but I was glad I had a seat belt. There were tons of gorgeous wildflowers everywhere, in shades of vivid red, yellow, purple, and blue. I took some photos with my camera phone but they don't do justice. And I set myself to relaxing and enjoying.

Back at the ranch, I took a shower and then a bus into town to meet my friend Sheina. She lived in the US till she was a teenager and then made aliyah with her family, so her English is perfect (i.e., American) but she's more Israeli in outlook and character. First order of business was sunglasses, which took about five minutes, and changing money, which took even less. I admired some gorgeous chayalim -- in every shade of skin, from Ashkenaz to Ethiopian -- to her amusement.

"They look like little boys to me," she said. We're the same age, a few months apart.

"I'm a pedophile, I guess," I said. "They look hot."

"You could try for one of their commanders," she said.

"They're what, 21?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said.

"Old enough," I said.

Then we walked to the Old City and decided that of all charedim, only the Litvish are actually hot. They tend to be a lot less beefy and bearded than the others, and their fashion sense is much sounder.

"Who are the guys in the shtreimels and gold striped caftans?" I asked.

"No idea," said Sheina. "Charedim who were Sephardim in a past life?"

The Old City was crowded with the extra-frum, all dressed in holiday best, almost all with numerous offspring in tow. Sheina and I went into the Arab shuk to buy gifts for my co-workers, Malka, Shira, and Oedipus.

The co-workers got evil-eye/hematite bracelets. I was attracted by their bright blue stare, and as soon as I stopped to look, the salesman materialized.

"Look how beautiful," he said. "Perfect with your skin. Twelve shekel."

"They're not for me," I said, "they're for my the people I work with. But they're too expensive. I don't want to spend that much on them. Besides, some of them are men."

"They are unisex!" he cried.

"Ayelet, you don't have to buy anything yet," said Sheina.

"How much you want to spend?" he asked. I got him down to 6 shekels per bracelet. Which, judging by how happily he rung up the sale, was probably still a little too much, so the co-workers aren't getting any Israeli chocolate.

"Your mother is hard, sweetheart," he said. "Next time you come by yourself."

My mother? Sheina is my age! We laughed about that as we walked through the narrow streets. I bought a bunch of refrigerator markets for my nieces and nephew -- I just remembered now that one is the same that my niece got for me during her last Israel trip. Oops.

Then we tried to go to the Kotel but couldn't get very close. It was mobbed.

"I've never seen it this full," said Sheina. "Not that I come here so often, but it must be because it's chol ha-moed." We plunged into the crowd, trying to get next to the wall, but it was futile, so we started back.

"Tzedaka! Tzedaka!" cried a few people, dressed a little too well to be beggars and a little too poorly to be professional fundraisers. I dropped shekels into a box. The woman took me by the hand.

"I give you a bracha that you should find your zivug very soon," she said. That spooked me, but only a little. I was wearing a purple baby-doll dress with a fairly low neckline, and my hair was riotously uncovered (the water is very hard here, and the anti-frizz product I bought in a travel size wasn't doing much). I guess I looked very young and unmarried, or at least very unmarried.

Then she turned to Sheina. "Your daughter should find her zivug soon." Ouch.

"No, no, she's my friend, she needs a zivug too!" I said. Unfazed, the woman said, "And for you too." Very Israeli, to calmly pull your foot out of your mouth and go on talking. Sheina, fortunately also being Israeli, took all this in stride and we moved on.

We dropped a few more coins into another bucket. "Kallah, kallah!" cried the recipient. Bride, bride. At least she included Sheina. We walked through the Old City and into an area that's slightly less old -- settled by Jews in the late 1800s, the first area of Jerusalem to be built outside the old city walls.

"Vous etes tres belle," said a man walking past us.

"What did he say?" asked Sheina. The only time I needed to translate for her. Not that I speak so much French, but I know that much.

"Do I look French?" I asked. "Or receptive? That guy could be my father."

"Apparently I could be your mother," she noted.

"Maybe he meant it for you," I said.

Sheina is another spectacular single girl. Smart, accomplished, attractive, and guys don't give her a second look. I didn't get close enough to the Kotel to leave a note, but if I had, it would have been for her to get married. Then again, I don't think my prayers are answered except in the vehement negative, so maybe it's just as well.

I do feel a lot better than I did during the first days. It's dangerous for me to spend so much time alone with my thoughts. I know I feel much more sorry for myself than my situation actually warrants, and ruminating does me ill.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, April 13, 2009

Off to a spectacular start

I don't know what I was so worried about. I've been in Israel for just one day, and already I've gone to a crafts fair in Shiloh, ridden a jeep in the Shomron, visited the Old City (on my own, taking the bus there and back!), reconnected with old friends and gotten to know some new ones (well, they're offspring of the old friends, so they were probably inclined to be friendly).

I bought cool gifts for my coworkers, even bargained the shuk salesman down from 12 to 6 shekels per item (well, I bought 12, so he made a good sale anyway). I bought some cool stuff for myself, too, because what is vacation for if not to pamper yourself? Besides, I forgot to bring any sunglasses and it is hot here. Not as hot as the soldiers, but they seem to have aged in reverse, like Benjamin Button. I feel guilty for ogling them, although I'm pretty sure I could still score with more than a few of them -- if only for offering a novelty factor.

I'd love to write more, but I've been awake for more than 24 hours, and I need to get some sleep now. Just wanted everyone to know that reports of my impending nervous collapse were definitely premature.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I should be packing

I'm mostly packed. I'm terrified. I've spent the past 3 days hiding at home. After the first seder, I never ventured forth. Used an upset stomach on Thursday morning as reason to start hiding... and just never went out again. I have to call some people and apologize.

I can't hide from my Israel trip. Dov was unbelievably generous to give me all those frequent flyer miles. But I have no idea how I'll navigate it. How will I find my way around Jerusalem by myself? What will I do with all that time?

I'm also afraid that the time switch will wreak havoc with my mood, as it seemed to during my recent trip to California. And I remember the last Pesach before my suicide attempt, during which I repeatedly told my mother I wished I'd never been born and asked her why she'd had me. That Pesach was preceded and followed by stomach problems. Like the ones I've been having now. Most likely emotional in etiology.

I don't know how I'll survive this trip. And that's a horrible thing to say.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I'm a big fan of the TV show "House, M.D." But the most recent episode unsettled me. Spoiler alert.

Kutner kills himself.

Nobody knows why. I couldn't understand it. He had a job he loved. Interests. Loving (adoptive) parents. Yes, there was a major childhood trauma, but he seemed to be coping. He always seemed cheerful.

Watching his funeral was hard. I hated the end, when they're watching smoke puff out of the temple chimney. As a Hindu, he would have opted to be cremated, of course. But the worst was watching his friends and family fill the room, staring forward, eyes glazed with pain.

I don't know why someone who seemed so happy would want to die as much as I want to die sometimes. Even now that I have a job I like, and friends and family, and a rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan, there are plenty of days I still want to die. And I don't know if I'll ever get over that.

Part of me hopes that if there's a terrorist attack this Pesach, while I'm in Israel, that I'm hit. Better me than anyone else. When that young boy was murdered last week, I wished I'd gotten the ax instead.

I'm not saying this so you'll all feel sorry for me. Or worry about me. Because I know I'll never do anything to kill myself as long as my parents are alive -- and we're a long-living clan. I've got a good 30 years, at least. But I can't promise what I'll do after they're both gone, and if I received a diagnosis of terminal illness, I think I'd be relieved.

Another part of me thinks, "How narcissistic am I to watch a TV episode and blog about myself again?" But blogs are inherently narcissistic; I knew that from the start. It's like, "This is your brain. This is your brain on bipolar disorder. Any questions?"
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Solomon Grundy type of relationship

Solomon Grundy, born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
And that was the end of Solomon Grundy.

I thought of that verse as descriptive of my latest dating foray. I'll call him Lloyd Dobler, or Lloyd, since his screenname is taken from a line in the movie "Say Anything," one of the most romantic movies ever made.

Anyway, I was on Frumster (my first mistake) last Monday, after the acupuncture event, and I saw from the iconography that Lloyd and I had corresponded. I visited his profile but it didn't strike any familiar chords, even though we'd exchanged several emails. He was kind of cute, though, so I thought, "Why not send him an IM?"

Lloyd responded immediately and we started chatting. He explained the significance of his screenname, and I dutifully swooned. Born in England, he now resides in Staten Island. We chatted about our Pesach plans, and learned that we're both trivia whizzes. Then he said:

Lloyd: I am just re-reading our correspondence from two and a half years ago
Ayelet: u kept it? I honestly couldn't remember anything from it
Lloyd: I am a hoarder... I have four kids... and I think you must have thought that they lived near me....
Ayelet: they don't?
Lloyd: they live in London

I remember now. I thought four stepkids was too much to handle. But I'm older, and that much less fertile. More desperate, I suppose.

Ayelet: that must be so hard for u
Lloyd: it is the best situation actually but I miss them terribly; I go back every two months or so, when I say "best" I do not mean ideal, but just given the circumstances
Ayelet: y r u here when they're there?
Lloyd: again, a long story... but, I pay regularly, in case you might think otherwise (I have been asked if I am here to skip payments)
Ayelet: y would I think that? that's a horrible assumption
Lloyd: not everyone is nice
Ayelet: how old r they?
Lloyd 17, nearly 15, 11, nearly 7

That's quite a spread.

Ayelet: how long were u married?
Lloyd: I was married twice..... 9 years 90-99, 2 years 01-03

Wow. He might have more baggage than I do. But who am I to judge?

Ayelet: u r a true romantic
Lloyd: hopeful, not hopeless
Lloyd; it would have to be the right person for me to have another child
Ayelet: it would have to be the right person for u to get married again
Lloyd: I have learned a lot and improved myself tremendously since my earlier marriages... and I would rather be alone than make a mistake, although being alone sucks
Ayelet: that's y I never got married; being alone sucks, being in a bad marriage sucks more
Lloyd: and you gleaned that without the experience
Ayelet: I learn from others' mistakes more readily than from my own
Lloyd: well that should be everyone's preferred option
Ayelet: I'd kind of like to start learning from my own one of these days... since we both have early mornings tomorrow, maybe we should call it a night and take this up again later
Lloyd: would you like to speak tomorrow evening?
Ayelet: sure, although I don't get home till close to 9 p.m.; I work late Tuesdays, u can call and leave a message if I'm not home yet
Lloyd: ok

He ended up calling at close to 10 p.m., but we chatted amiably, and he asked if I wanted to get together on Wednesday. Sure, I don't have plans. He left the choice up to me: coffee, drinks, or dinner. After work, I'm hungry, and I didn't want to be up too late, or keep him in Manhattan too late since he has to drive all the way back to Staten Island. So I opted for dinner at Darna.

And... I don't know what happened. Lloyd seemed enthusiastic when he picked me up; his cologne almost knocked me out of the car. He told me that he was teaching a class in microeconomics and looking for a full-time job; he used to be an investment banker, until August 2008, when the financial world imploded. A real disappointment, since he'd only just got his MBA in 2006 and MFA in 2007.

"I spent all this time preparing myself for a career that just went up in smoke," he said.

"What were you before you were an investment banker?" I asked.

"Oh, I did several things. I was an engineer, I was a brand manager, I was a small business owner..." Lloyd said, and gave me some details. I tried to ignore my uneasiness. Again: who am I to say this guy sounds unstable? I tried to kill myself less than 10 years ago!

Maybe I was unsuccessful at concealing my concern. The date... just fizzled. Lloyd seemed less and less interested as dinner wore on. I honestly don't know why. Maybe I talked too much about work, but I also tried to ask him questions about himself that he wouldn't find threatening to answer. At least I thought they weren't threatening.

But by the end of dinner, I could tell his heart wasn't into it. His responses were polite and perfunctory.

"It's getting late," I said, "and you have a long drive home." He drove me home and promised to call. He hasn't, but I have seen him surfing Frumster since we went out. Maybe he'll call, maybe he won't. To be fair, he knew I was going away for Shabbat.

I guess it's no great loss, but I would love to know how I lost him. Something I said? Something I did? Should I have worn red instead of peach?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, April 02, 2009

NEW fan mail!

It's been a long week, and I'm stressed about taking so much time off. I feel like I'm lying to clients when I make an appointment for next week knowing I won't be there -- or the week after. Crap. But what can I do? I've minimized the number of clients scheduled for Thursday, since I'll be out on two of those. I'll miss two anger management groups, which might not be a bad thing since several of the participants are either trying to look up my skirt or date me.

I'm too tired to talk about dating. But not too tired to share (i.e., brag about) some new fan mail from a new fan.

Subject: Kudos to you

I came across your blog earlier today; I was showing a colleague Yossie Wohlenders' House of Soul, they did a google search on his name, and your blog came up.

I'm going to show your blog to a few residents of a place I work at part time - many of them suffer from depression, and I think they'd benefit greatly from reading your accounts. Too many of them live with the thought that because of what they've got, they can't have a life.

Much thanks for blogging - just by sharing your posts, you're making a difference.

I wrote back:

Thanks for the validation! Please show the blog to anyone you think it might help. That's why I put it out there.

This week two other fans of mine, and you know who you are, suggested I turn this blog into a book. Which other friends have suggested before. But it took The Kallah to suggest I contact a friend of hers, Dawn Friedman, a blogger, mother, and professional writer. I wrote to Dawn:

The Kallah is a woman I befriended through the blogosphere who is now a friend of mine in real life. I'm also a blogger (isn't everyone today?) and Aidel thinks I have it in me to write a book. I'm not sure I'm ready for that, though, because my blog is about how I cope with bipolar disorder. Anyway, if you're interested, you can read it at

Did you read Dan Savage's book on open adoption, "The Kid"? It's pretty awesome.

Dawn wrote me back within a day:

It's nice to meet you, Ayelet. I have read "The Kid" -- it convinced me I'd never ever take a baby from a sobbing woman. Never say never, I guess! I'll go check out your blog. If I can answer any writing biz questions, please let me know.

Well, since she asked so nicely...

Hi Dawn, thanks for writing back! I guess I'm wondering how I could pitch my work to an agent. I used to work in PR, and I know that unsolicited manuscripts almost never see daylight.

I hear what you're saying about "The Kid," but I think in a way that powerful experience was cathartic and necessary for all of them. As Dan said, they'd be able to tell D.J. that his mother did not give him up lightly and loved him so much, she wanted him to have a life she could not give him and hence made that heartbreaking decision.

Again, she wrote back fast:

It's all about platform right now. They want to know that you have a fanbase that you can work to sell the book so other clips, speaking engagements, a blog following, etc. They've cut marketing budgets so much that they really need the authors to step up and sell sell sell so as you work on your proposal, really think about how you can convince them that you will be able to move books right out of the gate.

My fave proposal book is How to Think Like Your Editor -- not a perfect fit for memoir but still better than the straight non-fiction proposal books!!

About that time I started talking to a guy that I went out on a date with last night, so I got a little distracted. Don't worry, I'll tell the whole story on here at some point.

But -- now I'm thinking. Do I have a fanbase? Not if it's a base of 2. Also, I'm not yet ready to come out of the closet as a clinician with bipolar. I might have a book in me, but I don't know if I have a book salesman in me. Maybe I'll just stick with the blog. Although an old friend of mine who's still in PR has offered to help me publicize the blog...
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