Sunday, May 31, 2009

My latest Ziva update

Ziva wants me to keep her apprised of my dating efforts, so I'm going to send her this:

Dear Ziva,

Well, I've started reading The Garden of Emuna. I'm about halfway through. The first day I truly tried to concentrate on this book, I was headed to meet someone in Long Island. I was so intent that I missed my stop and ended up going to the end of the line, and had to get on another train to go back.

I'd have to say that my faith and belief have truly been tested by various circumstances in my life, and it's hard for me to cry out to Gd and ask for help. Even harder not to feel envy of those whose lives don't appear nearly as difficult. But I am trying.

I rejoined Frumster and sent out several emails to various gentlemen. Not all of them have responded. I find this kind of ironic, as many of them appear to ask for women to contact them. As with this British chap:

I am a relaxed, warm and friendly person. I am sporty and enjoy football and regular work-outs at the gym. I am a software developer by profession and work for a financial media firm. If my profile interests you, then why not get in touch.

So I wrote:

subject: your profile interests me ;)

I like what you say about yourself; you seem like a very nice guy. I've been in Heathrow Airport but that's as much of England as I've seen. It's very clean and well organized. What kind of Sephardi are you? Best, Ayelet

No response. Another guy wrote this as his self-description:

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to learn about me.

This service has a weak link in the sense that you are listening to me describe me. You will get something from it, but for the most part it's a grain of salt in comparison to meeting any one individual. Hoping you feel the same.

With that in mind, I will say that I'm a enthusiastic, energized, engaging and a happy person. I find great satisfaction in many measures of my work and look forward to dealing with a variety of challenges in the life that Hashem enables me to grow and develop. I'm told that my creativity is great and my ability to go after challenging situations and succeed at them is high, both in work and out. As growth is a process and needs to be nurtured, most good things need to be nurtured into your structure. I became who I am over a long period of time and unless I interrupted my patterns successfully... the change and thus growth was not achieved.

There is an American writer who I think said "most men live lives of quiet desperation"...I'm living mine knowing that I would never let that happen. If you see yourself on a clear path to growing, we might have something to talk about...but dating when you are not going in that direction is a real unnecessary struggle. I just think that you have to be working at becoming great on your own first and get somewhere with it... then you know who you... then you can become complete with someone else... but then again, we are all great works in motion...do you agree?

I wrote to him:

Subject: It was Thoreau

Thoreau said "most men live lives of quiet desperation." I'm glad to see you're not one of them. Ayelet

No response from that missive either. The third guy seemed really to know who he is and whom he's looking for:

This is how I describe myself:

I am thoughtful, introspective and sensitive. I try to maintain a balance between achieving excellence in my professional life and learning Torah - not always an easy task but the most important things in life are often a challenge. I am a romantic at heart. I still believe in soul mates and being able to have a relationship that makes someone feel that they could only achieve their full potential with that person by their side. And yet, I am also practical and level-headed.

This is what I am looking for in a mate:

I am looking for a woman who believes that the relationship between husband and wife is one of the most important things in the world. It is worth struggling and praying and searching for... Because you believe that it can be sacred and unique and give you the ability to grow as a person, to help another person in their path and to bring new lives to this world. Although you may have your career, you believe that family always comes first. You believe that you will build this relationship on trust, faith and love and lay a solid foundation for a home and children. You realize the responsibility and commitment that marriage entails... And you believe that it is possible to have a relationship where just seeing the other person makes you smile.

So I wrote:

Subject: how does a girl get your photo password? ;)

I agree with you that it's vital to prioritize the relationship between husband and wife -- and that it's worth holding out for the right person! I really liked what you wrote about the type of woman you're looking for, and about yourself. If you like my profile, I'd love to get to know you better.

b'shalom, Ayelet

All of these guys are close to my age -- maybe two years older. In terms of hashkafa, I would think we were fairly compatible. Maybe it's how I wrote to them? But then, none of them has actually read the emails I sent.

I did go out with one guy I met on Frumster, but as he was quite different from the way he represented himself online, it didn't really go anywhere.

Anyway, I'm still trying, which proves I must have at least some emuna -- or I'd have to think I'm totally wasting my time.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

My mom says, "Clean your room and get married!"

Apparently the two are related. My mother sent me a book called, Making Room for Mr. Right: How to Attract the Love of Your Life. According to the authors, a Hindu principle called "Vasu Shastra" or "the science of harmonious living" is "a concrete, time-tested way to draw him into your life."

What do you have to do? Get rid of all the clutter in your home! Let the energy flow, and it will bring you true love!

Clutter happens to the best of us.... it is an impediment to creating a lasting relationship. That's right: your mess is a barrier between you and Mr. Right.

I read that and felt sick. I got the book on Thursday morning and tried to read it on the way to work. Big mistake. I know my mother meant well, but I felt attacked and blamed. If I didn't have all this damn clutter in my apartment, I would have gotten married years ago!

It wasn't a great start to a long and demanding day of therapy, calling clients and leaving messages, calling parole officers and leaving messages, and anger management group. By the time I got home, I didn't want to speak to or see anybody. I spent Shavuot moping in bed, reading Agatha Christie and Jane Austen. (The clutter book is sitting in my recyclables right now, for whenever I get around to taking them out).

Today I tried something proactive. Actually two things: I went to another matchmaker, this time in Long Island, and I really started reading The Garden of Emuna.

The basic principle of TGOE is that failures, tribulations, illnesses, and other setbacks are really opportunities for you to shore up and strengthen your emuna. I'm trying to believe that, I really am, because otherwise why should I have gone through so much in my life?

But I was reading so closely that I missed my stop, and ended up at the very end of the line. Had to call the matchmaker to let her know I'd be late and why, which was a little embarrassing. Then had to get on another train to go back to the matchmaker, and get another ticket for the ride home.

You could look at that little incident as another one of Gd's practical jokes, which seem to happen so often to me. Or maybe I was supposed to look at it as a way to practice being late without freaking out, and coughing up an extra and unnecessary $7 on train fare was meant to ease my financial anxieties, which are really not based in anything. I don't have credit card or student loan debt, and while I don't make a ton of money, I make enough for my needs (not that I can buy an apartment in Manhattan, of course, but that's not really a need). I shouldn't worry so much about $7, right?

I have to say that of the three matchmakers I've seen recently, this one actually seemed to hold out some hope of actually getting me a date. She was very friendly, not at all mad that I was late, and asked thoughtful questions that seemed valid and sensible.

Do I think I need to share tons of common interests with my mate? (No; I think it's healthy to do some things separately and some things as a couple.)

Am I a neatnik or not so neat? (You readers know the answer to that one.) Do I need to be with someone who's neat or not so neat? (Probably better if he were neat, I could use the help.)

Would I be comfortable with someone who works on Shabbat? (Only if he's a doctor and it's really a matter of life or death.)

Her final question to me was, "Has anything happened to you that's really changed your life?"

Immediately I thought about the suicide attempt and hospitalization. But that's not something you talk about with a matchmaker. It makes you a much harder sell. So I said, "Becoming an aunt." Which, honestly, is true. Being an aunt and honorary aunt is very important to me. Making kids happy, helping them grow.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nondisclosure is the best policy

My agency forbids personal disclosure. Officially. In point of fact, we disclose bits and pieces about ourselves when we consider it therapeutic. But whatever you say to a client can and will be used against you at some point.

Today one of my clients admired my manicure while I was trying to get him to focus on discharge planning. He cycled between pretending to flirt with me -- it's his way of trying to even the inherent power imbalance between therapist and client -- and venting his anger at a co-worker, whom he had basically decided to avoid rather than assault, a decision I wanted to reinforce.

"Do you get mani-pedis every week with your girlfriends at the spa?" he asked. I laughed.

"Actually, I did my nails myself," I said. Which was true. I had recently gotten a pedicure, which I can't do myself comfortably, but I'm pretty competent with my fingernails.

"Maybe you could do mine," he said seductively.

"Not gonna happen," I said. "We don't touch our clients. Ever. Once a client, always a client, and I can't date you, be your friend, or give you a manicure."

That probably wasn't best practice. I should have just said "no" when he formulated his little spa fantasy. But it was late in the day and I was tired.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

At least someone thinks it's not all my fault

My Facebook friend Shlomo IMed me this morning:

Shlomo: your last 2 blogs are interesting
Ayelet: thanks
S: I find it interesting that everyone has dating/Frumster horror stories
A: do u think I'm wallowing in self-pity? ;) u got SO lucky, dude

Shlomo is engaged to a smart and beautiful young woman he met on Frumster.

S: yeah I'm not going to argue that
I went on a rafting thing with upper west side people on Sunday

The Jewish Outdoors Club sponsors many such outings. Between my knees and my back, I'm no longer very outdoorsy.

A: was that fun?
S: it's a very very sad scene, 60 or so single people mostly over 30, all too picky to get anything out of dating and all very lonely people
ok maybe not all very lonely but a lot of them
A: do u think I'm too picky?
S: nah I think it sucks on the girls side
really its the guys at this point in the game that are picky
I'm figuring you're over 25
A: alas yes
S: yeah at that age i blame the guy
because it seems guys get more picky because the odds are in their favor
and they have a wider market -- guys can always date younger girls get stuck
A: yep, and creepy guys in their 50s and 60s think I'd want to date them
S: I was floored that girls on Ssunday were parading around in 2 pieces
A: really?????? that is sad and desperate, and inappropriate
S: given the single guys I thought (very egotistical of me ) I would have had a field day if I moved here single, I mean honestly on the guys side there wasn't much worth impressing
A: sad but true, that's y I'm still single -- I only date men who abandon their brain-damaged wives ;)
S: lets face it Every typical guy wants an adele wife that will pop out 4+kids and stay a size 6 and not complain about raising children and keeping a home but the reality there's not a lot of those and really they have their own issues
A: I'm trying... I just feel like the men I want don't give me a shot
is that a sign they're out of my league?
S: no probably that they're idiots

I wish him loads of happiness.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 25, 2009

Well, that's... flattering

I noticed that a guy 10 years my junior has been checking out my Frumster profile. Fine, whatever, he likes brunettes in red dresses, it's a free country. I didn't think much of it because of the age difference and because he lives in Berlin. Germany. Far away.

But today he sent me an IM and we had an interesting conversation. We started on Frumster but then switched to MSN messenger.

Yingerman: u do acupunture?
Ayelet: a little bit, just 5 points on the ear
Yingerman: so do i
Ayelet: really? where did u learn!
Yingerman: here in germany -- traditonal chinese medecine
Ayelet: do u know the full body? I only know a bit of the ear
Yingerman: yes
Ayelet: wow, very cool
Yingerman: i have a degree, now going for qi- gong and herbal medecine
Ayelet: thought u were studying dental surgery
Yingerman: i am a medical doctor, and now doing my second degree in dentistry, and i go for oral and maxillofacial surgery
Ayelet: u have a big thirst for knowledge!
Yingerman: u need both here in europe
Ayelet: acupuncture, medicine, dentistry
Yingerman: i am very open minded, i love to learn
Ayelet: so when ur not studying what do u do for fun?
Yingerman: so what kind ofmen do u like ? u like strong men?
i love to shop, sports, traveling
Ayelet: u like shopping? most guys don't!
Yingerman: iam very open minded for everything
Ayelet: that's cool
Yingerman: yes i love shopping !
Ayelet: I like traveling too
Yingerman: and yes i love heels ...so i would buy my lady plenty heels

Okay, that’s a little inappropriate.

Ayelet: u sure ur straight?

Probably also inappropriate.

Yingerman: yes
Ayelet: ok
Yingerman: and u ?
Ayelet: very straight
Yingerman: but i love strong women -- that is what i like ! alpha women
Ayelet: I'm a very strong woman, but sometimes I'm vulnerable
Yingerman: sure.... everyone is
love ur lipstick by the way ..looks great on u !
Ayelet: thanks, I love lipstick
Yingerman: so do i
Ayelet: sign of a strong woman
Yingerman: yes! exactly! and looks nice
Ayelet: I don't wear makeup often, but when I do I like it to pop
so... have u ever been to NYC?
Yingerman :
nice !
no not yet.. didn’t have any reason so far.....
Ayelet: lol, ver been to the US at all?
Yingerman: do u like burberry?
no noteither
Ayelet:
not really a fan of burberry
I don't go so much by designers as by what the clothes look like
Yingerman: so whats ur style? i just love those trenchcoats !
Ayelet: my style? I don't know... lots of bright colors, lots of red and purple, stretchy fabrics, colorful tights, funky shoes
Yingerman: nice!
Ayelet: I'm not a skinny girl, so I like comfy things, not binding things
Yingerman: ohh so no corsets?
Ayelet: eek! no way
Yingerman: lol too tight right?
Ayelet: yeah, I kind of like breathing

I wish I'd saved our Frumster convo, where I tried to scare him away by reminding him that at my age, I couldn't have as many babies as a woman his age or younger. Apparently he's tough to scare, and said that didn't bother him -- what mattered was the quality of the relationship. Unfortunate that he's in Germany, but I am pretty good at languages. We're Facebook friends now (under my real name, not my blog handle). I'll let you know what happens.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

I'm *really* not attracted to him

I had a date today. There was a guy on Frumster I contacted a while back -- screenname Hopeful, aged one year younger than I -- who never responded. After I rejoined, he checked out my profile again a couple of times, and then emailed me. After exchanging a few emails we shifted to IM.

Hopeful describes himself as 6'2", with an "athletic" build. Divorced, with more than one child. His occupation is given as "CEO of nonprofit Jewish organization." He says he has smicha as well as a doctorate. His photo was password-protected, and I was curious.

Ayelet: so do I get the password to ur photo? ;)
Hopeful: ok - u got me - 1525 it is

I looked. Tall, kind of burly, bald, with a beard. Not really my type, but I'm trying to date against type these days.

Ayelet: very distinguished
Hopeful: thnx - can u guess what 1525 stands for in hebrew
Ayelet: love! how romantic!
Hopeful: Bingo - ur stocks just went up. so wanna meet for coffe
Ayelet: sure
Hopeful: :)where and when
Ayelet: what's good 4 u?
Hopeful: I'm flexible - I haven't had breakfast yet
Ayelet: neither have I, we could go to Bagel Basket or Bagels & Co.
Hopeful: is this where all the frumies go
Ayelet: no, they go to the airport ;)
Hopeful: is it romantic?
Ayelet: anyplace is romantic if ur with the right person
Hopeful: let's meet in Lala? on 83 st - u know what I mean
Ayelet: cafe lalo? sure

Cafe Lalo's is one of those places where you can have coffee and some of the cakes, but the rest of the food isn't kosher. I figured he wasn't going to feed me, had a snack, got ready, and went.

I was running about 10 minutes late -- very unusual for me. When I got there, he'd already had a cup of coffee. I guess I shouldn't have been annoyed -- after all, I was late and he was waiting. But I was kind of miffed.

I sat down and we started chatting. He put some papers into a big manila envelope.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Oh, it's for a case," he said.

"You're a lawyer?" I asked.

"No... it has to do with my organization," he said.

"What organization is that?" I asked.

"It's a synagogue," he said.

"You're the executive director?" I asked.

"Actually, I'm the rabbi," he said.

Huh? "That's not exactly what it says on your Frumster profile," I said nicely, not accusingly.

"Actually, in my contract it says I'm the CEO," he informed me.

Okay. The waitress brought us menus.

"The quiche is terrific here," he said. "What would you like?"

Uh... kosher food? "I know they have some cakes that are kosher..." I started.

"Oh, there's no meat served in this restaurant," he said. "The owners are Israeli. I know them."

"I... if I'm in New York City, I'd rather go to a kosher place," I said hesitantly.

"Whatever you want," he said pleasantly. He reached back to put on his jacket, and his chest... wobbled. Not exactly an "athletic" build.

We went to Cafe Blossom (excellent entrees, deplorable cheesecake). Interestingly, he washed for his sandwich; I wondered if he would have washed at Cafe Lalo if they served bread.

I tried to enjoy his conversation. He's a very smart and learned man. But all I kept wondering was: what else is he lying about? His age? The reason for his divorce? (He said that his wife had serious brain damage subsequent to two car accidents before he married her, and he didn't find out until they were married.)

On top of my doubts, I am really not attracted to him. I tried to find something nice about his looks, but his beard is patchy, his eyes are beady, his hair is graying and wiry, and his body... less said the better. I guess I'll go out with him again if he asks, but I'm so not attracted to him.

Also, I don't want to be a rebbetzin. I don't want that kind of public life. Especially in a Conservative synagogue in Long Island.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another reject

I rejoined Frumster, as Ziva advised. I had six messages waiting in my inbox. Two were from men in their 50s or 60s, and I dispatched them hastily. Another was from a 40something accountant named Sam. He seemed decent enough, grew up in Queens. I was slightly curious about his marital status: "divorced (get not required), without children." Which means, he married a non-Jew. Interesting.

I wrote back and Sam sent me an IM.

Sam: hi
Ayelet: hi
Sam: how was your weekend
Ayelet: relaxing, how was urs?
Sam: same
Sam: have you had any luck with this website
Ayelet: well, nothing's worked out so far ;)
Sam: so i have a chance, lol
Ayelet: what do u do?
Sam: office mgr for a computer company

Office manager? I thought he was an accountant.

Sam: you
Ayelet: clinical social worker
Sam: nice
Ayelet: I like it
Sam: you have a beautiful smile
Ayelet: thought u were an accountant
Ayelet: thank you
Sam: acct too
Sam: but for private industries
Sam: no cpa

No CPA? In other words, no ambition.

Sam: i was married once before
Ayelet: why was get not required?

That's what it says on his profile. His IM window closed for a minute, so I thought I'd scared him off, then it reopened.

Sam: sorry
Sam: got bumped off
Ayelet: ok
Sam: would you like to meet
Ayelet: let's talk a little more
Ayelet: y did ur divorce not need a get?
Sam: sure
Sam: yes , i married out of the faith
Ayelet: how long were u married?
Sam: 13 yrs
Ayelet: thought u came from a frum family
Sam: no. mixed
Sam: my father was
Sam: mom no
Ayelet: y did u marry a non-Jew?
Sam: stuubborn
Ayelet: when did u get divorced?
Sam: 2 yrs ago
Ayelet: no children?
Sam: no
Ayelet: r u able to have children?
Sam: yes
Ayelet: y did u get divorced?
Sam: felt guilty
Ayelet: about what?
Sam: married out of the faith
Ayelet: did u observe anything while u were married?
Sam: yes
Sam: i alwalys kept kosher
Sam: and shabbath
Sam: she converted but the conservative way
Sam: too easy
Ayelet: what does she do now?
Sam: went back to her old ways
Sam: officially she is not jewish
Ayelet: ok
Ayelet: y didn't u have kids?
Sam: we tried
Sam: didnt happen
Ayelet: so u don't know if u can have kids
Sam: i think i can
Sam: never got checked

You think you can, after trying and failing? But never got any confirmation? No thank you. Nice just isn't enough.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Not exactly fan mail

I guess some people get tired of my narcissistic whinging:

I left your group because I see you like to stay in the problem rather than live in the solution. Humans are not products. Besides you there are any number of people in the world who will not match up to our own idea of perfection.

Baltimore guy may be with kids but this is the prime example of you want to stay in the problem rather than living the soution. You read some anecdotal information about how it did not go so well for a woman. So you run. Chicken. He is not perfect and neither are you.

I have bipolar and you have bipolar. Face it. It gives you pleasure to whine. Not me. Life is too short and too wonderful to pass up. Should you ever want a bottle of fingernail polish remover to get the super glue off of your butt so that you can get off your pity pot let me know.

I encourage anyone who feels the same way as this person to leave my group, too. I don't want to impose on anyone. In fact, a few people have had this response to my blog. Interestingly, they also seem to have bipolar disorder. I guess that's how they justify their reactions to me.

Whatever...
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Baltimore Guy fallout

Ziva Kramer sent me an encouraging email:

Only you can know if you can handle it!
Take it easy. Relax.... if he doesn't want to keep shabbat you should not date him!
Stay strong. Shabbat Shalom.


Only time will tell whether she'll consider me worthy of a set-up or a kookster who should die alone and childless ;)

Not all of my friends have been as supportive. I shouldn't say they're not being supportive; they're just disagreeing with me. Which is fine -- I don't need a crowd of yes men, and it can help to get other perspectives on a situation. In this case, though, I'm not sure they're right.

Most of these friends are Facebook friends. They read my blog and my status updates, and we exchange emails and IMs. But they haven't met me in person. I don't know if that means I should discount their opinion in favor of people who have met me in real life.

One friend, Paul, wrote me:

I think you cry about Baltimore guy because something tells you that you should go out with him, and you are afraid.

I am not pushing you to get married - better to stay single than to make a horrible mistake by rushing into marriage for the sake of marriage. On the other hand, you are 30-something and you need to look at how a "frum" woman got to be that age without being married, and not always blame it on the shortcomings of others or their failure to make the cut.

Getting to the point: 1. You are worried about his frumkeit when he is willing to be shomer shabbat, etc. Yet, you are not so frum - you, for example are not shomer negiya. Don't you think you should be a little more forgiving and flexible? It's not like he said "Shabbos? You must be joking!"

2. Wicked step-mother? You're setting up a straw man there - there is no problem yet. You don't know them, and they aren't so young. You should first meet and see if the first date goes anywhere.

3. New city? Yes, that's a challenge, but if our ancestors could go through what they went through, from Exodus to leaving Russia etc. for the other side of the world, you can move to a nice city only a 3 hour drive away from your beloved New York. Neither one of them is Eretz Yisrael, where every shomer-mitzvot person should be. It's worth it for your happiness. And if it's not Baltimore, it might be Boston, or Toronto.

I responded:

To be honest, I could deal with one or two of the things that bother me, but not all of them. And I think the major reason I'm single is also the reason I'm not unhappily married or divorced. And it's the fact that his children aren't so young that worries me. Teenagers are hard enough to deal with when they're your own -- to take on two of them (and live with one, and another child) just seems very daunting.

My mother's family went from Poland to Russia to Uzbekistan to Germany to Detroit to Chicago by the time she was 15. I'm not saying I'm not adaptable. But I struggled tremendously when I moved to NYC -- it was a huge and extremely difficult adjustment. I don't know if I can do it again -- on top of all the other issues. Like I said, this guy seems nice but there are numerous problems, and I just don't think I can cope with all of them.

Paul's take?

I think you should do the date, asses whether and to what extent there are issues, rather than theorizing and hypothesizing. I think the main reason you're single is that you are afraid of being unhappily married or divorced. At some point you'll have to take a chance, or remain single.

That's a thinker.

Another friend, Cecilia, gave me her $.02 as well:

There is always something scary about a prospective partner, but this book you read is full of bad case scenarios!!! There are also a lot of incompetent mothers out there you know??? Why do you let fear get hold of you? When an opportunity knocks you must look at it for what it could turn out to be!! And not sabotage it before it even gets a chance. I think you should push negative thoughts out of the window.

I would certainly think about the teenagers, but knowing you a bit... Maybe just maybe God put you in their path to help. Can you imagine the joy, respect and recognition a man would give you for loving his daughters when their own mother was too busy for it! What I am trying to say is there is always another side to the coin... And all this I tell you because I want the best for you, and I do think you complicate things!

They make a lot of valid points. I've also wondered whether my fear of this shidduch was groundless, or the yetzer hora. But I just feel too uncomfortable about Baltimore Guy. I can't get over it. I've tried really hard, but I can't be happy about him. Even though he earned the Life Coach seal of approval. And I've gone on too many bad dates that led nowhere and were just a waste of time and energy.

Of course, you could say that those dates led nowhere because I wasn't really open to their possibilities -- a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't think it will work out with this guy. Will you look at that? It didn't!

My head is pounding. I usually never get headaches. I went to sleep with a headache, woke up with a headache, and still have a headache. Either I'm somaticizing stress from my work situation, the Shimona debacle, and the Baltimore Guy situation, or my headband is too tight.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I can't do it

I can't go out with Baltimore Guy. As I promised, I emailed Ziva to update her on my latest:

I started The Garden of Emuna but have not really gone deep yet. I'll have a lot of time over Shabbos and Shavuot, and I think I'll be reading more of it then. During the week I'm too emotionally drained from work to focus on anything like that.

I have been trying to psych myself up to get to know this guy from Baltimore. But I'm miserable. He's not anything like what I hoped. He's not Shomer Shabbat, although he says he's open to it. And the 3 children (2 teenagers), 2 of whom live with him... I don't know if I could handle being a wicked stepmother in a new city where I have no friends. Every time I think about giving him a chance, I cry. So I don't know if I'm just being stubborn or if he's really not right for me.

I do cry thinking about him. Fortunately, in NYC nobody bothers with a quietly crying woman on the subway. No response from Ziva yet, but I did get some validation from Levi via IM:

Levi: I wasn't putting too much stock in your decision to go after this guy in Baltimore. Not frum enough for you.

Ayelet: thank you... everyone else is pushing me to him

Levi: Why would they push a young woman with no kids who is frum to go with a divorced man with teenagers who isn't even Shomer Shabbos? It doesn't make much sense to me.

Ayelet: I'm not young, I'm thirty-x

Levi: You need to deal with this from a position of strength. You have a lot to offer someone. Stop letting these people who just want to see you married -- even if it's to someone wholly inappropriate to you -- define what you are looking for.

What he said.

The LIRR matchmaker emailed me to postpone. I did the same to her back in February, so I guess it's fair enough. I'll let you know if I ever shlep out there and the results, if any.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Copycat

Ziva Kramer hasn't gotten me a date yet, but she has paid me the ultimate compliment: imitation.

I started a Facebook group for my blog to send updates to my readers. So far about 99 of them have joined. (Feel free to join if you haven't!) I send out links to new blog posts. I try to keep it down to 3 per day.

Now Ziva has started sending out her blog posts to her Facebook group. I'm flattered ;) Actually, I shouldn't take credit; another blogger I know does this too.

But I'm also freaked out by an article that the Kallah posted: a book review of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel and Act the Way We Do, by Wednesday Martin. As the reviewer puts it,

Martin comes at this book armed with plenty of personal experience to back it up: She married a man with two teenage daughters, one of whom lived with him full-time. Despite her efforts to win over both girls, they often rejected her outright, criticized her openly, and sought both overtly and indirectly to drive a wedge between her and her new husband.

It worked, too -- Martin found herself furious at her husband for not having her back when trouble arose. But most of all, she felt like a huge failure for first time in her life. How had all of her good intentions and careful efforts amounted to nothing?


I've felt like a failure many a time. But this terrified me. Baltimore Guy has two daughters aged 15 and 16. How could I handle moving to a new city where I don't know anybody, a new husband, a new psychiatrist, and three stepchildren -- two of them teenagers? He has custody of the younger two. All of the stepmothers in the book had a really rough time. Even the reviewer had a rough time -- she's also a stepmother. I can't do it.

I've been feeling completely miserable about trying to get to know Baltimore Guy, overlooking all the things that make me uncomfortable: age difference, religious level discrepancy, different city, half-grown stepchildren. He's like a perfect dating storm. Now I feel it would be madness to even try. It's all too much.

This can't be what Gd has planned for me -- send me from the frying pan of single NYC life into the fire of Baltimore stepparenting? My life is supposed to get better.

Ziva keeps emphasizing that I need emuna. I was trying to believe that Gd wants me to leave my comfort zone. But this is so far outside my comfort zone, I'm completely uncomfortable. I'm in agony.

I guess that next time Baltimore Guy contacts me, I'll tell him I've thought it over and I don't think it would work.

I'm meeting with another matchmaker on Sunday. In Long Island. Yes, I'm taking the damn LIRR on the off chance that she can introduce me to somebody. I asked her if she had men in my age range, and she claims she does. If I don't get any dates out of this wild goose chase, I'll be very annoyed. After that, I guess I'll rejoin Frumster. After that... well, the other remedy I'm trying should have kicked in.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Apparently it's not my fault

Erica emailed me:

Hi -- were u meant to come today or do I have the date wrong?

What should I say? "Yes, I was there, and the baby was wet, hungry, and sick. I didn't volunteer to be your babysitter or to come down with bronchitis."

I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt. If she went abroad abruptly, there must have been some kind of family emergency. So I'll just stick to the facts.

I did come today.

She wrote back:

Sorry I just came back and I asked nanny. Thanks for coming.

Okay -- at least nothing's my fault this time. Should I go back? I guess if she asks, I'm going to ask who will be there and how the baby is. I'm not going to risk my health.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

How will she make this my fault?

I went to Erica's apartment this morning. I didn't feel like enrichment playing with the baby, but I went. When I got there, the door was opened by a sleepy woman I didn't recognize, and the baby was buckled into her car seat on the floor.

"Oh... Erica's out of the country, Derek's on a business trip," she said vaguely. "Gila will be back soon."

"You and Gila are looking after the kids?" I asked. She made some distant assent.

I unbuckled the baby and picked her up. What's that smell?

"I think she needs to be changed," I said. The woman had gone back to the sofa and lain down, eyes closed. She didn't respond. Okay, fine, I'll start anyway. I put the baby by her little desk, sat on the floor, and started the comparisons.

At first the baby played along, although she seemed to be breathing heavily as if congested. But when I showed her the picture of her snack crunchies, she put it in her mouth.

"You want some crunchies?" I said. Erica had shown me where they were kept. I got the box and tried to get the baby to put them in her mouth. It's funny -- she puts everything in her mouth but food. After she gobbled up about 10 of them, I had a brilliant idea.

"Is the baby hungry?" I asked the woman on the couch. No response. I tried again, a little louder. "Has she had anything to eat today?"

"She had... a whole bottle of milk," said the woman. "Nothing else."

It was after 9 a.m. Babies are morning people, so she'd probably been up for a few hours. And a hungry baby is not going to be able to play or learn. But what does she usually eat? I'm good with other people's children, but I generally need some guidance to take care of them. I tried to give her some banana, but she turned her head away. I went to the fridge and saw a small cup of yogurt, which my nieces and nephews used to love as babies.

I also saw a bunch of prescription bottles next to the fridge. Behind me, the baby coughed.

How am I supposed to work with a sick, dirty, hungry baby if there's no one to guide me? Am I being a high-maintenance volunteer when I say that? Also, if the baby's sick, I'd like to have the option of not being exposed to her germs.

I fed the baby as much yogurt as she would take, but when she refused to continue the enriching play, I gave up and went home. And I can't wait to see how Erica makes this my fault.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why would total strangers invite themselves to my birthday party?

I created an "event" page on Facebook for my birthday party, invited most of the friends I actually know, which turned out to be about 130, and figured less than 10% would actually show up. I invited people I knew couldn't come, because they live in Switzerland, Israel, or elsewhere out of town; I wanted them to feel included. And I left the event open, so anyone could invite other people, like -- I assumed -- their spouses or significant others.

I was not expecting total strangers to invite themselves to the party.

Remember the baby with Down's Syndrome, with whom I play so enrichingly (at least when her family's at home)? Well, I didn't invite her parents because I don't really know them all that well. But I'm FB friends with the baby's mother, Erica, and a FB friend of Erica's RSVP'd that she might be coming to the party.

I'm kind of baffled. I have no problem with her coming to the party -- I'm going to buy a bunch of donuts, a few boxes of coffee, and hand both out freely. One more person won't make a difference. But why would she want to come to my birthday party if she doesn't know me? And if she really wants to come, why wouldn't she commit instead of saying she's "maybe" attending? It's a thinker.

I'm feeling kind of like a bad daughter, though, because I invited my mother -- I wanted her to see I was celebrating my birthday instead of getting completely depressed about it. I also invited cousins from California and friends in Europe and Israel. But Mom thought I really wanted her there -- and she thought she should bring Jerusha and the kids.

And that just can't happen. Jerusha ruined my birthday party a few years ago, so traumatizing me that I didn't have a party the next year. As I wrote,

Alona thinks my birthday is cursed, since every time we try to celebrate it, it's horrible. Two years ago she organized a "birthday/congrats on getting into The Bad Place" (little did we know) party for me. I made the mistake of inviting Jerusha, who was rude and inappropriate in every possible way. She insisted on giving Alona tons of cash at the end, and then complained to me that she spent $100 on uncooked pancakes. Like it's my fault the kitchen's careless? You don't tell the birthday guest of honor that you didn't enjoy her party!

I must have been pretty mad when I wrote that, because it's not quite coherent. But after that fiasco, I refuse to allow Jerusha anywhere near any birthday party for me. Somehow she'll manage to ruin it. Which I told Mom. And Mom, I guess, no longer felt like going.

I don't know if I would have wanted my mother there, to be honest. It just highlights the fact that I'm single, you know? Like I'm still a kid, and the most important person in my life is my mommy.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

The nays have it

I'm not going to re-contact the men on Frumster who ignored my initial contacts. While going through the correspondence list, I clicked on a number of their profiles. So far, only one has re-visited mine, and he still hasn't bothered to contact me.

This is what he says about...

What Modern Orthodox Liberal means to me:
to be a mentch

This is how I describe myself:
I'm fun, loving, caring, loyal, hard working, successful, intellectual, strong family person, with a passion for Judaism and the world, I love music and I like to explore new things and experiences.

This is what I am looking for in a mate:
I'm looking for a good friend and hopefully one day she will be my real best friend for life, some one stable, who knows where she is standing and what she wants in life, loving, caring and understanding which is most important in a relationship. Photos available.

Obviously photos must be available -- and probably need to be perfect -- to a guy like this. And obviously he's not all that adventurous -- or all that much of a mentch -- or he'd respond to initial contacts.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 15, 2009

Who's right -- Mendel or The Rules?

So I told my friend Mendel that 203 men ignored me on Frumster and others rejected me, and I didn't think I should contact any of them.

(In case you're wondering why I don't just date or marry Mendel -- he's one of those married guys who find me so utterly beguiling. And he's not Sephardic, so marriage is kind of out of the question.)

Mendel responded:

No harm in contacting those that rejected you, maybe they changed their mind!

I don't know. Should I pursue a second helping of rejection from these guys? According to The Rules, I shouldn't have bothered them to start with. What do you think?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How many men have ignored me on Frumster? 203

What the heck is with TD, whose final email to me was so very nasty?

You see your problem in your life is you are very bitter person. I am the opposite of you a very positive person. I will not stoop as low as you did because I am an honest gentleman not like you who is full of drama and a made up imagination Good Luck To You. No wonder you cant find anybody to date. Its because of your attitude. Sorry to say....

Yet every time I change my profile, he's back looking at it. If he thinks so little of me, why can't he stay away?

Then again, Captain Best Effort also revisits my profile periodically. But he's still in love with his ex-fiancée, whom I so resemble. Ick.

I was on Frumster because my friend Mendel recommended I look through all the guys I corresponded with or went out with, to see if any of them might be worth a second shot. You would not believe how many never bothered to respond to my initial contact: 203.

I tried to look at the ones I rejected to see if I could see myself giving them another shot, but I don't think I succeeded. There are 2 out of 520 with whom I exchanged at least one email and I don't remember why it didn't go anywhere. It's probably because they weren't interested, but if I rejoin Frumster I'll email them. There are numerous guys who responded to my initial contact with a polite rejection, but I don't think I should contact them again.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The life coach has spoken

I am sure everyone will be happy to know that the mystical life coach felt good things about Baltimore Guy -- who actually wrote me back after I thought I scared him off. Apparently he's a giver, he's stable, and I should get over my laundry-list hangups -- i.e., the age difference, teenage stepchildren, and other superficial reasons I thought he wasn't right for me. So I wrote him back, and at some point I will probably give him a call and schedule a date.

She also had some suggestions for how I can deal with my anger and resentment. I am going to try them, and if they work, I will let you know what they are. If they don't, I'll probably let you know what they are too, but I'll be a lot less complementary.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Small world. Again.

Daphne Merkin published an account of her decades-long struggle with depression in the New York Times. She's written often about her condition. (She was also part of the paraphilia unit in my psychopathology textbook, writing about her fondness for being spanked.)

Her sister is Dr. Incompetent -- the psychologist on whose watch I overdosed and almost killed myself.

Ironic.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lag b'Omeh

I'm so bad at parties. I went to the bangitout Lager B'Omer party, and all I did was drive off the desirable men and attract the losers.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I didn't think I was being overly friendly toward the men I found attractive, yet somehow conversations petered out. Whereas the pocket-protector crowd was practically salivating over me in my silver dress, silver eye shadow, and scarlet lipstick.

Amnon showed up. Remember Mr. Frosting? He bought me a drink and insisted on dancing with me. But when I told him I was heading home, all he said was, "Good night. Nice seeing you again."

But I did decide to celebrate my birthday instead of ignoring it. Usually my birthday celebrations are catastrophic. It's depressing how bad they are. But a few years ago, I had a really great time at Krispy Kreme with just a few friends. We cut up a bunch of donuts, had some coffee, and it was fun.

Krispy Kreme isn't on the Upper West Side anymore, but Dunkin' Donuts is. Actually, there are two kosher Dunkin' Donuts. I chose the one closer to my house, although I might switch to the other if it has more seating. I invited about 150 Facebook friends, figuring that at most 15 would show. And that's that. Just some donuts and friends. (And presents, hopefully.) Even if I'm still single, one year older, and no closer to being a wife and mother.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Less comfortable with Baltimore Guy

Baltimore Guy, to his credit, got right back to me.

Good Morning, thanks for taking time to write.

Cant stand communicating thru these sites, so here is my email bgsellshomes@comcast.net unless you prefer conversation as I do. 410 555-1234.

I am a realtor. Daughters 16, 15 and son 11. Joint custody, although most Holidays and Shabbosim are mine. The oldest prefers living with her mother. Been separated since May 07. Get delivered 9 months ago.

What I find to be fun? Too lengthy to list. 2 questions for starters: What are you wearing in the picture? and why the low height preference?

Where to start... First, I don't like going right to phone or email because I still don't know the person and using the website provides a buffer. Just in case he turns out to be nasty or vindictive or pesty.

A realtor. Great job in this economy.

Daughters 15 and 16? Yikes! I'm not sure I'm up for being the stepmother of teenage girls. Although if he's been separated since May 2007, he's probably ready to date again.

And why can't you list at least one or two things you like to do for fun? I get that you don't like communicating via the website, but if that's what I'm comfortable with, deal.

The garment he's questioning is a blue velvet cape. I was wearing it for Purim -- dressed up as a sorceress. Height preference is because I'm short, so I prefer short guys.

I'm too annoyed to write back right now. Maybe unjustifiably so. What do you think?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Let's give it a shot

Consensus was that I should get to know Baltimore Guy just a little before deciding whether he was appropriate for me. So I wrote him.

Hi BG,

Thanks for writing. Can you tell me a little more about yourself -- how old your kids are, which of them live with you, how long you've been divorced, what you do for a living, and what you like to do for fun?

Also, let me know if you have any questions about me.

We'll see what he says.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Irony

I broke up with Sam because he wasn't orthodox, even though he was a great guy. Found him and friended him recently on Facebook. This is what he writes me:

Hope all is going well with you. Looks like you've made some career changes since we've spoken last. Things with me are well. Married for six years now. Met my wife in residency (she is a physical therapist) and have a five year old daughter. Never would have believed it, but married an orthodox woman. Now I have a kosher home and a shomer shabbos family (except me -- what goes on in the basement, stays in the basement)!

Been working in the same pediatric practice for little over five years now. Should be making partner later this year if I choose to stay there. Also more than halfway done with a Masters in Business Administration. Besides that, play a lot of music, hang with many of the usual suspects, and enjoying life in general.

In any event, wish that both you and your family are happy and healthy.

Shoot me. Just -- shoot me.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

You decide

Should I go out with this guy? He lives in Baltimore. Seven years older than I am.

Marital Status: Divorced

Height: 5' 10"

Build: Athletic

Hair color: Brown

Eye color: Hazel/green

Education level: Some graduate school

Sabbath: Follow many of the Sabbath traditions

Mezuzah on every door post

Traditional kosher home, flexible eating out

Shabbat/holidays

Never

Modern Orthodox

Ashkenaz (European/Russian descent)

English

Height, Age, Level of religiosity, Material possessions, Having children

Secular, Hebrew school

Torah classes, Jewish-studies classes, Self-learning

3

2

I have been told that I am caring, honest and ethical. I am actively working on improving myself through work and Torah. Family, Community chesed, friends, Judaism, and personal growth are very important to me. I was raised Conservative, and started learning Torah 10 years ago to keep up with what my children were learning in school. I have been keeping Shabbos with friends and family for about 2 years. I keep Kosher in my house and eat fish or vegetarian when I go out. What I have learned has put peace into my life and I anticipate that it will continue. I look forward to meeting someone who enjoys lighting candles as much as I enjoy reciting the Kiddush. I enjoy cooking and inviting family and friends for Shabbos. I am not Shomer Shabbos, but could get there.

I don't know. He emailed me first on Frumster and now on jewfind.com. I just don't know. What do you think I should do? How can he be Modern Orthodox when he's not Shomer Shabbos? What does "many of the Sabbath traditions" mean?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 08, 2009

It takes a village to make a shidduch

More and more people from my "Ayelet" Facebook acquaintance are volunteering to help me find my bashert. I just got this note from a person I've never met in real life, although he's commented on a few status updates and blog posts:

Dear Ayelet, If you want me to keep my antenna up for a potential zivug for you, can you fill me in on what you’re looking for, age range, level of observance, personality type, and whatever you think is important?

Your beshert could be anywhere at anytime.

My brother met his beshert unexpectedly at a Federation fundraiser in Manhattan. I met my beshert unexpectedly in Louisville, Kentucky.


Good Shabbos, Rabbi Zohar

P.S. I love the nicknames you give people on your blogs. They are hilarious.


Who knew there were Jews in Louisville? I'm incredibly moved by his offer, because he's saying it's okay for a woman with bipolar disorder to get married. Maybe most of you think this is self-evident, but there's so much stigma attached to a psychiatric diagnosis, I'm overwhelmed when people completely disregard it.

Dear Rabbi Z, Thank you for thinking of me. Here is more info about me and about the kind of guy I'm looking for. If you have any prospects I can also send you some photos, although I'm not very photogenic.

From: New York City, New York, United States
Family Status: single (never married), without children
Religious Practice: Modern Orthodox (liberal)

Consider relocation? Maybe
Wishing to make aliyah to Israel? No
Jewish Education: lectures
Secular Education: Masters
Political Beliefs: middle of the road
Occupation: clinical social worker
Hobbies and Interests: museums, movies/theater, exploring NYC's parks and neighborhoods, traveling

Height: 155 cm/5' 1"
Build: average
Do you smoke?: no

This is how I describe myself: Smart, funny, fun, interesting. A bottomless well of trivia and passion. Not easily daunted or discouraged. Good listener, since that's what I do for a living. I like going out; I like staying in. I love being an aunt, and I'm exceptionally good at it.

This is what I am looking for in a mate: Good derech eretz. Intelligent and hardworking. Doesn't take himself too seriously. Ready to take dating VERY seriously. Preferably 5'7" or shorter. I do date tall men, but I *really* like short men. I don't date men more than 10 years my senior, and vastly prefer men within a few years of my age.
**

My bashert hopefully is SOMEWHERE... I just need him right here. Thanks for volunteering to help find him. Shabbat shalom, Ayelet

I hope that's enough information for Rabbi Zohar. And if, after reading this, any other readers think of someone appropriate for me... feel free to email me as well!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Plumber? No. Dentist? No.

Yossi the plumber is a Cohen, and I can't marry a Cohen. Levi says he'll keep trying:

Ok, it's only been a day. I believe that if I work for you in this then something good will happen for me in the same manner. G-d willing there will be somebody really soon that will be appropriate. DO NOT despair about this at all!

Interestingly, I also heard from Adam Hashakran:

I bumped into a friend of mine I haven't seen in 2 years and thought he'd be a good date for you: his name is Eric Rabinowitz... he's a dentist who lives in Brooklyn... open-minded, normal, nice guy.

Well, a dentist is no plumber, but I don't know this guy, so why not?

I don't know him, but he sounds nice. Please do that voodoo that you do so well ;)

Then I Googled him. And realized that not only do I know him, I don't like him. I wish the feeling were mutual, but he's been after me for years. And he's tried to "trick" a number of people into setting him up with me. After I went out with a guy named Zev from Frumster, Eric emailed me to ingenuously remark that Zev thought I should really go out with Eric. Of course, Zev had made no such suggestion. It was way creepy.

Meanwhile, in my inbox was a message from Adam:

I'm the Witch Doctor of Love! I'll give him your phone number.

Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap! I hastily emailed him:

Adam, I just realized that I probably know this guy. His Hebrew name is Ezra, right? He is much older than I am, and he's been after me for a long time. He's tried to get a bunch of people to set me up with him. I don't want to go out with him.

Sigh. There really are no good guys left.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

He's found the fountain of youth

LL and I only went out once. We were supposed to see The Lion King, but I forgot I had a conference -- after he bought the tickets. So we rescheduled, had dinner, and I never heard from him again.

He's updated his Frumster profile:

This is how I describe myself: I am younger than my age as I will not abandon a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. I believe every day and all of life's wonders are gifts from the One Above. I value Judaism and Torah tremendously and have a personal relationship with the R'SO. I believe that Avodas Hashem is a very personal thing and is unique for every individual. We all serve Hashem in different ways. Torah and Tefillah together result in Tiferes, which is the ultimate goal - where our Torah is Tefillah and our Tefillah is Torah.

This is what I am looking for in a mate: There is an ineffable, magical quality about the woman of my dreams. She is soft around the edges, but finely featured, beaufitul and elegant, the epitome of grace. She is genuine, caring, trustworthy, kind, loving, affectionate, romantic, bright and witty, passionate, with a wry sense of humor and wit. But she is never mean. She cries or laughs at the right moments. She is thoughtful and introspective but also fun and gregarious.

She is not judgmental or negative; has an open and kind spirit that seeks to make peace with the world. She is also someone who seeks a kindred soul to make her way through life, one of contentment and joy, of curiosity and an abundance of wonder.

Pretty obvious he and I would never be a match. I don't believe you can shave years off your age merely by preserving a sense of wonder and curiosity, and he probably thinks my sense of humor is too mean and judgmental.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

One prize pumpkin

Ziva recommended that I rejoin Frumster. I've been surfing as a nonpaying member, so I can look at profiles but not write or answer emails. Of late I haven't seen any that I'd pay $20 to contact.

But today I saw this prize pumpkin:

Age: 40, Male
From: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Family Status: divorced with a get, without children
Religious Practice: Modern Orthodox (machmir)
Religious Background: from a religious family
Jewish Education: kolel
Secular Education: Masters

This is how I describe myself: I am a frum fun gentle man. I work hard but know when to have fun. I am looking to start a family. I love kids very much. I want to have a big shabbos table.

This is what I am looking for in a mate: an aishes chayil. Low maintenence. Please dont [sic.] be insulted if i dont [sic] answer your emails, I am very picky.

In other words, I'm very smart and I say I'm a nice guy, but I don't have to be bothered with a little thing like derech eretz. Pumpkin might be a "gentle man," but he sure ain't no "gentleman." THIS is why I'm still single and he has no children!

I wonder if guys like this realize how unattractive they make themselves when they write crap like this.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Would I date a plumber?

Some of my friends, Gd bless them, are trying to help me. Ozer spent about an hour on Tuesday night going through his extensive email/phone list looking for guys I don't know and might want to. After Ziva suggested I look to Baltimore to find my true love, my Facebook friend Levi, who resides in that city, messaged me:

Would you date a plumber?

I don't know why my heart sank. After all, plumbers provide a vital service, and they usually make pretty good money. But... would I be able to talk to a plumber every day for the next 40 or so years?

The bait-and-switch shadchan asked me if my husband has to be as "accomplished" as I am. It's funny -- I'm still not used to thinking of myself as accomplished. For 10 years, I drifted from job to job, never really establishing myself in a career. It took about six years to get two master's degrees and a "cool" job as a drug counselor. Suddenly I'm impressive.

But do I need an impressive husband? No, but I do need to be able to talk to him.

Did he go to college?

I asked. Levi wasn't sure. But he had other good things to say about the guy.

He runs his own plumbing and contracting company. I see their trucks on the road, so he's probably doing fairly well. He's a very funny guy, great sense of humor. And he's built like Arnold Schwartzenegger. When my car had a flat tire, three guys and I were trying to change it, and we couldn't get the lug nuts off. He came over and the tire was changed in no time.

I'm actually impressed with men who can fix things and change tires. Jockitch was no intellectual, but he was pretty sharp. And book smarts are no substitute for life experience and street smarts. I see that every day on my job.

I told my friend I'd have to think about it... but what harm would it do to talk to this guy? I could do a lot worse, I guess. I'd have to move to Baltimore, but there are worse places to live. I'm sure they have plenty of substance abusers who need therapists.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rage

A lot of my clients are angry. There's a reason a substance abuse treatment program offers anger management, although I'm starting to think it's cosmic irony that I facilitate one of them. And today I had to deal with my own anger in supervision.

Clarice could not have been nicer. Even when I react in anger, she finds a way to respond constructively and kindly. She showers me with praise and understands when I screw up. I told her I was annoyed that various clients were blowing off their appointments, and I let them know I was annoyed.

"Don't be annoyed," Clarice said. "Clients make their own decisions. They'll have to stay in the program longer, that's all. Don't get upset."

But my final client of the day -- whom I had to stay late to see, not that I was getting any overtime -- was angry. And he spewed anger all over me. I don't think I snapped at him, but I did tell him I didn't appreciate being on the receiving end of all that anger. Which shut him down very effectively. So I felt bad about the way I responded, and left the office feeling like a colossal jackass.

Why am I so angry? Is it menstrual hormones? The way Adam Hashakran wasted my time and dashed my hopes? No. It all goes back to... where the hell is that check Shimona said she'd send me, to pay for the chocolates I shlepped over from England, which apparently are her only reason to live?

I realize this is unreasonable. Extremely. But I couldn't let go of the rage. I even got off the subway three stops early so I could get my daily 10 minutes of exercise. It wasn't enough to soothe me.

I came home and ate smoked turkey -- tryptophan boosts mood, right? I drank a mixed berry smoothie -- berries are also supposed to be good for mood. I started diffusing rose and geranium oils. Supposed to ease and calm troubled spirits. And I started watching "House MD," one of my favorite shows.

Until they started talking about how he can't practice medicine if he's taking antipsychotics.

What the -- ? I don't necessarily believe a doctor on antipsychotics can't be a doctor. My friend Joey is a psychiatrist. I have to ask him if that's true. Nobody says I can't practice therapy on lithium, and the newer antipsychotics aren't as disabling as the older ones. Or so I thought.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Matchmaker, matchmaker

Last night I went to a local kiruv center that allegedly offers matchmaking services. The person who runs it is a Facebook friend of mine, Adam Hashakran, and he's always posting status updates about the people he's set up. I figured it was worth a shot. On their website, it states:

Does your busy lifestyle present challenges with meeting quality Jewish singles? Would you like to be able to work with a live dating coach who gets to know you? Are you a non-native New Yorker who would like to expand your Social Network and meet great people?

Kiruv Center Intros with Adam Hashakran

KC proudly presents an Introduction Service every Monday night for young Jewish professionals looking for quality, thoughtful, and personalized introductions. Stop by for an interview with our own relationships expert, Adam Hashakran, who has years of success and experience in creating great couples.

Here's how it works: stop by between 7-8:30pm for a meeting of around 10-15 minutes long with Adam Hashakran -- no appointment necessary, though there might be a wait time. Adam gathers information about who you are and what you're looking for and will contact you to make suggestions for potential dates.

Initial Consultation - Free, with admission to the Monday Night Learning program. All these, coupled with our interesting and practical dating classes and the sagely advice of our rabbinic staff, combine to offer a world of dating possibility.

(Check out our photo gallery for a listing of couples who got married through Kiruv Center!)

When I got there, I waited for a few minutes while the desk person finished chatting with the person she was talking to. I told her I was there to see Adam.

"Please fill out these two forms," she said. "And it's $10."

I had thought "free" meant "free." But whatever. I gave her $10, filled out the form about myself, and partially filled out the registration form. I wasn't about to give them my e-mail or snail mail addresses; I get too much junk mail already. She seemed miffed when I told her I wasn't interested in their mailings.

Near the entry was a large room filled with tables, and pairs of people seated and learning together in chevruta. She told me to sit near the entrance, and soon Adam came and sat across from me.

"We're going to talk... here? in front of all these people?" I asked.

"Oh, it's so many people, nobody's going to hear anything," he said. I didn't like it, but I figured I could speak quietly.

As soon as he found out I'm a clinical social worker, the interview stopped being about me.

"You know, I'm having trouble with one of my children..." he said, and launched into a description of adolescent rebellion and parental strain. I felt very uncomfortable. Not least because I'm really not any kind of expert on adolescents. I don't even like adolescents; I don't work with them.

I probably should have said, "You know, this really isn't my area..." But I didn't want to appear unhelpful. After all, this man has dozens of potential matches for me in his pocket, right? So I tried to give some very general advice, which he appeared to find very helpful.

Fine. After about 25 minutes, we meandered back to me.

"Are you high-maintenance?" he asked.

That kind of blindsided me. "Well, I don't... I mean, I --"

He cut me off. "It's not a bad thing to be high-maintenance. You're dressed very nicely, nice earrings. Many guys like high-maintenance girls; some even ask me for high-maintenance girls."

"Well, I like nice things, but I don't need them," I said, trying frantically to explain myself. "These earrings are gold-plated. I just don't want to have to worry about money all the time, you know, so I'd like the guy to have a decent parnassah. And I know how to shop for bargains; my top is from Kohl's and my skirt is from Target."

"I love bargain-shopping!" he chortled, pulling his jacket away from his body to show me the designer label. "Guess how much this jacket cost me!"

"Uh... $75.00?" I hazarded. What does this have to do with setting me up?

"Try $30.00!" he caroled. "The day after the Syms bash!"

"Wow," I said. "Impressive!" When are you going to get back to setting me up?

He regaled me with the costs of his shirt, tie, and eyeglass frames. Then we spoke more about my interests and accomplishments.

"You're a very educated woman," he said. "Does your husband need to be as educated?"

"I don't think so," I said. "As long as I don't have to define all the words I use in conversation -- as long as he's not intimidated by me or my job..."

"You're a powerhouse," he declared.

"I guess... I mean --" I said.

"That's fine," he said, writing "powerhouse" on the form.

A slender woman in jeans and a leather jacket, with sharp, pretty features and long brown hair, walked up to the two of us.

"Adam," she said urgently, "I need you to think of me this week!"

"I can't talk to you now," he said.

"Adam, you know me four years already," she said. "I'm just asking you: please think of me this week!"

Uh-oh.

"I'll think of you," he promised. She walked away. My heart started sinking. He turned back to me, and we finished discussing who I am and what I'm looking for.

"So, I don't promise anything," he said. "I don't promise dates."

Then why did you take my $10?

"I have tons of girls -- gorgeous, stunning, beautiful girls -- that I've never set up," he continued. "It really depends on whether I have a guy who is a match for you. What are you doing to meet guys? Do you go to events? There's a book I want you to read..."

I looked down. I just spent an hour with this guy, talking about his family problems, his love of bargain shopping, his passion for the opera. I came here because he said he sets up tons of people. What am I doing to meet guys? It's irrelevant because it's not working. I came to him hoping he would offer something different. What did he offer?

"When you go to singles events, make sure you don't hang out with other girls," he said. "It makes it impossible for men to approach you, talk to you."

That and $2.50 will get me a ride on the subway. For now. I walked home in a fog of rage. I don't think I showed my anger to him or to the Kiruv Center rabbi he introduced me to. I hope I remembered to smile. I know I thanked him, although for what? As he requested, I sent him some photos of myself. But I don't think anything will come of it.

I went to bed angry and woke up morose. I didn't feel like getting up, since I start work at noon on Tuesday -- one of my late nights. So I missed Ziva Kramer's 8:35 a.m. email:

you can come today at 10 am.
please confirm!


I got this at about 9:30 a.m. and wrote back that I couldn't get there in time, so she said I could come at 11 a.m. Which I did.

After complimenting me on my "shining" skin (I think she meant "glowing," not "greasy") and youthful appearance, Ziva asked me what I was doing to meet guys. My heart sank.

"I can't know how to advise you until I know what you're doing," she said. I told her that after a bad experience with SawyouatSinai, I'm not willing to be a member, but that I had been an active member on Frumster and I sometimes went to singles events.

"I thought about what you said about oxytocin and testosterone in reference to a guy I dated last fall," I said. "I made the mistake of kissing him, and after that it was bad decision after bad decision until he decided he wasn't interested in me. And getting physically involved with other guys did seem to lead to them losing interest. So I want to try things your way. I also really liked what you wrote on your blog about not living with a guy."

"Thank you," she said. "So tell me: do you daven?"

I looked down. "Not much anymore," I said. "A friend of mine davened for me in Uman, and another went to the kever of the Rebbe of Zvil. But... I guess I feel like my prayers aren't being answered. So I stopped praying."

My eyes filled with tears. What an ungrateful wimp I am. I have most of my health, I have a job, I have a place to live and food and clothing. I've survived horrible situations. And yet my burning envy and anger prevent me from being thankful to Gd.

"I want to recommend a book to you," Ziva said. "It's called The Garden of Emuna."

"Funny," I said, "my friend Levi just recommended it."

"I really think you should read it soon," she said. "And every night, you should daven. You don't have to open a siddur -- I see how hard that is for you now. Just talk to Hashem like you're talking to me. Talk to him, cry to him, ask him for what you need. He loves you. He is your father, you are his daughter."

I nodded. I didn't trust myself to speak.

"Now, I can't promise anything," she said. "But I will try. And I see good things for you! You are a beautiful woman, kind, intelligent. You are going to get married! I want you to believe that! Every morning when you look in the mirror, say, 'I am going to get married this year.'"

"I am going to get married this year," I repeated.

"I want to hear from you every week," she continued. "Just a short email to tell me how you are doing." I promised. "One more question: before you were a social worker, you said you were a writer?"

"Yes," I said. "I wrote press releases and brochures and website content for nonprofits."

"What did you think of my blog?" she asked.

Sigh. Everyone wants a professional piece of me. But unlike Adam, I really feel like Ziva will at least try to help me. So I gave her some pointers. I don't think she realized that she's read and liked my blog. I didn't tell her I was Ayelet; for that matter, I didn't tell Adam that I have bipolar disorder either.

I ordered a copy of The Garden of Emuna. Tonight I'll try to pray and give a coin to tzedaka. Ziva also wants me to rejoin Frumster and pursue that avenue. I'll wait until they offer a discount. For some reason, she thinks I should look at guys from Baltimore, but I feel like they're too religious.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 04, 2009

Cognitive-behavioral dissonance

As I've mentioned before, I'm still on the email list for the psychology doctoral program I dropped out of. Today I got this message:

Subject: to the current 3rd year clinical doctoral class. IMPORTANT CLINIC INFORMATION. PLEASE READ.‏

This is an important message for those of you who are switching from the CBT to the psychodynamic track next year. (I believe this is all but two of you.)

Due to our steady influx of patients and a current dearth of CBT supervisors, we are giving you the option of switching from the CBT to the dynamic track as early as June 1st. This will allow the “rising 3’s” to pick up CBT patients and supervisors sooner and also enables us to treat more patients at the clinic. [emphasis added]

In other words, Dr. Dragon, chair of the 2009 ABCT convention, cannot attract a sufficient number of CBT practitioners to supervise her students. Last I heard, The Bad Place couldn't even find anyone to teach introductory CBT. If I were still there, I'd be struggling to learn psychotherapy that actually works instead of having my head stuffed full of psychodynamic bullcrap. And wasting $26,000/year.

So glad I made it out alive!!!!!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Psychologists who don't like psychologists

Or who don't think psychologists are innately and inherently superior to social workers. A few weeks back, this popped up on the ABCT listserv:

Our department is putting together a presentation for 3rd party payors and others that, among other things, attests to the cost-effectiveness of treatment and evaluations provided by psychologists. I would appreciate any suggestions for articles or other resources that attests to this. In particular, our leadership is interested in research showing decreased use of expensive medical procedures when behavioral issues are effectively addressed earlier rather than later. Nina Dresden, PhD

An entirely reasonable request. But not this response:

I would be interested in hearing if we can create positive PR as to why licensed psychologists can provide more effective treatment than other mental health care providers. It seems that many thrid-party payers are trying to load their panels with master's level practitioners and seem to be actively trying to make it exceedingly difficult for psychologists to provide care to their subscribers. Paris Hilton, PhD

"Create positive PR"? In other words, they can't convincingly argue that doctoral-level therapists are actually any better than master's-level, so they want to drum up some spin to confuse the clients. I wanted to respond, but I've already been kind of visible on the listserv, so I sat back and waited.

Not for long:

As a non-psychologist on the listserve, I am interested that you are talking about creating PR to show that psychologists provide more effective treatment than other mental health providers instead of looking for evidence that psychologists provide more effective treatment. As a masters-level social worker who has made every effort to base my clinical practice on proven techniques, I would be interested but surprised to hear that the discipline itself is a major factor in clinical effectiveness. Steve Austin, LCSW

Other psychologists started weighing in:

Last time I looked at the literature I think there was very little support for the notion that being a psychologist necessarily makes someone a better clinician. I agree with Steve that we have to follow the data here and I would be very disappointed to see ABCT follow in APA footsteps in terms of becoming an organization that cares more about guild protection than science.

I also think it is important to remember that although ABCT's membership is heavily weighted towards doctoral-level psychologists, we are a multidisciplinary organization. And if our goal really is to advance evidence-based practice, we are far more likely to succeed if we welcome masters-level practitioners and ask them to be our allies. Sophie Caldwell, PhD

Another psychologist leapt in to defend Dr. Paris.

Just to play devil's advocate and take a chance on political incorrectness, is "guild protection" necessarily a bad thing? The reality is we are dealing with professional issues as well as scientific ones, and it pays not to confuse the two. Look, masters-level people in my state can get licensed as social workers, professional counselors, psychiatric nurses, etc., if they meet those 'guild' qualifications... and nobody's stopping them from doing cognitive behavior therapy if they want. And each of those 'guilds' have their own organization and clubs that are largely exclusive. In fact, any individual off the street can call him or herself a counselor, psychotherapist, coach, or 'wisdom guy', read a couple of books by David Barlow or Edna Foa, charge money for administering cognitive behavior therapy, and nobody can stop them.

In other words, a licensed social worker with actual training in CBT is no better than a "life coach."

But the problem comes when the community wants to know if a particular professional is qualified to administer what it presumes to be 'evidenced [sic.] based practice', so it sets up certain criteria for each license or certification. The criteria may not always be perfect, but the alternative is to let anybody practice. Why shouldn't similar concerns be manifested in professional organizations such as ABCT? Hell, I find it questionable that the state can hire bachelor level graduates and call them social workers.

I find it questionable that my certificate in evidence-based practice, part of a statewide project in developing, studying, and implementing effective therapies, is discounted by this dingbat. Although I agree that bachelor-level social workers aren't as qualified as master's-level.

Another 'guild' issue, independent of 'evidence based practice', is that institutions and insurance companies are generally run by M.B.A.'s, not clinicians, and are looking for the cheapest alternatives independent of professional qualifications. Without some sort of 'guild' representation, we are at a real disadvantage. David Dingbat, PhD

And the truth comes out. Because we're paid less, we're less qualified. Another social worker responded to him (much more politely than I would have, so it's good that I held back):

I have been a practicising clinical social worker for a number of years. I'm sure that all of us in clinical practice have our "war stories" where we witnessed bad clinical decisions and were frustrated with inadequate care for our patients. I also have directedly witnessed "guild" sorts of hierarchial behaviors.

I've had my social work interns pushed aside by psychiatric residents who told them they had to make way because the resident should enter a room first, or a social work intern told to leave an office because the psychology intern had priority over her. Michigan, where I live and practice, has finally after many years of pressure, now made social workers licensed in the state. We now are required to obtain continuing education to retain our licenses (thank God). This goes a long way to enhancing our professional credentials.

Some of the public still see us as assistance payment workers, or as not having the same skills as psychologists. Just this week, a new patient of mine has asked to see a psychologist, because "they know more." The advantage of being part of a multidisciplinary professional organization is that we can begin to break down some of those archaic beliefs.

What I like about our new license requirements is that it forces clinicians to continue developing their knowlege and skills. I posted a recent email where I complained that some training of social work master's students is presented by professors who do not have cognitive therapy credentials. I recently presented 2 workshops on cognitive therapy for pain management to social workers seeking to gain CEs. None of them had much knowledge about CBT. They were all interested and intrigued and wanted to know more. I find that hopeful.

We are all in this together. Please don't be bitter about your experiences. I hope that the ABCT can be a welcoming organization to those of us who have the interest, the knowledge, the skills, and the commitment to provide quality evidence based treatment for our patients. We can all learn from each other and grow personally and professionally from that experience. Sandy Ellison, LCSW

And another psychologist weighed in:

The key issue to me is who is administering evidence based treatments, how to maximize the number of providers doing that, and what does the science say about the capabilities of different levels of professionals to administer said treatments. Psychologists' guild protection, as far as I can tell, has done NOTHING to advance evidence based practice. APA -- our dominant guild protection body -- will approve all sorts of claptrap for continuing education and has taken NO meaningful stance on advancing evidence-based practice. Instead, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against masters-level therapists -- who the research says CAN effectively administer evidence based treatment with appropriate training -- and pushing prescription privileges for psychologists with inadequate levels of training requirements. I.e., encouraging psychologists to offer sub-standard care.

So in this instance is guild protection a bad thing? I would argue yes, because the values of the people handling guild protection do not remotely align with the advancement of evidence based practice. ABCT embracing masters level practitioners who are committed to evidence based practice, however, moves us further along in increasing the dissemination of evidence based treatments. I think we are missing the boat if we view this as a political correctness issue.

What more can I say? Sorry if this post isn't so interesting to most readers, but my pride in my profession was very hard-won. It was difficult to give up the dream of being a psychologist and recasting myself as a social worker. For a long time I didn't take pride in my title.

Now I do -- because I'm providing all kinds of treatment at all kinds of levels, clinical as well as sociological, talk therapy as well as direct services. I help people feel better; I help people, period. And there are more than a few psychologists who believe in what I do as much as I do.

I don't think any of them are at The Bad Place. But those psychologists are crazy.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"