Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How was your Vegas trip, Ayelet?

It was fun. Saw a few shows, took in the Grand Canyon, walked through the gorgeously tacky casinos. I missed JV every time I had to carry my bags, especially after I sprained my ankle on the way back from the Liberace Museum. (If you see it, definitely go to the Philip Franconetti piano performance. Fabulous!) Also when we looked at beautiful views, and when I was shopping for gifts for his children, which I'm petrified they won't like.

Tomorrow night JV and I have dinner with his sister, her boyfriend, and an indeterminate number of other people. I'm making dessert: gingerbread with pears poached in red wine. I'll let you know how they come out.

Happy New Year to all my readers! May 2010 be our best year yet. (It has to be better than 2006 and 2009.)
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, December 25, 2009

A rocky romantic dinner

It has been a tough week. I got into an argument with a client at work and discovered that I don't really like people who have bipolar disorder. I prefer working with people who have schizophrenia or PTSD. Mood disorders make people awfully difficult.

So I was tremendously looking forward to dinner last night with JV. At first I thought we would just order in or cook, but JV wanted to go out.

"We never really had our first date," he said. "We just went to Blossom Cafe." Which he did not like. He's very picky about his food, which means that he doesn't like most kosher restaurants.

"I'll make reservations at Darna," I said, and hurried through my day. It helped that my early recovery group participants decided to talk and keep talking so I didn't have to pull a discussion out of them. While they talked about being profiled by the police and suffering through withdrawal, I was thinking about what I was going to wear to dinner.

When I got home, I spent a few hours getting ready. It wasn't easy. I've been in a funk all week, mildly depressed, so it took extra effort to shower, put on makeup, and assemble a nice outfit. Short black skirt, black knee boots, pink sweater, dangly earrings, eyeliner and lipstick. I went all out, or as far as I could; I was too emotionally exhausted to do my nails.

And JV arrived to pick me up in jeans and sneakers.

Fine, whatever, he's an engineer, it doesn't matter what he wears. We walked to Darna. Halfway there, he asked, "Why are you so quiet?"

I sighed. "When a woman goes to a lot of trouble to get ready for an evening out," I said, "she kind of wants her boyfriend to tell her she looks beautiful."

"Crap," said JV.

"You romantic devil, you," I muttered sullenly. He stopped and kissed me on the forehead.

"I was thinking that," he said.

"You were not," I told him.

"I was," he said. "When I saw you, I thought, 'Crap, I'm just wearing jeans.'"

"You could have said something," I said.

"I know, I know," he said wearily. "I need to work on this. I'm sorry."

"The problem is," I said, "that I am being much too rational. I'm not hitting you with any of the insane 'do I look fat?' kind of questions that most women routinely and obsessively ask. So you don't think I need reassurance when I really do."

"I'll try harder," he said. "I promise." But it was too late. My funk was more entrenched. And when we got to the restaurant seconds behind another couple who were immediately seated, we were told we'd have to wait.

We waited. In silence. "What's the matter now?" asked JV in a tone of wary patience.

"I'm still annoyed," I said. "I shouldn't be, but I am."

"Ayelet... let it go," said JV.

"We need to have wine with dinner," I said.

"Wine?" asked JV.

"I know you don't like kosher wine," I said, "but it's the fastest way to get me out of this mood. And if they don't seat us in 5 minutes, we're leaving."

Another couple came in and spoke to the host. He led them to a table. "What the -- " I said. "Why are they being seated before us?"

"No idea," said JV.

"Should I ask the host?"

"Sure, if you want to."

"Excuse me," I said to the preoccupied host. "Why were they seated before us?"

"They are expecting another person," said the host. "They are three."

"And we're leaving," I said. I was furious now. JV patiently followed me out of the restaurant.

"We can go to Esti-Hana," I said. "You said we should go for Chinese food on Christmas eve. Is Japanese good enough?"

"Do you like it?" asked JV.

"I love it," I said. "But are you going to be annoyed that we're running around to find a kosher place when there are tons of non-kosher restaurants between here and Esti-Hana? Which might be too crowded too?" I couldn't let myself cry because I was wearing mascara.

"If Esti-Hana is too crowded, we'll go back to your place and order in, like we originally planned," said JV patiently.

Miraculously, we were seated within a few minutes. "We really need wine," I said.

"Do you have a wine list?" JV asked the waiter.

"Red or white?" asked the waiter.

"Red," I said.

"Merlot or cabernet?" asked the waiter.

"Merlot for me," I said.

"I'll have the same," said JV.

The wine was awful. Horrendous. So I drank mine quickly, and then drank JV's, because he didn't like it. And shortly thereafter the evening became bearable, although it neared disaster when I got stuck in the bathroom.

I went to the bathroom, and after finishing, I pushed on the door. It didn't open. I turned the lock and pushed again. It still didn't open.

"Just perfect," I thought, giggling. "I'm going to get stuck in the bathroom on our first real date in ... Crap, I'm stuck."

I turned and pushed, turned and pushed. "What is wrong with this door?" I thought. "Is it stuck?" I thought I could tell a difference between the lock turned one way and the other -- the door presented less resistance. But it wouldn't open. Until I turned the knob.

I walked back to our table. "Everything okay?" JV asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I couldn't open the door," I giggled. "I forgot to turn the knob."

"I thought I was going to have to break down the door to get you out," he said dryly.

"I'm quite drunk," I informed him. I've turned into such a lightweight since college. Two glasses of wine on an empty stomach and I'm flyin'. "I want something chocolate."

"Do you want to go to Cafe Edgar's?" he asked. I thought that was sensible. After all, dessert in a Chinese restaurant made me throw up on one date; I didn't want to risk that happening tonight. We went to Edgar's, had cake and coffee, and he took me home.

So overall I suppose the evening went well enough, although not as well I'd expected. I'm going to Las Vegas Saturday night with my friend Miriam, so I'll be offline for a few. Happy holidays!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Shabbat with JV

One thing all Jews have in common, be they Reform or Chassidic, is what I'll charitably describe as an intense and friendly curiosity about each other. It's why dating on the Upper West Side is like scuba diving in an aquarium.

JV belongs to a very traditional Conservative synagogue, and since I spent the weekend with him, I decided we should go on Saturday. Fortunately, the snow held off until the late afternoon.

"I'm never here without my kids," said JV as we walked up to the building. At the door we met a friend of his, wearing a long skirt and a hat that shielded most of her hair; she could have stepped out of almost any modern orthodox synagogue. She looked at me quickly, then glanced back at JV and raised her eyebrows just perceptibly.

"This is Ayelet," said JV. She and I smiled at each other but didn't shake hands. JV and I went in, hung up our coats in the coat room, and walked into the sanctuary.

Only three things really differentiated the service from the orthodox:
  1. Men and women were sitting together.
  2. A public sound system was in use.
  3. The bat mitzvah was reading from the Torah and leading the service, and women were called for aliyot.
It wasn't so different from the services in the synagogue I attended as a child; in fact, the liturgy was more similar to that in an orthodox shul than my old synagogue. I was also conscious of several women wearing what seem to me to be vestigial head coverings, either floppy frills of lace or feminine kippot embroidered in girly colors or made of beads. Some women also wore tallitot, and some of those tallitot were pink- or purple-striped. But several women wore hats.

I thought davening next to JV would be weird. It wasn't, even though several congregants took good long looks at us. I wasn't really bothered by that; aside from his sister, JV has never brought a woman to shul, and Conservative Jews are just as curious as any others.

Some, in fact, are downright blunt. "And who's this?" asked JV's friend Sam at kiddush.

"This is Ayelet," said JV.

"You're not calling her your girlfriend?" said Sam.

"I thought that was obvious," said JV.

"She could be your cousin," said Sam.

"We're not from Appalachia," I put in.

Sam laughed. "I like her, JV! She's funny."

"I was waiting for your approval," said JV dryly. "What a relief." Sam waved at someone else and went off to bother them. "Please don't judge me, or my shul, by that guy," said JV. "My closest shul friends aren't here today."

"Not a problem," I said. "He's only saying what everyone who was looking at us in the sanctuary was thinking. I was prepared for this."

"Well, they were also surprised to see me during davening," said JV. "Usually I drop my kids off at the junior congregation and go read in the library."

"Apikoirus," I said (Hebrew for heretic). "If I come here with you, we're going to davening."

"Yes, dear," said JV.

It's funny. I haven't been to my shul in months. I haven't davened in a long, long time. But I felt comfortable at JV's shul. Even though half the congregation was watching me. (Well, probably no more than 1/8th.)
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My boyfriend meets my shrink

Yesterday did not go as I had hoped or intended. At 7:00 p.m. JV and I had an appointment with Dr. R. At 3:30 I learned my co-worker Greg was murdered last Saturday night.

Not by a client. By some stupid teenagers who'd wanted to use the machine he was using at the gym. Words were exchanged, and Greg apologized. Then they followed him into the locker room and attacked him, and Greg died.

It's impossible to believe. Greg was one of the biggest and strongest guys I know. Always working out, drinking Muscle Milk. But he wasn't a steroid-crazed musclehead. He was so gentle. Always patient, never got frustrated or mad. Talked me down off many a ledge, especially when I first started. Seems like every time I was having a total meltdown in the file room, he was there to soothe me.

Greg was such an amazing man. A man's man, but with the most beautiful manners and way about him. He was always the first to say "hey, Ayelet, how you doin'?" Simultaneously powerful and gentle. I'm repeating myself, and I'm not doing him justice. I can't. And I can't understand it, and I can't believe he's gone.

So when I met JV at Dr. R's office, I was already shaken. Listening to JV ask painful questions that Dr. R couldn't really answer didn't help. Will I be able to care for children if I have a depressive or manic episode? Do the medications I take cause birth defects? Dr. R emphasized that as my doctor, he can't really answer those questions to JV's satisfaction.

I don't know why I was expecting Dr. R to give me a clean bill of mental health, to reassure JV that I am marriageable, that I won't relegate most of the childcare to JV and drift off into my own little world. Which is what Mara did, apparently.

I was also upset that Dr. R said my medications elevate the risk of birth defects. Lithium does, very slightly; there's not much data on Remeron or Cymbalta. But the most teratogenic I ever took was Depakote, and that's one of the reasons I stopped taking it. Probably the main reason. And as a woman over 40 (which I will be by the time I conceive a child, if I ever do), I'd be a high-risk pregnancy anyway, and my doctor would monitor me closely with or without psych meds in the mix.

Dr. R reminded us that this is a process, and that at barely 2.5 months in, we might be jumping the gun a little bit. I guess it's been years since I've gotten this close to serious with anyone else. Not since my overdose in 2000. I haven't told anyone I dated since then about my illness, except Ikey Abadi, and that couldn't go anywhere.

I know JV doesn't judge me for my illness. But that doesn't mean he's ready to accept it and live with it. Especially now that he has children, who are of course his first priority.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

S-l-o-w-e-r

I'm thinking and moving more slowly. As Esme would put it, my f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s aren't quite intact. I've been trying to use the light box consistently, but it's not helping all that much. Getting up in the morning is difficult; so is getting dressed, and taking a shower requires deliberate consideration and effort.

So far, I guess I'm still doing a reasonably good job at work -- more or less keeping up with my paperwork and my clients -- but it takes everything out of me. I never feel like doing anything after work. Even on the days I don't work 1-9.

Strangely, my mood is still pretty good, even though I don't feel like doing anything unless it involves JV. Knowing I'm going to see him is a strong motivation to do what I need to do, like, say, take a shower. But if he's not involved, I'm not interested.

There are tons of Chanuka parties going on, and I don't feel like attending any of them. A friend offered me a free ticket to the ZOA black-tie gala this Sunday, and I thought, "I don't feel like putting on makeup...." JV has his kids this weekend, and I don't feel like doing anything. The rainy/overcast weather doesn't help, although I have the feeling that even if Saturday is sunny and gorgeous, I'll want to lie around doing nothing.

I'm going to Las Vegas with Miriam for three days at the end of the month. I'm excited -- we're seeing Cirque du Soleil and "Jersey Boys," visiting the Liberace Museum and the Museum of the American Cocktail, flying over the Grand Canyon, hitting the casino attractions (gondola ride at The Venetian, Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay). But I'm also little nervous, because she wants to do so many things each day we're there, and I don't know if I'll be able to tolerate it. Maybe I will, if she drags me.

Since both of us know ET, I joked, "I don't want to schedule fourteen different activities per hour. I'm not a hyperactive engineer." I really hope I'm not a total drag on vacation.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How many watches does Ayelet really need?

Apparently the magic number is five.

JV and I went outlet shopping on Sunday. He needed jeans for work (engineers!) and I thought it would be fun to shop for them together, which made one of us. I also needed waterproof boots and dressy but comfortable black shoes for work. Impressively, I needed less than 45 minutes to get 2 pairs of shoes and a pair of boots, for which JV was somewhat grateful. The jeans didn't take much longer.

On our way out of one of the malls, JV stopped me next to the Seiko outlet.

"Let's look at these watches for a minute," he said. "Which ones are nice?"

"You want to get a watch for your sister?" I asked.

"Yeah, maybe," he said. He's such a bad liar, which I suppose I should be grateful for.

The selection wasn't great. "I don't really like any of them," I said. "They're too small. I like big watches. But some of them are interesting shapes. I don't like round watches, they're boring."

We went back to his house so he could get some work done before dinner. He flipped open his laptop and said, "Come look at this." It was a page of watches. He pointed to one.

"I was thinking of getting you that one for Chanukah," he said. "But..."

"... it's much too expensive," I said. It was close to $300. "And..."

"You don't like it?" he asked.

"It's okay," I said. "I would prefer silver rather than yellow gold. I wear more silver jewelry. Also, I could find it for you cheaper, but I already have four watches. After I lost my favorite watch last summer, I got myself three to replace it, to cheer myself up."

"It comes in silver. But I don't know if you could find it for less," he said. "I really looked."

"Give me five minutes," I said. Actually, I needed less than 30 seconds. Using the style number and Google shopping, I found a discount website offering the watch for about $150.

I'm not very good at not gloating. "We agreed shopping was my area," I said smugly. Then a thought struck me.

"Were you just getting this for me because I told you we were celebrating Chanukah?" I asked.

"No, I would have gotten you something anyway," he said. "Do you like it?"

"It's lovely," I said. "But..."

"... you were hoping I'd get you something else," he finished.

"Kinda," I said.

"What?" JV asked.

"Earrings, I guess," I said.

"What kind of earrings?"

"I can send you some links," I said. "But I also like the idea of you choosing something for me."

"As long as you get to approve it," JV noted dryly.

"Well..." He had me there. "Am I that high-maintenance?" I asked.

"Not compared to my ex-wife."

I should be grateful she set the bar so low. "If you want to get me that watch, I'll be happy with it," I said. "Seriously. It's beautiful. But I feel like I should upgrade your gift."

"Don't," he said. "Please." I got him a pepper grinder, because the first time we cooked together in his house, he had peppercorns but no grinder. He had to chop them up with a knife, which is extremely inefficient, albeit entertaining to watch.

JV loves klezmer music -- his parents always played it when he was growing up. He also likes classical music. A few years ago, I heard an excerpt from the "klezmer Nutcracker" on NPR. I tried to explain to JV the difference between major and minor keys -- he's incredibly tone-deaf, so although he appreciates music, he can't necessarily hear the difference between major and minor.

Klezmer music is usually in a minor key, and most of the Nutcracker is in major keys. So I got him the CD to teach him the difference. If that's possible. I'll have to see. In any event, he likes classical music and klezmer music, and this is kind of both.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Meeting the kids

Last Thursday I said I'd take a hiatus on blogging about JV. As Oscar Wilde famously put it, "I can resist everything except temptation."

JV picked me up last night to spend some quality time together. I asked him to recap our discussion from Sept. 29, the night we got back together.

"I was so amazed and astonished," I said, "that I think all my cerebral blood flow was directed toward the emotional part of my brain, so the part that encodes memory was unable to function. I can't remember anything you said."

"You said we should hang out more," said JV, "because it was easy and comfortable and there was no danger of us falling in love. I said, 'It's not a matter of falling in love with you. I don't think I ever fell out of love with you.'"

A few minutes later, I re-started the conversation.

"Are we doing anything tomorrow?" I asked.

"Malchick #2 (his younger child) has a choir concert," said JV. "Want to come?"

Whoa. Technically I've met his children, at the party this past summer and the morning after the rats first invaded my home. But to go to one of their performances?

"The only problem is, Mara will be there and she's sure to make some nasty comments about you to the kids," he continued.

"I don't know if that's the right way for me to meet your kids," I said. "I don't want to be the reason Mara ruins the day for Malchick #2. Also, I don't think you should tell them I'm your girlfriend until we meet with Dr. R on December 14 and we know we're not breaking up immediately."

"Probably the smarter thing to do," conceded JV. I'll see him later today.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, December 04, 2009

My nice nieces

(I am officially taking a break from blogging about JV. This does not mean I'll stop overanalyzing the relationship; that would take an act of Gd. But I'm going to try to take Dr. R's advice and stop "working" on the relationship. I'll let it happen and see what happens, and try to stay in the moment.)

My nieces don't like directly expressing criticism or disapproval of me, even when something is bothering them. Instead, they outsource it to Jerusha, who has no such compunctions.

Over Thanksgiving, Shira insisted on having me sleep in her bed on Thursday, even though last time I did, my snoring kept her awake. History repeated itself, so she had Jerusha rouse me and transfer me to Malka's room.

But I wasn't safe from Malka either. "Malka isn't comfortable with your cleavage," Jerusha said Saturday morning at breakfast. "Please put a t-shirt on under that dress." I complied, begrudgingly. When I wear the dress to work I pair it with a t-shirt, but I figured it was fine for at home with Jerusha, Malka, Shira, Oedipus, Yaffa, Yonina, and my mother and aunt. Apparently not.

My mother does not share my nieces' compunctions. "That's a cute nightie," she said Friday morning when I came down to breakfast.

"It's a dress," I said.

"Oh," she said. A whole bunch of disapproval in one little syllable. I didn't change, though. I pack light when I go to Jerusha's, and my options were limited.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A relationship designed by committee

"A camel is a horse designed by committee," said Sir Alec Issigonis, the engineer who designed the Mini Cooper. (I'm fond of engineers, as you may have noticed.) He was born in Turkey, so he probably had some hands-on experience with camels.

I think what Issigonis meant by this statement is that committees tend to add in or expect every kind of feature, at the expense of a sleek design. Horses are sleek running machines; camels are ungainly and crotchety but highly efficient desert transport mechanisms.

Right now my life, or at least my relationship with JV, feels like it's trying to be run by committee. Not surprisingly, since I put my life out there for people to comment on. I welcome feedback, but at times I'm surprised how specific, directive, or judgmental some of the comments are.

There are probably at least three reasons why JV is reluctant to say he loves me:
  1. We have only been dating for two months
  2. He is wary of getting too involved with me before he has a chance to talk to my psychiatrist about my illness
  3. He doesn't know how to disentangle his past feelings from his present feelings, and he wants to be sure he's in love with the woman I am now, not the silly girl I was then
Any of these reasons would be sufficient and justifiable. If I was dating someone who had, say, diabetes, I would definitely want to meet with his endocrinologist before getting in too deep. We're both going to see Dr. R on December 14, so that should settle reason #2.

Some commenters feel I'm working too hard on this relationship. I agree that some people are blessed to meet someone with whom they feel an instant connection and don't need to negotiate any major differences. Others, including several friends of mine, didn't have it that easy. They didn't feel an instant connection, and they had to work out several issues before they could be happy together. It's different for everyone.

It's too soon to say if I'm working too hard to make this relationship work. I know I worked too hard with G.I. Josh, but he never really respected me. I didn't realize how mean and passive-aggressive he was toward the end until I'd been away from him for several months.

JV is not like that. And I'm going to continue to work on this relationship. Both of us are. Because life isn't always straightforward and easy. But the more you leave to the committee, the more you fall victim to groupthink and design flaws.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Jealous of my younger self

"Mara was jealous of you," said JV, referring to his ex-wife.

"Why?" I asked.

"She claimed that when I talked about you, I had a special look or tone of voice that wasn't there when I talked about anyone else," he said. "Including her. She used to say things like, 'Well, of course I'm not Ayelet, your first love.' She was jealous of my memories of you."

I found myself feeling jealous of my younger self. JV talks about his first love as though she and I were different people. In a sense, I suppose we are.

"Back then, it was school and you," he told me. "Now I have other responsibilities and concerns. I don't know if I can feel a love like that again. I feel lucky to have had it."

You would think that would incline him to feel a little grateful toward the current Ayelet, especially since I'm being nice to him this time around. Actually, he probably is. I shouldn't blame him for being cautious. He fell in love with me once, and I broke his heart. He fell in love with Mara, and she tried to destroy him. Right now, he's understandably wary. But I feel sad thinking that he'll never love me that much again.

However, I certainly won't make him fall in love with me by complaining, as Mara used to, that he doesn't love me enough. I have to earn it somehow. It's frustrating because I did absolutely nothing to earn his most passionate and devoted love before. It was mine for the taking, and I threw it away.

Maybe I should use my soothing therapist voice more often with JV. Seems to work very well on wary clients.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"