Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Turned Down For WHAT!?!"

I liked the sledgehammer touch. 

Not all Shadchanim are created alike, ladies. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Stockholm Syndrome

You are being open, I told myself firmly. 

He continued to yakkety-yack, and when I had the audacity to profess an opinion, irritation flashed across his face. 

Okay, he doesn't seem to be very nice. But at least he's rather bright . . . 

Maybe I just wasn't meant to be with someone kind, I fatalistically decided. Maybe I was just meant to be with that guy who only has his height and his wardrobe to recommend himself.

Thankfully he said no, at which point I realized, ARE YOU INSANE?
Beauty and the beast!. . BEAUTY THE BEASTIE Hltk : R LOCKS. Stockholm Syndrome : The Movie
Via, posted by Surfred
After recovering from a few horror-movie-material evenings, if I go out with an eligible of not quite Star Wars villain-pseudonym posts, that must mean he's perfectly valid potential husband material. 

Since who one marries is not based on a clear-cut sign from Above, I have shaky moments where my criteria (such as "decent human being") go rogue. Oh, is that really so bad? Gee, is this something I would really feel a need to murder another person over? 

Plus it doesn't help when people who know you and people who don't know you tell you, repeatedly, that you are being picky. That you are limiting yourself. That even though they have never even tried to set you up, they know exactly what you are being unreasonable about. At some point, after hearing this sort of playback enough times, you inner voice is no longer so adamant. It begins to take on a cautious, "Gee, I dunno anymore" Kermit-ness. 

But then Hashem considerately takes the situation out of my self-sabotaging hands. No, dear, he's not for you. The Eibishter is really on my side in the dating nightmare.

What? You mean just because he wasn't a raving lunatic means he's not for me? 

That makes sense.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Concentrating on Kavanah

In my constant, ever uphill battle to achieve some level of davening nirvana, I have recently fathomed that prayer is a form of meditation. 

High school had been a wonderful davening era, where I would plunge into the depths of the words themselves, wipe my mind of all extraneous thought, and simply commune, complete with a residual buzz following.
I swiftly lost that ability, and have been struggling these last 10+ years to acquire it yet again. But I would try through gimmicks, through shtick, through shortcuts. It is only now that it has dawned on me that there is no easy path to focus; one simply must focus

In an article about using mindfulness methods to treat A.D.H.D. ("Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits" by Daniel Goleman), meditation practice is explained:
To do so, researchers are testing mindfulness: teaching people to monitor their thoughts and feelings without judgments or other reactivity. Rather than simply being carried away from a chosen focus, they notice that their attention has wandered, and renew their concentration.
The first minute or so of davening can go so well. "Yeah, I'm focused! I'm enunciating every single word, boo-yah!" Then my train of thought frantically unravels . . . "Oh, shoot. Why was I thinking about that friend I had when I was 5? How exactly is she relevant to this conversation?" 

This is the moment of choice. One can become frustrated and give up, monotonously rattling off the rest of shacharis with self-loathing, or one can calmly brush the idle ruminations aside and recenter one's concentration.   

"All or nothing" is a bad habit, and it has certainly held too much sway over my tefilah practices. Bit by bit, bit by bit.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

One Day, One Room

House, M.D. "One Day, One Room":

Cuddy is trying her best to get House to fulfill his clinic hours, a task he loathes. One of the patients, Eve, turns out to be a rape victim, and House attempts to pass her on to another doctor, as his lack of decency and tact would surely be a detriment. But she insists she wants House.
Eve says she wants to talk, and House tries every which way to deflect a serious conversation. She keeps on asking him questions about his own experiences. 

House: They're out there, doctors, lawyers postal workers some of them doing great some of them doing lousy. Are you going to base your whole life on who you got stuck in a room with?

Eve: I'm going to base this moment on who I'm stuck in a room with. It's what life is. It's a series of rooms and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are. 

Circumstances beyond our control—although, in higher Entity's control—place us into situations with different people. The only control we do have is in our choice of behavior and our choice of words. 

Whether it is a government bureaucrat, an annoying neighbor, or a bad date, I try to remember that I can learn something from everyone, from anyone, even someone I would rather avoid.

As for more pleasant companionship, am I making the most of my interactions? Am I gleaning all I can by being in this moment, by maintaining concentration on the here and now? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fat Chicken or Fat Egg?

. . . what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?
The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.
I can't quite believe the sort of foods I now thrive upon. Not so long ago, and I really do mean not so long ago, most vegetables were on my "I don't like it" list, simply because I refused to try them, not even because I definitely didn't like the taste. 

Many profess disbelief at my enthusiasm for my diet ("Okaaaaay," they reassure me as though dealing with a ranting fruitcake threatening to jump off a bridge). But they don't understand that I don't experience hunger or cravings the way I used to. They can't comprehend that by shunning potato chips, I don't even want them. I have no teivah for them anymore.

"Always Hungry? Here's Why" by David Ludwig and Mark Friedman explain that it's not just calorie counting. It's about food quality. Bad foods produce excess insulin, which in turn causes weight gain.
Fats were demonized in the '70s, so "fat-free" and "low-fat" processed foods were peddled instead (quite successfully). The problem is that simple starches were utilized to ensure that the product actually remained appetizing, resulting in a demonic food-ish creation, while "good" fat sources were left out in the cold.
If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, it will have immediate implications for public health. It would mean that the decades-long focus on calorie restriction was destined to fail for most people. Information about calorie content would remain relevant, not as a strategy for weight loss, but rather to help people avoid eating too much highly processed food loaded with rapidly digesting carbohydrates. But obesity treatment would more appropriately focus on diet quality rather than calorie quantity.
To be smug, that was my initial weight loss step: Eat only healthy. It won't be initially easy, since bad foods are, in essence, like crack. There will be some torturous withdrawal side effects. But soon, one day, you will crawl out of bed and actually feel like having some orange pepper. Really. 
My kingdom for sugar snap peas!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Authoress: Norah Lofts

When it comes to historical fiction, my, does Norah Lofts deliver.
Her main talent is the multitude of characters she invents, yet she manages to grasp the various intricacies of personality and character, in vivid, tangible detail. 

I am always in awe how she delves into the thought process of her creations, how this word or that experience triggered what feelings, and what it causes them to do. 

Knowing for myself how hard it is to plant oneself in another's shoes, never mind their heads, this is a truly spectacular feat of writing. 

A number of her books deals with historical characters. The first book of hers I read, The Lute Player, delves into the lives of Berengaria and her husband, Richard the Lionhearted, through the eyes of a fictional illegitimate sister and a court minstrel. That book hooked me on Norah big time. 

Even her tale of the supernatural, Gad's Hall, and the sequel, The Haunting of Gad's Hall, spends more time on the day-to-day experiences of a family. Those two books were more cautionary tales against running headlong into marriage rather than satanic possession. I wonder if that was her ironic point. 

The trilogy composed of The Town House, The House at Old Vine, and The House at Sunset travels hundreds of years over the occurrences in one building—the good, the bad, and the terrifying ugly. She has certainly scared me off quaint ancient architecture.
But I'll keep on coming back for more.     

Friday, September 12, 2014

See You on the Screen

"But he's going to be out of town for the next couple of months," the shadchan said apologetically. "Would you be willing to . . . Skype?" Her worried tone makes it sound like she's asking me to marry him unseen.

I've never had a need for Skype, so I gamely downloaded it and created an account. On the evening in question, I happily got half-ready for a date. 

Let's see, nice sweater . . . I could wear pajama bottoms, but what if I have to stand up for some reason? Shlumpy in-house skirt will do. Hair could be in better shape, but it looked fine enough on the video feed. My hand reached out automatically for the bottle of perfume, but then I cheerfully recalled that Smell-O-Vision isn't around yet.

Merrily barefoot, I arranged myself comfortably on the couch, making sure the background was pleasant, decorative pillows and elegant curtains peeking flatteringly into the frame. I arranged some scholarly-looking seforim on the sofa arm, and fiddled with the video settings to see if I could make the background cozily warmer in tone.

Bloop bloop . . . 

After chatting for almost two hours, we bid each other a polite goodnight, and I blissfully pranced off to bed, free from the sometime residual nausea that follows being chauffeured by a fellow with questionable driving skills. Additionally, I felt a wee bit more free to be "myself," that I did not have to worry about comprising my ride home, or end up being abandoned in a ditch. 

Seriously, people, this has to be exploited more, at least for the initial meetings. Heck, all my first dates should be Skype dates.
Via, by TimeTraveling Mouse

Thursday, September 11, 2014


My niece, now fourteen, is at that awkward age of clothing shopping. I remember that I couldn't find anything that made me look civilized until I was 18, so I do not envy her. 

A family bar mitzvah was coming up, and after surfing frantically online and emailing requests for skirt length and asking if seamstress could lengthen this or that, my sister finally went to an actual store, and saw a skirt that was appropriately flary for my niece. 

Meh, she thought, it looked so unimpressive on the hanger. 

But then, my mother's motto reverberated in her head, like a divine voice from the heavens. "Just try it on!" (That was the sum of their conversation when I was a kid).
So my niece tried it on. And it worked. She pranced home with a desperately needed outfit, all without online complications. 

It often happens when I go to sales that after amassing a gigantic pile, I casually pick up yet one more thing from the rack. Doesn't look like much, but what the heck, and I toss it on top of my selections. More than once, that "pity" item is the only thing I end up purchasing.
Success in shopping comes down to four simple words: Just try it on

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Inner vs. Outer

Sometimes it is a follow-up to compliments on one's appearance: "How come a gal like you is still single?" 

They don't mean, "Why is a gal of your intelligence and wit still single?" They mean, "Why is a gal who spends enough time in front of the bathroom mirror making facial contortions while applying paint still single?"
There seems to be a misconception floating about that the bird with the prettiest plumage (although, in the natural world, it is the male) gets snapped up the fastest. But look about the jungle. Are the all the "older" singles physically unappealing? Are all, for that matter, the married or betrothed individuals so incredibly stunning?
It is one of the hard truths of romance: Desirable people attract other desirable people, while the rest of us — lacking in attractiveness, charisma or success — settle for the best partner who is willing to consider our overtures. In the scientific literature, this idea is enshrined in the concept of mate value, which determines who gets to mate with whom. In popular culture, it is reflected in the choice of comely contestants to vie for the equally comely spouse-to-be on TV shows like “The Bachelor.” Pairing off, it seems, is just one more example that life isn’t fair.
But is this cynicism justified? In a paper that we published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we offer evidence for the seemingly naïve notion that in most romantic contexts your unique appeal is more important than your mate value.
Ah, thank ye, Paul Eastwick and Linda Hunt: "So You're Not Desirable." Yes, physical attractiveness is rated by an initial meeting. But that's not all that is rated. 
During an initial encounter, some people generally inspire swooning, others polite indifference and others avoidance. Desirable qualities like attractiveness, charisma and success — the features that differentiate the haves from the have-nots — are readily apparent.
Yet alongside this consensus is an equally important concept: uniqueness. Uniqueness can also be measured.  
When asking a long-married couple what is the secret to their marriage, do they ever say, "He aged fabulously, keeping his looks. After all, that's what makes a relationship."
Personality affects the physical rating. From my perspective, personality really affects the physical rating. Some guys sashay into the initial meeting, oozing charisma, but I pull back. I don't care for oozing charisma. Even though he may resemble a male model, he has all the charm of an unwanted cockroach. 

But that's me. To another female, he will be irresistible. 
. . . it is crucial to keep in mind the obvious (but underappreciated) fact that most people do not initiate romantic relationships immediately after forming first impressions of each other. One recent study of a representative sample of adolescents found that only 6 percent reported that they and their partners formed a romantic relationship soon after meeting.
It seems most likely that it is the consensually desirable people who pull off the rare feat of quickly leveraging an initial positive impression into romance, while a vast majority of us get to know our romantic partners slowly, gradually, over time. Most of us have networks of opposite-sex friends and acquaintances. And even though we would never consider many of them as romantic partners, for a handful, all it would take is the right moment and a spark. These are the contexts that produce most romantic liaisons — and as our recent work shows, these contexts reveal very little consensus with respect to mate value.
In my case, it has happened that my date can't stop smiling when he initially picks me up, but then a few hours later can't wait to unload me. Even the gal who spends a lot of her life shopping, weight maintaining, cleansing, exfoliating, tweezing, makeuping can't catch a break. 
Perhaps I've always known this, and that is why I have never thought or said, "Golly, no wonder she's single, she looks like she just fell out of bed." Singleness and shlumpiness are two separate things. I've also never understood it when single girls complain, "I can't wait to get married; then I won't have to blow my hair/get my nails done/have to be dressed up anymore."
When I can look more like the image on the right I'm just happier. Men aren't in the equation.
Yet again, "Whatever you do, you do for yourself."     

Monday, September 8, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: This, Too, Shall Pass

I had bought them myself, vanilla rugelach that Ta took to his morning minyan for tikkun. The men had mostly favored the chocolate instead, and Ta had returned with leftovers. 

After my lunch, I looked at them. They looked back. Could I have just one? Was I capable of taking just one, and being satisfied?
I snapped open the container, carefully selected what appeared to be the gooiest of the bunch, and brought it to my mouth. 

Oooooooh! Every synapse on my tongue howled in bliss!
I tried to nibble on it slowly, but it was gone! ImustImustImustImustImustImust have another one! My hand reached out. 

And then pulled back. 

My head was still reeling, my blood sugar was begging, and the sweetness still pranced about my palate. But I staggered backwards out of the kitchen as every fiber of my being wept. Please! Just one more! One more! 

I hurriedly found a chore to occupy myself with, ignoring the internal wailing. Soon, however, I realized that I had actually forgotten about that delectable vanilla rugelah. In about fifteen minutes, the craving had passed, just as I had read it would. 

I guess there is a reason why those "Gam Zeh Ya'avor" rings are so popular.