Monday, May 14, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating: XI

My non-Jewish co-worker (I think she's Baptist?) was opining to me about her dating life. She did not entertain a new partner search for years following her divorce, and having just joined the ranks, she finds the fellows she goes out with are, um, less than desirable. 

I actually found her experiences, well, validating. You see, frum folk sometimes blame issues on Judaism or Jewish society itself. I've heard from more than one crabby single that if she wasn't frum, dating would be a breeze.

But from what I have been hearing, not really. 

"The only guy I can see myself with," Jasmine sighs, "plays games. Like, is he interested in me? I can't tell." 

In (the original) Will & Grace, episode "Cop to It," the two meet up for dinner with their married friends, Rob and Ellen. The latter couple bicker the whole evening, announcing that they want to divorce. 

As Grace pries into their motivations, they eventually confess they want to recapture the youthful jollies of dating. Grace pops that bubble fast. "You want to date? Okay, well, you know, good luck. 'Cause I've been out there for the past two decades, and it takes work to find someone who can stand you. Look, you're getting old, you're not very interesting, and you're both losing your hair. You belong together. If not for love, then for the mere fact that no one else is gonna take you." 

The two reluctantly decide to remain married, and continue to viciously bicker on the way out. 

You see? Relationships are hard all over. What does the secular world have going for it? Only this: It's easy to mingle with eligibles. But there is the same ratio of regrettable interactions.

In some ways we have pros: Dudes know they're dating for marriage—girls don't have to guess as to their motivations. These guys also can't murder and dismember you, as your aunt who went to the bungalow with his sister-in-law's parents would object.

Here's the thing: It's hell everywhere. They also get the low self-esteem that can come from too many bad dates: "You begin to wonder," Jasmine said, "is there something wrong with me?"  

How many of us (elderly) Jewish singles have thought the same thing?  

Yes, the current state of affairs leave much to be desired. As the quote goes, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." That can probably be said for shidduch dating as well.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Overheard on Subway

"I wasn't looking for a relationship. I thought, 'After I finish medical school.' But it happened, and it's great. I'm 19. Do I know if it's going to last? Who knows? But you know what? I'm just going to leave it to God."

Mind you, I edited out the plethora of f-words. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Fake Princesses

There is a scene in The Crown, Episode "Beryl," where Princess Margaret is being photographed for her annual birthday portrait. Muffled beneath gauzy poofery, she smokes incessantly as Cecil Beaton gushingly invokes the glorious fairy tale that shall inspire the lowly. 

Margaret poses, smiling prettily, as the camera flashes; then she slumps backward, her unhappiness visible on every pore of her beautiful face. 

The rest of the show depicts her misery. She did not choose this role, or the facade needed to maintain it; she is trapped in a gilded cage.
The irony is that while we are certainly not all princesses, many of us are stuck in the same false imagery of our own making. Social media has become a platform where only the simplistic "wonderful" is posted, omitting any of the requisite "bad" that we all have in our lives. The result is that the viewer sees only the fairy tale, and believes it. But she is not inspired by it. She is depressed by it. 

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz puts it bluntly: "Don't Let Facebook Make You Miserable."
The pressure to look a certain way on social media can do much more than distort our image of the musicians other people actually listen to. . . None of this behavior is all that new, although the form it takes is. Friends have always showed off to friends. People have always struggled to remind themselves that other people don’t have it as easy as they claim.
Think of the aphorism quoted by members of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” Of course, this advice is difficult to follow. We never see other people’s insides.
"My So-Called (Instagram) Life" by Clara Dollar, explains how relying on her false media self cost her a relationship, and she attempted to use it to get back at him:
And so it went, and I kept at the beautiful box I was crafting for myself. A shoe box covered in stickers and fake jewels. The kind you would make for a pet parakeet you have to bury. I would dream about Joe at night, and in the morning I would post something silvery and eye catching. It was always just tinfoil, though, not truth. And I prayed no one would notice. . . 
A girl who follows me, with whom I’ve spoken only a handful of times, told me it was so “on brand.”
My brand, specifically: funny, carefree, unromantic, a realist.
I’m like the chief executive of my own company, so I’m familiar with my branding, but its success doesn’t thrill me the way it used to. Instead of feeling validated by her comment, I felt deflated. I barely know this girl, and yet she knows me, knows my “brand,” and I am overwhelmed by the desire to tell her that I am fake, that I am heartbroken.
I have Instagram on my phone, but barely look at it. I really should delete it. If any "friends" post something obviously self-serving, I unfollow them from my feed.

For more humorously truthful Facebook postings: Joyce Wadler's "Facebook When You No Longer Care."  

To quote Stephens-Davidowitz: We're all a mess.  

Monday, May 7, 2018

Seek Your Weird

Has it never happened that you went out with a guy, thought it was like the worst date ever, and then a girl you know becomes blissfully engaged to him, much to your shock? It is a great mystery how two people's distinct, unique personalities manage to mesh pleasantly in marriage. If that's not a proof of God, I don't know what is.

An episode of The Mindy Project ("May the Divorce Be With You") had a line that really resonated with me: 

"Look, you're a weird guy . . . But that's what's great about you, and if you can find a weird girl whose weirdness matches up with your weirdness, pffft, I wouldn't let that go."!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2012/11/48/5/192/1922283/NUP_151668_0274/i/Liz-Lemon-Wedding-Pictures-30-Rock.JPG
Liz Lemon's Wedding on 30 Rock. Two weirdos in love.
Spoiler alert: Weird people don't think they're weird. They think they're normal. Normal doesn't exist. It's just averaged-out weirdness.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sorry, But It's Not Up to You

I was reading a review for Barbara Ehrenreich's new book when this quoted passage caught my interest: 
“Every death can now be understood as suicide,” she writes. “We persist in subjecting anyone who dies at a seemingly untimely age to a kind of bio-moral autopsy: Did she smoke? Drink excessively? Eat too much fat and not enough fiber? Can she, in other words, be blamed for her own death?”
I would like to preface that I am a recovering "blamer" myself. There are those who do not take care of themselves to glaring degrees, and pay the price; but there are others who do not. On the flip side, there are those who treat their bodies like temples but are still stricken with illness; there are those who live to ripe old ages.

In a time when humans were more reliant on nature ("Shakai," as the Avos knew Him), we understood, quite clearly, that we are not in control. As technology advanced—irrigation instead of praying for ideal rainfall (not too much, not too little)—and farming was no longer the means for support, we started to believe, more and more, in our own powers. 

Morahs would snarkily invoke, "Kochi v'otzem yadi," and we would think, "That's not me, of course. I believe in God, and in Him alone. I don't think that it all comes from my efforts." But we do. In work, in dating, in health, in child-rearing, in parking spots. I got it. I did it. 

I'm still being quizzed as to the circumstances of Ma's passing. "But she was so healthy!" they exclaim dazedly. If the one who took care of herself (and did encourage others to do so as well) was felled by illness, what of them? If she can't be blamed, that means they are vulnerable too.

No one likes feeling subject to forces outside of their control. It's terrifying. Yet we aren't responsible for the good in our lives, either. We can't control beneficial situations. We are subject to bracha. We are subject to seeming klala. None are immune, whatever we may think. 

So we each gotta do what we gotta do, and there's only one Entity we must rely on.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

How To Stay Sane While Dating: X

So, ladles (and jellyspoons), have you experienced at least one horrific date? I can empathize. 

The date that holds you hostage for hours on end. The date that insists on misunderstanding everything you say so you look stupid. The date that makes it my fault because he inflated his height on his information, insisting that he is 5'10", which would make me 6'5". 

You are desperate for this evening to be over. Why is he chewing so slowly? Where the hell is the waiter with the bill? Can this car go faster? Our Father in Heaven, please may there not be traffic! 

I felt defeated and drained following such dates. But I also felt, of all things, validated relief. 

What I always feared in dating is what if I go out with someone who is nice, but that's it? Does that mean that I'm required to continue dating him, since he's not Oscar the Grouch? If I say no, am I being picky, unreasonable, doomed to spinsterhood? 

The upside of terrible dates is that the answer is simple. You text or call the shadchan that thank you sooooo much for thinking of me, but it isn't shayach. Epic-ly not shayach. So not shayach that I wonder about this person's sanity. With no worries about my own. 

The inoffensively polite gentleman has given me a lot of grief. Please let him say no please let him say no please let him say no I would pray. Most times they did, but then there were the few times they didn't. The anguish I went through, feeling like scum for hurting such a nice boy—I would have taken a bad date any day. 

When you have arrived safely on your doorstep, furious at the shadchan, furious at the jerk you were subjected to, furious furious furious, remember: He is obviously not for you, so he's not the one. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Quick, Pretty Nails

I do love color on my nails. I prefer to do my nails myself, and sometimes I don't have the time to wait between coats and for drying. Then, there is the ravages of Shabbos prep—happily wielding my knives, my beautiful manicure can get sliced and diced.

I used to think that if I wasn't applying any color at all, then what would be the point of a clear, quick-drying topcoat? Ma used to encourage it, but my interest was not piqued. 

This past Erev Pesach, it seemed a shame to enter the holiday without tending to my ravaged nails at all. So I pushed back the cuticles following a shower, shaped them with my trusty glass file, and painted on two quick-drying, supposedly nail-strengthening topcoats. 

Oh, how pretty.

Huh. There is something to it. 

It doesn't take much time, and the steps can be broken up whenever one has a few minutes (glass files, I noticed, don't make loud, raspy noises like standard files, making them unobtrusive when on public transportation).  

Also, if they get chipped, no one can tell. Plus my nails seemed to crack less considering I spent first days primarily washing dishes.