Thursday, October 29, 2020

They Got Me

Once upon a time, I would rant on this blog about the horrors of the smartphone. How it decreases meaningful connection. How the blue light messes up our sleep. How the constantly looking down at it gives you neck lines (Strivectin!).  

For years I held out, clutching my purple flip phone, refuses to succumb to the iPhone's wiles. 

Then, a few years ago, I became one of the enthralled masses. 

I still have a lame amount of apps, along with the two requisite social media ones. I'm not sure why I downloaded Instagram, and I regret it. Now I know why my sister has deleted it—more than once. 

On Facebook, there are a multitude of groups that have been rather informative. Originally, Facebook was the place to post pictures of one's perfect life, but those who want to be "influencers" have migrated to Instagram. So Facebook is relatively safe now, if one wants to ask about a good recipe for oatmeal applesauce muffins or sourdough technique or what's the best long wearing mascara. 

But Instagram? Oh boy. It could make nearly anyone (I think the narcissists should be okay) spiral into self-hating flagellation. How can she work full time yet manage to put together such a stunning tablescape? How could she have had a baby last month and be so skinny? Or, how could she be so skinny yet bake that sugar-laden, butter-saturated cake with heavy cream frosting? (Yes, I admit I have body image issues). 

It's a place where women can be rebbetzins yet pose with unsmiling Vogue faces as they drape on couches in stunning attire. It's a place where people humblebrag, who claim to be overworked and up all night with kids but still find the time to take fabulous shots in fabulous clothing in their fabulous homes with their fabulous kids and their fabulous husbands. 

I know, logically, that people are on it trying to promote their brands and businesses, and that few people will buy their products if it has been pitched unglamorously. And not all accounts are alike; many show real people, with real lives, the highs, lows, and everything in between. 

But then I wonder about these people on the other side, who display a life of perfection, but we all know that lives aren't perfect. They yell at their kids. They have arguments with their husbands. Outfits don't fit after a three-day yuntif. 

My friend was feeling inadequate after scrolling through everyone's amazingness, and I reassured her with some cattiness, claiming that yes, while their table might be magnificently set with chargers and dishes and cloth napkins and artfully arranged flowers and candles, who knows what the price of it was? Did she spend a few sleepless nights? Did one of her children nudge a candlestick out of place, causing her to freak? Did she focus all her attentions to get the ideal shot to the point that the yuntif meals consisted of cereal and milk, as no one had time to cook? 

OK, yes, granted, there is probably the Mary Poppins of Mommies out there who managed to get everything done complete with a full Face and whoever she may be, I salute you. But I wonder if there is a way to be more "real" on Instagram while promoting brands and businesses. 

Like, "this outfit is so comfortable and versatile, plus machine washable! Perfect for when your little one barfs all over you." Or "I did put a lot of effort and time into decorating the sukkah—that chandelier didn't get there on its own, you know!—but it gives my family such joy that they're willing to cook and I'm willing to let my house stay a flying mess." Or "If you seriously think I look this attractive while drinking a smoothie, you are not taking advantage of the myriad of filters that are available." 

Or, I could do the simpler option, and delete Instagram. 


Monday, October 19, 2020

I Know We'll Meet Again

I haven't put on lipstick since March. 

I don't know who I am anymore.  

I would put on lipstick if I could. But with a mask, it would end up all over my face. Same with foundation/cc+ cream. 

And in fun other news, I'm getting some seeeeerious maskne. The kind that has Luke pointing and going "Ha ha!" and has Han tenderly dabbing my face with Mario Badescu Drying Lotion (which he found reduced in Nordstrom Rack, score!) Oddly enough, this breakout started when I began to actually wash my masks with regularity. Sigh. 

What does one do when a good chunk of their identity and image is tied to "War Paint"? OK, I still do my eyes, but I'm usually behind sunglasses, so the effect is sort of lost. (I never figured out the difference between "effect" and "affect." I should look into that.) 

Ben loved my makeup, once upon a time. He'd coo happily to see my Face. Will he know who I am, when this is over? It reminds me of the time Ma had the flu and didn't go out for a month. When she finally was able to go out again, her Face threw me off. 

But I think Corona has made all of us reconsider our identities in certain ways. I always thought I'd be fine with a life of hermitude, but now that I'm here it's getting rather old. 

I do believe I'll be reunited with my lipstick hoard again. When I'll buff my punim with long-wearing foundation. When—mmmm—I can get my eyebrows threaded.

And if Mashiach is there too, nuch besser. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Honey Peeves

I've become a cantankerous broad (my age is showing). With all this talk of "apple and honey," I've become a tad pedantic. 

Because, when we speak of "dvash" in the biblical sense, it is technically date honey, not bee honey. So if we were going for authenticity, everyone would be reaching for a jar of silan. 

And what's the mishagaas about the apple? There's nothing significant about the apple itself. Everyone's making apple cakes and whatnot. But the apple doesn't represent anything! Maybe because one can't really going around dipping any other fruit into honey without it getting uber-messy?

I'm a little sore on this topic because I've never liked honey. Never. I just don't like the flavor. And if you say you don't like honey the first week of first grade then everyone looks at you like you've gone to the Dark Side. 

Because Rosh HaShana is all about the honey! 

Well, we're all grown-ups now, right? We know that if someone doesn't eat honey on Rosh HaShana she will not be doomed to a horrific year. Especially since it's about the sweetness, dating back to times when sweetness tended to be expensive. Honey was the available sweetener before cane sugar became a thing. 

I really like maple syrup and agave. I just don't like honey. Plus, now that I'm old and crabby, it also disagrees with my stomach. 

Han actually told me last week that he doesn't like honey either. I don't think I've ever been more in love. 

I'm not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I'm still going to slice up an apple, but dip it into the sweetness of my preference. I've got the round challahs made. There'll be carrots and squash in some form, why not? There'll be a new fruit, probably the boring yet non-scary one Ma would get, the apple pear.

But no honey cake. There will be cake, but it won't have any honey in there. No fish head (Han hates fish, and I'm still carrying childhood trauma from seeing the fish head tucked next to the gefilte fish in the same container). 

Minhagim and simanim are important. But not if they make yuntif stressful. The ikkur is the yuntif, not the symbolistic trappings.

Everyone else knows how to shower others with New Year blessings, and I lamely reply, "Right back at ya." But to all, a git gebensht yur. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Let's Talk About Flour

I, like the rest of the corona hermits, have taken to baking. When my sister stops by, she asks, "So what treats are in the freezer?" 

They haven't all been successes. The peanut butter cake that I made for Han (I hate peanut butter) is still untouched and taking up valuable space. The sourdough had a flop or three. Plus my "Battle of the Bulge" is a freakin' Waterloo, even with all my healthy swaps. Eh, it's COVID. We're all fat. 

For my cake and cookie needs, I usually use whole wheat pastry flour. The kintz with "pastry flour" is that it contains a lower protein content than regular whole wheat, meaning the cakes and cookies have the "right" texture. Or some such. 

But with the run on flour, I can't find whole wheat pastry flour anywhere. So I needed an alternative. My local store carries Shibolim whole spelt flour, so for the purposes of science I'd figure I'd give it a go. 

Whole Spelt Flour | kosher konnection

Whilst it sat nestled in the pantry, an article popped up in my Facebook feed about the glories of spelt. It claimed that while spelt contains gluten, the gluten strands are very fragile (unlike in wheat, where they are tough and sturdy). Because the gluten in essence falls apart in the stomach, spelt-based goodies are easier to digest than wheat. 

Well, I was out of pastry flour, so let's give it a go. 

1) The Bundtcake

This recipe was supposedly developed by my aunt, but it's near identical to another official recipe, so it looks like took false credit. In any case, the whole spelt tasted the same, but it's darker in color than the white whole wheat flour. 

 2) Lemon Cookies 

Han was quite clear. "Your best batch EVER," he proclaimed. When I asked for details, he said, "The crispiness. There's a dense crispiness." I'm not sure what he means by that, but he's always about texture. 

Personal Observations: Well, I'm not sure if I'm being delusional here, but it does feel easier on my stomach. My digestion, I must confess, has gone all geriatric on me (I can't eat a whole bunch of stuff anymore) so I'm rather in tune when it gets crabby. 

Conclusions: I think I'll stick with it. Some kids may get scared that the Bundtcake is a different color, but I won't tolerate racism in the kitchen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Once is Enough

When I was dating, I never had what could be considered a previous "relationship" before Han. Most of my dates were one-and-dones; on rare occasion, a second date. Only once did I go as far as a third. 

It was on the aforementioned third date (there was a post I already dedicated to that event) that I was informed that this dating pattern wasn't acceptable. As I recall, he said, "What's wrong with you?" 

I felt as though he had socked me in the stomach. I staggered about for the next hour, wondering if there was something wrong with me, only to delightfully realize my date was a jerk. 

Han says the same thing; the majority of his dates were one, maybe two, meetings. 

This issue is addressed in Eckel's chapter entitled, "You Need Practice"; the theory is that one cannot be ready for the REAL relationship if they haven't had a serious one beforehand. 

So, you know how not everyone is the same? So some people can go out with someone, think they are nice enough, start a relationship with them, dangle along for an indeterminate amount of time, conclude they aren't really "feeling it," part ways, and start again.

For me, that would not do. On a first date, I would usually be able to zero in that our values didn't mesh, and then say, "He's not for me." (Or, if I did say, "I'd go out again," then he'd say no.) Here is where the gut plays a role; I would know, I would just know, that this guy isn't meant to be my husband. There is something in his behavior that shows that he's not very considerate, or that he's sweet but his conversation is not on your wavelength.

Frankly, I found dating emotionally draining enough that "practicing" with countless guys would have left me a babbling wreck. I only wanted to start with the REAL relationship. When it's the right person for you, then you don't need the "practice." You just . . . work, and not in the "marriage is work" sort of work. You mesh, relatively painlessly, although he can't stand it when you wear your old socks with holes in the heels (I like my holey socks!)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Shidduch Lit: It's Not You

 OK, I know I have been saying that the persecution of singles takes place all over, in all cultures, countries, and societies, but I don't think that it really hit home until I read Sara Eckel's It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single

I mean, I thought it took place on some level, but not to the extreme as it is in the frum world. From what I've been gleaning from this book, which was recommended by an anonymous follower, the perception of something inherently wrong with singles is a view shared by, well, the entire human race. 

As I read, I was surprised how practically every sensation I experienced as a single was accurately described. Her chapter on being picky was practically my post on the same topic, word-for-word. 

That lead me to another epiphany: I'm expecting too much from our community. 

If the entire human race finds singlehood terrifying to look at, how is it possible for the frum demographic to calm the hell down? Eckel is describing a lifestyle where people aren't particularly religious yet they expect everyone to pair up; our faith demands that men get married and make a go at populating the earth. 

I can't expect the frummies to become mellow with the whole concept of "older singles." The campaign slogan, instead, should be kindness. Or tact, at the very least. 

Tragedy exists in a multitude of forms. People are born with disabilities. People die young by illness or accident. People yearn to be parents, but remain childless. Those subject to those circumstances must struggle with hurtful comments as well. 

The problem isn't the wrong perception of singlehood. It's the typical reaction that in our discomfort and need to control, we often say things in a desperate attempt to believe that we can prevent such circumstances, that if we do the "right thing" then we shall be thusly spared. 

So, single person, you must be too picky. You must be commitment phobic. You must not be trying hard enough.

Now we can all sleep at night. 

To get back on topic, Eckel's book is an excellent read for those who have been battered by well-meaning yet ego-devastating comments. I would have highlighted and posted 85% of it and reposted it, when it's much more gratifying to simply read it. She doesn't simply make a statement like "that's ridiculous"; she backs it up with other papers, other thinkers (even Brene!), other points, logically disproving the myth at hand.

Monday, August 17, 2020

So You Thought It Was Just Us

I think that the major frustration of being single is not that one is single, but that other people treat you like you are the most pitiable creature to grace the Earth. 

It's a form of gaslighting, really. Because when one is single, one is technically able to do all sorts of things, things that are not exactly feasible when one is wed and babied. So instead of spending one's single years doing those things, one spends one's single years calling up shadchanim, attending singles events, and feeling like crud. 

Plus, if I might be honest . . . it's not like marriage results in mindless bliss for everyone. I've been hearing a story or two that wedding does not equal happily ever after. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to be married—to Han. No one else would do.

Katerina Tsasis' Modern Love essay begins with awful familiarity: 

People treat you differently when you are steadily single. Not everyone, not all the time, not always overtly, not necessarily unkindly. They ask why no one has snatched you up, offer to set you up on blind dates, seat you at the singles table at formal events. . . As a child, I belonged to an immigrant community that viewed marriage and motherhood as a woman’s primary goal in life. . . Here’s another thing that happens when you’re single: Your time and plans are perceived as less fixed and less valid than for people who are married.

She did things. 

Over that next year I learned new subjects, traveled to a dozen countries, practiced speaking other languages, watched an opera staged on the steps of a castle, hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, drove the terrifying roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe.

Singles aren't permitted to enjoy themselves. If they do, then they aren't "serious" about marriage. They have to curl up in a corner and cry non-stop for divine intervention.  They have to view themselves as pathetic and in need of major overhaul. 

She got the same load of crap from people that we do/did. 

At this point, I had stopped believing one needed a partner to be fulfilled in life, but I still thought I must be lacking in some fundamental way — not good enough, attractive enough, nice enough, or something enough — in comparison.

Friends, relatives, acquaintances and even strangers will obligingly point out what you, as a single person, seem to lack. A friend of mine went to see a doctor regarding a mental health question and his prescription was that she needed a boyfriend. Well-meaning relatives urged her to go to church to find a man, even though she’s agnostic.

I have been told I’m too picky, not getting any younger, should put myself out there more, have to fight for love, and should look for a guy who’s more attractive and less attractive, more nerdy and less nerdy, more assertive and less assertive.

Men I have barely known or haven’t known at all have told me I should wear more makeup, change my attitude, do more situps, dress differently, smile more. I’ve heard it on a first date, walking down the street minding my business, and in the middle of a conversation about a totally different subject.

Deja vu all over again. 

And then, a relationship that worked.

There wasn’t any magic about it, no soul awakening, no personal reckoning, no neat and tidy reason as to why it worked where the others hadn’t. I met a man who is a lovely human being. We found shared interests and chemistry. We treated each other with kindness and respect. I’m pretty sure if I had met him years before, or years later, the outcome would have been the same: We got married.

I’m the same person, living in the same place, doing the same job, with the same friends and the same hobbies. There was nothing worse about me before. There is nothing better about me now. And yet, people who treated my singlehood with curiosity, pity or disregard are now warmer and more welcoming. It’s as if I have joined the club.

That's what annoys me. I'm now "acceptable," no longer "three- headed bearded lady." But after so many years as "circus freak," it's kind of hard to readjust to acceptance. I feel like an imposter—"Oh, you are making polite chit-chat, new acquaintance? Don't you know you're supposed to look at me with condescending derision?"

When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to go out with friends and queue for hours to get into some new, exclusive club, only to finally get in and discover there wasn’t much going on inside. The social pressure regarding marriage feels like that, an emphasis on getting through the doorway without enough care for what lies beyond.

Marriage isn't magically, effortlessly wonderful. But little conversation takes place regarding self-improvement to be in the best place for lifetime partnership. It's all about a wedding. Zeh hu. 

On the other side, decimated with exhaustion from a very demanding (yet no less squishy) baby, I'm amazed how they sell this to young young kids who haven't had a chance to do much. I'm enjoying him very much cause I waited so long to have him, but for youngsters, get a chance to do some things, cause one day all you'll want to do is sleep. Plus I've cleaned epic amounts of vomit twice in three days (he's fine! he's fine!).  

Our experiences vary. I can only describe mine. We punish and reward people for how well they conform to our ideals without even realizing it. We punish ourselves when the things we’re told to want keep us from appreciating and enjoying the things we have.

Someone may read this and find my thoughts obvious, trite, outdated. Someone may read this and think I have missed out in life. I’m writing it anyway, for the times I thought: “Maybe I’m imagining things” and “Maybe they’re right” and “Maybe there is something wrong with my life.”

Did this woman read my diary? 

It's very hard to ignore everyone's comments. It's very hard to have self-faith when everyone is telling you that you are a hideous aberration. Now on the other side, I wonder if it's a conspiracy: I'm married, you're not, so let's have a little fun. Because I don't think these comments come from a place of "I'm so delirious with joy in my marriage that I'll make this person feel terrible about being single." 

Marriage doesn't confer any special status. What is it about singles that make marrieds so nervous that they have to inform them that they're a problem? 


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Other Side

 "It was the perfect date," she declared. "We had so much in common. We talked for hours. But, he came late, so I think that's gonna mean a 'no' from me." 

Has anyone said that, ever? At least, has anyone sane ever said that?

I saw an article about a former older single who opines that her friends are just being so stupidly picky. Like, they won't see a guy again who was late or didn't open the door for her or took her for dinner and not coffee, or vice versa. 

Look, if a woman is complaining that her date was late, chances are the rest of the evening was a dud as well. She's just starting from the beginning. 

I happen to be a punctual sort of person. Like, ridiculously punctual. I'm usually early and spend my time twiddling my thumbs. And Han is . . . not. For example, for the majority of our dates I would get a text about a half hour before the meeting time with an apologetic delay. It got to a point that I would put on my makeup first, scrub the kitchen, and only get dressed if I knew for sure he was en route. 

Do I find this quirk sometimes exasperating? Yes. But was it a deal breaker? Well, no, obviously, because everything else was great. But if a date was late, and he was a jerk, I might have mentioned his tardiness on the list of his other failures as a human being. 

And what is up with once older singles chucking their compatriots under the bus? Hello, you weren't exactly 21 when you got married, lady, so why are you turning on your own former demographic?

OK, I can obviously understand their betrayal, it's not that hard. Hurt people hurt people; after years of abuse, it's nice to have the "upper hand," so to speak, to become one of the married masses and talk with that "I got married because I did such-and-such" voice. 

I've fallen into that trap too many times before to get snookered in. I didn't meet the right person until I was old. That's it. There was no grand internal reckoning, there was no sage I consulted, there was no sacrificial goat on a mountaintop with thunder and lightning. 

Ergo, I cannot claim it was something I said or did that got me married to the right person. I'm just thank the Big Matchmaker in the Sky, and try not to be obnoxious to other people.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Marry Him?

After finishing her book, I googled "Lori Gottlieb" to find more material on her, and I discovered that she wrote a book ten years ago called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.


My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)
Et tu, Lori? 

Reading on, I realized the issue is based on what "settling" actually means. I can't quite relate to this, because I'm actually a very boring person who just wanted to set up house and I was on the search for someone to set up the house with. Note, it was easier said than done. 

She's making the claim that a steady, reliable guy who will be a hands-on father and care about your feelings are a dime a dozen, and women primarily search for the sweep-me-off-my-feet dashing cool dudes who will only divorce them for younger models. Generalization much?

I came across this article in Jezebel magazine from earlier this year rehashing Gottlieb's book. The author, Tracy Clark-Flory, is annoyed how women are broadly painted with the "unrealistic expectations" brush, "Meanwhile, men come under no meaningful critique for superficiality or entitlement in the realm of sex and romance. They are largely the sane observers of women’s irrational whims." 

Gottlieb considers herself guilty of "unrealistic expectations." She ended up becoming a mother via sperm donor as she had no man on the horizon. Spoiler, her most recent book, published nearly a decade later, opens with her boyfriend breaking up with her when she thought he was "The One." It makes me wonder if she believed that if she was willing to try hard enough then a relationship would work. But it takes two to tango, and don't we know that. 

However, Clark-Flory does note that the publishers insisted on this eye-catching title, while Gottlieb's point was more about prioritizing character in a life partner as opposed to his looks. 

Clark-Flory had broken up with her lovely boyfriend when she was 26 because she wasn't ready for a forever commitment. She had fretted if she had made the right decision, and did end up marrying later on. But she concludes: 
Now that we’re here, many of us have realized, if we hadn’t long ago, that marriage isn’t a guarantee of happiness, it doesn’t automatically secure an equal partnership in parenting, and it’s often only a temporary state.
More to the point: no predictive storyline emerged around pickiness or settling, because there are no rules to this game. An individual woman’s marital status at any point in time is often chiefly representative of the unpredictable lives many of us are now allowed to live.
THERE ARE NO RULES! I really thought I was not being picky about dating (even though people said I was). I went out with guys who did not fit my criteria. And it didn't go anywhere until Han came along, who, I might add, had also been accused of being "picky."

I was not looking for Brad Pitt. Other single women I know of were/are not looking for Brad Pitt. But they still had a tough time. Because finding the right partner is not always easy, nothing to do with "settling." 

A woman may find her Brad Pitt immediately, and happily spend the rest of her life gazing at his pretty face. A man may be "searching for a heart of gold," but he's "growing old." Finding the right person, for anyone, no matter what the criteria might be, is not always a simple matter "reasonable criteria." Sometimes it doesn't work, no matter how much compromise is on the table.

Monday, August 3, 2020

"It is Kindness I Desire"

It once happened that Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem with Rabbi Joshua, and they witnessed the destruction of the Temple. Rabbi Joshua said, “Woe to us, for the place where the sins of Israel were atoned for has been destroyed.” Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai said, “Do not be bitter, my son, for we have another form of atonement which is as great, and this is gemilut hasadim; as the verse states, “for it is kindness I desire and not burnt offerings” [Hos. 6:6].

I looked up this story after hearing it on one of the Tisha B'Av shiurim, surprised that it isn't part of the standard curriculum (Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, a very confusing story that is hard to translate usually gets the glory, for some reason). 

Hashem says that He wants us to be kind. That's it. To atone for our sins, all we gotta do is be nice

Isn't that awesome?