Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's the Rush?

I am haunted by the skin of ancestors' past. 

The road-mapped visage of my great-aunts, Zeidy's sisters, cause me to blanch in fear. Sure, I may have gotten B√†bi's magnificent epidermis, which remained unlined, devoid of skin damage, glowingly perfect in her 80s. But how can I know until it is too late? 

Therefore, every morning, I carefully apply layers of sunblock. Every evening, I slather on alpha hydroxy acids, retinoids, you name it. 

What else to fret about? Of course, the plight of single-hood, and the ridiculous calculation of my child-bearing years. My grandmother was older than me by quite a bit when she emerged from the war and promptly had a brood, despite her barren first marriage. 

Is it just me, or are us girls not enjoying our present as we obsess over our futures?
Carina Chocano wrote an article appropriately titled, "Girls Love Math. We Never Stop Doing It." 

Our age-related hysteria is not based simply on our family-oriented Jewish community. Secular media is focused on the unattached and "elderly," meaning late 20s and 30s. 

I can't understand it when I am on a date with a guy in his 30s, and he slowly and patiently attempts to explain to clueless me how the "shidduch crisis" works, that there are just so many more single girls than guys, blissfully unaware that, um, dude, you're a 32-year-old bachelor, as opposed to my age of 27. We are both single, but I'm the only one in the throes of a "crisis"?

In my own personal experience I actually know of more "older" single men than women. After all, I'm going out with them, aren't I?

In my shul, I am currently the oldest female single, yet the men's side has more than one bachelor male. My high school class of about forty has but five unattached gals, including myself. 

The world likes to cluck over the ticking time bomb that is my supposed obsolescence, and I get annoyed at myself when I believe them.    
For years, I worried that I would be dismissed for being too young right up until the moment when I started being dismissed for being too old. That means I spent a disproportionate piece of my 20s and 30s thinking it was all over. I remember crying to a male friend that my time was running out; that I didn’t think I would be able to squeeze it all in before my built-in expiration date. I was 24. Meanwhile, my 23-year-old roommate would languish on the couch wailing, “I feel like a piece of fruit rotting on the vine!” I look back at this now — at how bad, how ashamed I felt for letting myself turn 29 — and I can’t believe how much of my youth I squandered on feeling old.     
I loved this quote from an episode of Go On, "Back, Back, Back It's Gone!"

Ryan, a widower, is feeling bummed because he would like to start dating again but can't work up the nerve. George, an elderly blind man who is a member of the same support group, tells him this:
Slow down, son. Now, I'm gonna tell you a little secret. People think life is short. Nah, life is long. The next right thing will come to you. Let it. Just be ready.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Request vs. Thank You Card

I rarely feel comfortable asking for things in prayer. I keep requests to the big major things that are already mentioned in the siddur's Hebrew; I thank, I would ask for others, but for myself, not so much. 

My morahs would constantly urge us to ask, ask for anything and everything, even for a new rug, which I thought was kind of stupid. I once objected to this, based on this story: 

The Talmud there continues with an incident with Rabi Chanina ben Dosa. His wife complained that she was no longer able to stand such abject poverty. She asked him to pray that Hashem should provide for them. His prayers were miraculously answered a hand from heaven presented him with a golden table leg.

His wife then saw in a dream that in the World to Come, the righteous would be eating from a three-legged golden table whereas she and her husband would only have a two-legged golden table. Upon hearing this dream and realizing the enormous 'price-tag' that was attached to this gift, he prayed that it should be taken back. The heavenly hand reappeared and returned the gift to the heavens. (via, Yisroel Ciner)

If asking just takes away from your zechusim, I put to the morah, why should one ask? She was silent for a moment and then said, triumphantly, to then add in the prayer that one's request won't take away from one's zechusim


As I grappled with that thought, while watching so many weep into siddurim at various holy sites, shul, and on public transportation, many of them obviously asking, I felt ever more a freak. 

Then slowly ideas began to stitch together:

Point 1: Hashem does that which is good for us. 

Point 2: In times of hardship, we are reminded that humans are mere flies on the painting; they cannot comprehend the larger, universal picture. 

Ergo, we do not know what is good for us. And if we do not know what is good for us, how can we ask? 


Not a week after I had this epiphany I heard this shiur by Esther Wein, completely validating my hypothesis.
Via Image Source
To add a mashal: Hurricane Sandy zapped the power at 9 p.m. At 5 a.m., there was a loud beeping. "Ah," Ta said, "the alarm company said this might happen. We have to find the key for the alarm box and deactivate it from there." 

By "we," it is usually just me, and it was me who waded into the two feet of freezing water in the dark basement, since I was the only one with knee-high rain boots. Ear plugs ensured the shrill beeping didn't kill off any hearing cells. I sloshed repeatedly down there, waving a flashlight, trying a multitude of keys dug up around the house, but I couldn't get that dang box open. I even tried to yank it free with brute force, when aggravation got the best of me.

After nearly six hours of "beep, beep, beep (pause) beep, beep, beep," and my umpteenth trip into the watery abyss, I suddenly realized that the klaxon wasn't occurring anywhere near the alarm box. I curiously headed towards the origin of the racket, which was squealing through a smoke detector. I tentatively pushed a button, a battery popped out, and it shut up. Blissful silence.

Sometimes, we are so sure we know what would be good for us, we don't even realize that our salvation is coming from another direction.     

So I thank. With joyful abandon. But I won't ask so fast, because how could a mere mortal me know how, what, or why?

Rabbi Yaacov Haber expounded on the concept of thanks, that a segulah (not all segulas are created equal) for success is in, when saying Modim, acknowledging that all comes from God. All. The good, bad, and indifferent.    

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quiet in a Loud World

Is it just me, or is it loud in here? 

After a childhood hounded by "shush"es, adulthood seems awfully noisy. People just can't bear the silence. 
A dreaded Amtrak type is the passenger who commences prattling on her cellphone the instant she sits down and doesn’t hang up until she gets to her stop, unable to bear an undistracted instant in her own company. People practice rap lyrics on the bus or the subway, barking doggerel along with their iPods as though they were alone in the shower. Respecting shared public space is becoming as quaintly archaic as tipping your hat to a lady, now that the concept of public space is as nearly extinct as hats, and ladies.
I, personally, love silence. I even like companionable quiet on a date, although the poor fellow will usually sweat if conversation eases to halt, desperate to fill the air with nonsensical questions. Luke and his wife dated without much talking; I find it kinda romantic. 

I read on public transportation. If I am overtired, I try to sleep, not usually with success. There are often loud conversations (on the phone or off), loud text chimes, loud snores. 

I like to think. I like to analyze my behavior, my motivations, how to improve. I think about others, what I can do to relate to them better, or if they are better left alone. I need to think. 

But the world tries its darndest to stop you from pondering

Tim Kreider rides the "quiet car" all the time, but it is often not quiet. It is also a very hard position to fight for; to argue for quiet leads to more noise.
It’s impossible to be heard when your whole position is quiet now that all public discourse has become a shouting match. Being an advocate of quiet in our society is as quixotic and ridiculous as being an advocate of beauty or human life or any other unmonetizable commodity.
And so the volume has incrementally risen, the imbecilic din encroaching on one place after another — mass transit, waiting rooms, theaters, museums, the library — until this last bastion of civility and calm, the Quiet Car, has become the battlefield where we quiet ones, our backs forced to the wall, finally hold our ground. The Quiet Car is the Thermopylae, the Masada, the Fort McHenry of quiet — which is why the regulars are so quick with prepared reproaches, more than ready to make a Whole Big Thing out of it, and why, when the outsiders invariably sit down and start in with their autonomic blather, they often find themselves surrounded by a shockingly hostile mob of professors, old ladies and four-eyes who look ready to take it outside.
"Four-eyes"—that's me!  

Few understand my fierceness and passion for a space empty of invasive sound. I have perfected my stinkeye over the years (the secret is to maintain eye contact with minimum facial movement, the rest of the face blank) out of necessity, when my cheerful foray into a land and time far, far away and a long, long time ago is rudely yanked back to the here and now by the shrill and inconsiderate.

Having someone's tedious phone conversation interject into my daled amos is as irritating and violating as being on line at the bank and having someone stand on top of me. Lady, I don't know you, I don't care how your man done you wrong, and frankly, aren't you a wee bit embarrassed to be sharing how he cheated on you with thirty other strangers?  
We’re a tribe, we quiet ones, we readers and thinkers and letter writers, we daydreamers and gazers out of windows. We are a civil people, courteous to excess, who disdain displays of anger as childish and embarrassing. But the Quiet Car is our territory, the last reservation to which we’ve been driven. And we can be pushed too far. Our message to the barbarians who would barge in on our haven with their chatter and blatting gadgets like so many bulldozers is:

I don't seek confrontation. I don't make scenes. I don't like trimming someone down to size. But here is a little tip: if someone is glaring at you from across the car, she is not admiring your coat. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Put Down the Camera

I'm trying to get a good look what the chassan looks like by the badeken, but I am being nudged out of the way by quite a few hands attached to cameras. I don't mean the hired photographers;  I mean the friends or family members who decide the dinky quality of their $90 camera is going to upstage professional photos. 

The brother of the chassan doesn't seem to be aware that he is blocking not only the view of the chuppah to the rest of the room, but the people paid to snap pictures.

If one were to would flip through those "very necessary" takes, one would be greeted by mostly blurry white tulle and red eye. 

A PowerShot should only be allowed in a wedding if they will not be used, at all, on the newlyweds. They've got great shots taken by guys who charge a pretty penny per hour.
There's a reason why it is left to the professionals
So I entreat you: leave your camera at home. Put down the smartphone; your sub-par photos are not needed. So can you step aside, please, and let me see the badeken? Thank you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Message From My Sponsor

Luke threatens every once in a while that he'll start his own blog, but on condition that I maintain and write it for him. I told him this is the closest he'll get

Luke went towards the elevators with the intention of going up. There was an older woman there; as he pressed the "up" button for himself, he asked, "Are you going down?" and punched the "down" as well. 

"Thank you, sweetheart." 

Her elevator arrived before his did. He held it open for her chivalrously as she shuffled in. 

He said to me, "If I had been looking at my phone, I would have missed out on that opportunity."

There is easy chesed to grasp every day. But we need our heads up, actually seeing the people around us (perhaps being bored from time to time), in order to be aware of them.

Perhaps that is my main objection to the miraculous advances of cell phone technology (along with the premature aging phenomenon of "smartphone face"): We no longer see each other. A friend is now someone who can provide me with entertainment; if not, this screen will instead. 

There is a place for boredom, for spacing out, to being aware of deep thoughts. The one can see the little old woman and providing her with the consideration she deserves. 

How can one act if one doesn't see?    

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Myth: Happily Ever After

Disney and Hallmark has a lot to answer for.

Our perception of love and marriage is quite skewed; many of us clutch to ourselves overblown and unrealistic perceptions of infinite bliss that accompanies couplehood.

hen you first meet a guy, you breathlessly rhapsodize, “He's the strong silent type.” After ten years, you shriek, “What are you, mute?!”


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Careful Kitten Heels

You know the Yiddish saying, Nisht a'hair nisht a'heen ("Neither here nor there")? That is pretty much my objection to kitten heels: Pick a side. 

Are you a high heel or a flat on steroids? Make up your mind!

Whatever benefits gals seek from heels, kitten heels will not provide them. I just don't think they suit feet in general—they just end up looking larger.

It's sort of like the mid-calf skirt. By virtue of the fact that it is in "the middle," it is already unflattering. 

Some are down on flats, but really, a proper ballet flat is so pretty and sharp. Heels have to be, well, heels. 

To quote Rita Ora, current "it" girl: 
“Like the kitten heel, I hate,” Ms. Ora said, cringing. “Either wear a heel or don’t wear a heel, O.K.?
It really depends on the shoe, but if it around the 2" mark be very cautious; make sure it actually makes your foot look good. If it is any lower than that, opt for a flat or a wedge instead
Steve by Steven Madden "Blend" Wedge

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: It's His Fault

I have discussed the importance of chewing, and my own recent discovery of the art. 

But from where did I learn such frantic consumption of food in the first place

Apparently, just by having siblings. George Howe Colt brings a myriad examples of celebrity families, and how the children would grimly fight over every morsel. 
Frederik Van den Stock
I'm the sort of eater that I save what I like the best for last on my plate. It has happened more than once that a fork will suddenly appear and skewer my hoarded stash. "Aaaaah!" I wail. "What, you weren't eating it!" mumbles the munching mouth. 

I started eating Shabbos meals in the kitchen.

Perhaps my rapid swallowing of yumminess that comes my way is from the trauma of having resources snatched from my grasp. 
We still eat as if we were in a race — my wife says she’d never met anyone who ate as fast as I do, until she met my brothers
But now the other competitors have flown the coop, leaving me with my bad habits. Now, I am finally free to enjoy, to savor, to slowly consume my supper while idly flipping through the paper, unafraid that my honestly gotten gains will have vanished if I step away from the table.

When they visit some of that anxiety comes over me again; I apportion myself too much sweet and sour chicken, zucchini kugel, and unstuffed cabbage, more than I could or should eat or want, looking furtively over my shoulder, darting to a dark corner to huddle over my meal. 

Another secret to staying slender . . . be generous.