Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Rabbi Yisroel Reisman once said that when dating, one should look for someone on the same religious page. I have certainly noticed how important that is. 

Like the guy who made me feel like a member of a cult when I brought up religion at all, a faith which he claimed to be a fellow practitioner of.

Then there is the bachelor who is shtark and all that, but unintentionally has me feeling like an apostate. 

Leaving Baby Bear, the dude that is "Juuuuuuust right."  
I can talk about an inspiring shiur I heard and he will nod avidly, but in the next breath I can reference Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he will concur that Patrick Stewart is an awesome actor, even if he never heard of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

When I began dating, I really had no criteria whatsoever. As time goes on, rather than being less critical, I find myself more discriminating as I pinpoint the qualities I now realize I need in a man. 

A conversation where neither of us has to apologize or feel judged would be a nice start.

There was a Modern Love some years back, written by Saba Ali, a single Muslim girl; it would seem that their dating scene is quite similar to ours. She was "older," 29, family freaking out, a situation many of us can understand. 
So my friends and I had high expectations when it came to marriage, which was supposed to quickly follow graduation from college. That’s when our parents, many of whom had entered into arranged marriages, told us it was time to find the one man we would be waking up with for the rest of our lives, God willing. They just didn’t tell us how. 
Golly, does it sound familiar. 
Although my friends kept telling me my expectations were too high and that at my age, my checklist wasn’t practical, I disagreed. All I wanted was to feel secure, to look forward to spending my days and nights with my match.
Then she was set up with a doctor (plotzing!) who she thought was on the same page as herself; not PC, able to think outside the box a little.

But he was a tad too far too the left. He wasn't crazy about the fact that she wore a hijab, for one thing, whereas she saw it as an integral part of her identity. 
And I had my own doubts, though I was afraid to admit them: namely, why should I push forward with this when we weren’t aligned in terms of our faith? How could we be a good match if he didn’t approve of my hijab? Would I have to change? Should I?
Then came the breaking point. 
So when he leaned over and asked, “Can I hold your hand?” I didn’t feel I could say no. I liked him for taking the risk.
Nearly 30 years old, I had thought about holding hands with a boy since I was a teenager. But it was always in the context of my wedding day. Walking into our reception as husband and wife, holding hands, basking in that moment of knowing this was forever. Palm against palm, a closed circuit, where his long fingers wrapped securely around my tiny hand.
. . . A lifetime’s worth of expectations culminated in this single gesture in a dark theater over a sticky armrest.
I’m not sure it’s possible to hold hands wrong, but we were not doing it right. It felt awkward with my hand under his, so we changed positions: my arm on top, his hand cradling mine. It was still fraught and uncomfortable, and soon my hand fell asleep, which was not the tingling sensation I was hoping for. Finally, I took it away.
But the damage had been done. We had broken the no-contact rule, and in doing so, I realized I wasn’t willing to be the kind of girl he wanted. I believe in my religion, the rules, the reasons and even the restrictions. At the same time, I’ve always wanted to be married, and the thought of never knowing that side of myself, as a wife and a mother, scares me. Being with him made me compromise my faith, and my fear of being alone pushed me to ignore my doubts about the relationship.
When we took it too far, I shut down. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. So after the date, I split us up. And I never saw him again. 
I have always felt that I should be accommodating, that I shouldn't make certain things a problem. But I also know that when initially entering into a relationship, I should not have to compromise my truest self, and that is my religion. I shouldn't have to leave my cuddly comfort zone of knowing where I stand with Hashem and how I choose to practice that faith.        

Monday, April 29, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: Get Right Back on that Wagon

"I loathe myself," I groan.

Pesach already has the glamorous image of diet-killer. Two Pesachs ago I would have been able to stay in control (I like to think) had my siblings not moved in, bearing cakes, side-dishes, and duck. God, I love duck.

Usually I avoid an official dinnertime after skirt-straining lunches, but despite the protesting fullness of my belly I had still lurched over to the gefilte fish, chicken soup with homemade egg lokshen, sweet chicken, and zucchini kugel. Even after those large lunches, I couldn't seem to stop myself from nibbling; strawberry fluff, sponge cake, grapes, melon. Nothing here has terrible ingredients, but the quantity was killing me.

Since I was hit with a sinus infection post-holiday, I didn't get dressed for two days. When I finally did, and looked down in horror at my protruding stomach, I nearly wept.

It would seem rather obvious that my usually rigorous self-control has taken a hit. Acknowledged. But all is not lost. 

I did have a glimmer or two of discipline. I wouldn't touch the not-made-from-scratch pareve ice cream (primarily consisting of non-dairy whip, meaning, partially hydrogenated oil), soda, juice, store-bought seven layer, nor my niece's cake made with vanilla pudding mix. If my body can't recognize the ingredients, then I won't consume it. 

My second foray into self-control was when late in the afternoon on the last day of Pesach, everyone, from adult to child, was munching merrily on buttered matzah. If there is any torture that can be done to me, it was watching and smelling that (Pesach matzah in my household has such a high value that it has the same worth as hard currency). But I didn't give in. I waited until the next day, and I had it by lunch. I was able to delay gratification. 
Even small efforts like these, which seemingly have no benefits, keep the self-control muscle in practice. 

I have heard others despair and abort eating plans due to one slip. But as science has proven, weight is gained over time, not because of one food fiasco. 

I can attest, despite a two-day gorging, that since I watched myself carefully for the next few weeks, I was back to where I began before yontif.   

Don't think after one day of gluttony, "It's over, the diet is dead, hello poundage!" What was gained over a two-day, or a week-long, indulgence is minor compared to abandoning good habits altogether. Sure, I may have been jiggling following my habit-abandonment, but with just a few weeks of awareness, I was back in the game, belly gone. 

So arise! Take a walk around the block! Put down that spoon!

We shall overcome!

Friday, April 26, 2013


Not the Batman villain. 
From time to time, Ta will come home, look at my face, and good-naturedly go "Aaaaaaaah!" since my visage is a lovely shade of blue. 
Via makeit-up.ru
Earth Science Mint Tingle Purifying Facial Masque provides that divine shade of azure. "Special firming clay tightens skin, absorbs excess oil to unclog pores, and promotes a natural renewal process. Use regularly to clean acne-prone skin. pH 7."

It is very potent stuff, too potent, really, for year-round use. I need it more for my t-zone than my cheeks, so sometimes I spot treat. I avail myself of it in the summer months, when the heat kicks oily face into high gear. It distinctly evens out my skin tone. (I wouldn't recommend this product for dry skin types.)

One can never have too much mud. Not only do clay masks draw out toxins and oils,  it also stimulates circulation, tightens skin, and exfoliates.  

Being a lover of Yam HaMelach, I hunger for their skin products. I couldn't resist this Sea Minerals Mud from the Dead Sea. Oh, the sulfur! Hummina hummina. 
Via treehugger.com
One of the top-favored mud masks out there is Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. It comes in a dry powder, so one can add their liquid of choice, whether it be water or apple cider vinegar, which is awesome for the skin, or a dollop of honey, which is known to reduce inflammation. This clay was mentioned in NY Times a while back, and I was reminded of its existence after seeing the video below. 

The gal in the video has major acne issues (check out her other uploads), so if she is recommending the clay then it must do great work.

I usually apply these mud masks before I shower since I never manage to get it thoroughly off using the sink. It doesn't have to be for only the face; skin anywhere on the body can benefit from some mud.

Give the clay a chance, and feel your skin sing with rejuvenation.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

I have this fantasy that I can become a "broken-in" parent the first time around. After all, I've been around babies and children enough that I know how they tick, what works and what doesn't. But I know that many make all sorts of resolutions before actuality comes about, so parenting articles still take my fancy. 

The poor author, Bruce Feiler, is a father who has resorted to bribery, like any other parent. There comes a time, no matter how much one promises otherwise, where bribery is needed when dealing with offspring. But, like all rewarding tactics, overuse will blow up in your face. 
Alan Kazdin, the director of the Yale Parenting Center, said the problem with incentives is they focus too much attention on the desired result instead of the behavior that leads up to the result. “You can’t throw rewards at behaviors that don’t exist and get them,” he said. “If someone says I will match your retirement fund if you perform a flamenco dance right now, my reaction is, ‘Great, but it turns out I can’t do that.’ You have to develop the behavior very, very gradually.”
Bribery is given with the hope that certain behavior will follow; when it comes to rewards, it should only be bestowed after the desired actions. Rewarding is okay, but only as a once-in-a-while
Mr. Pink said the problem with bribing is not the rewards; it’s the contingency, which is a form of control. “Human beings have only two reactions to control,” he said. “They comply or they defy. I don’t think most parents want compliant children, and I don’t think they want defiant children. They want children who are active, engaged and motivated by deeper things.” He recommends replacing what he calls if-then rewards with now-that rewards, meaning the prize is giving spontaneously and after the fact.  
Perhaps because it is the age of insecurity, but parents don't seem to realize how amazing they are to their children. Keep in mind children look at the world from a different viewpoint than the parents on high, seeing them almost as all-powerful deities. 
While parents may make little of the strength of their praise, children thirstily absorb positive statements from their mom and pop. A few glowing words from their parents, to them, is more than enough
Dr. Dweck suggests parents make their praise specific, and focus on the process the child went through to achieve the behavior, not merely the behavior itself. “You could say, ‘I really liked the way you waited patiently for me to finish my phone call, because you understood that phone call was important,’ ” she said. “Or, ‘I really liked how you expressed gratitude to Grandma, just like you appreciate it when I thank you for doing something for me.’ ” 
The easiest phrase? "Big boy" or "big girl." Kids become ridiculously happy when one calls them that. "Oh, what a big girl, you cleaned up your crayons all by yourself!" It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Despite the fact they can own every toy that has graced the earth, their toothy grins show that there is a limit to the joy Playmobil can bring.

Kids are little mirrors, reacting and reflecting the behaviors they are exposed to. So Feiler's send-off can bear repeating more than once: 
While my New Year’s resolution started out as a way to get better results from my children, the real person I needed to retrain was myself.    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Austen's Message of "Steady There"

Jane Austen is beloved by women everywhere, but her works are probably held most dearly by us frummies, since she presents a dating model we can understand completely. 
Via Pemberly.com
Income and background were ruthlessly dissected by parents of single children; the opposite sexes rarely had physical contact, the most being a limp handshake for .05 seconds, since longer was considered scandalous; courtships were rather short and usually under the watchful eye of a third-party chaperone, before a stiff proposal of marriage

I had a thought the other day—Jane Austen has, in all her books, the villain masquerading as the nice guy, to whom the heroine is initially attracted; everything conveniently works out in the end, of course, when his nefariousness is revealed.

Sense & Sensibility: John Willoughby
Pride & Prejudice: George Wickham
Mansfield Park: Henry Crawford
Emma: Frank Churchill 
Northanger Abbey: John Thorpe
Persuasion: William Elliot   

But why does such a character exist in Austen's work to begin with? Her plots vary, even though they are all romances. Yet this wolf in sheep's clothing is a perennial player.

Perhaps because it was a valid concern. What did one know of the man who was wooing them, really? If a girl was an heiress, she could be pursued for her money (Georgiana Darcy); if she was poor, she had to make sure her suitor's intentions were honorable (as Lydia Bennet failed to do). It was just by happy chance that Darcy was willing to pay for the only possible solution to a destructive scandal in order rectify the reputation of his future wife's family.
Via austenquotes.com
Since the dating state of affairs of circa 1800s are quite similar to our own, are we supposed to be more aware? In S&S, Eleanor warns Marianne that they know too little of Willoughby, and the signs that he was less than decent were blatantly present, prior to discovering his playing fast and loose with 15-year-old farm girls. 
Willoughby begs a lock of Marianne's hair
Marriage back then was usually permanent, despite the possibility of divorce provided by the Anglican church; once wed, there one stayed. Caution was vital

But dissecting every casual statement that is uttered by a date isn't the best way either. After Hyde revealed himself, I was wracked by the terror of the "what if?" What if he hadn't dropped his mask so early on? Is it possible for a man to keep up that facade until the altar (in our case, chuppah)? 

My upbringing was ingrained with paranoid fantasies as it is ("Lock the car doors, we're stopping by a light!") so it doesn't take much for me to think any unassuming fellow is Jack the Ripper.
To trust, yet to tread carefully. 

My head is starting to hurt. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Nu, You Can't Call Your Old Mother?"

I have felt for quite some time that the caricature of the "Yiddishe mama" has not been to our advantage. 
Take, for instance, my mother. Whilst Hungarian in origin (and there are enough stereotypes for that alone, never mind being a Jewish mother) I found I had to defend her identity to a fellow Hungarian. 

"What gives my mother the greatest joy is an empty pot," I explained. 

He looked at me quizzically. "Are you sure she's Hungarian?" 

Ma's logic is that if a pot is empty, that means whatever was in it was a big hit to the point that it was cleaned out. However, this fellow's mother is under the assumption that if a pot is empty, that means that there wasn't enough, meaning someone is going home slightly less stuffed than they should have been. 

I don't think that is a quality specific to Hungarians, but rather to all maternal Jews (what Hungarians get right is the cooking itself [I kid, I kid.]).  

As a child, it has happened (once or twice) that I would come home from school and say, "Ma, I don't have an appetite." According to lore, a true Yiddishe mama will fly into a panic, tuck the child into bed, and proceed to concoct a motley of delicacies to entice the youngster away from a wasted end. 

Ma: "You're not hungry? OK!" (Proceeds to hum cheerfully) 

This letter was published in the NY Times Book Review in response to a, well, reviewed book: 
To the Editor:
In a front-page review of “The Middlesteins” (Dec. 30), Julie Orringer proposes as common knowledge that all Jewish mothers pathologically overfeed their children. I thought that tired and distasteful canard had been put to rest. Yes, I had a Jewish mother, but no, she didn’t overfeed me or my siblings. If the claim was true and, as Orringer also suggests, it was a legacy of ancestral deprivation, all mothers from poor backgrounds (not just Jews) would overfeed. Suffering is not unique to Jews; almost everyone’s ancestors knew fear and hunger.
This stereotype has also been applied to Italian mothers, indicating that it is primarily a figment of the dominant culture and of assimilationist anxieties. To see it repeated on the cusp of 2013 suggests that the reviewer remains uncomfortable with, and hence unsympathetic toward, Jewishness — whether her own or that of others.
Chapel Hill, N.C.
The writer is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Amen, sir! 

Why are our womenfolk belittled as fusspots who drive their offspring to obesity? That they have no identity of their own, that they infantalize their children?
What happened to the tough Yiddishe momma who protects her brood with her awesome presence (with rolling pin in hand), yet drives them to better themselves?

As for the Jewish guilt? Unfair. There are so many other options for psychological manipulation, like passive-aggression. Jewish guilt is an art form, and just because one is a Jew with XX chromosomes doesn't mean she has it down pat.

Let us arise against this stereotype! The "Yiddishe Mama" needs a reboot.