Friday, August 30, 2013

Only One

The 1994 version of Little Women is probably one of my most beloved films. I never get tired of it, always happy to pop in the DVD. (The 1949 movie doesn't quite do it for me; too many inconsistencies and too much makeup to be historically accurate.)

There is the well-known scene when Jo accidentally singes off a lock of Meg's hair in a clumsy attempt to curl it for a party that evening. Meg is freaking, "I'll never have any suitors. I'll just be a dried-up old spinster." 
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Amy, still a youngster, flatly states in a rare streak of maturity, "You don't need scores of suitors. You only need one, if he's the right one."

During my dating saga, it has become apparent that quantity does not mean quality. Many of my dates I know immediately, if not beforehand, that it won't fly. Not that I don't make an effort, more like a premonition of futility. 

When the phone stays silent for an unnerving amount of time, or if suffering a string of one-date wonders, recall the words of a tiny Kirsten Dunst. 

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

To Be There, Both in Mind and Body

I love email. I really do. I love how I can use it to leisurely compose a letter, edit it repeatedly, eventually send it, then wait for a response, to which I can pretend I didn't get for enough time to brainstorm an acceptable reply. 

I love it most when I use it as a tool to blunt blows, like emailing a refusal after a painful date. Even an intimation of conflict leaves me gibbering in a closet, and avoiding uncomfortable situations is my modus operandi. Bless you, email, for allowing me to type rather than voice my objections, as I can be firmer via textual communication as opposed to in person. 

As a self-professed hater of smartphones, I suppose that I must concede that my arbitrarily drawn line (email OK, texts must die) cannot apply to the world at large; I still attempt to broadcast the importance of safe texting as much as I can. 

For added eloquence, we have Jonathan Safran Foer, "How Not to Be Alone." His prose is so beautiful that the article should be read in its entirety, but I shall slice and dice as usual. 

He echoes my earlier source that the distraction that technology offers dulls our sense of meaningfulness, as everything is experienced on the surface. The brain doesn't register deep emotion immediately the way it does pain, and a flickering screen prevents the synapses from firing fully.

The PBS show Call the Midwife takes place in 1950s London. In Episode 8 of Season 2, when Fred is handed his newly born grandchild, he muses aloud to the nurse, Chummy, who happens to be fretting that when her child comes, she will not have much to give it. 
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Fred: I grew up in bare feet. Me dad spent more on beer than he did on shoe leather. I used to think, "When I have kids, I'm gonna give them shoes, hot dinners, happy home." And I managed all three. Till Hitler intervened. When the bomb dropped, I weren't there. And that's what makes you a parent, Nurse Noakes: Proximity. They don't sell that in the shops. 

To be present and available, that is what is important. Back to Foer: 
Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention — even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.
Technological communication, Foer writes, shrinks experiences to mere shadows of the original import; while phones and computers have made it possible for those who are separated by many miles to interact in the same room, there is always a downside. 
The problem with accepting — with preferring — diminished substitutes is that over time, we, too, become diminished substitutes. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little.
Interactions can be messy, unpleasant, and draining; they can also be enjoyable, fulfilling, and invigorating. One cannot occur without the other. Since birth I have suffered from "crippling empathy," a curse of feeling too much, even to the point of immobility. But I think I would prefer the depth of compassion as opposed to superficial numbness. I am human, and should be able to place myself in another person's shoes. 

Foer reminds his audience that our time on this earth is limited; precious moments should be experienced, and certainly that which is memorable is never via a phone or computer. 
We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Industrious Elves

I was walking home the other day, and I was surprised to see something that which I believed extinct: A lemonade stand. 
http://www.mnn.com/sites/default/files/main_lemonade.jpg
In front of an impressive house, two flaxen-haired little girls, about five or so, stood proudly with their babysitter, a smiling Hispanic woman. Perhaps the girls read it in a book, or the nanny needed to entertain them; in any case, a cardboard box was flipped over, with a pitcher, some cups, and even cookies atop a checkered cloth. 

As they saw me come closer, they turned expectantly, whispering excitedly, giggling hopefully. "How much?" I inquired. "A dollar for a cup of lemonade and a cookie," the woman cheerfully said.

A dollar? So much for the bygone days of five-cent lemonade, when a quarter was considered extravagant. I suppose one has to factor in inflation. Ah well. 

I cheerfully forked over a George Washington for cloying Country Time mix but a rather good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. One of the little girls, however, felt cheated; as I continued on, I heard her whine, "It was supposed to be two dollars!"

There really is no replacement for the satisfaction one gets from earning honest money. Those children did not lack for anything in their luxe surroundings; probably their room was lined with every toy to grace this earth, yet they hungered for the negligible bills of cash in exchange for their earnest efforts (although they didn't exactly give me hand-squeezed lemonade). 

When I get my paycheck, I feel that same glee as a five-year-old with a lemonade stand.    

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: The New Crack?

The couple entered, but there was something significantly missing. Thirty pounds each. 

Apparently, they did not follow similar eating plans. She went to a nutritionist and implemented calorie counting. 

His was much more simple. He just stopped eating mezonos or hamotzi during the week. On Shabbos he allows himself a reunion with challah and cake, since he knows himself enough that going cold turkey wouldn't last. 

"Anything else I ate, and I mean anything else, as long as it wasn't hamotzi or mezonos." 

I have to say, I was somewhat dubious, but the lack of middle (and multiples chins) did not leave me room to argue.

Of course Dr. Oz provided some backup. 

His show featured Dr. William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly, presenting his hypothesis that modern wheat, after being meddled by geneticists, is no friend to the human body (whether in white or whole wheat form). 
http://www.meandmydiabetes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Wheat-Cheaper-than-Heroin.jpg 
He argues that contemporary "Frankenwheat" is poison, which reacts with the body the way sugar does. In the same way we get addicted to the sweet stuff, so to eating wheat begets more wheat consumption. 
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Every morning I used to have high fiber cereal, but I did notice that I became very hungry very quickly after eating it. Dr. Davis says that whole wheat is much healthier than white, but we would be better off if it was eliminated entirely. 
http://www.integrativepediatricsonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Frankenwheat.jpg
To clarify, this has nothing to do with gluten, so gluten-free is not the answer; standard gluten-free flours and starches really aren't good for the body either, so insubstantial and nutritionless that one is back where one started, sugar- and addiction-wise. Dr. Davis cautions not to replace a problem with a problem. 

Thankfully bulghur, while it is wheat, it is apparently from a species that has not been meddled with by scientists, since Dr. Davis gives it his blessing along with other non-wheat grains (in small amounts).

I had been already cutting back on grains when I first saw this story (with the enlightenment of Dr. Fuhrman), so the weight benefits I had already seen. There, I think, is the crux of the matter; it not just that Dr. Davis recommends cutting out simply wheat; his book markets a healthier eating plan in general. If someone was eating badly, they would lose weight anyhow, even with wheat. 

There is enough criticism of his theories that I do not take his admonishments to heart—um, to stomach. But, I have observed that I do not get satisfied from grains, only from vegetables. I could probably sit down and eat an entire loaf of buttered bread, while a few pan-roasted parsnips leaves me purringly content. 
http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/parsnip-3.jpg
There are many nutrients in whole grains—without oat bran, my life would be empty—but I shall keep them in moderation, focusing more on the greenery to keep me full. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Not Picky, Discerning

As someone whose teeth grind whenever an idiot launches into unasked-for detail how "single" automatically means "picky," it's a real sandbag in the head when I find myself on the other side. 

Sure, I've got criteria. One can date for only so long before she notices a correlation between "Marry me!" and a certain quality in the bachelor idly swirling the straw in his drink across the table.

OK, I'll start at the beginning. 

I was reading a Bad4 recommendation (yes, I read other books beyond Bad4's suggestions, but they mostly involve surviving the Plague, not the singles scene) entitled Data, A Love Story by Amy Webb. Webb, an non-religious Jew, succumbs to post-bad-date misery and in a fog of cigarette smoke and wine, scribbles down all the characteristics she truly wants in a man. The list goes on a bit (I don't think I could come up with 70 criteria points).
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Focusing on her online dating profile, she goes so far as to erect false male avatars on JDate to stake out what she refers to as "the competition." (Hint: Fabulously skinny, false sports fans, shiksas, and of course, blonde.)

Webb constantly uses words like "data" and "crunching numbers" and "spreadsheet"—the only Data I'm into is a fictional android—so I didn't pay that much attention when she got technical. 

However, those supposedly earth-shattering conclusions that she "discovered" did not need math or dummy dude profiles to find out. I would think that it is obvious that shrewd photo selection can make a big difference—makeup and a decent outfit does do wonders, who knew! 

Oh, her "genius" epiphany is not to primarily gush about her impressive job as though her dating profile was a professional résumé. Duh. No guy needs to hear about her high-powered gig; most aren't interested in the details of how one earns the rent payment. They want to hear about interests. I could have told her that, sans statistics. 
 
But anywho, back to her male screening system. She made up a list of desired characteristics and scored potential dates by whatever info they had available before she was willing to go out. 

As a single Jewish female who periodically receives male profiles, I've been doing this for years. "He's kind of iffy about his job, and spends more time rhapsodizing about his love of 'extreme' sports. Nope, not for me." 

What is for me? I'm not going to plapel the quirks that makes me swoon, but it's not a build like Paul Bunyan. 

A friend of mine insists that she is adamant about height; she wants a tall guy. Now I will shamefacedly confess that when she first said that, I actually (silently) channeled my great-aunt. "Vhat, a six footah? Neeeee, don't be so picky." (The line should have a strong Hungarian inflection.)

But what makes my desires any less valid than hers? What makes me go weak at the knees is most definitely more personality-based; yet does that make my preferences somehow nobly permissable? Yet I am also—no need to remind me—"still" single, for all my "reasonable" expectations. I'm in no position to cast judgment on the criteria of others. 

To continue: Webb found her husband in a surprisingly short time after she stopped being open to every schmo that crossed her path.
http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/nwitimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/e7/0e76147c-484d-51ce-b715-78944a1d9eec/516a2e0216ca9.preview-620.jpg
Amy Webb & Husband (a doctor, of course)
Obviously, there are a few chinks in Webb's system: (1) This is applicable only to the online dating world, and someone's potential spouse may not necessarily be there, on the same website; (2) Just because it went quickly for Webb makes it her own individual story, not a proven successful "method"; (3) Again, her "conclusions" were not brilliantly mathematical in nature, only commonsensical.

(As an aside, I found her being quite obvious in insisting how attractive she is in general, along with relating every time someone called her "beautiful." She posits that she has a quirky sense of humor—she even prefaces the book with a disclaimer that the reader will laugh out loud [I didn't]—but she seems to focus simply on vulgarity. Obscenity is not funny. It's just obscene.)

But in order to be discerning, one does seem to require a few years of dating experience. My approach to Bachelor #3 does differ from Bachelor #33. I don't want to say that I'm jaded, but I am wary. My glance can flick over a guy's photo and his "About Me" section and I can make a few conclusions right away. Often, in person, I was right. 

Being "open" gets old real fast, like in Webb's case. All that leads to is a string of throwaway evenings and crappy self-esteem. I have decided that it is permissible to have a few deal-breakers.

There are some characteristics that paper can't tell me. But for what paper can tell me . . . if it important enough to him to write it down, I might as well take it into consideration and not ignore it, rather than rationalize, "Oh, when he meets me he'll change his mind." 

"Thank you, but I don't think it's shayach." Love that phrase.    

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bulghur

When I was a youngster, the traditional erev Shabbos fare was farfel. With a soupçon of ketchup, it usually hit the spot. 

Now I am no longer that trusting child, and realized that all these years there was an interloper in my midst. The white flour that is farfel had to go. 

I tried quinoa for a while, and yes, while tasty (with added sautéed onions and vegetables), it never seems to satisfy me. I could sit down and consume the entire pot. 

Meddling about in the grains aisle, I spotted on the lowest shelf Sadaf Bulghur in a variety of grinds, ranging from the #1 Fine to #4 Very Course. I purchased the latter (I like a little something to chew on), cooked it with the same technique as the farfel (toasted with a little oil, add boiling water, salt, hint of pepper and garlic powder, simmer until done). 
http://www.sadaf.com/images/sites/1/products/medium/21-4038.jpg
Is it possible a grain can taste like cake? No, seriously.  

Ta is a real pasta eater, meaning farfel makes his Shabbos shine. He never was crazy about the quinoa replacement. 

I experimented by adding onions and mushrooms a lá risotto, but you know what? The bulghur tastes better without it. That hint of sweetness works fabulously alone, heightened by a dash of sea salt.
http://tiffanycooks.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/february-2010-silly-home-0011.jpg
Via tiffanycooks.wordpress.com
It takes much less time than brown rice or other whole grains to cook (20 minutes as opposed to 45+).

Dr. Oz, by the way, has crowned bulghur a "superfood."
A Turkish grain, this powerful superfood is packed with cancer-fighters including magnesium, zinc and fiber. Research has shown that pre-menopausal women eating more than 30 grams of fiber per day cut their risk of breast cancer in half. Just 1 cup of cooked bulgur wheat supplies 8 grams of fiber – one-third of your recommended daily dose.   

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Conditional Love


One of the contemporary issues is the saddening existence of agunos, women who are bound in a travesty of marriage from vindictive husbands. There has been some chatter to add a clause in kesubos to avoid the problem altogether, but it doesn't seem to be catching on. 
 http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/images/Beauty15b.jpg
Perhaps our squeamishness to meddle with the classical text would be allayed if we were aware of what was the sort of clauses that were in the marriage documents way back when: 
Outhwaite’s team, for example, has uncovered a prenuptial agreement in which Faiza bat Solomon made her fiancé, Tobias — nicknamed “Son of a Buffoon” — promise to “abandon foolishness and idiocy,” and “not associate with corrupt men,” or face a hefty penalty of 10 gold dinars. Another document spells out a legal agreement between Sitt I-Nasab and her husband, Solomon, preventing his mother and sisters from entering his wife’s quarters or making “any request of her at all, not even a match.”  
Here I was panicking that I may have to diplomatically navigate shviggur-infested waters, but I could easily insert a clause that my mother-in-law can never insult my cooking! 

Scene: Cairo, 1182 C.E., Solomon Residence

Tobias knocks on the front door and asks Solomon for Faiza's hand in marriage. Solomon says, "Hang on, let me ask." 

"So, Faiza, Tobias has asked for your hand!" 

"Tobias? 'The Son of a Buffoon'? Are you kidding me?" 

"I'm sure his foolishness, idiocy, and association with corrupt men will change with marriage." 

"Abba, please, I'm not taking that on faith. I want that in writing."

"OK. How much should the penalty be?" 

"Let's see . . . 10 dinars? I could build up quite a nest-egg that way." 

Solomon hurries back to Tobias. "No problem! If I could just scratch in a teeny-tiny condition . . . got a quill?" 

What would I stick into my prenup? Must attend davening on time except in instances of travel, illness, and hostage situations. Penalty: Wife may purchase a pair of shoes and he must remain silent about lack of storage space.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For Matrimonial Purposes

Kavita Daswani's initial novel made Bad4's shidduch lit list, and I do trust Bad4's recommendations following To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Seven Blessings
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Within the first few pages of For Matrimonial Purposes, I found myself sliding onto the floor with the glee that the name "Anju" could have been easily replaced with "Rivky," "sari" with "layering tee," and "chapatis" with "challah." That is how close to identical the Indian style of dating is to our own. They even have shadchanus and "Im yertz Hashem by you." 

Although, they seem to be a big fan of the b'sho, as opposed to the yeshivish and left onwards method of the coke in the lobby. Oh, a lobby story is in there, except her father and brothers tag along. 

Now, you may find this odd, but I have to admit the book gave me a lot of chizuk. No, really. See, the main character is very relatable; she's an Indian girl like any other, from a good background, with an energetic mother chatting up a storm on her behalf, but for whatever reasons cannot seem to find a groom. 
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Gurus and yogis and the stars are consulted and bribed for blessings. She takes on a holy fast weekly. Charms are donned. Prayers are recited. 

Nothing doing.

She follows every single neurotic scrap of advice tossed her way. She behaves meekly in the presence of every potential suitor, even if she would like to rip his face off. She applies stinging face masks since "men only want light-skinned girls." 

Bupkis. 

She stays as open as humanly possible. She even tries online dating, despite her qualms. She overlooks quite a lot, character-wise, in the bachelors that cross her path. 

Nada.  

Anju, the protagonist (who is probably Daswani's alter-ego in what is surely her real-life tale), decides to move a little way away from the life she grew up with, but she still wants to date in the only system she knows how to. She doesn't want to defy or rebel against her upbringing. She longs for the same thing that her friends found in their teens and twenties; a husband, children, a home of her own.

That is the concept I reveled in. Comparably, I may complain about dating, sure, but I don't know how nor do I want to date any other way. This shidduch system is the method I know. It's not like my parents or grandparents met on their own, the way many of my contemporaries' did. 

Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Shidduch dating is my personal "democracy"; it may not be the best, but for me, everything else seems a lot worse by comparison.

Then another point: Sometimes people are single not because they are necessarily doing anything "wrong," it's just not yet meant to be.

Reviewers online were claiming that the character of Anju was contradictory, that a traveling, socializing fashionista who wants an arranged marriage is not believable. As a frummie, it was believable to me. Heck, aren't a lot of us like that?  
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Kavita Daswani
Daswani is adept at keeping her reader's attention; I polished off the book within three hours on a Shabbos afternoon, without my usual needed breaks. Chick-lit yes (with smarmy poetry at the end that kinda pushed it), but a fun, harmless, feel-good read.    

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Battle of Bulge: Knowledge is Powerless

"You see, you're eating it, it's good, isn't it?" 

One of my biggest detractors is my brother Owen. I have winced for years as he heartily pours brimming goblets of Coke for his children; I would then try to neutralize the sugary damage by popping sliced grapes into eager open mouths, lined with rotting teeth. 

Whenever Owen leads me into temptation by slapping some sort of oozing store-bought goodie on the kitchen countertop, he once again misses the point by about fifty miles. 

I never claimed that soda and its ilk doesn't taste good. What I have insisted is that they are just plain bad for you. 
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I have no problem ignoring "poisonous" items in the supermarket, and my home is a haven for the toxin-free. That is why I eat out so rarely; in the murky confines of a back-kitchen, I know not what sort of vitriolic amounts of fat, sugar, and salt it being indiscriminately poured into my albeit delicious lunch. 

When those who dine out are informed as to calorie amounts, Stephanie Clifford reports, even those who watch themselves succumb to the crappiest item on the menu.

Why? The brain does a great job of kashering the pig by making the most calorie-dense offering acceptable by association to the best option available in the same eatery. Just having a salad with low-fat vinaigrette under the shared roof absolves the sinful fettuccine alfredo of any wrong-doing. 

Frank Bruni is an example of the study's participants.
The chicken salad hero at Lenny’s, a chain in New York, has 213 more calories than the tuna salad on the same kind of bread. I did no research to bring you this information. On the big menu board at the Lenny’s around the corner from me, where I sometimes grab a perfunctory lunch, the calorie counts of every item are clearly posted. The city made this mandatory for such restaurants about five years ago, hoping that informed gluttons might be reformed gluttons: that if we had more knowledge about where our efforts to slim down were going wrong, we’d have more power to change them.
And yet four out of every five lunches at Lenny’s, I get the chicken salad, all 879 calories of it, because there’s something more persuasive than nutritional data. It’s called mayonnaise. I can taste it in the chicken salad but not in the leaner tuna, partly explaining the extra damage — and the exaggerated siren’s call — of the former. The stomach wants what it wants, even if the love handles pay a pendulous price for it.
When that slab of seduction is laid before me, I know what will happen; the submission to good ol' fashioned gluttony, dulling my senses with saturated fat (I hope not trans). While I chew, for those few seconds, I am, admittedly, blissful.

However, unlike my equally (if not more so) scrumptious veggie-based diet (yes, I said "scrumptious"), there are painful ramifications. Like by any relapsing addict: Self-loathing, flagellation, withdrawal, and promises of "never again." It's easier to stay on the road than search endlessly to find it again.
 http://www.coachrobertsimmons.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Emerald_City_3.jpg
You're my brother, Owen, so I think I love you. But please stop waving that calzone under my nose.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Typically Typical

The next table at the wedding was filled with chassidishe relatives. 

"They are dressed exactly alike!" noted a female on my right. "They're wearing the same pillbox hat, the same string of pearls, the same little black suit . . ." 
http://www.imj.org.il/images/news/all/12/Hasidic9.jpg
I observed my own table. All wore long wigs, styled in identical overdone curls. They all wore black sleeveless dresses that necessitated a black layering tee. In each hand was a smartphone; each forehead was furrowed as they squinted at the glowing screen.
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At least at the chassidishe table they were actually smiling and talking to one another. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Elizabeth Bennet: Mellenial Edition

Behold, I am a late-comer to "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," a modern reenactment of P&P. It's pretty cute. 


There's a lot of these episodes (100+) in various lengths, for which I am thankful as my supply of summer TV is drying up. 

As a warning, since the episodes are about three minutes in length, the constant tinkling music of the opening credits does get wearisome if sitting though ten videos at a shot.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Jane Austen Obsessives Unite

Poor, poor, Colin Firth. 

On his tombstone there won't be much mention of his many superbly acted roles (George VI!) except for Mr. Darcy in the A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, thanks to the many, many women swooning over his performance. 
 http://mylusciouslife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Colin-Firth-as-Mr-Darcy2.jpg
Men's styles were so flattering in the early 1800s.

Luke forwarded me the trailer for Austenland, and I decided to read the book before seeing it (I'm waiting to read the reviews, though) so that the film would not mess about with the original tale. 
Austenland (the book) was written by Shannon Hale, and I found it a fun, light read. Jane Hayes, a constant seeker of love who sees every man who crosses her path as a potential soul mate, is a closeted adorer of A&E's P&P. Her friend admonishes her for her intensity, referencing Jane's tendency to refer to any innocent male interaction as a relationship. 
http://img2.imagesbn.com/p/9781596912861_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg
That is why I adored the conclusion. The huntswomen questing for a longtime partner, as opposed to casual boyfriends, should feel no shame in their pursuit.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Awareness Gets Me What?

There was a fascinating article about the scam of the Susan G. Komen foundation; the media hypes breast cancer awareness, while results show that the mortality rate from this disease has been relatively unchanged. 
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Breast-cancer survivor Peggy Orenstein wrote "Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer." The information she presents is gripping, but what I want to excerpt is this segment: 
Breast cancer in your breast doesn’t kill you; the disease becomes deadly when it metastasizes, spreading to other organs or the bones. Early detection is based on the theory, dating back to the late 19th century, that the disease progresses consistently, beginning with a single rogue cell, growing sequentially and at some invariable point making a lethal leap. Curing it, then, was assumed to be a matter of finding and cutting out a tumor before that metastasis happens.
The thing is, there was no evidence that the size of a tumor necessarily predicted whether it had spread. According to Robert Aronowitz, a professor of history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Unnatural History: Breast Cancer and American Society,” physicians endorsed the idea anyway, partly out of wishful thinking, desperate to “do something” to stop a scourge against which they felt helpless. So in 1913, a group of them banded together, forming an organization (which eventually became the American Cancer Society) and alerting women, in a precursor of today’s mammography campaigns, that surviving cancer was within their power. By the late 1930s, they had mobilized a successful “Women’s Field Army” of more than 100,000 volunteers, dressed in khaki, who went door to door raising money for “the cause” and educating neighbors to seek immediate medical attention for “suspicious symptoms,” like lumps or irregular bleeding.
The campaign worked — sort of. More people did subsequently go to their doctors. More cancers were detected, more operations were performed and more patients survived their initial treatments. But the rates of women dying of breast cancer hardly budged. All those increased diagnoses were not translating into “saved lives.” That should have been a sign that some aspect of the early-detection theory was amiss. Instead, surgeons believed they just needed to find the disease even sooner.
According to statistics, early-awareness is not the key to "fight" breast cancer. But physicians "felt helpless," and were desperate to act, even with no factual basis to back up their awareness campaign.

It made me think, funnily enough, of the current state of "shidduch crisis" hysteria. There is no definite proof of any such ailment. Suddenly this term has become an integral to contemporary jargon, despite the actual fact that we are the people of bashert. Any sort of romantic "destined" is off the table; individuals are blamed, the rising divorce rate is ignored, and Hashem as the divine Matchmaker has been outsourced. 

Jews were used to feeling helpless, once. We've been persecuted since before the destruction of the Temples; as we attempted to live modest lives without vitriolic anti-Semitism, we relied on Hashem as the only reliable means to keep us safe. 

Baruch Hashem, we now live in a land where we can finally call quite a few shots. We can march outdoors with an obvious kapul, tzitzis flying in the wind. We daven on public transportation. We demand from our councilman as to how we want our tax dollars spent. 
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We are not used to being helpless anymore. When we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot manipulate the results, the reaction should be, "I must rely on God." 

Instead there are articles and organizations and crazy people that insist God isn't needed. "Shidduch crisis, shidduch crisis, shidduch crisis" is parroted on a loop, terrorizing the impressionable to leap before they look. 
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Because physicians felt helpless, they initiated a misguided awareness campaign. Girls and women have been harassed into believing they are all ticking time-bombs for specifically breast cancer, while its rates are no higher, or even less, than many other illnesses, both female- and human-specific. Only recently has the biggest killer, heart disease, gotten a bus ad.

Thanks to the "shidduch crisis awareness campaign," everybody is "aware." But what has changed, exactly? What has it helped? What are the "results"? There are still "older" singles, along with plenty of engagements happening every day. Just take a look at OnlySimchas, which posts a mere fraction of them.

An awareness campaign is needed in another area: There are times when one has to realize one's limitations. My limitation here is that I cannot have a spouse on demand. Han will show up when he is supposed to, no earlier, no later. As a Jew who believes that Hashem spends His day making shidduchim, then I have to leave Him to it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: White Flour is Eeeeeevil

For one charming stage in my teenagehood, my digestive system was in painful knots every motzei Shabbos due to the white challah. Even now, after dutifully washing by a cousin's wedding and then again the next night by a sheva brachos, my stomach made its annoyance quite clear. I just can't consume the bleached stuff. 

If white flour is a main player in one's diet, I would respectfully suggest changing that. One of the benefits of whole wheat is, not only better nutrients, but higher fiber. Fiber = full. Full = less eating.  
 
One cereal that changed my life is Trader Joe's High Fiber Cereal.

In just 2/3 cup, there is 9 grams of fiber for just 80 calories. And the twigs don't taste too bad either. I add a little of Barbara's Shredded Oats or Shredded Spoonfuls (also available at Trader Joe's), which are also high fiber, for some flavor. 

The kinfauna LOVE the Barbara's Shredded Oats. The most unwilling eater will happily consume it. They call it "Lea's Favorite Cereal," and I never have to bribe them to have breakfast. Or dinner.

Costco carries wonderful whole wheat pitas and tortillas by Damascus Bakeries, 110 calories each and 7g of fiber. There is also this amazing multi-grain bread that is a whopping 150 calories a slice, so I am not going to recommend that (a sandwich, before the toppings, was already 300 calories).  

With whole wheat pasta one has to be a tad crafty. Look at the ingredients: "Enriched" is the word to avoid (it means that nutrients were stripped from the flour then added back. Ew). Make sure the pasta is made with whole wheat flour only; very often, even though the label says "whole-wheat," it could be a mere blend. The ingredients should say "100% whole wheat."

Kosher brands carry plenty of whole wheat options; I particularly like whole wheat macaroni. Whole wheat egg noodles for lukshen kugel is also a nice way to mix it up.
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Alternate flours: I got into these because of my nephew with celiac disease; there are so many flours out there that are gluten-free and provide great amounts of fiber, like buckwheat (6g per 1/3 cup), white bean (8g per 1/4 cup! Say what? But it does have an aftertaste I can't stand), and corn (4g per1/4 cup).

I really like to use cornmeal (5g per 1/4 cup) and oat bran (6g per 1/3 cup) instead of standard bread crumbs. Like for shnitzel. 
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When making homemade challah, there are so many options in-store available for whole wheat flours; however, Ma gets hers from Canada, which experience has shown that the best whole wheat flour comes from there. If you have a friend living up north, have them get you a bag of Five Roses Whole Wheat Flour.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Comedians Sleep At Night

It is a rarely recognized disability, but it does exist: there are people out there, this very minute, who were born without funny bones. 

It is not something that should be made little of; these humorless individuals sometimes do not realize their handicap and, under the misapprehension that they are "funny," joke irresponsibly.
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However, true comedians, as an astute observer will realize, base the majority of their zingers against themselves. They have no limit on self-punishment. Whereas those devoid of wit often believe that comedy is simply mocking others.

Like the guy who sits next to Luke in shul. "He just doesn't get it," he shakes his head sadly. "He thinks being funny means being insulting. Then he's surprised when people get insulted." 

A youngish mother was sitting next to me by a shiur. The speaker was saying how parents should joke with their kids. "But my kids don't like it when my husband is being funny," she protested. I know her husband; he has never been "funny" a day in his life. He has been mean, however. 
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I have a relative who I find hysterical. True, she will mock others, but mainly on that list of targeted individuals is herself. As long as someone is willing to point out their own absurdities to the world, she is funny. 

In walks the applicable article, "Avoiding Joker's Remorse" by Henry Alford. 
So, how is a joke-maker to proceed? Generally speaking, if someone self-deprecates about an aspect of his own persona, or if he appears to be amused when other people joke about this same aspect of his persona, then we sense a possible comedic opening.
But this comedic opening should not be mistaken for carte blanche. As they said at Yalta, “Boundaries, people!” 
As a self-deprecating individual, I certainly have been on the receiving end when a comment made at my own expense is used against me by an unfunny/mean companion. 
Many joke-makers think status is an important factor here. Joan Rivers said: "My husband was English and he always said, ‘You only yell at or tease your peers because they have the right to yell or tease back at you.’ The playing field has to be level or above you." 
My policy is, "If you can give it, you can take it." Duck.   

Monday, August 12, 2013

Human Shield

I have been stalked by an undesirable bachelor for some time. Before any of you say, "Oh, just give him a chance," be aware that it is no one's idea of a good time to be alone with a stranger who, I suspect, is mentally unhinged. 

He had managed to finagle an invitation to a neighbor's house, and that Shabbos I could see him from my spot in the shul's ladies section. At some point, his host, a true romantic, gestured to him my vague vicinity behind the thankfully obscure barrier. 

I watched in horror as he batted his lashes, goofily grinned, and preened embarrassingly at the lacy curtain that divided the men from the women, unaware that his histrionics were more accurately aimed in Ma's direction on my left rather than myself. 

It was time to bail. 

"Sweetie," I cooed to my niece on my right, "would you like to go home?" I had dragged her to shul pretty early, and her 9-year-old stamina was feeling rather put-upon by my orders of standing, sitting, standing again, amein, amein, amein, but she decided to be noble. 

"I don't mind either way." 

Shoot. "No, babycakes, if you want to go back, I have no problem taking you." 

"Really, I can stay." 

No more sugarcoating. "Get up. I need to to leave and I'm using you as an excuse. I'll tell you more on the way home."

Just in case he lay in wait, I peered ahead into the hallway, then made a run for it, my niece trotting in my wake. When we were a safe distance from our place of worship I told her all the details.
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Nothing thrills a young girl like the confidences of a dating adult. She giggled delightedly as I told her of my repellant suitor, and for weeks later happily brought it up. 

I let her. She deserves a bonus for being my exit plan.