Friday, January 31, 2014

I'll Have What She's Having

"I want a boy who will learn for one or two years after marriage," she says carefully, "because-it-sets-a-different-tone-in-the-home." She recited that last bit as though she was reading it off an index card. "I think." 

My objection to this statement is not about learning—if one is making an educated decision, based on their personal beliefs and desires, followed through by level-headed financial planning, gesinteheit. My annoyance is that it is a catchphrase, parroted from someone else, who very possibly has sufficient funds to support a son or son-in-law for however long he may desire to learn following his chassanah.   

This girl (one of many) was repeating a statement, not even sure of what she was saying or what the ramifications are, not taking her own self into the equation. Generalities have no place in the individualized, specific cases of each unique marriage. 

Who knows what sort of aggravation to a young struggling couple that simple declaration provided? 

A gal wrote in to a local paper, feeling powerless in her single state, asking how to up her hishtadlus. She was told to go after what she wants, what she needs, what works for her, not anyone else. Then you will have success, she was told.

As for the "different tone"? Let us take a hypothetical: What if this gal married a fellow who is, say, working? With their combined incomes, they are able to thoroughly feather their nest before a money-draining baby comes along. "What sort of 'tone' would be in the house then?" Ma dryly commented. 

One of the fun things about being an "elderly" single is that a thriving savings account is a possibility. There is a couple I know that married "late"; the gal was 30, the fellow also in that ballpark. I would see them by public transportation, smiling cheerfully, as the two spent the commute chatting. 

Then I noticed I didn't see her anymore, only her hubbie. I wondered vaguely what circumstance had changed. One freezing winter morning, I spied her in the driver's seat of a sedan, dropping off her husband to spare him frostbite. In the back was a curly-haired moppet, merrily peering through the frosty window. The couple was conversing leisurely, mellow and at peace. 

Even though I have no idea what they were talking about (she could have been serenely calling him every name a sailor could think of), that seemingly calm, contented image is wedged into my brain. 

Stress is a killer. Financial stress is a big one. I know, for me, that gazing into a beloved's eyes, after the nonspecific phrases of "I'll follow you anywhere," gets old real fast. You have to look around the corner (haroeh es hanolad). It doesn't take much to destroy my nerves, and I've chosen to date in away that will preserve them as much as possible, which still leaves my spleen in pretty bad shape.   

Date for you. Not for the neighbor, not for your morah, not for your rosh yeshivah. Certainly not for a slogan. Date for you. It is your life, your actions you are responsible for. A marriage is about two people, and if you choose to include anyone else into it: Three's a crowd, never mind twenty. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Pursuit of Meaningfulness

"Happiness," that elusive prize. Yes, what makes people happy differs on an individual level; my idea of a happy night is a good book and a pre-warmed bed. Ah, sweet joy. Oh, yours is different?
Emily Esfahani Smith and Jennifer L. Aaker clearly break down the concepts into digestible parts in "Millenial Searchers." Are millenials a bunch of selfish brats, as trends like the "selfie" would attest?

It would seem not. Yes, while most youth hunger for a job that would make them happy, they are really searching for meaningful employment. "Meaning" and "happiness," however, are not the same thing.
"Meaning" means devoting oneself to others, giving of oneself, whereas "happiness" is about the "me," taking. Happiness is fleeting; meaning isn't. For instance, take child-rearing. It is a messy, exhausting, often thankless gig, so while a parent may not necessarily be happy in the point of time when sharing a house with a three-year-old, meaning rules the day. Happiness is based on little things; meaning focuses on the big picture. 

Sadly, it would seem that young people are more self-centered in "good times," and more concerned about others in "bad times." It is a shame that comfort and ease brings out the worst in humanity, whereas if the stock market goes belly-up . . . 

It has always worried me how people suddenly "get it" when "it gets" tough. Do we really have to wait until we are tested?  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rabbi Ben Ezra

This past motzei Shabbos Rabbi Yisroel Reisman's navi shiur focused on the Ibn Ezra, the biblical commentator who is well-known for his rationalist, p'shat-based perspective. 

Rabbi Avrohom ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1089-1164) did not have an easy life. His wife died young, as did his three daughters. His son converted to Islam, but he eventually returned to Judaism. Because of his controversial viewpoints, the Ibn Ezra was not well liked by many of the rabbinate.
He was poor to such an extent that he said in a poem, "if I were to sell candles, the sun would never set; if I should deal in shrouds, no one would ever die." He would not accept monetary assistance from his students, stating it was by divine decree that he be in poverty. His students would try elaborate ruses to maneuver some money into his possession, but they would not succeed; circumstances, not even the Ibn Ezra, dictated otherwise.

He spent a restless existence, wandering from Spain to Italy to Israel to France to Britain.

Googling him on Sunday from idle curiosity, Wikipedia informed me that Robert Browning wrote a poem about him, "Rabbi Ben Ezra." It is not really about him, but rather his philosophy. I was struck by the somewhat mussar-dik passages (I didn't insert the entirety of the work since it is quite long):
Rejoice we are allied
To That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod;
Nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.

Then, welcome each rebuff 
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence,—a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks,—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale . . .

Not once beat "Praise be Thine!
I see the whole design,
I, who saw power, see now love perfect too:
Perfect I call Thy plan:
Thanks that I was a man!
Maker, remake, complete,—I trust what Thou shalt do! . . .

Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They this thing, and I that: whom shall my soul believe? . . .

But I need, now as then,
Thee, God, who mouldest men;
And since, not even while the whirl was worst,
Did I,—to the wheel of life
With shapes and colours rife,
Bound dizzily,—mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst:

So, take and use Thy work:
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

Browning manages to capture the very essence of belief. Ibn Ezra certainly had more detractors in his lifetime than supporters, and while he was no stranger to heartbreak, to hardship, to hostility, he calmly accepted the Will of Above, and remained steadfast in his own conclusions.   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rally at the Crossroads

Ann Leary, wife of Denis Leary, published author, was featured in Modern Love: "Rallying to Keep the Game Alive."
It begins with how the family tended to play tennis; fiercely, competitively, often resulting in sore losers. Denis would even "re-invent" the game in his own favor, refusing the acknowledge the accepted rules. 

The two had married young, had two children, and soon were in marital therapy. They decided to stay together for the sake of their children, however.

Yet at one point, they stated, simultaneously, their decision to split. Following the session, they sat down to a companionable lunch.
It was all over, there was nothing to lose, so I decided to serve up my final grievances, the things I felt he needed to know to fully understand that he was the cause of our marriage’s untimely end. I reminded him, in a resigned tone, of the time he did this, the time he did that . . . 
This was how we had come to view our marriage, as a penguin marriage, a partnership devoted to raising children. We had hoped to stick it out until they left the nest, but now it looked as if that would be impossible. So we were just having a last look.
Denis carefully refolded his napkin, and then said: “I’m sorry. If I could change those things I would, but I can’t. They’re in the past. But, I’m sorry.”
I had expected him to cry foul, to react the way he did when I said a questionable tennis shot of his was out. But he just said he was sorry. And I believed him. He had no reason to make up that kind of thing now.
That simple, uncharacteristic apology vanquished all the anger she held against him. They never ended up separating. 
So things got better. We went to our counselor. We went to our movies. We worked at treating each other more fairly. And we started playing a lot of tennis, just the two of us, whenever we could. Only now we played by the rules . . .
Though we were still ultracompetitive, we were becoming intensely proud when the other hit an amazing shot, and we didn’t hate the winner when we lost. We still played to win, but now we could feel joy for the other. We wanted to improve, and now we wanted, were actually thrilled, to see the other get better, too . . .
Denis was serving in this deciding game. He served carefully, not trying to ace it past me for once . . . I hit the ball into his court, and he hit it back into mine. I placed the ball in his court carefully, so carefully, and he placed it back in mine. We rallied, not with the adrenaline-pumping determination to win at all costs, but with the patience and control that came with not wanting it to be over: not the summer, not our son’s childhood, not this game, ever.
Back and forth we sent the ball. And it occurred to me there was some sort of grace in my husband’s form, and I felt it in mine, too, as we both worked to keep the game alive just a little longer, by trying to find each other’s sweet spot, by playing, for once, to the other’s advantage. 
I was struck by this article in contrast to an "Unhitched" profile called "When Nest Emptied, Discontent Entered." In the newspaper itself it was also labeled, "A Wrong Turn Taken at a Crossroads." 

The divorce was apparently at her instigation; while he is now with someone else, he states that he should have put up more of a fight to save the marriage. 

She wanted him to be "more," and blamed her discontent on him while he loved her as is. 
“I’m one of those feminists who is hard to satisfy: I wanted romance, a partner, a provider and a man to do half the domestic work. I looked to Ed for happiness rather than finding it myself.” She thinks this attitude was in part a byproduct of the confusing times when women were told they could have it all. 
Eventually, her harping pushed him away for good, while she had always believed that he would never leave her. Dating is certainly not as fun as she thought it would be. 
Their issues now seem superficial, not good enough reasons for ending the marriage. “I’m not happier, but I’m happy. We both have changed tremendously.”[Boomers divorce so often because they] want too much. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: The Moment of Truth

I bought a scale

I did have a scale, kinda. It was Costco issue, a mechanical model that would recalibrate at whimsy. Additionally, I shared it with the other members of my household, and when it began to stubbornly provide the same number that I was unhappy to see, even after a few weeks of really, really, REALLY watching myself, I went on Amazon and purchased the best reviewed item.
At least, for that window of shipment time, I could pretend it's the scale's fault.

But I am determined to eradicate, to the best of my ability, any shreds of denial. In general. What better way than to have my own personal scale parked in my bathroom, casting a judgmental eye every time I enter? 

Maybe I should leave it in the kitchen. 

Anywho, the item is quite accurate. Too accurate. I wonder what my weight would be if I cut my hair. 

In any case, I am not sure if weighing myself daily is a good idea (eat one little thing with sodium and the scale lovingly measures every ounce of water weight) but the die is cast. Studies have established that those who weigh themselves daily stick to the "path" with far greater success. 

The scale seems to enjoy messing with me; it is impossible that I gained six pounds in two days, considering what I eat (mostly plant life). 

Nope, this wasn't a good idea. It's making me neurotic. 

The time to weigh oneself should be first thing in the morning, before consuming any food, even a glass of water.

And today's number is . . .  

Damn you! 

Luke popped in for a visit, and due to his recent re-interest in weight maintenance, blithely asked the way to my new toy. 

"It's mean," I warned him. "It'll make you cry." 

He waved a dismissive hand, and pranced up the stairs to my bathroom. He emerged rather deflated. 

"Your scale is mean," he affirmed. 

The next morning I gingerly step onto it, and it triumphantly flashes a string of perfectly reasonable numbers. 

"You have been spared today," I magnanimously decree. "This is not the morning I throw you out the window."  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Credit Can't Buy Love

It may seem very late in the game, but I decided I have to get a credit card.
I've always preferred debit, since my inability to do basic math would easily have me overspend. But Ta has been insistent that I should build up good credit history for future use, and I went online to apply for an American Express Blue Everyday Card. 

I merrily clicked and typed, and was then stunned to be shot down. 

You rejected me? ME? The gerudeh mechel? I was overdrawn ONCE by $34 in five years! Ever since then, the good girl! Well, who needs you! There are other cards out there, better cards, cards that know what I'm worth! You didn't reject me, I reject you! 

To add insult to injury, I came home that day to find a credit card application from American Express Blue Everyday waiting for me. Do they know how to rub salt in the wound.

I find it funny how my reaction is pretty much the same when it comes to dating. I go out with a guy, he's pleasant enough but I'm not excited; I decide to be a mature adult and be willing to go out again. But he says no. While it appears as though I am pining after him, I am actually doing a dance on the inside. I get the image of the nebach.

It just goes to show that in those cases, it has nothing to do with the heart, only the ego.    

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: Go Nuts!

As an "apple," my ears always perk when Dr. Oz totes his "Flat Belly Plan"s (he always re-sells it a couple of times a year). But it seems to be remaining the same over time, and independent of his advocacy. 

Along with dairy-sourced calcium consumption, MUFAs are highly recommended. MUFA stands for monounsaturated fatty acids, found in oils, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados.  

"The key to fighting fat is eating fat—healthy fat." It may sound counter-intuitive, but the same way upping water intake rids the body of retained water, healthy fats not only decrease visceral fat, the deep, enmeshed fat around the organs, but also improves overall health. 

A small serving with every meal keeps one satisfied—I can attest to that. I harbored a childhood dislike of nuts which I have recently conquered; my pantry and fridge now boasts Costco-issue sacks of pine nuts, pecans, and walnuts. 

Jane Brody spreads the joyous benefits of nuts in "Snacking Your Way to Better Health." Thousands of people were studied over decades: 
The more often nuts were consumed, the less likely participants were to die of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, and not because nut eaters succumbed to other diseases. Their death rate from any cause was lower during the years they were followed. (The nuts in question were pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts and walnuts.)
Those who ate nuts seven or more times a week were 20 percent less likely to die from 1980 to 2010; even among those who consumed nuts less often than once a week, the death rate was 11 percent lower than for those who did not eat them.
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t nuts fattening? Yes, an ounce of nuts has 160 to 200 calories, nearly 80 percent from fat.
But in study after study, the more often people ate nuts, the leaner they tended to be. For example, in a Mediterranean study that tracked the effect of nut consumption on weight gain over the course of 28 months, frequent nut consumers gained less weight than those who never ate nuts, and were 43 percent less likely to become overweight or obese.
The body metabolizes nuts differently than other foods; not all of the fat is actually absorbed into the body (I can't remember the source for this, but it has been corroborated from more than one publication).
Now, of course, salted nuts will kind of defeat the purpose by upping water weight, so only unsalted, and raw is best.

I have also found nuts to be an ideal snack for rigorous shopping days; easy to carry along, conveniently bite-sized, and munching only a little results in reliable energy. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In His Shoes

The Big Bang Theory, "Itchy Brain Stimulation": 

Leonard discovers in the junk box a DVD he was supposed to return for Sheldon seven years ago. Knowing Sheldon's OCD tendancies all too well, he begs him not to freak, claiming he will take care of it.

Uncharacteristically, Sheldon calmly acquiesces, much to Leonard's shock. Suspiciously, he keeps asking if Sheldon will actually not flip out, as he has previously woken him up in the night and interrupted his bathroom time, demanding the conclusion of an unresolved task. 

Sheldon: You completely disregard how uncomfortable unresolved issues are for me. It's like an itch in my brain I can't scratch. 

Leonard laughs off that comparison. 

Sheldon: You wouldn't make jokes if you could feel the way I feel. 

Leonard: Well, I don't know how to do that. 

Sheldon thinks a moment, then suggests that Leonard don the hideous, super-itchy sweater from his aunt recently discovered in the junk box, wearing it next to his skin, until this issue is resolved. Leonard accepts the challenge.

The store was closed (obviously), so Leonard searched for the owner, who was dead. While he scrabbles out the sweater in relief, displaying angry red patches of skin, Wolowitz suggests finding the heirs. Weeping, he climbs back into it, and spends the afternoon in the Armenian church where the funeral was held, but there had been no attendees. Sheldon casually mentions searching Armenia for anymore relatives, at which point Leonard is mindless in itchy agony.
It turned out that Sheldon had been contacted by the video store seven years ago that his DVD was overdue, and he had paid for it (ergo his serenity), but decided to sit on that knowledge since he figured it could turn into a teachable moment.

While I am (hopefully) not as obsessive as Sheldon, I loathe limbo. Not the game, although I am not a fan since I am the first one out, but rather that state of nisht a heir nisht a heen.

I feel oppressed when I have to return a $12 purchase to Old Navy—an unfinished task. I suffer greater agonies when I hear no news regarding what I thought was a good date for days, despite the logical conclusion that he doesn't dig me. 

I also can't stay up late, can't really eat late, don't know how to sleep in, no matter how I try. I really like parsnips. Really.

There are few who are tolerant of my kind. 

But I try to force the sneer mechanism into submission when someone idly moseys over to a store to return an item past the ninety-day limit. When someone can cheerfully bounce around by a wedding when I am struggling to stay awake, gasping at the time ("It's 10:55 already?") When someone gleefully snatches up what I consider to be an unappetizing cookie. 

If I want consideration, I have to dish it out, too. But if I don't get it in return . . . 
See ya. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wait For It . . . Wait For It . . .

A few years ago, when my mode of public transportation was compromised, I was relieved to finagle a ride home from the city. 

It didn't end well. 

The driver found the restrictive bounds of standard rush-hour traffic to be insupportable, and swerved off onto unfamiliar sideroads (this was before Waze or basic GPS). He became quite lost, meandering aimlessly along dim, abandoned streets. The vehicle had no shocks; I was rattling about in the back and I began to groan in nauseous agony. Eventually he made his way back to the same highway, to the same exit he had originally left, at which point (forty minutes later) the cars were zipping along at a merry pace. 

It took hours for my face to lose that greenish hue. 

Now, I would have personally stayed on the road, since (1) I didn't know any alternate route and (2) ten minutes of traffic, to me, is better than forty minutes of wandering. 

Maria Konnikova reveals another aspect to self-disciple in "You're So Self-Controlling": Time. The original premise for the basis of self-control was simply delayed gratification—overeating now as opposed to be slender later, for instance. The brownie is warm, fudgy, delicious, with a divine aroma; it can be seen, smelled, and tasted in all its tactile glory, as opposed to the intangible future.
But that is sourced in another concept: It comes down to time, and how much time is considered a reasonable wait. In the real world, the reward is not always a given within a specific time frame. Even those with self-control, if the time passes and no reward, will wisk their original premise off the table. The real world is an uncertain world. We don't get guarantees. I can only control so much, even if I sit on my hands.  
“When you add future uncertainty to the mix,” Mr. Kable pointed out, “it completely changes the problem. Now it’s not just about your ability to wait. With uncertainty, you realize that everybody’s deep intuition, that when you’re waiting, you’re getting closer, is off.” The future may change on you, so what are you waiting for?
. . . You don’t think you get closer as you wait longer. Quite the opposite. . . The longer the wait time . . . the longer they thought they’d have to keep on waiting.
“The basic idea,” Mr. McGuire said, “is that while a decision maker is waiting, he is constantly re-evaluating the thing he’s waiting for. You’re waiting for the same reward, but your assessment of it changes as a function of the passage of time.”
If logic reigned it should be understood that only with the investment of time can an accomplished skill be learned or a new dress size achieved. But in the process, human nature thinks, "If it hasn't happened by now, it's not going to happen at all." 

Take, for instance, that old marshmallow study, you know, the kids being told they can have one now or two later. 
The thing is, the children were never told how long they were going to wait. When the studies were redone with reliable versus unreliable factors, that changed the results. Even with marshmallows, there was a cost/benefit alanysis. 

In the case of a distant goal, like losing weight, how much time we give ourselves is as important as the willpower not to eat irresponsibly. 
If you understand exactly how long it will take you to lose weight and incorporate the uncertainty into your thinking — if you realize that it may be a two-to-four-months rather than a two-weeks-or-bust situation — you would be far more capable of resisting that brownie in the present moment . . . At least you’ll understand that waiting longer doesn’t always mean waiting indefinitely. Investing upfront in realistic time frames — and learning to adjust those time frames as new information becomes available — may help us resist the pull of rewards that come too soon. Controlling our sense of the future, in other words, may help us control our behavior in the present
Can you imagine in how many spheres this theory is applicable? 

Take the standard single frum gal. "There's no one out there for me, I'm going to die alone, and my cats will eat my corpse." She's all of 26. 

According to this, because we are in middle of the process, so we think we are going to have to wait forever. 

That's just evolution talking. Buck up, singletons! One marshmallow can become two!        

Monday, January 20, 2014

Is This the Little Boy at Play?

I was expecting a phone call. You know, one of those phone calls, wink wink nudge nudge.

The phone trilled. Caller ID? Hm, unfamiliar cell number, all good. 

"Hello?" I said, trying to sound calm, refined, and whatever. 

"Hello, Lea." The Voice was so, so manly, a rich baritone. The Voice of a confident adult, a date who would have the evening planned. My, how promising. 

"Is Zeidy there?" the Voice rumbled.

I was frozen for a moment. Zeidy? Did my date call the wrong number? Then—



Flabbergasted, I mutely handed the phone to my father, my face purple with embarrassment. Then I laughed. 

My little yingelah. A tinny refrain of "Sunrise, Sunset" began to warble in the background. 
He's going to be sixteen soon, and he was calling for the source of "chayecha kodmim."

Sentimentally, I remembered that time when he was three and stayed overnight, and fell out of bed at 2 a.m. I dragged myself reluctantly from my cocoon, knowing his terror, scooping him up. He, always leery of looking less than macho, cuddled against me. I was as old then as he is now.

Oh, stop sniffling, you sap.   

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rabbi Lau. Need I Say More?

Messing around with the On Demand on my cable, I was flipping through the options on the Jewish Network, Shalom TV. I was aiming for Rabbi Mordechai Becher's "Dimension of the Daf" but was waylaid by an interview with Rabbi Lau.
I spent a breathless hour and twenty minutes quite simply enraptured.

I was quite delighted to find it available on the OU website.

There are some stories told that coulda knocked me down with a feather. Enjoy.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: Focus on Food Quality

"I was so hungry my hands were shaking," she said with a little laugh. "Low blood sugar, y'know." 

I shook my head. "No. Firstly, if your hands were shaking, it's probably because you don't eat the right foods, and you were in withdrawal. Secondly, 'low blood sugar' is only a problem if you don't eat the right foods.

"If you eat the right foods, you're blood sugar is like this—" I passed my hand horizontally through the air, mimicking a flatline. "But if you eat the wrong foods—" My hand shot up in a diagonal arc. "Dong!" I then send it cascading down. "Dong! Your blood sugar shoots up, then crashes. And you crash."
Simple starches and sugar do this to your energy levels.
Being as fond of food as I am, I am usually quite meticulous about my meals. But now, with oat bran and butternut squash red lentil soup constantly on the menu, I don't crash and burn if circumstances prevent a less-than-prompt lunch.

She dubiously takes in the information I have imparted. But after a midday meal consisting primarily of sautéed greenery, she grudgingly admits she did not get hungry as quickly as she usually does (I was afraid to ask what had been previously on the menu).
Simple starches as well as sugar provide short bursts of energy followed by sudden lethargy. When consumed on an empty stomach, they launch straight into the bloodstream, causing pandemonium; if one is going to indulge in something of questionable nutritional value, the trick is to schedule it following a balanced meal, when the stomach is already cheerfully occupied and the sugar will be more leisurely processed. 

Join the Flexitarians . . . Join us . . .      

Thursday, January 16, 2014

If I Only Had a Brain

I've never liked going to the doctor. Never. It wasn't just the shots thing; the whole experience leaves me terrified. 

"Why We Make Bad Decisions" by Noreena Hertz simply hammered that fear home. 
A few discoveries: 

1) Doctors are not infallible. 
Physicians do get things wrong, remarkably often. Studies have shown that up to one in five patients are misdiagnosed. In the United States and Canada it is estimated that 50,000 hospital deaths each year could have been prevented if the real cause of illness had been correctly identified.
Family members have experienced doctor error more than once. There was even harassment when they chose to seek a second opinion. 
2) When faced with "experts", most will accept their conclusions without question. 
In a 2009 experiment carried out at Emory University, a group of adults was asked to make a decision while contemplating an expert’s claims, in this case, a financial expert. A functional M.R.I. scanner gauged their brain activity as they did so. The results were extraordinary: when confronted with the expert, it was as if the independent decision-making parts of many subjects’ brains pretty much switched off. They simply ceded their power to decide to the expert. 
While I am frightened of medical practitioners and perhaps even doubt their abilities, I would not argue or ask questions, chicken that I am.

3) Though humans merrily embrace information that is positive, if there are negative possibilities, we casually ignore them. 
This could explain why smokers often persist with smoking despite the overwhelming evidence that it’s bad for them. If their unconscious belief is that they won’t get lung cancer, for every warning from an antismoking campaigner, their brain is giving a lot more weight to that story of the 99-year-old lady who smokes 50 cigarettes a day but is still going strong.
Hertz suffered from a debilitating condition but could not get a firm diagnosis. She traveled from doctor to doctor, even internationally, but they were all stumped, each guessing at a possible causes, many involving extreme measures of treatment without any certainty. 

We have to switch on our brains, Hertz tells us. We cannot passively accept, taking no role in our health, deferring to others who don't necessarily have all the answers.
Funnily enough: 
I chose a surgeon who wasn’t overly confident. I’d learned in my research that the super-confident, doctor-as-god types did not always perform well. One study of radiologists, for example, reveals that those who perform poorly on diagnostic tests are also those most confident in their diagnostic prowess. 
The last time I was forced to go to a doctor, when I had impetigo and desperately needed antibiotics, he hesistantly suggested I have a physical as well. 

"Sure, sure, I'll come back." I didn't. But he left me alone. I consider him my regular doc. I like ones who don't demand.

In the end, one should not blindly place oneself into the hands of a so-called "specialist." One should acknowledge their worries and concerns, since emotions can greatly compromise decisions. One should not focus on the more pleasant predictions from relief; one must be aware of the worst-case scenario as well.

It made me think of how this is applicable in all areas of life, really. There are many people out there who claim to know "best"—and I also have my moments of know-it-all-ness.

A Jew questions. We are allowed and encouraged to question. We do not have to accept every word of every rabbi or speaker as irrefutable fact, especially in this day and age when we have access to the learnings of many sages, long dead and currently living. There are many contradictory rulings out there, and without an established majority, when it comes to the less clear matters, we don't have to implement "This way or the highway." 

I'm not saying one can eat chazzer-treif. That is pretty clear. But for instance, I found out recently that according to the Bach (not the composer, but Rabbi Yoel Sirkis, 1561-1640) kol isha only applies to when men are davening, and if they can see the women. Interesting, no?

Hashem gave us a brain to have bechira. Use it. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

You Should Be Published

When it comes to the farshtinkener "profile" (Bad4's term) I am leery of describing myself too much. I believe that humans are ever-changing beings, and I find labels off-putting. From personal experience I have also concluded that very few people are able to gauge themselves accurately. 

"I'm confident," she insists. "But why didn't that person say hello to me?" 

Right. "Confident."

So my information on the dang thing is as whittled down as possible; I don't want to define or classify myself at all. 

When a guy's information plops in my inbox, I am also happier with less. And when I get more . . . I freak. 

This fellow didn't send me a profile, he sent me an autobiography. 

Ma tried to talk me off the brink by saying there may be "shadchanim" out there that makes these poor guys spew their emotional guts all over an email. I was not appeased. 

I didn't even have to bother with a date (we did go out, and he simply repeated everything on his information). I could have let this piece of paper buy me a Coke.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Your Guf, My Neshama

I find the whole "tznius" conversation to be quite boring and rather moot. In this day and age when bodies jiggle and quiver in revealing abandon, does it really make a cosmic religious difference if a skirt is two inches higher or shorter?
But it is never-ending, and it is not contained in specific religious groups. My shul boasts a variety of members across the spectrum, yet I was stunned to find one Shabbos a poster plastered on the women's section stairwell primly dictating how a woman should be dressed when entering the shul. 

Let's be honest, here: If a woman walked the distance to shul, finally arrived, and saw that sign, would she turn around, go back home, put on a pair of stockings or a longer skirt and head back? Please. So what purpose does it serve? Guests don't exactly pack alternate attire for a weekend occasion. 

Despite the fact that there are countless other matters, explicitly explained in the text, that we should expend the energy on, many gleefully pounce on this "cop-out" of a topic. We are not supposed to embarrass somebody, but apparently only in this case. 

I was wondering as to the constant fascination of this subject when I came across John Tierney's article in the Science Times, "A Cold War Fought by Women." 

Now, we know that men and women display aggression differently. When the Seinfeld crew chatted about boy-on-boy violence, Elaine scoffed at male barbarity, stating that girls "just tease someone until they develop an eating disorder."
Women can nourish a mean competitive streak, usually based on the primal desire to score a mate. Therefore, if another woman is dressed more attractively or more skimpily, she can be verbally ripped to shreds based on sight alone.

In the cited study, while the comparatively "modest" woman, in jeans and a t-shirt, did not stir up rival tendencies, the short skirt and low-cut top released the harpy in the female group. 
The results of the experiment jibe with evidence that this “mean girl” form of indirect aggression is used more by adolescents and young women than by older women, who have less incentive to handicap rivals once they marry. Other studies have shown that the more attractive an adolescent girl or woman is, the more likely she is to become a target for indirect aggression from her female peers.
“Women are indeed very capable of aggressing against others, especially women they perceive as rivals,” said Dr. Vaillancourt, now a psychologist at the University of Ottawa. “The research also shows that suppression of female sexuality is by women, not necessarily by men.” 
Older women, come to think of it, will generously flatter a younger gal if she is nicely presented, and don't mention inch-issues at all (except for schoolteachers). Also, I tend to get more compliments from women who have all their daughters married, as opposed to ones who still have yet to pair them off.

But  things must get rather confusing when a fine frum girl is harassed to dress with a ruler next to her mirror, yet bachelors seeking miniature sizes are validated. 
Indirect aggression can take a psychological toll on women who are ostracized or feel pressured to meet impossible standards, like the vogue of thin bodies in many modern societies. Studies have shown that women’s ideal body shape is to be thinner than average — and thinner than what men consider the ideal shape to be. This pressure is frequently blamed on the ultrathin female role models featured in magazines and on television, but Christopher J. Ferguson and other researchers say that it’s mainly the result of competition with their peers, not media images . . . He found that women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies did not correlate with what they watched on television at home . . . But he found that women were more likely to feel worse when they compared themselves with peers in their own social circles, or even if they were in a room with a thin stranger, like the assistant to Dr. Ferguson who ran an experiment with female college students. When she wore makeup and sleek business attire, the students were less satisfied with their own bodies than when she wore baggy sweats and no makeup. And they felt still worse when there was an attractive man in the room with her. 
What if this constant, repetitive, pointless "tznius" hysteria—which tends to be pushed by women, not men—did not stem from frumkeit, but rather from good-old-fashioned evolutionary instinct, from envy and insecurity?
On the left, she is happily included; on the right, she must die.
What if the more we talk about it, the less spiritually elevated we actually are?

I posit a solution: If anyone feels a deep urge to critique the "tznius" of another, spend five extra minutes on getting dressed in the morning. Put some thought and effort into it. Don a neat pencil skirt that fits. Throw on an interesting jacket. Clip in a pair of earrings. Swipe on mascara, buff on some blush, dab on a little lipstick. 

I have a feeling that that confidence in appearance will neutralize any need to put down someone else.