Previous month:
August 2008
Next month:
October 2008

Posts from September 2008

Bringing in 5769

On Monday night (September 29th), the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) will begin. Our count-up is to the year 5769; that would be the figurative anniversary of the creation of the world, or of humankind, or of God’s role in humankind’s world. But we Jews, on the whole, get it that we’re not talking “day” as in 24-hours and “year” as in 365 24-hour days. Still, it’s a new year, and it’s a time for some pretty serious thinking. If you could think of a New Year’s celebration that is the exact opposite of the American New Year, then this would be it.

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are what is called the Days of Repentance. During those ten days we are supposed to be introspective, considering our sins of the past year, and repenting for them before Yom Kippur when we will be or tfoo tfoo tfoo (that would be the Yiddish way of saying “God forbid” in a rather superstitious way) will not be inscribed in the “Book of Life.” (Yep, we Jews have books all over the place.) So what do I do, I get a head start, and begin the introspection days in advance.

It’s been a pretty trying year, 5768, one that presented more of the same rather than a change. Ironically, the man who I had, in part, married because he came from a traditional family and was raised on the morals and teachings of Judaism and the sages of the ages, continued to debase and demean the foundation from which he came. Which only made me realize that our own personality  is a pretty powerful influence on what we become as adults; we do have the choice to become inspired and inspirational, or confrontational and arrogant. I guess that would be the internal struggle to become as Goliath or David.

I don’t want to dwell on him, except that I am supposed to be thinking of my sins of the past year, and thinking negative thoughts about a person could possibly be included in that category. But does it count as a sin, or a transgression (since I really hate the word "sin"), if the person deserves those thoughts? I guess I would have to think of those thoughts as bad in order to repent and I don’t; I think that he deserves everyone of those hateful thoughts that popped up in my head, and I deserve to think them, because if I hadn’t then I might have been sunk under the weight of self-doubt. And that would have been the bigger transgression: to let someone (continue to) overpower my mind and confidence. Or, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Leaving aside those thoughts, I ramble onto my relationships with my daughters, and my family, and my friends, and my colleagues, and my students. I mean, I didn’t shoot any caribou for which I need to repent and I tried to avert running over or stepping on sundry insects (well, except for mosquitoes and cockroaches) and I don’t recall cheating anyone out of their life savings or convincing someone that her ideas and emotions and thoughts are bad. No, but still, that does not mean that I have not said things that I do not regret.

Perhaps I have gossiped. Well, maybe not gossip exactly, but spoke with people about other people. But my philosophy (yes, I always have a philosophy to give credence to my ideas) is that being open is better than being closed. Besides, in no way did I impugn anyone’s morals, and it was generally only when I was a party involved that I allowed myself to engage in semi-public discussion. So, I probably made myself look as bad as anyone else.

But I do not intend to publicly recount my transgressions, but only to speak of the point that this annual review is an important break in the flow of life. It enables a pause in the pace of life, and it enables an annual before and after self-snapshot that I look forward to—that I depend on. It is a very serious time, with prayers and praying, and intense, critical introspection that is as intense as a visit to the dentist who probes every tooth and crevice. This opportunity to see if I have become a better person, or if I have lulled in stasis, is vital to me.

As the eve of Rosh Hashanah nears (all Jewish holidays begin at sundown), contemplation mode begins to settle in, and I begin to wonder about the past year, and the year to come. And I wonder, too, if I had to sit in judgment of myself (for aren’t I, really, supposed to be doing God’s work here?) would I find me lacking, and lacking in what? I guess all people who have a sense of humility (which I think would be a component of being a good person, which is the aim here, to be or become an even better good person) find themselves lacking in something. But I guess another question is: Is this the same thing that I found lacking in last year, and the year before. Am I still working on the same areas of self-improvement? Have I at least progressed somewhat?

While I know that patience is surely one of the things I need to work on, I need to contemplate if I have become less impatient and more patient. In the same way, I need to see if I have become less critical of others, setting them against my own standards as opposed to, perhaps, figuring out what their guideposts are and looking at those. And I need to figure out, too, where else I feel that I have transgressed.

And I really, really, need to think about how my home life is making me a worse mother than I could or should be. And I need to think about how I can prevent 5769 from becoming another year of stasis because that would be too wearying; wearying in a way that damages my psyche in such a way that in spite of all of the interior work I might try to do, it will be as naught.

Yes, there’s much to think about. It’s a good thing that I have ten days to devote to it.

* * *

Good Deed of the Day

On my drive home I drove around a tortoise in the middle of the road. But rather than think, crisis averted, I decided to turn around and protect the tortoise from a less observant driver. Yes, I helped a tortoise get to the other side of the road. I put him/her on the side that it was facing (I hope that was the direction it was headed). As I picked up the tortoise (dark green with yellow embellishments) it peeked out at me. That was a surprise. I thought that it would remain firmly inside its protective shell. But it stuck its head out and then back in. I hope it felt safe in my hands.

* * * 

Must Underpants Have Style?

There was a time when I wore underpants that did not cover my belly. I didn’t mind if they just covered my pubic hair and private parts. In fact, I liked that. I assumed that that is what they were for. But now, now my undies must cover my stomach, working as an invisible cloak so that I am less aware of what’s there.

I started thinking about this the other day, when I went to Pink with my younger daughter to get a birthday present for a friend of hers. For those, fortunately, not in the know, Pink is Victoria’s Secret’s store for the tween and teen girl. And if you don’t know what Victoria’s Secret is, well, think fancy undergarments, and HELLO, don’t you ever get to the mall? 

After we finished there we still had time before the birthday party, so we headed to my store of choice: TJ Maxx. And I looked for undies there. The last time I got new ones was at Victoria’s Secret when I got a leopard print mini-brief and a black lacy thong (yes, yes, I know—the things we do for lust) when I was still in the throes of my relationship with TM (Transition Man). So it’s been quite a while.

Experience is something that helps in some endeavors, and underwear shopping is surely one of them. I looked at the bikinis, and reminisced to a time when I didn’t visibly cringe at an imaginary picture of me in them, with so much of me uncovered. And then I looked at the briefs with tummy control and remembered the three pairs that I have at home and their varying degrees of discomfort, and since I was going for comfort, they were out.

I picked out three ribbed cotton high-rise briefs (my shape of choice at this shape) in blue, pink, and purple. They looked so comfortable albeit a bit big, but I know by now that size is deceiving; after all, I really can’t see how much of me is behind me.

My daughter, holding two pairs of size 0 skinny jeans, found me and asked if I would come see how she looks in them. She cast a glance at the underpants hanging from their little hangars (giving them dignity, I guess) in children’s hues and mommies’ heft, and looked away, tainted for life, I think, at the sight of her mother’s fall from grace for having absolutely no self-esteem if she was considering putting those things on.

Humiliated by a look from a twelve-year-old, I put the Big Girl briefs back. Really, I do need to care about how I look, even if it’s for me—especially if it’s for me. Propelled by my desire to find a modicum of sex appeal and comfort, I found a black high-rise brief with some lace and a beige brief that promised “to fit my life” (whatever that means), at least it had a shape to it that you could imagine a woman wearing, and not a pregnant woman, at that.

There’s a wonderful children’s book, Always Wear Clean Underwear!: And Other Ways Parents Say “I Love You” by Marc Gellman, with an essay titled “Don’t Pee in the Pool” (or something like that). The moral of that story is that even if you can get away with peeing in the pool, you still shouldn’t do it because you know it’s wrong. That is how I am training myself to think about my underwear: it doesn’t matter if anyone sees it, I need to feel good about how I dress myself, seen and unseen.

P.S. When I picked up my daughter from the party, I wore my pajamas (with which I do not share my personal space with other garments), so I wasn’t exactly starting out on the right brief.

P.P.S. I'm thinking that it really is time to exercise. If it's (as in the tummy untucked)  bothering me this much, maybe I ought to do something about it. I'm doing well on the diet (I broke on bread products, but not on pasta, rice and potatoes), maybe I'm ready to tackle another self-improvement challenge.

* * *

Don't Finish What You Start

Why do we have to finish everything that we start? That is counter-intuitive. That means that we don’t learn anything in the process of doing. That means that only the end counts and not the journey. What if we discover we don’t like what we’re doing? What if we discover that we are not good at what we are doing? What if we decide that we are bored doing what we are doing? Why must we finish what we start?


First Birthday Party for One

I went to the first birthday party of an adorable third cousin the other day. At the party was the birthday boy’s aunt who, after a disastrous first marriage, remarried last month. Also present was a friend of the birthday boy’s father, who will be getting married in April. There was wedding talk. At the party were also the infant children of friends, the 5-year-old child of a friend, and the teenage children of the birthday boy’s mother’s cousin. There was looking at children standing, running, sliding, and, generally, being children. And there was me, unaccompanied by any children, no wedding dresses to discuss, and no spouse to get me a bottle of water, hon, thanks.

I have begun to get used to and accepting of this situation, a post-modern version of the spinster aunt. Am I simply an “unaccompanied woman,” since that’s what I am and that’s certainly how I feel? While I have no intention of getting maudlin here, I need to acknowledge that not having children who are of an age that they have no choice but to come with me and without any leverage (or desire) to force them to come whether they like it or not, and not having a someone to fill in the gaps between going from group to group is lonely. And I wish it weren’t.

In what has become an awful habit, I check out the men in different settings to see if any would be click material if not married. And, as is generally the case, no one has click potential. In my defense, I must say that I don’t get out much. Both of these facts lead me to what is becoming a coming to terms that I will probably remain unaccompanied. Or maybe I am mentally preparing myself to be alone so that I won’t be disappointed (too much) if that, indeed, becomes my reality.

Who the hell cares if I’m lonely? That’s something that I need to deal with, by either stewing in my own juices or getting out more. I have often been alone (what a shock, a writer who likes to be alone), but this lemon tree in my front yard is not even letting me savor the richness of solitude. It’s being at a party knowing that I once had the accoutrements but now do not that is especially difficult. Those could be my kids eating the sushi and listening to grownups talk about wedding dresses. That could be my spouse who rubs my back as he listens to me talk to someone about our wedding 23-years ago. And that could be me, making sure my children get a slice of cake with rainbow frosting and say thank you when we leave. And that could be me, telling hubby that we need to stay for a few minutes. But it’s not.

No. This is my reality. And you know, all of those people, no one made me feel alone, I did that. I need to grow into my life, and shed my expectations and disappointments. I’m getting there. After all, I didn’t fake cancel going to the party because I didn’t want to be alone. And I didn’t come late and leave early (well, I left early, but that was the time the party was supposed to end). This is it babe. Deal.

* * *

Third Week of School

Another year has begun, and with it another notification that a student’s father has cancer. Another year and another family drama that should be the purview of a soap opera and not the stuff of a child’s life. Another year and another student with a father deployed in a war zone, and another with a brother deployed. And yet, another year of kids who come to school everyday, leaving aside their family dramas, big and small, and expecting to be met with respect, every day. Resilience, it’s putting on the happy face and trying to let it permeate the soul without even trying. Resilience, it’s believing, no, it’s knowing, that tomorrow will be a better day.

* * *

Looking for Love on Craig’s List: Why Don’t Relationships Begin

Coffee man and I have independently agreed that this is not to become a relationship. Before I go any further, I would like to state that I was not the relationship coward; I was the one who, on Wednesday morning, emailed him stating this conclusion from our date on Sunday. A little while later he got back to me to affirm that conclusion. I wonder if the fact that I spoke up and he did not is why this was yet another case of a non-click.

Was he planning to not get back to me and let me come to my own conclusion that it ended before it began? And me, while I was expecting to hear from him regarding his suggestion that we do something more exciting next time we go out (instead of dinner, although I was wary since he didn’t state a specific day, which is what he had been doing up until then), was thinking about how to tell him that it’s just not going anywhere. But there was no way that I would not tell him that, it seems so cowardly and not where I am in this mature woman’s desire to be upfront as much as possible in my relationships with boys. So, his reticence and my upfrontness (okay, brash, maybe I have become brash?) did not make clarions call.

After contemplating our few dates, and the few dates with men who came before him, I have realized that dating is not about one person being boring or uninteresting, it’s about how two people who are probably (possibly) not boring and uninteresting appear to be that way to each other. There was nothing “wrong” with him, and (I hope) there was nothing wrong with me (except my brashness, and I am sure that there are some who would find charm in my New York-Israel-Virginia personality combo), it was just the two of us that flopped and foundered. I had always thought to term people who didn’t click with me as being boring, but I finally get it, that interpersonal chemistry thing, it’s no one’s fault.

An hour before our final date (of four) I picked up my younger daughter from a friend’s house (note: after the age of eleven it can no longer be referred to as a “playdate,” rather it is hanging out). I talked to the boy’s father (yes, one of her BFFs is a boy) for a few minutes. We talked, laughed, and joked. And then I went inside and talked to his mother, who seems to like to talk and laugh as much as I do. What ensued was the mommy-mommy talk that gives the kids at least another twenty-minutes of “hanging out” time. In that time we covered: Sarah Palin, teen pregnancy, gossip from Alaska (thanks Carly), Bat Mitzvahs, chicken wings and chicken wing places, Baja Fresh, dating, silent auctions, and how incredibly tall my daughter is getting and why does she have such long legs unlike her mother. Our conversation covered more and was livelier than my date, by far.

It’s not that I want to date my daughter’s friends’ mothers, but why is it that it’s so much easier to find women with whom I click and not men? Is it the whole “similarity of experience” thing, where we virtually speak in shorthand, we get each other so well. Or is it that my daughter has already done a pre-screening and if her friends pass the test to flow with her personality, the parents will flow with mine as well? I once wrote an essay titled, “My Daughter, My Pimp,” in which I talked about how all of my friends at that time were mothers of my older daughter’s friends (this is the daughter who minutes ago called me “the biggest fucking bitch” because I cancelled her Netflix subscription because she is so defiant and nasty, so we are going back a long way). So I know that there are people I get along with, and I don’t think that it is “faked,” those doorway friendships, so why is it so hard to find a man with whom I can freely talk and joke?

I’m not kidding here—I want to figure this out. Is it just that I have not met any clickable men? Is it that I don’t do a good Craig’s List screening? Is it really that men and women are so different in outlook and mindset that only the attraction enables them to overcome those natural differences? TM (Transition Man) and I had great email and in-person conversations, and I always wanted to be touching him (up until the end when I was too pissed off and hurt). Is it that without sexual tension there is no conversational click? Or is it that without an attraction I don’t (or am unable to) “put out” in the conversation?

Is this a chicken and an egg scenario? Or is it my libido dictating? If there’s no physical click, then there’s no mental click. I guess that makes it easier to say “ciao baby.” But if just feels harder, to not find someone to talk to or tryst with, repeatedly. Maybe I need to ask my mommy friends if they know of someone. But I’m thinking that if they knew someone they would already have suggested them. Oh, well. I still believe that there’s a click in my future.

* * *

Ego Stroke

It’s midnight, and I just had a confrontation with slime. Apparently he will be suing me for millions of dollars. For what, I’m not sure. But would that mean that I have millions of dollars? Now that’s news I would like to hear.

He was truly scary to look at—and I looked today, he was right in front of me and I wanted to see what evil looks like, I wanted to see what it looks like to be devoid of humanity. And it was scary. It was red. It was shaking all over. Its eyes had an evil detachment, as if only the evil and nastiness bulbs were in existence inside. Even the hand that held the little tape recorder friend that I spoke into to say “You’re slime” was shaking.

As I sit here on the floor with Poops beside me and my daughters in their rooms (older, having yelled at me, too, to turn down the radio that I cranked up to drown out the sound of him; and younger, looking at me with a scary, scared blankness when he came into her room when I was talking to her and started yelling at me and ordering her about) I summon an ego stroke, or it comes to me, to service me.

I think of friends, and I think of the man at work who for the past two years has dropped by my classroom or teachers’ lounge to see me smile, which he says makes his day. Never mind that he made a pass months ago and I turned him down, he still comes by and makes me feel good, makes me feel appreciated for just being me, makes me believe in the inherent goodness in me. And that, my friends, is an ego boost; one that helps me pass to a stability of mind that will let me get through the next 49 days (my “election” day) when hopefully there will be a judge on the bench who is able to truly judge things. Obama has his countdown, I have mine.

* * *

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Twenty-Five

Without A Common Language 

To make my life an adventure I moved to Israel after graduating from college, and so for much of our marriage I was living in a foreign country and speaking a foreign language with a man who was from that place and spoke that language. And while the differences from where I grew up to there were tremendous, I think that the possibility for problems exist anytime one person in a couple is from the place you live and the other is a “foreigner.” Simple things such as where to go out to eat (even what to eat), where to buy clothes, where to go to the movies, where to take night classes, what streets to take to beat traffic, what foods to celebrate with, will be known intrinsically by one, and so there will be an automatic imbalance in the relationship. This built-in asymmetry needs to be counter-balanced somehow in order for there to be equality in the relationship, because without it, there is no relationship, there is a leader and the led, there is the king of the castle and the maid. And that is not the formula for a successful marriage, at least not with me and for me.

* * *


Why do so many women turn to the man they are with and look at him when they are ordering their coffee and pastry? Do they need his approval to get a latte? And if it’s just reflex, I say it’s one that needs to change.