Monthly Archives: February 2014

My True Story: Finding Mr. Right Part 2

Standard

Who would’ve thought that discussing philosophy and ideas ain’t got nothin’ on dating stories? More people read “My True Story: Finding Mr. Right (Part 1)” over any other article I’ve ever published on this blog. Let’s get to it, meet Bachelor #2:

During a rainy spell in July, I met Ron*. A Floridian, he was flying into Manhattan to visit his parents and I worked at an NYC non-profit alongside his rabbi who set us up. For our first date, Ron waved to hail a cab, smiled and said, “We’re going to a hotel lobby tonight”. >Sigh< Oh joy. Another hotel lobby. Surprisingly enough, the taxi pulled up to a modern looking building with windows that stacked vertically up the entire side of one wall so we had full view of varied rooms designed for observation. We stepped up onto a futuristic-looking escalator, walked down a few winding steps, and finally found ourselves inside the funkiest hotel lobby I’d ever seen (and that’s saying a lot given the popularity of New York hotel lobbies as a first date venue!). Over-sized chess tables were scattered throughout the room and old-fashioned shelves filled with tattered gigantic books lined the walls. We sat down in plush lounge chairs that were oddly proportioned by design.

“So? What do you think?”, Ron asked. I liked. Most men I dated complained about the unfair expectation of planning a date all the while bringing me to the same tired cafe or restaurant. This guy obviously took pleasure in researching unusual venues and organizing creative dates. We went out five times- for several hours each- and had a pretty fabulous time with just the right measurements of deep conversation, banter, and mutual admiration. Despite all that, after excruciating debates and lengthy analyses, I eventually ended it. Our religious views seemed somewhat mismatched. As great as the dates were, we often disagreed about minor values – for example- where to draw the line when bringing media inside the home. In addition to these small clashes, our chemistry had a strong friendship vibe and I still wasn’t sure I felt attraction even after the five dates. He went back to Florida. And that was supposed to be the end of that.

Fast forward eight months. I was dating on-and-off. I thought about Ron occasionally (we really did have fun together) and considered the possibility that I had been too hasty. I called the rabbi who had set us up to ask him if he’d call Ron (assuming he’d say “of course!”). The rabbi point-blank refused and I was SHOCKED for two reasons: First, why would someone stand in the way of a possible marriage?? Second, how could he ban me from Ron? Shouldn’t the rabbi at least offer him the choice to go out with me? Neither arguments appealed to this rabbi who explained that he didn’t want to put his student in the position of being rejected again. I decided to go rogue and called Ron myself. To me, phoning Ron directly was a huge risk since we had gone through a middleman up until this point and once I explain that his rabbi said “no”, how could he justify saying “yes”? Not to mention, what if he just didn’t want to go out with me?

As it turned out, he was planning to visit New York anyway and he agreed to meet with me again. After eight months and five intense dates, we went out three more times. We talked and talked. He took me to parts of Manhattan I didn’t know existed and we, again, had fun. I really tried to like him and even though I didn’t think the chemistry was quite right, I told him I’d fly to Florida and started researching ticket prices. After I reserved my round trip, imagine my surprise when he called me to say he didn’t feel a “spark”.

Seriously?!? No spark? What a lame – Oh wait. He was right. He expressed the little voice in the back of my mind and that took courage. Nonetheless, I was bummed.

Ron is forever filed away with my other ‘near miss’ bachelors who were awesome…just not for me.

This post is dedicated to my amazing friend, Yael Shraga, who put up with all sorts of moaning and analyzing during my time with Bachelor #2. 

*Identity of Bachelor #2 protected with a fake name.

Advertisements

My True Story: Finding Mr. Right

Standard

In order to get married, one usually has to date. As an orthodox Jew, my dating process was all blind… with my eyes wide open. That is, I solely relied on family, friends, and community members to set me up on blind dates where I knew what the dating candidate’s name, background, age, schooling, family, values, future aspirations, and basic personality were like but we needed to meet to establish a physical and emotional chemistry.

That said, here’s my first installment (not sure yet if there will be a second) of meeting one such bachelor. Happy Reading!

“This scar”, he pointed to a small white mark above his right eyebrow and licked his dry lips, “isn’t normally there”. He tipped up his hat, wiped his sweaty forehead, swallowed loudly and continued “and I don’t have to wear my glasses. I do own contacts”.  Pale, lanky, and nervous, his self-conscious remarks would turn off most women but not me. I found something oddly endearing about them. First dates are tough. I could relate to that. This one was no exception. Poor guy wasn’t a natural conversationalist. He insisted on inquiring every 15 minutes or so, “Penny for your thoughts?”. Surely he didn’t want to know I was thinking about how intensely awkward our exchange was thus far.

He took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan which was a good choice because at around 20 years old, I discovered that perusing through Post-Impressionistic works was pleasurable. I’m not especially cultured, artistic, or even musical but during my gap year learning in Israel (which extended into years), I tapped into those creative parts of myself and had the leisure time to get mildly acquainted with a variety of interests for the first time. I also appreciated that he thought ahead and brought a stack of “Loaded Questions” cards to fill the loaded silence.

And he was a gentleman. He paid for our lunch and he paid me compliments. I laughed when he accidentally flung melted cheese onto my shirt. I snickered (and cringed) when he announced that this was our first date to the waiter. He drove quite a distance to meet me in Manhattan and I appreciated that he invested the time. When our date was over, I told the shadchan (matchmaker) that his mother raised him well. I would go out again.

Our second date was similar to our first. This time, however, he repeated incessantly that even though I agreed to date him twice, he was certain I’d end up breaking things off. That was his dating history after all. He smiled cynically, “Let me at least pick my poison. Don’t break up to my face. Tell the shadchan.”  He just shrugged when I warned him about self-fulfilling prophecies.

Still, I’m in the “date him ‘til you hate him” camp. I was highly conscious of his poor self-esteem but I tend to root for the underdog and I wanted to see if things could go any further. For our third date, I agreed to drive to see him. I was a California transplant who moved to and worked in Manhattan. I hadn’t driven for a considerable time and was nervous at the thought of navigating through unknown highways.  I researched car rentals and found the directions that covered four states I had never so much as visited. But this is the price one has to pay to find Mr. Right.

My friend agreed to hop in the car with me so I could turn my commute into a road trip and we did our best with the directions I had written down but, trouble was, neither one of us had a GPS or a clue. I called him to explain I was lost, running late and needed help reorienting.

“Sure”, he answered and then yelled nasally, “Maaaaa!”. Now I know every Jewish boy has a mother but at this delicate stage of courtship, I found myself instinctively repelled. When I did finally arrive, I was four hours late and having spent most of the day in a stuffy car, just wanted to take another shower. I didn’t look or feel my best. He came out to greet me as I pulled up, and I forced a smile. We took a walk but I was looking at my watch the whole time since the car rental was expecting me to return by midnight. I explained that to him and we parted ways.

At this point, I felt fairly sure we were not a good match. When I returned home that night, I gratefully sank my head into my pillow and refused to think about the whole ordeal for at least a day or two. My cell phone rang the next morning and I answered groggily. It was him. He wanted to talk. “Is everything okay?” I asked trying to shake off sleep. No everything was not okay. He was upset. He was more than upset- he was angry. “Why were you late yesterday? We barely had a date.” We spent an hour on the phone as I apologized and tried to offer up “Gam Zu L’Tova”  (everything is for the best) but that just fanned the flames. “You can only say ‘Gam Zu L’Tova‘ when you are the party wronged”, he complained. “Otherwise, it’s just offensive”. Okay, he had a point but: Oy.

I was emotionally exhausted by the end of our conversation and called the shadchan to give her an update. She was disappointed that our relationship had soured and the phone exchange was negative. With the clarity of hindsight, it’s plain to me that our chemistry was totally wrong. I don’t regret trying a few times and even putting the time in for our third and worst date. All part of the process of finding Mr. Right. Right?

Plugging In to Unplug (Virtual Reality’s Great Escape)

Standard

My 5 year old son recently told me what his favorite day of the week is. As an orthodox Jewish family, we invest time and energy into making Shabbos (Friday sundown-Saturday sundown) special. Special for a child in my house means good dessert, a special snack, staying up extra late, wearing nice clothes, singing songs, going to synagogue, and having extra one-on-one time with parents, family, and friends. Shabbos was the answer I anticipated but not the one I got. “Sunday!”, my son smiled wide, completely unaware that Mommy was  more than a little dismayed with this revelation.

Then I gave some thought to my favorite day of the week. For an adult who observes all of the laws of Shabbos, it’s an incredible 25 hours of relinquishing the attempted stranglehold of control over our worlds.

There’s an acknowledgement that something Transcendent, in fact, is in control and has been this whole time. Whether I finished all my work or I left lots over, once the sun goes down on a Friday, I stop.

Stopping specifically entails shutting down all electronics (yep, smartphone included) and all “creative work” where I’m changing something existentially is prohibited.

If a light is off in a room, it stays off (if it’s on, it stays on). Nothing gets cooked, no water gets boiled, no fires are lit, no preparation is made for the upcoming week, no laundry is folded or washed, nothing is sorted, nothing is cut, nothing is glued.

There are times when the stopping is a total relief and I literally exhale. There are also times when the stopping is frustrating because I feel as though I have so much to do and yet… The lesson I take is that life is fleeting and there will be an indefinite stop button pressed for me one day (hopefully at 120 years old!) whether I feel I’m finished, or not, so better not waste a second. I certainly love Shabbos and while it may be my very favorite day of the week, I do think that it’s best in small doses. I admit, I don’t mourn resuming my normal, productive activities. Maybe that’s by design, to feel compelled to get up and DO, ACCOMPLISH after some time of forced stopping.

Sunday is the day when I grocery shop for the week, take the kids out somewhere fun to run free so I can observe (comfortably!), and organize my life and house for a whirlwind schedule beginning Monday morning. It’s family day, it’s me day, like my son, I do like Sundays.

Still, a part of me feels guilty. Shabbos should be our obvious answer. If it’s not, then WHY NOT?

One possibility is that when we plug in our computers and cell phones, we essentially DISCONNECT from the real world to CONNECT with the virtual one where our selfish whims, thoughts, and desires are catered to by well sponsored sites. When we pull the cord from the outlet and shut down, we are turning on our inner selves. We are forced to have actual human contact and interaction. The world isn’t just about us, it’s about everyone around us too. While Sunday through Friday, I plug in my computer to escape (read: plug out), on Friday night and Saturday I plug my electronics out to spiritually recharge (read: plug in).

No matter how we choose our “favorite day”, I think it’s critical to plug out sometimes and even more meaningful on a Saturday when the day has been carved out for us as one of rest. But what do you think?

What I Don’t Tell My Spouse (and what you shouldn’t either)

Standard

I probably should start by saying that my husband and I are always talking. I have a close friend -with a wonderful marriage- that is completely different from mine and I don’t understand it at all. She tells me that while she’s home with her husband they don’t see each other or speak to one another much. For the record, they live in a small apartment with young children. Each one of them, though, is busy doing his/her own thing and there’s very little contact. I believe her when she says that they have a great marriage- but I can’t wrap my head around it! My husband and I don’t stop yakking. I consider my marriage pretty great and I understand marriages come in different shapes and sizes- no one necessarily better than the next. It just so happens that our dynamic is, well, a pretty verbal one.

That said, I do try very hard to not speak to my husband about some things (admittedly I fail at least as much as I succeed). I avoid topics of negativity that take the form of kvetches, sadness, bitterness, irritation, anger, etc. The upside is that with all our shmoozing, we avoid bringing up lashon hara (negative/damaging speech). The advantage that I’d like to highlight here is that I don’t spread the negativity. Again, this is a work in progress.

So, to wrap up, do I (should I) vent to my husband? In a generation that glorifies full self-expression, I’m proud to report that I have censored(!) myself many times this past week in an effort to keep our atmosphere at home upbeat and cheerful. There were a few challenging moments (totally not connected to my family) that I opted to keep to myself. Y’know what? I don’t feel repressed or squelched or stifled or inhibited. I feel liberated. Taking control of my mouth in the face of strong emotions leaves me completely empowered, in the driver’s seat.

While my friend says she doesn’t talk much to her husband (and hey- if that works- gezunterheyt!), most couples I encounter TALK. A LOT. While our cultural standard is to give couples carte blanche to disclose every thought passing through (sort of like Twitter…), I propose we utilize a little good judgement before we communicate to our spouses. 

Two Ethical Problems with Facebook

Standard

I joined Facebook (as I was recently reminded on an un-posted automated anniversary video) in 2007 in order to connect with students all over North America for a non-profit’s marketing department. I stayed on Facebook after I left that job because it was a convenient way to track old friends’ lives without the hassle of remembering to call them for an update (you know you relate!). I still peruse Facebook regularly- primarily for those same photo updates that keep me feeling connected to long-lost friends and family.

It’s nice to see that you just had a baby or what you ate for lunch and I usually enjoy the pearl-of-wisdom cliche or funny observational meme. I can tolerate the extreme opinions that posters feel necessary to publicize and though I’ve tried to remove myself from long threads of lively conversation that often deteriorates into personal insult, I admire when the controversy stays clean and unemotional.

I have no plans at this point to close my Facebook account for the reasons above and more but I do feel compelled to call out two big moral dilemmas users of Facebook may share with me. Like many (all?) things in life, Facebook can be used for good or bad. To me, here’s the very bad that hasn’t been outed officially (Facebook bullying, in contrast, has drawn plenty recent attention thankfully).

1. Many, many users opt to use their walls as bragging rights for a great relationship, career, or body. Brandished #Fakebook by an insightful blogger years ago,  Facebook still consistently serves up everybody’s great news and filtered pictures. Does a a long fluffy post dedicated to a “fabulous” spouse not cheapen a marriage? Even if it doesn’t, how are singles struggling to find Mr/Mrs Right supposed to feel when they read such posts? How about someone in a difficult marriage? Same applies to the  posts and pictures of children (mea culpa).

There’s an idea in Judaism called “evil eye” which is often defined as a superstition but the true meaning of an evil eye is a pair of eyes watching us and wondering “Why does S/HE get that, but I don’t?”. Truth is, everything in our lives- the health, the family, the prosperity- it’s all a gift and none of us deserves it.  Bragging on Facebook is purposely attracting attention for our undeserved blessings and that attention can turn negative- a dangerous prospect.

I don’t propose anything extreme- just perhaps an added dose of sensitivity (I’m talking to myself as much as to you) about posting lovey-dovey statuses and super adorable pictures. We can sometimes choose to keep pictures private (gasp!) or at least we can temper statuses into something mildly more modest.

2. I thoroughly enjoy debate- sometimes and under the right conditions. Assuming all parties are respectful and intellectually honest – no small feat- debate is a very worthwhile and Jewish endeavor. Problems brew when names are mentioned of any kind since invariably someone will post a negative comment in which case:

a. The person who mentioned the name originally is responsible for Avak Lashon Hara, the brand of negative speech that start with an “innocent” remark but provokes malicious responses.

b. The people reading the negative/destructive comments and possibly believing them.

c. The one commenting negatively.

Facebook, and the internet for that matter, may be an open exchange of information but we are responsible to put fences up, for our own dignity and humanity’s sake. I’ve seen wonderful people (who I obviously won’t name) getting character assassinations on Facebook by posters who are otherwise very nice themselves. We all make mistakes, is it necessary to publicly analyze even leaders in this forum? It’s a no-holds-barred zone and the viciousness I’ve seen on Facebook in the name of “intellectual debate” is unparalleled.

This is food for thought directed as much at myself as it is to you. I wrote an article recently that I took down because I was asked to- and the reason I chose to delete an article I worked hard on is because, ultimately, I want my blog to impact positively. If there’s even a chance it would do the opposite, I’d rather not publish anything.

Ultimately, the choice is ours like all mediums in life, how are we going to use this? Are we really thinking carefully before we hit “post”?

Are you choosing good or evil RIGHT NOW?

Standard

Every stage of life has its unique challenges. Teenagers struggle with autonomy vs dependence. Singles may worry about finding a companion or loneliness. Seniors can struggle with empty nest syndrome and/or mortality.  Are there Variances and Variable? Oh Yes. But there are some themes too. For me, as a parent of young children, I struggle with lack of sleep and time. Practically, this means that prioritizing is Do or Die.

What makes the top of the list? Anything urgent for starters which could take the form of a check due NOW or a dentist appointment at 4:00pm. Urgent items are non-negotiable.

Self-discovery comes after the urgent times. To unveil our true motives and values, we must dig past the urgent and get to the next category: Important To-dos. In my life, important to-dos (not including health/safety) are quality time with family/friends and anything work related.  I’m opting not to publicize what I don’t get done in this forum (our religion doesn’t glorify person-to-person confessions!), but it’s plain to see what I shuffle to the bottom of the list.

Truth is, our time is limited and there will, of course, be to-dos that don’t get done. As long as our choices of what does get done reflect our actual priorities, then we’re being authentic.

Actually I’m pretty sure God said this…

Divine Providence constantly creates opportunities for us to choose between what we feel like doing (in black/white terms: evil) and what we know we should be doing (good). It’s strange to frame seemingly small moments of our lives into dramatic choices between good and evil but, in fact, that’s exactly what they are. Everyone’s challenges look completely different, of course, due to differences in culture, generation, age, personality, preferences, DNA, nurture, economic strata, and choices up until this very moment.

With all this in mind, I’m choosing to spend the remainder of my evening cleaning my house and getting as much done for tomorrow morning as possible so wake-up/school/work transition time is harmonious. These are my priorities. Dull, sure, but important- absolutely. What do I feel like doing? Pouring myself a nice hot cup of tea and looking at Yahoo’s headlines (my milder confessions do make it here!). How about you? When motivation lags, let’s remember that every moment is made up of a choice between good and evil.