The new exhibit at the Corcoran just opened. It’s called “Pump Me Up” — a retrospective of the DC Go-Go Graffiti scene in the 80’s and early 90’s.
When I was listening to the curator speak, I noticed a lot of references to “two DCs”. But it wasn’t just “black and white,” it was so much more…
Suburbs vs. City. Punk/Hard Core vs. Go Go. Graffiti vs. Street Art. Cops vs. Taggers. Have vs. Have Nots – and what that really means.
And it’s all in the framework of a dirty, dark DC of the past. But you experience it walking around with the upper middle class DC of today in the shadows of the White House, in the same halls as the classics painted in Oil on Canvas, not fuming spray paint on tattered wood.
He married a non-Jew. She converted after they got married. He is a cantor. She is single, practicing, Conservative. His dad is Jewish, mom is not. She’s Orthodox and won’t get married; won’t have kids. She feels like she was always meant to be Jewish and now is. He’s here without his non-Jewish wife. He left his Jewish wife at home. We were talking. The group of us. A minyan of thinkers.
She asked the question: Why are Jewish men marrying non-Jewish women at such an alarming rate? Is it the media portrayal of Jewish women as nagging, zaftig, overbearing, disheveled, baby-craving neurotics?
He answered, attractive, successful, Jewish — his now-Jewish wife sitting next to him: I love Jewish women. I always imagined myself marrying someone who looked, acted and sounded just like my mom. But the truth is, sometimes who you fall in love is just surprising.
They looked at each other. I looked at him. I wanted to cry. But I smiled instead.
When my friend told me she was moving into a group house with two guys and two other girls, I didn’t even think to consider either of the dudes as dating options. The first assumption was that they would have girlfriends (it’s always my first assumption). The second assumption is that I wouldn’t be interested. Which is weird. Since, well, I’m typically always interested.
So when moving day came and this fresh-faced, attractive, fit as hell guy was hauling my friend’s furniture into the moving truck, I was perplexed. Is *this* this presumably taken, uninteresting guy that she’ll be living with? Fuuuuuuuuck.
Over the next few hours, we chatted a bit, mostly about these ridiculous hats I had made, where we grew up, a little bit about this start up he was running out of the new house, and certainly not about how attracted I was to him. I wasn’t sure if you could call it flirtation, but I made a point to be as helpful as possible, and as charming as possible which was exhausting given how hard it is for me to be charming at all. At the end of the move, I went home. No numbers exchanged. No harm. No foul.
I knew enough about him. He’s Indian (I had deduced as much), had graduated from college 4 years ago from a good school, is a sport junkie, into the tech scene, and had an incredible business acumen. Oh, and he’s hilarious. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but group texts about the move turned into one on one texts about tech meet ups, which turned into long text conversations about everything. There was mention of dating, how it’s nice that after 25, people started to get more serious about dating. I concurred. It never occurred to me to ask which side of 25 he was on.
Text conversations turned into a coffee date. “I hate that you’re so young,” I confessed. “And I hate that you’re her roommate.” “Why’s that?” he asked. I took a breath and I told him. I said it wasn’t a good idea to pursue anything because it could get weird at the house if things went well of if things didn’t. I never stopped to ask if he felt the same, if he felt anything, but as we sat on the couch talking about business and life and goals and passions, it seemed like the attraction was unspoken but understood. He didn’t say much except that he didn’t agree. That it wouldn’t have to be weird. But then it was time to go. So he left. We hugged. It was the closest kind of hug, hips together, arms wrapped tight. I could have stayed there forever.
At his house a few days later, I wished him a happy birthday, I told him that it felt great to get older. If 25 was good, 26 would be better. His friend standing with him said, “She doesn’t know, does she?” I was so confused. “24,” he said. “Huh?” I was confused. “He’s turning 24.”
Mortified. He was a child. The question is, does it matter? The concerns continued to mount: Roommate, Young, Not Jewish. Granted, my decision to date only Jews lasted until the first Jew I really liked ended up being a dud. As boring and self-absorbed as I had dreaded. But this was really not good.
You can fix a lot of things – bad dresser, bad manners, bad kissing… but can you fix young? No matter how mature a person is (and is he ever!) there are certain things that just can’t be learned in school or at work. There is a shift in perspective that happens over time as the scrappiness melts away and you take a seat at the table of curmudgeons. Not to say I’m not still upwardly mobile, but I’m really content in the static moments of my life, no longer chasing butterflies and playing drinking games and trying to run this town.
So the plans we had made were canceled, by me, with no explanation. I needed to back away. Pursuing him knowing I didn’t see a future felt selfish. Inappropriate. But do I ever miss him. The chats. Our banter. His smile. I feel like this is a mature decision, to recognize what I loved so much about him and find him, find it, in someone else.
In 2008, I inadvertently wrote two blog posts entitled, “So this is the new year…” The first was written about the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashana. The second reflected on the secular new year, just a few months later.
When I did a search today for my past New Years posts and found two identically titled, I was embarrassed at the oversight. But after reading them again 4 years later and seeing how very different they were from one another, it all makes sense. The post – each post – was written as a meditation on my experience on New Year’s Eve – both of them.
In the 4 years since I wrote these posts, I have changed significantly – thank God – but it’s comforting to know that my core beliefs in renewal, forgiveness, friendship, acceptance of flaws, and desires to always be better stay the same.
Happy New Year.
It isn’t the first time I’ve cried on my mat. It’s almost the safest place to cry. Maybe that’s why I was there that night… maybe I needed it again.
I’ve been practicing a lot of yoga lately. There’s an amazing studio called Yoga District that is warm and fun and wonderful. Perhaps artificially injecting a bit of balance and strength into my life. “Act as if…” I tell myself. Act balanced and strong and maybe I will be. But an Ashtanga class I took Tuesday night left me… off balance. Or rather, my lack of balance is why my yoga class was so hard. I couldn’t hold a pose. I couldn’t stay up. The simplest of poses were nearly impossible. I stumbled, loudly. In a carpetless room of silenced ladies in their mid-twenties twisting and balancing with ease, my clunky, clumsy practice felt conspicuous.
The more I fell out of poses, the more frustrated I became. I silently yelled at my ankles to support me. I begged them to be strong. I prayed to keep the next pose a little longer. Then I couldn’t take it any longer. I was embarrassed (the opposite of what once should be in yoga class – the teacher always tells us to close our eyes so we have our own practice, not someone else’s). I humbled myself into child’s pose and wept. Silently. As inconspicuously as one can weep on one’s mat in one’s yoga class.
Tucked away in child’s post, I asked myself, “What are you doing? What are you getting from this moment? What did you need right now? Are you pushing yourself too hard on a night that you needed to go easy?” And just then I felt two hands on my back. My teacher had come over to comfort me. Wordlessly. I didn’t move. I stayed in child’s pose and drank in the energy. Then I got back up and continued my practice.
In a movie, the rest of my practice would have been amazing. Strong. Balanced. But it wasn’t. I still struggled. But I finished the class. I kept trying poses to see if one stuck. If I couldn’t balance on my feet, perhaps I could balance on my hands. Perhaps I could stretch a little farther. Perhaps I could twist a little more. And at the end of class when it was time for headstand, the teacher saw me try, and then give up. He came over and put his hand on my leg. “Do you want to go up?” he asked. “Not today. Not when I’m this unbalanced.” And he said, “Today is the best day for you to try – especially because you’re off balance.” So I did. And I failed. But I tried. I let him support me. I let myself look weak. “Look” – I say because I wasn’t weak. I was just differently strong that night. I need to find new muscles to support me when others let me down. And I need to learn to be ok with failing.
The endings to my stories write themselves. No need to figure out next steps. No need to learn how to just feel good about things feeling good. Because it’s over. Over-ish? Over enough to get on with getting over it. And the hurtful things he said were not meant to be hurtful. And the hurtful things I wanted to say back went unsaid because… hurting isn’t in me.
At least solitude feels familiar. I’m back to being myself again.
It’s what I’ve waited for – worked for. And finally, I found it. Now what?
After a crisis of confidence, betrayed and frightened and made a fool of by a man I met online, I got back on the dating horse. Wary and weary, my hopes were not high. My excitement was mitigated by memories of my past experiences. The day before our first date, I told a friend, “Ugh. Another first date. I’m over it. Should I just cancel?” “You’re gonna marry this one, Jane. You’ll see.”
Jewish, tall-ish, hill staffer, musician, writer. Hadn’t tried that combination yet. I think the completeness of the checklist my mother had created for me years ago may have been what put me off the most. But the first date was amazing. The second date even better. Our first kiss was in front of the Capitol at dusk. A perfect kiss. The perfect kiss.
Two weeks later, he returned from a trip. I picked him up at the airport and we enjoyed an amazing reunion. The conversation was as comfortable as the company. Dinner, a movie, a kiss or two or more. The next night he made dinner. Kind of. Bought me flowers. We talked and joked and told stories, not many, about our lives and our past. It was the first time that we had tried to be serious – to learn a little bit about the other.
And that’s when I think my panic began. Should I say this, tell him that, go there? Does he need to know? Should I ask? Will he tell me?
When my dating life has, to this point, consisted of one, two, three dates, I’ve never had to do this. This “getting to know you on a deeper than sexual level” thing. I’ve never had to be vulnerable in this way. Patient in this way. I can feel myself ready to run. I can feel myself picking apart the things he says and does that annoy or frustrate me. I can feel myself making an exit strategy and I want to stop. I need to stop.
I just don’t know how this is supposed to feel? Should the butterflies be gone so soon? How do I keep him interested while I sort through the mental and emotional bullshit that will sabotage this amazing thing before I have a chance to right my ship and sail toward peaceful waters?
It’s a good thing – the best thing to happen to me in a really long time. I cannot fuck this up. I will not fuck this up.
But you’ll be the first to know when I do.
I guess the snarky answer would be “someone who could put up with me”
I think the real answer is someone who wants to put up with me.Who likes that I like talking about Big Things (but maybe don’t have all of the details about the Big Things I like talking about).Who likes the banter, and is confident enough to know that I’m bantering because it’s how I flirt.
Who will tell me I’m smart in equal measure to telling me I’m pretty.Who is ok with an independent lady who sometimes is independent just because she can be not because she needs to be.
I made the mistake of wishing someone a Happy Good Friday once. This somberest of days in the Christian tradition is just a Friday for me. A Friday with very little morning traffic. A Friday typically before a long weekend. I didn’t know I had put my foot in it until a friend pulled me to the side and mentioned it wasn’t, perhaps, so happy at all.
And so it is with Memorial Day. I was riding by bike by Arlington Cemetery this morning and saw one small flag beside every single tombstone. Thousands of them. Thousands. And I saw the vets on their motorcycles, hundreds of them, leathered faces and leather jackets. And I thought to myself, this is Memorial Day. There are people we are remembering. It is not happy.
As I hear people wishing each other a Happy Memorial Day as they pack their cars and head to the beach, it gives me pause. Go enjoy the beach, the booze, the bbq – but remember why you can. Because they fought. And fight. And will fight for you and millions of other strangers who they will never meet, and who will never thank them for their service.
A conversation with my friend graduation from graduate school with a big fancy degree: