I now take you to…. Mother’s Day. 2012. I’m just leaving my favorite coffee shop where I have enjoyed a delicious small iced Americano as prepared by the perfectly anonymous, absolutely gorgeous barrista I spend $3 a day to stand 3 feet from. I enjoyed aforementioned cup of caffeinated perfection next to a different handsome fellow reading a book on the ride of Theodore Roosevelt. He was a law student in my mind. He was delightful. We exchanged furtive glances that I probably imaged and then I went on my way to brunch with some new friends.
En route to brunch, feeling uncharacteristically confident and looking particularly adorable, I called my mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. I got through my rousing rendition of “Happy Mother’s Day To You” (sung to the tune of… well, you know) and filled her in on my evening out on the town. It was an evening at a dive bar with 100 of my closest stranger-acquaintances who happen to be Jewish which was enough for her to get her little hopes up just high enough for me to beat them down to a bloody pulp. “No, mom. I didn’t meet anyone. Again. Can I stop playing with Jews yet?”
Giggles filled the other end of the line. My mom is deliciously sincere. And frustratingly adorable. It was her day.
Then it came to the “I just read this article…” portion of the conversation. Sometimes she saves article clippings for me for MONTHS just to show me an article about some website I should check out sometime. She writes notes in the margins in her perfect script handwriting. “Heard about on NPR.” “Event on Aug 23.” Important pieces of information- names, facts, fates, URLS – underlined. Twice if it’s of particular importance (two months later when she hands it to me or gets impatient and puts it in the mail). But this was a Mother’s Day oral report.
“Jane – I read this article today about a group of people called Mothers by Choice. They’re these women who in their 40s decide that they don’t need a partner, but they really want a family. So they have babies all by themselves. But don’t worry. That’s still like 10 years away.”
“That’s… great, Mom. Thanks? I think?” Stunned. I could think of no follow up. I, of all people, was speechless.
“Wow. You took that a lot better than I expected.” Those giggles. Oh, Mom.
Not subtle. I got the hint.
Love you, Mom. And may you never, ever find this blog.
Alright, Jane. It’s time we talked.
You’re 30. Thirty. It’s about time you got over your high school hangups. Since therapy doesn’t seem to fit into your schedule, we’ll go ahead and talk it out right here.
1) There aren’t popular kids any more. And if there were, you would have to prove yourself to them now just as much as you did back then which is NOT AT ALL EVEN A LITTLE BIT. The people you see out at Happy Hour who are surrounded by the hot guys or the easy girls are not popular. They are really good at Happy Houring. You do not need nor want their attention. You need to prove nothing to them. For serious.
2) No. Really, there aren’t popular kids. Hmm… A theme? Jane! Stop trying to be something you’re not. And stop trying to push away people who seem “too cool” for you. (And why do you feel so comfortable with sharing this completely ridiculous hang up in a really awkward faux third person narrative?)
When you get into a new crowd, Jane, be yourself – just… a gentler yourself. Don’t live life quite so out loud. Be nice. Flirt a little. Don’t be angry. Holy shit, I’m your mother. Which means you’re your mother. Which has got to be weird for you right now.
Stop pushing people away. You’re not the geeky tomboy you were 15 years ago. You’re a beautiful confident person who is scared as hell to let people in because you’re positive they’ll shit on you just like they did back then. Only if you let them, Jane. Only if you let them. Let them in. Get hurt the right way – the authentic way. They way that lets you have the experience before feeling the pain.
Give it a go, k? Let me know how it goes and we’ll go from there.
“You can’t rally American Jews around God, but they do rally around two things: Israel and Nazis.”
I hadn’t thought much about it, but those two issues are the two that will stir the Jew pot more than God, that’s for sure. Telling a Jew they’re going to hell won’t get their hackles up nearly as much as calling them a big-nosed cheapskate. Worse even yet if the Jewish joke they tell when they don’t know you’re listening just isn’t funny.
As a tattooed Jew who doesn’t eat pork or shellfish, my own religious identity is certainly nuanced, flip flopping from faithless and struggling to unaffiliated and desperate to connect. But what am I yearning to connect with? If American Jews rally around Israel and Nazis (by which he meant all anti-semitic/anti-separation-of-church-and-state parties past, present and, unfortunately, future), I’m fucked. And not by my Jewish knight in shining kippah.
Let’s start with Israel. Fun Fact: I was on Birthright Israel’s first busload of idiot college kids ever. Bus #1. And as grateful I was for the experience, it was more of a head-fuck and faith-fuck than a meaningful religious experience. Nothing made sense to me – the customs, the language, the history. I was a reform Jew in a country that didn’t seem to know what to do with people like me (see: Godless Americans, above). I spent my 10 days watching the least awkward amongst us perform their mating rituals, making their Jewish mothers at home unknowingly proud while the rest of us tried to enjoy and find meaning in the experience. It didn’t work. Not for me. I felt nothing. I left not yearning for my homeland, but yearning for a hamburger. I’ve never desired to go back. I have no opinion on the Palestinian/Israeli “Situation.” I spend exactly no time thinking about it except hoping (praying?) that the ones I love there are safe and sound, happy and healthy. And that’s about it.
So, what about the Nazis? I grew up in an upper middle class predominantly Jewish suburb of DC. To say I never experienced anti-semitism would be an understatement. Well, at least until I got out of college, and realized some people are just idiots. I had no family in Europe during the Holocaust. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII. They never shared stories of their own experience as a Jew. My parents? Nope – not them either. No anti-semitism to speak of on either side. Thank goodness, right? Sure. But how do I connect empathetically with people who lost so much? Who struggle so desperately against oppression and bigotry? Who had it so much harder than me and draw their identity from that struggle? I don’t. So, do I define my Jewishness by hating Nazi and Nazi-like people? Well, I’m not a fan of them, but no, not really.
That leaves God. I struggle – Oy do I struggle. In high school and college I was so desperate to discuss and try to understand a God that felt so strange. And now, I have no one to have those debates with. Not without being labeled “weird” by my atheist/agnostic friends. Being a single, childless “young professional,” we certainly aren’t asked to do much in the God department. Instead, we’re told to attend happy hours and game nights. We’re told to sign up for JDate to find the mensch of our dreams! Or of our fantasies because getting them to stick around for more than a date or two is a miracle in and of itself. The minyans are more of a dinner pre-party than religious event. God doesn’t seem to be much of an option if you’re not getting married or having babies. God? Not my connection to be sure.
So where does that leave me? Disconnected. But I see sparks of faith at the end of a cord that would connect me to my heritage… waiting to plug in somewhere.
I spent a little time at the AJC conference in DC this past weekend. It got me thinking a lot about my connection with Israel, as ill defined as it is. Here’s part 1 of my story.
I stepped off of the plane in Tel Aviv and onto a big, generic coach labeled “Bus 1.” We were 3 hours late, following a bomb scare at Newark and many of the dignitaries had gone home. Hundreds of college students that filled the chartered 747 were either drunk or exhausted. Literally strangers in a strange land, we were symbols. We were guinea pigs. We were the first young adults to ever take a trip supported by Birthright Israel. And we were fucking idiots.
Barely 18 years old, I was a Freshman at the University of Miami. I had become affiliated with Hillel to sort through all the bullshit and confusion I carried out of the socially damaging experience I had in my high school youth group. I knew I wanted to stay connected to my budding Judaism, but I was a miserable, newly pierced and highly combative teenager and had NO problem sharing my baggage with anyone who would carry a piece.
“Keep your grubby faith off my religion!!!” I felt like screaming. After finally knowing my way through the motions, the Rabbi was challenging me to explore my faith. God, to me, was a word. Not a being. Not a power. Not anything I was connected to. Not anyone I called out to. We learned that the stories in the Torah were true enough — allegories (if we needed them to be) or simply a nice story (if we didn’t). Creates a bit of a conundrum when you wind up in Israel. On a tour. With Jews. The idea that “this happened here,” or “that happened there” became too much to handle. It didn’t happen there. It couldn’t. It was a story, a fable. It didn’t feel real because it wasn’t to me.
I battled with faith tooth and nail for 10 days. Maybe looking back I battled against my faith – uncomfortable with the idea of giving into something so esoteric, so uncool. And when I came home I felt nothing. I didn’t miss it. I didn’t yearn for it. I didn’t pray differently. I didn’t talk to God differently. I didn’t book my trip back. I didn’t think much about it at all. When I went on Birthright, there wasn’t a support system to keep us engaged. Instead, we went back to school and back to life. We had no idea what we had been a part of – the first trip ever. The first busload of kids that The Old Jews would pay for to go back to Israel and Make More Jews with the other Jews being wined and dined and wooed by a foreign land. Birthright to me, for better or worse, felt more like a matchmaking service or sperm bank than anything else.
My struggle to connect was not born of my trip to Israel, but it was certainly exacerbated by it.
Such was that happy garden-state,
While man there walked without a mate.
To me, it was a movie about “finding.” Finding his way back home. Finding his mother’s pendant. Finding his way. Finding himself. Finding love. Finding out he couldn’t do it alone… or at least didn’t want to.
At 30, I’m finding that I do. Or maybe I do.
As I sit by the phone, the phone that is more portable and powerful than any communication device known to man, I question every ounce of my being. “Who are you?! More importantly, Jane, who is he that he’s got you wrapped around his sticky little finger after what, a date? A brief encounter at a bar?” No one. He is no one. He’s one of the string of no ones that I run across and give a little piece of myself to all while claiming resilience and independence. Ranging against the dating machine.
I am miserable when I am dating. Miserable. The game, the waiting. The “I can’t text him because he hasn’t texted me.” The “I couldn’t have done anything wrong, I haven’t seen him in three days.” The questioning, the posturing, the palpable nonchalance that I’m sure has been my undoing.
It’s not lonely, my solitude. It’s lonelier with someone who isn’t there. I am happier when I am alone, in my uncomplicated garden. Maybe it’s the familiarity. Maybe it’s inertia. Maybe it’s just that I’m meant to be this way.
I don’t have a wedding. I don’t have a dress picked out. I don’t know where I want to go on my honeymoon or what flowers the groomsmen will wear in their lapel. I’ve never had a partner in my future. And while I mourn it, I think I’m finding peace.
I can’t listen to fun. at work. No, they aren’t pornographic. Their music isn’t laced with Four Letter Words.
It’s the whistling. They make me whistle. And hum. And tap my fingers and toes. They make me want to dance and that is just not conducive to any sort of work environment, least of all an open office with 3 poor souls just trying to do their job.
It’s the super fucking sweet lyrics and the beats that won’t quit. It’s the ridiculously catchy melodies that get stuck. in. my. head. All day. All fucking day.
And the whistling. THE WHISTLING.
I can’t say, “Oh, I knew them when…” but I knew them before the brilliant Ad Man put Fun.’s anthemic song “We Are Young” in their Superbowl commercial. They were the first song on Sean Parker‘s Spotify playlist disappointingly and appropriately called Hipster International. Something about the song was so inspired. So different from what was out there. The beat was pulsing (ugh – I know, I know but it *was* pulsing) and the chorus made me want to stand up and throw my first up in angsty gusto. And it made me want to jump in my car and drive really, really fast. Apparently I wasn’t the only one.
You know the hit the big time when the New York Times writes a Big Long Article about them. So fancy – so mainstream. So… close to losing the indie cache that I wish they had kept for just a moment longer.
This has been the season of Songs Stuck In My Head. First “Shake it Out” by Florence and the Machine. Then “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye. Then, “Anna Sun” by Walk The Moon. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about a band — every song inspired, every song unique.
But not to be listened to in public. Unless you have no shame. Which, as you know, I don’t.
Yup – I’m back in Fan Girl form (similar to but different from that small hiccup with Say Anything from a few years back. What up, Max Bemis?!) But this is better, surely.
This band is for real. And really fun. Period.
There is no better feeling than texting my mother a picture of the hamantashen I just baked, then receiving a phone call frantically asking where it disappeared to on her phone and explaining that it didn’t magically disappear but, rather, it’s just “inside the text message.”
Perhaps I should have started with, “There’s no better feeling than baking hamantashen.”
My funniest, “funnest,” fondest memories growing up are in the kitchen with my family. My mom was an incredible cook and a better baker. Apart from time driving to and from sporting events, peeling apples for my mom’s infamous apple pies are some of the only memories I have of quality time with my dad. We’d peel, he’d cut, mom made the crust and when no one was looking would poke a design into the top of the pie so when it came out it bore a special message – a barely legible “happy birthday!” or a malformed turkey was typical. She made lopsided cakes and oozing cookies — they were absolutely perfect. Because she made them. And she made them for me.
As if prowess in the kitchen was a privilege and not a birthright, I wasn’t born with baking in my soul. My attempt at making flan for my 5th grade spanish class was an epic(urean) fail. I served it to the class anyway, burnt caramel and all. But she stood next to me and made me feel like I was the best baker in the world, doing her best to fix my mess without discouraging me from stepping foot into the kitchen again.
At some point in my mid-20’s, I hit my stride. Slowly but surely, I realized that there was a certainly zen in baking. The precise measurements (which I often take liberties with), the clean kitchen covered in flour and sugar and chocolate, the hot kitchen and the twitchy smoke detector, the prayer that it will all come out OK. Then they do. Or they don’t.
But I always tell my mom. I can’t wait to. It’s her legacy to me – an ability to bring smiles to the faces of family and friends and strangers alike with perfectly imperfect treats that look like hell and taste like heaven.
Like a fine wine, I am.
Personality forward with notes of sarcasm. Dark and full bodied. Well rounded.
If only I could claim to be aged to perfection.
Decant me. Wait. Be patient. I need to open up. But it takes time…
Don’t jude me by my label: crazy, spicy, strange. I’m not the prettiest bottle on the shelf, but when you taste me, get a taste for me, I’m unlike anything you’ve tried before.
Pair me carefully. I go well with respect, understanding, good humor, wit. I’ve tried other combinations, but the dissonance on the palate leaves you dissatisfied and me unappreciated.
Over complicated. Under enjoyed.
A fine wine indeed.
New Rule: Assume all men I ever meet have girlfriends. Every last one of them. Why? Because they do. And they don’t wear signs, or rings, or have rays of light shining out of their asses to let me know not to bother.
Why the new rule? So glad you asked.
After attending a fun party with new friends, Rebekkah and I headed to a local bar. It’s a trendy, upscale bar and it was nice to be around age appropriate men in this part of town. We grabbed a glass of wine and started chatting when a guy in a Reddit shirt and hoodie walk in. Picture-fucking-perfect. His beard was hipster length, his pants were hipster tight, his attitude was hipster cool… but clearly he had a job. Win, win, win, win. I was probably the only girl in the bar who knew what Reddit was, or cared to know, so I thought this was a fool proof in to say “hello.” We made our way to where he was standing at the bar, waited until he looked disengaged enough from the conversation and I went over with my prepared remarks in mind.
Everything went as planned (first time ever). He was impressed, we chatted about all things “geek” for about half an hour, and then it was time to go. He looked at me, his phone in hand. The moment of truth arrived – interested or uninterested, would he get my number? “So, Jane. I’m in love with a girl back in Reno. But, ya know, if you are just looking for a good time…”
Was he serious?! “Are you serious?!”
No, I’m not looking for a good time I tell him. And I am sure the girl in Reno would be thrilled to know that he was biding his time by fucking other women. That usually endears a woman. But thank you, because most guys would just take my number and never call. (Yes, I told him as much.)
It was jarring. But I deserved it. Or it felt like I deserved it. I took another chance. I went out on that thin limb to give it a shot, even after promising I wouldn’t again. Not after the last time, whatever the last time was. Whenever it was. No matter the result.
It was my fault.
Hence the new rule.
What are some other rules of dating to follow?
The joke went like this:
Hey, Jane – Whatcha doing this Friday?
Oh, not much. Going to Trader Joes.
What, are you guys, like, dating?
Less a joke and more a fantasy, my Friday evening trips to Trader Joe’s made me deliriously happy. I would come home from work, throw on whateverthehelliwanted, toss my hair in a ratty bun, grab my reusable bags (you’re welcome Al!) and iPod and head for my happy place. Full of suburban moms and young, optimistic couples, I could wander the aisles feeling smug. About exactly nothing in particular.
Then I moved to Arlington, the land of pretty people in nice clothes all the time. The land of attractive (douchebag, over-educated, less-successful-than-they-claim-to-be) men in nice suits and their blonde (over-educated, highly successful and probably really nice) flavor of the month. Even my business casual work-at-a-bank attire looks frumpy around these suited beauties. And it doesn’t seem to change on the weekends. How to they still look so polished at 10am on a Saturday? Their designer-matched yoga clothes, their blown out hair in pony tails, their seemingly tailored t-shirts and running pants. Do they EVER take a day off?
Trader Joe and I go way back. But now my competition has upped the ante and I have to meet them. Perhaps it’s time to unfrump. Can anyone get me on “What Not To Wear…In DC…At The Market”??? How about some fashion bloggers out there take me under their wing. I should make a sign, “Will Blog for Style!”
*Sigh* Philly was good for one thing: Not giving a fuck.