Monday, October 6, 2014

It's a new season for Cougel.  

The Jewish Cougar got married. To a Christian Cub. That's a long way from licking my divorce wounds in the wilds of the NYC dating scene.   

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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Cougel Returns. Married. (Married? Married!)

You might wonder what I’m doing back here, blogging again. Last we left off in the summer of 2012, I was riding on the back of a motorcycle with my soon to be husband, in Kansas, where I was meeting my future Christian-laws.  

Since then, some momentous stuff has transpired which has technically unqualified me as a Jewish Cougar.

1- I got married.
Which means, no more dating stories. My life finally got more private, and the urge or desire to write about my life ceased, especially since it was no longer “my” life to write about – it was “ours.”

2- I married a Christian.
Which ended my search for a Jewish guy, thereby terminating the "Will Cougel Marry a Jew? (like Mom wants her to)" subplot.

3- I (finally) got over my divorce.
My divorcee status, which at the time proved to be a bottomless well of material, was finally behind me.

But mostly, I had moved on from Cougar status because I had found some hope. And with that, a bit of peace.  

So you could say that all of the above zap the intrigue and suspense inherent in the trials and tribulations of a thirty (or forty!) something divorcee (probably the reason why "Sex and The City" ended when Carrie finally married Big).  Once the ‘character’ you’re reading about arrives at her goal – whether she knew that to be her goal or not – the story is over.

But, maybe it doesn’t have to be.

Maybe the story – the new story – lies in the shift. In the transition from one stage in life to the next, and the perspective shift that comes with it.  Maybe I can now look back on dating, divorced, Cougel, as she navigated her way through NYC’s dating mine field, like other women who went through it or are dealing with those challenges, and shine a spot light on the shadowy parts. 

It only recently occurred to me that "Or," the root of my Hebrew name, means "light." Maybe it's time to put it to use.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Cougel got...what?

Holy year and how long?

Yes, it's been a year and a half since I last blogged. And a year and a half since things got serious with Mr. Big II (aka my very tall ex-boyfriend, for those of you who need a refresher). My last entry was about our visiting his parents in Kansas, last June. A year before we got engaged.

Engaged in June. Married in September. (Quick! And not for the reason you think, she says, sipping her mimosa).

The Cougel got married. Who woulda thought?

The Cougel married a man nine years younger than her, so technically she still qualifies as a Cougar, but that's all it is. A number. A technicality. Because it doesn't feel like that at all. Most of the time, he demonstrates the maturity and wisdom of a man years older than I. He stimulates my mind, my heart, and has put me on the road to restoring my faith - in love, in myself, and in God. 

Because of him, the Kugel in Cougel got a little sweeter (with more cheese).

So stay tuned for subsequent erratic posts, and eventually, the memoir. As The Cougel Continues....

Sunday, July 8, 2012

From Cannes to...Kansas?

If you had asked me in January whether I expected, come June, to find myself on a scooter in Cannes one week, followed by a ride on a Honda Valkrie in Kansas the next, I’d say that expectations of such random proportions were reserved for fiction.

Or blogs.

A year ago I attended Cannes Lions (the advertising festival) when I was single, on the heels of a semi-breakup (of a semi-romance) and was struck by the pervasive spring break everything goes fever. I wrote a post about it (Why Do Some Married Men Not Wear Rings?

I don’t want to sound ungrateful or spoiled, and I enjoyed the experience, but perhaps enjoyment reaches an apex of diminishing returns - where the fun becomes painful, not to mention, meaningless. Maybe this is something you experience when you hit 35, or when you’re simply past frivolous ego-stroking flirtations, or both. Amidst tan, bathing suit clad Europeans, tantalizing and sparkly through my Rose´-tinted glasses, I felt more alone – and overwhelmed by the pressure of “You’re so lucky youre single! You can hook up with anyone!” - than I did as a single woman in New York City.

When the opportunity to attend cropped up again, I was nervous.  I was five months into a budding relationship which comes with its inevitable concerns, and I wasn’t sure whether I would be strong enough to weather the temptations and motto of “Whatever happens in Cannes, stays in Cannes,” even though I had every intention of doing so.

And yet, my anxiety evaporated the moment I arrived, replaced with unwavering conviction. As I listened to single friends strategize who they might hook up with and when, a calm gratitude filled me that this time I wasn’t stuck in that funhouse of mirrors. Looking at them, from the outside in (for a change), strengthened my dedication to my boyfriend. I didn’t even have to think about it.  It dawned on me that perhaps I had grown up a lot more (or was more in love) than I had realized. It helped to have a reference - to be in the same environment I had been a year ago – as a marker of my emotional development.

When I arrived at JFK, excited and counting the traffic filled hours until I saw my man, I didn’t have to wait that long. There he was, waiting for me at arrivals. (For those of you who don’t live in NY, New Yorkers don’t pick each other up from the airport. It involves trains and rented automobiles).

I was back at the airport five days after returning from Cannes - on my way to Kansass. To Meet the Fockers.  Yes, meeting the family is always a nerve wracking ordeal, but to me it was magnified by the fact that 1) I had never been to Kansas (or flown on a toy plane that landed next to a tractor)  2) I was a Jewish divorce´being introduced to my potential Christian in-laws, 3) I was nine years older than my boyfriend and even older than his (married with children) siblings.

At this point the question that might cross your mind is: Is she nuts?

Or perhaps you're kindly thinking: She’s brave!

Fine line between the two.

To which I reply that the older you get, and the closer you get to reaching the daunting midpoint of your life, those questions – and their potential consequences – becomes sorta irrelevant. As does what other people think (although it’s worth mentioning that my mother was excited for me to experience some real life “Little House on the Prairie.”)

And a prairie I experienced.  The morning after I arrived, in 105 degree heat, I found myself poised on the broad seat of a Honda Valkrie, leaning against my boyfriend’s broad back, as we drove out of his parents' driveway and onto the long expanse of highway. As the motorcycle picked up speed, the wind whipping my face (and the occasional whif of cow maneur), I wrapped my arms around him, my helmet sporadically tapping against his like some kind of love morse code. But I wasn’t afraid. I was surrounded by stretches of green and gold fields, dotted with a neglected farm house or two. Driving through the heartland. What people would call, miles and miles of nothing. But to me, and in my heart, well, I felt the opposite of nothing.

Somehow, amidst all the wind and engine noise, my boyfriend heard me laughing. “What’s so funny?” he said.

“I never thought I’d be forty and riding on a motorcycle through Kansas, with my Christian boyfriend, past Jesus signs!” I called.

“How does it feel?” he asked.

“Incredible,” I said. “I’m gonna have to blog about it.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cougel's Bittersweet Birthday

In my last post I discussed how this blog needs to evolve - naturally -  and asked for your suggestions (thank you by the way!)

But funny how life – and the universe – can provide the answer.

Several days after that post, the advertising industry was hit with another random tragedy and loss of a wonderful person. I knew this guy, who was robbed from this world, and all the possibilities of a beautiful life ahead - but I didn’t know him well. That didn’t change the impact of his loss or the heaviness I carried around for days. I met up with some of his close friends later that evening, and at first I questioned whether I had a place in that tight knit circle to mourn him. But you realize that the older you get, not only do you statistically know more people, and therefore are exposed to more loss – but the more blessed you feel to have the privilege of living.

His passing came, coincidentally, on the brink of my birthday. It was a big birthday. The number and the date had been beckoning for months, at some moments daunting me. I wondered how I would feel. Having been married for fourteen years, and then divorced, I didn’t predict that the picture of my life today would consist of the furnishings that now inhabit it. But of course, you can’t predict what your life will look like a year from now, or ten. We take comfort in thinking that we can (it gives us a needed illusion of control, and that’s okay). But this year, with the timing of my friend’s passing at such a young age, it underscored the preciousness of life. Of the now.

On the evening before my birthday, I was overcome by emotion. My boyfriend noticed my silence, and at first, he mistook it as sorrow.  And I wasn’t sure whether his guess was accurate or not.  But as the clock struck midnight (and I’m no Cinderella), as I sat beside him with a glass of wine on a porch near the beach, looking up at the stars, I realized that what I was feeling was gratitude. Gratitude for being given the privilege of experiencing this planet. And gratitude for the life that I had created for myself while on it, in the years since (and including) my marriage: my job, my love for my dog,
my home life, my discovery of an inner writing life, and moreover - for the wonderful people who are an intrinsic part of it.

Are there tough times? Grievances that seem monsterous when I'm focused on them? Of course. I write about it plenty. But in moments like these, those musings seem irrelevant. 

And then the Happy Birthday wishes started pouring in on Facebook. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that as they did, throughout the day, I checked my now deceased friend’s Facebook wall, filled with heart breaking lamentation. Facebook is a funny thing, isn’t it? I couldn’t help but notice the irony. The celebration of the birth of a life on one page, and mourning the end of one (like a virtual tombstone) on another - simultaneously occurring on the same app. The cycle of life imprinted on Facebook.

When I met up with my friends to grieve, we ended up talking about every detail that led up to our friend’s death. For closure, to find meaning? But all we could do was share, connect, and feel united in that moment, in the hopes that by doing so it would alleviate some of the sorrow or honor our friend’s memory.  What can we take from such a thing? was a question frequently asked.  We concluded, at least publically, that we could not. 

But privately, it’s up to us – and not just when we celebrate the day of our birth – but every single day, when we wake up in the morning, to explore and celebrate what life means to us.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Should bloggers be writing about their relationships?

NO! (Caps intended).

It only took me six months to figure that one out. Duh.

For those of you who've wondered whether I've disappeared and gone fishin, the answer is yes. Except in a different pond.

I pulled the rod (no, not that kind) out of the online NYC dating pool, and by doing so I unconsciously hooked a very big fish. From the ex-boyfriend pool. And yes, he happens to be very big indeed (As in tall. Please get your heads out of the gutter).

My ex-boyfriend (call him Mr. Big II) reemerged on the heels of my last short-lived relationship. At the time, I thought it was merely a sign meant to spotlight the obvious things that weren't working in the other relationship. I was skeptical to get back together with him, as most are.

I've heard divergent thoughts about getting back with the ex. Some people have said, "Your ex is an ex for a reason." Others testify to the fact that a former ex can have future potential, specifically because they were your ex first. Not only because you already know eachother well when you rekindle and don't have to go through the stressful (and perspective skewing) process of courtship, but because the act of breaking up itself fans the flames of the heart and reaffirms what it is you actually want - or had. Also, I believe that the experience of missing one another post break-up is a bonding experience in itself.

When Mr. Big II and I dated one year ago, I blogged for the duration of our relationship. I didn't blog about him per se, but I frequently found it impossible to omit mentioning him or an incident when applicable to the post's topic. People used to ask me (including the guy I was in the short term relationship with) how I could even reference him at all - a legitimate question. And "Short Term Guy," after reading my blog before our second date, asked me not to even mention that I was dating him. He is a private guy, and while initially it was a jolt for me, I respected it. And so I didnt blog for the two months we dated.

I also considered that my posts over the last two years, specifically the early ones, were divorce-centric. I was still processing my divorce and in it's aftermath, I had plenty to say (and consequently work out). Was the need to blog tied to those raw feelings I was digging through, and now that most of the pain has been mined and the learnings activated, am I officially over the divorce and therefore blogging about it?

So when Mr. Big II and I began dating again, I didn't have the urge to blog anymore. I had also started a new book, and was pouring my creative energy into that, but I realized that was just an excuse. Taking a break made me realize the obvious (which was obvious to everyone but me):

Do I really want "the world" to be reading about my private life on a weekly basis?

If I did, I'd be writing a memoir - instead of fiction.

That said, I decided to write today because simply, frankly, I miss it. And oddly I miss my readers, invisible as you may be.

And I know Mr. Big II wouldn't mind if I chose to blog again. He encourages me to write honestly, first and foremost, and trusts that I will respect his privacy in the process. But perhaps it's time for a change in course. Perhaps this is an opportunity for my blog to evolve.

But into what?

I welcome your suggestions. And hope you hang with me in the process.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Can we make emotional plans for the future?

When I was in my twenties and getting married, I believed I could control what was to come. I thought I could attempt to apply for insurance against loss, geographical or career changes and divorce  – by marrying “right.”

What does that even mean? I’ve written about the checklist before, and while the items on the list might vary for each of us based on our backgrounds, religion, culture, and the age (or timing in which) we “fall in love” – we all try to find certain qualities in our mate that we hope can inure us against certain hurdles.

They tend to be the kind of descriptors that show up on a dating profile, such as: “Successful as a muther fucker!! Loves travel! And dogs too! Cinema buff. Dinner parties rule! Will be patient while shopping with you!!” 

While these qualities may be attractive on the surface, they have nothing to do with the real person (and by the way, beware of those who lean too long on the exclamation mark key).

I've fallen for these qualities before, encouraged by witnessing friends getting married, having children, and seemingly on the path to happiness.  Why would anyone not pursue the same?

I’ve had a few conversations lately about this topic with friends who questioned why my recent relationship didn’t work out, although I’m hesitant to call it that, as the relationship was quite brief (and why you all didn't hear about it). I wonder if it even lasted as long as it did because of the checklist; because of the on-paper qualities this man possessed that papered the flimsy walls of my hopes and expectations, and the expectations of my friends and family.

Although, one very wise person surprised me by posing the opposite: “The most important question to ask yourself is, do you want to be around this personality in five or twenty years?”

Personality = key word.

I wonder if we have to experience these kind of relationships in order to appreciate what matters most: the intangible. The moment to moment interchanges that feed and sustain - chemistry that noone can see from the outside.

I do think it takes time to come around to what you need and want. My ex-boyfriend emerged in my life a year after we broke up, without ultimatums, pressure, or a promise of what might be. He’s the same person he was a year ago, and isn’t pretending to be anyone else. He didn’t show up at my door with a big poster-board itemizing a new checklist of accomplishments. But he is able to say so. He has the capacity to not make false guarantees about the future. If he did, I wouldn’t believe him (as I might once have). Because how could he?

Today, a close friend asked me what is going on with my ex-boyfriend:  "What's going to happen if you ex out the ex part?"

My response: “At this point in my life...and this isn’t cynicism or resignation...I can’t overfocus on the negative checklist, or the potential hurdles, because those things are mutable.”  (I probably didn’t say it with those pretentious words, but you get the gist).  Point is, a guy can lose his job, his money, or move cities. Falling in love with a checklist, or rejecting someone because of them (and hanging on to them for the same reasons), I believe is foolish, since they have nothing to do with the make-up of that person – the person they are today and will most likely still be in the future.

As I approach the big 40 (to those of you who don’t know me, I’m not admitting how many years more I have), something has changed. Instead of feeling this immense pressure to get it right, whatever that might mean, and tie together some illusory loose ends, instead, for the first time, I feel the relieving absence of that.  Maybe it has something to do with the elimination of too many perceived options (like you have when you're in your twenties) when what you can do or think you should have, overwhelms and paralyzes you. Or propels you into making a decision ie. the wrong relationship, so that you can get some false assurance.

There is also something to be said for being okay without the assurance. For being okay with accepting and embracing where you are. For having faith in what is to come, which is beyond your control. And having faith in how you feel, and what you want. 


Because do we really know how we are going to feel, or what is going to happen, two years from now? Or tomorrow?

If you do, please message me.