Friday, October 29, 2010

What's a Jewish Cougar supposed to be for Halloween?


Jews aren’t supposed to “do Halloween.” When I was in Hebrew School, the principal sent out a memo telling parents that it's a pagan holiday and therefore not proper for “the children of the Hebrew Academy” to dress up like goblins and witches. What a bummer! I still managed to collect tons of snicker bars and eat them.

But now that I’m older, single, and living in Manhattan, it is my duty to partake in the fun of dressing up, being stupid, and having an excuse to talk to whomever. It occurred to me that maybe it's also an opportunity to mask parts of myself. A chance - for a change - to keep some information a secret in a social setting, at least for one evening.

I don’t know what the plan is yet. Downtown Manhattan on Halloween is one big circus so you don’t really need a destination. All you need to do is ask a guy what he is supposed to be (even when it’s obvious)...an insta conversation starter. The only problem is, you have no idea what the guy actually looks like naked (of his costume) or in broad daylight. But who cares? What’s beneath the superficial disguise doesn’t matter. After all, it’s Shalloween!

My costume this year? I was thinking of purchasing some cat ears (and some cleavage), wearing a Jewish star around my neck, and going to Toys R Us to buy a boy toy I could put in my pocket. Hilarious! Not. But then I realized, after all my moaning over how to remain semi anonymous with this blog when I'm meeting guys, dressing up like a Jewish Cougar is probably not a good idea (nor does it qualify as a disguise).  So instead my girlfriend and I are going to be “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl who Played with Fire.” Basically, that means I get to dress up like a hot lesbian. Not sure what this says about me, but I already have the appropriate attire hanging in my closet.


Or, maybe it’s my chance to flirt. Not only with dudes.  Maybe I can try what all the guys in my office have been saying: “Cougel, forget men! It’s obviously not working for you. Maybe you should be a lesbian!”

I don’t know if that’s feasible; if I can actually try to be one when I’m not. But on Halloween, maybe I can pretend.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Facebook. Let your fingers do the stalking.


We all know how useful Facebook is for stalking ex-es. This includes discovering that your ex-boyfriend's got a new girl, or that your ex hook-up has four, or that your ex-husband has a new baby, when you didn’t even know he’d gotten married.

Well I think Facebook is feelin used and abused, so now it’s stalking us back. 

Have you guys noticed the Facebook ads on the right side of your profile page? I know their search engines are behind it, targeting each individual, but still, the ads are unsettling in their specificity. They seem to know what buttons need pushing.  Are they trying to tell us something? (In the example on the right the ad insists this woman is a gay man).

My ex-cub pointed this out to me. His noticed that ever since our break up, his Facebook ads are recommending things like: 1- a new apartment, 2- a better career, and 3- local Christian girls. I guess Facebook knows it’s probably not a good idea to sell him local Jewish Cougars.

So I took a look at my page. The ad at the top was benign: 'New York vegan food.' But as I scrolled down I saw, “Psychology and Counseling,” and then, “Acupuncture and IVF treatments.”

What the F-book? Does Facebook think that they can just passive aggressively express their opinion of what they think is right for me?

For fun, I wondered what kind of ads would come from my mother. Would I be getting, “Local Jewish doctors and lawyers,” or  “Apartments available on the Upper West Side,” or “Donate to the Holocaust Museum?”

Linked-In recently got on the here-are-things-you-prefer-not-to-think-about bandwagon too. The day after my cub and I broke up, Linked-In recommended I connect with my ex-husband.  They thought he was “someone I might know.” Ya think?

Pressure and guilt from my mother I can take. But automated, social media guilt? Creepy!

(Confession: As I write this, I keep checking back to my profile page to see what else Facebook thinks I should be doing.  Wait, ‘Invisalign?’  Are my teeth crooked?)


Friday, October 15, 2010

To blog or not to blog: Should writers tell the truth, even when they're single and dating?


I’ve been in a bit of funk lately. Usually I can blame it on pms, but in the absence of that, I’m looking for something to assign this feeling of raw vulnerability to. I think part of it is this time of year. It’s more than just gloomy weather, or the anxiety that comes with summer’s end and the pressures of what is supposed to be a productive time; with no more days off or Jewish holidays that gobble up most of September. The leaves are changing, and for me, it’s signifying some internal changes too.

The novel that I started writing over three years ago has reached a certain, exciting stage. With that, I am experiencing a feeling of both unnerving trepidation and boundless possibility. I didn’t know this about myself, but I might be slightly superstitious, so I’m not going to get into it here, except to say that it marks the close of one very long chapter, and the start of a new one. Not so coincidentally, I’m feeling like my blog is also at an intersection of sorts. When I started writing it, as I did my novel, it was because I had stuff to say, and enjoyed doing so. I didn’t think about whether it was going to grow, if anyone was going to read it, or how they would feel when doing so. If I did, I probably would never have started it at all. Worry and fear of what others might think paralyzes a writer. Our honesty, our life experiences and tribulations are our life-blood and I don’t think I would know how to write without those things to draw from. Would I have anything to say? I admire writers of science fiction, fantasy, or mysteries, who can invent worlds that appear remote and unrelated to their own personal lives. It took getting to this stage that I’m at, where I actually have some readers - after a lonely journey of writing in a vacuum – to recognize that I am simply not that kind of writer.

And with that realization, comes a bunch of conflict. This is new territory for me.

People I am close to, including family members, close friends, and exes too, are reading about me.  Not just the blog, a public journal of sorts, but my novel too, which is semi-autobiographical and a window into what I call my life “pre-blog,” although it is fictionalized and significant parts of it completely imagined.  Exposing myself, as well as my past, was not my initial intention, plan, and nowhere near the goal. Exposure is what I’d call a bi-product of finding my voice, my self, as a writer. My mother is reading my book now, for the first time. She is experiencing what her daughter “experienced” during a difficult time in her life, and in a way, I am reliving it with her. When she called me, after reading page one, I reacted defensively when she said: “It says ‘fucking’ three times on the first page! Is that allowed??”  “Mom,” I said, “It’s a book. It’s fiction. Anything is allowed! And by the way, there is actual fucking that comes later in the book, so deal with it.” You could say the subtext to that is: “Your daughter (or the character in the book whom you identify with as your daughter), has sex!”

This happened around the same time that I went on a few dates with guys who know about my blog after befriending me on Facebook, and it’s raised some questions. When I started the blog back in March, I didn’t have many dates lined up. I was post break up #1 with my cub, and as I said above, I really wasn’t thinking anyone was going to read it, so censoring or being “mindful” of a potential future boyfriend’s feelings was not a consideration. My ex-cub, who I’ve known since I started writing my novel over three years ago, and my blog too, was (and I believe still is) one of the first to read my posts. When we were together, I blogged about other things – our relationship was kept private (although that limited my subject matter significantly, and probably diluted the blog’s “brand”). And now that we are broken up, I am careful not to say anything hurtful about him (although truthfully he hasn’t given me any reason to). Nor has he ever taken offense by anything I’ve written. He encourages me to keep going, and said, “You’re a writer. You have to write what feels right, and I don’t want to ever thwart that. I’d rather you write shit about me, than not write.”

Good man.

But more than that, he is a writer too, a songwriter. He understands the process. So for a guy like him, my being a writer, an expressionist, is not a threat. It’s an appealing quality.  And, he can keep up with what I’m doing. I wish I had the same advantage. Lucky him. Or maybe not. Because on the flip side, what is going to happen, I wonder, when I do enter into a new relationship? Am I going to blog about it? How could I not? I know I am going to hesitate, knowing it might hurt him, but in the end, I’m guessing the choice is going to be to write the truth.

So now that the blog has grown, along with me, I find myself single, dating, and wondering what new potential mates might think should they read it. I can’t control what they read and what they Google, especially when they Google 'Cougel.' I mean, should a guy that is interested in me be my Facebook friend, where he can easily link to my blog? Probably not, right? That’s a whole other question. Friends have advised me, “Don’t tell a guy you go on one date or three with about your blog, because then they will know everything about you, more than you know about them. And there will be less for them to ask you and discover over time.” (Although you could say that the guy should be pleased that he doesn’t have to guess what I’m thinking). This makes sense, and I don’t disagree with it. But what am I supposed to do, when being a writer has become so much a part of who I am? Should I hide the fact that I blog altogether, when it gives me so much joy? Should I hide the fact that I wrote a novel? Because when people ask me what its about, if I answer honestly, it immediately reveals that I was once married, for how long, and that it didn’t go so well. (For those of you rolling your eyes right now, saying: “Stop over-thinking!,” my response would be, “That would be like trying to tell a straight dude to like guys.”)

I think for some women, doing the above is easy. But I’m not sure I’m built that way. It poses a conflict for me. I have an awful poker face, and am by nature an open “over-sharer.” I can try, but it doesn’t feel right.

I talked to a fellow blogger today. His blog is extremely popular and he is not anonymous. He is married with children and writes about being a dad. I told him how people who find my blog via Twitter etc. don’t know my real name, and I love writing to that audience, because I’m free. And because they don’t know me, they respond positively. He said it shouldn’t matter, to reference my real name. “It’s time for Clark Kent to become Superman,” he said.  I laughed (I don’t totally get the analogy), but when I said, “But it might affect my dating life. I’m single. What if I want to write about a date I had, because it’s funny or worth sharing? Am I risking sabotaging my dating life for my professional one, my passion?” He didn’t laugh in response. “Dude. That blows,” he said. “And not in a good way.”

I’d love to hear your input on this one - especially if you’re a writer too. I know some “single NYC dating” bloggers who write under pseudonyms. There’s a reason for it. And what do memoirists do? Not the ones who are married, but the ones who are single and conscious of how they project themselves and what information they are divulging? Should they not give a shit?
















Monday, October 11, 2010

A Jewish mother's advice on dating.


What a day. It started out (as all Monday's do), sluggish, yicky, and overwhelmed by the plans I had lined up every night but this one.  And I had all sorts of heady and heavy blogs to write such as: what break ups are like (as if you don’t know), and the kinds of things we do to distract ourselves from heartache and loneliness. And from sending dumb ass texts to our exes like “I miss you,” or “Hi,” or “Twitter says you’re bored, can I help?”

But why bother when mom is back full force?

I had a date last night with a very nice man. A bear. He is about (gasp!) 19 years older than my ex-cub was. With a good job and a large...physique and lots of interesting things to say. He even had a few book suggestions for me to write down. It was positive. I came home and out of habit, I emailed my sisters and my mother a quick low down. This is to spare me from two things: 1) Having to rehash the same story three separate times, and 2) So that the next day I don’t have to talk about it again. Because as experience dictates, I really have no idea if I will ever hear from said dude again (for no particular reason except this is New York and guys are weird), and I don’t want to talk or think about it (because friends and mom get more worked up than I do) til there is a second or third date on the books.

So sisters write back the cute and expected: “Great! Sounds fun.” Two minutes pass. And then almost identical emails from both sisters come in: “Wait. He’s 46. Why isn't he married?” My response: “I know! When I asked him that very question, he asked for the check (he paid) and said, 'I'm bored-let's-walk empire is starting in a few minutes.'”

This was mom’s response (Note: the following program might contain explicit language. The kind you need a Jewish mother glossary for. Brackets not included):

My Cougel. I like the date! But...5 things a lady should know (that's assuming I am a lady...)
1. Be mysterious [hard to get...don't divulge all your info].
2. Be flirtatious. Look straight in his eyes in a sexy way.
3. Show you are a ballbusty * [keep neat, like to cook basic things, home maker] (*Note: Mom wrote "ballbusty," and at first I thought she meant "ball-buster" but now I realize she means "Ballabustah," a yiddish term for "Jewish girl who's a go-getter.")
4. A lady in your manners [from not using words like bull, what the f... eat with your mouth closed! Use YOUR KNIFE IN THE RIGHT HAND, don't make your little sandwiches using your fingers...]
5. Be your beautiful funny self. WATCH YOUR DRINKS. Real man hate women drinking. 
6. Don’t blog this.

Woops.