Sunday, October 30, 2011

When you think you know what you need, do the opposite.


In the past few years since I started this blog, I’ve written a few posts that diss online dating.

“I have three friends who are now married who met on JDate!” people had said to me.  “It’s not for me,” I stated emphatically enough to bring the conversation to a close.

I have several friends who met that way too. Match.com, eHarmony, OkCupid (which I dubbed “OKStupid” during the two weeks I was on it). But I wanted to believe I could meet someone the organic way, where the element of discovery could exist. Where I could wake up one morning and realize, wait, I think I have feelings for this person. Where the decision, or the turn in the emotional road, could feel like it was my doing. I wanted to meet a partner through mutual friends, at dinners or industry parties, or via existing friendships with men that developed over time, with the absence of pressure or the flagrant “Do I like him?” question on a first date.

My last three relationships since my divorce did indeed happen that way. But did they last?

Would I be writing this if they had?

I got on JDate last year, in between my cub breakups, but my heart wasn’t in it. Looking back, I’m guessing that I didn’t want to swallow the bitter pill and ask the question, as a busy divorcee in the city, “has it really come down to this?”

But last month, for whatever reason, I decided to get back on that horse (see obvious metaphor below), and messaged a few interesting looking fellas who I might not have considered two years ago. Men that weren’t my “typical types,” read: in their forties, divorced with kids, who live outside of Manhattan.

I even decided to meet one of them for a coffee (sober) on a Saturday morning (hungover).

Okay, so as a blogger, I’ve been (correctly) warned by many of you who read and comment, that I should not blog about my dates, so I’m not going to. But I can’t resist a good story (so forgive some omissions).

I went on a few dates with this gentleman, and was unsure. I wasn’t hit by some bolt of lightening. I almost canceled our third date because I was working too hard, my schedule was packed, and he didn’t fit the usual checklist I follow. But he was (thankfully) persistent. He tolerated my indecision, and the six hours it took me to respond to some texts.

And then he invited me to the most unusual kind of date: a horseback ride in the country.

I had to fill out five pages of paperwork: waivers, emergency contact info, and then figure out how to use my fax machine. “What kind of guy makes me do homework for a date?” crossed my mind, but I told myself to chill out and be open.  I figured that if anything, it would be an adventure, and a chance to get out of the city at the end of a long week.

He picked me up at the train station and when we arrived at the Farm, we both burst out laughing.  In front of us was a large muddy corral (at least I’d like to think it was just mud), with horses walking in circles around an instructor. This was no horseback riding trail – this was horseback riding lessons, in forty degree weather, on a Friday night. 

We were handed hats with shower cap linings to put over our heads, and then I was handed my horse, Buddy. “Buddy is a narcoleptic,” the trainer said. “So he might fall asleep on you.”

My date was told to hold my horse by his holster and lead him – he didn’t even get his own horse.  He started telling Buddy some bad jokes, in order to keep him awake. I was laughing so hard I wasn’t listening to the instructor, who then yelled to me from across the corral: “You’re not paying attention! I said sit up in your saddle!”

My date and I exchanged glances that meant: “Let’s get out of here.”

He walked Buddy and I over to the instructor and without a hesitation said, “We are leaving. What should we do with the horse?’

I’m not going to talk about the rest of the evening here, but what I do want to convey is that sometimes, the things we least expect, or think we don't want to do, turn out to be the best things for us. Sometimes, if we just open ourselves up and allow ourselves to be surprised - rather than close ourselves off and fall into the comfort of what we’ve always known – the unexpected can develop.

As of this morning, I was going to end the post here. But then today, I decided to go to lunch and read like I always do, but at a café I’ve never been to. As I was sitting and reading the NYT (“Modern Love” of course), an older distinguished couple sat next to me. The man looked like a famous character actor: pin striped suit, bald head, and big bushy mustache. He was drinking a glass of wine with his pasta, and the elegant woman across from him looked like a Parisian designer.

I couldn’t help but smile at them, and then the man turned to me and nodded, asked if I lived in NY (he had a thick Italian accent), and after some small talk, he put his fork down and said, “You are creative. And strong. It is in your face. A man who doesn’t know what he wants, is not for you.”

I was speechless (a rare moment).

He pointed to the seat across from me, “This is why you don’t have a boyfriend sitting here,” he said. “And here,” gesturing to the empty booth beside me. “But is okay. You had one six months ago, but he was not for you and you toss him away.”

His wife told me how he likes to tell people that life is like mixing water with wine… that young people don’t realize that. But as you grow older, you realize you have to be flexible. That you can’t expect things to be one way, and if you are open to it being otherwise, you blossom.

I had to turn away at that moment to write this exchange down in my journal, and told them to enjoy their meal. I didn’t want to disturb them, but I also realized I had a gem of a story on my hands.

When they got the check, the man leaned over the table towards me, shook my hand, held it and said, “You have a good future.  Believe in your future.”

As they turned to leave, my hand was on my heart, overcome by emotion.

I wanted to tell them that just this week, or perhaps in the country – with life and laughter coursing through me - that I had decided to do just that. I had decided to get back on that horse (even though he was sleeping), and welcome that exact possibility.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Can a lecture teach us about love?

I went to a Kabbalah lecture this week.

I don’t attend lectures. I don’t like to be lectured to. And I have a hard time sitting still.

But I’ve always been intrigued by it, and rather than guessing, or wondering what exactly Madonna was up to, I figured I’d educate myself. I also have an idea for my next novel, so what prompted me to actually go this time was plain old research.

It was held at the Kabbalah Center, a pretty and informal space in midtown, and the teacher was charismatic and funny. He shared a few stories where the universe offered up signs to his students that provided clarity. 

And then he asked: “How many people here have been in a relationship they regret?” 

Everyone raised their hands.

Except me.

Just because a relationship doesn’t work out, and even when it’s ended badly, I’ve never regretted it. I’ve learned not to regret it.  I work hard (and it is work) to find something new and meaningful in every relationship I’ve been in, including my 14 year relationship with my ex-husband. I was surprised that almost everyone in that room believed otherwise. Maybe the question was a pointed one; maybe the teacher was planning on explaining (if you signed up for the 10 week course) how to view experiences positively.

Then he said, "Turn to a stranger next to you and share your name, profession, and who the first person you fell in love with was and why."

The girl next to me went first. She didn’t hesitate when she uttered the name of her first love.

But I did. I didn’t have an immediate answer. 

And then I realized, saying it aloud to a stranger, that the first person I fell in love with was my ex-husband.

A sign? Was I there to illuminate an emotion, to embrace something that I didn’t realize until that moment was true?

Maybe.

The next exercise: “Write down the name of the person in your life that pushes your buttons, and why, and share it with the person next to you.”

When the girl next to me showed me the name of the person she wrote down, my mouth dropped open.

I know him.

He is someone I met in the publishing world three years when I wrote my first book, and speak with sporadically.  

And there it was, his name staring me in the face, as I ponder what to do with my first book, and contemplate my second.

Another sign? Or just a coincidence?

It dawned on me that I don’t necessarily need a class to teach me how to see the signs, or little “tells” that life offers. Writers do that on their own. It is how we are built. We open ourselves up to the world and seek to connect seemingly disconnected dots – and ask ourselves what it means (even though it can drive us crazy). I do it in my weekly posts, as I look back on my week and identify the associations between disparate events.

As I am doing here (insert transition).

Later in the week, my parents came into the city to look for some new furniture so I met them at a nearby store as they were trying out a sofa that my Mom liked. My Dad didn’t like the sofa, but we got comfortable on it anyway, and started to chat.

Without getting into the specifics, my Dad wanted to share with me his thoughts on my dating patterns and my stage in life.

My initial reaction: “Oh boy. Here comes another lecture.”

But then I opened my mind, and my heart, and really listened. I learned more about life, self-improvement, and perspectives on relationships from those ten minutes with someone who knows me best, than I could ever get from a class with a room full of strangers.

My father wasn’t giving me a lecture, or trying to get me to sign up for an expensive ten-week course. He was just giving me one thing: Love.

And that makes all the difference.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

What happens when a single divorcee goes to a...Bar Mitzvah?


This was a week where the running theme was “milestones” – weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.

I didn’t go to a wedding, but I could have gone to my own. I was sitting outside my office the other day, when a man walked by and said, “Can I ask you a question?” 

I nodded.

“Will you marry me?” he said.

I chuckled, and thanked him for the flattery. Before he turned to go I asked him, “What would you do if I had said yes?”

“I’d take you to Vegas this weekend, "he said. "I’d buy you presents. I cook and I clean.”

I smiled. “That’s nice of you. But I’m engaged,” I said, hiding my unadorned ring finger behind my back.

Maybe I learned my lesson the hard way from telling my mover that I was single.  Or I subconsciously knew that “engaged” projected optimism and love (saying you’re married doesn’t always have the same effect), and he would be instantly deterred.

It worked. He politely introduced himself, shook my hand, wished me the best of luck, and then walked away. 

That was a first.

A few days prior, on a date with a divorced man, the topic of marriage came up a few times - not a surprise - or a taboo - when two divorcees are conversing.   

So did the topic of Bar Mitzvahs. The guy has kids around that age, and when I referenced how often I go out to bars with clients for drinks (too often), he mentioned how much wine he gets put in front of him…at Bar Mitzvahs.

I laughed. But I wasn’t laughing at him, I promise, even though it seemed that way (he laughed along with me).  I found it funny because it was in sharp contrast to my own lifestyle, although I understand that your children’s lives can dictate the way you live yours.

Today I went to my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, held in a beautiful synagogue in New Jersey (my second time in synagogue this month, let alone this year). He is my only nephew amongst 5 nieces, and this was a big deal. Both my sisters and I went to the same high school, and I knew all of their friends. It was nice to see old faces (older, yes, but everyone looked the same). My older sister’s friend was there, a talented cantor who chanted the prayers. He also happened be my sister’s ex-boyfriend, who later set her up with her now husband. In a way, it was because of him that my nephew stood there on that day.

I met my ex-husband in college. Years later, he and I introduced his best friend to my younger sister. They are now married with beautiful children. 

I thought about what my date the other night had said about frequenting Bar Mitzvahs, and as I sat in the sanctuary listening to my brilliant nephew speed-read the Torah, I struggled to recall when the last time I, a single woman without children, had been to a Bar Mitzvah.

When the service ended, I instinctively ducked as tiny packs of candy sailed threw the air, pelting the Bar Mitzvah boy. It is a Jewish custom to throw candy at a groom before his wedding, to wish him a sweet marriage, and that custom has extended to a Bar Mitzvah boy as well.  

That’s when I remembered.  Ten years ago, I was standing at my brother in law’s Bar Mitzvah, when my ex-husband was struck in the cheek by a stray bag of caramels. This time, my sister (the mother of the son), was struck in the eye (Gosh, kids are mean! But it was an accident!).

The party was held in the sukkah. It was a colorful fall day, and the tables were beautifully decorated with fresh fruit (No wine. Although that didn’t stop Mom from taking a sip of my club soda to verify that it wasn’t vodka).

I got to catch up with my third cousin who I have not seen in years, and chat with his interesting wife. Maybe they thought I was interesting too, because as the event wound down, they told me they had the perfect (age appropriate) guy to set me up with.

I found it ironic that at weddings I don’t meet anyone, let alone get offers to be set up.

Disclaimer: not that this was the goal at my own beloved nephew's Bar Mitzvah of course!

But the thought did occur to me. Maybe I (and all divorced women in their thirties and forties) should start going to Bar Mitzvahs. Has anyone made a movie called, “Bar Mitzvah Crashers”?

I’d watch it. Or maybe I should go to a few more Bar Mitzvahs, and then write it myself.

PS. To those of you who commented on my last post and wondered what happened with the young finance cub, the answer is: ultimately, nothing. But I did get a good story out of it. Stay tuned.










Sunday, October 9, 2011

Atonment. Change. And of course, Kugel.

It must be timely that I’ve moved to a new apartment on the Jewish New Year, which is a time of self reflection that leads to resolutions for change. I usually visit my family in NJ for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but this Yom Kippur I wanted to stay in my new apartment. That wasn’t enough of a legitimate reason for Mom, so I told her I’d find a synagogue to go to here in the city. To Mom (or any Jewish Mother for that matter), what this really means is: I’m going to single mingle with other Jews. Aka, meet a nice Jewish Boy.

“Go to the Soho Synagogue! You must be with your people!” my mom said, excitedly. I'd heard about this Synagogue, a progressive and fancy new place that aimed to attract non-affiliated Jews who don't have time to regularly observe. “I brought an article from Israel, from an Israeli paper, that says there are professional singles that go. And it’s in Soho. You like Soho.”

I’m not sure why Jews that hang out in Soho would be any different than Jews who don’t, but I did briefly live on the Upper West Side, and so..I had hope.

When Mom asked me on Wednesday what my plan was, I told her I made a reservation for Saturday morning services. I hadn’t, but I figured it wouldn’t be difficult. But with my busy week, by the time I got around to purchasing a ticket (yes, praying costs money….especially when you’re a Jew cramming in a years worth of repentance into two hours), it was sold out! What to tell Mom? I had already fibbed. Not a good beginning for a day of atonement.

I had to go now. Besides, since they were sold out, it naturally made me want to go alittle bit more.

So after a long work day on Friday, I got home to my unstocked kitchen and realized I had no food to kick off a fast day. Usually, I eat a bland (salt makes it harder to fast) matzo ball soup and chicken meal at my parents before sunset, with lots of water, but this time I walked down Sixth Avenue with my dog, and got myself a salty burrito at Chipotle, which I inhaled with a glass of wine.

By the time I got down to the Syngagogue, it was close to 9pm. My “people” were mingling outside the swank space (which resembled a Marc Jacobs store), and I was alone. But I didn’t mind. I knew being alone meant that I could leave whenever I wanted.

Women sat on the right, men on the left. I sat on the aisle, and felt like I was back in sleepaway camp, being checked out by the boys, and wanting to check them out too.  My first impression was that they looked kinda cute. I like the jacket and tie with Converse sneakers look. These guys are well dressed, I thought. But I soon realized that you’re not allowed to wear leather on Yom Kippur (I was wearing knee high leather boots. Woops). I’m also a sucker for longish hair under a yarmulka (don’t ask me why), so I thought, hey, this isnt that bad.

Twenty mintues into the service, I got progressively sleepier (wine), and my stomach hurt (burrito), and the kinda cute guys didn’t look kinda cute anymore. Did they look good initially because my expectations were low, or was my judgement distorted because of the “jewish singles” setting? Was I once again, just like the last time I was in synagogue a year ago, wearing synagoggles?

I made it for an entire hour and fifteen minutes before turning into “that kid” – the only one that bolts before the sermon. The kind of meditation I was in need of was the closed eyes kind that happens in bed.

I have nothing against prayer. I admire, and in a way I envy those who go to services each week, who enjoy it, who get something out of it. I did try to concentrate. I swayed, I sang the kol nidre, and respectfully stood when the ark was opened. Maybe it wasn’t for me. Or maybe I was just too worn out – and distracted – to be present enough to draw meaning from that experience. Perhaps that was what I needed to find out. It’s not supposed to be as easy as flipping a switch. Maybe if I keep going, if I keep showing up, I will eventually get into the flow and connect with it (not unlike writing).

I fasted, like I do every year. And then went to my good friend’s break fast in Brooklyn and broke my fast on bagels, lox, and three different kinds of...uh...yeah...kugel.

Post script: I wrote the above after a lovely (and long) day with my beautiful family. They came in to help me with the apartment. My nieces made hairdos for eachother while my dad changed lightbulbs and brainstormed how to add a shower head in my bathtub. I had half an hour before changing for a date I was not thinking about (due to all of the above). The date was good (nope not talking about it!), but I wanted to come home to post. I don’t yet have internet in my apartment, so I came down to the “lounge” in my building that has internet – and an outdoor patio. Which is filled with people having a Sunday night BBQ and blaring Coldplay. As I sat here to open my computer, a nice guy (young finance cub) came over to apologize for disturbing me, brought me a glass of Cabernet (not a beer), and invited me to join them “when I was done with my thing.”

So do I think change is a coming, and is good?
Definitely. To be continued.






Monday, October 3, 2011

Can looking back help us move forward?


Some people believe that talking about the past sounds melancholic, burdened, and downright sad.  But how can we fully appreciate where we’ve come, without acknowledging where we have been?

I’ve moved numerous times since my husband and I separated. Whenever someone asks me how many times, I have to count again – just like when asked how many years I’ve been divorced. I have to take my hand out of my pocket and count on each finger. “I’ve moved 6, 7 times? I’ve been separated 4, 5, years?”(as if they know the answer).

I moved to a temporary corporate apartment (aka upscale dorm room) because I sold my house in LA, and then from there I moved back to NY where I sublet a friend’s boyfriend’s (now her husband) Upper West Side apartment. It was furnished with guy things: a massive wood entertainment center for Football watching, and beer glasses lined the shelves. But it was comfy; and a block from Central Park where I could take my dog off leash before 9am. From there I moved to a small place in Soho, which was finally my own. I painted the walls pink in celebration of my newfound single girl hood (and I don’t do pink). The kitchen was the size of a shelving unit, there was one tiny closet, and the walls paper thin. My pesky neighbors left weird psycho killer style notes in crayon under my door. So I upgraded to a nice apartment in NYU-ville. The rent kept going up, and alas, today I moved to what I hope will be the last stop for me for awhile.  I just unpacked the last (visible) box. The rest are shoved in a closet (but at least I have closets).

When I was packing last night, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that midway through, looking at all the boxes splayed open before me, that I wasn’t momentarily gripped with an achy emptiness in my chest. Naturally I told myself, this is a good thing! Change is good – you can never go wrong with a fresh start.  The apartment I was leaving held memories of my last two cub boyfriends, and I understood that moving to a new place would help me move on.

I like stability. People who saw my Facebook status wondered why I was moving again. Why couldn’t I stay put? I’d like to. Unraveling your nest, in one day no less, is unsettling and disruptive. Noone wants to move knowing that the next place will be temporary. We have to make each place our own, and hope that it sticks.

My movers were timely and diligent. The foreman was playing smooth jazz from his iPhone while he flipped my mattress up against the wall, and then turned to me and said: “Do you have a boyfriend?”

When caught off guard, I tend to be naïve (a close cousin to dumb), so not realizing what he was getting at, I said (projected): “If I had a boyfriend don’t you think he’d be here helping me?”

“I’d like to take you out tonight,” he said.

“What? Tonight?” I replied.

“Yeah. You’re an attractive women and you have pretty hair, you should wear it down more often,” he said, plastic wrapping my mattress with a squeak.

I looked away and pretended I received an important text on my Blackberry. “I can’t tonight, I have friends helping me unpack.”

I wondered if I had said no, would he mess up my move? If I had said, “sure,” would he have given me a discount? (My Jewish Mother said the same thing when I told her later).

When I texted my sisters: “My mover just asked me out,” they both replied: “Hot Israeli?”

I cracked up, and then decided to keep the humor going.

“No,” I wrote back. “Nice looking cub, but he’s black, and Mom and Dad are still having a hard time accepting a white Christian guy.”

When the last of my things were out, I walked through the place to pick up last bits of trash. Tucked in one corner, and in one of my closets, was my ex-cub’s business card, and then one of his CDs (he’s a musician). And then I found - and threw away - my other ex-boyfriend’s love notes (I did hesitate, but at least I didn’t re-read them).

So here I am. Sitting on my couch with my dog’s head in my lap, boxes on the floor and the walls in serious need of a paint job. But that’s ok. I’m in no rush.

I don’t plan on going anywhere for awhile.