Breaking back together.

I have a lot going on.  And when that happens, it’s hard to pinpoint a topic to blog about. I’m either too scattered, or trying to respect everyone’s privacy, including my own.  Privacy is a funny thing to a blogger, especially one who has written a memoir where she lets it all hang out anyway. Perhaps with memoir, we have the illusion of control (emphasis on ‘illusion’). We can reframe and shape our past as we see fit, and because it happened already, it feels less immediate than a blog post.

My memoir, about a Good Jewish Girl who marries a Christian, illustrates how I met my Christian husband and the obstacles along the way – including an eight month break up.

After dating for four months and falling in love, we mutually agreed to break up. Our split was amicable, and I moved on fairly easily, mistaking that ease for “we must not be meant-to-be.” Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong, but perhaps I needed to believe that then, in order to come back to him later. At the time, I was unaware that this ease I was experiencing was actually relief in disguise. Relief  that I had averted the scarier route of committing to him for love, and for the long haul, without the insurance of a checklist.

I found a blog post that I had written on the heels of our breakup, in April 2010, which illustrates my frame of mind (and kind of blows my mind too).

Looking back, things happened exactly as they should have. Our sweet, clean break up had a distinct purpose; the universe (okay, God) had been telling us that while we needed to meet and connect, that it wasn’t the right time to go the distance. We weren’t ready for one another; we weren’t ready for the gravity of the real thing. Not yet.

Looking back, our break up healed us. Without our breaking apart, we never would have come back together.


I skipped a posting last week because I was sick, although in hindsight, that was probably a cover for the real reason. I think there was too much uncertainty roiling around in my subconscious, and I couldn’t work out what to tackle first. I also must have intuited that it was too early (and personal) to write about what was to come a few days later: a break up with my tall, young, sweet and Aidan-like goyfriend.

Most of my friends don’t know yet but the few that I’ve told reacted with the classic, “Whaattt?? What happened?!”  They were surprised. Things seemed to be going so well.

We all know that just because things look great on the outside, doesn’t always mean that they actually are.  Although to my boyfriend and I, on the inside, it was looking promising. We were going through the good relationship motions: checking in with one another, sleeping over, sharing stories, dining and wining together. When I was sick he bought me yellow tulips. The image of him standing by my bed, this huge guy clutching this tiny unbloomed bouquet makes my heart hurt.  I had given him a key to my apartment just a week before.

He even met the Fockersteins, for god (his and mine) sake!   And afterwards, my mother went out of her way to Google ‘Amazon’ and send me a book, signifying that my man and I had a future, entitled “Marrying a Jew, from a Christian perspective.” I freaked. My goyfriend was on his way over and I found myself hiding the book and its receipt like it was porn. I emailed Mom to tell her that if I needed more information on interfaith relationships, I knew how to Google too, and could do so when I was ready.

My point is, I wonder if the visible increase in such niceties indicates that there is something wrong under the surface? How many times have you heard women express great shock over a break up, specifically because the guy “texted me just the night before to say he wanted to spend his life with me!” or “but we just planned a vacation to Hawaii!” Are we actually more emphatic, more lovey-dovey to our significant other, just before we break up with them? Is it denial, or are we overcompensating, in the hopes of eradicating our doubts?

Looking back, I think some of this was going on with us. We were ignoring the elephant in the room for a while (no not the Christian one…a cute image though.)  A year ago, with my last boyfriend, I could go a long time blissfully ignoring things – ignoring my gut. But not anymore. At least there is a silver lining to this breakup. Amidst the heartache, at least I know that my gut and I have become best friends – the kind of friend I listen to, who doesn’t project her own agenda, baggage, or neurosis on me like some friends tend to do.

My dad said it best: “I see you don’t sit on the pot too long anymore.”

When I told Mom we broke up, she surprised me. Rather than reacting with her predictable “Heeeeee!! Mah karah?” (“What happened?” in Hebrew…Mom switches to Hebrew for important subjects), she listened.

And then in a soft patient voice she said, “Cougel, you will be okay. You’re strong and practical. You’ve been through a lot worse.”

How true, I realized. After the end of a fourteen-year marriage, the failure of a four-month relationship, no matter how in love I felt, doesn’t scare me.  I wonder if the loss of love hurts less with age and experience, or more, because the older we get, the greater our despair. Or perhaps the rate of our recovery correlates with the quality of the relationship itself, and how certain we are deep down that it just “wasn’t right.” Four days after my breakup, and judging by how I’m doing, I’m pretty certain that for me it was the latter.

It doesn’t mean I didn’t cry the day we broke up. After Mom and I hung up, I called her back to tell her one more thing: “By the way. I’m going to keep the book you sent me….for the next guy.”

Mom burst out laughing (I love that she can laugh at herself) and then I joined in. It felt good. Mom also knows there is some truth to my comment. The likelihood that my next boyfriend won’t be Jewish is no surprise, nor does it seem to freak my parents out anymore (Call it acceptance. Or learned helplessness. Either way, I’m glad).

The upside to all of this is that now I can start blogging more freely again, without worrying about respecting a boyfriend’s privacy (my own privacy, as evidenced by this blog, is fair game).  Although I doubt I will start online dating anytime soon, no matter how good the fodder is for my blog.

But when I do, you’ll know.

Intimacy 101: How friendship can shed light on love.

A close friend of mine recently taught me something unexpected about love. We flew to Los Angeles for a sales trip and shared a hotel room. I haven’t shared a hotel room with anyone but my husband in years and it turns out that my friend Kelly, who is divorced and single, hasn’t either.

We were both a little apprehensive; worried that we would get on each others nerves and somehow taint the friendship we cherished. Growing up, I shared a room and lots of heart to hearts with my younger sister, but I’m a light sleeper and a poor space sharer. And by space, I mean mental space. My brain and its happenings are always buzzing about, and they don’t like to be interrupted until they’ve completed a thought (or spewed it into my journal or this blog). It’s why I don’t like when the phone rings unexpectedly, or courteous small talk about traffic and the weather. It’s probably why, in all the years that I was single after my divorce, I chose to travel alone rather than with girlfriends. And when I stay in a hotel, I’m messy (yes, Mom, still). My suitcase and its environs become a cabinet and the hotel’s cleaning service passive aggressively tells me so by hiding it in the closet. And Kelly, a single mom who is used to having her own bedroom and bathroom to ruminate and groominate in, not to mention workshop aloud the songs she’s written, was unsure whether she’d feel stifled – or stifle me.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 3.26.22 PM

We also shared a rental car, several Uber drivers, a toothbrush (once), and drinks each night with clients (which was quite fun as well as productive, like in this post,”Enough Fun!“). And then at the end of those long nights, we retired to our room for some laughs and pillow talk, which surrounded conversations about relationships (what else?). I spoke about my husband, his sense of humor, and little quirks that I love – some of which may have been construed as flaws or red flags when we first met, when our bond was still forming. She spoke about dating and the loneliness and frustrations that come with it; the magnification of flaws, the elaborate game of texting, the fear that it won’t amount to something real, and the fear that it might.

Then she pulled her phone out to show me a picture of a guy she met online and was considering meeting in person. “Ok, what’s he like?” she asked me, providing no details beyond the photograph. He had olive skin, a receding hairline, and hazel eyes with crow’s feet. “He seems…normal,” I said. “I don’t see anything wrong with him.”

I’ve recently discovered that I have this strange knack for intuiting a person’s essence from a photograph. When another friend of mine had first shown me a picture of a guy she met online (and is now engaged to), I took one look at him and immediately blurted: “He’s intense and reclusive…an artist who probably lives in the country, a smoker.” It turned out to be true.

And a few weeks before our trip to LA, Kelly had texted me a photo of a handsome guy with silver hair, wearing a scarf and leather jacket. “Mean streak,” I quickly wrote back. “No,” she replied. “We’ve had this beautiful back and forth and he’s coming to visit me this weekend.”

But that night, when I asked her what ever happened with silver hair guy she replied, “I didn’t like him. He kept putting me down in small, subtle ways. He was…he was…mean,” she said, looking up at me with the realization that I had been right about him from the get go.

None of this is about my being right, of course (or promoting a fortune telling business for singles). It’s about the realization that before I met my husband — before I had gotten out of the way of my own projections and badly wanting something to work — I never could have so clearly seen behind the scenes. Back when I was single and the memory of what true intimacy really felt like had faded, perhaps I would have been unequipped to recognize the qualities about him that were most important. Perhaps I would have discounted him from a photograph too.

When Kelly and I settled into our seats for the flight back to New York, the exhaustion from the week hit home and I pulled out my kindle to dive into the quietness of a book. But then, I had a question for Kelly – a detail about her divorce that I didn’t know. As she began telling me the long, captivating story, my kindle slid off to the side. “You’re a better storyteller and more interesting than my book,” I told her, and we laughed. After so many days together, I didn’t expect that, and neither did she. (I might have even added, “I can’t believe I’m not sick of you yet!”)

She also didn’t expect that a few days later, when she went out on a first date with hazel eyes guy, she found herself forgetting the checklist in his profile and completely letting go. He had indeed turned out to be “normal,” as I had sensed from his photo. And one of his quirks, which before would have been a knee-jerk cause to dismiss him, she now found endearing.

She said that before our trip, it would have never happened. Somehow, having spent that companionable stretch of time with a friend had helped her reconnect to herself and re-discover what intimacy feels and looks like – and what she was looking for. And today, she called me up to say that their third date was even better, and she’s not sure she could have experienced it authentically without the quick tour of terrain she had forgotten existed.

And it reminded me that love can beget love, in whatever form it comes in, and that back when I was divorced and single, I was fortunate to have a few women in my life who reminded me of that too. And who maybe even helped renew my prescription so that I could see my husband for who he is and recognize what intimacy really looked like – when it was time to.



NYC: Which is more difficult to find - an apartment, or a man?

It all depends on the quality you’re seeking. There’s an expression I learned back when I started making films.  You want your movie to be three things: “Fast, inexpensive, and good.” But the thing is, you can only have two out of three.
It applies to apartments too. If you’re prepared to pay a lot, you can have a good place quickly. But if you’re patient, and take your time, you can find the perfect place, at the right price. Does this apply to dating too? If we don’t pressure ourselves with deadlines – if we leave our options open and keep looking – will the right thing come our way?
I’ve lived in NYC for years (with a six year detour in LA) in many apartments and neighborhoods. When I was living with my ex-husband, the choice of apartment had different criteria. Now that I’m single, and in the five years since I moved back to NY, the specs have changed. At first, I just needed something that was mine, that I could call my own (and that permitted large dogs), and I found it. It was cheap, I found it quickly, and I felt triumphant because it was my first apartment post divorce.  But after two years, when I started to gain my confidence and independence back, I began to see the apartment for what it was – a shithole masquerading as “It’s mine not ours!” glee. My neighbors were note-leaving, wall-pounding assholes, and the kitchen was a shelving unit. And while I don’t cook, I thought (okay, my Mom did) that moving to a place with an actual kitchen might inspire me to (it hasn’t).
I decided to rent a new place. This decision coincided with my break up (the first or second one- can’t recall) with ex-cub #1 (sounds like a Cougar dating show). I stupidly gave notice on the shit hole and had to find a new apartment within 3 weeks. I didn’t think I would find something in time. “Apartment hunting is harder than dating!” I dramatically texted to four friends simultaneously. I was a wreck. I wanted something bigger and nicer, that I could “grow into” (read: stay in even if I had a baby and/or a new husband) but I soon realized I couldn’t afford it. And the two apartments I liked wouldn’t take pets (the bastards). It dawned on me that I was in no position, emotionally or financially, to be making decisions in the present based on where I might hypothetically be in the future.
I found a place in the end, which I live in now. I like it. It’s pretty. It’s more expensive than I wanted, and probably need (I got fast and nice. Not cheap. You catching on?). But I realized in all that searching that it is so easy to see something you kind of like, without having to commit to it. In the hyper scramble that is Man-hattan, with so many options – apartments we missed, men we didn’t get to meet – isn’t there always something better just around the corner?
These perceived options can paralyze us from making a choice, and sometimes paralyze us permanently. Renting, dating, moving from place to place in search of the next thing, when sometimes, the right thing might be right in front of you. Right?  
After one year in my pretty new place, my rent has been significantly increased. Time to move again! (same time as break up with ex-cub #2…hmm…).
Except this time, I have a different attitude. I’m not freaking out.  But it’s not because I’m not in a rush. It’s because I realize that nothing is perfect. Nor permanent. Besides, it’s only an apartment. I know what is important to me – not later, in three years – but today (location, price, and vibe. It doesn’t matter if it’s smaller than a newborn).
So I went to look at some apartments today. Mom and Dad came along, even though all of the apartments were below 24th Street, without a Zabars, Fairway, or yarmulke-wearing dude in sight. Mom did perk up when she spotted a synagogue on W 12th Street. She didn’t know we had those downtown. 
We had a great day, even though I found myself caught in moments of brief despair regarding where I was headed, and who I would meet next. And whether it would finally stick. But I didn’t say anything to my parents. They didn’t ask about my recent breakup, or whether there was a new guy, even when my Blackberry beeped with texts that made me smile (yes, that is all I am divulging…now).  At dinner afterwards (5pm early bird special, of course), amidst the apartment discussion my dad surprised me when he gestured towards my mother across the table and said to me, “Look at your mother. Isn’t she cute? From the second I saw her, I decided I wasn’t going to waste any time. It’s been 45 years.”
So I guess in some very special cases, it’s possible to have all three.

The real reason behind my writer's blog-block.

Sunday. Just the thought of that word evokes feelings of long brunches, calling mom, and snuggling up on the couch to watch bad TV. For me, it’s blog day. If I haven’t written a blog by Sunday, or haven’t come up with a topic for one, I don’t panic, but I do feel an urgency to get something posted. As most bloggers will say, does anyone really notice? Do they even care? But I do.
So here I am, at 8:30 on a Sunday night, with nothing to say. I was about to post a column I wrote last month – from my back blog of ideas – for times like these. But it didn’t feel right. It felt dishonest. It occurred to me that it’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but that I’m actually not quite sure how to say it, or if I’m ready to.
I met someone. Five weeks ago. I’ve mentioned him briefly in my last few posts, unsure if the relationship was going to develop further, and I figured I’d cross the blog bridge when I got to it. And now I have. 
As I suspected, meeting him changed my outlook. I went to South Beach over the holidays. When I booked that trip, I was single, post break up, and intent on living it up and potentially meeting someone.  But after meeting this guy, my agenda changed. I thought we wouldn’t talk while I was away, but we ended up speaking every day, and by the time I got back to NY, we had fallen into a groove. We’ve spent almost every night together since I’ve been back.
So am I in a relationship now? It looks that way. Since I was married for so long, and have only had one significant relationship since (where we were friends first), this kind of progression is new to me. I’ve never actually been with someone whom I went on a date with, then five, then started to lose count, as the relationship organically deepened in a mature and romantic way.
Is he a cub? Well, he’s 9 years younger than me, so technically you could say he is. But when I am with him, I forget. He is wiser, more confident, and manlier than some men in their 40s and 50s. I’ll reserve that topic for a later and more in depth post, but for now, yes, you could say that after my public declaration that I will no longer date younger guys, here I am, doing it again.  Do I feel bad about it? Not at all. Not yet anyway.
Is he, or rather is it my surprise (and joy) that I am suddenly in a relationship, the reason I was stuck today and unsure what to write about? Probably.
Although I write this blog under a pseudonym, many of you who read it know me and are my friends, so this is new territory for me and my blog. I haven’t yet figured out whether I can continue to write about my romantic life, when there is actually someone I care about in it. It’s not the same thing as blogging about a blind date gone bad, or even an ex. This guy knows about my blog, and at my behest, respectfully does not read it.  He doesn’t want our dating to stop me from writing honestly, and he said he doesn’t mind if I write about him, as long as I don’t use his name. But the question is, do I want to expose myself, or taint the delicate stage we are in, of a new blossoming relationship, by putting it out there?
And lastly, I wonder, does it change the focus of my blog altogether, if I’m no longer single?
So I’m asking for advice from my readers. What do you think? Is it time to bring other benign topics back (like Mom, for example), or since the guy is saying he doesn’t care, should I just go for it?

If a Cougar stops dating young cubs, is she still a Cougar?

My break up with my cub was due to several differences between us, age and life stage being the biggest. So I’ve since sworn to try to date guys over 35. On my online dating profile, under “age range looking for,” I deliberately wrote “35-51.” This doesn’t mean that if I meet a guy younger (or older) that I wouldn’t be open, but I figured I had to re-start somewhere.

The thing is, it hasn’t stopped the cubs from migrating in my direction or even pursuing me. It’s bizarre. It makes me wonder, is being a “Cougar” in the eyes of the beholder? If I’m not cub hunting – let alone even looking anymore – but the cubs are hunting me, does that mean that I’m a Cougar by default, regardless of intent?

I met a guy a few weeks ago through friends who is 26 (or “26 and 3/4’s,” he explained, as kids do). But he seems much older. He’s sophisticated, wise, and accomplished. When he told friends of mine that he’s looking for an older woman, 35-38, preferably Jewish, they sent me urgent texts: “Cougel! He’s not only a cub, he’s a Jewish cub. A Cougel’s prime target! Get your ass over to this bar right now and meet him!” So I did. My friends were right. The dude is awesome. We totally hit it off.

And yet I’m reluctant to take it further.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been recently burned by the age thing and still healing, or if I’ve wisely learned from my experience and know that practically speaking, it’s unlikely the relationship could go anywhere.

This guy doesn’t care though. He doesn’t seem put off by my reluctance. He doesn’t care how old I am. In fact, he likes it.

It made me stop and think. Is there something intangible about me that attracts younger men? Or,  is there something about younger men that attracts me, despite my decision not to go there?

As I mulled this question over, a chat box popped up on the online dating site I’ve joined (not J-date, but the free one, which is proving to be good for laughs rather than romance). It was from “BoyToy123,” description: straight, single, 24 years old. This was the third time he tried to engage me so I decided to respond and set him straight, like so:

BOYTOY123: Do you like younger men?

ME: Yes but not to date.
BOYTOY123: Ohh. Shucks. Well then what for?
ME: Why, does my profile say I like guys under 25?
BOYTOY123: No. Just figured I’d try. I’m very attracted to older women. And you have a very sexy face.
ME: I dated a guy younger than me and that didn’t work out. So I’m taking a hiatus. Sorry.
BOYTOY123: Well I’m not really looking to date..
ME: No kiddin.
BOYTOY123: …just go out a few times.. see where it goes…
ME: Right. That’s fine. But I’m looking for a long term thing.
BOYTOY123: Ah alrighty
ME: Thx for checking in though, I’m flattered.
BOYTOY123: Ok. If you ever want a young boy toy, let me know!
Yes, that happened.

I can’t help but laugh at the irony. I’m finally ready for a long term partner and open to dating age compatable men, but it’s crickets out there in the wild. Crickets, and apparently, cubs. 

Does this mean that I should stop fighting the laws of nature, and just go with it?

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.


There’s this word called “subtext” that I first heard in a writing class, although it happens constantly in life – in our day to day conversations. Subtext is meaning or intention that lies beneath the surface; when we don’t say what we feel, but it’s kinda obvious to the person on the receiving end. And with the advent of texting, it’s become even more flagrant, especially in the dating world.

Here are some examples of incoming texts, where the dude thinks he’s keeping his true intentions – the subtext – well hidden. (P.S. the text below is always from a guy unless otherwise noted):

Text: Hi.
Subtext:  What are you doing?

Text:  You around later?
Subtext:  Wanna fuck?

Text: How things?
Subtext: I miss you.

Text:  In ur hood…grabbin beers with some buddies.
Subtext: I’m 19.

Text: Missed your call. Was in a meeting.
Subtext: I’m important and make lots of money and can take care of you so don’t worry.

Text: You hungry?
Subtext: I’m bored (Or: Wanna fuck?)

Text: oh hey! good to hear from you! how u been?

Subtext: I deleted your number from my phone and have no clue who’s texting me.

Subtext: Mom got a blackberry.

Text: Last night was hot!
Subtext: Now what?

Text: What’re you wearing?
Subtext: This flirting stage is getting old.

Text:  Ugh sorry Verizon sux.
Subtext: Stop texting me bitch.

Text:  How’s your day?
Subtext: I want to see you later and am hoping you’ll respond but I’m too much of a p*ssy to just come out and say it.

Text: Omw, in can.
Subtext: On my way, in cab.

Text: Cant wait to see you! Yay!!!
Subtext: I’m gay.

Text: I’m back in town.
Subtext: Wanna fuck?

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point.
(Subtext: I’m trying to sound modest, but I what I really hope is that this post made you laugh.)

The Checklist: insurance or illusion?

We’re all familiar with the checklist. The “on paper” qualities that qualify a person as marriage material. It becomes ingrained in us early, when we first start dating; in high school, college, and in our twenties too. It’s made up of things we are programmed to want, whether we actually want to or not.

The checklist is seductive. It serves to give us comfort, a sense of security that it’s going to be okay. It helps to give definition to an otherwise murky future. It’s like buying relationship insurance that safeguards us against angst, marital discord, and divorce, and provides us with its opposite.

But does it really work? And when it does – at what price? Does subscribing to the list actually generate confusion; impair our judgment of the other person, and our ability to ascertain how we truly feel about them?  

When I got married, I wasn’t asking these questions. I unwittingly bought into the checklist. It was part of what brought my husband and I together.  It was concrete – something tangible that helped strengthen my faltering conviction. When in doubt, I could grab the checklist and feel better. Perhaps it’s what kept us together for close to fourteen years. But when we divorced, I wondered if it was the reason for that too. In the end, was my dependence on the checklist antidote my failure?

Since then, like most people do after a break up, I reacted by going in the opposite direction. I took the anti-checklist approach.  I turned away from the tangible. Instead, I put feeling before function. I chose men that gave me that swoony feeling of butterflies. It inspired the emergence of my inner Cougar, primed to defy the norm and what was expected of me. It didn’t matter whether the men were age compatible, financially solvent, or culturally and religiously different. All that mattered was that I felt in love. I was thinking, for a change, of only the present, because as I learned all too well, you never know what will be tomorrow. Worrying about my future and trying to control it by grasping onto a flimsy piece of paper didn’t work.

This approach was logical. And earned. Because although I was in my thirties, I had missed out on dating in my twenties, so it was okay for me to choose a mate as if I still was.

But here’s the catch. A female in her twenties (pre-Cougar age), looks at the world through a different lens than an older women in her thirties, whose priorities – the checklist criteria – demand adjustment.  The importance of feelings, of butterflies, trumping all, starts to diminish. And function forces its way back onto the page.  Now that you’re a bit more experienced, now that you have more realistic expectations about what you can actually attain in this life, you can’t ignore the checklist’s legitimacy, like it or not. It matters less whether or not you actually want the things on the list, and more that you might need them. Because now you have acquired the undeniable knowledge that certain things can and do make this difficult life just a little bit easier. It sucks, but it’s true.  So what do you do?

I don’t have answers. If I did, I would have nothing to write about.  I know there are some of you who are fortunate enough, or built in a way, to have both the butterflies and the boxes checked. Some of you happen to be my friends, and relatives too. But for those who might not, I am eager to know whether you have experienced this kind of recalibration of wants and needs. Are the qualities that made you fall for your boyfriend or girlfriend at 25, and they for you, still holding up? And if they’re not, is that a deal breaker? Is the checklist tempting you, and if it is, is that a bad thing?

Ultimately I think it comes down to what’s important to you, and accepting that perhaps what once mattered, doesn’t have to matter now. It’s okay to change. It’s okay not to know. I guess it’s that thing called growing up, that we resist, that’s been nipping at our heels and has suddenly tackled us. The time has come to readjust. Perhaps it doesn’t necessitate some earth shattering life change at all. Maybe it’s just a perspective shift, a necessary one that forces us to accept that some things are unattainable, while we continue to reach, and to dream.

Jumping the Cougar (not in that way).

There’s been talk. About Cougars. Specifically, in reference to this blog. Many of you who meet me exclaim, “You’re too young to be a Cougar!” Your faces twist in confusion, but I detect a hint of anger in there too. What is that about exactly? Is the question really, “If you’re not over forty, like all Cougars are supposed to be, why in the world would you brand yourself as one?”
Good question. I’ll follow up with another: Why should the term Cougar be so rigid, defined as a woman over 40, with a derogatory connotation?
In response, I’d like to revisit one of my first posts (see link below), “Cougar versus Cougel.” I’m not a Cougar as pop culture defines it: “desperate over 40 with bad botox trolling bars for young men” kinda thing. I’m a Cougel; a Cougar redefined. It’s not really about age. It’s about “coming of age.” After you’ve figured a few things out, know yourself, and go after what you want. For some of us this happens at 25 and some at 45. It all depends on what you’ve been through up until that point and how it defines who you are. So what if you’re dating someone who is older than you, or younger? What’s the difference? Besides, shouldn’t it be up to you to define yourself, rather than leaving it up to society and the media?
We are all, whether we admit or not, obsessed with age. The older we get the more we become aware of and feel the passage of time and its implications. Minutes are measured in dog years. We realize we need to be more conscious and deliberate with our decisions. But is that such a bad thing?
Courtney Cox was a “Friend.” We all loved her. Then she got older, and she starred in “Cougartown.” Does that mean that she was selling out, settling? Some people felt she was casting herself in that role – her real life, evolved, older woman self. And once that happened, the whole “Cougar thing” became cemented in our culture.
But that show’s old news. It jumped the shark. For those of you who don’t know what that means, you’re showing your age (insert wink here… or go watch Happy Days reruns). In short, it means something hot has passed its prime, lost its luster, etc. So with that I decree (like I have any power, but it sounds good) the definition of Cougars hereby obsolete! Cougars, the way we once knew them – while not necessarily old in age – are old news. It’s time for an update. Or a remake!
Enter the Cougel. In her thirties, post divorce, with a solid network of family and friends. And Jewish parents who want what’s best for her. And all the good (love) and bad (guilt) that comes with it.
In summary, I believe (and I hope you do too), that this Cougel has jumped the Cougar.
I brace myself for some harsh comments, but I’m used to it. Cougels have thick skin…under all that fur.
PS. More on this subject in one of my first posts with some silly urban dictionary definitions:

Signs. Are they real? Or do we just want them to be?

We hear it all the time. It’s a sign! The universe is talking to me! But how? By singing to us at bedtime, or as a little voice in our heads?  I don’t believe that the universe speaks to us all in one “universal” language that can be easily studied or decoded. It speaks to each of us personally, in different ways, and not with sounds or words.

But only if we choose to pay attention. When we are abruptly woken from our stubborn slumber and our ears and heart are suddenly trained to listen. I know it sounds hokey to some (I can hear you men snickering). “Universe” is a term my dad uses only when referring to an article he read in the NYT science section.

That’s not the universe I am referring to here. I’m talking about the one that intercepts us, that throws a lens onto our skewed perspective, that tests our resolve. The one that shows itself in countless tangible ways, and yet it is inside the intangible where its transformative meaning can be derived.

Like when you’re thinking about someone from your past with whom you have unresolved issues – an ex most likely – and then as you’re walking home alone, that person appears on the street, walking towards you. Does your heart race and pulse quicken? Or do you feel calm, knowing that you could handle whatever that encounter may bring? Whether you interact with this person or what is said at this point is irrelevant. Because the universe has already spoken. It happened in that moment where you stopped to consider how you feel.

For me, these signs have been abundant over the past several years. I’ve run into my ex-husband at what I call critical intervals, when I needed to pay attention to something that I was ignoring. Once, it was in a restaurant window in greenwhich village, when I was feeling lonely and nostalgic. I didn’t choose to keep walking; I chose to stop, and tap on the window. He turned, and then to my surprise, a girlfriend of mine – who I didn’t realize even knew him – ran out to confront me before he could, to explain why she was having dinner with him. This was a friend with whom I had been sensing a dull strain, where I would leave our outings feeling depleted, and yet I ignored it. This friend anxiously explained what she was doing there, but what she said didn’t stick. It couldn’t stick, because this moment, to me, wasn’t about explanation, or jealousy, or anger. It was about the universe kicking my sleeping subconscious awake, telling it – telling me- that this friendship was an unhealthy one, and that I needed to acknowledge it. It wasn’t actually about my ex at all; he was just the vehicle, one that I would definitely stop and take notice of. Sometimes, when the words on our signs are too tiny to read, the universe rewrites them. In big bold letters.

Some signs have come through Facebook (Yes, I’m invoking Facebook…take a moment to recover). But isn’t it inevitable that tangential contact with random people from our past, may suddenly crop its head up in defining moments? Like the time I had fearfully set a shaky foot on the path of reinvention, searching for my creative voice, and got a random message from a guy who had been in my Freshman dorm. He wrote that he saw a painting in Art Forum magazine that reminded him of a piece I had painted way back then, that inspired him. I didn’t remember it, but he did. And he, or the universe, in the moment I must have needed it most, made sure to remind me.

There are bigger ones of course – of divine intervention. A friend of mine’s father died recently. On the day of the funeral, her husband found out that his mother, who had been waiting for a new liver, after years of pain and despair, had miraculously found a donor.

A few years ago, shortly after moving back to NY, I was sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park on a sunday afternoon. It was not yet spring, and I was writing in my journal, feeling despondent, and brainstorming ideas for my book which had not yet been written. A butterfly suddenly appeared and flew back and forth along the long bench, as if it was searching for a place to sit. And then, out of all the other people or places, it chose me. It hovered over my open journal, and then settled onto it.  It stayed there for several minutes, comfortable in my lap. People were in awe, as was I. Although I still haven’t figured out the hidden meaning behind this.  Did the butterfly know I needed a pick me up? Or that I am obsessed with its species? Maybe it was flirting with me. Or, maybe it was just attracted to the bright white of my journal pages.

I was prompted to recall these auspicious encounters today because I’m in LA, where I used to live, and so I inevitably revisit my past.  And sometimes it visits me.  I ran into two former colleagues yesterday, whom I hadn’t seen since exactly three years ago to the day; the day the bottom of my life had dropped out. Since then, our lives have taken different paths. They are now married with children. And I am not. Again, it wasn’t as much about seeing them as it was about how I felt inside while speaking with them. This time, I didn’t listen to them wistfully, wishing for what they had. Instead, I listened to them with a fondness, an openness, and suddenly recognized that I’m okay… more than okay…to be in the exact place I am today.

So, are the signs real? Or are we trying to turn nothing, into something?

Does it matter?