Cougel comes full circle: And then what?

In this new season of Cougel, I promised to fill you in on where I’ve been, and I can’t do that without telling you where I’ve arrived.

I didn’t realize this when I started the blog, but the origin of the word “Kugel” bears mentioning now . According to Wikipedia, “the name of the dish comes from the German Kugel meaning ‘sphere, globe, ball.’”   rice-kugel-400x300

The connotations are obvious: circular, interconnected. The process of learning one lesson over and over,  disjointed experiences suddenly connecting with a revelatory click, before we can move on to the next.

When I started this blog in 2010, I was 1) in the throes of a tumultuous divorce 2) acclimating to being single for the first time in my adult life and, 3) excavating my true self and discovering my voice as a writer…amongst other things.

The theme that wrapped all of this together was my struggle, and skepticism (thinly veiled fear), to find true love. Did I have too much baggage as a divorcee in her late thirties? (Yes). Would I find love in the NYC dating scene – on J-Date, Match, or Ok Stupid? (Hell no). Thankfully, there was no Tinder back then, the dating version of Russian Roulette in flip book form, which would have led me down an even more hypothetical path of perceived options than the typical single New Yorker. And Christian Mingle wasn’t an option, although somehow, I sniffed out all of the goys who snuck onto J-Date anyway, like so:

Even back then, before I met my goyfriend and now Christian husband, I was trying reeaaally hard to go J.

Many of these dates were quite comical in retrospect, and provided me with fodder to blog.  (Here’s one on sub-texting.   And Dating in NYC.)  I was careful not to reveal too many personal details about these dudes, because I was sensitive to their feelings and privacy (I swear). But moreover, I was wary of what my future partner who I hadn’t met yet might think if he stumbled upon my personal but public historical account of crazy. Was I preemptively sabotaging the thing I claimed to want most? Would my future partner learn too much about me too soon, and would it deter him? Would it uneven the playing field, by giving him the edge and robbing us of the critical getting to know you period, which should be slow, deliberate, and earned?

When I did meet him, I didn’t know it. A Christian cub nine years my junior was a no-no for a Good Jewish Divorced Girl. A Goy with no Jewy neuroses or shtick who laughed out loud when I told him about this blog. On the surface, he was so not “my type” that I didn’t even think to hide it from him. He was so not the kind of guy I was trying to meet, that I didn’t even think about over-thinking it. Talking to him, being with him, from the very first moment, seemed to zap the crazy Cougel right out of me.

In retrospect, this blog was a good litmus test perhaps. He got it, he got me, and as things started to get serious, I ceased blogging.

I decided that I wanted to honor his privacy, and ours, and shift my focus inward, towards the intimate space that enveloped him and I, rather than blasting that focus on a blog megaphone out to the world.

“Our life, my past, my divorce, but mostly, our marriage, it’s a private thing!” I declared, three years late to the private party. And so right after we got married, on the first day of our honeymoon, I decided to write a divorce memoir.


So let’s face it. That’s really where I’ve been since I stopped blogging in the good ole service of privacy. I’ve been pouring the details of my entire life into a tell-all instead. That my husband, only eight months into our new marriage, had to read and ingest. All the vivid and sometimes sordid details of my past, particularly during the Cougel years which I had gone to great lengths to leave out of the blog, are now “out there” (or will be soon).

Couldn’t I just write fiction, you wonder? My husband probably secretly (or not so secretly) wishes that too, but then I wouldn’t be me. And he wouldn’t be him, as evidenced by what he texted me while he was reading the memoir: “This is the most beautiful and genuine thing I’ve ever read. And it’s like a kick in the balls every five paragraphs.”

That’s fair. Hopefully my future blog posts will skip more than five.







What does a Jewish woman in her 30s, who lives in NYC and has parents like mine, do after the breakup haze has cleared? You guessed it. She joins J-date.

Yeah, I’m going there. I’m going to write the post that I think some of you expect, and probably want. Even though I believe I’ve been subconsciously avoiding it because 1) It seems to have jumped the shark in every relationship magazine, blog, column, etc. And I’m trying to do something different, damn it. And, 2) I’m cognizant that some ex’s and others (hi mom!) are reading this blog and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. But then I thought, if I’m worried about that, what am I doing being a writer?

Okay, so what does a Cougel do now that she’s finally succumbed to online dating, and starts perusing the crowded market of profiles in search of a nice Jewish boy (I mean, man)?

She finds the non-Jewish ones.

Apparently I have a talent for this. I’m like a dog that’s been set loose in the yard and immediately sniffs out the one piece of bacon that’s buried six feet under. I didn’t do this on purpose; it was some unconscious instinct. The first five men whose photos I actually stopped at and thought, “Hmm, he seems manly, interesting,” not only had emphatically written, “Not Jewish” on their profile, but more specifically: “Will not convert.”

That’s presumptuous, I thought. I haven’t asked you to. I don’t ever use the word “chillax,” but kinda felt like it then.

That begs another question: What the hell are these goys (I mean guys—that was a typo), doing on J-date? That’s just plain sneaky. It’s no different than them showing up at my temple (if I actually went), when I’m having a good hair day. Or like my Jewy looking self showing up to lunch at a yacht club. Besides, how was I supposed to explain to my parents that I got on J-date to find a Jewish boyfriend, and they should be pleased, only to break the news that instead I found a goyfriend?

The thing is, while they might not be overjoyed, I know they would accept it. They just want me to be happy. And I don’t believe in closing any doors, in narrowing a pool that’s already small and shallow. Come to think of it, my last two boyfriends since my divorce – ironically, my only boyfriends – were not Jewish, and my parents liked them well enough. Although in retrospect, this was deviously well planned on my part. Both guys were young cubs, providing my parents with something more displeasing to focus on instead. My dad referred to one of them as my “oy-friend”(I am not making this up). So yes, the time has come for me to skew Jew.

Not that it stopped me from emailing the three non-Jews who intrigued me. I am a curious person, and when something puzzles me, I must get to the bottom of it. I asked them point blank:“So what are you doing on here?” One totally ignored me (I don’t blame him). The other two had interesting responses, and we’ve since begun a dialogue. One confessed that his boss is Jewish, and said that the caliber of women on J-date was better (no I cannot qualify “better” in this context). The other said he is a wedding photographer for mostly Jewish weddings, for couples who met on J-date. So he thought he’d give it a try. Why should he be on the outside looking in, when it was as simple as signing up?

Which made me wonder, is it really that simple? Can someone just log on, sign up to J?

Although I don’t know what I expected. It’s not like J-date has Jewish Border control, asking for proof of your J-dentity before being permitted entry. Besides, how would that be enforced exactly? That’s a topic for a whole other blog. Passing the Jewish test. Perhaps it could be questions like:“Do you know what shmutz means?” “Do you say “oy” more than once a day, and sigh heavily when doing so?” “Is your mother overbearing? “Do you know what guilt is?”

Or, because this always seals the deal for me: “Do you know what kugel is?”