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.






Embracing the Kugel

I hated kugel growing up. It confused me. Slimy noodles, raisins, eggs, ambiguous looking slop (cheese? potatoes?) disguising themselves as a casserole. I didn’t get the concept of using ingredients for foods normally eaten for breakfast and lunch, for dessert. I like sweet things, but after my meal, not alongside it. Besides, what about kugel makes it Jewish? Is it its blend of conflicting tastes, a metaphor for the love-hate relationship people (oh, admit it) have towards Jews and the weird foods we eat? I just couldn’t get into it.

My picky eating habits used to drive my mother crazy. I didn’t know what was good for me. Was this a harbinger of what my habits would be like when I grew up? Including my selectivity (and bad judgment) choosing a mate? Is there even a connection?

My mother stopped pressuring me to eat kugel long ago, and so I had forgotten the word even existed (I avoid it at all temple kiddishes and Yom Kippur break-fasts)…

Until recently. A twenty-four-year old co-worker (not Jewish or familiar with our particular cuisine), started calling me Cougar. And then, the more comfortable he got around me, the name evolved. First to “Cougs,” and then finally, to “Cougel.”

He meant it as modified term of endearment, uttered casually and fondly. But little did he know what questions he had unleashed. Am I really a cougar? But worse, am I a pain in the ass, picky, conservatively raised, worried about what my parents think, Jewish Cougar?

Maybe the time has come for me to embrace my inner Cougel.