Ten Reasons Why You’re Still Single.

The following question was asked of me four separate times this week, from four different men.
“How in the world are you still single?”
Compliment?
Sure. It was meant to flatter me. Even though my inability to come up with a clear answer made me feel the opposite of flattered.  
I considered the following reasons. True or False? (another pop quiz!)
1. I’m divorced and it took me time to be ready for a relationship.
2. I’m single by choice.  
3. I haven’t met “the guy” yet.
4. I’m drawn to men who are unavailable (cubs included).
5. I work too much.
6. I’m picky (and gosh darn it I should be!).
7. I need to retool my Jdate and Ok Stupid profiles, and join Match.com.
8. The majority of my friends are married. I need to find more single friends and go to bars with them.
9. Men feel threatened by me and my “strength” or “success.”
10.  I’m a blogger who exposes herself online and it’s sabotaging my efforts.
At first, I felt all of the above were False. But now that I’ve written them down, I wonder whether they all might have a shred of truth.
A friend told me not to feel discomfited by this question. “It means these men find you datable!” she reassured me.  “They’re just shocked you haven’t been snatched up yet.”
But I wonder if the unspoken implication is, “Is there something wrong with you?”
There is one commonality between the four men who said this: they are all in a relationship (engaged or married).
But what if they weren’t? What if they were single and in a position to actually go out with me? Would they? It’s easy to throw out statements and compliments when you are protected from having to act on them.
When I told Mom about this tonight, she took the question literally. I could see her trying to come up with the real reason why. It was she who offered up .9 above: “You’re successful and strong and men are scared of it.” 
I love my mother, and I love that she believes in me, but I got defensive. “So what am I supposed to do, Mom? Not be me? Should I downplay my attributes and be meeker?”
She replied, “No, No. Of course not. You’re wonderful. You’re something else!”  (What might that be, I wondered. But I didn’t say anything.) Then she paused, considering what to say next.  “Just maybe don’t’ talk about what you do or that you are a writer on the first date.”
Her comment gave me pause. Does she have a point?  Do any of you relate to reasons 1-10 above?

Love, Etc. Why do we need it?

There’s nothing better than seeing a film about love to snap you out of a “who needs love” frame of mind, especially when it is an unscripted documentary.
After an insulated week spent in the illusion that is the bubble of Cannes, I was anticipating the reality of spending the long holiday weekend in NYC, alone, with a touch of dread.  I was worried I’d feel like I did over Memorial Day weekend, when everyone was coupled off or in the Hamptons, and it didn’t help that it was my birthday.
But it taught me how to preempt any gloom – to cut it off at the pass. I wonder if sometimes we subconsciously drive ourselves to rock bottom as a catalyst for action. I was determined to independently make my weekend meaningful and optimistic – without relying on anyone else.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been in that space. When I was in the throes of completing my novel, my free time was dedicated to solitude – to reading and writing. That was my priority, rather than relationships. And when I finished my book, I had a boyfriend, so it didn’t hit me until recently that I was floundering, adrift without my own hobby or passion to immerse myself in – something that is within my control.
No, I haven’t started another book. That is, if you consider typed pages a qualification. But I did purchase a brand new mole-skin journal, and on a sunny Saturday when everyone was off picnicking or swimming, I sat in my dark café (it’s mine because I wrote most of my first book sitting in the same chair drinking the same shitty coffee) and started brainstorming ideas. And a vague sense of what my next novel might be began to form. It starts with a warm feeling, like an expanding balloon forming inside, that has yet to be articulated.
I can only guess that for people who have been single for most of their 20s and 30s, revelations like these – learning how to gain satisfaction from our own self-initiated projects – are a no brainer.
But for someone like me, having been married throughout my 20s and part of my 30s, these shifts are conscious.  I went into the weekend with a dismissal of love, asking myself, why do we need love? If you are a self-sufficient, generally happy person with the confidence that you can take care of yourself, then why do you need a partner?
Do we put too much emphasis on it? And is it due to the way romance is portrayed in our culture, or how marriage is held up as some ideal that every young woman should aspire to?
Or, is it simply a basic human need that because it is so challenging to satisfy, we’ve defensively “decided” we are fine without it? Have we become too fearful that it makes us look vulnerable, or that it signifies that we are not independent self-autonomous individuals for wanting it? I can count on both hands how many friends I’ve heard say, “Us single women talk about men, about relationships, way too much. We are successful and strong. Come on. What’s our problem?” Granted, this thinking would put dating blogs (mine included?) out of commission.
Without consciously looking for an answer or the awareness that this was my frame of mind, I spontaneously went to see the opening of a friend’s documentary, “Love, Etc.” The film charts the evolution of five romantic relationships in New York over the course of a year. The relationships are diverse, ranging from a single gay man searching for love, who decides to become a single father, to the innocent young love of high-school seniors, to an elderly couple that has been married 48 years.
I was blown away. And not just because the film was heartfelt and humorous. All the stories were real. And bittersweet. A blend of hopeful resolutions and disappointments, that in retrospect, were inevitable. The way love is.
A side note: It did occur to me whether seeing this film at this time in my life was a signifier of the place that I am at. When my ex-husband and I were struggling through what was to become the final year of our marriage, we had made a horror film, about a serial killer. At the risk of an overt and dramatic analogy, it has crossed my mind on more than one occasion whether our film was a signifier of the moribund nature of our dying marriage.
In the middle of “Love, Etc.” one of the characters (a successful theater director), was home-bound in the back of his limo after the opening night of his play. He was alone, looking out the window and he said something that resonated: “That was a success. But it doesn’t matter because I don’t have a partner to share it with.”
A man in his late 40s, who had achieved more than most could dream of professionally, was unabashedly admitting what was missing for him most: love. I briefly wondered whether he would have reached that level of success had he been in a relationship, or whether one had to do with the other at all.
In the end, he doesn’t give up on love. He simply decides not to make it everything. He doesn’t make it his goal. Rather, he decides to go after what he wants most: to be a father.
And in the process, when he isn’t looking, love shows up.
 
(In case you want to check out the movie: http://loveetcthemovie.com/   )

June gloom

I scanned through my old posts tonight, hoping they’d spark a new idea, and I noticed that I only wrote two last June, instead of four or five. I wonder if there is a connection as to why I’m feeling stumped on this particular week.
As a blogger, we choose to put ourselves out there. When I’m feeling strong, when things are good, it’s a lot easier to write an honest post that still manages to conceal the private stuff that is too risky to share, especially when I’m aware of exes, co-workers, close friends, and people I know reading it.
People ask me how I do it. “Isn’t it tricky to promote your own blog to people – to new friends, including potential future mates?” The answer is, absolutely. It is tricky. You could say that I, or any writer or blogger, takes a chance each time she directs someone to a public journal of sorts that exposes her vulnerabilities, conflicts, and history. Isnt that the stuff that people should discover about you over time, if they (and you) want to?
Yes. But then there are the readers I don’t know. Who come here (and comment, or email me privately), who notice when I don’t post. Who thank me for putting their feelings in words; who thank me for giving them strength. Or even for entertaining them on a dreary Sunday. So each and every time I feel uninspired, or hesitant to share what is going on with me, I push myself anyway. Or I just write about mom, to escape writing about myself (thanks mom!).
So tonight, I got nothing. I’ll call it June gloom. I think it is a combination of my most recent break up sinking in, after all the distractions and flirtations have disappeared,  my birthday and the inevitable self-evaluation it triggers, combined with a hectic month of work related events. It’s been one of those weeks where no matter how many times I tell myself that my life is good, and full, that I am fortunate, the words stay stuck in my head. They don’t seep inward and influence my emotions.
Or maybe it’s just that time of year.
What do you all think? Should bloggers be sharing, even when they are wary to, or have nothing to say?

When it comes to our exes, what can we really ex-pect?

About every eight months or so, I can feel it coming on, the way my knees ache before it rains.  It arrives with either the advent of spring (although in NY right now that seems premature), or around thanksgiving, where I get a message from an ex I haven’t heard from in awhile.  And the more time that accrues since my divorce, the more exes (unfortunately) exist.
After my husband and I separated, I had the classic rebound. Although at the time, of course it didn’t feel like a rebound. It felt serious. I was in love, and had all the symptoms to prove it, including the depression and heartache that followed after he broke up with me, with no warning (in retrospect, there was naturally plenty of warning that I couldn’t see). It took me a long time to get over that one. But regardless, I knew it was over, and whether it was pride or the practical acceptance that there was never going to be a round two, I deleted his information and never initiated contact. Not a single impulse text was sent (doesn’t mean I didn’t write them).  
Everyone handles breakups differently. For me, it’s like the flip of a switch. No matter how powerful the yearnings or temptations to reach out can be at times, when I know something is over, I resist. I’m not sure if it’s how I’m built, or a protective reflex – or both – but I am grateful that needy post break up reach-outs are just not my M.O. I always hear a voice (I think it’s my Israeli relatives, or my father’s), saying, “What’s the point? What do you want to get out of it?” And if I know that the guy can’t provide me with any more answers or closure, and it is something I need to find within myself, the option to abstain is obvious.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the same on the other end. Just last week, I heard from my last boyfriend (not a surprise since it’s recent), my ex-rebound, and my ex-husband. The last two relationships are 4-5 years old, and so I’m always surprised by the sporadic reemergence of their names in my inbox. The content of the emails vary, yet they all seem colored by the hue of regret, no matter how veiled the attempt. It feels like the metaphorical pebble is being thrown at my (closed and locked) window.
Why now?  Do they sense that I’m single again, or is it just the natural cycles of time, or the weather, that sparks discontent in their current relationships, and the consequential remembrance of the “one that got away?”
I have to say, it is not flattering to hear that you’re the one that got away. Especially when you’re the one who was broken up with or it seemed mutual. For some women it might provide a jolt of vindication and ego inflation (and I get that. You’re allowed to say “yay!”) But for me, at this stage in my life, it incites frustration.  I can’t help but wonder whether it is just a pattern I should accept, or whether it is me, and my choice in men – if I date guys that aren’t able to make it stick. But then why do they come back (not that they actually would, or that I want them to). 
Is it ego, or the pretty lens of nostalgia that tempts them back as a potential solution to their current relationship dissatisfaction? And of course it begs the question, what does it reveal about them, when they are in a relationship and emailing an ex-girlfriend?
Will I ever know the real reason, even if I decide to write back? Are these men able to express the underlying motivation for their sudden engagement?
Do they even know for themselves, what “the point is”?
Note: I intentionally didn’t wrap this post up with a neat little answer bow. Because I don’t know. (But I can rhyme!) So I’d love to hear what my readers have to say in this regard.

Can being sick after a break up heal you?

Since I unloaded a significant amount of raw emotion in my last post about my break up, I’m keeping this one simple. For one, I don’t have a whole lot to say (believe it). Not much has happened in the last week, whereas usually, in the weeks following a break up, I’m brimming with random dating stories or revelations – a typical template for me. After my two break ups with my first cub, I hit the ground running. And by running, I mean running from myself – from my feelings. I signed up for Jdate, allowed myself to be set up (by anyone except my mother or her friends – no offense), and went out every single night with my single girlfriends. I wasn’t on the hunt for a new boyfriend, hell no. But I was definitely on the hunt for a distraction from my heartache, and allowed myself to indulge in this kind of escape for a good three weeks, before either stopping the madness, or settling back into a normal routine where I’d make time for my writing, my family, and my friends (the married ones too).
This break up, it turns out, is different. I’m not moping. I’m not really depressed either. I don’t know if it’s because I knew things were going south a month before we split up, and I got a headstart, or if it has nothing to do with the relationship at all. It probably has a lot to do with me, and that finally, maybe? I’m better at knowing what I need.  My life is full right now, without a boyfriend in it.
Or maybe, simply, I just wasn’t that into him.
I think we women can convince ourselves of almost anything. If we want a boyfriend, if we’ve decided that “it’s time,” we’ll hold on tight, despite the warning signs. I don’t think I did this with my ex, as evidenced by our swift break up, but I am probably guilty of allowing my agenda to obscure my doubts at the onset. I wanted a boyfriend. Period.
And so I had one. And it was really nice. Until it wasn’t.
So a day after we broke up, I got sick. And then I got better, for about four days, and then I got really sick. Looking back, this has happened to me with every single break up I’ve ever had. I’ve been told it’s my body “purging,” (that sounds gross), or that sorrow lowers the immune system.  I think it’s probably a bit of both. And the fact that New York seems to be forever stuck in winter.
But this time I was almost as sick as I was when my ex-husband and I split (five days of high fever and no voice…metaphor?). Not only did I have a painful sinus infection which disturbed my sleep and required antibiotics (and thus seven days of no alcohol), I also got pink eye (in both eyes), like a ten year old. Which meant I couldn’t be around people, and had to wear my dorky glasses and no make up. Not the best look for a newly single cougar. After a brief tantrum (“I can’t get sick now! I have a new job! I have to write on the weekends! I want to go out, I have all these plans! I want to go to parties and bars! Waah!”) I calmed down and embraced it as forced quiet time. 
For this break up, I had to do things differently. I couldn’t run from myself. I had to stay in, with my dog, my solitude, my books and my daydreaming, and once I settled into that, I realized how much I missed it.
It did occur to me that the magnitude of my illness post break up actually has no correlation to the magnitude of the loss. I wasn’t this ill because I was mourning some long lost love. I was ill because the universe (yes, the universe again) was sending me a message. This time, I needed to change my pattern. I needed to not default to my old ways. I needed to take a time out, and when we are in a rut, or merged with old habits, sometimes it takes an external force to get us to change.
So in a way, this forced detox helped me hetox too. And I needed both.

I guess we all cope with break ups in different ways. But I’m grateful to have discovered a better way. Obviously it helps that the guy and I didn’t share our lives yet. He had very few things in my apartment, and I can’t help but remember catching him on the morning we decided to break up, scanning the closets and counters to check if he had left anything behind, signaling that it was really over. He did forget his toothbrush though, and I haven’t thrown it away. Old toothbrushes are really good for cleaning tough stains on shoes. And toilets.  
I have two more days of hermitage to go, and I’m making the most of it. I managed to finish yet another revision on my book, and watch some really bad TV, a rare feat for me.
And so with my book off my plate once again, my health and my contact lenses back, I’ll be ready to get back out there. 
Hopefully the sun will too.

Meet the Fockersteins.

My parents know I’ve been seeing someone (I’ll call him “John”). Immediately after my divorce, they were the drivers of the “Cougel needs to find another husband” bandwagon, but that was almost four years ago, and since then I’ve had my share of bungled dates, breakups, and experiences that seemed to have stemmed their concern. Or rather, they’ve seen me navigate the single path and grow, and at this point, they just want me to be happy.

Note: For those of you that don’t have a Jewish mother, or parents to whom their children and grandchildren fill their days, thoughts, and hearts, you might think I “worry” what my parents think waay too much. That dedicating a post to their involvement in my love life is immature or misdirected. That’s okay. But if you do, I hope you keep reading.

My parents’ trust in my decisions shows. They take my lead. I’ve mentioned John in passing, when relevant, but mostly, unless I bring it up, they don’t ask. By “they,” I really mean Mom. She’s done a 180 as far as the nudging goes. And for a Jewish Mother (especially mine), that’s huge. I’ve been busy and immersed in my new job so I haven’t actually had the opportunity to talk about him to Mom, but also, I’m taking things with him day by day. I’m not forcing my future or collecting people’s support as forward momentum.

I haven’t been quite ready to have John meet my family anyway. My family is a lot. There are many of us, yes, but we are all close, break into Hebrew randomly, and talk over each other. There is a lot of hugging, complimenting, hair touching, and eating. It’s no small feat for someone who cares what I think, and what my family thinks of him – not to mention him being culturally and religiously different –  to meet them for the first time. I’ve been home for countless Sabbath meals since John and I met, and bringing him with me wasn’t a consideration.

Until this past week. Something shifted. Our relationship is growing, as all things should with time. My mother planned a BBQ dinner in honor of my sister’s birthday. I didn’t ask anyone what they thought about my inviting John – if it was too early, or what they felt about it. I just asked him to come. He was pleased. We didn’t make a big deal about it. I didn’t feel like it was a big deal. If I did, then I suspect I wouldn’t have invited him in the first place.

My dad called to ask me if “The Him” was coming to dinner (translated from Hebrew: “Ha-hoo”). It basically means “the guy” but with less weight. My father is notorious for “forgetting” the names of his daughters’ significant others, until they become truly significant. I laughed, “Yes, Dad. I’m bringing The Him.” And then he surprised me by asking me to spell my boyfriend’s first and last name for him. (His real name is more complicated than ‘John’). “What do you need his last name for?” I said. “I’m sure Mom already Googled him.” (I know for a fact that she has but I wasn’t sure she told my dad.)

Dinner was great. John had plenty of things to talk to my brother in-laws about (by things I mean, I overheard phrases like “interest rates” and “economic reform”). My nieces didn’t flinch when introduced to him, which I had been worried about. Just last month my 2.5 year old niece asked me where “the boy with the black T-shirt was,” referring to my ex-cub. This time, she interrupted the mortgage rate conversation to look me and John in the eye and ask us, “Is there a baby in your house?”

When we checked the NJ transit schedule, we realized we had ten minutes to get to the station to catch our train back to NYC and scrambled to get our coats. Every time I see my parents, my mother asks me to send her a list of things I need. I can easily get all of these items in NY (almonds, avocados, advil, socks), but I send her the list anyway, because it makes her happy.

Mom was thrown by our abrupt departure. “But wait! Cougel! What about your things? I didn’t have time to collect them for you!” She ran to the cabinets, opening the refrigerator to toss coffee and muffins into a bag. I told her it was OK – that I’d get everything in the city, no problem. On my way downstairs she pushed a ziploc filled with ibuprofen into my hands (Mom only buys generic).

Goodbyes and thank yous were exchanged amidst the flurry, and John and I, along with my cousin and his girlfriend, packed into my dad’s car in the garage and got ready to pull out. And then I saw Mom. She was standing at the car window holding a four-pack of toilet paper. “You need some?” she asked, pulling a roll out and holding it up to me.

I don’t know if I felt worse rejecting the forlorn roll of toilet paper, or my mom, so I took it.

The train was pulling up as we got out of the car, and John turned to thank my father for the lovely evening. I overheard him say: “You have a beautiful family…and a beautiful daughter.”

“You’re welcome. Nice to see you,” My dad said.

And then my father called my boyfriend by his name.

Do women want to marry their dads?

This is a common question. Many books have been written about it. But I wonder if the question is open ended and its answer varies for everyone.

Some therapists claim that a woman who marries a man like her father probably had a difficult relationship with him (or he was absent) and she spends her life looking for someone who can fill that vacancy. Others say that a daughter’s relationship with her father is naturally more complicated than the relationship she has with her mother, and that dynamic informs her choices later.

Is the notion that we are looking for a man like our father something we women adamantly refuse to accept, or think we can get away from?  I know many women – myself included – who when they embarked on that search for their future spouse (usually in their early 20’s), refused to give this conceit much thought.

I know I did. Looking back, my ex-husband’s character was nothing like my dad’s, nor was his physique. I wondered, even after we divorced, whether the fact that he was the opposite of my dad, and the men that I was surrounded by growing up (my somewhat macho, tall, strong and silent Israeli uncles and cousins), played a large role in my choice to marry him. Rebellion? Attraction to someone “different”? Or an adamant refusal to acknowledge that deep down, I needed someone with the wonderful qualities that my father possesses? What did I know, as a twenty one year old girl thrust out of college and into the real world, about what I really wanted? Or what was really good for me? 

I’m one of three girls – no brothers. My parents are happily married (still!) and I wonder if my dad being the only male, surrounded by four women, intensified our impression of him as strong and omniscient, and reinforced the male imprint he had on us. It might have been diffused had I had brothers. I will never know. But does it matter?

My friend asked me the other night how things were going with my new boyfriend, and said he wondered whether I was with this guy because he “checked all the boxes” for me. I found that question odd. “No way, I said. It’s the opposite. He’s nine years younger than me, not Jewish, and figuring out his path career wise.” This is not the obvious or optimal check list for a career-driven Jewish divorcee in her late thirties. And on the surface, it’s the opposite check list that my ex-husband possessed (age appropriate, Jewish, nice Jewish family, etc).

But I no longer concern myself with such things.  Check lists, at least for me, are now about character. Does the guy possess inner strength, patience, kindness, ambition, and a propensity to be a leader?  In assessing the traits of my new boyfriend, the answer is a resounding yes.

Does he fit the bill physically? Well, he looks nothing like my father (that would be creepy), but he is tall – not just taller than the guys I’ve dated, but as tall as a basketball player. I can sit in his lap. I get to feel like Carrie did with Aidan. When my best friend from high school heard how tall my boyfriend was, she texted me: “Cougel, it’s about time. I remember how you used to say you wanted to date a manly guy… tall and strong like your Israeli relatives.”

This dawned on me yesterday (and consequently inspired this post), when my new boyfriend, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when we could have been outside brunching and drinking, helped me set up a system of organization for my new job, which requires thorough record keeping. I’m a techtard, and have been anxious to get the appropriate methods set up that work for me. My new boyfriend understands this. With my computer in his lap, and excel open, he morphed into a teacher, before my eyes.  He asked me what I needed, and then walked me through Excel-hell, step by step. I got frustrated and impatient, not knowing exactly what I needed and wanting to get outside.  I felt like a little girl. I went back in time to when I was in the ninth grade cramming for a math test (I sucked at math), and sitting with my dad in the dining room as he tutored me (he was an accountant).  I would throw little “I don’t want to be here” fits, which my father didn’t indulge. 

Just like my boyfriend.

I think that us women, in some small way, like to feel like little girls with the men we are dating. We don’t want to be the boss – even though we act bossy. We want a man who takes charge, who can teach us about things we don’t know (or have the patience to learn), because sometimes they know what we need better than we do. I don’t care if this sounds anti-feminist. I think that women are wired a certain way, as a result of how we were raised, and it’s just the way it is. Rather than rejecting this – which might lead to poor choices (ie. partnering with the wrong guy), don’t you think we should embrace it?

It’s not important to over analyze it, or attempt to track back the exact thing about our fathers that we want or don’t want in a man. It’s not going to be obvious. It’s going to crop up in random moments and interactions, when the man we are with does something that just feels comfortable and familiar, in all the good ways. 

It just feels like home.

Embracing Oscar.

 I’m watching the Oscars this year. 
Big woop, right? 
The thing is, I haven’t watched the Oscars, let alone movies, in almost four years. It is somewhat of a big deal for me because I used to work in the movie business. It was my life, if you will. I wrote screenplays and made some short films, and one indie, with my ex-husband. Movies were our life. We made a point of seeing everything that was worth seeing or relevant to the projects we were writing. We would discuss them during the film – or at least I would. I’m one of those annoying people who can’t shut up and states the obvious. It doesn’t matter who is sitting next to me. I’ve been known to turn to a stranger in the tensest of moments and ask, “Omg, is she going to die?” and even, at the height of a happy ending, when the guy is about to kiss the women he’s been pining over: “Oh!!! They’re in love!”
I love movies. I used to make shitty black and white ones on 16mm. They were about repression and squashed dreams. I didn’t have the capacity back then to comprehend what my choice of subject might actually be saying about me or my subconscious desires, but looking back, it’s as obvious as the symbolism in “Black Swan.” Similarly, I knew it was telling that since my divorce, I have been unable to go to the movies. When I did, it would fill me with melancholy. It made me miss my ex-husband, who analyzed them in the same manner and with the same objective as I did. A random line or a name in the credits would remind me of an idea he and I had come up with, or an absurd meeting we had with some douchebag executive – that no one else could relate to.  
So I just stopped going. I wrote essays and fiction instead. I banned the whole screenplay writing thing. I wasn’t interested.  I decided that novel writing was more worthwhile. At least with a book, the end product lives on paper. The writer has some semblance of control (save a publishers notes, of course). With a piece of fiction, at least you’re not dependent on fund raising, director and actor attachments, and the stars aligning when the moon is not in retrograde over Venus and Mars at the same time.
But in the past year, I started taking an interest in movies again. Perhaps it’s another indication of my emotional progress. I might even consider writing a screenplay, if an idea is more suited to that format than a book.  Once I finished my novel, and started writing other things, I realized that all those years of toiling in the movie business was the best storytelling school I could have ever attended.  So thinking about that time no longer makes me sad or regretful.
So this year, I managed to see “127 Hours” (loved it), “Black Swan” (eye roll) “The Fighter” (an admirable rip off of “Rocky” meets a Ben Affleck Boston movie), “Inception” (who cares whether Leo was dreaming or not; all that matters is that he is dreamy), and my favorite – probably the best film I’ve seen in a decade (minus four years of seeing nothing) – “The King’s Speech.”
I hope “The King’s Speech” wins, although it probably won’t. Movies with British accents always have a good shot, but Dame Judi isn’t in this one.  
My mother (who hasn’t seen any of these) thinks that “127 Swans” is going to win, and by the time any of you read this post, we will probably both be wrong.

The Third Roommate. Does every couple have one?

Couples who live together shouldn’t have a third roommate. I don’t mean Kato living in the guesthouse or the twenty something couch surfer that never leaves. I’m talking about that thing that clutters the space, causes you to fight, and never seems to go away.
It’s different for everyone. For a friend of mine and her fiance, it’s the wet towel.
The wet towel that ends up on the floor, the chair in the kitchen, and worst of all, the bed.  For some reason, the guy can’t seem to hang the thing up, and my friend cannot seem to let it go. It could be the downfall of their relationship and the one issue she cant stop talking about or get over. Why is that towel so annoying? Why has its size expanded to exaggerated proportions, cloaking all the good in the relationship? As women, we hate being our mothers. We don’t want our partners to make us into our mothers by acting like they did when they were kids, prompting us to scold them til they hate us. But then why can’t the guy just hang the darn thing up? What is he passively aggressively trying to say?

Is he claiming his territory, or is it just a stubborn refusal to concede? If the third roommate was eliminated, well then what? Would another problem, perhaps the real issue, surface in its place?  My friend should just hire a cleaning lady. “These things are fixable,” I said. “You’re lucky in this case – you can just throw money at it.” 

I had this issue with my ex-husband, before we were married, when we were living together. Boxers were abandoned upright on the bathroom floor, and shreds of toilet paper dangled like confetti on an empty cardboard roll.  Maybe he just didn’t think to change it, or knew that I would.  But why is it so hard? A guy takes the time to dig through a pile of comics and select the perfect one to accompany him to the can, but he can’t stop at the linen closet on his way and grab a fresh roll of toilet paper? So, we hired a cleaning lady. That, plus some learned conscientiousness from my ex, solved the problem.  The roommate was banished! 
But then a new one moved in. Xbox.
Halo became the guest on the couch that my ex chose to interact with rather than the roommate he moved in with (me).  I felt like my mother, pleading with him to play less, or at least put it away at bed time.  That didn’t work. People advised me, “You should just throw his Xbox out when he’s not looking!” Kick the roommate out once and for all!  But I couldn’t do that. Then I would firmly be solidifying myself in the role of mom.

I wanted it to come from him.

Did it, you wonder? Well, if you read my blog, you know how that story ended.
My ex-cub had his own apartment, but he practically lived in mine. And so did his guitars. In their black cases. Which when stuffed together in a corner resembled three dead roommates.

I suspect we all have that thing in our lives. That thing that causes us to triangulate, that divides our attention and obfuscates the underlying issue. It’s much easier to talk about, and to, the third roommate – blame it for all our problems – instead of confronting the scary shit hiding under the dirty laundry. And the towel, like all laundry, no matter how many times we tend to it, keeps coming back.

It’s still too early with my new boyfriend to identify our third roommate, or if we’d even have one; we don’t live together yet, nor does he even have a key to my apartment. But regardless, our communication is excellent. Oh. Wait. There are those stubborn string cheese wrappers that reappear stuck to the counter and floor…

Who is your third roommate, and how are you dealing with it?

What does Saint Valentine's Day mean to Jew?

“Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly shortened to Valentine’s Day, is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs, Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 500 AD. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“).” [Wikepedia]
I have several hang ups about this definition, but the first thing that comes to mind is, do dudes actually think that flowers and chocolates gets them off the ‘show me the love’ hook?
And then there’s the “Saint” part, which means, “if you’re a Jew, this-saint your holiday.”  When I was a teenager and beginning to obsess over boys, I attended a Jewish private school where I was forbidden to participate in lots of fun things (like holding a boy’s hand on school property), but being excluded from Valentine’s Day – a day of love – felt like a punishment.
But once I grew up, I knew better.  I learned to see Valentine’s Day like Mother’s Day, for example, where every day should be about cherishing the people in your life that matter, and got over not celebrating it. It helped that I was married and my Jewish husband didn’t celebrate V-day either, although it did cross my mind that it was a convenient excuse not to bother with flowers and chocolates.  So the day just came and went, where together we lifted our Jewish noses in the air and sniffed, “We don’t need Valentine’s Day anyway. We pronounced our love to each other under the chuppah when we got married. We’re done!” (Note: spell-check corrected “chuppah” to “chopped liver.”)
And when I later became single for the first time in my 30’s, Valentine’s Day didn’t come up at all – I would go out with my single friends on February 14th and not feel bad about it.  And when my ex-cub and I dated on and off for two years, we somehow managed to break up between January and April, so I didn’t acknowledge the date then either.
But this February is unfolding differently, at least according to my horoscope (if I referenced the correct one) and the exciting changes in my life. Yes, there’s the new boyfriend, who while Christian, doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day for different reasons.  We’ve only been dating for two or three months, so I don’t expect much, and wouldn’t really know what to “do” with it anyway. So we are going to stay in, and I will eat chocolate (which is no different than any other day).
But what I am trying to get to the heart of here, is love and gratitude. It may be a coincidence, but this month has proven to be full of both. My essay was published by Simon & Schuster in a beautiful anthology called “Live and Let Love,” in time for Valentine’s Day. It celebrates women who have triumphed over incredible hardships, and whose hearts bloomed as a result.  
And, I fell in love (is declaring this on my blog a bigger deal than a Facebook status change?). And due to timing and keeping myself open, I landed a job I’m thrilled about.
Perhaps it was these events that changed my outlook, or perhaps I was headed that way anyway, but I noticed that suddenly I’m channeling positive feelings akin to love.  When I meet new people, I don’t snub them (I hope), or experience apathy the way I used to. I make a point to respond to every email I get, be it from acquaintances or strangers (save the occasional weirdo), and try not to get irritated when people don’t do the same.  I assume that people have good intentions, even when they don’t’ always act that way, because I figure they must be going through some shit I know nothing about. 
I also realize that I’m moody, and that this feeling of love and gratitude is fragile and transient, so I’m going to celebrate it for as long as it fills me… which might just happen to include Valentine’s Day.