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Semitics and semantics, or My Jewish mother tries (and fails) to understand Easter dinner

April 8, 2012

Conversation with my Jewish mother, as she was on her way to an Easter “dinner”:

Mom: It was really nice of Robin to invite me to her family’s Easter dinner, but there’s something I don’t understand.

Me: What?

Mom: Well, she keeps calling it Easter “dinner.” But it’s at 1 o’clock.

Me: So … ?

Mom: Who eats dinner at 1?

Me: Maybe they just call it “dinner.” Like, in name only.

Mom: They should call it what it is — Sunday brunch. Lunch, maybe.

Me: I think you may be overthinking this.

Mom: And who wants to eat such a big meal so early in the day? Feh.

Me: They do, apparently.

Mom: I’m just saying, if I’m having people over for a holiday, I put out some noshes. We have a bissel of this, a bissel of that, and then we all sit down to DINNER. At nighttime.

Me: Well, every family does it differently.

Mom: I just don’t understand Gentiles. It was the same at Christmas — dinner in the afternoon! Oy vey.

Me: There’s no need to get all verklempt about it.

Mom: I just had a thought. Maybe it’s because our holidays start at sundown, and theirs don’t?

Me: That must be it. So, are you bringing anything to the Easter … meal?

Mom: Raspberry macaroons and dark chocolate-covered matzo.

Are we there yet? There’s an app for that.

March 30, 2012

I learned during a bus ride from New York City to Boston last weekend that “Are we there yet?” is officially a question of the past. It’s now extinct, like dinosaurs. And typewriters. And skinny jeans, in my dreams.

Consulting iPhones and iPads and other gizmos galore, kids no longer wonder whether we’re there yet. They fucking know. And they won’t shut up about it.

“7.9 miles … 7.8 miles … 7.7 miles … We could walk this!” a young boy sitting directly behind me, his hypnotic iPad in a vice grip, excitedly counted down for his mom as we chugged eastward on the Massachusetts Turnpike with about 20 minutes remaining of a four-plus hour, 215-mile ride.

Most people who aren’t as familiar with the Bible as I am might not know that kids have been torturing their parents by anxiously asking the antediluvian “Are we there yet?” ever since Adam and Eve carted off Cain and Abel for their first out-of-Eden excursion. They pulled over for a pit stop at an oasis called Trader Josiah’s, which was known throughout the land to offer more competitive prices on figs and nuts than rival Holy Foods, but the petulant pair’s patience already had expired. The brothers began grilling Adam and Eve with harping inquiries about their whereabouts, prompting the frazzled parents to turn a deaf ear, after terse but ultimately empty threats to “turn this camel around” went unheeded. (Genesis 6:66)

Fast-forwarding a lot of millenia, pint-sized backseat drivers now calculate real-time directions and anticipate every twist and turn of a road trip before it happens. They’re aware of gridlock and accidents in advance, and even second-guess your choice of routes. And instead of asking where we are or how far we have to go or where babies come from, they tell you.

A geography lesson.

“Six more miles, Mom!”

“Only 4.4 miles! So, like, 11 minutes!”

Imagine your GPS were voiced not by a calm yet confident computerized woman — my mom named hers Garmina — but by an antsy third-grader who has been trapped in a confined space for longer than the movie “The Ten Commandments.” And who’s up way past his bedtime. And whose dinner consisted of Coke and candy from vending machines somewhere in Connecticut. Siri? More like Suri Cruise.

“Only 10 minutes until we reach the station!”

Our technology has come so far that children use it to tell us how far we’ve come. When they are sent to their rooms, I wouldn’t be surprised if they google how to get there, comparing the three best routes before making an informed decision on how to reach their destination. “Sure, I usually just take the stairs,” a tween might snootily say to a younger sibling as his gadget guides him through a detour, “but traffic this time of day is a real bitch.”

Before apps came maps, but they were understood only by cartographers and Asians. And they made dads very angry. Apps have bridged the map gap for the rest of us. The late, great Etta James, who once was mocked for envisioning a world in which even American children embraced geography, was ahead of her time when she sang, “Atlas, my love has come along …”

“Two and a half miles!” said the now-spastic boy, tweaking like an addict in a mobile meth lab. His legs flailed as he began to bop in his seat, the electric sound of corduroy-on-corduroy charging forth from his thighs.

“Only 1 mile, which is about three minutes!”

For each of his public service announcements, I jammed ear buds deeper into my skull, jacked up the volume and tried to drown out the torment of not being quizzed on where we were, but rather repeatedly being reminded of where we weren’t. Which is just as annoying. Nature finds a way. You know how in “Jurassic Park” the all-female dinosaur clan still spawns by switching sex? Yeah. Like that. 

“We’re getting off on a bridge? No, OK. We’re just stopping.”

“So close! Let’s just push the bus!”

“Mom, only four-tenths of a mile till we …”

“That’s nice, honey,” his mother mindlessly muttered for what seemed like the millionth time, striking the perennial parental balance passed down through the ages of validating while simultaneously tuning out a child.

Because the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” won’t go the way of the dodo anytime soon.

P.S. A reader emailed me about Chase Gordon, an amazing 14-year-old boy in Arkansas battling brain cancer. You can watch a video about him here, and send along well-wishes and prayers and kittens via his website or hope4chasegordon@yahoo.com. Thanks for always being awesome, you guys.

Online dating is for the birds. And I’m going to grouse about it.

March 6, 2012

Mating season is nigh, and wannabe lovebirds are slowly emerging after a lazy winter of nesting. Except me, that is. I flew the OkCupid coop and went cold turkey about six months ago. Repeatedly ruffled by the online dating wren-around, I eventually choked after doing whatever the opposite of cold turkey is. Hot cock, I think.

Hen again, maybe not. Because I’m jay.

After wasting so much time, energy and bills on something that proved to be nothing more than an albatross around my neck, I admitted defeat, like the hairs on my inner thighs that finally just stopped sprouting after enduring decades of fleshy friction. Pelican you believe I’m still single?

Over the course of a shag-less year on OkCupid, the crane of my existence, the website’s patented algorithms that I don’t understand seemed to be mockingbird me when it declared that I’m a near-perfect match for myself and repeatedly dispatched me emails trying to fix me up with … myself. Although difficult to swallow, I actually had joined to leave my roost and get to know chicks. Chicks other than myself. Now I have major egrets.

But maybe OkCupid knew something — besides college-level math — that I didn’t, because flying through junco profiles with my eagle eye proved trying and tiresome. And receiving correspondence that blew me plover for all the wrong reasons took a toll. And when I spent time with purported matches other than myself, all I ever came away with was the sense that we were totally destined to meet. So that I could blog about them later as a lark.

I met, among 30 or 40 other loons who were nothing to raven about, a cuckoo with a drug problem who asked me feather or not I wanted to be her mistress; a nuthatch who had the gull to wait until our first coffee together to reveal she had a live-in teenage son and an allergy to my feline life partners; and a flighty chickadee who, on our third date, admitted to seeing someone else after going to first base … with my cat. I didn’t even get to touch her toucans.

When your online dating profile is more successful for your pet than you, it’s time to shut it down. So I did. And owl be damned if I ever look back.

That’s not to say I haven’t thought about looking back. Because, having never been much of a flirt or magpie, OkCupid was my only real window into the dating world. Without it, I’m no longer actively searching for dove. Which means that I’m preventing other honeyeaters — best. lesbian. nickname. ever — from searching for me, too. Flycatcher in the ointment. You know how some people say that dove finds you when you’re not looking for it? Those people are fowl liars.

But the whole internet dating experience was so unpheasant that I’m in no thrush to get my goose cooked penguin. Call me a spring chicken, but from heron out I’m going to cheep on hibernating through mating season, duck the vultures and dodos, and sparrow myself the heart-beak. It would, though, behoove me to take a cue from my flock of thigh hairs, which after getting shafted in a chafing setback, started from scratch a while later and now seem to have migrated to my chin.

It just goes to crow that where there’s a whip-poor-will, there’s a jay.

************************************************************************

Speaking of being alone — aren’t I always? — I recently went to New York City alone to attend alone the dating-themed comedy tour de force “Blogologues: Come Here Often?” that featured a post I wrote performed by Jen Jamula and Allison Goldberg about being … wait for it … alone. Patterns. The post tells the story of a girl who once left a comment about having a crush on me (Lacey, are you still reading?) and devolves into a rant about hating America. Kidding, FBI. I *love* America! Totally voting for Rick Santorum today! Birth control is a gay agenda … seems like something someone voting for Rick Santorum would say! It was another awesome night (you can watch videos from previous Blogologues here and here), and one dude laughed so hard his nose bled. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into these shows, so it was nice to see a theatergoer finally giving back. I’m not going to say any more, because if I keep writing blog posts about a show that performs my blog posts, I’m pretty sure I’ll cause the universe to implode on itself.

In the words of Liz Lemon, “blerg” and “nerds”

February 24, 2012

Conversation over Gchat, which apparently isn’t really Gchat, with my friend Dana:

Me: I’ve been having really weird dreams for the past week.

Dana: Are they realistic dreams? Or not so much?

Me: Actually, they’ve been an odd mix of dead grandparents and sex.

Me: Not together.

Dana: Grateful for small mercies.

Me: Ugh. I just realized it’s been a year since I got dumped.

Dana: Oy. I’m sorry.

Me: Time. It flies.

Dana: At least it’s flying away from the girl who dumped you.

Me: Yes, but unfortunately not flying toward anyone else.

Me: Except in my dreams.

Me: The ones not about my dead grandparents.

Me: To be clear.

Dana: You are; you just don’t know who yet.

Me: Meh. Julie Andrews isn’t even interested in me.

Me: Even though she’s totally single now.

Me: Because her husband died.

Dana: I vote for finding someone younger.

Me: Meh. Meh is all I have to say.

Dana: Someday, my friend.

Me: Blah.

Me: Oh, I can also say blah.

Dana: But do you harrumph?

Me: Not really, but I can cough up a heart sigh for emphasis.

Dana: A heart sigh?

Me: An apropos typo, but I meant “hearty.” Like stew.

Dana: You’re funny.

Me: Uh huh.

Me: (Apparently, I can type to you only in grunty words.)

Dana: Bah.

Me: Argh.

Dana: Grar.

Me: Moo.

Dana: Hrm?

Me: I was trying to transition us to animal sounds.

Dana: Quack.

Me: Meow.

Me: … is the sound my life partners make.

Dana: I suppose it would be inappropriate to say mrow.

Me: Ruh-roh.

Letting our hair down

February 2, 2012

Toward the end of last year, I noticed a small bald spot roughly the diameter of a quarter on Teva’s rear left leg. As time went on, it continued to grow, to the point that it stretched from her knee to her thigh. If I had to put a price on its final size, I’d say $3 in assorted coins. Not the Sacagawea kind. No one likes those.

The swath snaked up her leg in the shape of a tongue, and it became apparent that she was licking away the hair from her haunches. One thing’s for certain: I’m confident Teva didn’t learn this behavior from me. I haven’t shaved my legs since going in for an annual pap smear two months ago.

While I was struggling to come to terms with living with a cat who is bald by choice, the vet seemed confounded, but not concerned. His advice ranged from doing nothing — the ol’ don’t-pull-your-hair-out-over-your-cat-pulling-her-hair-out approach — to an Elizabethan collar to Prozac. I always just sort of assumed that among my cats and me, the one most likely to need anti-depressants was … not my cats.

I pondered what depression- or anxiety-inducing problems Teva, the happiest creature I’ve ever encountered, might have that would drive her to self-inflicted baldness: being loved too much, having too many toys to choose from, being raised by a single parent. Or maybe she was just picking up on and acting out my own malaise. I wish I could claim my lack of blogging of late was a silent protest of anti-piracy legislation, but only recently did I learn that PIPA isn’t Kate Middleton‘s sister. The real reason is because sometimes life blows. Weathering a perfect storm of first-world white girl problems, I’ve spent the past few months hibernating and hating people. Admittedly, it’s hard to discern my funks from my happy times.

Teva has a new box to play with — I would kill for a new box to play with — and yet still she yearns for more.

Friday is sometimes my only night off work, and I’ve settled in to an comfortable but probably unhealthy routine. Because I’ve been rather unpleasant to be around, I sequester myself and dedicate the evening to grocery shopping instead of socializing. There’s an unspoken understanding among shoppers. We can’t judge each other for grocery shopping on date night because we’re all grocery shopping on date night. I’m not sure whether people still call it “date night.” Maybe this is why I never have dates.

There’s a cute cashier who closes on the weekends, and I always seek out her line. She’s 40-ish, glasses, shoulder-length salt-and-pepper hair. Probably too old for me. Definitely too chipper and well-adjusted to be gay. Bubbly yet soft-spoken and seemingly concerned only with whether I found everything I was shopping for, she makes sure to ask whether I want my soap wrapped separately (no), milk in a bag (no) or rubber bands on the blackberries (no — Teva eats them. The rubber bands, not the blackberries. That would make sense.). It’s as if she were Teva, because I seem to only ever tell her “no.” I don’t know what her name is, but she looks like a Becky. Not a Rebecca or a Becca or, god forbid, Becki. Becky. Last Friday at the intersection of the chocolate nook and olive bar, Becky and I did a No-You-Go Dance — the sort where both people move to the right, then left, then right again all the while saying, “No, you go.” She was off the clock early. I wondered why. In her absence, another cashier rang up my purchase. He put rubber bands on my berries. Asshole.

My television — my trusty Friday night companion — broke at the height of Teva’s alopecia and my melancholy, making matters bleaker for at least one of us. I pulled forward a bookshelf to check the plugs, and the cats went berserk upon being reunited with all their lost toys and pilfered tampons. Teva led the charge, liberating the applicators and multicolor mice. For days while their treasures were no longer hidden, I’d wake to find a mouse dropped on top of me and come home to discover little tokens of their affection on my pillows. My misfortune had become their bliss.

*This* is why I have cats. They offer a direly needed everyday dose of levity. Also, they are the only beings that don’t love me and then leave me. Because they’re trapped in my house. And they’re the only ones who let me hold them on a regular basis. Although a few days ago Isabel pulled a muscle in her chest, and now she whimpers every time I lift her. It’s been especially hard on her. And by her I mean “my self-esteem.” And Teva and Isabel sit on me and purr a lot when I’m sad. I recently read that cats purr at a frequency known to foster healing. Cats make you feel better. Fact. Although it’s possible their purrs might only promote self-healing, in which case, our pain just makes them stronger. Still cool.

After witnessing Teva’s elation over my busted TV, I decided pills weren’t the right tack to take with her. Instead, I turned a blind eye to her hairless limb and let her overzealous grooming run its course. Like her mom, she eventually lost interest in epilation, and now there’s fuzz where there once was none.

Doing nothing can be the best medicine. At least that’s what I tell myself on date night.

P.S. To resolve the immaculate-conception cliffhanger from my last post, I’m not carrying the Second Coming of Christ after all. It’s just as I thought — only women can come twice.

The frankincense is always greener on the other side. Or whatever color frankincense is.

December 29, 2011

On Christmas Day, my cats dined on a tuna and pumpkin medley. My friend Sarah’s feline, Saba, whom I’m watching while she’s out of town, enjoyed a fancy feast of wild salmon florentine with garden greens. My supper was lacking in comparison; I chocked down a banana and a frozen burrito while working a 10.5-hour shift. Well, it technically wasn’t frozen when I ate it, thanks to my proficient microwave skills. So, that’s better.

The newspaper I work for used to provide the skeleton night crew of flunkies on the clock on Christmas a catered meal as sort of a sucks-that-you-pursued-journalism-as-a-career consolation. This year, however, we were left to pack our own dinners order from Chinatown starve. “It’s a kick in the balls,” my outraged colleague griped. Remembering he was commiserating with a girl, he then rephrased: “Kick in the, uh, crotch area.”

I know this is the time of year that I’m supposed to be giving thanks that I’m employed, my cats and I are healthy, we have a roof over our heads, and we have warm beds to sleep in (even if Teva and Isabel won’t step paw anywhere near their bed), but I spent most of Dec. 25 eschewing the second annual cat-wrapping and instead lamenting that if I were living in a homeless shelter, at least I wouldn’t be lonely because of winter overcrowding. And I’d be served warm holiday meals. Well played, homeless people.

While we’re on the topic of Christmas, my period is almost two weeks late, and I’m growing concerned I’m carrying the Lord’s child because ’tis the season. It all adds up. Like Mary, I was raised Jewish. And I haven’t had sex in a lot of months. And I don’t know what myrrh is, but that doesn’t make me want it any less. God’s baby mama’s plight is the Biblical equivalent of the reality TV show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” Which up until an ova ago was, admittedly, a pipe dream for me to appear on, because I didn’t not know that I was not pregnant. You know?

Thinking that this might be my last chance for pampering before my virgin birth, and also wanting to look my best for when the media hordes show up to document my immaculate conception, and also because I had a lot of split ends, I booked a haircut. The salon is one of the only places I feel beautiful, because stylists usually fawn over my hair, which has sort of a unique color. “You have Susan Sarandon Red!” one flamboyant barber once told me, before faux fanning himself and bursting into the song “Dammit Janet!” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

When I was little, my grandpa, from whom I inherited my ginger genes, used to tell me to keep my crimson clippings after a trim so he could glue them to his forehead to supplement his thinning locks. Actually, he still tells me to do this. While I’m told his hue was more of a fiery orange, mine is a shade of auburn that doesn’t often occur naturally. In fact, I’ve only ever seen it in person on animals. For instance, Saba the cat, an orange tabby, and I match fairly well. But dogs, Irish setters and the like, seem to come closest to my color. Remember the episode of “Friends” when Joey meets his identical hand twin in Las Vegas? I had to travel only 2.5 hours by car to find my identical hair twin, who belongs to a Provincetown B&B innkeeper.

Cape Cod, 2007.

But “Dog Red” sounds slightly less classy than “Susan Sarandon Red,” so let’s just go with that.

At the upscale Harvard Square salon, it was heavenly to be touched, to have someone shampoo my scalp and massage my temples and run her fingers through my wet hair. As she combed and snipped, we chatted about her hometown in Russia, her son who aspires to be a music producer, the graphic design classes she’s enrolled in online. When she finished blow-drying, she spun me around in the chair, held up a mirror so I could view the curls in the back, and declared in a thick accent, “You are goddess!” I *really* need to start spending more time in salons. Also, homeless shelters.

Amid the attention and flattery, my mind strayed from my heart and my, uh, crotch area, and I forgot for a moment that I’m alone, yet again, at the holidays.

“Are you seeing anyone?” she asked.

And then I remembered.

“No,” I said, shifting my eyes downward and sweeping away rogue hairs from my sweater.

“Well,” she said, winking. “Maybe next year.”

“Maybe next year,” I repeated.

Who Wore It Best? Part Deux (“Deux” is pronounced sort of like “duh,” because the answer is obvious.)

December 15, 2011

Although my barely detectable maternal instinct is wholly satisfied by caring for cats, others in my life are not so blessed. Many of them don’t have cats, or don’t want them, which is totally fine because more for me.

While I’ve been squirreling away cash for my cats’ college funds, my friends have been busy nesting and baby-proofing their cribs. (MTV taught me that “cribs” is what today’s youths and rappers call “domiciles.”) Yes, I’ve apparently reached the age when my peers are starting to fill the Teva-and-Isabel-sized hole in their hearts with children. This displeases me.

Taking into account my selfishness, disapproval of polluting the Earth with progeny and allergy to humans born after Ronald Reagan‘s first term, I figured these births would be the death of our friendships.

I feared the postpartum depression. The sleepless nights. The hemorrhoids. And I’m just talking about the effect their kids would have on *me*.

Possibly worst of all, I resented that I’d have to buy baby shower, birthday and holiday gifts for their little tax write-offs. When’s the last time someone gave my cats a present? Technically, mid-October. But it feels more dramatic and vindicating to say NEVER.

But when I’m wrong, I am wrong.

Upon the arrival of a co-worker’s first child, I reluctantly yet meticulously picked out the perfect congratulations-on-being-born present, and bore witness to the look of sheer joy and wonderment on her innocent, cherubic face as she happily wore the cutesy clothes. I’ve never felt more appreciated, so full of purpose. It warmed the cockles of my hard heart.

This is what being a mother is all about, I thought. I’m making a difference. Like Angelina Jolie with her caboodle of third-world orphans.

That’s why Hanukkah came early this year for another chum’s tyke. I just couldn’t wait another day to celebrate, get my blue on and light the womenorah. I again shopped stores high and low, and instantly those euphoric feelings came flooding back when I saw the little angel sporting adorable new duds.

Then I handed off the gift to my friend’s kid and whatever. No biggie.

Isabel and child

P.S. Go here for part one of “Who Wore It Best?”

P.P.S. Isabel purred most of time.

P.P.P.S. She wears a toddler 2/3. But no pressure.

P.P.P.P.S. OK, I lied. Isabel purred the whole time.

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