Friday, March 28, 2008

Be Nice or Pay the Price

Divorce, Japanese style.

Awake

I'm getting a little concerned about my insomnia. It's been going on for two weeks now. Earlier this week, I took an Ambien (the Divorce Multi-Vitamin) at 11pm, and slept through until 7am. It was wonderful; I woke up feeling great and rested. I keep forgetting to take one at 11, and I can't really be groggy past 7, so I've been going on very, very little sleep these last few days. I'm not even able to sleep on Shabbos. I don't feel tired during the day, but I am definitely feeling the effects of only getting two or three hours a night...jittery, snappy, high-strung. I do have some things on my mind (Pesach, taxes, car inspection, work, upcoming conference) but nothing worse than usual. I've never been a great sleeper, but this is ridiculous. I'm on edge all the time now. It's really not good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Divorce Freakonomics

Divorce day on the Freakonomics Blog.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Remakes I'd Like to Hear

Wow. Have a listen to this 1992 version of Suicide is Painless. Talk about turning a sacharine, seventies television theme into an edgy, angsty, current anthem. (Parenthetically, I heard the Marilyn Manson remake of this song a few years ago and got totally creeped out.)

Then there's this version of Burning Down the House by Tom Jones (yes!) and Nina Persson of The Cardigans. Granted, I love love love love love the 1983 original by the Talking Heads, and frankly, Tom Jones can still very much cut it....67 years old and I still wanna throw my panties at him (the under-thirty crowd will totally not understand that comment), and Nina Persson has one of the truest collaborative voices I've ever heard....listen to this unbelievably good duet with the Manic Street Preachers if you're not convinced of that. So this remake pretty much has everything going for it. But in my wildest dreams, I would not have imagined Tom Jones and Nina Persson being able to carry off Burning Down the House with any sort of success. It would have struck me as surreal. And indeed, the song and the video are a little surreal. Those silver body suits must have been really hot to dance in.

These two excellent remakes got me fantasizing...if I could have my way and have any musicians/singer/artists remake any songs I like, whom would I have singing what? Hmmm. Here's my shortlist:

  • David Bowie remaking The Carpenters' On Top of the World
  • Bob Dylan remaking The Wallflowers One Headlight
  • In that same spirit, John Lennon remaking Julian Lennon's Valotte
  • Sheryl Crow remaking Vicki Lawrence's The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia
  • Bare Naked Ladies remaking Don McLean's American Pie
  • Meatloaf remaking David Bowie's Life on Mars
  • Elton John remaking Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing
  • Ok Go remaking Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville
  • The Pretenders remaking Kim Carnes' Bette Davis Eyes
  • Simon and Garfunkel remaking any Abba song
  • Sting remaking Weezer's Island in the Sun
  • Weezer remaking Rick Springfield's Jesse's Girl
  • Evan & Jaron remaking Squeeze's Annie Get Your Gun
  • The Knack remaking Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Manic Street Preachers remaking The Police's Every Breath You Take
  • Vonda Shepherd remaking Olivia Newton John's Have You Ever Been Mellow
  • Coldplay remaking Don Henley's Boys of Summer
  • The Cardigans remaking Blondie's Heart of Glass
  • Blondie remaking The Cardigan's Lovefool
  • Dave Matthews remaking Springsteen's Hungry Heart
  • The Black Crows remaking Journey's Faithfully
  • Yael Naim remaking Sheryl Crow's Strong Enough
  • Sting remaking Stevie Wonder's Chemical Love
  • Tom Petty remaking Leon Redbone's Come and Get Your Love

Well, since the chances of David Bowie and Sheryl Crow reading my blog are about the same as John Lennon reading my blog, it's unlikely that any of my fantasy remake requests will ever happen. But it would be sorta interesting, yes?

Where's my Banana-flavored Laffy Taffy?

How is it possible, that in all the Mishloach Manot that were left at my doorstep, in the enormous Mishloach Manot package that my sister-in-law sent, and the large Mishloach Manot I received from my shul, not a single one contained a Banana-flavored Laffy Taffy? I live for Banana-flavored Laffy Taffy on Purim. Damn. Must be some rabbinical ban that I don't know about.

I want my Banana-flavored Laffy Taffy.

Ahem, Attention Fellow Bloggers

I got this tip from a web designer friend o' mine.

When you are creating a link on your blog to somewhere else, whether it is an old post or a new page, you don't want to lose your reader. You don't want that click to replace your current post, do you? Then the reader either needs to backtrack to you (and who does that?) or lose interest and read the current thing he has clicked to. So in order to open a new window/tab whenever you want to add a link to something, edit your html and add this line to the "a href" part of your link:

target=_blank

Works like a charm.

Purpose and Strategy

I've already posted in the past about how useful sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are. Facebook has lost a little bit of credibility for me, as I find so many of the groups silly and I'm tired of throwing sheep and being poked by Indian and Russian men I don't know.

LinkedIn is another story. This summer, there is a real possibility I might have to switch jobs. In the last month, I've spent time going through my contacts' contacts and seeing who I might know, who I've never met but have emailed, or who I vaguely met once or twice but might be useful professionally. I've sent out invitations to be linked to these people and happily, nine out of ten of them will link to me. I've doubled the amount of contacts in my network this month alone.

I find that there are generally three categories of people on LinkedIn. There are those that barely use the site and have less than 50 contacts, all of whom they probably know very well. Then there are the users like me, who have beetween, say 50 and 150 contacts. Obviously they don't personally know all of them that well, but they are riding the Web 2.0 wave and networking with purpose. Then there are the uber-users, the 151 plus people. These are people that are usually very well connected in life, have to meet a lot people in the course of doing their jobs, and conscientiously spend time on LinkedIn every day, checking their contacts' new contacts, searching for people in their email address books, linking linking linking, but with purpose and strategy. I have around 6 people like this in my contact list. One of these people has over 400 contacts.

There's a fourth category of LinkedIn users that I think is a very small one. There are those people that just want to see a large number next to their contact list, and will invite anyone and everyone to link to them, indiscriminately. These people are idiots. I have one contact like that. I used to work with him. He has low self-esteem and lots of free time.

So what good is it to link to people? How am I using LinkedIn in a way that is benefitting me professionally?

Well, I've gotten in touch with an old mentor of mine from my Wall Street days. That was a great contact to re-make. We've been emailing each other and he's been keeping me abreast of the job situation down there, which is always a good fallback should I need it. I've kept in touch with quite a few people from the city in which I used to live when I was married, and have actually landed a freelance assignment from that. I found an old college friend who is not employed in the same field as I am, BUT, one of HER contacts was, and emailed me to ask me about my experience, and ask a job-related question. We have kept in touch, and she might know of an opening in NY that will materialize in the fall. A recruiter I know socially from my single days found me and asked me if I would be interested in taking a certain job, or if I knew anyone for the position. The position was too junior for me, but I did know someone who ran an agency with a stable of people that might be just right for it, and he was in my contact list, so I "introduced" them to each other on LinkedIn, and indeed, she was able to place someone from the contact.

LinkedIn is one of the few social networking sites that rises above the noise and is very useful professionally, if you work it well enough.

Happy Isru Shushan Purim, er, whatever

Purim is one of the few occassions on the calendar that make me happy to be living in New York. I love everything about it. The Megillah is one of my favorite parts of Tanach, and I always take the time to learn a few sections from it before Purim. I love the kids dressing up, the bochrim singing & dancing for tzedakah, the general mood of merriment and unity, the fact that you can perform melachah but it's still a holiday, the whole gestalt. It's one of the few occassions on the Jewish calendar that I don't even mind being single again, though there is, of course, that terrible pang when I see mothers hording their costumed kids around for Shalach Manos deliveries. But it's a pain that I choose to ignore. Dammit, it's Purim! No wallowing.

Ah, speaking of Shalach Manos...or Mishloach Manot, as we used to say in the community I lived in when I was married, whatta concept. Give the Jews a mitzvah concerning food, and I promise you one thing: they will overdo it. When I was married, I used to participate in the shul/day school Mishloach Manot "program," in which, instead of getting 3,429 MMs from everyone in the community, you got one big one, along with a list of who "sent" it and the shul/day school made a little money from it as well. There were usually a bunch of people who didn't participate in the program and would drop their own personal MMs at our door. For them, I always did the same thing: I would buy a few yards of different, colorful fabrics at Walmart, cut them, stitch them up on the machine into small bags with a ribbon drawstring, and throw some goodies along with a mini bottle of wine into each one. It took me very little time, effort and money. Everyone loved the bags ("what material are you using this year?") and reused them and everyone appreciated the goodies because my one requirement for those goodies was that they also be kosher for Passover. Yes, I know, technically, Mishloach Manot are supposed to be foods that are consumed at the Purim Seudah, but let's get real here...every year after Purim, we are loaded down with fattening, junk-foody candy that we don't need and have to get rid of in one month. We bring it in to work, we eat it ourselves, we unload it on kids, but the bottom line is, we don't need or want it. Giving away packaged stuff that is, incidentally, also K. la'P. doesn't add to that emormous pile of junk.

For the last ten years or so, I have also subscribed to the principle that it makes much more sense to scale down your MM and fatten up your Matanot L'Evyomim (charity given out on the day of Purim). Believe it or not, I have been tracking the amounts that I've given for Matanot L'Evyonim for the last few years (same thing with Ma'ot Chittim....the charity we give before Passover) and I've tried very hard to consistently add money to previous year's amount. There were a few lean years, but this year, Bee-Aitch, I was able to add quite a bit, and I'm pleased with myself. It will give me something to shoot for next year.

As far as scaling down my MM, since my divorce almost a year and a half ago, I'm nearly retired in that regard. I do participate in my current community's MM program. I did buy enough junk to make up one nice, respectable MM that I planned on giving to someone I know who probably doesn't get a lot of MMs, just so that I could fulfill the mitzvah of giving two items of food to one person, but that was it. I didn't plan on being home for most of the day on Purim, so I wouldn't have to answer the door if anyone dropped any MM off, and I already informed my siblings that I was not doing the MM thing this year.

Well, the night before Purim, UPS left an enormous box at my door: bigger than a breadbox, smaller than a piano. My "out-of-town" sister-in-law decided that I wasn't fat enough, and sent me a MM that apparently swallowed sixteen other MM. It was huge. It took my roommate and me twenty minutes to tear away all of the chatchkas and crepe paper and cellophane and other assorted doodads, and we ended up with a pile of expensive junk food a foot high. Truffles, chocolate covered pretzels, hamentashen sculpted out of marzipan, ginormous cookies and chocolates and puffy things....omg, we were swimming in it. Ok, we needed to get rid of this stuff or glue it right to our butts, where it would eventually end up anyway. We popped some popcorn, dug out some small store shopping bags from Sur La Table and JJill, and made up small MM packages from the gigantic one. We were able to put together eight very decent MM packages. We made a list of people we thought probably wouldn't be getting a lot of MM and I would drive them over in the morning.

So the next morning, after Megillah reading and the breakfast seudah, I got in my car, steeled myself and took some deep breaths. Another name for Purim is "Frum Jews Driving Really Badly Day." My dropoffs took me to Brooklyn and Five Towns. Driving through either one of these places on Purim requires a certain amount of visualization. I imagined myself as a little silver ball, pinging my way along in a very high-end, complicated pinball machine maze of traps and curves and flippers and pitfalls. Ping, ping, ping. People truly drive like maniacs on Purim. They park in the middle of the street, jump lights, cut people off at will, don't signal, hold up lines of traffic to search for a house number or to talk to someone on the sidewalk, make sudden turns, zip through stop signs, etc. It's all part of the gestalt of Purim. The pedestrians are no better. Parents let kids run out in the middle of the street, or people congregate in parking spots, or basically they will just walk in front of cars. Because it was Purim, I didn't want to be screaming at anyone, so I smiled and kept both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, and prayed that I didn't kill anyone or total my car, in that order. In truth, I'm not such a nice person. Outside I may have been smiling, but inside, I was cursing my head off. But masking the bad stuff and showing only your good side is also in the spirit of Purim, right?

It's over. Putting things in perspective, bad driving and too much junk food are really the least of our problems. Let's hope God fulfills nahafochu this year, and turns our bad mazel into good. No more Mercaz HaRav massacres; no more Hamans and Amaleks chipping away at our spirit, taking away our children; please, no more tragedy.

Faithful Readers of TRT, may the rest of your Adar and your year be filled with nothing but happiness.

-WG

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Swapping Music

What to do when you're down?

Well, there's compulsive eating until you feel like you're going to explode.

Nah.

Then there's always the treadmill. That's productive! Yeah!

Nah.

Then there's music swapping.

I've already talked ad infinitum about how much I love music. One of my dirty little secrets is that I have a small group of friends with excellent taste with whom I swap stuff. I just send an email saying "I need tunes, please." I get the latest and the greatest in their collections. And if they ask for it, they get mine. (Parenthetically, my friends include a lawyer, a rebbitzen and someone who works in the rock music industry. Not that that means anything.)

I am definitely a little guilt-ridden about the morality of keeping and enjoying songs that I didn't purchase. I wonder if it is truly stealing. I did a little research a few years ago about the halachic consequences of this, and it seemed so gray. No one had anything conclusive to say about when you can share and when it is stealing. I wonder if that has changed since Ipods became popular.

For example, if my spouse buys a cd, can I listen to it too? I know, ishto k'gufo. But what about if my brother buys a cd? My Mom? My cousin? Can I put it on my Ipod? If I do, does that mean they can't listen to the cd anymore?

Can I share an mp3 with my friends or is that stealing as well? What about if I take it off of YouTube? I can download and strip out the audio of any YouTube video (and probably half of all internet users can as well). What is the morality behind that? If it's out on YouTube, does that make it public domain?

What about LimeWire? Is it so different from Itunes? Yes, I know, the artists get paid on Itunes, presumably. And what if it's an old song or a dead artist? What if it's not in distribution anymore? Is it any different from sharing it with a relative or friend? Is it any different from recording it from the radio? Is that wrong too?

I struggle with this stuff. I mean, it's not like I don't buy music all the time anyway. I do. That doesn't change the fact that I still enjoy music I didn't pay for. But there are so many gray areas and so many different levels to this...the halachic consequences and the legal aspect.

I'm not distributing this stuff for profit, just enjoying it and sharing it with my friends. But does that make it right? I'm not sure.

In my move back to NY last year, a whole box of cd's that I had purchased got lost in the shuffle. They are either somewhere in my storage space or somewhere in my Ex's house. So, does that mean I have to go out and buy them again if I want to listen to them on my Ipod, or can I just use my friends' copies?

I feel guilty. But, honestly, not overwhelmingly guilty. I should probably write to the Freakonomics guys for their take on this. And I know: I should probably ask my Rav. But I'm not prepared to hear no.

It's funny: I would never walk into Borders and put a cd in my bag and walk out with it. That is shoplifting and it's wrong wrong wrong. I'm very clear on that. But isn't sharing music pretty much the same thing?

I hope not.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Seven

Seven things that are sort of bothering upsetting me:

1. The Fed dropped AGAIN, this time to 2.25%. My money is no longer making money.

2. It cost me nearly $50 to fill up my car.

3. The governor of NY who replaced the shame-on-you-for-consorting-with-prostitutes governor of NY came clean on HIS adultery, as well as his wife's adultery. Does anyone like sleeping with just their spouse anymore?

4. My boss' new favorite activity is demoralizing me until I feel like a bug.

5. I have insomnia again.

6. Someone just suggested a 59 year old guy who can barely read Hebrew to me as a shidduch and was indignant when I said no, because he "was a great guy."

7. I want to buy this purse and I can't afford it. My shopping-addicted little mind is telling me "if I just buy this one purse, I will never ever want another handbag ever again ever ever." The rest of me is saying "oh please."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Freakonomics Steven Levitt

Here are parts one and two of Freakonomics' Steven Levitt being interviewed on Comedy Central's Colbert Report. I'm in love.

I love nerdy brilliant guys. They are like rock stars to me.

Old Things

Twice a year, there is a huge Antiques Show at the 55th Street Pier in Manhattan, near the Intrepid. When I was single and lived in NY, I used to go to these shows religiously. I love antiques; I love old things. I like the idea that something is more valuable because it has a history, a story to tell and that something once belonged to someone else and lived its life with that other person. Antiques have value and interest completely apart from their function. If they have been loved and well-cared for, you can see it reflected in the item; It gives the item a whole other dimension.

I collect a few things here and there, and over the years, I've learned quite a bit about antiques. Because I have a decent eye for these things, I even toyed with the idea of opening a small Sunday booth in the city in which I lived when I was married, but The Ex opposed it. He hated antiquing. He would rather spend the day getting a root canal. To him, it was just more shopping. To me, it was a treasure hunt. I was endlessly in search of The Find. The Find was the item that was incredibly underpriced and undervalued, and only I knew it. Or it was the item that started out priced high, but because it was the end of the day and I had shmoozed up the dealer, he cut the price in half for me. The Find made the entire day's hunt worthwhile.

The things that I collect are small, of necessity. Because of endless financial and space constraints, I cannot collect antique furniture, or I would fill my home with beautiful old things. The few pieces of furniture that I own that are true antiques are always commented on by guests, like my huge scarred maple desk with its great patina, or the lovely dressing-table chair in my bedroom. I love the idea of putting modern things with old pieces of furniture. There is something "right" about seeing the flatscreen monitor perched on my desk...the old serving the new serving the old.

I haven't been to the Pier Antiques Show since I got married. It has changed quite a bit over the years. For one thing, it has gotten smaller; it used to span three piers and now it filled only one, and of course, the variety of selection has shrunken along with the space. Gone were the booths devoted to Americana, knicknacks, and country antiques. Antique jewelry, both costume and real, was huge this year. Coral is incredibly popular and so are cameos. Louis Tiffany lamps were selling in the multi-thousand dollar range. Silver was available for dirt cheap prices. I have a secret fantasy of coming to an antique show one day with the future Mr. WebGirl, buying a full set of an old unusual old European sterling pattern, kashering it and using it as my Shabbosware. Frankly, I don't know why every frum married couple doesn't do that. The sterling that you get in antique fairs is so much more beautiful and valuable than what you can buy in Boro Park, so incredibly easy to kasher, and usually much less expensive. It will also ensure that your Shabbos table doesn't look like the Goldbergs' and the Steins' Shabbos table. I have a few old serving pieces that I inherited from my grandmother that are unsual and lovely and simply ooze personality, and when I was married and used to entertain for Shabbos and Chaggim, my guests always commented on them. Things like old salt cellars and relish tongs and unusual challah knives from the turn of the century add character to a table.

This year, an entire third of the Pier Show was dedicated to vintage clothes, which, as much as I enjoy looking at them, was an entirely different type of market from the other antiques. Oh, the gorgeous old frou-frou furs and evening gowns with the tiny wasp waists, the 1940's boots with the impossibly pointy toes and high heels, the beaded clutches with their tiny seed pearls had my heart racing. But when I held the supple fifty year old Hermes ostrich skin handbag in my clammy little hands, I found myself actually trying to calculate how long I would have to work to earn the $5,600 that it cost. It's amazing how true couture really holds together and lasts forever. When I was married, I had a very, very wealthy friend who once showed me the ten Chanel suits she had hanging in her closet, with each one costing several thousand dollars. She wore them for years and years, just swapping out accesories and blouses. A few had belonged to her mother. They were exquisitely made of gorgeous materials, and truly you couldn't compare them to the three-hundred dollar affairs that I purchased for Rosh Hashana in Boro Park and would give away to a gemach after a few seasons.

If I had money, real money, I would know how to spend it. Ah, the gashmius of it all.

When I am in an antique mall, I reign myself in by withdrawing a fixed amount of cash beforehand and spending only that amount, not a penny more, or I would completely overindulge. Yesterday's haul included some limoge miniatures, a few interesting European sterling table pieces, a tiny piece of decorative china from a pattern I collect, a battered Bezalel mezuzah cover, and a lovely old bracelet made from little Venetian glass beads. I'm going to give the bracelet to a niece who is just starting to develop an interest in Italian things (strongly encouraged by Aunt WebGirl, strongly frowned upon by WebGirl's yeshivish sister-in-law).

I don't know why I love antiques so much. Maybe it's because my own life and history has been so dull and ordinary, and I like peppering it up with little things that tell stories. Maybe.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Freakishly Ordinary

We (meaning Modern Ortho folk living in NY Metro) are a funny, funny people. We live in perpetual fear of being deemed weird. We follow the crowds, want to go to the in-places, the events that "the whole world" is going to, the popular shul, wear what everyone else is wearing, laugh at the stuff that everyone else thinks is clever. We don't want anyone to think we're weird or different.

And yet,

we also don't want to be ordinary. We want to be superlative, but more than that, we want to be "other." We want people to think we are the best at our professions. We want to stand out, get noticed, honored, recognized. We don't want to be just another yid in the veldt, another cog in the machine, another plain old Joe. We want to be different. We want to be extraordinary.

I have always suffered from a bad case of simultaneously wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out. It's the stupidest damn dilemma in which to find yourself. Most of my choices in life have led me closer to the freakish path rather than the ordinary road. I did not go to Brooklyn College, Baruch, Stern, Barnard, Rutgers, Kingsborough or Touro. I did not become a doctor, lawyer, accountant, speech/physical/occupational therapist, computer programmer, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, teacher or psychologist.

But I did grow up in New York, I did attend a mainstream yeshiva and my entire family is frum. I may not be any of the above, but all my relatives and most of my friends are. My array of "other" friends are probably what give away my freakiness first to the unsuspecting frum world. I have a good friend who is an environmental activist in Northern California, one who is a member of a Republican think tank in Colorado, one who is married to a Rosh Yeshiva in a prominent NY institution, a close male friend who is both Shomer Shabbos and gay, etc. My "other" friends are all over the map.

Once, at one of those insufferable Upper West Side Shabbos meals that I attended when I was single, we were doing one of those things where we went around the table, said our names, where we went to college, and what we did for a living. I was going to be around number 8 in turn. After listening to what everyone else was saying, I suddenly got the cold sweats that I would stand out like the color red if I told the truth about myself. When it came my turn, I said my name, that I graduated from Touro, and that I was a school teacher. My roommate at the time, (who had graduated from Stern and was an accountant) who was sitting across from me and was the one who had dragged me to the meal, just stared at me with her mouth open. When she picked her chin up from off the floor, we had a little private conference in the corner of the room, where I told her that I was never going to see any of these superficial UWS people ever again, they would never remember what I said, and I just couldn't deal with telling them what I did and all the "really?" comments that inevitably would follow. I just wanted them to think I was another Brooklyn babe who was one of the tribe, and after all, that was how they probably labeled me anyway.

Yes, I do realize the irony of the situation, now that I can look back.

These days, being divorced, older, and childless in a sea of young married mommies, I tend to be more of a freak anyway, so I pretty much go with that. I'm used to it.

We are a funny people.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Julian and Jakob

YouTube is a fabulous website. I know I'm not telling you anything new. YouTube enables me to have myself a good wallow in nostalgia, even nostalgia that I never actually experienced. Watching old videos of Abba singing "Dancing Queen" and Rick Springfield singing "Jesse's Girl" is just so much fun. And it's all free. And (though you might question the ethics of it, I don't, really) downloadable if you know how to mess with the code. It gives me the chance to watch pop culture icons that I admire (and those that I don't) up close. There's nothing on tv anymore, but YouTube always gives me a smile.

In the late eighties, I was a fan of Julian Lennon. Yes, I thought it was cool that he was John's kid, but I also felt that, unlike Sean, he was immensely talented. He gave a great live performance and his voice was solid and true, and eerily, like the father that he barely knew.

In the nineties, I got into The WallFlowers. Again, I thought it was great that Jakob Dylan was carrying on Bob's legacy, but he was so much more than that. He too was a talented singer/songwriter in his own right. Jakob has the physical magnetism and intensity that his dad possessed when he was younger, and while his voice is his own, I hear that Dylan twang back, deep, in the undertones.

Julian Lennon and Jakob Dylan have what it takes to cut it on their own, but they have both been indeliby stamped with their fathers' genetic gifts. Lucky bastards.

Take a look at this wonderful semi-accoustic version of "One Headlight." Beautiful. It's Bob Dylan, but it's definitely not Bob Dylan. It's really, really good.

Wright, so Wrong

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the theology of the possible next leader of The Free World (hat tip to Dean's World):

http://www.deanesmay.com/2008/03/13/reverend-wright.

As I post this, I feel the devil's advocate in me rearing its ugly (but politically correct) head. Maybe Obama belongs to this church and has this man as his spiritual leader, but doesn't really believe this crap.

No. Sorry.

Let's say I ran for office. Yup, WebGirl for Prez, running under the platform of "Free Ipods for Everyone!" Now let's say they lined up every Rabbi of every shul I've ever belonged to since I entered adulthood and posted YouTube videos of their Shabbat Shuva drashas. Would they pass the scrutiny of the American public? Would I be proud to say that these men were my spiritual leaders?

You know what, I have to say, I would. YouTube, bring it on. My theology is actually consistent with my character.

Obama, you still have a nice smile, and if this election were about charisma, I would vote for you twice, but this kinda stuff scares the hell outta me.

I Now Truly Believe That the World is Insane

Purim and Adar usher in the era of both happiness and the spirit of "nahafochu," the idea that things that are the exact opposite of what they should be, and that someday, God will set them right.
Nowhere did this become more apparent to me than in
this YNet article: "UN chief calls on Israel to halt 'excessive force.' "

Yes, folks, you read that right. Apparently, it's all those damn Jews' fault. Cycle of violence, bombs in Sdorot, little boys slaughtered in Mercaz HaRav, it's those death-lovin' crazy Israelis. I love the UN. Can someone raze it to the ground, please? (Ha ha ha, just kidding, of course.)

DAKAR - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel on Thursday to halt attacks using "disproportionate and excessive force" against Palestinians.

"Israel's disproportionate and excessive use of force has killed and injured many civilians including children ... I condemn these actions and call on Israel to cease such acts," Ban told an Islamic summit in Senegal's capital Dakar.

Renewed violence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank has threatened prospects for an Egyptian-brokered truce.

Islamic Jihad fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Thursday after an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. No one was injured by the salvo against the border town of Sderot, the first such attack by Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant faction, since March 5.

Israel, which had not struck in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for a week, attacked a rocket launcher in the town of Beit Hanoun from the air after Sderot was hit. No one was hurt.

Islamic Jihad had vowed revenge after Israeli troops killed four of its members in the West Bank on Wednesday.

Hamas said Israeli "aggression" risked destroying Cairo's efforts to mediate a ceasefire, seen as key to securing enough quiet for there to be progress in US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But Hamas, which is seeking reopening of the territory's borders as part of a truce deal, stopped short of abandoning the ceasefire talks in which Islamic Jihad also has participated.

Yup, Moshiach is clearly on his way, boys and girls, because the world cannot bear any more of this crap...it is about to implode. Nothing new under the sun....it's the Israelis' excessive force, photos of women's faces in a wig store, and my personal favorite, global warming. THAT'S what wrong with our world.

The Alternative

I've been drowning in pep talks recently.

My very well-meaning friends are still calling me trying to set me up. And I guess I should keep going out. I guess.

My Frumster profile has expired. I'm not off Frumster completely yet, but I'm no longer "Premium," which basically renders the profile as a useless placeholder until I renew. I toyed with the idea of re-upping when I got an offer to renew at a discounted rate in my email this week, but I didn't see the point. I have 6 messages sitting in my inbox that I cannot read until I pay up. I don't care.

My Saw You at Sinai membership is also off the "Gold" status. I have 4 shadchanim waiting to throw some more inappropriate matches at me once I upgrade. I really don't care.

My friend Sarit called me yesterday to let me know about some event for "singles who are not 25" in Monsey this weekend. I'm not going.

Sarit is probably older than me, but she is prettier and more confident: "why aren't you going?"

"I can't do this anymore."

"You have to keep putting yourself out there, WG! Your husband is not going to fall out of your ceiling on to your lap."

"I really can't. I can't."

There was a Shabbaton in Long Island this past weekend for 30 plus singles. This same Shabbaton resulted in a couple meeting and getting married last year. I didn't go, but a close friend did, and she came home more-or-less demoralized. She almost wept. Ok, she did cry. I had some reservations about going/not going, but after hearing the post-mortem from her and some other friends, I don't regret my decision. Mind you, it doesn't make a difference whether or not a Shabbaton draws great guys or not; it almost has no effect on whether or not I meet someone. I could meet my own version of a fabulous guy in a pool of very not-so-great guys. But I just don't do well in the meat-market situation. I do better one-on-one. But these days,

I am doing better one-on-none.

So back to Sarit.

We had an interesting discussion about the various tortures we had put ourselves through in trying to get re-married this past year (Sarit is also divorced without kids), and offered each other a little mutual pity and comfort. We ended the conversation with Sarit still riding the pep-talk:

"WebGirl, if you stop going out and you stop trying, what is the alternative? What? Are you just going to be alone and not have kids and that's it?"

Yeah. I think it is. I haven't really fully integrated that yet and definitely haven't accepted what that means, but I've started to force myself to think along those lines. I'm so tired of feeling sorry for myself. What kind of meaningful life can I make for myself if I never get what I want? What does God want from me if He doesn't want me to have a family (I am trying to accept that He doesn't)? And of course, I keep asking asking myself if I can really make that jump, that paradigm shift to rethinking my entire life, that horrible, horrible leap to giving up and then reinventing myself, and I'm just not sure I can. But right now, that is the only alternative.

Think She Had a Book in There?

Well, I guess she really had to go.

Or You Can Just Mail Me a Check

Have an extra five-grand burning a hole in your pocket? Now you can throw it away on this must-have.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Loving loving loving the Internet

I had to run out to the drugstore tonight; I ran out of conditioner, and my hair was completely outta control. Walgreen's is 8 minutes from my house. I usually walk there, but I jumped into my car to catch it before it closed, and I left my Ipod at home. I scanned around on the car radio. I found a weird new station, 101.9 RXP, and I heard about 30 seconds of a song they were playing before I pulled into the Walgreen's parking lot. But those 30 seconds were enough to know that I would love the song. The line that I caught was "You've had too much to think, now you need a wife."

So, I got home, Googled that line (in quotes) and found the song on the first hit: "Steady as She Goes" by the Raconteurs. I logged into Itunes, bought the song for a buck, threw it on the Ipod, and it was playing in my bedroom a minute later.

Time elapsed from hearing the song: 20 minutes-ish.

The joy of Life Online. What an age.

(and yes, it's a great song.)

Keeping Away from the Scary People

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that when I first got divorced, I ventured on Frumster and immediately met someone wonderful. He turned out to be a pathological liar. He lied to me about EVERYTHING, including his name, religious status, education, career, etc. We went out for a couple of months (long distance). While I credit myself with being pretty astute, I was very slow to catch on to his lies. Why? Because when someone tells you his name is so-and-so, you generally have no reason to doubt that his name is so-and-so. When someone tells you he is Shomer Shabbos, you generally have no reason to doubt that he is Shomer Shabbos. Why would you think they were lying? Why would anyone think that? Who approaches meeting people with the idea that they might be lying? Who goes through life being suspicious of everyone?

How did I catch on? Well, there were little inconsistencies...obvious mistakes that he made, that someone who was where-he-said-he-was in life would not make. But in my mind, I kept covering for him; I really liked him. When I called him on the mistakes, he would say he was just kidding, or that he never said that. Finally, he made a collossal humdinger of a mistake, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I did some digging. I found out who he really was and it was, to say the least, shocking. I won't go into details. It was unbelievable. (No, he wasn't married, but it was still a shocker.)

There were other things about our relationship that should have tipped me off to his psychopathy. First of all, he was one of the nicest people I had ever met, 98% of the time. Sweet, warmly sincere, open, hysterically funny, and even loving. There were times when we would spend the entire night on the phone, just laughing and talking. But, then suddenly, for almost no reason at all, he would accuse me of something crazy and snap like a twig. He would slam the phone down on me and email me that it was over. This happened over the stupidest things. He would just blow; it was crazy. I would end up in tears, and found myself apologizing to him. I have the kind of personality that doesn't like upsetting people, certainly not people I care about. I would rather be happy than be right (to quote my old marriage therapist), and I have no problem saying that I'm sorry even if I know I didn't do anything. But this happened a few times and it started to bother me.

Then there were countless times he would make promises that just never happened. He would tell me that he was sending me something, and it would never show up. He said that it had to have gotten lost in the mail, because why would he lie about that (why indeed) and was I accusing him of lying? So I would tell myself to "dan l'kaf zechut," to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I chose to believe him.

Later on, I found out that every time he promised he sent me something, he just lied about it. Plain-old lied. Lied, lied, lied. Lied like a rug.

There were dates that he stood me up on (yes!), when he claimed that he had emailed me or left a message that he was unable to make it that night. The email/message must have gotten lost, after all, who would just not show up for a date? Who indeed? There were times he tried to lure me into going into business with him. Then of course, there was the incredible lightning speed with which he demanded that I see him and only him. That should have been a major clue. Instead, I was flattered by his wanting me all to himself and taken in. Hook, line and sinker.

Thank God, I had a close friend to confide in this whole time. It was she who started pointing out some glaring inconsistencies to me, even though I initially defended him and denied them. She was able to be more objective and to cast a little light on what she thought was going on. That was enough to make me realize that something was not kosher here. Something was very, very treif.

In my defense, I don't have too much experience with lying psychopaths. The Ex, regardless of his many other flaws, was as honest as Lincoln and as straight as an arrow. And normal. The Ex never exploded for no reason. The Ex lied about nothing. Of course he didn't. He wasn't a wack-job. He just wasn't very nice to me.

So end result, I wasted two months of my life with a psychopathic liar. Big deal. It could have been a lot worse. I'm grateful that I found out about him when I did, before I got more involved. Want to know why my friend was able to pick up on his personality type? Because she had married someone like that. Her Ex had been a controlling, pathological liar with a vicious temper that turned on a dime. He was also a loving, romantic, kind, sweet, gentle, attentive husband. She recognized the signs.

So what do you do when this type of sociopath turns up as your boss? Or as a colleague? Or someone who is in a position of personal or community trust?

At work recently, I had to deal with one of the vendors that we use for certain business services. Up until this week, their company had been performing well. It's the kind of service that is ongoing; once it was initially set up, there were very few reasons to need anything from them. I received their semi-annual bill, and I had Accounting cut a check to pay for it. When I looked on their website for a remittance address, I couldn't find one. When I went to their Live Help section, I asked their helpdesk person for their mailing address. I was told that they accept only online payments.

Now, the company I work for is a little funny about using corporate credit cards online. I would have had to use my personal credit card and then put in for a reimbursement. So fine, I was willing to do that. At this point the bill was past due. But when I went to pay online, I saw a $25 late fee posted. What the hell?

So I went back into their Live Help section, and asked the helpdesk person to please waive the fee. He responded by getting the owner of the company online. The owner proceeded to accuse me of trying to wheedle out of paying my bill! I kept my cool and tried to explain to her what I was trying to do. She started to spiral out of control. She wouldn't hear anything I said and ended up terminating our account with her company, giving me two weeks to find another service!

I was in shock. Where did this come from? I cut and pasted the chat from the Live Help section and emailed it to my boss. His response was, "what the hell was this woman's problem?" I read the chat over and over, looking for any comment that I made that might have set her off, but even from a purely objective viewpoint, I was being calm and logical and she was getting more and more unreasonable.

My first instinct was to email her an apology. But why? Who was at fault here? I prided myself on my professional behavior in the workplace, and hated leaving things so ugly.

Suddenly, a bell rang in my head. Ding ding ding.

Ah. This was one of the crazy people.

Dating the pathological liar was, if nothing else, an unpleasant educational experience. These people are out there. They are. You don't want to believe that there might be people who are in a position of trust and power who are just plain pathological, but they exist. They run companies. They run countries. They should probably be on meds. You might cross paths with them in life. Your professional/personal fate might be in their hands. It's scary, to say the least.

Your strongest armor against the wack-jobs is first recognizing who they are. Once you are armed with the knowledge, you can maneuver your way around them. If it's a social situation, get out, period. If it's a work situation, know with whom you are dealing and tread very, very lightly. Obey your instincts. If something feels false, it probably is false. Be ready for an explosion and make sure you let people further up on the ladder know before that you suspect a few loose wires. Above all, don't trust these people.

It's very, very frightening. God save me from marrying one of these sociopaths.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Faces of Mercaz


Beautiful boys, yes? These are five of the eight students that were killed brutally slaughtered at Mercaz HaRav on Thursday.

I have no words. Hashem yikom damam.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hey kids! Start your very own ban!

Chaptzem, you have outdone yourself. Brilliant. {Round of applause}

Chaptzem Ban-O-Matic here. Love this.

Mercaz Harav

I sort of hesitate to post about the Mercaz Harav massacre, because I feel like horror and outrage are sort of the universal responses to this thing, and really, what can I add to the conversation, except that I am overwhelmed with horror and outrage?

It's hitting me in a particularly bad way because these are Yeshiva kids. It makes it personal. 90% of my frum friends, including myself, have learned in a Yeshiva in Jerusalem at some point. This could have been any one of us. It could have been me. It could have been you.

I just feel sick. May God avenge them speedily and without mercy.

The Bloom on My Rose

Once when I was in my mid-twenties, I was walking through Penn Station in NY, when I accidentally brushed by a woman carrying some shopping bags. I apologized, but I had the misfortune to jostle a mentally unstable woman. She started coming after me and whacking me with her shopping bags, which I believe contained cans. It was bizarre, but even more bizarre was what she said, which stayed with me for over a decade: "You think you're so pretty! Well, you're not! I was much prettier than you when I was young. Yeah, honey, wait until the bloom is offa your rose!"

Ok, so she was nuts. But it was still strange...I wasn't particularly beautiful or attention-attracting, so why was she yelling at me about this?

There's probably not a woman alive who isn't a little shaky about her looks. Even the most attractive of women scrutinize their faces and bodies in the mirror and torture themselves over every flaw. This self consciousness tends to recede when you are married, because you know that your husband will always be there for you no matter what you look like and no matter how much you age. Well, at least, in the idealized vision of marriage, this is true. We know a little differently, don't we, girls and boys? When I look around at married couples I know, it seems the better the marriage, the more confident the wife seems to be about her appearance, and the more devoted the husband seems to be to the wife. Of course, this is due to a million other external factors too, and they all feed into each other. If a woman takes care of her appearance, her husband is more likely to be continuously taken with her, which will reinforce her self-esteem, which will strengthen her self-presentation, which will enhance her appearance. Loving marriages are well-oiled machines.

But then there are marriages like mine, in which I never felt completely secure in my husband's love. Never. Not for a moment.

Okay. Not having that discussion now.

Now that I am on my own again, I have a new awareness of my appearance. I am probably a 6 or 7, and without my (much discussed) extra weight that I need to lose, I'd probably rate as maybe a 7 or 8. I think it's important to have a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, including your looks. I know I will never be on the cover of Cosmo, but frankly, that was never really something that bothered me. Really. But it does, a little, now. When I was single, I had youth. Half the time I left the house makeup-less, with wet hair. The bloom was still very much on my rose, and my energy, joie de vivre, and personality eclipsed my lack of glamour. It just didn't matter back then. It's not just the very pretty girls that make heads turn.

Thrown back into the world of dating now, I am at a very precarious point. I am at an age where changes are starting to happen that are beyond my control. I went to a shul sisterhood event recently and looked around the room. The shul that I belong to now is one where most female married members don't cover their hair. I was bored and sort of randomly checked out everyone's hair (women do that). It seemed that the women my age or older had very lackluster, un-shiny, overly straightened or superfrizzy hair. Every one of them. What was that about? When I got home, I looked at my own hair. When I was younger, I had very pretty, bouncy, shiny hair. But it has changed since then, which I had blamed on five years of being under hats and sheitls. But I now realize that it's age too. There's a reason that women in their fifties and sixties shouldn't have waist-length hair, even if they color it. Hair just loses its prettiness as we age. Believe it or not, this was something I hadn't realized until now. Wrinkles, I knew about. But hair too?

Wrinkles. The one winning ticket that I've held in the genetic lottery was great skin. Once I emerged from the hormonal swamp of puberty, I had clear, soft, glowing skin. I never wear foundation and only recently started wearing moisturizer. I say only recently, because I woke up one morning and realized that I had the makings of some serious laugh-lines. And maybe crow's feet. And some finely etched worry lines on my forehead. Oh God. Wrinkles. I don't have enough to obsess about?

More often than not, I find myself strolling though the skincare aisle at Target, looking at the retinol, pro-retinol, collagen, anti-aging, wrinkle-reducing crap that they are hawking and I wonder to myself where I need to throw my money in order to prevent the loss of my nice skin. I even had a brief moment of insanity when I thought about botox. It passed. It seems idiotic to indulge in masks and scrubs to rid your skin of dirt and toxins and then to inject some sort of toxic botulism protein, or whatever Botox is made up of, into your scrubbed pores. But I thought about it.

It's a cruel reality that I'm at a point when men who are around the same age as I am are not looking across but are looking down at women who are younger. It's just a sad fact of life. I'm not critical of it, as I feel that everyone is entitled to their own choices in dating, but it narrows and weakens my dating pool. So as I am slowly sliding down the scale of aesthetic beauty, age-appropriate dating partners are looking for women who are still near top. This doesn't really fill me with confidence. And lately, I'm not really swimming in confidence anyway.

Realistically, I still have a little bloom left on my rose. But I am fearful of the time when it will not be so and I will still be all alone. I'm starting to look in the mirror and be afraid.