Archive | March, 2010

An Ode to Tater Tots

28 Mar

I am hungry. Not in a starving way, thank G-d, but I am hungry. It probably has something to do with my kitchen being kosher for Passover. Slowly but surely, like the mound of snow which once graced my front yard, the rotound bulge which poignantly characterized my refrigerator and cabinets has diminished to a waning pile of refuse food (intended for the unforeseen such as the Apocalypse or World War III). I find a cup of Greek yogurt here and a freezer burned slice of pizza there, but overall the truth is inevitable– the next meal I am not perturbed by will be the Korech sandwich (yup, I like it).

Yet in my dreary solemness; in the shriveling canals of my bemoaning eyes lays a glimmer. It flickers and subsides, but not for good. It’s a brown glimmer; not radiant or shining like a diamond yet it still radiates a peaceful, calming feeling. It is a feeling of satisfaction and contentedness. Its silhouette is bumpy and ridged, beyond the point of renovation. It is what it is, so simple yet immeasurably delightful.

Napoleon Dynamite was right, tater tots are worth fighting for.

What distinguishes from other potato products? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure, in a sea of canned soup and jarred gefilte fish, the tater tot remains starchy yet satisfying. Whether topped with ketchup or left au natural, it quenches the palate in ways which few other processed, canned and frozen food can. I am truly blessed to have found this edible elixir in the boundless depths of  my frozen frontier. Passover shall come and go, and the pangs of Pesach hunger shall go with it…but one thing shall remain.

The timeless practicality of the Tater Tot.

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Looking Past the Pimples

22 Mar

People are complex. Every single person you have met and will meet in your life, whether it’s your sibling or some guy you met on the train, has a personal reality as staggeringly labyrinthine as the DNA which he is made of. Most of us don’t think like that, of course. Life is too busy. As we get older we have more responsibilities to attend to; more boxes to check off on a never-ending checklist. Checklists make life easier. Everything you need to know is right in front of you. There’s no need to exert your efforts or think too hard. It’s so convenient, it’s addicting. It takes over our minds, discoloring the intricacies of life. The most complicated yet innumerably precious facets of life become dulled. Our eyes weaken, our hearts erode and everything, everyone is understood in the brain-numbing polarities of black and white:

He comes from a poor family.

She has a mentally retarded brother whom her family never speaks of.

He went through a rebellious stage.

Her father is in jail due to tax fraud.

He had cancer when he was 12.

She won’t be able to bare her own children.

His father left and never came back.

Notice how I didn’t give the traditional “don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover” examples. People turn down shidduchim because a prospective shidduch isn’t tall/smart/thin/hairy/charming enough, but I am speaking beyond that point. I am talking about real flaws. I am talking about the flaws that scare people; that make them turn around unsure if they will ever come back. Face it, there are ugly facts of life. Repugnantly ugly facts. People make horrendous mistakes, face onerous challenges and endure inexplicable tragedy. It happens. I don’t mean to say it in a casual manner, but the truth is, these are realities.

There are people in the shidduch world, more than you probably realize, who have such flaws. Sometimes you will know about the matters up front, and sometimes they will not be revealed until later on in the courtship. Whatever the case is, it is very possible that you will date and like someone who has or had any of the above circumstances in his/her life. You have two options when you are introduced to this circumstance:

Look at it as a Flaw:

This is definitely not what you signed up for. You have a list. You have a column of what you need in a spouse and what you don’t need in a spouse, and this would definitely go in the latter category. Yes, you have a good connection with them and he treats you with respect and he holds himself with integrity and has shown that he will be a committed spouse, but you never imagined that you would end up with someone so…flawed. Why did he go off the derech? How will people look at me when they realize I’m the in-law of a criminal? What if the cancer he had comes back? How am I going to have children? It’s just too much to handle so…you walk away.

Look at it as a Pimple:

The Pimple Perspective doesn’t mean you won’t ask the above questions. No one expects you to look at such circumstances and automatically accept them. It’s normal to feel scared and unsure…but when you look at it as a pimple, you’re looking at it through a translucent lens rather than vision blocked by the black and white standards of your checklist. Instead of just seeing another person, you are understanding the person as you understand yourself. You know you’re complex. You know you that no psychologist could ever sum up why you are who you are, think what you think and feel what you feel. Not in your entirety. Everyone has pimples. Some are smaller or less festering than others, but we all have them. They’re painful and unattractive, but they don’t end your life. You live with them. You can even learn to live happily with them. All it really is, is a matter of perspective.

Think about the person who has this pimple. Who is standing before you? Is this a person who let life’s disappointments plunge them into depression? Is this a person who uses his pimples as a pity card? Do you know how hard it is to go out into the dating world, a world convoluted in black and white standards, and give it your all when you know you can be judged instantaneously? All his efforts and struggles to become the most responsible, giving and understanding person he can be, may be swallowed whole by an ominous question mark.

In an instant.

Take that into account. Some people do let their pimples bring them down, but others…they go out into the world and build themselves up. It’s not that they aren’t still hurt, because they are. It’s that not they have no fears. They do. But despite being hurt and despite having fears, they make something of their lives. It’s not given to them. They make it. They choose it. They look past the pimples.

And you can too. It’s not easy but it will make you appreciate life in a way no words can justly describe. It takes:

Knowledge: The knowledge that G-d knows exactly what He’s doing, and that you won’t always understand His ways.

Understanding: You must understand that you will not fully understand what this person has been through.

Courage: The courage to love them anyway.

Wisdom: Knowing that life never gets easier but it can become more meaningful, if you choose for it to be.

Determination: The determination to live a meaningful life.

An Attitude of Gratitude: Because only once you realize just how precious health, family and shalom bayit are will you make it your life’s mission to provide your spouse and children with these three treasures as best as you can.

I’m not telling you to dafka marry someone with such pimples. Marry the person who you can respect, trust and build a life with. Just remember one thing– we all have pimples. Some of us spend our energy trying to conceal them and some of us spend our energy working on a much more important feature– character.

Spring Fever

18 Mar

I’ve learned about many kinds of fevers. Scarlet. Typhoid. Hypothermia. Cabin. They pop up in biology books, history books and “Muppet Treasure Island,” so over the course of my life thus far,I’ve become well acquainted with the ways in which one can suffer. However, there is one fever that I’m still trying to understand. It doesn’t involve thermometers, barf bags or tight quarters. No, no, this fever involves flowers, sunshine and a resurgence of giddiness. We’re not just talking smiling-from-ear-to-ear-even-while-taking-out-the-garbage giddiness; we’re the talking madly, illogically, completely obsessed with happy thoughts kind. There’s no need for a dash of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust to make you fly. That part is all a scam. It’s the happy thoughts, the fluffy, mushy, happy thoughts that get you afloatin’ in the air.

I’ve seen it myself.

Pesach time was always the time for the local singles to showcase their soon-to-be fiancees around the community. Okay, okay so they weren’t trying to show off…my friends and I would gaze curiously out the dining-room windows waiting to see who would be taking a very specific kind of yom tov walk. We were  delightfully intrigued by this far off activity called dating. Sure, we saw plenty of male/female socializing in high school, but this kind was different. This kind was allowed, nay, it was applauded. Back in the day, we did have more to talk about than dating. We talked about lots of stuff that weren’t dating, but at this time of year, it could not be helped. Love is in the air, and even if you didn’t have any desire to dabble in the pond of lovey-doviness, once spring came around, you can’t help but feel the urge to kick your shoes off and jump right in.

Of course, being such good aidel maidels, my friends and I never did such a thing. We fought it with the strongest medicine we had available–cynicism. We didn’t speak badly of specific people, rather, we focused on the absurdity of love:

Why is it that the first thing a seminary girl does once she’s returned from Israel is hunt for a shidduch? I mean c’mon, don’t they have lives? That’s all that matters once you’re in college? I am so, so not looking forward to that.

But following our wry comments would be the The Truth. Whether you liked it or not, whether you agreed with it or not, it was The Truth:

…The only thing worse than starting this dating drama is being the last one of your friends to get married. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be one of the last ones from our class.

And that was the end of our dating rant. We would then continue peering out the window, noshing on semi-edible macaroons and watched the couples stroll; hazily dreaming of the day when it would be our turns to succumb to Spring Fever.

Confessions of a Shidduch Dumper

16 Mar

Standards are good to have. They keep us from making drastically wrong decisions, but there is a fine line between using standards as a reference and using standards as a checklist. This is a story, my story, of how I let my standards make a decision before I did:

I’ve always been proud of my intuitive knowledge of relationships. It is a bracha from Hashem that much of the knowledge people go to teacher’s, shrinks and magazines for, I have in my head. I don’t credit myself, it’s all from Hashem (having been forced to listen to Dr. Laura during long car trips probably helped too), and that is why I see this blog as a way of using this gift He gave me. Still, I am human. I make mistakes and errors in judgement.

One of these errors was my emphasis on standards. I’d always tell my friends that they should have standards. Don’t waste time on the people who are a waste of your time, also known as duds. You deserve more, girlfriend (and guy friend)! Don’t put up it wit’ no trash! I got this attitude from my low tolerance level for shtus. I don’t do shtus. It’s a waste of time, thought and life force. Feeling that I had the beacon of truth, I made sure to share it with my friends and anyone who came for advice. They liked hearing that they didn’t have to put up wit’ no trash. They liked hearing that they deserved the best, and I liked making people feel good about themselves.

But life is full of shtush. Stuff happens, people are imperfect and as a result, feelings are hurt. Communication sometimes falters. People misunderstand each other and shtush must be worked through. I forgot to relay this bit of information. Well, I didn’t forget; I didn’t know. I was so wrapped up in standards that I forgot that a solid, meaningful relationship means working through the shtush; seeing if you can get through it together or if indeed, it is not shayach. Missing this information led me to be a Shidduch Dumper and being a Shidduch Dumper led me to being quizzically frustrated.

Sure, he was everything I wanted. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but none of his flaws interfered with my standards until his imperfectness went too far. It isn’t relevant as to what the imperfections were. Think of whatever character flaw peeves you (aside from anger). I consulted a few people about this flaw and they all agreed with me– let him go. Keeping to standards and maintaining my dignity was of the utmost importance. It didn’t matter that I had a great kesher with him, it didn’t matter that we were emotionally attached. Standards rule all.

So I broke up with him. I gave him a silly excuse as to what bothered me and that was it. No room for explanations or serious discussion, just game over. He took it pretty well. Looking back, I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know how I did it; how I gave up on something I had worked so hard for, for so long. I didn’t truly know why I was breaking up with him. I was frustrated and scared. I was so entranced by my standards and expectations, that I couldn’t slow down to say, “hey, I have something real here. Why don’t I give it my best shot and try to work through the shtus.

I was wrong. For months now, I’ve been itching to say these three words. I don’t know that I was wrong in the grand scheme of things, but I know I broke things off too quickly. I didn’t even give him the chance to explain. I didn’t even give him the option of saying, “I’m so sorry I hurt you, it’s something I’m working on. Maybe you can help me work on it.” Maybe he wouldn’t have said that. Maybe how would’ve said, “Sorry cookie, this is who I am,” but at least I would have known.

Now when I date and when I give advice, I think before I talk about standards and expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in favor of having standards. Without standards you can end up with a noncommittal, cold, selfish and lazy partner. Don’t settle for a schmo, but realize, no one is perfect. Don’t just realize it, internalize it. Remember just how flawed you are. Humble yourself a bit. You’re not perfect. Well, I know I am far from it. That is why I now make sure to give each date a chance (unless he’s not respectful of me/my hashkafot). I do it for piece of mind, because even if he is a bit of a dud, at least I gave it my best shot. A not well-known way of seeing how dependable a person will be in a relationship is seeing how they respond after making a mistake which hurt you. Give them a chance to be sorry. If the relationship is getting serious, then have a discussion about what’s bothering you. Don’t give up so quickly. Don’t be so rash. Because at the end of the day if you are such a stickler for standards, then that’s all you’ll have.

You and your standards.

Life Within The Bubble

14 Mar

The Bubble. We all know what it is, in fact, I doubt I have to explain to most of you what The Bubble is. It’s famous throughout the world; a hotspot for all to see. You either love it or love to hate it, those are the only two choices. Where can you find this bulbous metropolis?

(Sing it with me) New york, Newwwwww York!

It’s not a secret, the hub of Jewish life in America is the hustling, bustling Big Apple. Sure, Jewish life exists elsewhere. There are thriving communities in LA, Boca, Miami, Chicago, Baltimore, Silver Spring, Detroit and Boston, but they pale in New York’s glistening shadow. Oh, and when I say New York, I also mean NJ. I understand most NYers see NJ as its annoying little sister, but don’t pretend that NJers don’t see you slowly creeping into Teaneck, Englewood and Passaic. Admit it, suburbia aint so bad.

However for those of us who are still single, living in The Bubble is almost a must. It is possible to date from Out-of-Town, but this is an arduous task. Make no mistake NYers, an OOTer makes quadruple the amount the effort that you ever will for a date. I know it’s a pain in the tuchus to drive alllll the way over the GW to get to NJ, but imagine the people who fly in from Chicago and Detroit. The inevitable truth is the inevitable truth, and that is, The Bubble is where the action is. OOTers know it and they go to it.

And there are reasons why NY  is the best place to date. It didn’t get it’s Bubble status by just having a mammoth amount of Jews condensed into the same area. It has way more than that. It has:

1) Kosher restaurants galore.

2) Yeshiva University

2) Many a shul to choose from.

3) Vibrant community life.

4) Hundreds of date possibilities.

Let’s be honest here, YU has created a young, Jewish empire. Young adults from all over the world flock to this institution to experience The Bubble life. Not everyone decides to submerge themselves into the social scene, but it’s definitely there. If there’s one place to meet on your own, it’s at a YU event. With many to choose from, whether it be political, chessed-oriented or whatever else, the odds of meeting someone you like are pretty good.

However, life does exist outside of Washington Heights and 34th Street. Take the Jamaica-bound and you’re sure to hit the friendly borough of Queens. Having both single and family communities, Queens is the perfect place to transition from singlehood to married life. Convenience is of essence in Queens. It goes by the name of Main Street. One may find themselves in a pickle, having to choose between pizza, sushi, coffee, meat, Mexican food and Chinese food, but it’s all there, all under the same zip code. In need of a shul? Take your pick. There are at least 3 on every block. Queens is great for the working person/student with its proximity to Brooklyn and Manhattan. For the person looking to live a little more of a “real” life, Queens is the place to be.

Or you can go to Brooklyn. Enjoy the challenge of finding a parking spot? Then Brooklyn is the place for you! Who needs to go anywhere in specific on a date? In fact, looking for parking brings out the best and worst in people. It is the litmus test every couple should take before getting engaged. I’m not a huge  fan of Brooklyn, so writing about Brooklyn is not a good idea. I like The Sunflower Cafe. They have good food. Next place!

For those who like a secluded area, take the ferry down to Staten Island. With community comradery like no other borough has, SI is a great place to go and just feel good. It’s the best kept secret of The Bubble. One can have a quiet, laid-back date, starting with the scenic ferry ride down (take note boys: it’s free). There is what to eat down there, nothing fancy, but being spotted by friends, family members and exes is a lot less likely.  Go on, give it a try. I mean if you need a “finer” atmosphere to call it a date, then forget my advice, but if you’re the kind of person with an adventurous  spirit, then go for it.

I have to admit, I really like the bubble. There are so many places to explore (I didn’t even cover Manhattan. Maybe another time), and so many people to explore it with. Hopefully, each and every one of us will find our RD’s in a timely fashion, so we’ll only have to explore it with one very special person, but I dunno…I still find it encouraging that there are so many people from all over the place in crevice of the world. It’s the one place that opens up the possibilities. Even with its semantics, it’s the one place* that keeps me hopeful and confident that G-d will help me find The Real Deal.

*The one place outside of Jerusalem. That is another place full of possibilities. To be discussed at a late point in time.

Hung Up

11 Mar

Last night, a former neighbor of mine g-chatted me. We don’t see each other, ever, and probably never will see each other, ever, but every now and then we get into discussions that start with “what’s up” and end in “not much you.” However, last evening we got into a discussion that lasted a tad longer. Being in shidduchim definitely gives you more to talk about.

I should start with a bit of background information. Though nobody has told me that I have a large fluorescent sign on my forehead, experience has indicated that I have “dating coach” written right between the eyes. This is not a new phenomenon. Ever since the 10th grade, people have been coming to me for relationship advice and have even used me as a mediator on AIM. Usually people have to go scrounging around for their peers’ deep, dark secrets, but they just came to me.

Thank G-d I’m out of high school.

This trend still followed me into seminary and out into the “real world.” Case in point — Mr. G-Chat. I don’t really chat males first, especially if I have no relationship with them in any of the senses of “relationship.” But he started it, so, I wasn’t going to be rude. It would probably end up being one of those “what’s up” “nmu” situations anyway.

But this time was different. This time he came to vent. Why to me? I don’t know. It’s just easiest to blame it on karma.

Our conversation went something like this:

Mr. G-Chat: hey

Coralcap: Hi

MGC: how’s life?

CC: Thank G-d good

MGC: what’s new?

CC: Oh nothing really. Working, liking it, eating, sleeping, etc.

MGC: oh

CC: Yup.

CC: So how are you?

MGC: Good I just got back from mamilla mall, but idk

CC: Nice sounds like a nice place to be.

MGC: I was on a date.

CC: Oh wow, that’s great.

MGC: Yeah we ate out there but idk…

CC: Yeah first dates can be nerve wracking.

MGC: No it’s not that, idk…

CC: Unless you’re repulsed by her it’s always worth one more date.

MGC: The problem is I can’t get my mind off of another girl.

CC: Oh. That’s not good. Did you ever ask her out?

MGC: No, we’ve talked about dating but only jokingly. But I know we both know it’s not a joke.

CC: I see. So…ask her out.

MGC: Well she doesn’t live in Israel.

CC: Ooooh, long distance. That’s tough. So how have you been keeping up with her.

MGC: G-chat.

CC: No phone.

MGC: Just G-chat.

CC: Okay, well you should really ask her out so you don’t keep wondering.

MGC: I’m not willing to date long distance.

(Chirping of crickets beside my keyboard as I fight the instinctual urge to bang my head against a wall).

CC: Then forget about her and give this new girl a fair chance.

MGC: Yeah wtvr I gotta go.

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

Clearly the guy didn’t want to face the truth, but reality bites sometimes, and if you try to bite it back, it’ll only bite you harder.

What’s the problem with this picture? Is it that a first date is awkward? No. Of course it’s awkward, you just met the girl two hours ago. I don’t think I have to spell out the real problem. In fact, Madonna has a little ditty that paints the picture real nicely:

Every little thing that you say or do/I’m hung up/Hung up on you

Sometimes people come into our lives, and they beguile us. They’re cute, they’re witty, they also enjoy Muppet trivia and they give you attention. Bam. You like them. A lot. They’re on your mind constantly. Every laughable experience you encounter is immediately filed under a compartment in your brain in their name, to be shared with Special Person later. You guys get each other and talk for hours. You have a bond that is “unique.”.

Beautiful. So why aren’t the two of you together?

It could be:

1) You tried and were turned down

2) You tried, freaked out and rashly turned them down

3) You’ve joked about going out but have never spoken about it seriously.

4) You’re waiting for the “right time” to say something.

5) You just don’t have the guts to do anything about it.

It’s not impossible to make a long distance relationship work. Hard, but not impossible if you’re both ready and willing to make adjustments in your life. (This is why I did not include it in the above list). But let me tell you something, if you’re chatting with someone on G-chat for hours at a time and there is no sign of taking it to the next level in sight, give it up! Get off the hook*. If you’re not willing to play by reality, then you’ll be saying “idk” after every real date you go on. You’ll continue to see the people you are being set up with as missing something, and you’ll keep passing them up until you realize, hey, where’d all the single people go? There is no magic spell that will rearrange the cosmos and bring you and Special Person together. Nope, just face it, they haven’t invented teleportation yet. If you want to make it happen, then do all in your power to do so. Gosh, do males get stuck in the Disney cloud too?

Well, I’m sorry to say it, but it doesn’t sound like Mr. G-chat plans on getting off of it any time soon. I threw him a lifesaver, but he casually tossed it back with a “yeah wtvr i gotta go.” Fine. Do that, just don’t come crying to me when you can’t handle how “complicated” your life is. I’ll just tell you, “I told you so.” That’s right, it might hurt your feelings but you totally disregarded what I said to you last time, so you shouldn’t have a problem doing it again. Get over her. Newsflash: Shes’s not waiting for you! I’m sure she’s not grunting through dates because of you! Get over her and get your life back. That is, of course, unless you plan on having a G-engagement, G-wedding and G-marriage. If that’s the case, then go, be merry.

Let me know when you’ve had your first G-baby.

*Courtesy of “How I Met Your Mother”

Hey Helga

10 Mar

I find this video to be very insightful.  Though most people don’t go out of their way to make someone they like miserable, there is a lot to learn from her behavior, specifically, what it means to beat around the bush. What do you think can be learned from the actions of Helga G. Pataki?

By the way, Arnold is the paradigm of a mensch. Hope he stayed one when he grew up.