Archive | June, 2010

Friends First

27 Jun


Take a moment to observe the above pictures and answer the following multiple-choice  questions:

(Note: This is meant for both sexes so choose the half of the answer that applies to you).

1. You would expect that Prince Charming and Cinderella:

a)  Have been going out a long time.

b) Are in love.

c) Are infatuated.

d) They are being ridiculously shomer for a Disney couple (kol hakavod)!

2. You would expect that Woody and Jessie are:

a) Good friends.

b) Enjoy each other’s company.

c) “Like, like” each other.

d) What about the horse?

3. If your were going on a first date, which scenario would you want it to look like:

a) Woody/ Jessie

b) Prince Charming/ Cinderella

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In a perfect world, on a perfect date, being in CP&C’s shoes would be…perfect. They’re deep in conversation, the night is young and pale moonlight glistens on the placid azure pond. The look of love; it’s so apparent. So real, so thick, so tangible. They just get each other, you know? It’s one of those things that just happened. Who would’ve guessed it’s their first date? Gosh, those lucky kids! Someone is looking out for them (alright Fairy G-ma, come out with your hands up). It’s just so…nice.

And unrealistic, yet somehow, many girls (and maybe even a sprinkling of guys) believe that this what a relationship should look like. One day he’s a stranger, and next thing you know you’re supposed to have butterflies, wings and the ability to float on clouds. No. Noooo, no no, that’s not the way it works my kiddos; not in most cases. You see, when you skip right to romance, you’re missing the most important ingredient a marriage needs– Reut.

You gotta be friends, you whippersnappers, you! Don’t go rushing for the onlysimchas-worth proposal, shiny ring and bentscher mongram. Don’t look for Prince Charming, because if you are, I’ve got some bad news for you. It’s called Agony (see: Into the Woods). And I’m telling you, if you go into a date with the mindset that in a few short meetings you are going to know love like you never knew it before, you’re not going to get very far.

I know no one reading this blog actually thinks they are going fall in love like a pumpkin-riding, magic carpet-flying princess, but deep, deep down, many people believe that you have to go from strangers to an inseparable item in a matters of three or less dates. There is so much pressure to couple up. There is so much pressure to find “The One” and be so intensely cute that your friends can’t help but gush over your adorable new profile picture (you know, the one with the matching Yankees caps and jerseys). It’s not your fault you feel this way deep down; our society lauds the instantaneous. Lucky for you, my Savti gave me the best advice on how to combat this, and here it is:

Go for the Woody/Jessie kind of date. Look at them! They’re having a lot of fun. They’re running around on that record, smiling, laughing, exchanging some friendly chitchat…like friends would do. I understand that a good deal of you have never been friends with the opposite sex. In fact, you’ve probably avoided it like Swine Flu, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to become friends with a guy while you are dating him. Relax. Have fun. If it doesn’t work out, you obviously don’t remain close with him, but even so, if he’s a good guy, maybe he will be suitable for one of your friends. You are at a stage in your life where it’s okay to be friendly with the opposite sex. I’m not talking about being BFF’s who go shopping together and text each other every time you hear the the funniest joke you’ve ever heard, but be compadres, acquaintances, whatever label you are comfortable with. This is tachlis we are talking about.

Here are a few People Facts to bring your mind out of the Disney Cloud:

1)People like it when someone shows interest in them, their life and their interests.

2)People like friendly, easy-to-talk-to people who smile and laugh at appropriate times.

3)People like to feel respected and important (in a healthy way, not a conceded way, hopefully). They like to feel that no one else and nothing else is more important when you are spending time with them.

Layla tov and much hatzlacha on your search for the Real Deal!

The Way to a Man’s Heart

22 Jun

It’s not through his stomach.

Girls, friends, comrades and fellow shidduch daters: I assume that you are dating because you do in fact want to be married. You want a husband– a good one at that– and therefore, you go out with men of all heights and humor, searching for the one with whom you can build a lovely, sturdy bayis ne’eman b’yisrael.

But as you might have noticed, finding this Knight in Black and White (or Sruga and Techeilet or whatever you like), isn’t so simple. If anything, the dating process has worn you out, slowly sucking the hope out of your once positively optimistic eyes. At one point, maybe your first few dates, you were enthusiastic and excited to start this new chapter of your life…but as the rejections became more frequent and the success less so, well, you became jaded. The process was no longer fun, your patience had run out, the jig was up. You have been waiting very patiently for the Fat Lady to sing so you can start calling caterers and examining halls but the Fat Lady seems to be taking her time. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating and you. Are. Tired.

So let me bring you back to the starting point; why you got involved in this dating business in the first place. You want to meet your future-husband. You want to be a wife; a partner in life– the peaches to his cream, the milk to his cookie, the beat to his heart. If this is true, if you are looking for the man who will ultimately be your best friend, then you have to search for him like you are looking for a best friend. You are not shopping, you are not going down a checklist– you are meeting with another human being, thus, you should treat him like one.

I hear it all over the place, during afternoon shabbos schmoozes, on blogs, at various shabbos tables, in the newspapers, on Facebook and the train: men are just no good. They’re insensitive, they never call back when they say they will, they’re immature… he didn’t take me to a restaurant, he better take me to one next time, he got lost on the way there, he got lost on the way back and didn’t bother to ask me what my favorite flower is (it’s the Chrysanthemum, by the way).

This kind of thinking isn’t exclusive to those who have been on the dating block for a while. Yes, I’ve heard this kind of talk from newbies, complaining about being taken to a coffee shop for a first date. I’ve heard ultimatums– “I told the shadchan that he better take me to a nice restaurant for the second date. It’s the least I deserve for taking all this time to look good for him!” And then these girls go home, open up their tear-stained siddurim and pour their hearts out to Hashem, begging Him to help them find their proper zivugim swiftly bsha’a tovah.

Rachmana litzlan.

Mamash, I really feel bad for these girls. They begin to believe they have no chance when in fact they do, they just need a tweaking in perspective.  I admit, at one point I thought like them too. I was all tachlis and no play. But with time and reflection, I learned how to date, not like a girl looking for her bashert, but like a girl who is looking for her best friend.

So here are a few tips; take ’em and leave ’em as you please:

1) Put yourself in the right mind frame. If going on a date is only about seeing if he is worthy of your lifelong companionship, then you are automatically making this date a jumping-through-hoops experience. He has to measure up. He has to prove himself and ultimately redeem himself from the wretched male race.

Scratch that way of thinking.

Get it out of your brain and into the past along with Ferbies and non-Kosher Tootsie Rolls. He is taking you out to talk to you and to get to know you. You. Not your neighbor or the valedictorian of your high school class  but you. Isn’t that nice? You’re a lucky girl, you have a date. Not all girls are as lucky as you are. They’re at home crying into their pillow about how lonely they are. That might have been you the other night, but tonight, you’re off the hook.

2) Speak to him in a warm, friendly tone. When he calls you to arrange the date, make a conscious effort to be kindly and genial. Remember, he has just worked up the guts to call a complete stranger (you) and ask her if she would let him take her on a date. Chances are, he is nervous, and though yes, formally it is the man’s responsibility to orchestrate the conversation, turn up the friendliness and be an active contributor to the dialogue. He might even let you know just how relieved he is that the conversation went so well.

3) Keep the conversation flowing. Again, I understand that it’s technically his job to keep the gab going, but in reality, if you  are genuinely interested in getting to know him, you also have to make an effort. Don’t sit there cleaning your nail as he flips through his mental file of safe topics. Don’t be shy. There is nothing untznius about being yourself. Smile, laugh, talk about that time your bio notes fell off the ledge of your classroom’s window and into 5 PM Avenue J traffic. It’s always refreshing for a bachur to discover that his date is human.It’s his job to keep the conversation afloat, it’s your job to make him feel comfortable.

4) Steer away from woeful shidduch stories. At least in the beginning. No guy, let me repeat, NO guy, is looking for a jaded, scornful girl. Males don’t like weepy females; it’s known and proven. He’s not your therapist, he’s not your confidante. As a girl, I will speak for others and say we do not enjoy hearing about your ongoing shidduch sagas, so kal v’chomer, the bachur sitting across from you has no interest in how much you hate the system.

5) Show interest in him. I’m not suggesting that the date should be all about him, but your goal should be to get to know him as best as you can. Don’t just answer questions, ask questions. Does he talk about his family a lot? Ask questions about his family. He likes to organize blood drives? Ask him what is involved in organizing blood drives. Does he have to know about blood types? Is there a reason why you’ve only seen New Square orange juice offered after most blood drives? Why not Tropicana or Minute Maid? Why is he so interested in blood drives anyway? If you are more of an intellectual, focus on the scientific side of it; it really doesn’t matter as long as you convey that you find him interesting.

6) Make eye contact. Your soul will not burn to smithereens nor will you be be put under an irreversible spell if you look him in the blinkers. We modern-age women don’t believe in that love-at-first-sight hooey anyway.

7) Ease up your body language. Be turned toward him, shoulders relaxed and head leveled. Why are you so tense? You afraid that you might marry this guy? Maybe you aren’t sure if he’s worth your effort yet. Well he is. Unless he has demonstrated that he is a first class jerk or a horrendous slob, there is no reason to not give him a chance.

8 ) Be thankful. And by ‘be thankful’ I mean demonstrate some HaKarat Hatov.  He paid for your food, activity and the gas to get you there and back if he has a car. You start your date with the right mind frame and end it with the right mind frame. Say, “thank you, I had a great time.” Be specific– “the restaurant you picked was so nice. I can already tell you have great taste in food/ambiance/etc.”

9) Reciprocate Feelings. Playing hard to get is for amateurs. If he is clearly sending signals of interest, don’t ignore them. You are not a prize to be won, you are a gem to be discovered. Help him discover who you are. Make it easy for him by just being yourself. Speak your mind. If you like him, let him know. If you don’t feel comfortable saying something, then tell the shadchan to give over your message. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I like him.”

You may think I am being old fashioned or being mevatel all my rights as an independent woman of the 21st century. But the above tips are the same ones that will follow you into marriage. Once you marry a man, it is from then on your responsibility and privilege to make him feel important, just like it is his responsibility and privilege to make you feel like the most loved and cherished woman on earth. Love is a two-way street, and it all begins with that first warm and welcoming hello.


Place Collecting

22 Jun

I like collecting places.

I know what you’re thinking: Coral, how can you collect places?

To find the answer, you must take a peek inside my head. I’m not sure if other people see life this way, but the only way for me to find out is to share this facet of my ambidextrous mind.

When I find a special place, I write it down in my journal. Pictures just aren’t the same. Photographing places with words enables me to live the moment again; to see it, smell it, taste it, hear it and touch it. To feel it. Not with my senses, but with my heart. Images cannot stir this feeling, nor sounds nor smells alone. It is the whole that illuminates the heart. As Gestalt would say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each part by itself is pleasurable, but when you put them all together…what you have is magic.*

Some of my favorite places that I have collected over the years are:

1) Cape Cod in the summer; cozily cramped in a cottage just minutes away from the water. And those sunsets…feet comfortably snug in the white-and-gray sand, tall grass swaying to the soft, mellow song of dusk’s winds, watching the glowing, fading hues of the sky dip into the bay.

2) Eldorado Mountain in the spring; tepid winds and radiant sunshine, snow capped boulders and blossoming wildflowers, existing together side by side beyond the scope of the usual. But how can one expect the usual when gets the chance to see miles and miles of Colorado State?

3) The forest behind my former sleepaway camp in Upstate New York. Whenever I needed to clear my head or just felt like taking a few moments to appreciate the little things, I’d run to forest behind my camp, plop myself down on a rock and sing to the trees. I was a kid after all, and a very dreamy one as well, but sometimes, when I turn back to my memory of the canopying trees and the mossy, piney smell that floated on the wings of the wind, tranquility fills me and transports me back to that contented, peaceful feeling.

4) Doing flips off the deck onto a snow covered trampoline. Other kids couldn’t understand why I looked forward to going to Montreal for winter vacation. I saw it as my best kept secret.

I have so many more, but with my bedtime steadily approaching and sleep welling beneath my eyes, I would like to mention one place, a new place I have added to my collection.

I found it today as I made my way toward the OU office on Broadway. I’ve been to the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side and Midtown. I’ve taken the 1 all the way up to 181st and all the way down to the Ferry. I’ve braved the Q and and the B, hopped the 7 and the R (okay that was by mistake), but never had I taken the time stop and look at just how beautiful Downtown Manhattan is. I had been to South Street Seaport, but my mind wasn’t in the right place to appreciate what was around me. Yet today, I was overwhelmed my the aesthetic comeliness of the area.

But what was it that made it so beautiful?

The tall, majestic buildings.

The piano available for anyone and everyone to play on in Battery Park.

The easy accessibility to the same sight my ancestors saw when they first arrived to this country– Lady Liberty.

Not having to go to Midtown to get kosher food (thank you, Cafe 11!!).

Having the option of taking the Staten Island Ferry, a favorite pastime of mine.

Strolling through the sunshine, noticing other Jews along the way. Seeing other Jews makes me happy, even in the Jew capital of the Diaspora.

There were many factors that made this day a remarkable one, and the truth is, even if I stayed up all night trying to recall all of them, I would still be unable to convey to you just how wonderful it felt to be in that place at that moment. So for now, just take Gestalt’s word for it. Take it and run with it. Start your own place collection, if you haven’t already. Go out there, enjoy the sunshine, the scenery and all the parts that make the sum of G-d’s world so, so wondrous.

*Idea taken from author Wendlin Van Draanen.

6 Things I’ve Learned About Dating and Marriage From Pre-Schoolers

16 Jun

6) When a girl starts feeling hopeless she will cry. A lot.

5) No boy will go out with such a girl no matter how hard you beg him to.

4) There are more girls looking to get married than boys.

3) Polygamy is not an option.

2) No one likes being the single one.

And yet…

1) Young love is cute 🙂

The Broken Printer Feeling

13 Jun

I once prided myself on disassembling and reassembling my Savti’s 10 year old CD player without the passe-partout of an instructional manual, hotline or man. However, I learned quickly that the difference between fixing a CD player and a printer is similar to that of assembling a moped and a Boeing 747. Some computer geek experience would have been helpful, or the assistance of a professional, but of course, I chose to rely on the expertise of the HP tech support staff.

My Common Sense radar must have been off that day.

Instead of being practical and admitting, “hey, I can’t do this myself,” I went ahead and tried to jam the loose piece back into its space of origin, with the guidance of the Englishly challenged tech support guy over the phone. When part of the piece snapped, I had no one to turn to. “Ray” was 8,000 miles away in the Philippines, and since teleportation hasn’t been invented yet, his job was done. I had been defeated. I was no match for the Office Jet pro L7780, it was just fact.

And as I put the phone back in its cradle and pensively took advantage of the swiveling office chair, I got a feeling. I don’t get it too often; maybe here and there when I have to drag my bags from the bus to the train to wherever I am going to, but overall I’m a self-sufficient gal. I screw in light bulbs, I take out the trash, I pump my own gas (only those from NJ can truly appreciate this accomplishment), so really, I do have a lot under control.

But every now and then I get that feeling. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone around here know how to deal with upset printer parts? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone around here had big, strapping arms that would lovingly drag my luggage from the bus to the train to wherever we were going? Wouldn’t it be nice if I had someone to share all these responsibilities with? I mean, taking out the garbage by myself is okay, but it there is a chance it could be, dare I say, enjoyable if I had someone to take it out with. You know, I’d lift the lid and he’d put in the bags or I’d take recycling, he’d take the trash and we’d see who could push their can to the curb faster. I know marriage isn’t a basket full of fun and I know my future husband and I will probably be tired from work and won’t always have the energy to have garbage-themed relay races every week…but I can look forward to the friendship and partnership, right? Hopefully my future husband and I will work to keep the magic alive; make the mundane activities of our lives fun.

I brought my swiveling to a stop, placed the printer piece aside the printer and turned out the office lights. I’d deal with the printer later. I’d be able to figure it out. Eventually. Maybe next time I have to fix or assemble something, be it a printer or a coat stand or an electric can opener, I’ll have someone to figure it out with. I look forward to solving matters together, from the complex to the simple. I look forward to the friendship and trust and two people can build, b’ezrat Hashem. I look forward to the simple things.

So This is Life

11 Jun

I’m not sure if any of you noticed, but I haven’t been posting too often lately. When I started my blog, I needed a project; something to do so I wouldn’t waste my free time. I like using my time constructively. Being constructive is good. Watching my Newsfeed slowly update itself on Facebook is not. However, in the last few weeks life has gotten very busy and I haven;t been able to put as much time into my posts as usual, which left me with a dilemma: do I keep posting and jeopradize the quality of my writing or do I post less and designate a block of time each week or so to write one good post?

Well, I don’t know what to do because I love blogging and getting your feedback but at the same time, I have a real life that requires my utmost attention at the moment.

What do I do? Do I post less and put out a really well thought out one once in a while or do stick to shorter, maybe even non-shidduch related posts and keep up the pace?

The Three Amigos and Just Friends

10 Jun

In life, there are three models of opposite gender friends–the Sam’s, the Eli’s and the Tal’s. Each one represents the differing levels of “just friendship” which once can engage in with the opposite sex:

Notice how I have used gender indiscriminate names in order that this post apply to both males and females. I am going to use masculine pronouns, because adding in those extra slashes can get tedious and annoying to write. Therefore, if you are male and looking for this post to relate to you, simply use your imagination. It’s good to exercize it every once in a while even after you have left Kindergarten.

Sam: Sam is that person that as nice, funny, caring and talented as he is, you’ll never be interested in him in that way. You probably met him in high school or through a friend and hit it off. Neither of you ever expressed any desire for the relationship to go further, and probably never will. It’s comforting to have that solidary member of the opposite gender who’s friendship will never be tainted by the unpredicatably terrential throws of the non-platonic relationship. Kind of like a security blanket– it won’t actually protect you from the cold but somehow it still leaves you with that disillusion. Every now and then you share a tender moment in which one or both of you might feel that maybe there could be more than “just friendship.” Maybe all this time you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces…and it’s been right under your nose this whole time.

But then reality kicks in and you remember, you don’t really like Sam that way. He is just a friend, and as soon as you find the right person, he’s going to go straight to Memory Land with all your other friends you haven’t been able to keep in touch with. Sorry, Sam.

Eli: Things are a bit different with Eli, you see, he has potential. Unlike Sam, there is this little tinge of interest, a little particle of hope that one day, maybe he will ask you out. You met him at a meal in Washington Heights or have been working with him side-by-side with him at a USBG and have kept up ever since. You have never gotten into such serious conversations with him; you’re still waiting for that to happen but you both have a lot to smile and laugh about when you converse. You notice he sits next to you at shabbos meals, and when he needs to make kiddush, he asks to borrow your siddur out of all the people at the table. Then again, he seems to be friendly with everyone so why bother getting your hopes up? You’re just friends, and it’s such a nice friendship; so easygoing and chill. Why ruin that? Every now and then you think about going to your mutual third party and finding out if he feels the same way, but you don’t. He’s nice but not worth potentially ruining the friendship. There’s no “spark” there, just a warm, mellow complacency. Maybe one day you’ll look into it more seriously, but right now… you are after the sparks.

Tal: And with Tal, you have sparks. There are a hundred ways you could have met Tal, it doesn’t really matter. What matter is that you are crazy about him and are dying to go out with him. He is totally into you, you know it. He dedicatedly calls you every erev shabbos to send the the warmest of wishes, and bring you favorite (coffee)  ice cream when you are stressed and bought you Tweety slippers for you birthday (because he knows just how much you love Tweety). But he hasn’t ask you out.  You wonder why, because clearly this isn’t platonic. No those atoms are super charged and if you aren’t careful an explosion might ensue. Sometimes you get upset at him, but you can’t tell him why. As heart tickling as the calls and Tweety slippers are, all you want is a verbal conformation, and maybe even a date to show he feels the same way. Maybe he is afraid to step out of the Friend Zone…or maybe in his eyes you are just an Eli. You don’t know and if you don’t do anything about it, you never will.

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Can guys and girls be just friends? I think the answer is given away in that overused phrase. If guys and girls could naturally be friends, there would be no need to “just”- ify it. If being friends was as simple as peaches and cream or aloe on a sunburn, then there would be no need to ever explain, “oh, we’re just friends.”

Maybe there are some of you out there who are intelligent and intellectual enough to appreciate a male/female relationship without developing stronger emotions,  but for a lot of us, it doesn’t work that way. Or rather, I will speak for myself and say I don’t want it to work that way. I believe in boundaries. I believe that within certain perimeters, males and females can be friends, but when you cross those boundaries, when you push a little further out of the Friend Zone, that is when the inevitable happens. And it’s supposed to happen! I don’t know why some people see having feelings for someone of the opposite sex as shameful. G-d created us that way. You should be looking to marry someone you can be good friends with because it doesn’t take all that long for the sparks to cool off, and when they do, that’s what you need to keep them going. Friendship.

I never looked to have “guy friends.” In high school, I unintentionally made one or two. It is good to get a male’s perspective on matters every now and then. But even with them, I have made boundaries. You will come to love a good friend, no matter what the gender, if you build an close relationship with them. I love my friends so much. I appreciate so much about them, who they are, the choices they’ve made…and if I respected and appreciated a guy as much as I appreciate my good friends (and was attracted to him), then why wouldn’t I want to date him? Respect and appreciation are the foundation for a long lasting relationship, so if I can find that in someone, if I see that this person is kind, compassionate and trustworthy, I am going to want to keep him. I am going to risk the embarrassment of breaking through the Friend Zone and falling flat on my face. I am going to give my all…Because very few times in life do we meet people who “just” get us and “just” click with.

Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss. But every once in a while you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.
— W. Draanen