Friday Repost: The Different Plane Spiel

Being married is a different plane of existence. It’s not like two people being single together. It’s about being there for each other, no matter what. It’s a higher calling. It’s a feeling like no other. It’s knowing there’s someone there for you no matter what, who has chosen to care for you forever and who will always have your back and hold your hair for you when you barf (niddah aside).

I can almost do it convincingly, no? Insert shining eyes and an earnest tone (it’s important to be earnest) and follow it up with “my husband has some friends…” No, I’ve never been married, but I’ve sat on the loveseat and listened to this speech from the couch many, many times.

…And don’t anyone dare to say “and may you be zocheh to give it one day yourself.” I should never be that cruel. Besides, honestly, I’m running out of people to give it to.

Three Days Straight

My hair is dis-gus-ting!” Good4 shouts, whizzing past me into the bathroom. The door slams. “It’s soooo greeeaaaasy!” I hear muffled through the door. And that’s the only sound for a while, except those associated with lather-rinse-repeat.

Grease is not really my problem. Volume is. At this point in the joyous holiday, my hair most closely resembles a modern afro: big, frizzy, and kinky, but less stylish. I lift a dry, frizzy lock, and think wistfully that, if this were only a four-day chag, I’d have the set-up for a lovely head of dreadlocks.

I do like dreadlocks. At least on black people. White people can’t seem to make them look right. Somehow, they always look like they fell asleep for a month with their hair in a bowl of peroxide. But maybe I could set a new trend. Nice, neat, white-person dreads, compliments of a season of three-day chagim. I could move to Bat Ayin and be the envy of all the hippies. All I need to do is not wash my hair.

“Haven’t you taken a shower yet?” my mother interrupts my meditation.

“Nah, I’m seeing how long I can go.”

And really, how hard can that be? Inertia. Why start now, after three days without? All that detangling and moisturizing and washing hair down the drain… it’s easier not to.

“It’s a kapara on all my avonos,” Good4 says fervently, exiting the bathroom in a trail of steam, her hair wrapped in a towel. “That’s what I keep telling myself about a three-day yom tov. It’s a kapara on all my avonos.”

“You really think you have so few avonos?” I ask, dropping the future-dread I was trying to curl.

I think there’s another reason Hashem gave us three-day chagim. So that we’ll dream of wearing a sheitel. Hair you can hang up at night.  Hair that looks the same the next morning. Hair that, if you don’t like how it looks, you can just put away.

But until then, I’ll have my dreadlocks.

Thursday Link: Queer Marital Harmony for the Straight Couple

I don’t think the Atlantic means its articles to be taken as factual. They’re more like talking points, something to think about, ideas to toss around.

With that prologue, I’m linking to The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss,” an article about what homosexual family structures can teach hetero couples about division of labor.

Plus, it offers some tantalizing statistics. Like, did you know that having a woman in a relationship correlates to it breaking up? Turns out more women than men request divorce in hetero unions, and more lesbian than gay couples split up. So if you want your marriage to last, marry a man.

The research cited can also suggest what each gender values. Lesbian couples are called out for creating a perfect equality in their relationship, down to the last penny spent, and who carries the next baby. What this tells me is that women see a power structure in everything, and they strive to mitigate any effect it could have on their relationship.

Gay couples are more chilled. They also split the housework — admitting that they do more now than they did in prior hetero marriages. But there’s also a higher likelihood of one man becoming a house-husband (even though there are apparently more power tensions related to income in gay unions). So, although men hang a lot of self-esteem on their bacon-bringing abilities, they still value house-spousing enough to sacrifice for it.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Anyway, go ahead and take a read, then drop a comment below — in that order, please.

When Everyone’s an Expert

People who get within sniffing distance of marriage are notable for their sudden transformation into SMEs (subject matter experts).  It is amazing, really, how only a taste of marriage can turn someone into a fount of information on the subject. Here are some of the courses available through the Marriage Department at TMI U.

The Meaning of Commitment 101

Taught by a newly ringed NEF, the meaning of commitment covers what it means to declare yourself dedicated to someone for life, no matter what. Lectures range between 5 and 15 minutes and may include an earnest entreaty not to be afraid to commit yourself; after all, it’s probably going to work out great for this NEF.

How to Just Take a Leap of Faith – Seminar

Taught by an NEF, this quick disposition covers the meaning of faith, as well as the necessary prerequisites for it. There is brief coverage of the technique of leaping, as well as some evidence provided that leaps of faith pay off. Really. Things turn out fine. They do.

These impromptu speeches by NEFs bother me the least of all the near-marriage lectures, because I know they’re mostly talking to themselves. They’re nervous, and they’re trying to assure themselves that they weren’t stupid, accepting a ring from a stranger in return for a promise to remain dedicated to them for life.

Sometimes I bait them, proposing more and more dire marriage situations, just to watch them brace themselves to remain committed, yea, e’en in such dire straits.

What bugs me more is when people who have very little experience will marriage become experts on the subject. For example:

The Simplicity of Shalom Bayis – Lecture

Presented by an NMF of about three months, this lecture covers how simple shalom bayis is to maintain. All you have to do is listen to the other person and be willing to compromise. Honestly, what’s the big deal?

How Bad Decisions Messed up Someone Else’s Marriage, a Case Study

Presented by an MF of one year, this analysis of the rocky marriage of a 3-year-old couple will dissect poor decisions they made that led to their current situation. The lecturer will detail how she and her still-honeymooning husband would never make dumb mistakes like that.

Just from sitting around in my armchair watching, I suspect it takes a year before a couple really feels comfortable enough to start taking advantage of each other. Then you have another year before they start getting fed up with each other. So you won’t be seeing any cracks until year three, unless the situation is really bad. Oddly, that’s around when MFs stop dispensing the free marriage counseling.

Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m just explaining my own theory (available in lecture series upon request), and why I’d never take serious marriage advice from anyone who hasn’t been doing it for at least five years. Ten preferred.

Otherwise, you might as well purchase my other lecture series:

Why My Kids Are Going to be Fantastic

In this course I will espouse that raising great kids is simple: all you have to do is understand what each child needs and provide it. What’s the big deal? 

Missing Part of the Equation

Three single people in a shared apartment living room. They are discussing how comfortable they are in their current living situation, and how perhaps a Boston marriage is in order, and who needs to get married anyway?

“Everyone I know who is married has issues. Either it’s the spouse or it’s the kids or it’s the trying to have kids. But they’ve nearly all been messy – sometimes permanently – in some way,” says First Single.

Second Single nods in agreement. One of her good friends recently filed for a divorce after five years with a deadbeat.

Third Single looked at the first two incredulously. “Are you saying you think being married is worse than being single?”

First and Second Single look at each other. “Well, it does look that way, from the outside.”

“Look,” Third Single began. “Granted, all the married people I know have Married-People Issues of some type. But don’t we all have Single-People Issues?” Her voice trailed off as she realized the inevitable response.

“Um, aside from the fact that we’re not married?” First Single said. “Not really.”

“We’re missing something, I think…” Second Single said, perturbed.

Pass This Fad Around

Many men are incapable of doing anything by half. Guys don’t say, “Hey, I’m going to take up biking to work for health and economy.” A guy doesn’t take up biking. He becomes a Biker. This means he buys a $3,000 bike, an indecent spandex suit, a high-tech hydration pack with a bracelet that monitors his blood and beeps if he’s getting dehydrated, special shoes that clip to his pedals (never understood the point of those), and a meter for his bike wheel so he knows how many miles he’s pedaled. And don’t forget the pre-vulcanized patch kit, mini-pump, and wrench set that fit into a little soft case under his gel-cushioned seat.

It doesn’t stop there. Anyone can bike to work. But a Biker bikes. Suddenly, he’s up early doing 50 miles before breakfast. He’s entering himself in bicycle centuries around the country. He brags that he once did 50 mph downhill, and that his bike only weighs 6 pounds. He subscribes to Cycling monthly where he learns to coordinate his breathing with his pedaling. And so on. 

So, sometimes it’s probably better if your man sits on the couch playing Call of Duty. It’s cheaper, and at least you get to see him.

But then again, sometimes you benefit if your man goes crazy. Which is why I’m reposting this NYTimes article about men and cooking. Guys, read this: Cooking is cool. I mean, how bad can it be if our men learn to putter around the kitchen?

Well, actually… In No Cheating No Dying, the author has a husband who obsessively works his way through some slab-sized haute cuisine cookbooks. Any day she is likely to catch him dismembering a whole, freshly killed pig on the counter, so as to get truly fresh mashed brains. Slavish devotion to progress through the cookbook subsumed any concern for keeping the wife happy. The author notes that one salad she really liked didn’t reappear for another four years. He’d already done it, so why waste time doing it again?

Still, for all that, I think we net benefit when a guy begins to take the kitchen seriously, so I’m encouraging it. Just, for God’s sake, guys, keep away from the molecular gastronomy.

Full Disclosure

There are lots of things you have to remember to mention before you marry someone: if you’re taking anti-depressants, if you’re an illegal alien, and if you’ve previously been married. But you might not have realized how important it is to mention that you’ve had cosmetic surgery. Your spouse-to-be may love your (new) face, but (s)he is buy in to the entire package, including your genes. Take warning from this tale out of China.

 

HT Relarela

Moving: Need a Man

Yesterday, at 6am, I drove to the local Uhaul lot, left my car, and drove off with a pickup truck pulling a UBox—Uhaul’s response to the POD. It was a lot of fun barreling down the avenue in a monstrous Tundra, the trailer swinging along behind me. The fun ended about 15 minutes after I started trying to back the trailer into a parking spot.

Don’t you dare laugh. The entire parking lot was barely wider than the ensemble that I was driving. I don’t think any male could have done better.

I eventually gave up, and decided to unhook the trailer and drag it into the parking spot instead. The guy in the UHaul lot had dragged the trailer. He made it look easy.

GRUNT.

Not happening.

But why was I insisting on doing this the hard way? Let’s face it: the easiest way to change a flat is with a tube of lipstick and a touch of mascara. I flagged down a passing knight and asked him to rescue me. He obliged, with some far more effective grunts. Okay, in this case a male definitely did better.

After that it was pretty straightforward for a while, thanks to my (friend’s) trusty Magna Cart—yes, it’s really called that, isn’t it awesome? I love using the name.

Stacking boxes inside a shipping container is a lot of playing Tetris in 3D, but with a few extra variables like weight and shifting potential. I don’t know why nobody’s made an iPad game of it yet.

I felt perfectly adequate for a humming hour or so…until I needed my car to get to work. The truck was cute and fun to drive, but the UHaul advert splashed on the side took away some of the style. Also, I was paying by the mile.  So I unhooked the truck and took it back to the UHaul lot to get my car, and after work, reversed the process. Then, when I realized that I’d left the mattress cover in the car, I went and did it all over again. I thought wistfully of how nice it would have been to get dropped off at the lot at the very start and eliminate all of this shuttling.

I went back to playing 3D Tetris for a while, but was soon struck with another difficulty: the couch. Even my trusty Magna Cart (yes, I will seize every opportunity to say “Magna Cart”) couldn’t handle the couch. I needed help. Luckily, I had cultivated a few friends during my time here in Downtown OOT—always a good strategy if you ever anticipate moving a couch one day.

Friends are also handy for when you need to hitch a truck up to a full trailer. This is a very precise maneuver that requires a second person standing behind your truck making inexplicable hand gestures and calling out things like “Stop—no, a little more—stop!—a drop more fenceward—no, a bigger drop—ooh, you missed.” And so on.

It was around 1am, when I was eating melted cheese and surveying all the boxes that somehow still needed loading—where did it all come from?!—that I took out my Rugged Individualist membership card and threw it over the fence.

“You know, I could really use your help right now!” I shouted at my future spouse, who happened to not be present at the time. Convenient of him, isn’t it? Hiding out until all the work is done.

This experience has convinced me that a unit of two is much more effective at tackling life than an individual, even  when the individual is supported by friends. For sheer efficiency  and ease of everything, everyone should get married.

I’m accepting applications for people interested in beginning before that UBox arrives at my new address in suburban OOT.

Thanks, Erlenmeyer Exploder for the geography of OOT.

What Am I Describing?

“When I saw the coffin I was like, ‘Really? They fit him into that? They didn’t even need to widen it around the middle?’ I mean, this is a guy who never went anywhere without his iPod, iPad, cell phone, pager, Hatzolah walkie-talkie, and Chaverim toolkit, just in case he needs to break into a car in a hurry. He jangled so much when he walked, you thought a robot was coming down the block. His belt added about a foot to his waistline. He never went anywhere without all that stuff, there’s no way he’s going to heaven without them either.”

Pause

“Or wherever he’s going.”

Pause

“I mean, you never know. God’s car might break down, and we know there aren’t too many mechanics in heaven.”

Pause

“So, here we are folks, mourning the passing of our esteemed friend, relative, and colleague, Yosef Schwartz. I’d like to invite his rabbi and mentor to give the next eulogy. Rabbi Cohen was in charge of Yossi’s spirituality. The guy who was supposed to make sure our friend here went to the good place. I don’t see any smoke coming from the coffin yet, so that’s a good sign. Ladies and gentlemen: Rabbi Dovid Cohen.”

“Thank you, thank you. You know, I really don’t think we have to worry about Yossi. I knew he was a good boy from the very start. We first met about a year after he joined our yeshiva. He had taken a hot slice of pizza—with the cheese just browning and bubbling—out of the toaster, and dropped it, right on the floor in front of the stove. Cheese side down, of course. Yossi was always meticulous about following rules, and Murphy’s law was no exception.

“Anyway, Yossi knew that many bits and scraps of food—both milchigs and fleishigs—had fallen in front of the stove over time, and in fact, most of them were still there. He really wanted to brush off and eat his perfectly baked pizza, but wasn’t sure if it was kosher.

“R’ Katz, who he usually went to for sheilos, was in LA at the time and Shabbos hadn’t ended yet. In desperation he called me. I immediately took a liking to the sincere, sweet boy, and we’ve been in touch ever since. He never hesitated to ask me even his most sensitive questions. I’ll miss him, but I know he’s happier now. He has access to much greater rabbanim than me now, and for his really tough questions, he can even go to the Ultimate Rebbe himself. In fact, right now the Ultimate Rebbe is probably pinning a medal on him for throwing out that pizza, and having blueberry pie for melaveh malka instead.”

“Thank you R’ Cohen for your kind words. You know, I bet they’re making up for that pizza right now with an entire pie that tastes… just… heavenly. Although I think they have to order in, since I hear most of the ovens are kept elsewhere.

“Our next speaker is someone who may have a different perspective on where Yosef wound up. We’re talking about someone who still remembers the time he colored on the walls and wouldn’t let him forget why they had to paint the living room mauve. She used to be upset because he didn’t call often enough. Well, he definitely won’t be calling now, Mrs. Schwartz. But you can send him a message anyway, while his neshama is still lingering. Everyone: Yossi’s mother, Mrs. Eve Schwartz.”

*     *     *

Okay. Now imagine the subject of these speeches is still alive and sitting there, listening.

Now swap out the jokes about God, heaven, and hell for jokes about mother-in-laws, wives, and jewelry shopping.

What do we have? Yep: sheva brochos.

Quote of the Week: Marry for…

“…you know, this job is only to keep me busy during the day,” the lab tech said, rummaging around for pipette.

“Really?” I said.

“Yep. My wife is a professional. She earns the bucks.”

“Good for her.”

“That’s why I married her.”

“For her job?”

“Yep. Listen to me, Bad4. You want to be happy, marry for money.”

“Marry for money,” I echoed in disbelief.

“Marry for money. Because even if the person drives you crazy—well, at least you can enjoy yourself, you know?”

“So your wife drives you crazy?”

“Oh, no. I love her, Bad4. Love her to pieces. But I didn’t when we got married. It grew, afterwards. Love can come later. It did, Bad4. We’ve been married fifteen years. Take my advice: marry for money.”

I’ll follow up on this one tomorrow.

Know Thyself (and Thine Man)

Don’t get emotional, but today’s post is about hormones.

We have an uneasy relationship with hormones. They affect our behavior more than we’d like to acknowledge. They interfere with our perceptions of self, personality, and free will. Quite frankly, hormones can be a little creepy.

It would behoove us women to know the average hormonal levels of the men we date. High testosterone men tend to be more aggressive, ambitious, obnoxious, and likely to chase other skirts. Lower testosterone men are more passive, thoughtful, family-oriented, and likely to exhibit borderline deadbeat behavior. It’s a sad fact, my lady friends: you can’t have it all. But you can choose.

Truth is, you can sort of tell which end a guy leans to. Those with stronger jaw lines tend have higher levels than those with more effeminate features.

Now, at this point someone is probably thinking that I’m stepping over a line here, talking about people’s hormones like this. Well, I believe it’s important to understand hormones, and not just once you’ve been married for two years without a child. Knowledge is power, and hormones are the key to understanding yourself – and your spouse.

For example, did you know that men have daily hormonal cycles? When they wake up they’re flush with testosterone. This is when they’re ready to jog and go to work and beat up the world to bring home the bacon. (For Jewish men: bring home the brisket.) If you have a male boss, the morning is a bad time to ask him for a raise. Nor is it a good time to discuss your Macys bill with your husband.  If you’re a guy, mornings are a good time to start big projects.

Levels drop by as much as 43% over the course of the day, so afternoon finds men feeling mellower. Now’s a good time for a mid-year review with your boss or to discuss remodeling the kitchen with your husband. If you’re a guy, evenings are a good time to hang with your wife.

It gets even more interesting, though. Because testosterone levels fluctuate depending on circumstances. Playing video games, team sports, or watching a favorite team win raises them. Watching their team lose, on the other hand, drags levels down.

It makes one wonder, really: which came first, NYC or the Yankees?

It also makes one wonder why women get the bad rap as the hormonal ones. At least our ambition and mood isn’t decided by who wins the World Series.

So why am I telling you this? First, because it’s my intro to what I really want to say, which will be tomorrow’s post. Second, because I do think this could improve shalom bayis. Just imagine the following common scenario.

Guy comes home from work and flops into armchair, tired. Wife comes and massages his feet, feeds him supper, and then reminds him that he promised to fix the step before someone falls down the stairs and breaks something. He says he’s really tired and just needs to unwind and he’ll get to it. She points out that he’s said this every evening. He points out that he’s tired every evening. Begin squabble.

Now imagine if this couple understood the effect of hormones in their life. The conversation would go somewhat differently.

Her: “Can you fix that step tonight? Moishela tripped over it on his way up to bed. He was crying for five minutes straight.”

Him: “I’m tired, I just need time to relax and unwind.”

Her: “No you don’t. You’re just in a hormonal slump. Why don’t you go play a half-hour of Duke Nukem to get your testosterone pumping and then take care of the step?”

Him: “Oh well, if you insist, dear. But I’m only doing it for you.”

There, you see? Knowledge is power. And “Know thyself” is among the most important knowledge you can have, after knowing thine spouse.

Part 2: Know Thyself

Quote of the Week and Reason for Getting Married (Unnumbered)

Overheard by Relarela: “I want to get married so that my friends will make me shtick.”
Well, granted, shtick is when you find out exactly how interesting you are, or how interesting your friends think you are. Don’t you ever wonder what they’ll come up with for your wedding? Sometimes I’m terrified that I’ll get married and people will show up with some lame maypole and arches and that’ll be it, and then and there, on my wedding night, I will learn how truly boring I am.

Wedding-night suicides happen outside of The Princess Bride too, you know.
It’s a depressing possibility. Almost makes me want the opposite: not get married so that I don’t see whether my friends make shtick or not.

Reason to Get Married #9

My father came to visit my apartment. Within the space of a day and a half he bought and banged together a cabinet, hung a full-length mirror on my bedroom door (how did he know exactly what I needed?), washed all the dinner dishes, and took out the garbage several times (my garbage can is, shall we say, well matched in size to my kitchen). He also made suggestions for improvements that he didn’t have time to implement before leaving.

“You’re pretty handy to have around,” I said, admiring my reflection in the mirror.

“This is why people have husbands,” he hinted.

“Oh! Really? Now I get it. So where can I get one?”

Anyone? Because I still need a few more things done before this place is completely homey.

Thursday Links: I’m More Mature Than You Are

“Nuh uh!”

“Yuh huh!”

The argument began over here, at SiBaW. The question: who is more mature, single people or married people?

Some people seem to think that maturity is like pregnancy: you either are or you aren’t. Or that it’s like the original Model T: if you have it, it must be of a specific form and color.

Maturity comes in different forms, and people can mature in different ways. There are people who are externally very strong, who do well in the workplace, and so on, but who are emotional midgets. There are people who emotionally very in tune with themselves and others, and who completely stink at life. Some people manage both. Some neither.

There are single people with organized lives and apartments, and married people who live in pig-sties.

There are people who can organize and coordinate extra-curricular activities for six children under the age of ten, and there are people who can organize and coordinate a product launch on six continents, and these are not always the same people. Some people can’t do either. Some can do both. Some of those who can do both aren’t married and don’t have their own children.

Even people who seem mature can have bouts of immaturity.  Parents, for example, can easily reduce their adult offspring to kvetchy, whiny creatures.

Of course, it’s all been said already in the comments, so go over and take a look.

…and yuh huh, even my mommy says so!

 

——-

The funnest part of this article (which I arrived at via Princess Lea) is this paragraph:

Not your usual private eye, Mr. Levin is a practicing Orthodox Jew, a member of the Bobov Hasidic sect and the founder of T.O.T. Private Investigation and Consulting, a New York-based company that specializes in Orthodox-related cases worldwide. The company, whose focus is uncommon — and perhaps unique in the United States — hires forensic experts, former homicide detectives, photographers and even pilots, mostly on a per-case basis. Its services range from investigations into international banks and Israeli investment companies to local background checks for prospective Shidduchim, or Orthodox marital arrangements.

Only a chossid would become a private eye… And apparently some people do go for the FBI background check.

A Dedication

Locations accumulate associations. My desk, for example, is now associated with sitting cross-legged in my chair and gloomily staring at the to-do list of things to study and feverishly trying to avoid doing any of them. This does not make my desk the most cheerful spot in my room.

People build up associations too. This is why you sometimes have a knee-jerk negative reaction to an otherwise innocent behavior or comment from someone who has irritated you in the past.

Sometimes, you just need to get away from all the associations. This is the idea behind a vacation. You can sleep late just as well in your own bed, but your own bed has that alarm clock next to it, and it’s in your room that you need to clean in a house you need to maintain with a sink you need to empty and full of people who are potentially hazardous for your blood pressure… Thus, people prefer to sleep late in a hotel, motel, or even a campground, where there’s no sink at all. No sink, and no associations. Aaaah… That’s nice.

Judaism acknowledges this issue as well, with Succos. One reason given for moving out of our homes shortly after Yom Kippur is to help us maintain that fresh start by removing us from the association-filled environment that causes all that unfortunate autopilot behavior. Having a new home, albeit briefly, provides us with the opportunity to start over. Sort of like a troubled couple trying to piece their marriage together with a second honeymoon. Only, a little colder and a lot wetter.

Any transition in life is an opportunity to start over, to be more conscientious, to be a better or more dedicated person. Isn’t that how we approach new marriages? We promise ourselves we’ll always be considerate, we’ll never get angry, we’ll never slack off, we’ll always be in love…

And that’s how I approach the idea of moving out on my own. It’s a chance to begin a new painting with a palette of idealism. To escape any of that negativity that might have built up in my old haunts and habits and relationships by starting them afresh with a different perspective.

It’s easy to promise to become perfect when you get married, but it’s a tough guise to maintain if you don’t have much practice. That’s what’s so nice about this. It’s an opportunity to get a head start on perfection, by practicing on a new beginning.

New beginnings are a time of great hope, anticipation, and change. I’m grateful to get in an extra one now, before marriage.

A Dedication

by Rudyard Kipling

My new-cut ashlar takes the light

Where crimson-blank the windows flare;

By my own work, before the night,

Great Overseer, I make my prayer.

If there be good in that I wrought,

Thy hand compelled it, Master, Thine;

Where I have fail’d to meet Thy thought

I know, through Thee, the blame is mine.

One instant’s toil to Thee denied

Stands all eternity’s offence;

Of that I did with Thee to guide

To Thee through Thee, be excellence.

Who, lest all thought of Eden fade,

Bring’st to Eden to the craftsman’s brain,

Godlike to muse o’er his own trade

And manlike stand with God again.

The depth and dream of my desire,

The bitter paths wherein I stray,

Thou knowest who has made the fire,

Thou knowest who has made the clay.

One stone the more swings to her place

In that dread temple of Thy worth,

It is enough that through Thy grace

I saw naught common on Thy earth.

Take not that vision from my ken;

O, whasoe’er may spoil or speed,

Help me to need no aid from men

That I may help such men as need.