Chanukah Parties

There wasn’t a chance to publish this on Chanukah, so it went into the drafts and I forgot about it until now. So, here you are.




There’s nothing like a family Chanukah party to remind you about how single you are.

It always starts the same way. Hug and kiss the grandmother while being asked when you will be arriving late due to husband and kids. Smile and say you hope sometime soon.

Then the cousins with the husbands and kids arrive. There are the usual greetings. “Hello, I haven’t seen you in so long, what are you up to these days?”

Don’t be fooled. They are not under the impression that you change your life every year. They just can’t remember what you were doing from last Chanukah party. If you’re feeling merciful, you give them the full rundown, “Still teaching pig-latin to orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.” If you’re feeling cruel, you just say, “Oh, same as last year.” Then wait for their smile to go forced as they ask “And that is what?”

You meet about 18 different cousins and have the identical conversation with each of them. You coo at their babies. You call them cute. You comment on how much or how little hair they have and how smiley they are/aren’t. This is the easy part. The hard part is when you sit down with your latkes and try to find yourself someone your age and single to talk to.

You look around.

You look around some more.

And then you realize that you are the last remaining grandchild within your decade to be unpaired.

So you resign yourself to finding a favorite cousin who happens to be married. But alas. It’s like the bodysnatchers got them. Your favorite cousin is no longer there.

Conversation is about getting children into preschool in Lakewood. It’s about where the cheapest, best-quality diapers are. If it’s a Lakewood table, they’ll cover who is receiving what benefits from the government and how they  deal with all the full-fat milk that food stamps requires them to buy. If it’s a Five Towns table, they’re most likely covering children’s clothing sales.

The most you can really contribute to these conversations is “I heard that…” or “My friend says…” You have conversation via proxy experience. If you really make an effort, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. You are not you: you are the sum total of the related experiences of others that you have accumulated in your grey matter.  Thank God you have married friends on food stamps.

Well, sort of. I mean, obviously it would be better if they weren’t. But since the government is so generous, your friend benefits, and you benefit, and your table at the Chanukah party benefits because they don’t have that awkward single sitting there quietly swirling the sour cream on her plate. It’s like a great ripple of joy emanating from Washington D.C.

Uncle Sam’s Chanukah gelt.

Happy Holiday, all.

The Chanukah Playlist

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the list.  It’s a sum total of just under 1 hour of music:

DJew Hava Nagila – I couldn’t resist this hopped up version, even though I’ve never understood where Hava Nagila comes from or what it has to do with anything.

Mi Shema’amin by Benny Friedman – although not strictly a Chanukah song, the theme is close enough. And he’s got a great voice. Although someone else is singing in the video linked, and I’m not sure who.

Holiday Party by Pella Productions – It starts with Chanukah. Good enough. (Anyone know who these guys are?)

Candlelight by the Maccabeats

Maoz Tsur by PS22 – Another ‘couldn’t resist.’ They sound great. And I admire them for learning all the words right (although they seem to have chilukei deyos over whether it’s “yeshuati” or “yeshuasi”). I snipped off that inexplicable last part, obviously.

Chanukah track from A Gut Yohr by Sholom Jacobs – One of my favorite CDs for sentimental purposes. I don’t know why they do Chanukah with a chassidish havara, but I forgive them for the sake of my playlist.

Light the Way by Moshav Band – Not obviously a Chanukah song, but there’s a light theme thing going and it mentions Jewish continuity.

Candle in the Night – Seems to be an original song. No idea who.

Miracle by Matisyahu

Latke Man by the Yule Logs – on their album You Ruined Christmas. Weird, but I’m not turning down a song. I can’t find this on YouTube, alas. However, it’s a free download. Now why are a bunch of Christians writing us a Chanukah song and then giving it to us for free? What are we, charity cases? (Answer: yes.)

Chanukah Rights! by Six13

One Day by Matisyahu – It’s in the general theme.

Happy Hanukkah by Matisyahu – This man has contributed disproportionately to my playlist, forcing me to put it on shuffle. God bless him.

Eight Nights by StandFour

Rock of Ages – Presented by

Haneirot Halalu by Six13 – Can it be? An original, non-parody song? A blessing on their heads!

Yesh Tikvah by Benny Friedman – In the general theme of things, plus I love this song and it’s totally party material. (It also probably wins the prize for most mismatched song and music video.)

Na Nach by Moshe Levi – Totally irrelevant, but a great song nonetheless. (Sorry, video is lousy. I can’t find the studio recording on YouTube.)

Shades of Grey has a whole bunch more music videos listed here that I should probably sift through. Some of them look interesting. But some are just more pop parodies. I tire of those.

Happy Chanukah! 

Social Misfit


Blood may be thicker than water, but there’s something to be said for those you choose to associate yourself with.

I don’t hate my relatives. I just can’t think of any reason to like them. They’re nice people, but the amount of common ground we share couldn’t serve as a desert island in a Far Side cartoon.

The cousins my age all agree on this point, so at family affairs we meet in a truce, socializing politely in shared misery. The older, married cousins yap about diapers while the high schoolers complain about homework and plan their summers. But I could always count on my group of cousins to huddle with me – if they couldn’t get out of the affair altogether. We’d make small talk about “so what have you been doing lately?”, a topic that never ceased to be freshly exciting because no one bothered remembering the answers for more than a few minutes.

But then a whole bunch of them went and got engaged, the traitors. So this Chanukah, the high schoolers yapped about what they would wear to the weddings, the older cousins talked about babysitters, and I was left with one lone cousin on the side to watch the rest of them float together, swapping diet tips and discussing how many times they had to have their gown taken in. (And they’re all honeymooning in Israel for a year, so I need to reevaluate my long-term family-event strategy. Help!)

It occurred to me, as I lounged in the corner, listening to the high schoolers chatter, that a good deal of the interest in marrying is socially derived. If you aren’t paired up by a certain age then you’re “left behind,” the lonely single in a room of married people and youngsters. You don’t belong anywhere; you choose to insert yourself with the younger crowd or the older crowd, but you don’t belong to either.

This makes many single women miserable. They feel like they have no friends. A ludicrous situation to be in, considering that “10% of this year’s graduating class will never marry.” There are many single women out there; we ought to stick together and befriend each other. Nobody has an excuse for being friendless. Go forth and find friends! How hard can it be, with a shidduch crisis on?

With that introduction, I would like to say that it was a pleasure to meet Bas~Melech, Dreamer, and Corner Point (or re-meet, as the case might be—it’s a small world!) yesterday. Thanks for arranging it, Bas~Melech, and let’s do it again someday soon.