Archive for the 'relationships' Category

deciding to trust other women again

Sure, this counts as a Little Victory!

I got this text on Thanksgiving from a woman I haven’t really talked to in at least a year: Friend, today I am thankful for you. Hope your day is filled with gratitude and warmed by people who love you. 

She’s busy, in a writing program down south. I’m busy, here in NYC. We never really got the chance to get really close, but I’ve always liked her.

I thought there was some mistake. She’d probably meant the message for someone else. Or she’d sent it to a lot of people, and I was accidentally included. I felt awkward, responding, because what if I was too personal in return, and she was embarrassed for me and it was weird?

I am always waiting for women to leave me. Like the guy who doesn’t call back after what seemed like a perfect second date, like the breakup that never makes sense even though the other person seems to be trying to explain, I am never sure of the reasons, even though I dig through my memories, unearthing things that look like they might be clues. Things that have been broken a long time and are probably better off left there, underground.

(sorry, that was morbid. source)

I have fought passionately with boyfriends. I’ve yelled and stormed and stomped out and slammed the door and disappeared into the night for a while until I realize I’m just wandering around a parking lot and someone is probably going to rape and murder me and the fantastically successful dramatic exit is probably not worth all that. I have a flair for the dramatic with men. But with women, I am gentle. Since I was twelve or even sooner, I had best friends—girls I dressed up with in endless rounds of play acting, and had sleepovers with and wrote letters to and illustrated the envelopes. And they have tended to get mysteriously hurt or bored or something else and leave over the years, without telling me why. Or they’ve abruptly betrayed me in some teenaged, heartbreaking manner. The girl who I worshipped who was abruptly dating my boyfriend, just after I’d broken up with him. But she didn’t tell me—instead she showed up with him one day, just like that, and then she left the room while he berated me from his towering height of six foot four inches, telling me that I was stupid, ridiculous, pathetic– a little girl– that I didn’t know anything about the world. He was obviously in love with me, furious at me, and she was obviously letting him loom over me and tell me what a little fool I was. I couldn’t believe she’d chosen him over the stories I’d written with her about our shared future, where we had little farm houses down the road from each other in New Hampshire, and I came over for Christmas even though I am Jewish, and our kids played together and eventually married each other.

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I would appreciate it if people would tell me that my husband is hot

The owner of the tiny Vietnamese restaurant was very friendly. She spoke halting, heavily accented English that seemed not to slow her down at all.

“You spouse?” she asked us. It took me a second to catch what she’d said.

“Yes,” we said, together, “We’re married.”

She nodded emphatically, then gestured up and down Bear’s torso and squeezed his shoulder. “He very good looking. You lucky woman.”

“I agree!” I said.

Bear seemed uncertain how to react. “Well, she’s a beautiful woman,” he said, gesturing at me.

The restaurant owner looked at me. “Uh huh,” she said, willingly enough, but not as enthusiastic.

(source)

Later, she worried over him not eating his noodles and wanted to know why such a good looking man was trying to diet. I mentioned that he has diabetes, and she was suddenly sorrowful. Her father had gotten it at seventy-five, she told us. It was very hard for him.

“I’m sorry,” she told Bear. “Very sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” he said. “I promise.”

She laughed.

The food was good. I found myself automatically hoping that this little, outgoing woman with the round glasses and quick smile was having an awesome life. The truth is, not a huge amount of women have told me that my husband is good looking.

And it sort of bothers me.

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Kate on November 5th 2012 in beauty, marriage, new york, relationships

losing weight for other women

My friend Rachel was telling me that every time she’s lost weight, other women have complimented her, and every time she’s gained weight, men haven’t noticed.

It’s sort of a cliché by now, the idea that men don’t really care about the handful of extra pounds you’ve been agonizing over. Except when they do, of course, like my gorgeous friend’s boyfriend in college, who suggested that she lose weight and sent her careening headfirst into a wall of depression. It’s hard to tell what men want, as a group. It’s easier to get to know people one at a time.

My college boyfriend was really excited when I gained weight. I had boobs, finally. Small ones, but they stuck out a little. I felt womanly, because somewhere along the line we learn that real women have curves even though beautiful women on billboards are usually very skinny.

So eventually I decided that being womanly wasn’t as good as being skinny, and I began to quietly, persistently hate the smooth weight of my resting stomach when I lay on my side. My thighs seemed to fill the whole toilet seat when I peed. I remembered when they hadn’t, and when I’d wondered whose did. Mine now. My thighs were big and demanding now. They looked foreign when I looked down.  And other girls weren’t complimenting me as much.

(it’s judging me…source)

When other girls had complimented me, they had always said, “You’re so skinny!” But now it seemed like there was nothing left to say.

Without my skinniness I was just an ordinary woman. I felt plainer, invisible. I felt like I didn’t have a shot at natural elegance, the way that the girl in my biology class with the long neck and slip of a body did. I felt like no matter what I wore, it looked bulky.

But for some reason, I felt confident about the way I looked when I was with a guy.

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Kate on October 11th 2012 in beauty, being different, body, relationships, weight

the girly voice

I lose everything. Stamps, especially. I know I have enough stamps to last a lifetime, but they’re tucked away somewhere secret, somewhere clever that felt self-explanatory at the time. I lost my little proof of service slip from jury duty, and then I got another jury duty notice, but in Brooklyn this time, because Brooklyn and Manhattan don’t really talk, they just wave casually at each other across the water and go on with their day.

Last time, three apartments ago, when I was on the Upper West Side, I wanted to get picked for jury duty, like a good little homeschooler, to see how the court worked. The case settled out of court, and all I learned was that the halls were full of stereotypical looking Jewish lawyers walking alongside defendants who appeared to be exclusively young, black, and male. Sometimes they were talking with quiet intensity. One of the young men glanced up and smiled at me for a split second—his face was ridiculously sweet, his eyes unguarded.

I’ve changed since then—it’s that sneaky, horrible process of becoming more jaded and less curious, of thinking that your time is more valuable and of being able to more clearly picture any commute. I called the Manhattan county clerk about twenty times, trying to get evidence that I’d showed up. No one answered. Finally, on my fifth call of the day, a man picked up the phone.

“Hi!” I said, “I’m trying to get proof of service, since I already went to jury duty, but then I moved to Brooklyn and now I need to prove that I went in Manhattan, and I’m hoping that I can, because I went three years ago, and I think you don’t have to go again for six years or something like that?”

When you’re given proof of service, it is a very important document,” he informed me sternly. “It is not something you can just put down and forget about. You need to be more responsible.” Obviously, he was not in a good mood. He had dealt with a lot of irresponsible people like me. He had dealt with them all day long.

And this is when my voice changed. “I understand,” I said in a breathier, higher, more excitable voice. “It’s just that I’ve moved a lot.”

“There really isn’t an excuse,” he countered.

“Okay,” I said, repentant and slightly childish. “But can you help me out and send me a new one?” My tone went beseeching. It was wringing its delicate hands. It was wearing a little pink dress.

(let’s say…this one. source)

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Kate on October 9th 2012 in new york, relationships

please stop telling me that marriage is really, really hard

For some reason, all I want to do is watch documentaries about relationships. I’d probably read those books with titles like “The Three Love Types: What Who You Fall In Love With Says About Your Type ” if someone left them lying around. I watched Daniel Gilbert’s documentary about happiness, which was mostly about relationships, and a couple days later I watched one of Michael Apted’s documentaries in the “Married in America” series, and then I watched some random documentaries about being married that had narrators who were like, “So now we go to the labs at UC Davis to discover the MEANING OF LOVE AND LUST!” but when you get there it’s just some awkward scientist feeding a couple of confused-looking monkeys.

I got married without reading up too much on the whole thing. We were busy. We wrote our vows the day before. We were engaged after six months, married about a year after meeting. We said things in our vows like “you’re really hot…” Bear jokes around that I married him for his body. Which is, of course, true. There were other things, too, though. Something to do with his brain…I can’t remember…

Kidding.

We didn’t talk a lot about marriage before we did it. There are couples like us in the documentaries I watched, but things are never going great for them. They’re like, “We rushed into it, you know? We should have given it more time…We didn’t even know each other when we got married…”

Disembodied voice of documentarian: “And would you say that’s made things hard?”

Couple, looking at each other sadly, then back at camera: “Yeah…It’s made things really hard… Hard is putting it lightly…” (sad little chuckle)

That is what people say about marriage. It’s hard. It’s harder than you expect. You go in all innocent and rosy-cheeked and skipping and a year later, there you are, worn down on the front stoop, your hair unwashed, eating Doritos by the handful as you stare blankly into space.

(before)

(after)

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Kate on October 3rd 2012 in being different, marriage, relationships

the things grownups say automatically to kids they run into in the hall

Rosh Hashanah is over.

In the parking lot, on my way into the synagogue, I stopped to talk to some congregants and I was being all professional and grown up and they were asking if this service would be very different from the one the day before, and I was explaining how we were doing a participatory Torah study and it should be very engaging and fun and then a bug landed on my shirt and everyone saw it and went “Oh!” I played it cool and laughed like it didn’t even matter because bugs don’t scare me because I’m too professional for that. I nonchalantly brushed it, which caused it to fall down my shirt, into the place where my bra was trying its very best but still mostly failing to give me some cleavage. The bug had lots of little legs, and wings, and they were all moving at once.

“Oh no!” everyone said. And then they paused politely.

“It should be really nice,” I said. “We’re chanting the morning blessings to this lovely new melody.”

“It just went down your shirt,” said a kind, stately gentleman.

“I know,” I said, smiling brightly. “Um.”

I turned around and leaned over and pulled my shirt down, and I prayed that no one was looking out of any of the sanctuary windows at that moment, because they would’ve seen a lot of cantorial bra.

God.

(the traditional Rosh Hashanah treat, no bugs allowed. source)

It made me grin, thinking about it in the middle of the silent amidah, where you can pray to yourself or read the traditional text (I never read the text, I still have no idea what it says, even though I’ve seen it hundreds and hundreds of times) midway through the service. I almost laughed aloud.

I get nervous about performing these services, even though I’ve been doing them for years. I hate that I get nervous. I think I should be more confident. I should revel in it. I should love the feel of everyone’s eyes on me. I should throw back my head and sing with my whole heart. I should lean into the mic. I should improvise with some little twirly things, like Christina Aguilera. I should probably lift my hands up and start gesturing.

I do, I do. I throw my head back sometimes. But sometimes I’m thinking, shit shit shit, you missed a word, what is wrong with you?? You should know this whole thing by memory already! Don’t mess up again! Oh god, here comes that long part with all the weird consonants. If you mess this up, you’ll probably just stop, and then there will be this really long, horrible silence, and everyone will be looking at you and thinking that you’re an idiot who can’t do your job and the board will already be thinking about holding auditions for a better cantor and you will ALWAYS ALWAYS remember this day as the worst, most humiliating day of your life. Shit shit shit.

I reminded myself that my friend just had her second baby. Yeah, second. She has two kids now. OK, so we don’t talk that much anymore. She’s way too busy. But I think about her a lot, like a dork, and how different from mine her life is. And how I can’t imagine being her, but I’m sort of jealous. And how she just had a BABY and I’m getting nervous about singing some Hebrew.

“You looked so grown up up there,” said my dad, after. He looked a little teary.

“I told him you’re still pretty immature,” said my mom, cracking herself up.

“True,” I said. “It’s all an illusion.”

But it’s not. I’m an adult now. I know. Not because of my job where I lead the congregation. Not because of my breasts which have reached their apologetic-looking but final stage of development. But because of something I just caught myself doing for the first time, over Rosh Hashanah: talking to kids like a lame grownup.

Yup. I did the thing that all grownups do. This is how it went:

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Kate on September 20th 2012 in life, relationships

why you should date online

The restaurant where I met Bear for our first date has closed. In the three years that I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I saw restaurants wink out like dying bulbs on every block. I saw new ones burst into the old spaces. There was a quick current, a constant cycle. Only the fantastically innovative or legendary or totally necessary remain. And ours was never that. It was always only pretty good.

But still, it seems a little sad that New York has taken away our table, by the wall in the back. And that the entryway where I stood waiting to see him for the first time is now chipped and forlorn. In the city, life moves impatiently on and on. There isn’t time or money to maintain all of these nostalgic spots. The next thing is supposed to be better.

I met Bear for the first time three years ago, this week. He was bigger in person than I’d expected. But then, I hadn’t really tried to picture him. His nose was surprisingly delicate, and upturned. It made him look boyish and vulnerable. I always notice noses. A self-conscious habit, born of worrying about mine. I always vaguely thought that I would end up with a man whose nose would dwarf mine, so that mine would finally feel feminine and fine. Sort of like my friends would sometimes say that they would only marry a guy over 6’2″. So tall! (The one who insisted on this the most vehemently has been with a man who is a good several inches shorter than her for, what? Four years now?)

Isn’t it funny how we set these little rules for ourselves? Not the kind that matter enormously if they’re broken. But still, rules. I will never wear yellow. If I don’t get a book published that means I’ll have failed at life. I won’t gain any more weight. My eventual partner has to be really musical. 

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Kate on July 23rd 2012 in marriage, new york, relationships