My Single Peeps: Guershon M.


The most embarrassing aspect of Guershon’s life is that he’s 34 and lives with his mom, so of course I’ll lead with that. “I started film school and I [moved in with my mom], and the hardest thing for me was it seemed like [my friends] had all their s—- together. It was really hard for me to really go out a lot and date … and it’s gotten progressively harder. It’s kind of hard to say, ‘Yeah, I live at home.’ It was really embarrassing — especially when I hit 30. Then I started seeing my friends where I lived saying, ‘I got laid off. I can’t believe it, but I have to live with my parents again.’ So I said, ‘OK, this leveled the playing field a little for me.’ ”

Guershon’s not a lazy guy. He and his writing partner had some heat on a script, and when it fell through, they sat back down and kept writing. “I picked up the book ‘The Perfect Pitch’ and [the author, Ken Rotcop] had a workshop, and I called him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, come in.’ ” Ken has become a mentor to Guershon. “We got an agent through him, and our writing’s gotten better — more commercial. I’m right on that cusp — it’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when.” 

Guershon’s family is from Mexico City, though he was born in Houston. He was raised Jewish, went to a Jewish day school and had a bar mitzvah’d — but he never felt that he fit in. “I kind of had this disdain for the religion or how judgmental I felt people on Pico were, because they’re like, ‘You speak Spanish and you’re Jewish?’ ” A lot of that changed when he met Rabbi Drew Kaplan, the rabbi for Southern California Jewish Student Services. “I started connecting as a Jew, not because it was forced on me. And while I’m not a perfect fit, it is my community, and I do care about it.

I look to his feet. He’s wearing what appear to be shoes, but they’re in the shape of feet — Vibram FiveFingers. I imagine they make sense for a guy who works out as often as he does, but there’s no hiding the fact that they’re ugly. “You’d wear them on a date?” I ask. “Yeah, I would. I even have a suede pair.” I guess he saves those for finer dining.

“I want a serious relationship. I’m not playing anymore. I haven’t wanted to play for a long time. And I’m not a huge drinker — I don’t like going to the bars or clubs. So if that’s what I wanted, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. I’ve never really had a problem getting a date; it’s, ‘What kind of date?’ Truth is, every one of my girlfriends have been beauty queens and models. I admit I’m vain. That’s what I like.  That doesn’t matter as much anymore, but I like a girl who’s thin and athletic.”

“What kind of person are you?” I ask. “I really care about people. If you’re my friend and you call me at 2 a.m. because there’s something wrong, I’ll get my ass in the car and drive down just to make sure you’re OK. I can sometimes come across as very forward or cocky, but it’s just because I’m very open. You always know where you stand with me. I’m never going to hide how I feel. If I’m sad, you know I’m sad. If I’m happy, you know I’m happy. If I’m angry, you know I’m angry. I’m the worst poker player in the world.”

If you’re interested in anyone you see on My Single Peeps, send an e-mail and a picture, including the person’s name in the subject line, to mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com, and we’ll forward it to your favorite peep.


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

My Single Peeps: Isaac S.


When Isaac sits down to speak with me, I see the rugged beard with a shot of gray around the chin, the athletic build and the tight-fitting Israeli-style clothes, and I think, “I know exactly who this guy is.” He has an Israeli accent, so when he first says to me, “In Israel I was in the army and then came here and worked as a professional dancer,” I’m not sure I’ve heard correctly. A dancer? I ask him to repeat himself.

“Ballroom dancing. I got an offer to come here and dance with a company, but after two months I didn’t like their style, so I opened up my own group.”  Two things about that sentence make me smile. One, the fact that this macho guy loves to ballroom dance. And two, I’m always impressed by the Israeli chutzpah to be in a new country for only two months, and, not liking the way something is run, they’ll start their own company.

“At that time, I was working two jobs — dancing and woodworking. [Carpentry] was my father’s work; since 10 years old, I was working with him.  And I was running from it.  I hated it.  But when I came here, I thought, ‘Let’s make money doing something I know.’ The dance group was running — it was my passion — but the woodworking was doing well.”

Although his company was growing, he hit a wall. “I felt stuck. Then I was introduced to Landmark Forum [and it] changed my life. I understand that I’m capable, and I can do way more, [so] I opened another company. And [with] this company right now, I’m actually living my dream. I know what my path is. I’m very successful — 2011 was really bad for everyone, and mine was the best of the 11 years I was here.” His new business helps brand companies, as well as build and design their facilities — often kiosks, or retail stores, restaurants and malls.  “What I like here in L.A. is there are more opportunities than [in] Israel. When you want something, go and do it. No one will stop you. No limitations. If I see any limit, I lose my drive. If I don’t see any limit, my drive can go on and on and on.”

I ask him about women. “I want a woman who has her own life, and [we] can grow from there.” He doesn’t want a woman who’s getting into a relationship from a needy place. “I want to wake up in the morning and see a beautiful woman who takes care of herself and cares about herself.” Isaac is 34 but thinks 27 or 28 is a good age for a woman: “A good state of mind for a girl. But if I meet a great girl, I’m really open [to any age].”

I ask him what he’s like as a boss; I think it says a lot about a person. “I’m very understanding, because I came from where they come from. Everyone says the customer is the first thing. For me, it’s my workers. I’ve done jobs where they mistreat my workers, and I leave the job. They are like my family — no matter what position they are.

“My vision is 10 years from now I live in my house in Costa Rica, my kids running around and a beautiful wife in a bikini running on the beach. I already have land over there. My vision is to make good businesses that work without me, and then I can really enjoy the time. Go back and forth. And that, for me, would be a good success.”

If you’re interested in anyone you see on My Single Peeps, send an e-mail and a picture, including the person’s name in the subject line, to mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com, and we’ll forward it to your favorite peep.


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

I’ll try it!


If you tell anyone I know that I was awake at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, on purpose, they wouldn’t believe you. If you added that I didn’t immediately turn over
and go back to sleep, they would start laughing. If you told them that the reason I was awake at the crack of dawn on a weekend was to go camping, they might actually bust a gut.
 
Although this statement may seem more the result of a chocolate-induced hallucination, or simply a trip out of reality, the bottom line is that it’s all true.
 
I, Caroline, the lover of sleeping in, the guru of late nights, the “midnight is early” girl, saw Saturday before noon came around. How did I get into this predicament, one might ask? Was I possessed by an evil spirit? No. Was I pulling an all-nighter and just never went to bed? Not quite. The answer is that I was awake that early on a weekend because I had a boyfriend.
 
So now you’re wondering how those two things go hand in hand? Well, we had reached “that place,” the place all new relationships reach at one point or another, that spot where your mutual likes have reached an end, and you start hearing yourself say, “I’ll try that” to your significant other’s idea of fun.
 
We all know and have been at “that place,” where a die-hard sports fan might find himself or herself taping a game or favorite TV show so they can go to their significant other’s family gathering. A person who isn’t overly fond of the beach might start trudging through the sand because it’s their honey’s favorite place in the whole wide world. A picky eater might take small bites of unappealing foods without admitting their distaste.
 
This is when we are testing our own comfort zones. When the person we’re dating mentions the word “hiking” or “musical,” do we shudder, scream and run in the opposite direction? Or do we slowly push ourselves and try that something new.
When my boyfriend first mentioned camping, I won’t lie: I definitely hesitated. At first I found the suggestion more comical than anything else.
 
Me, camping? Are you serious?
 
Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I happen to love nature. But I tend to enjoy taking pictures of nature more than, say, living in nature. I’d rather watch the National Geographic channel on the couch than sleep on the ground in the woods.
 
But after “I’ll try it” slipped out of my mouth, I soon found myself experiencing my first “true to life; sleep in a tent; live with nature; no hot water; cook your food; granola bar for breakfast; what’s that noise in the bushes … did you hear that, too?” camping trip.
 
The good news was that my boyfriend had picked a spot that was simply stunning. Our campsite was steps from the ocean, with a backdrop of bright green hills covered with yellow wildflowers. As we took in the sunset barefoot on the beach, I remember thinking, “If this is camping, I can deal with it.”
 
As the night went on, it seemed that I was not only tolerating camping, but, dare I say, actually enjoying it. The night sky was just amazing. I saw a sea of stars, and could even see them twinkling in different colors.
 
Although I was slightly sleep deprived by the end of the weekend, I had to agree with my boyfriend that camping can be a very relaxing experience. I had pushed outside of my comfort zone, falling asleep to the sounds of the ocean, the wind and the gazillion or so frogs living in the stream right behind the campsite. I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed myself.
 
The thing about reaching “I’ll try it” is that you are daring to imagine that things can work out for the best, and that you can add another activity to the list of common likes.
 
So will I go camping again? Sure. But if he thinks he’s ever going to get me to try and actually like hiking, he’s got another think coming.
 

My True Best Feature — My Crazy Charm?


My friend Nanea is breaking up with singlehood, and my girls and I are ready to help. Best friends since UCLA, we throw Nanea a wild bachelorette party weekend in NYC.

My group takes a bite out of the big apple. We shop uptown, dine downtown, theater on Broadway, picnic in Central Park — good times, good times. Saturday night, we hit a bar in the meat packing district.

The joint is too cool for signage, but not too cool for us. I’m sporting a black lace tube top from Forever 21, and I am rocking that discount couture. Picture me… I look even better. Feeling feisty, I take the tiara intended for the bachelorette and wear it all night. Normal, no? Effective, yes? It’s an instant conversation piece.

I’m meeting people. I’m making friends. I am in a zone. I even start a game of truth or dare. I’m the life of the bar.

Local boy Jake buys us a round and brings good conversation. We have one of those long ask-anything, reveal-everything chats reserved for bars in strange cities and freshman year dorms. All of us girls have boys at home, so the chat is for pure flirt’s sake. We talk relationships, dating, hook-ups and land on what’s our type.

Jake looks our gaggle of girls up and down and says, “For me, the perfect woman would have Shana’s top, Nanea’s bottom, Angel’s lips and Carin’s….”

Carin’s what? My mind races through the endless possibilities. I’ve been working hard with my trainer and my little bod is working for me. So he’ll totally go with my flat abs and tiny waist. Or maybe he’s a curves guy, and is all about my swingin’ hips. Oh, but men do dig my long, flowing dark blonde — OK, fine, highlighted dark blonde — hair. Hmmm. What is the sexiest part of Carin Davis?
There are really too many to just say one. But Jake managed to:
“The perfect woman would have Shana’s top, Nanea’s bottom, angel’s lips, and Carin’s … ridiculousness.”

My ridiculousness? Whatchu talkin’ about, Willis? My ridiculousness?
That’s crazy talk. He might as well have said I have a good personality and doomed me to wallflower status. My ridiculousness. Ha! I am a very cute girl.

More than cute — attractive. Yeah … I’m like a model. That’s right. I’m like a 5′ 2″ supermodel. I’m talking “Deal or No Deal” briefcase-babe hot.
And yet you claim my best attribute is my ridiculousness?

Wait. Hold on. You think I’m ridiculous?

“Um, you are wearing an unexplained tiara,” Jake points out.

I get it. Bedazzled hair wear is cool for Miss America, but not for me. Well, listen here buddy. There’s nothing wrong with a girl having a little sparkle.

So I’m bizarrely outgoing, unusually uninhibited, and have been known to like center stage. A lot. But to say that makes me ridiculous — that’s uncalled for. And for your information, no one uses the term “ridiculousness” anymore, the PC phrase is “normalcy challenged.”

Why am I getting so fired up? Why do I care? This is some guy I’ve known for an hour, not one I’ve dated for a while. I’ve got an amazing boyfriend at home who thinks I’m a babe. I think….

I drunk-dial my boy Scott and recap the night. He seems amused as I describe our social antics, public game play and the cheer I was dared to perform for the bar. Then I tell Scott about Jake’s perfect woman. And he laughs, in a way that says Jake may have gotten it right. I am little ridiculous. And that’s kinda hot.

Could it be that my looks only complement my true best feature — my crazy charm? Interesting. Men find my charisma endearing, even magnetic. Anyone can be good looking, but I’m good fun.

Looking for back up on my theory, I poll my male friends and ask: “What makes a woman sexy?” Their answers: confidence, wit, intelligence and large breasts (OK, there’s always one).

But maybe Jake and Scott are on to something. I am a confident, energetic, funny, silly, spunky girl and that makes me sexy. For me to think otherwise would be ridiculous.

Freelance writer Carin Davis can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

The Candy Man Can



If you’ve ever tried to split a Big Hunk candy bar — the kind made out of brittle white nougat and peanuts — then you understand a typical breakup. It’s usually not
neat, like a Kit Kat, two for you, two for me, let’s go our separate ways and we’ll run into each other in three years at the Whole Foods with a good-natured hug in front of a platter of cubed cheese.

No, it’s usually more of a messy and twisted divide, with a few peanuts falling on the floor and someone always getting less than his or her fair share.
While everyone knows the “clean break” is the way to go, it’s rarely possible. Two people who were once in love are just not a Twix.

In fact, I will postulate that if you have ever succeeded in a truly clean break on the first try, you are most likely a sociopath. Not to be judgmental, but you’re not capable of real love.

To be honest, I would assume the “clean break” was an urban myth, if I hadn’t experienced one, against my will, at the cruel hand of an episodic television writer who had a lingerie model on the back burner.

He had no interest in my desperate plea to “just be friends while we figure things out.” In fact, he never wanted to speak to me again, and he never did. In fact, he once ducked out of a coffee shop after noticing me inside — with a theatrical sprint toward his BMW, years after we broke up. I would like to say I admire his sanitary approach to people-leaving, but I would like even more to point out that his mode is out of reach for all but the most disciplined or emotionally crippled among us.

Instead, the majority of us face a few agonizing days alone before launching into a despair-fueled effort to shove the pieces back together again. In my experience, there is usually the mini-reconciliation, the second break up, the third mini-reconciliation and the final coup de grace when one or both of you inevitably remembers why you broke it off in the first place.

Alternatively, if you are gifted at conning yourself, you may set up a series of spectacularly delusional relationship “experiments” to be played out before the final curtain comes down.

These experiments may include any of the following: Let’s try seeing other people, but only sleeping with each other. Let’s go back to “dating” and recapture the “honeymoon phase.” Let’s only see each other once a week. Let’s move into separate rooms of the house. Let’s take some “time off.” Let’s avoid ever mentioning: that girl from the office you cheated with, your mother who insulted me at your nephew’s bar mitzvah, the job you quit because it was “boring,” or any other topic that always leads to a blow-up. Let’s up the couples counseling to twice a day. Let’s only communicate via e-mail or sonic vibration and echolocation. Let’s come up with a cute code word for every time you do that thing that drives me nuts, maybe “Octopus.”

You know how it goes. For a couple of weeks, you’re both on your best behavior. You say “Octopus” and giggle at the relationship’s former infirmity. Those few tear — or bourbon — soaked nights of being apart are still so fresh in your memory, you will give any farkakta plan a try just to avoid being alone and truly accepting that a thing which was once viable is now on the slag heap.

I am now six weeks past a second faux break-up and mini-reconciliation and into the real Break Up. The talking, texting and doomed plans are all behind me.
It’s over, and I knew it would be, but I loved the guy, and after almost three years we were intertwined (think Nestle 100 Grand Bar), so I did the human thing and sunk my teeth into a few squares of denial and pain postponement. I don’t have a new boyfriend or any new addictions, I’m just feeling sad now like I’m supposed to, and that’s the best idea, as far as I know.

My friend Cammy says if you don’t feel ripped up after a break up, if you don’t try some idiotic plan to make it work again, you didn’t do the relationship right. If you don’t hurt, your heart wasn’t in it and that’s why you can walk away neatly with your half of the Almond Joy, leaving nary a crumb on the floor.
All these candy bar metaphors, while hopefully evocative, have made me hungry. And break ups make me hungry. So while I couldn’t manage it in “real life,” I can now pay a buck for two great tastes that taste great together. And a confection that’s easy to split.

Teresa Strasser in an Emmy Award- and Los Angeles Press Club-winning writer. She can be heard weekday mornings on the syndicated Adam Carolla morning radio show and is on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com.

No Deposit, No Return


My Superpower: Datedar


Some folks claim they have “gaydar” — they can tell whether someone is gay.

Some folks claim they have “Jewdar” — they can tell whether someone is Jewish.

I’ve
got “datedar” — I can tell if a couple is on a first date.

It’s kind of a cool power … I mean none of the X-Men, Superfriends or wizards in “Harry Potter” have ever shown the ability to tell instantly if they are in the presence of a couple on their first date.

I was recently in line with my boyfriend at the Farmer’s Market Coffee Bean, when I overheard a young couple (probably early 20s) in front of us. Both wore jeans: He had on a nice T-shirt with a plaid shirt over it, she had on a baby doll T-shirt. I turned to my boyfriend and told him: They’re on a first date.
He looked at me with a slightly bewildered expression and asked how I knew. I then told him what confirmed it: He offered to pay for both of them; she politely said that wasn’t necessary. He insisted. She relented. While waiting for their coffee, he informed her about his car; she remarked how nice that model of car is. The kicker: They never touched, but their body images totally mirrored each other.

I tried to stop looking in their direction while I waited for my mocha — but I couldn’t help it. My curiosity would not allow me to let it go. I watched them get their drinks and walk out the door (he held it open for her). I smiled and secretly wished them a good date (I couldn’t very well say it out loud, now could I?).

Sometimes I don’t even need the datedar — just a really good ear. One night at a sushi restaurant in Woodland Hills, I watched a nicely dressed woman sitting in the waiting area. She kept futzing with her hair and looking at her watch. A few minutes later, a nicely dressed man walked in. He looked at her and said, “Linda?” She stood up from her chair and said, “David?”

They shook hands and did an awkward half-hug thing, and I thought: “Hmmm? JDate?” They took their seats at the sushi counter, and I spent the remainder of my meal stealing glances at their interaction. And to confirm my suspicions, the word JDate was mentioned twice.

When I see a couple on their first date, I have to restrain the urge to walk up to the female half and ask (in my mother’s voice), “So, how’s it going? Do we sense a second date here?” I think people on their first date are so cute — like “adorable outfit in the window of Baby Gap” cute — that you just can’t help but say, “Awww, cute!”

But why should I care so much about two people whom I’ve never seen before and — more likely than not — will never see again? Is it the relief that “thank God it isn’t me?” Is it the sense of nostalgia — thinking back on my first date with my boyfriend (also a coffee date)? Is it our desire to know everything about everyone (thank you, Google)? Is it that Cupid has come through and put another couple on the road to love? I think it might be a smidge of all four.
Unfortunately, my datedar doesn’t work beyond date No. 1. If you are on your second date or beyond, mazel tov — but I wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s like my Kryptonite kicks in after the couple says, “Good night.” However, the datedar does have the ability to morph into “newlywedar.”

When I was on a cruise with my best friend, I got to put my newlywedar to the test. We were sitting in the ship’s theater, waiting to watch a show, when a young couple holding hands walked down the stairs and sat two rows ahead of us. A few minutes later, the guy stood up and began walking back up the stairs — but not before he gave his ring a couple of turns. As he passed me, I said, “Congratulations.”

His new bride heard me and turned around.

“How did you know?” she asked.

“He was playing with his ring,” I told her with a smile.

Newlywedar is nice because you actually can talk to the couple — the only problem you’d encounter would be if you were wrong and he was twisting his ring because he was having an allergic reaction to something that made his hands swell up. Luckily that rarely happens.

It isn’t hard to increase your datedar — or newlywedar — powers. All you need is the ability to observe little details about those around you — a la Hercule Poirot or Nancy Drew. However, make sure not to stare too long at the couple or you will just creep them out.

Having datedar won’t make you famous, it won’t save the world and you don’t even get to wear a cool costume — but it is free, and it makes you feel good. And maybe that’s enough.

And to all you singles who will be embarking on first dates this weekend, look for me — I’ll be the smiling blonde waiting for her Banana Mocha.

‘Talk to You Soon’


For the record, not all men are creeps. Sure, some creep along to get things done, but most don’t mean harm, and there are some really, truly terrific guys out there.

And get this: Not all men (particularly those who dump you) are idiots.
In fact, they know exactly what they’re doing or not doing.

A short time ago, in a galaxy all too familiar, a smart, adorable guy I’d been chatting with for months faded — like one too many others — into oblivion. The red flags were raised from day one.

It started with one great conversation and ended with an….

There were an intense series of exchanges: He’d IM, I’d text. He’d leave a message apologizing for not calling every … say … week and a half; I’d return the call shortly thereafter, maybe send an e-mail response. We’d call at odd hours, occasionally meet up and enjoy our rendezvous.

We were both very, very busy people (apparently), and our relationship was ill-defined. But, at least it was ongoing, which is occasionally better than nothing (I had thought). Plus, I liked the guy.

The strangely intriguing interactions lasted about two months, until I actually noticed the waving red flags as he’d inevitably close our conversations with “talk to you soon….”

I’d sort of say, “OK,” and trail off, left to ponder.

I suppose I could have been pumped that “I” and “talk” and “you” and “soon” were in the same sentence, since to me, soon means soon.

As it turns out, though, “talk to you soon” meant “buh-bye.” Period.
Now, I do realize that stupidity runs rampant in the journey to Loveland — we hear what we want, anticipate what we shouldn’t and expect — perhaps too much. It’s also difficult to bid adieu — sometimes you don’t want to speak soon (or ever) but don’t have the cojones to admit it; sometimes you shouldn’t speak soon. And sometimes things are best left as is.

But with all our advanced means of communicating efficiently (if only occasionally effectively), courtship coding is still way off.

Today, a blind date is never blind — you’ve met them on Google. Calling may mean an IM or text; making plans may mean meeting up at a mutual friend’s party or after hours; goodbye often means you’ll still e-mail for weeks/months/years until someone finally puts his or her keyboard down. And, I guess tomorrow may mean “soon,” while soon may apparently mean never.

I should get this stuff (I think). After all, I have a Treo I can sort of work.
Dating, however, is primal. Regardless of how you hear it, there’s something nice about: “I will call you on Tuesday to see what’s cooking for the weekend.”
Meaning: I am interested in seeing you again to pursue the notion of dating you. I. Will. Call. You. Tuesday. Easy.

Not interested? Click unsubscribe. No mentions of future contact. No “Let’s be friends.” No random texts (unless you’re really, really drunk or have a friend to set up). It’s rough, but the wishy-washy, unsure, flip-flopping that’s plagued even our country’s leaders is simply a waste of time. And, it’s annoying.

Admittedly awful at severing ties, I’m also increasingly challenged to find something less frustrating, irritating and uncomfortable than unmatched expectations.

Was a time, after my now-ex-boyfriend and I had split, we would (stupidly) chat for hours — laughing, catching up and flirting (I thought, dumbly) harmlessly. Habitually, he’d sign off with “Talk to you soon.”

Note: I didn’t want to get back together. Also note: Boys and girls cannot — I repeat — cannot be just friends.

Still, I’d bite my tongue and hang up/leave feeling befuddled and agitated (see above for severing ties habits.)

This silly game continued for months. We spoke often, until after a long, flirty brunch, he mentioned his “new” girlfriend (we’ll save his tactics for another time). He tilted his head, claiming he wanted to remain friends — for brunch and whatnot.

“Of course,” I said, clenching my teeth, and sort of meaning it (as soon as I poked his eyes out and got a new boyfriend). We joked about never being able to replace me, and as we parted ways, he hugged me. Then, per usual, he said, “Talk to you soon.”

No, I haven’t heard from him since.

I guess for all the communication mayhem of my smart, adorable guy, his lack of clarity was actually quite clear.

Yes, “talk to you soon” is a bit smoother than “best of luck” or, worse, “have a nice life.” But losing faith in people — or a gender as a whole — seems even worse than hearing the truth.

Because, ultimately, making no plan means having no intention. And no call/text/e-mail means he’s not thinking about you.

Not now, not tomorrow and not soon. Period.

Singles – Painted Clowns


As part of our stroll down memory lane, it seemed fitting to reprint a column by one of our most popular writers. Teresa Strasser, now a regular on prime-time television and morning radio, generated stacks of reader mail with pieces such as this one.

I’m drinking at a bar called the Dirty Horse on Hollywood Boulevard. Well, that’s not the real name, but I never got a look at the sign and that name seemed right.

It fits the place, with its plastic pitchers of beer, painted clowns on black velvet, bowls of peanuts and the fast-talking, baseball-hat-wearing guy at the end of the bar who clutches a clipboard and swears he can hook you up with tickets to a taping of “Yes, Dear.”

That’s the nature of the place, a bar — where as you can probably imagine — a half-pretty girl in a three-quarters-dark room gets served a pretty stiff drink. I’m drinking martinis for the simple reason that they work fast and I’m on a bit of a schedule. I’ve been on the road working for all but four days of the past six weeks and I’m wound up tight. I keep thinking about my perpetually overheating Taurus, the way the mechanic’s gloved hand slowly loosens the radiator cap and lets the steam out.

At some point, the line between Mickey Rourke and me blurs. I slur. I buy drinks for strangers. I spill the contents of my purse onto the floor. By the end of the night, I have no cash, none.

In the interest of making sure the cliché train doesn’t miss a single stop, I make out with my ex-boyfriend, who is my designated driver and seated on the stool next to mine. It is later reported to me that without warning, I burst into tears and had an impassioned discussion about not much in said ex’s ear.

Hold that thought.

Several months before the Dirty Horse, I was out with a guy my girlfriend dubbed Sexy Pete. Pete’s in the music industry, dresses well, appears to take his workout regime very seriously and would never let you pay for dinner. Sexy Pete has been around. Normally, I’d never go out with a guy who exudes more sex appeal than mensch appeal, but my friend talked me into it.

“Now that you’re 30, things are different. In your 30s, you don’t worry so much. You just have fun,” she explained.

Not to shock you, but it turns out Sexy Pete just “wasn’t into a relationship right now.” Still, we went out a couple times before that last date, which ended up with me back at his place, very late at night. We talked on his couch. It got late, then early. He fell asleep and I was stuck there, not knowing whether to extricate myself from Sexy Pete’s sleepy grip or stay.

I thought to myself, “I’m in the apartment of a guy who couldn’t care less about me. He barely speaks. He has no interest in a relationship, a sentiment I finally understand has no hidden meaning for men. This is about to get really sad if I don’t leave now.”

Out I went. Pete, with all the enthusiasm of a catatonic patient at a hospital square dance, muttered, “Don’t leave.”

The door was already half shut, and it closed. I was out on an unfamiliar street in last night’s boots and skirt. I spotted my car in the harsh light of early morning and the old Taurus had a brand new ticket.

This is what I call a Karma Ticket, the kind you get when you are where you shouldn’t be. It never fails. You may also be familiar with the Nobility Ticket, the kind you get when you couldn’t move your car because you were working and didn’t want to lose your flow, listening to a friend discuss her divorce or otherwise doing good in the world. You feel good when you pay these and almost want to write in the memo line of your check, “Fee for being such a good person.”

Because I’m 30, I don’t cram the Karma Ticket in the glove compartment and forget about it until it doubles. I pay it.

Now back to painted clowns.

I wake up after my evening at the Dark Horse. In my 20s, I would have had a series of concerns, sort of a self-administered shame questionnaire: Why did I do that? Should I still be dating that ex? What does it all mean? Why do I have to be such a jackass?

But now, it’s about slack. Just like my friend predicted, I don’t worry so much. I’m old enough to know what it costs to get wrapped up with a guy like Sexy Pete, which doesn’t mean I don’t get close, but it’s three dates and out. I don’t need to interpret what’s wrong with him or with me. I just move on with the mollifying impact of slack easing the way. I call the ex and we go over the highlights of the Dark Horse. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

Here’s the thing, if you spend the night where you shouldn’t or get crazy on martinis once a year, there’s no need to judge yourself. When it comes down to it, a few painted clowns do not make your life a circus.

 

Singles – Want, Not Want


Remember the guy I wanted to want me?

Guess what?

He wants me.

Sort of.

Get this: The other day I got a phone call from him. Remember him? I hardly do, understandably so, because it’s been about three months since we had a date. A good date, as far as dates go. I mean, the restaurant was nice, the food was good, the conversation flowed, and we liked each other, as people if not potential mates, but that’s saying a lot, as many of my blind dates end with the feeling that after one minute more I’d be arrested for murder.

We traded a couple of e-mails after the date and said we’d be in touch, said it that halfhearted way that meant we were never going to see each other again. End of story.

Except it wasn’t. Relationships in my life never seem to end. Guys are always calling me back, weeks, months, years later. My life is like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: He’ll be back. After a breakup I try to remember this, that there are never any goodbyes, just au revoirs. Trickle Trickle Drip Drip.

“Hi, Amy. Sorry I’ve been out of touch,” he says in his message, as if we were ever in touch on a regular basis; as if a week had gone by, and not a season; as if I should remember who he even is; as if I’d been sitting by the phone waiting for his call.

I called him back. I probably shouldn’t have but I was curious. To what did I owe the honors? Did he want to set me up with someone? Did he have a job for me?

“Sorry I’ve been out of touch, but I was having a little existential crisis,” he said.

“Is it over yet?” asked. Guys in and out of my life are always having existential crises. I wish they would just have a real one. Actual crises are so much more finite.

“Anyway, I was thinking about calling you. I was thinking it would be nice to talk to Amy Klein,” he said. I stayed silent. It’s weird enough when people talk about themselves in the third person, but it’s even stranger when someone talks to you about yourself in the third person.

“I thought we could get to know each other,” he said. I stayed silent at first because I couldn’t believe a person was asking me out three months later, and then it quickly hit me that he must have gotten dumped or something — something — because these calls don’t come out of the blue. I had nothing to lose at this point, so I just asked him straight out.

“So what’s been going on in your dating life that precipitated this call?”

“Funny you should ask that,” he said, and went on to tell me how he’d been dating a woman and they really clicked, but she was 42 and wanted to get married and have kids, and he just wasn’t on that fast-track program — I wanted to know which program he was on, the pretend-I’m-interested-in-a-relationship-but-I-need years-of-therapy-program? The jerk-people-around-till-I’m-ready-program? In any case, they broke up and became friends.

“And so I thought of you. I thought, ‘Hey I like to get to know women slowly, I can do this with Amy Klein,'” he said, as if reminding himself of my name. “I mean, and I’m just thinking out loud here, sometimes I freak out on a blind date when there’s no instant click, and I wasn’t necessarily smitten with you, but I’d like to get to know you.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Rewind tape, counselor. Of course, in playback it’s easy to see what a complete narcissist this guy is, not asking me one question about where I was in life, if I’d gotten married, had kids, gotten divorced, etc. In the moment, though, I was half flattered. I mean, on the date I hadn’t been sure how I had felt about him, but still, I wanted him to like me. And he liked me. He did, right?

But suddenly it hit me: He doesn’t like me enough. Now, no one’s saying a person should be in love with me after one date — two, maybe — but three months, one existential crisis and another girlfriend? That’s a bit much, even with someone as flexible as me.

“Don’t you think I should be with someone who’s smitten with me?” I asked. I really had nothing to lose. “I mean, doesn’t Amy Klein deserve that?”

He paused, maybe for the first time. Maybe this phone call wasn’t such a good idea, maybe there was another person on the other end of the line, maybe that’s what he was thinking. No, he wasn’t. He was still thinking about himself.

“I’m not saying I was smitten with you. I was just saying I wasn’t necessarily smitten with you,” he said, reinforcing the insult even as he tried to mitigate it. Perhaps the fact that he wanted to share his precious time with me should be compliment enough.

There comes a point in your dating life where you have to try and stop proving to people what idiots they are. That point, for better or worse, has just arrived in my life.

I said I’d call him back. I will — in three months. After my existential crisis is over.

 

The Aftermath


“Are you sure we won’t scare him off?” my aunt asked when I called to formally ask whether my boyfriend could come to our crazy seder.

That question echoed through my head as I introduced him to the gaggle of cousins and family members who greeted us at the door. Most of them had read my previous column for this page, in which I deliberated whether bringing him would be a good idea. I could read their thoughts, “Wow, he actually came!” While I’m sure some others were thinking, “Brave soul.” I could see the question, “Who is he?” in the eyes of some of my younger cousins, but all I did was introduce and smile. Once the initial surge was over, we pushed our way into the living room, which had become a makeshift dining room for oodles of family members. I could sense the engineering talent that it took to transform the space, as all 42 of us — family members, friends and guests — took our seats.

I had prepped my boyfriend for what he was going to encounter. From a Hebrew 101 lesson the night before, to a quick 1-2-3 seder crash course in the car ride over. With my sister as my partner-in-crime, we introduced the flight to Japan (yeah, don’t ask), our Mr. Potato Head chant (really not sure where that one came from), our sandpaper-clapping-won’t-stop-until-everyone-does-it L’Shana Haba’a routine and a lesson about the correct pronunciation of “Dayenu.”

The night began and as we sat around with sparkly crowns on our heads, since we are supposed to feel like royalty (great addition by the way, Leora!), I kept stealing glances at my guy. He did have a slight deer-in-headlights look, especially after we had heard the “Mah Nishtana” in Hebrew, Aramaic, Russian, French, Yiddish and Klingon. OK, kidding about the last one, but it’s close enough. But the look quickly faded into a silly grin, especially once the frogs started flying.

Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were flying everywhere!

It was about that time that I realized I had forgotten to warn him about the other plagues. He was definitely surprised once the “hail” — pingpong balls — were launched. One whizzed by and landed in front of us. I looked over and was met with a smile, so with a playful glint in my eye I tossed my pingpong ball…errr… hail backward over my head and turned around just in time to see it land perfectly in my cousin’s cup. Of course I asked if in true pseudo-Purim carnival fashion I had won a goldfish for my marvelous abilities — I’m still waiting for the answer. He definitely took it in stride when handfuls of “lice” (slimy glow-in-the-dark insects) were tossed around and landed inside more than one person’s crown, and he grabbed at the chance to don a zebra mask in tribute to the disease of the livestock.

Dinner came into fruition around 11 p.m. (so early!) and we all ate, talked and enjoyed ourselves. The night was going famously, and I hoped it would last through the third and fourth cups of wine, when the kids start falling asleep, and the adults become even more boisterous — if that’s possible.

As the night continued we pounded the tables, spilled many cups of wine, and turned the floor into an indefinable mish-mash combining plastic frogs, pieces of matzah, pillows that had slipped off chairs and a young child or two who had crawled beneath the tables to snooze.

I know for a fact that my boyfriend thought we were nuts as we “ooh-ah-ahhed” our way through the second-to-last song. But he didn’t just stare at me with concern in his eyes, he didn’t look at me like I was an escapee of the Hagaddah House of Horrors, he joined in. Perhaps he was a bit shy at first, but as he looked around and saw that we were all doing it, that we were all participating in these crazy traditions, he gained an inner confidence and began to mimic our movements. He adopted our mishegoss for a night, our sounds effects for “Chad Gad Ya,” meowing, bamming and “watering” along with the rest of us.

Was he tired after his first marathon seder? You bet. Was he amazed that it was past 2 a.m. when we finished? I know I was. Was he wishing he didn’t have to wake up at 7 a.m. to go to work the next day? I have no doubt. But he did it all with an open mind and a smile on his face, which is all I could have ever wanted, or asked for.

And yes, he even called me the next day. Did we scare him off? Nope — or should I say, not yet? I wonder when I should start prepping him for cousins’ camp “beach days”…. Hmmm. I think I’ll give him some more time.

Caroline Cobrin is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She can be reached at Carolinecolumns@hotmail.com

He’s my …


 

The term “boyfriend” is like the knee joint on someone who is morbidly obese. It is being asked to do way more than it was designed

to do. It is buckling under the pressure. Where it once could do the job, it is now carrying too much weight.

Example: My grandma had a companion with whom she would converse and play bridge after my grandpa died. They had long phone conversations, saw movies together. He accompanied grandma to certain family events. He was over 90, he used a walker, but, technically, Roy was grandma’s boyfriend.

Something about the word is just so precious. And misleading. Unless you’re safely within the confines of a sorority house or discussing someone you met in a chat room last week, that word just doesn’t work. No matter how serious or long-standing the relationship is, once you refer to him as your boyfriend, it sounds all fluffy and insignificant — and gives me the distinct sense a pillow fight is going to break out any second.

So what should you call him if “boyfriend” doesn’t seem right to you, as it never has to me?

Let me help you avoid a mistake I recently made: do not say “my friend” when referring to your romantic partner. If you refer him simply as a friend, you might as well take him for a salt scrub followed by a matinee of “Miss Congeniality 2”; that’s how emasculated he will feel. This is because, sadly, “friend” is also the word used to describe male friends with whom you have no intention of having sex, so you see the problem here. It may be satisfyingly vague and pretty much accurate, but it’s also eunuch-izing.

Moving on. Let’s get into the novelty options: there’s “my old man” and “the old ball and chain.”

I like the former, as it seems to conjure a Hell’s Angels clubhouse and leather pants. Although it’s nice to use the argot of an extra in the movie “Mask,” it can seem somewhat out of place if your “old man” drives a Camry and invests regularly in his 401(k).

“The old ball and chain” has some camp value. But like “my old man” it can be tricky using a term to refer to your partner that contains the word “old.” If he actually is old, that’s uncomfortable. If he’s much younger, in the Demi/Ashton sense, no need to bring that into relief. I’ll throw in “my main squeeze” here as another troubling novelty term. The modifier “main” suggests you have numerous other “squeezes.” Is it just me, or does that sound like “Meet Joe, he’s my main squeeze. I have so many ‘squeezes’ I have to break them down into main, secondary and auxiliary”?

Above, I used the word “partner,” which I will lump in with “companion” as totally useless if you happen to be straight, because everyone associates these expressions with same-sex couples.

Here we head into the category of sugary terms: my sweetie, my honey, my cutie pie. These make me long for the relative class of “my baby daddy.”

A nickname that is used privately is one thing, but I’m talking about the need for a public term. He can be monkey, puppy, bobo or baby in private, but when it’s time to introduce him at a party, you will need a descriptor.

“This is my little puppy pants” is just not going to do when introducing him to your boss. Here is where “my honey” nauseates anyone within earshot, “my friend” pisses him off, “my old man” is trying too hard and “my baby daddy” only works if you have kids. You are stuck with boyfriend, which will make you feel like you’re in the 1950s. Or you’re 15. Or you just wrote his name on your sweatshirt in puffy paint.

If there’s one good reason to get married, it is simply to be able to use the dignified moniker “my husband.” Even “my fiancé” has limited appeal, but husband is solid, works for all ages (except maybe under 15, like in Appalachia, when it’s creepy).

This brings me to “my man,” which has a certain twangy charm. If you can pull it off, good for you and Tammy Wynette, but it’s a bit country for most of us. There’s always “beau,” which is old-fashioned and sweet, but also cloyingly French. “Lover” barely rates a mention, because even in the 1970s it was way too ’70s.

This is where I’m left. Lucky to have the guy, but wishing I had something better to call him.

Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?”

But I notice he didn’t call his play “Ralph and Bertha.”

Teresa Strasser is a TV host and Emmy Award-winning writer. She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.

 

Missing: My Mojo


I can’t explain it any better than this. I think I’ve lost my mojo. That phrase has been going through my head for months now. Lost my mojo.

How do you know you’ve lost your mojo? You get a couple clues.

I’m eating dinner alone at a restaurant when an attractive older man approaches. He puts down his crossword puzzle. We chat. I discern that he’s a divorcé with a teenager, not much my type, but since I’m feeling the mojo slip away, I’m less discerning.

He asks for my e-mail. Never writes me.

What’s a four-letter word for that thing you used to have, that charm, that magic that makes guys ask you out? Mojo.

My friend’s brother, an actor you’ve seen in many movies from the 1980s, asks me out. He brings me gloves because I mention in a column that I gave mine away. We see a play. He insists on taking me to dinner afterward.

Never heard from him again. So, thinking — in a moment of delusion — that my phone may actually not be receiving incoming calls (for a week, despite several calls from people with the last name Strasser) I called him. He didn’t call back. I tried again. I relate a condensed version of that conversational carnage here:

"Hi, this is Teresa. I haven’t heard from you and I just wanted to see how you were doing."

"Yeah, been busy."

"So, I was surprised I didn’t hear from you. I don’t know many people here in New York and I was hoping we could be friends."

"Yeah, what can I say? I thought by not calling you back I was communicating something."

"What?"

"That I’m not interested in pursuing … anything … with you," he said, with all the dynamism of a sleep-deprived substitute teacher.

"You don’t even want to be friends?"

"No. I’m trying to be clear about this. Sorry. See you around campus."

See you around campus? What school are we going to? The University of No Mojo, or U NoMo, as we call it on campus?

Ouch.

A comedian I interviewed for the morning show I work on comes up to me after the show.

"I’m a guy, you’re a girl, we should go out."

It wasn’t the best line, but he gave me his card and as I slipped it in my pocket I thought, I’m back.

I left him a message. A week went by before he returned the call. I called back. He returned my call another week later. You see, when the mojo is working, that call comes the next day, or maybe two days later. Mojo eliminates phone tag. Phone tag is for suckers.

I’ve started to wonder if I’ve reached some sort of expiration date that I can’t find printed on my person. Is it over? My best male friend says I’m crazy. My mom tells me that I’ve just become intimidating to ask out because I’m on TV now, a statement I’m sure is right out of the mom handbook. She has to say that. A Jewish mother is a highly unreliable source.

What if I’m not intimidating but in fact simply unappealing and unattractive? What if this self-deprecating thing I’ve been working for years has grown tired? What if I was such a mess in my 20s that I seemed like a good time to save and a blazing, sloppy fire to put out, and now that I’m slightly more together, there’s no allure?

I pay a sweet woman with smart blazers, sensible shoes and a very calming hairdo to solve these problems for me once a week in 50-minute intervals. She insists that the high drama I provided in my 20s might have been useful in getting into relationships, but it was also pivotal in ending them.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that from age 16 to 28, I never went more than a week without a boyfriend. I listened to my friends drone on about their loneliness, their Internet dating, their desperation and felt the secret smug comfort of knowing that though I was never the prettiest in the room and rarely the smartest, I always had mojo.

Now that I’ve matured, I’m far less likely to, for example, throw a plate at you, hang up on you, toss your stuff out the window or storm out of a restaurant as if you’ve just shot my cat when all you’ve done is infer that your ex-girlfriend was pretty. Just when I’m becoming someone it might not be a nightmare to date, I’m being asked out solely by people who are at least 20 years my senior or 10 years my junior. Worst of all, I’ve become the girl you don’t call back.

Mojo, come back to me. I don’t know where you went, but if you return, I promise not to throw any plates your way.

Teresa Strasser writes from Manhattan where she is a feature reporter for
Fox’s “Good Day New York.” She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.

The Four Menches


The haggadah speaks of the Four Sons: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who doesn’t know how to ask. And on a good night in Hollywood, you can pick up all four. The first Saturday in March is a girls’ night out (with the understanding we intend to pull men). Elizabeth, Sasha, Sarah and I throw on low-cut tops, low-rise pants and do the L.A. barhop thing.

The night kicks off with dinner at Jones. The Wise Son, Scott, sits at the booth next to ours. The waitress-in-training serves this bright young man my seared ahi salad and brings me his loaded pizza. A serendipitous mistake. After straightening out our leggo-my-Eggo sitch, Scott offers to buy me a beer. And we’re rolling.

A consultant, Scott spent four years in investment banking, grabbed an MBA and is now a three-piecer. He’s sharp, sexy and proves to not only be business savvy but flirt savvy. By the time we finish dinner, I know I’d have fun searching for his afikomen. The feeling is mutual, and Scott asks for my number.

He must have taken notes in his B-school communications class, because he phones me that Monday. The Wise Son understands that the rules of dating apply to him and that a timely phone call is key. We head out on a date that Thursday.

I meet the Wicked Son, Marc, at North. This player, armed with a Nokia cell and a helmet of gel, spends more time getting ready than I do. He says this signless Sunset bar is as yesterday as an apple martini, and he’s only here because he knows the hostess.

Despite his slick exterior, there’s something seductive about him. We continue to chat and swap things in common. We like the same films, read the same books and run the same Santa Monica stairs.

The conversation goes well, and next thing I know, I’ve been hit by a smooth criminal. I laugh when he calls the bartender “chief” and smile when he hands me a lemon drop. He invites my gang to an after-hours party, and I coyly accept directions and his cell phone code.

Everything about Marc shouts “buyer beware.” He’s a staple at the Hollywood Hills party circuit, someone who’s always looking for TNBT (the next big thing) and TNNG (the next new girl). And when he finds her, he’ll toss me like yesterday’s Variety. My girls vote no against Proposition After-Party, but I hold onto Marc’s number. This Wicked Son believes dating rules apply to other men, not him. But what can one date hurt?

We girls head west down the strip to Red Rock, where we meet the Simple Son, Josh. This cutie with the tousled hair teaches fifth grade, surfs before class and spends weekends at the beach. His surfer-boy charm and no-worries ‘tude make me want to ride his wave home.

But Josh is a little slow on the draw. I’m flirting my heart out, but nothing seems to penetrate that sea-salt head. Finally, I buy a round of tequila shots. He asks “What is this?” And Sasha explains that women have been freed from the chains of chivalry. An interested girl can now buy a guy a drink. And just when we think all flirting fell flat, Josh scribbles his number on a coaster. Seems Simple Simon just needs things spelled out.

The Fourth, Ryan, is a yummy actor with a cute shankbone. We meet him in the 2 a.m. line at Pink’s. As the girls and I chow cheese fries, the 22-year-old toddler tells us about his plans to make it big. Fresh off the plane, this L.A. newbie brims with wonder, dreams and an incredible smile.

Compared to the bitter herbs Sarah usually meets, Ryan is really refreshing. It’s clear he’s into his Mrs. Robinson, but is too nervous to ask for her number. So the girls and I unleash the wily ways of L.A. dating on this innocent Midwestern boy. We pass along our knowledge of the rules, the game and Sarah’s number to the wide-eyed boy.

Sometimes it seems you need a candle, a feather and a wooden spoon to search out an eligible L.A. man. But more often than not, bedikat-mensch only requires a fun ‘tude, an open mind and a little red tank. In this sprawling city, there’s a new guy around every bar stool, and each is as different as the place you found him.

Now, I’ll admit that not all nights are as successful as that Saturday. But they have the potential to be. And that’s the fun of being single in this city. You never know what an adventure holds. Why will this night be different than all other nights? On all other nights, you turn up as empty as Elijah’s cup, but on this night, you might meet a man. Or in our case — four.

Get a Life


Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Girl stops returning her friend’s phone calls. Girl’s world narrows. Girl loses boy. Girl starts calling her friends again. Girl meets another boy.

A pattern emerges.

It’s obvious, really. I just never noticed it until my boyfriend gave me the week off (he had to "figure things out"), figured he wanted me back, but just days later, went to New York on business for a week.

I turn 17 different kinds of lonely and bored. What social network I had managed to piece together between boyfriends had slowly slipped away.

I call my mom. My weepy monologue can be boiled down into this: "Lonely. Bored. Lonely. Bored. Did I mention lonely?"

"Well, you’ve got to get a life," she says. Her voice seems to echo over the phone. It is the echo of maternal truth, loud and reverberating. "You get a boyfriend and you lose your life, then you become boring and dependent. It’s something a lot of women do, and it’s a bad idea."

"But mom," sniffle, sniffle. "I go to book group."

"That’s one day a month. What about the rest of the month?" she asks. What about it?

Epiphany about getting a life in hand, I realize I have to get over my phone-a-phobia and return calls. It’s time to make coffee dates. See movies with friends, engage in social activities that don’t contain the possibility of hooking up, meeting, flirting. It’s friendship for friendship’s sake, and I’ve got to get busy. More importantly, I’ve got to keep my life when my boyfriend gets back in town.

I can’t believe I’ve joined that club of women who drop everything for a man, treat their friends and hobbies like place-keepers. Men don’t seem to do that. Most of the guys I’ve dated travel in a pack; they have friends from high school and college. They value those connections and never set them aside for long.

I place a few calls.

Lives are like plants. If you don’t water them, they wither. Unaware of the massive paradigm shift in my attitude toward friendship, people take their time calling me back. Finally I set up a Saturday coffee date. We meet early but my friend has to run. It was nice to catch up, and I feel like I’ve taken a baby step toward a life.

The rest of Saturday looms large and rainy, however. My boyfriend calls from New York. The brief conversation can be boiled down into this: "I did this, I did that, I’m living the high life with my pals, who are too numerous to name." Loud subway sound. "My train’s here. I miss you. Bye."

I stare at the phone receiver like a bad soap opera actress who’s just gotten word that her husband is having an affair with her evil twin. I sob and sob. He’s gone, but he’s coming back in four days (who’s counting?). I don’t know why I’m sobbing. I guess it’s a mixture of missing him and hating him for having fun with his friends instead of crawling into a fetal position in his hotel room with the sharp ache of needing me.

I could sit home and theorize about why women often seem to value romantic relationships over all else, whether it’s socialization or just biological wiring. I could do that, but it would be boring, lonely, boring, lonely. I head out to the mall to see a movie. I’m alone, but it’s closer to having a life than watching some bogus figure-skating competition concocted by a lotion company.

I’m a little early for the movie. About two hours early, if you must know. I loll about the crowded mall, trying on makeup at Bloomingdale’s, staring at the bunnies in the pet store, all curled up together sleeping. I see the movie.

I check my messages. A friend (okay, an ex-boyfriend, but you can’t be too choosy when getting a life) calls and wants to see "Hannibal." I’m a vegetarian, but I say yes in the interest of, you know, having a life.

After the movie, we talk for awhile. It’s so comforting to speak to someone who knows me, who has known me awhile. Giving him a friendly hug and walking away, I know what all this is for, why men and smart women retain their friendships. I feel I’ve latched onto a little shred of life and I don’t want to let it go.

The next day, another friend calls and invites me to a party. I agree to go, even though the party is the night my boyfriend returns to town. He’s disappointed I’ve made plans and wants to spend time with me after getting home, but I’m determined to diversify.

My girlfriend calls to bail out on the party. She’s says she’s tired, feeling under the weather. I’m secretly relieved. That worries me, but lives and paradigm shifts aren’t built in a day.

Plush Reminders


Bunny. Das-tardly Bunny. Stupid stuffed, fluffy gift from his ex-girlfriend. Bunny, you’ve enjoyed life on his pillow for awhile, but now you must die. Bunny must die.

This is what I thought as I tossed Bunny out the window of his bedroom last week. You see, there’s something cute about a man with a stuffed animal, but when I realized they used to call each other “Bunny,” it was all too much. Bunny, though cute, was a symbol of a love that had already hippity-hopped on by.

I flung Bunny out into the middle of the street with the deranged zeal of a future serial killer blowing up a cat with a firecracker. Bunny was splayed out like plush road kill.

The Boyfriend ran down the stairs and rescued Bunny with some pathetic excuse like, “Come on, Bunny’s mine now. You have to love Bunny.”

But when Bunny made it back to the pillow, I tossed it back out the window.

“That was the most juvenile thing you’ve ever done,” he said, out of breath from the Bunny rescue but somewhat amused.

“No, this is the most juvenile thing I’ve ever done,” I said, racing back out the door to place Bunny just under the hefty tire of a parked truck.

I couldn’t go through with the Bunnicide. The poor thing looked up at me with its plastic eyes, and I felt certain that it wasn’t the little critter’s fault. I was just disturbed that the Boyfriend had a past, a past filled with cute nicknames, weekend getaways, her meeting his family, and her moisturizer and hair clips still in the bathroom cabinet. Not that I was snooping.

In fact, it’s not just Bunny that bothers me. It’s Pookie, Shmoopy and Bobo. It’s the ghosts of all the ex-girlfriends past haunting me. In a sense, I’m grateful for all their hard work. They trained him. He opens car doors, shows up on time and doles out compliments. He came assembled. Still, in my mind, the parade of exes are all gorgeous, courteous and easygoing. In short, they are better than I am in every way, and I can’t stop wanting to know about them while at the same time wanting them to have never existed.

He has his share of ex-boyfriends to deal with, too. I tried to rid my apartment of all evidence, but when you have as many exes as I do, it can be difficult, sort of like the former Soviet Union getting rid of all evidence of Lenin. Even if photos and trinkets are hidden, the anecdotes seem to crop up. I know it’s a bad idea, but I can’t stop myself sometimes from bringing up past relationships. The stories can be boiled down into one basic sentiment: It’s not like I’ve never been loved before. You’re lucky to have me.

This is lame but under-standable. The question is why I would want to know about Bunny and company.
Can I be shallow for a moment (as if I haven’t already)? Sometimes I ask myself what would be worse, if his ex-girlfriends are all dot-com millionaires and supermodels or community college dropouts with bad perms. I compare myself to these women I don’t even know. If I fall short, that would be painful. If I fall long, would that be even worse?

The fact is, these relationships are over, as lifeless now as a stuffed bunny. I’m probably just looking into the past for clues how our relationship will end — or not end. But maybe it’s like those warnings at the end of mutual fund commercials: “Past performance is not an indication of future earnings.” There’s no use in obsessing about the past. Even I know that.

Yesterday, I noticed another stuffed animal behind a pile of books. It was a small Winnie the Pooh with a hat, antennae and pink wings. Stitched to its shirt were the words, “Love Bug.” Before I could complete the thought, “Love Bug must die,” the Boyfriend saw me see the Love Bug and grabbed it, chucking it right out the living room window.

It was a nice gesture, but the window had a screen. The momentum of the toss forced the Love Bug to ricochet off the screen and land right in my lap. There’s no getting rid of the Love Bug.

Boy Meets Mom


Busted flat in Barstow, I realize the desert is no place for an old Plymouth. The mechanic says something about “a machine shop in Victorville,” and I think that is one phrase you never want to hear in a sentence with your name. That and “feeding tube.”

I’m returning to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, where I spent the weekend with The Boyfriend, introducing him to The Mom, who has inexplicably decided to spend much of her retirement in a cozy little Vegas condo. She has mastered bingo and familiarized herself with every buffet and half-decent casino band in town.

The mechanic won’t know for a few hours what the exact prognosis of the Plymouth is, so The Boyfriend and I cross the dusty, sun-baked road to the Bun Boy, where it’s just about time for the early bird special.

I pretend to read the paper, but I’m mulling over the events of the weekend. I conjure an image of my mother looking right through The Boyfriend, not asking about his job or where he’s from. She’s met so many by now, and I think she and my stepfather just don’t want to get attached, in case he disappears like a political prisoner buried under some Latin American soccer stadium; in case he goes the way of the last few boyfriends, gone with little explanation.

This time, however, I could swear that my mother wasn’t seeing The Boyfriend but instead a giant sperm, a sperm that may or may not fertilize her daughter’s egg and bring her the thing she most wants: a grandchild.

That Saturday, we had all lounged in the pool. Mom’s elbows propped on the edge, she joked about when said grandchild would be coming. “I don’t care if it’s illegit,” she said earnestly, following the great Strasser tradition of voicing what should really be an inner monologue.

And “illegit”? What was she, MC Hammer? Her choice of words wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the sentiment. Then again, I couldn’t be too annoyed, because I understood where she was coming from. It was about a year ago that I woke up and suddenly found dogs and babies cute. Men don’t exactly look like big sperms to me, but I have begun to wonder how, when and if this whole family thing is going to go down.

The Boyfriend and I are polishing off a carafe of jam-like Burgundy at Bun Boy when we decide to check on the car. It’s going to be at least another hour, so we return to our diner booth.

I pretend to be discouraged, but I’m secretly thrilled to be stranded. I don’t want to go home. I love to be stuck between places. Barstow seems as good a place as any to press the pause button on life.

And The Boyfriend is a perfect companion. He’s totally unruffled by the overheating disaster. He lets me cry without offering too much advice. “It’s going to be OK,” is all he says.

“How can you say that when our fate is attached to a machine shop in Victorville?” I ask. He laughs, and I realize that hours have gone by without a tense moment between us — despite heat, a cracked radiator and a creepy tow truck guy named Jerry, who has a leathery face and a mouth full of plaque.

I’m on the fence about The Boyfriend, but I can’t deny that we get along. I sit at Bun Boy wondering how I’ll ever be able to tell the difference between a guy who isn’t right and that ever-popular “fear of intimacy.”

I don’t ever want to leave Barstow, and, according to the mechanic, that’s a distinct possibility. I won’t be able to drive the Plymouth for days. I decide to tow the old lemon back to Vegas so that my mother can return it to the mechanic who fixed the thing just days before, in exchange for another family jalopy that has proven desert-worthy.

It’s late when we arrive in Vegas, and I can tell my mother is happy just to see me again. She doesn’t see much of me these days. The Boyfriend thanks her again for her hospitality. “Just bring me my daughter and you can stay with me anytime,” she says.

“I don’t hug,” she adds by way of explaining her stance several feet from him. And all at once I understand how much I’m my mother’s daughter. And I’m ready to try going home again.


Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.

Relationship Haze


I wanted to try it out. You know, take the old b-word out for a spin in a totally non-threatening environment where I didn’t know anyone and, therefore, could be neither mocked nor held accountable.

The b-word doesn’t exactly roll off my tongue. No, it generally comes out in a halting, raspy fashion, catching in my throat and hitting the air heavy as a suitcase. Still, I had to give it a try, so I went looking for any conversational opening in the anonymous haven of a doctor’s waiting room.

“Oh, your son plays soccer? My boyfriend plays ultimate Frisbee on a team in the Valley,” I say, and the word comes out sounding a little 1950s, but not so bad.

“You’re from New York? My boyfriend is from New York. You breathe air? My boyfriend breathes air.” I was on a roll.

These are the kind of inane concerns that have overtaken my mind lately. This “beginning of a relationship” thing is like standing on a dock and watching all of your life’s usual preoccupations sail away. You wave to them now and again, bidding an unenthusiastic goodbye to your friendships, hobbies, career. They’re still there, just drifting farther into the horizon until you’re left with only a clear view of the person holding your hand, the person who may or may not be your b-word but who has suddenly taken over your life.

“Strasser, what is going on with your last couple of columns?” read a recent e-mail from a fan. “You’ve lost your edge.”

I’m not sure I had an edge to begin with, but I do know I have a habit of marking a mundane phrase with the note “**replace with something funny**,” a task I didn’t get around to on several recent occasions, leaving a clunky sequence of words to sit there and pretty much stink up the joint. And I just didn’t care.

I found myself apologizing to my editor for my less-than-stellar efforts, mumbling something about, “I’ve kind of started seeing someone and I’ve lost all desire to do anything else.”

“Yes,” he replied. “You’re in relationship haze.”

The diagnosis with accompanying catch phrase was comforting. I asked him if it was going to ruin me, and he calmly answered, “Yes, until you get over your happiness and pick up the pieces of your broken life.”

One minute, I was disgusted by couples exhibiting public displays of affection in front of me in line at the bagel shop. The next, I was acting like part of some God-awful movie montage, all giggles and private jokes and glasses of red wine and nicknames.

It’s enough to make you sick if you aren’t a participant. And if you are, it’s enough to make you confused about why exactly it is that you used to care so much about everything else in your life.

The relationship haze isn’t all flowers and love notes. In fact, the most distracting parts are the long talks about, “Where is this going?” and, “Are you OK, your voice sounds funny?” and, “Am I your boyfriend?” Factor in the occasional two-hour phone fight about some ridiculously petty misunderstanding, and you’ve got yourself one very busy schedule filled with absolutely nothing.

I’m also logging quite a few mental hours on future-projecting, that odd pastime that has my brain mentally morphing mine and his gene pools to see what the kids would like look and wondering if that unusual sound he makes when he chews is going to drive me nuts when we’re 50.

There are times when I just want the whole thing to go away. Some mornings, I wake up, feeling like Greta Garbo is trapped in my chest, screaming her famous quote, “I want to be alone…I just want to be alone.”

You’re probably overwhelmed just reading about all these shenanigans. And I haven’t even gotten to the commute.

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it,” says the Song of Songs. But what about the westbound 10 during rush hour with the glare of the setting sun shining right in my eyes for 40 minutes? I think traffic and a geographically undesirable mate may be more of a deterrent to love than a flood ever dreamed of being.

As jarring as it is to be pulled away from my usual routine and my standard repertoire of daily thoughts, sometimes I think that’s the most appealing part of starting a relationship.

Whether this lasts or it doesn’t — and, in my case, the odds are, quite frankly, that it won’t — this last couple of months have been a complete escape. I may feel bad about the aspects of my life that haven’t been attended to, but, in a way, I also relish the break. My old set of worries will be right there where I left them when this guy either slides comfortably into the role of b-word or becomes just another ex-almost-b-word.

**Replace with poignant ending**


Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.

My Place Out of the Sun


I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think it’s over.

I don’t want you to take it personally. It’s not you; it’s me. I just need some time to get my head together. I just need to find out who I am without you in my life. After 28 years, I just need to move on.

Don’t think this is easy. I have loved you like no other. But, Sun, you big ball of golden-tanning fire, you Coco Chanel-bronzing, George Hamilton-burning, skin-searing, ozone-permeating, UVA-ray-emanating, freckle-making love of my life, it’s time for me to leave you.

Everyone says our relationship is toxic. It was one thing when my mother suggested we stop seeing each other after reading some article in the paper about melanoma (melanoma, how could anything sound so pretty and be so ugly?). But my mother has been wrong before. It was Dr. Lewis who really turned me against you. My dermatologist, after the careful inspection and removal of several suspicious moles and sun spots, has told me that I can no longer see you.

We’re not good for each other. Me, with my Hungarian-Jewish pink skin; you, with your cancer-causing rays. It’s a bad mix. And we both know that SPF thing only works for so long before I get burnt.

This is difficult for me. I can’t stop thinking about the summer we met. I was a lifeguard in Yosemite, exposing myself to you at a high altitude and really getting to know you. You made me look 10 pounds thinner. You made me look more like everyone else. You made me feel special. You made me look great in white. Even back than, however, I knew we weren’t a perfect match.

I never expected to look like the girl next door (unless you happen to be living in Budapest). But I was hoping to look a little more like the golden-brown California girl seen on the cover of most Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions. Instead, I turned a shade that can only be described as well-done Canadian bacon.

When my dad came to visit me that summer, he knew something wasn’t right. “I have never seen a person looking quite that color,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right.”

I slathered on some extra sunscreen the next day, but nothing could keep us apart. I was addicted to you, to how you made me feel, to the warm sensation on my shoulders, the peeling nose, the tingling skin. I was just a crazy kid in love.

Remember when I would sneak away from work to see you whenever the temperature rose above 75 degrees? It was just you and me alone in my yard with a good book and a pair of sunglasses. How about when I drove across country and I’d pull over every couple of hours for a brief rendezvous with you at the pool of some illicit motel? I couldn’t get enough of you. I knew you were bad for me, but I needed you.

The trial separation we had in the early 1990s was difficult. Just when I was learning to live with the white skin and black hair combo that makes me look like a witch, or at the very least like Morticia Addams, I saw that stupid “G.I. Jane” movie. Demi Moore’s tan made me think of you. Suddenly, every model and magazine cover made me think of you. This city is full of reminders of you. I had to have you back.

At first, it was great. We were reunited, and it felt so good. But Dr. Lewis really put a scare into me. Young people like myself are dying from some of those innocent looking moles you gave me. He says it’s not good enough to avoid you between the hours of 11 and 2. I have to give you up completely. And, Sun, you and I both know the cancer isn’t the only problem. There’s the wrinkles.

Alpha-hydrox, Retin-A, peels, scrubs — those only go so far. With you, it’s look good today, crow’s feet tomorrow. I just have to let you go and start seeing other skin tones. Sure, I’ll miss you. I’ll miss the trips to Vegas and the days at the beach. Self-tanner will only be a paltry imitation, a mockery of our passion.

Please, don’t try to lure me back with the promise of a healthy glow. I know there’s a price to pay for our love, and losing my life just isn’t worth it. I have to say goodbye. I know I’ll see you around, so I hope we can part on good terms. Just know it’s going to be one long summer without you.


Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.

Enlightened Teresa vs. the Princess of Doom


Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.


Read a previous week’s column by Teresa Strasser:

A Few Words About My Mail

Is This a Bad Time?

Looking for a Few Good Therapists

 Israel and the Cure for Teenage Angst

Driving Miss Lazy

Tossing My Cookies

Temporarily Yours

Notes from the Village of the Damned

Kissing A Lot of Frogs

Enlightened Teresa vs. the Princess of Doom

Let me introduce you to Enlightened Teresa. She’s open, warm, generous. She’s had a lot of therapy. She’s read Melanie Beattie, Tikh Naht Han, Martin Buber and John Bradshaw. She’s a glass that is half-full, life is full of wonderment, a carpe diem kind of gal. She’s can-do!

Then there’s Teresa, Princess of Doom. Life has served her up a few raw deals and she’s more than a little bitter. She doesn’t like new people, new places or new things. In short, it’s safe to say she doesn’t like … change. The Princess of Doom doesn’t take well to life’s little set-backs. In fact, she’s been known to weep openly while clutching a newly minted parking ticket.

Lately these two just can’t seem to agree on anything. They co-exist, battling over daily decisions and vying for position. It’s exhausting, frankly. I’ve discussed this with friends, just to make sure it doesn’t mark some sort of psychotic break, and most assure me they recognize the syndrome. Here are some examples of what happens when Enlightened Teresa and the Princess of Doom step into the ring.

A man I hardly know invites me to his company picnic.

Enlightened Teresa: What a great opportunity to meet new people! You’ve never been to Burbank, now you get to explore a new area! Sure, you’re a little nervous, but that’s normal. You’ll just have to flex those social muscles and see what happens! (Enlightened me doesn’t see anything wrong with using exclamation points, while the Princess of Doom finds them nauseating).

Princess of Doom: Picnic? Two words. Sun burn. Two more words. Food poisoning. I predict an endless afternoon during which you’ll be stuck with a bunch of unspeakably boring accountants eating botulism-infected potato salad and trying to act like you enjoy having your face painted by some out-of-work actor in a clown suit.

I get rejected after a job interview.

ET: Well, this was a great learning experience. You are really on your way. The next time, you’ll really shine. This kind of thing just takes time!

PD: Of course they didn’t want you. You’ll probably end up picking cans out of the trash and collecting all your loose pennies just to buy yourself a pack of generic cigarettes to smoke on the street corner with the other washed-up failures. Believe me, you’re never too young to be a washed-up failure, my friend. (For some reason, the Princess of Doom is prone to expressions like “my friend” and “pal.”)

An ex-boyfriend finds true love.

ET: Isn’t that great for him? You see, there’s someone for everyone! It’s so nice when two wonderful people find each other.

PD: Nice? That yutz can find someone and you can’t? Pack your bags, pal. Looks like you’re about to board the bullet train to Spinster City.

You get the idea. The tricky part is that both have totally equal influence. I suppose as long as they stay neck and neck in the attitude foot race, I’ll stay in that comfort zone between Mary Poppins and Chicken Little. I’m told it’s normal to be somewhat fragmented, that we all have different aspects of our personalities, all of them real, each of them serving a distinct purpose.

Now that I’ve assured you how normal this all is, I might as well tell you about Ginger and Incense-Peppermint-Strawberry-Wine.

Having Ginger is kind of like having my own inner Spice Girl. She’s feisty, aggressive and prone to making very suggestive comments at inappropriate times. When Ginger comes out, it’s like having a minor form of Tourrette’s Syndrome. She blurts out untoward remarks at odd moments with her faux-sexy stripper voice. This makes Ginger an exciting party guest, but a bit of a freak show, say, on an airplane or in an elevator.

And than there’s Incense-Peppermint-Strawberry-Wine. She makes appearances only during first date situations. She’s usually nodding, her features arranged in such a way as to express maximum empathy and interest. She’s soft and sweet, with rounded edges and a winning personality. It’s not like Incense-Peppermint-Strawberry-Wine makes a special effort to obscure the Princess of Doom, but let’s just say she’s a lot more popular. Negativity and bitterness, while amusing, don’t tend to be romance magnets, my friend. Well, we’ve got to go. We rented “Sybil.” Now, that was one crazy chick.

Putting Dinner in the Dinner Date


I remember coming home from my first date witha boy.

There was my mother, waiting up in the buzzyfluorescent light of our kitchen. She was gripping a cup ofalready-cold tea, her elbows propped up on the table. She wouldprobably want to know everything — if I liked him, if he liked me,if we’d see each other again, if I thought he was a good person, ifhe made me laugh.

This was a big moment for her, a single motherwatching her only daughter enter the potentially painful world ofmen. I waited for the onslaught of probing questions as she tightenedthe belt on her faded chenille robe and looked up at meexcitedly.

“Well, what did you have?” she asked. “What did hehave? Was it good? What came with it? Did you have dessert?”

An alien could have landed in our kitchen at thatmoment and have easily been able to deduce one thing about ourfamily: Jewish.

Like many Jewish families, food was at the heartof our rituals, even though we weren’t very religious. Every year,when the streets were deserted on Christmas, we ate chicken chow funat the Hong Kong. The waiters began to expect us that day, bestowingmy brother and I with wind-up “Garfield” dolls as holidaygifts.

There were the usual Jewish soul food favorites,kugel and brisket and chicken soup. And there were rules: Two peopleshould never order the same thing so as to avoid culinary redundancy.Anybody’s plate was fair game, and the forks were alwaysflying.

I was raised to love food. Still, on that firstdinner date, I inexplicably suffered from the fate of many youngwomen of all faiths. I’ll call it “Salad Syndrome.” That night, anddozens to follow, I ordered nothing but a dinner salad, which Idaintily ate as though the jejune meal was the most satisfying dishever.

I am not a big girl, but neither am I small. Whowas I kidding? It had to be pretty obvious that I was putting awaymore than artfully arranged radishes and oil-and-vinegar dressing.Make no mistake, however, this was no eating disorder. I ate justfine. Just not in front of him.

I don’t know what I was trying to hide. Was it myappetite — not just for food but for all of life’s more visceralpleasures? Or was I simply trying to hide the food in the teeth, thegarlic on the breath, the bread crumbs on the chin that would clearlydefine me as human. I guess I wanted to be more mysterious thanmortal, more refined than ravenous, more lettuce than lambchop.

Like fossils, I can look at meals past and see adistinct evolution in my life, from “Salad Syndrome” to a dinner dateI had just last month. I ate a generous helping of salmon withmushrooms, as I would in front of anyone. The salad was only astarter, and I felt perfectly comfortable exposing the shocking factthat I, too, can clean my plate.

To me, a man who likes to see a woman eat is asgood a catch as that salmon. And a man who feels comfortable sharingfood? That’s even better.

Last weekend, I fixated on a woman’s plate at anall-you-can-eat buffet in Las Vegas known as “Pharaoh’s Feast.” Shewas dining with her boyfriend, a beefy gentleman whose muscles werepopping out of a T-shirt shouting the slogan “Failure is Not anOption.” I looked at her sparse array of celery sticks, garbanzobeans and small hunks of cantaloupe and felt I knew her. “SaladSyndrome,” I thought to myself, sighing at the barren landscape ofher lunch tray.

I wanted to lean over and whisper: “Why don’t youhave a little slice of cheesecake. The Pharaoh would want that foryou. It’s not going to kill you — at least not today.” I wanted totell her that food isn’t always a guilt-inducing vice, an attempt tostuff the hungry inner child, a replacement for love, or a sign ofweakness. Sometimes, food is just a snack. And it tastes good.

I wanted to grab a fistful of her bitter celerysticks and let her know that it was time for lunch, not a showcasemeal for her meathead boyfriend. Because famine is no longer anoption.


Teresa Strasser is a twenty-something contributing writer forThe Jewish Journal.

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