“Ladies and gentlemen, Rabbi Aryeh Pamensky holds the secret to your incredible, unbelievable and unparalleled happiness,” announces the emcee in a dimly lit nightspot where hundreds of Jews are gathered, each hoping to attain what half of Americans find unattainable: a happy marriage.”
A happy wife is a happy life,” the rabbi says, and so begins the popular one-man interactive show, “Pamensky Live,” which makes its rounds throughout the United States and Canada.
Pamensky spoke to a reporter in Philadelphia after one of his shows.
Pamensky believes he can eradicate divorce and is on a mission to prove he can make marriage into a heaven on earth for both genders. To that end he has created “Y-Divide Marriage Kit,” which includes a DVD and six CDs.
And he has written two books: “Marrying The Y-Divide: Bridging the Gender Gap” and “Ten Top Amazing Marriage Tips.” He is also on the road throughout the year, garnering rave reviews at scores of comedy clubs and other trendy locales. It is not just the married folks he addresses; the 42-year old South African native raised in Toronto targets single audiences nationwide for comparable dating seminars, though his advice differs pre- and post-marriage.
“Pamensky Live,” known as the Jewish version of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” gives the men in the crowd a job. Recognizing that men are not innately what he terms “relationship beings,” Pamensky offers a job description for men looking to transform their existing relationship into one that fulfills their every dream. In an entertaining presentation, the rabbi assures men that they will not have to go through massive personal and interpersonal changes: “I say, ‘You’re a guy and you don’t have to change. Who you are right now can satisfy your wife,’ and they feel a weight lifted off their shoulders.”
According to Pamensky, their eyes open wide and they are baffled that he is not urging them to become sensitive, communicative beings.
Pamensky responds, “If you become that, your wife won’t be happy anyway. She wants to be married to you as a man. So now, you, as a man, can fulfill her. I have tools to teach you how to make it work where you’re at. Now this is how you do it….”
Pamesky believes women are incredibly complicated, but they all need the three As: attention, affection and appreciation, and once they receive this from their husbands, they channel their energy into creating a loving and adventurous affair with their spouse. On this premise, as a woman grows more content and pleased in her marital relationship, her reservations melt away and she opens herself up to pampering her husband. Pamensky’s presentation humorously depicts just what kind of attention and affection he is referring to.
He advises the men to drop whatever they are doing and give their wives undivided attention.
“Don’t tune out,” he warns, recommending eye contact and attentively listening to everything she is saying. By affection, the rabbi is referring to affectionate tones and nonsexual touch. Appreciation generally speaks for itself.
Addressing the women, Pamensky says, “Take a look at your man now, and you will forever look at him entirely different. He is a huge ego with legs. When he does his job [making you happy], stroke his ego over the top. Men live for this. The greatest way to bolster his ego is letting him know how his gestures made you feel for the good.”
He jokes, “We always hear about it for the bad.”
“The Amazing Marriage Seminar,” portions of which are included in the “Live” performance, is the culmination of many years of rabbinical study of the Torah and other Jewish texts, in conjunction with Pamensky’s work as a marriage counselor and personal coach.
“The self-help business is a gazillion dollar business, and so many people who attend are Jewish, so I always wondered, ‘Why don’t they go to Judaism for this stuff?'” he said. “I always had a dream of taking the wisdom of Judaism and putting it in self-help language that is palatable to people who don’t have access to the texts themselves. There is a tremendous 3,500-year-old tradition that’s been passed down concerning wisdom for understanding marriage.”
According to the Pamensky plan, “make your wife feel that she is the most important person in your life; that nothing going on in your life is more important than her.”
In a tone that implies, “Hey, I’m one of you, just a regular guy,” he cautions, “Gentlemen, you’ve got to appreciate that every time you make your wife feel less important than something else in your life, be it work, children, sports, parents, television or hobbies, that thing becomes a mistress, and your wife will fight you on everything that has to do with that mistress.”
At each performance, Pamensky reminds men that their wives will support them on their every endeavor so long as she feels she is more important than any other person or thing.
For singles, he takes a different approach.
“Dating sets you up for a bad marriage,” Pamensky said at one of his packed singles events, which was sponsored by Discovery Productions, a New York-based nonprofit Jewish outreach organization. The dynamic is all faulty from the get-go, he maintains, since dating is always on a man’s terms. “That’s how you begin the relationship, and women think that once they get married, it is going to switch, but you have already set precedents. The skill set for dating,” he continues, “when applied to marriage causes bad marriages.”
“Most of marriage is about fulfilling the other person’s needs, and this is why dating is not a good training ground for marriage,” Pamensky says. He adds that since there is no alternative, “you just need to learn how to date smart.”
He says one of his most rewarding moments came when a woman ran up to him in gratitude after one of his performances, tearfully exclaiming, “How do I thank the man who saved my life?”
With a chuckle, Pamensky says, “You see, that’s how women speak about relationships!”
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Dating by Committee
My guy Scott and I talked every night — until last night. He flew to San Francisco to hear a friend’s band play and I never heard from him. I left a message, he left me hanging. I know. He calls me, he calls me not, is nothing new. But it’s new to me. I’m too cute to be blown off. No seriously — way too cute.
And yet, I haven’t heard from him. I’ve been dating for more than a decade. I should know what this means, but I don’t. I’m Jewish. What do I know from a silent night? So I do what any woman in my sitch would do: I pick up the phone and call — don’t say him. Please, that’d be too logical. I call my girlfriends — ‘cuz women date by committee. When faced with a new crush, a dating dilemma or a relationship 911, we dial our friends and ask for advice.
“I’m gonna be honest, you’re in trouble,” said Amanda, who’s currently juggling two men. “It’s not good. It’s gotta be another girl.”
Scott and I have been linked for awhile. He’s a great guy, an honest guy; he’d never make a behind-my-back pass at another woman. So it’s gotta be — “you,” said Ann, who often goes three dates and out. “You’re probably pressuring him, he wants some space.”
Space? He spent the night in Northern California. That’s unofficially another state.
“If he can’t handle calling you, he can’t handle dating you,” pipes in newlywed Rachel. “What happens if you two get married and have kids? Your son is sick at school, and since Scott’s closer, you call and ask him to pick Morty up. But Scott doesn’t call you back and sick little Morty’s left waiting all alone on the playground. In the rain. Is that what you want?”
I know I don’t want to name my son Morty.
Men don’t do this. Men don’t overanalyze their relationships with their buddies. They don’t compare and contrast their girl’s behavior with that of their friend’s ex. They don’t do a play-by-play analysis of their last date. They don’t discuss. But girls always move in packs. We shop together, workout together, hit the ladies room together — in fact, we do everything in groups, except the one thing men wish we did in groups.
When it comes to relationships, girls are all about group think. We poll all our friends; we share all the evidence. We dissect voicemails men leave on friends’ phones. We decode text messages guys send to friends’ cells. We decipher e-mails that our friends forward in their entirety. My girls and I break down what a guy says, why he says it and why he didn’t say more. We analyze and scrutinize and interpret and debate. We’re like the great talmudic sages poring over a single phrase of the Torah. But hotter.
“Don’t worry. He’s just having fun with his friends. He’ll call when he gets back,” my college friend Kim said. “It’s not a big deal.” She’s right. She has to be right, because I so want her to be right.
See, women don’t really call friends for advice, we call for backup. In times of crisis and indecision, we call friend after friend after friend until we find one who agrees with us, someone who tells us what we’ve already told ourselves, someone who tells us what we want to hear.
It’s like the french fry phenomenon. When girls grab lunch we’re faced with the “Sophie’s Choice” of fruit or fries with that. We all want fries, we all get fruit. But if one girl admits she’s considering fries, there’s a frenzied chorus of “If you get them, I’ll get them.” Suddenly we’re all eating fries. And Macho Nachos. And we go to town on an Awesome Blossom. Girls are always looking for friends to second our motion. Or order seconds. Or dessert. We’re not looking for opinions, we’re looking for confirmation. We want to find someone who interprets a situation the same way we do.
All I want is someone to tell me that I shouldn’t be nervous. That I’m right to believe one unreturned phone call is just that — an unreturned call. Not a bad sign … or a meltdown … or the Love Boat sinking.
But while my friends might be “dating mayvens,” the truth is: No one knows a relationship like the two people who are in it. Sometimes, we shouldn’t let our clique convince us that all is good when it’s going down fast. Or buy in when they say a good relationship’s going bad. We should listen to our gut — or in this case, the message, which Scott left while I was overanalyzing with the girls.
“Hey Carin, it’s Scott. Sorry I didn’t call last night. We were out late. I didn’t want to wake you. But my flight lands around 5. Thought maybe we’d grab Thai food together. Miss you.”
Hmm. All in favor of me meeting Scott for dinner say “aye.” All against say … actually on this one, the only vote that counts is mine.
Freelance writer Carin Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch Out Ladies, Dad’s Dating Again
Guess who has a new girlfriend? Well, besides me. And thanks in advance for your warm wishes. It’s the old man, actually. That’s right. Look out golden girls. Dad’s dating again.
Well, he was — until he met “the one.” Can you believe that? Six months and he’s off the market already. Now you can’t even get the guy on the horn. And when you do, his chick’s always beeping in on call-waiting.
“Tell her you’ll call back,” I plead.
Seniors today — always yapping on the phone.
Dad, or as I now refer to him, “Hef,” turns 80 this year. That just goes to show you how badly men want women in their lives. You think the urge would flame out at age 72? Please. 76? Hardly. The big 8-0 and still scoping out babes like Potsie on “Happy Days.”
A bit out of practice, yes, but give the guy some credit. Sure, he left the dating scene for a brief 52 years, but he returned stronger than ever. Scoured the online personals. Hung out at senior singles nights. Met and dated a number of women. My sisters started setting him up with prospects they came across.
I had thought about asking my female friends about their moms, but worried if things worked out a certain way, I could theoretically wind up as my own grandfather.
You’ve heard of the book, “He’s Just Not Into You”? Well, he’s really into this woman. It’s always “my girlfriend this” and “my girlfriend that.” Just like a teenager: No job. Obsessing over women. A really bad driver. I’m expecting the acne to start at any moment.
And get this — he’s asking me for advice! Me. The guy who once broke up with the same girl five times in seven months. I’m more confused than anyone.
Sure, I’ve dated a fair amount, but the over-70 age range is one even I haven’t yet ventured into. Don’t have a clue as to what those gals have on their mind. But judging from the women I do know, I’m guessing cats and jewelry wouldn’t be too far off.
Also Harry Connick Jr.
And the stories I hear. Once, he told me he met a woman who said she was 68. And guess what? That’s right — she was actually 71. Nice to see some courtship traditions last a lifetime.
Another time, I got the “why should I call her, let her call me” argument. Or “She lives too far away.” And “We don’t have anything in common.”
Now I know where I get my sunny disposition.
I’m glad he finally met someone. A nice, Jewish woman at that! She’s terrific. Pretty. Well-mannered. Early 70s. Marriage-minded, but not looking to have more children, evidently.
They’re having a great time. Even went to Disneyland the other day. The two of them flying down the Matterhorn like screaming kids. I’d suggest bumper cars, but it only promotes more bad habits behind the wheel.
Note to ABC: “The Bachelor — Senior Edition.”
Anyway, he’s happier now. That’s the great thing about finding someone — at any age. Gives you more reasons to keep going. Not that stamp collecting and watering the lawn aren’t enough. And the best part? It keeps him out of my hair.
Now I do the badgering: “How’s your girlfriend? How come I never hear from you anymore? When are you getting married? No, of course, I would never submit a story about you to a local publication read by all of your close friends and family members.”
I envy them. Seems to be a lot less pressure when you’re dating at their age. Fewer expectations and demands. They’ve been together a year and not one major fight, as far as I can tell.
Can’t wait for the bachelor party. Question: Do I hire dancers? Or their grandmothers?
I hope it lasts forever. I really don’t want to run into dad during happy hour at Hooters. At least not again.
Freelance writer Howard Leff lives in Los Angeles with one dog and two guitars. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Wedding Bell Oops!
By Sunday evening, single women across America were trying to slit their wrists by inflicting a hundred little paper cuts from the Sunday New York Times Magazine, featuring an article by Maureen Dowd, “What’s a Modern Girl to Do?”
Feminism is over, Dowd writes, men only want to date non-challenging, non-career-oriented women, and women are willingly returning to traditional gender roles.
If “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw were writing this article, she’d type in her familiar courier font: “Sometimes I wonder … are men threatened by smart, successful women?”
But Carrie’s era has ended, apparently, says the real-life (non-sex) op-ed writer Dowd, pictured in the Oct. 30 magazine in an austere black suit paired with fishnet stockings.
“So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?” she laments.
I felt like I was listening to my father, or my rabbi — if I still had one (a rabbi, not a father) — with this return to men as providers, women as caretakers and never the twain shall meet.
Dowd’s basic theory posits that “The Rules” — that once-silly guidebook on how to entrap a man, which is now read nonironically, as in The Torah of dating — was just the beginning. The end, a decade later, is women in their 20s who go to law school planning to drop out to get married, women who won’t call a guy because men don’t like to be chased and men marrying nurturers like their secretaries because they don’t desire a challenging woman (like “the boss”). Which leaves some smart, successful women wondering, alone, where they went wrong.
It’s not that Dowd said anything particularly new. It’s just that, well, the thing is … a lot of it is true. I wish I could deny it; I wish I could say that feminism is safe and Dowd is bitter. And that the people she quotes are a small random selection; and that plenty of people find an equal partner; and my friends and I will too someday (soon). But I’ve had too many recent experiences that suggest otherwise:
- At a recent Sukkot meal I met a single guy, an educated artist-intellectual who was becoming religious. What he found lovely about religion was the “traditional roles that people — women — played in terms of family,” he said, before stopping when he saw the look of horror on my face.
- My friend’s father recently came out to visit from New York. The man’s a professor at a prestigious university and married to a woman who is also a professor at a better university and who makes more money than him. After I spent the whole night trying to charm him silly, he told his son, “She’s going to have trouble meeting a man. She’s too smart.”
- I was recently rebuffed by a guy who said, “You’re the type of woman I could bring home to my parents, but my problem is I’m only attracted to stupid, simple women — women whom I’d never socialize with or bring home to my parents.”
He’d go out with these bartenders, dancers — secretaries — for a few months till conversation ran dry and he couldn’t stand the sight of them any longer and then flee like an escaped convict to socialize with the likes of me — people in his “class.” It was not a question of looks.
“You’re just too smart for me,” he said sadly.
Look, I’ve tried dating down. My last two boyfriends were by no means my intellectual equals; they weren’t threatened by my brain, but they weren’t particularly interested either. Or interesting, really. I chucked them in hopes of finding my intellectual equal, my soul mate, the man I can ask advice from and discuss everything with — from literature to politics to religion to child rearing, to even this stupid New York Times article.
But I hear that he’s off dating his secretary, his physical therapist, his nanny, his cook — all the nurturers we thought we could hire while we provided the intellectual stimulation, which he apparently prefers to get from “The Daily Show.”
Look, maybe we can’t have it all — the perfect career and the perfect man and the perfect family — and if I could do it all over again, maybe I’d do some things differently: Maybe I wouldn’t have done all that I’ve done if I had known the price for independence is … being alone.
Maybe. But maybe not.
Dating for women of my generation has always been about the conflict of being yourself vs. behaving like someone else in order to get the prized man. But what kind of guy would I get if I behaved like someone else? Who would I be? What kind of we would there be if I weren’t me?
The women of the generations before me, well, maybe they were lucky. Lucky without feminism, lucky to be in the haven of their traditional roles. And maybe that’s the happy fate that also awaits the women of the future.
What is a Modern Girl to do, Ms. Dowd? Sadly enough she doesn’t answer that question, so I guess this is one article I’m going to have to write on my own.
Wedding Bell Oops!
Taking relationship advice from your Jewish mother is like heeding a shiksa friend’s advice about curly hair gel. It’s not their area.
Besides, your mom has an agenda: to get you married. Sure, she wants you to be happy. But in her mind, the two may or may not coincide. Consider the following well-meaning but misguided maternal advice:
You Can’t Love Somebody Else Until You Love Yourself. Of course you can! Granted, you may not love the person in a healthy, much less reciprocal way. But you’ll think you’re in love, and the power of a delusional mind and desperate heart are a formidable combination. Besides, love and hate are far enough apart on the scale of emotions that they come full circle and become the same thing. Your self-loathing turns into other-loving, so that the more you hate yourself, the more you love the other person. Don’t wait for self-esteem to kick in before pursuing romance. That could take years of therapy and remember, you’re not getting any younger.
If You Marry for Money, You’ll Pay the Price. Not really. Money’s good and, the fact is, no matter whom you’re with, you’re bound to be disappointed eventually. Wouldn’t you rather be disappointed and rich than disappointed and broke? Think of it this way: You can be disappointed on an estate in Malibu or disappointed in a crappy, roach-infested studio apartment in Reseda. Besides, what better way to drown your disappointment than in a shopping addiction?
You Won’t Meet Anyone by Sitting Home Alone in Front of Your Computer. Actually, I’ve never met more people more quickly than by sitting home alone in front of my computer. It’s like being at a fabulous party, but looking my best (courtesy of a JDate photo taken three years ago) and not having to deal with freeway traffic or second-hand smoke. In fact, my fondest dating encounters recently have taken place from the comfort of my Aeron chair.
Just Be Yourself. Do our mothers really expect us to get to a second date by being ourselves? Will any guy show interest in a judgmental intellectual snob who visibly rolls her eyes when her date says he doesn’t know who Thomas Friedman is? On the other hand, most guys will go ga-ga over a woman who says, “No way! Me, too!” when her date declares that “Tommy Boy” is his all-time favorite movie. So if your date thinks David Spade is an underrated genius and you think David Spade is a moron, feel free to borrow your date’s opinions. If he gushes about Aqualung, gush back for the sake of simpatico. (“Aqualung? Yeah, I love Aqualung!” — even if you’ve never heard of Aqualung.) If he says his favorite movies are “A Clockwork Orange” and “Raging Bull,” there’s no need to mention that yours are “Amelie” and “Lost in Translation.” If he says he’s a vegan who doesn’t eat junk food, stop yourself from talking about your love of Big Macs and Cold Stone chocolate sundaes. (The implication being: We both like healthy food, therefore we like each other.) It’s advisable to take on alternate personalities as we try to guess what type of person might appeal to the object of our affection. Be yourself, on the other hand, and you’ll be by yourself.
If He Can Have the Milk for Free, He Won’t Buy the Cow. Our moms clearly forgot about the sexual revolution. Nowadays, no guy will marry you just for the nooky. So if you’re going to be manipulative, choose something else to withhold. Like the truth about who you really are. Because if you give him that, he’ll probably want to trade you in for a less dysfunctional cow.
Put on Some Lipstick, Mascara and a Cute Outfit When You Go Out for Your Morning Coffee — You Never Know Who You Might Run Into. Nobody wears makeup and a matching Juicy Couture get-up when they roll out of bed on Sunday mornings unless they’re Britney Spears or the Hilton sisters. If I’m all dolled up in the Peet’s line, it doesn’t matter who I run into — guys will be running away from me.
Honest Communication Is Key. Both honesty and communication can wreck an otherwise peaceful courtship. Nothing ends a relationship faster than getting the truthful answer to “What are you thinking about, sweetie?” and having him reply, “I was thinking about what the 19-year-old college student who works at Kinko’s looks like naked.”
Act Uninterested — It’s a Turn-on. A turn-on to whom? We’ve all had our objects of infatuation act uninterested, and it didn’t make us like them more — it just made us like ourselves less.
No disrespect to our mothers, but courtship rituals have changed since they were dating. So forget all their antiquated rules. Except the one about never criticizing your boyfriend’s mother, no matter what. If he secretly hates his mother, he’ll end up hating you instead for merely broaching the subject. In fact, he’ll probably accuse you of hating his mother, and say that he can’t love anyone who hates his mother, even though in truth he loves you and hates his mother. Or else he loves his mother so much that he hates you for demanding a portion of that love. Either way, you lose.
So shut up about his mother. Because this is one area Mom knows something about.
Lori Gottlieb, a commentator for NPR, is the author of “Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self.” Her Web site is www.lorigottlieb.com.
An Oleh Love Story
The List has taken over. If you are male, you may not be aware of this, but if you are female, you probably already have one.
You show me a single woman looking for love, and I’ll show you a girl with a detailed and specific written list of qualities she’s looking for in a mate.
Check our journals, check our spiral notebooks, check our online profiles, we have them.
I don’t know exactly when this happened, I can’t pinpoint the genesis of this idea, but within the last five years The List has become a cornerstone of the female dating process. If you didn’t read it in a book, some therapist encouraged you to make one. Or a group of well-meaning friends made you scavenge an old envelope out of your purse and write on the back: educated, tall, good job, likes dogs, on good terms with his mother, nice feet, sense of humor, blah blah blah.
Scattered across every dating and love advice column on the Internet — some written by respected therapists, others by unemployed former folk dancers blogging from their local public library — is some form of the following advice: “Manifest your divinely selected mate by making a list of the qualities you want.”
From JDate to eHarmony, most online matchmaking sites encourage some form of The List, and this may be how the concept took root.
It’s the JDate-ization of courtship. If I can select for “doctors, living in Los Angeles, over 6 feet, no kids,” press “enter” and get 19 matches, is the act of list-making not reinforced? And of course, there are the urban legends, the stories of The List conjuring a soul mate. These stories are whispered over breakfast, shared in great detail in the pages of self-help books. The List is considered a powerful spiritual offering, a rain dance that makes it rain men, hallelujah.
I would be the first to mock The List if not for this: a therapist (one of the team I keep on call) suggested I make one about four years ago. I set about the task that night, listing about 30 qualities ranging from “Ivy League educated” to “nice thumbs.” My assignment was to include everything, major and silly, that I wanted, some things negotiable, others not.
Three days later, I met a successful television writer we’ll call Listy.
The sudden appearance of Listy seemed miraculous, almost creepy. He was every single thing on the list. We dated for 10 months and Listy was great, other than the fact that by the end of the relationship I was trying to figure out what combination of prescription drugs would kill me the fastest. It was only when I stumbled on that list months after we broke up that I realized I had left something off: Kind. Oops.
So I can’t ridicule The List. In fact, I fear its power.
When I told my friend this story she had an eerily similar experience, only she had forgotten to include “heterosexual.” She met and dated the perfect guy, only he was also looking for the perfect guy.
“Working with the list makes you aware and alert,” writes one relationship counselor. This may true, but so does drinking a six-pack of Red Bull.
Again, I’m not against knowing what you want, clarifying priorities; it just seems to have fundamentally altered the human mating dance, putting our brains on “sort” when they could be on “receive.”
I understand “positive visualization,” the notion that putting your desires out into the universe can make them manifest, I just wonder if we’re all qualified to make our own lists. I certainly wasn’t. Whatever you call the power greater than yourself on the days you believe in one — Spirit, God, the Universe, The Force, Good Orderly Direction — perhaps It, He, She knows better than we do.
This may come as a surprise, but I’m no expert in Jewish liturgy. Still, my years in Hebrew school weren’t a total waste. If I recall, “Avinu Malkeinu” means, “Our Father, Our King” not “Our Burger King.”
You can’t just pull up to the divine drive-through and place an order, “Hold the pickles, extra sauce, no ice in the Diet Coke and please make him a blond who reads Robert Frost and can salsa dance.”
It could be that giving orders to the universe is like telling a masterful chef exactly what to put in your soup. Maybe it’s best to just shut up and taste what you get served.
This is all easy for me to say, because my current boyfriend is nothing like my list — and way better.
Teresa Strasser is a TV host and Emmy Award-winning writer. She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.
The Mickey Rule
My brother Mickey works with teens and adults as a mental health counselor. Mickey began his counseling career while he was a teenager. Like many talented people who begin their careers with a significant bang, he gave me advice on teenage dating that was so profound, so far-reaching, that only in my 40s, as a divorced man, did I realize its importance.
Had I diligently followed what I call, "The Mickey Rule," my life and certainly my postdivorce dating would have taken a different path. When I was in my tender teen years, Mickey said, "Do you want to be happy? Then don’t sleep with anyone crazier than you."
For those separated or newly divorced, truer words were never spoken. For many of my friends, and even me, the crazy time of divorce attracts those equally crazy or worse.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that states: "If you are going through a convulsive experience, you ought to be open to those with equally or more compelling issues." Whatever happened to: "Put your own mask on first, then, tighten the straps before you try to assist others"?
Still, way too many of us violate the Mickey Rule. Following my separation, I began dating someone who initially met four criteria her predecessor lacked, and so happy was I at getting those four met, I forgot about the other 20 criteria that also mattered. 1) She was an out-of-stater, and only in my world on my per-incident invitation. 2) She had a quality I so admire in a woman: a lot of interest in me. 3) She possessed an attitude toward sexuality I had previously only seen on Animal Planet. 4) She was cute. I mean really cute.
What I didn’t initially realize was that she was also certifiably nuts. Not eccentric, not wacky. I’m talking her own, personal DSM-IV classification. She probably thought "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" was a documentary.
Her out-of-town status gave her time to straighten up for my short visits. Her profound interest in me masked a pathological unwillingness to attend to her own needs. Her libido, well, that would later prove to not be worth the cost of entry. If she had been local, her tenure in my life would have lasted about as long as your average JDate drive-by coffee meeting. But she lasted longer. In fact, the break up took longer than the actual relationship. I was low-hanging fruit in this experience, but I was a volunteer in the orchard.
Why do we go for insane people?
There are many answers, and in the name of service, let me offer some tips. First a disclaimer: I have been divorced for almost nine years. Today, I am in a loving relationship with a woman who is my peer, my passion and one of my heroes. I had several postdivorce relationships (you know the score, first you get appointed, and then you get disappointed) and I enjoy a great collaborative relationship with my former spouse, whom I respect. I am a lucky man. Now, let’s return to our regular programming.
We go for crazy people because we don’t understand our criteria in a partner. I think women are generally clearer on what they are looking for than us men. Some guys like an organic approach to defining wants (e.g., "I’ll learn on the job"). Others just pick a single quality and hone in on that item. Once, following a relationship with an esthetician, I temporarily only picked JDate women with great eyebrows. I wouldn’t recommend that one as criteria. I could see it leading to the "Crazy Person’s Full Employment Act."
We attract where we are at. You see it in spades among folks searching for a financial/emotional/spiritual rescue. Instead of attracting someone to rescue them, they seem to only pull in people who also need rescuing. So, before you look at a person, look in the mirror. Ask yourself if their tsuris is drowning out your ability to deal with your own stuff. Or what is it about you that really attracts them?
We often don’t understand the risks of physical chemistry. Physical chemistry is like Botox — a little of it smoothes wrinkles and a lot of it paralyzes you. Don’t get me wrong, I admire physical beauty (hell, my partner is downright yummy) and I understand why supermodels get paid big bucks. But physical chem ain’t enough, not even here in Los Angeles. Here’s a little test to see if you are misaligned on the importance of physical beauty: Close your eyes and listen to the object of your affection talk for a minimum of two paragraphs. If their personal stock price drops while your eyes are closed, you may have a problem.
Chemistry is not correlated with human goodness. Remind yourself often that you can have great chem with some very wrong people. But remember, it’s not your job to judge your exes. That’s the responsibility of the criminal justice system.
If you think being in a relationship with a crazy person is bad, wait till you break up with them. Welcome to "bunny boiling." The key to avoiding a category-five hurricane is to do something I once failed to do: effective pre-breakup planning. Remember to remove all personal possessions from their home before the announcement. The key is denying the loon a huge number of opportunities to hijack the normal exchange of personal possessions and turn it into a series of bad Tennessee Williams dramas.
Applying the Mickey Rule. Is there hope once you embrace the Mickey Rule? Despite the mourning that we all go through after one of these experiences, most everyone winds up being loved better than they were before.
For me, it was simply a matter of becoming the person I wanted to attract. I did it a little later in life, but nevertheless, just in time.
Sam Shmikler is a writer living in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Forbidden Food
Nearly 1,600 people packed Sinai Temple Oct. 10 for the Westwood synagogue’s monthly “Friday Night Live” singles summit, where a Toronto transplant said she was, “looking for modern, chivalrous men.”
The temple’s hallways were “like a Fellini film,” said a bachelor navigating a thoroughfare of short, fat, tall, petite, pink-booted, shy, arrogant, on-the-prowl, starting-over, major-attitude, rail-thin, obese, brunette, red-haired, balding, blonde, dirty-blonde and bottle-blonde Israelis, Persians, Russians plus Commonwealth, American, Westlake Village and Westside Jews.
The evening’s highlight was Rabbi David Wolpe’s chat with Journal singles columnists Carin Davis, Mark Miller, J.D. Smith and Teresa Strasser.
“I think that alcohol should be involved in all blind dates,” Davis said jokingly.
The discussion took a loud turn when a 30-something man in fraying blue jeans, old sneakers and worn sweater rose from a front-row seat where he sat on a thoroughly read newspaper, approached an over-modulated, questions-from-the-audience microphone and said, “I’ve literally been to 57 Friday Night Lives. I’ve run personal ads for 10 years. What am I doing wrong?”
“I can’t imagine,” said Strasser in total deadpan. As he returned to his newspaper-covered lair, Strasser commented, “That’s the Una-Dater.”
Wolpe’s dating advice to the panel’s overflowing crowd was simple: “You can go out with someone casually, but you can’t treat someone casually.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Art of the Brain, a nonprofit that raises money for the UCLA neuro-oncology program, celebrated the talent and zest for life of brain cancer patients at its fourth annual gala fundraiser, “The Bravery of the Brain,” at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall in September. The gala attracted some 500 people, who enjoyed food donated from some of Los Angeles’ top restaurants.
The event raised $300,000 for brain cancer research.
A Time to Mourn
The High Holidays are generally a time for reflection and prayer, which is why 2,500 SoCal Jews made their way to the Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries on Oct. 5 for the traditional Kever Avot (grave of our fathers) service.
During the service, the 50-voice Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale sang and Rabbi Sheree Z. Hirsch delivered the memorial address. Cantors Joseph Gole, Ira Bigeleissen and Chayim Frenkel sang the traditional prayers of “El Malei Rachamim” (“God Full of Mercy”), “Adonai Roi” (“The Lord Is My Shepherd”) and “B’Yado” (“In His Hand”).
A similar service was conducted at Mount Sinai’s Simi Valley location where Cantors Rochelle Kruase and Rickie Gole led the prayers and Rabbi Naomi Levy delivered the memorial address.
As part of the service, many of the attendees bought food for the SOVA Food Pantry in Los Angeles.
The audience of almost 250 at the University of Judaism’s Oct. 9 screening of the action-hero spoof, “The Hebrew Hammer” roared with laughter when “Hammer” star Adam Goldberg — the Jewish “Shaft” — guns down neo-Nazis while shouting, “Shabbat Shalom, mother——!”
The tattoo-covered Goldberg sat on a post-screening panel with the “Hammer” team, taking questions via Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman. As a few audience members left, Goldberg eyeballed them and said mockingly, “maybe we should talk about Christianity.”
In a distribution plan unique for a low-budget independent film, “Hammer” will premiere on Comedy Central around Chanukah and then open in art-house theaters. Filmmaker Jonathan Kesselman said that in Israel, “they loved it — an ass-kicking Jew in a country of ass-kicking Jews.”
When Eshman asked why he made a 1970s-style blaxploitation movie about a Jewish superhero, the Van Nuys-bred Kesselman said, “Because I’m proudly Jewish. I wanted to make a lot of money — sell [“Hammer”] T-shirts to Jews.” — DF
What Do YouTHink?
Styrofoam heads, tzedakah boxes and student-produced public service announcements were all part of the social commentary art on display at the youTHink’s Open House Event at the Zimmer Children’s Museum on Oct. 1. YouTHink, a statewide education program sponsored by the museum and the Center for American Studies and Culture, uses the power of art to foster critical thinking and serve as a tool for social change. The program, which is directed by Shifra Teitelbaum, services public schools in Los Angeles. Each lesson in the program is divided into three parts. During the first, students view social commentary art on a theme, such as civic and social responsibility or education, and then after discussing it, they create tangible artwork.
Middle school educator Chris Saldivar said the youTHink program motivated his students to “think about the world in which they live and how they can be empowered to make a difference.”
The Friend Zone
Jay and I met watching college hoops at Maloney’s in March. He’s a Syracuse fan who came to believe his team would only win when my tush was on the bar stool next to his. Apparently, I give good karma. Hoping to get lucky, Jay had me sit next to him for the entire NCAA tournament. It was the start of a beautiful, well, friendship.
See, I assumed Jay and I would quickly be making our own March Madness. But five months and an Orangemen national title later, Jay and I still haven’t kissed. Oh, we hang out 24/7. We catch games, watch movies, grab dinner. We basically do everything but grab each other.
Do you know where you are? You’re in the friend zone, baby.
Jay isn’t my first foray into the friend zone. I basically pitched tent here. I’m a girl with three brothers who learned early on how to play nice with the boys. I used to think it worked for me, but now I know it works against me. Sure, men dig me, they just don’t date me.
Guys like Jay spend hours talking to me about sports, music, movies and — grrrr — other women. I’m the cool chick who can help them pull other chicks. But why do they need other chicks when they have me? I can be a full-service station.
Frustrated with my always-the-best-friend-never-the-bride status, I turn to these very men for advice. Who better to explain how I end up in the friend zone than the ones who banish me there? So guys, why aren’t I dating material? Why can we have an amazing friendship, but not a relationship? Like any single woman, I immediately assume it’s because….
"You’re not fat," said Rich, my college buddy. "You’re hot. I’m sure Jay thinks you’re hot. I’m sure Jay thinks of you naked. I mean, I have. We’re guys — that’s what we do. Jay just hasn’t done anything more than think about it. Neither have I."
Great. Not only has Jay considered hooking up with me, then exercised his out clause, but now I know Rich has, too. Thanks for the pep talk, Coach Buttermaker. Feelin’ oh so much better about myself now.
"Maybe, you’re giving out the friend vibe," suggested Matt, my old roommate. "Does Jay know you’re into him? Are you hinting? Flirting?"
No, I just wear low jeans, tight tanks, and reveal my midriff because I’m hoping to get cast on a WB show. Of course I’m flirting. I majored in flirting. I rule at flirting.
"Maybe it’s because you act like one of the guys," suggested Paul, as we downed beers at a Dodgers game. "I mean, you did meet him in a sports bar. And, problem is, guys date girls who can hang with guys — not hang like guys."
Why? Don’t guys want to date girls who share their interests? I mean, Adam shared a friggin’ rib with Eve. All I want to share is some game highlights. Besides, I may have a soft spot for "SportsCenter," but I also have more curves than Mulholland Drive — and they’re just as dangerous to ride. So while I might fit in with the boys, there’s no mistaking me for a boy. When I throw on a sundress and let my long hair flow, I make heads turn.
"But you also make yourself accessible," said John, last year’s major crush. "Guys like a girl to be a challenge. You’re an open book. You should be more mysterious, and less flexible." So I’m not exactly shy and I don’t bother playing coy. But my flexibility? That’s an asset, baby.
I also heard "You’re too chatty," "You’re too ambitious" and, my favorite, "You’re too intimidating."
Intimidating? I’m 5 foot 2. Still, survey says, all I need to do to land a man is become an unapproachable, game-playing flirt, who doesn’t talk, doesn’t have goals and doesn’t know a tight end from her rear end.
I don’t want to be that girl. I make fun of that girl. I hated that girl in high school. Besides, an extreme makeover won’t help me break through the friendship barrier. Jay’s my friend ’cause he likes me. Changing who I am won’t turn his like into love.
So what will? What will make guys look at me the way they look at other girls? Should I try to be a more traditional Jewish woman? Cook dinner, bake challah, make chicken soup? I heard guys date girls who make a mean kugel. Can I flip a switch? Wish upon a star? Click my high heels three times? How do I become the object of men’s affection?
Truth is, there’s nothing I can do but accept that some men and women are destined to be just friends. I have plenty of male pals who I’ve never once considered courting. They’re good guys who show me good times and always keep me laughing. I truly treasure their friendship, but I don’t want to jump them. No specific reason, there’s just no click. No vibe. Plus, they have no hair. I’m kidding about the hair — sort of. But I’m serious about the lack of spark. Guess that’s how Jay feels about me.
And I can’t force him to feel something he doesn’t. A man’s got to sense that snap, crackle, pop all on his own. Maybe one day Jay will wake up and realize I’m the one that he wants. But more likely, he’ll tell me about some other girl he wants.
And then it’s friend zone quid pro quo. I won’t drop Jay’s fun friendship over my unrequited like. But I will expect his tush on the bar stool next to mine, telling me that somewhere there’s a man looking for a Cubs-cheering, sundress-wearing, spunky, sarcastic, slightly neurotic, overly chatty Jewish chick and assuring me that next year my UCLA Bruins will win the national championship. All while ordering me an ice-cold beer. Now that’s what friends are for.
Carin Davis is a freelance
writer and can be reached at email@example.com
It’s All About You
How Not to Date
Look, I’m not going to tell you how to find “the one,” how
to radiate that “I’m available” light, how to register for wine tasting
seminars and join networking groups.
I have no dating advice. None. I won’t suggest clever phrasing
for your personal ad or how to choose a photo to post on JDate. I’m not an
expert on any of these things, but without bragging, I will admit I’m truly
excellent at one thing: how not to date. I’m aware this skill won’t get me a
book deal or a segment on “Good Morning America.” But it would be selfish of me
not to share the wisdom I’ve garnered in the past year of cutting myself off
from all romantic possibilities. With a subtle yet unswerving dedication, I’ve
raised being single to an art. Just in case you’re interested — say you’ve been
hurt, maybe you haven’t dealt with anger at one or both of your parents,
perhaps you just fear intimacy — I’m here for you.
If you’re horrified by the image of yourself huddled in the
corner of some singles event, clutching a plastic cup full of cheap Merlot,
staring at the “Hello, my name is Dave” sticker on the pressed lapel of a
dentist from Canoga Park, listen up girls.
Let’s start with the small stuff. First, you really want to
make sure your daily life doesn’t bring you in contact with any new single men.
Avoid gender-neutral coffee shops in favor of places that serve CarboLite and
sell bags of Pirate’s Booty. Frozen yogurt is your friend. It has magical
men-repellent powers that I could never explain.
If you must go to the gym, steer clear of the weight room
and instead opt for classes heavy in choreography. Look for names like Latin
Grooves, Booty Ballet, Abs Abs Abs and Cardio Funk Attack. At this point in
American culture, yoga is no longer safe. I repeat, yoga is strictly off-limits
— straight men have found it and they know you’re in there with your low-slung
sweats and no bra. If you must go to yoga, let’s say you just can’t make it to
Burn & Grind, get there late, leave early and don’t look around. Keep your
hair dirty and your eyes on your mat.
The evenings become a little more complicated. If you crave
male attention, maintain a coterie of ex-boyfriends with whom you can go to the
movies from time to time. You will look and feel “taken.”
Eschew invitations to parties in favor of dinner with
married girlfriends. Better yet, make sure you have several married friends
with newborn babies you can visit on Saturday nights.
At this point, the only attractive single men you will meet
are deliverymen: the mail man, the pizza guy, whatnot. Without being rude, you
want to adhere to a strict sign-and-slam policy.
When friends and family offer to fix you up with their
“incredibly attractive neighbor they can’t believe is still single” — believe
it. With the understanding that these offers come from a place of true
generosity, you must reject them in such a way that no more fix-ups come along.
Sometimes a nonverbal response is best. What I do, but please feel free to
improvise here, is wince, let my chest cave in until the flow of air is
constricted and look around at the ceiling. I allow this to go on for an
uncomfortable amount of time before mumbling a non sequitur such as: “Does
anyone really know why Reagonomics failed?”
All of the above may be obvious, and I owe you more than
The need for emotional connection is a cunning foe. Keep it
in check by having some sort of e-mail/phone relationship with someone totally
inappropriate for you who lives far away. What’s working for me right now is a
25-year-old man-child who lives in New York City. You can freestyle here, as
long as you make sure that some part of your soul is tethered to a person who
will never, ever be a real boyfriend.
You may wonder how I put these principles together,
airtight, succinct, elegant. Like most great discoveries, it was accidental.
One day there was moldy cheese, next thing I knew: alone-a-cillin. The turning
point came when, after resisting it for years, I actually peeked at an Internet
dating site. I saw pixilated despair, a need so plain and terrible that I
wanted to slam the door on it like a particularly fetching FedEx guy. It was a
scary discovery. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but fear is its
abusive foster parent.
True wanting, openness, availability, those are scary
things. Those take courage. I however, take a chocolate-vanilla swirl with
Look, you can put yourself out there, I’m not saying it’s a
bad idea. However, this is just a slice of what I’ve learned about how not to
do so. Because when chance comes, he ain’t serving frozen yogurt.
Teresa Strasser can be seen Saturdays at noon and 10 p.m. on
The Learning Channel’s “While You Were Out” and is on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com.
Somebody Stop Me
Unmarried at 40
My youngest brother, Azer, is 40 years old and not married or dating anyone seriously. He is a kohen and will not marry a widow, divorcee or a convert, which excludes most of the eligible women I know in his age category. My Orthodox relatives in Toronto have in the past introduced him to appropriate women with varying degrees of success. I’m at a loss as to how I can help him, if at all.
Dear Worried Sibling,
Does it really come as a surprise to you — or to him — that the age-appropriate females who would meet his religious requirements have moved on with their lives? Before investing any more time, energy or postage trying to help your brother, consider the reality: he has had plenty of time to find the right person on his own. Is it possible that you are more intent on finding him a wife than he is? Or perhaps he is enjoying being taken care of by his older brother and prefers his current circumstance to having to grow up and contemplate taking care of somebody else?
Your brother is 40 years old. He is old enough to find a wife for himself if he is looking for one. Stop spinning your wheels. Or, if you really want to help, set him up with a good therapist, who may well be the right kind of woman for him just now.
Discussing the Shoah
My 9-year-old just read a notable children’s book about concentration camps. He couldn’t put it down, but he was also quite upset by it. Am I doing him more of a favor by leveling with him about the Holocaust, or should I be reassuring him that such a thing could never happen again?
You can’t lie to your child. You can, however, edit the information you feed him. To say it can’t happen again is a lie; to reassure your child that Hitler’s Germany was a unique historic phenomenon is not. The real question, sadly, is larger than what happened during World War II: At some point we all have to grapple with the wrenching task of explaining to our children that, as Jews, we have been and may again be persecuted for our religious beliefs. And imparting a sense of history, and our unique place in it as Jews, is part of your parental responsibility.
Only you know if your son is ready to hear the whole truth, but whatever you tell him now should prepare him for that eventual reality.
A colleague called to ask for a reference for an individual who worked for me for several years. I had let her go for having an interoffice affair with a married man. Moreover, there were rumors around the company that this was not the first time she had been involved with another employee. Should I include this information when giving her a reference?
It has been my experience that when one professional calls another for a reference, the kind of information he is looking for pertains to the skills required to meet the job description. Unless your colleague operates an escort service, I don’t see why the topic of sex or office affairs would come up.
Rumors are just that; they are not to be repeated, much less included as part of a reference.
Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist.
All rights reserved by author
Hooked on Rejection
My 17-year-old son is hooked on a girl. She’s everything he sayshe wishes he could be and everything he knows we wish he couldbe. She’s sure to be valedictorian, on her way to Harvard, while heis not a great student. We were thrilled when they started dating.She’s the perfect girl, but her priorities are school and experiencesin life (i.e. dating), and she seems to have a problem stayingcommitted more than a day or two each week.
So each week, they break up, get back together, and the traumathat ensues for my son has rendered him depressed, insecure andconstantly obsessing about how he can be good enough to win her back.He dyes his hair weekly and works out constantly to impress her. Witheach “should we break up” discussion, his self-esteem crashes.
Is there anything we can do to help him break this pattern?
Perhaps the only thing more painful than teen-age emotionalwhiplash is the parents’ helplessness as they witness theseslow-motion collisions. Unfortunately, your son is not likely tolisten to advice, to attempted shoring up of his bruised ego or tomuch else. His girlfriend’s fickleness is only another reinforcementof what he already knows to be true: that his parents wish he couldbe better, brighter and more “perfect” — like his girlfriend.
What he needs to learn is that he is loved whether or not he goesto Harvard, that straight A’s do not make a mensch, and thatperfection is an aberration which doesn’t leave much room for life’spleasures, such as love.
Until he experiences this to be true, he will continue to punishhimself for his failings. Take a hard look at your desire to haveyour son become a Harvard graduate. Is it more important than hiswell-being?
You ask how to help him break the pattern with his girlfriend? Theanswer is to break your own pattern with him.
Leaving a Lover
I have dated a good guy, a gorgeous guy for five months. We wereboth recently divorced and have children, and we just sort of fellinto a relationship — sex on Saturday night, children activitiestogether on Sundays. Our children are close in age and have becomevery attached. At first, I thought it was the real thing; he reallyis a great lover and a fun companion. But, although I could kickmyself for it, I know he is not for me. I can’t say why I don’t lovehim for forever, but I don’t, and I dread telling him and losing thefriendship — for all of our sakes. How can I hang on to thefriendship part and end the romantic part?
Hates to Jilt
Sometimes the real skill lies in getting out of love — not intoit. Unfortunately, however, there are no guarantees that you willhang on to the friendship. So speak the truth, but leech out anypotential toxins. Try something like: “You are a wonderful man, and Ifind you very attractive and a fine companion, but you are not forme.” Tell him how valuable the friendship is, both between the two ofyou and the children. Perhaps when the sting has faded, you will havea friend.
If not, there is a valuable lesson here for you. Leave thechildren out of your love life until you are engaged to be married.They have suffered enough losses.
My mother is in town again for another of her interminable visits.I notice an immediate change in myself the moment I hear she iscoming. I prepare myself for endless drama and criticism, from whyI’m not married to the decor of my apartment. She constantly comparesme to my brothers. She epitomizes the expression, “Enough about me,so what do you think about me?”
When I try to talk to her about how I feel when she criticizes me,she bursts into tears and accuses me of not loving her. Recently,when she was boasting about how well she raised us, I reminded herthat she abandoned us when we were young teens and left us with ourfather to seek higher education and a better life in Boston, and thatif we are successful, it is not because of her. I feel that I’m onlygoing to get past this when she is able to listen to me. But I amworn out from trying.
She follows me around like a dark cloud. How can I make herunderstand?
How can you make your mother stop being self-absorbed andcritical? How can you “make her understand”? Let me ask you aquestion: Could you make Narcissus stop gazing at his own reflection?
Answer: You cannot make anyone be or do anything.
Let’s look at your options. You could move away, change youridentity and enter a witness-protection program. But it is doubtfulthat even such extreme measures could deliver you from the “darkcloud,” because it exists on the inside.
The only person you can change here is yourself. Accept yourmother as she is — or don’t. Create the boundaries you need toprotect yourself, whether that means not allowing her to stay withyou when she is in town, only being with her around other familymembers, getting off the phone after X number of minutes — and soforth. Take her only in the doses you can without overdosing. As shenatters away, respond internally with your own truth, refusing toengage in pointless defenses and not allowing her criticism to pourthrough the sieve at the bottom of your heart.
Who knows? Perhaps if her criticism is met by only dead, emptysilence, she will eventually get a clue. If the river ceased toreflect Narcissus’ image to him, he surely would have walkedaway.
Teenagers at a dance. Photo by Edward Serotta from “Out ofthe Shadows.”
All letters to Dear Deborah require a name, address andtelephone number for purposes of verification. Names will, of course,be withheld upon request. Our readers should know that when names areused in a letter, they are fictitious.
Dear Deborah welcomes your letters. Responses can be given only inthe newspaper. Send letters to Deborah Berger-Reiss, 1800 S.Robertson Blvd., Ste. 927, Los Angeles, CA 90035. You can also sendE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Redemption, Hollywood Style