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.

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


‘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 – 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.

 

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 highway61x@gmail.com.

Singles – Poetry in Motion


In one night, I had dinner at an all-you-can eat salad bar in Arcadia, met my father’s first girlfriend in 25 years and weathered a nearly disastrous poetry emergency.

Sound the onomatopoetic sirens; this thing was a relationship 911. Free verse was about to cost my father the best relationship of his life. And it was my fault. What rhymes with “Zero tact”?

So there I was, sitting across the table from dad’s new girlfriend, trying to impress her, using my best table manners, eating forkfuls of canned beets on my self-consciously dainty salad and thinking to myself: “This is just weird.”

That’s when she paused, fiddled with the charms on her necklace and pushed her bangs away from her eyes.

She said, “I didn’t know what to wear. I had on a different outfit, but my kids and grandkids made me change clothes. I was really nervous to meet you.”

“Me too,” I replied, exhaling. “I’m used to introducing boyfriends to my dad, but I’ve never been on the other end. I’m so glad you’re nice!”

And it would have been quaint if that were the evening’s only awkward moment, the one we joked about later. Instead, our initial moment of bonding caused me to let down my guard. It happened slowly. First, we talked books. I recommended “The Corrections” and she suggested a short story by George Orwell. I loved her, black top, khaki pants and all.

Her most shining moment was when she joked about my dad’s “fold out” yard, the one at his mobile home.

“The yard is Astroturf,” she explained, in a just-us-girls way. “When I come over, your dad unfolds it for me. It’s like the mobile home’s red carpet.”

That she could not only accept a man whose “home” needs its tires rotated, but also make little inside jokes about it and at one point, according to my dad, even fix a leak in the mobile home’s roof, made me adore this woman. A nice lady, a high school Spanish teacher, even. I wanted to put in a good word for my dad, which is when things went sourer than yesterday’s bowl of wilting Caesar.

“Have you seen Dad’s Web site?” I asked innocently, sure she had. “I went on there the other day. How do you like having all those poems about you online? I hit the word ‘ravage’ and I was out of there.”

Stunned silence.

She fiddled with the charms again, which is when I noticed the crucifix. This is also when I observed her face flush and put it all together: schoolteacher, religious, neat ponytail, Republican. She had no idea about the poems, or the fact that the word “ravage” had been used in a sentence with her name.

“You know I’m a very private person. I told you whatever happens is between us,” she whispered, a bit panicky, glancing sidelong at my dad.

“Yeah, between you and anyone with access to the World Wide Web,” I muttered.

My dad and I burst into that explosive embarrassed kind of laugh, but we stopped short because she wasn’t laughing. She got up to splash her face with cold water. He looked at me, beads of sweat on his upper lip.

I couldn’t stop apologizing. She returned from the rest room looking damp, but composed. Within a half an hour, she was fine.

Dad and I got in the car to drive home and before we were buckled in I asked, “How bad is it? She could be logging on right now.

“It’s really bad, Teresa. There’s one poem — the ravage poem — she just can’t see.”

From the car, we dialed his Web master, a friend of mine, waking her up. When she looked up the poem, doing a search for the word “ravage,” she said simply, “You better hope I can pull it down before this lady sees it. Wow. Why did your dad post this? OK, it’s been deleted.”

We knew we had beaten her to the computer. And we started laughing again so hard I almost drove off the road. Love makes you do crazy things, makes you write volumes of pseudo-erotic poetry with forced metaphors and unfortunate rhyme schemes, makes you want to scream from the leaky rooftops, makes you want to post your drippy thoughts on the World Wide Web for no good reason at all and makes you spill your dad’s secrets over croutons and fountain drinks just trying to engage his new girlfriend, to flatter her.

As I drove, I was flooded with the feeling of how right this all was, that my dad fixes cars and posts poetry on his auto shop Web site, that neither of us have any tact, that she didn’t really care, because he has finally found someone as nice as he is. It was poetic justice.

Teresa Strasser in an Emmy Award- and Los Angeles Press Club-winning writer. She’s on the web at www.teresastrasser.com.

 

Will She Marry Him?


In my last Singles column, “Change of Heart,” I left off with one important question for my girlfriend, Carrie: “Will you marry me?”

Did she say yes?

Well, let me back up a bit.

A few days before the column came out, I drove over to Carrie’s parents to ask for their blessing. Carol and Roy were watching “24” when I got there, so I waited until the commercial break — odd priorities, but I suppose it’s more riveting watching Kiefer Sutherland trying to stop the explosion of a nuclear warhead than watching me trying to stop the nervous trembling in my right leg.

Roy stood. Carol took a seat. I dove right in.

“You guys know I love Carrie very much, and I’m going to ask her to marry me. I’d like to get your blessing.”

They both seemed to gasp slightly, but then Carol gave me a hug and began repeating the phrase, “Oh my God!” Roy stiffened his body and seemed to freeze slightly. He didn’t give me a hug. Luckily, I did see some blinking. Carol teared up a little, and I answered all her rapid-fire questions about the ring, and how I was going to propose.

And then suddenly, she admonished me for coming in the middle of her favorite TV show: “You better save it on your TIVO for me.”

Roy relaxed a little, “It’s too bad you couldn’t come on a Friday, when there’s nothing on TV.”

I laughed, although I’m not sure he was joking. Carol hugged me again, and they quickly ran back to catch the last 10 minutes of their show.

The next day, Roy called me to meet him for lunch. I got a little nervous as I drove over to meet him. I get along well with Roy, but wondered what kind of warnings would he have for me before I married his daughter. Although he’s a peaceful man, I imagined him chasing me through the house, swinging his belt if ever I hurt his baby girl.

It turned out he just wanted me to know that he was happy for us. “I don’t show a lot of emotion,” he confessed. “Do you believe how Carol was acting?” he asked me, referring to her “overemotional” display of teary eyes and a hug. I nodded knowingly. I mean, this is my future father-in law. As we left, I thanked him for lunch. Then, just before getting into my car, I grabbed the guy and gave him a big, fat hug.

The morning that the column came out, I drove over to The Jewish Journal office to get a fresh copy of the newspaper. Jumping back into my car, with a new parking ticket flapping on my windshield (so maybe I don’t always read the signs), I drove over to the Farmers Market to pick up some food.

I really wanted to take Carrie on a picnic, but it was still drizzling outside. I stayed optimistic and went to Loteria, our favorite Mexican place to get two of their finest burritos (considering the cost of the ring, I contemplated buying one burrito and splitting it in half).

I picked up Carrie from work and, amazingly, as she walked out the door, the rain suddenly stopped. I quietly thanked God. We drove to a nearby park and spread out the picnic.

“Oh, before you eat, guess what?” I said nonchalantly as we sat down. “I wrote another column in The Jewish Journal,” and gave it to her. Of course, given my last columns, she didn’t know what was coming — especially with this one titled, “Change of Heart.”

She took one look at the title and said, “Uh oh.” I hovered nervously behind her, waiting to pop out the ring. As she read, she occasionally looked up to laugh or nod her approval. And then I saw her body stiffen as she got to the last line. She froze, just like her dad.

“Oh my God,” she gasped, just like her mother.

I grabbed the ring, got on one knee and asked, “Will you marry me?” She cried and answered, “Yes.”

We kissed. Two pot smokers nearby clapped. I waved back to them.

Then Carrie went through a rainbow of emotions, the likes of which I have never seen. She laughed, she argued, she protested, she cried, she smiled, she didn’t know what to do with herself.

Suddenly she stammered, “Ar … re you sure about this? We’ve been arguing lately.”

We had been arguing, but mostly because I was sneaking around trying to deal with the engagement preparations. We’ve never really had secrets before, and the months I was planning all of this were hard for me. It’s strange to not be able to discuss one of the biggest decisions of your life with the woman you love. But Carrie had always wanted to be surprised.

Carrie started to cry. “I love you so much. Of course I want to marry you,” she said.

“Then why are you crying?”

“I guess I don’t really like surprises,” she said. Speaking of which — she hadn’t even looked at the ring on her finger.

“Do you like it?” I asked.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Is this real or is this cubic zirconia?”

Was she kidding me? “Cubic zirconia? I sure wish I had the option….”

Seth Menachem is an actor and writer who lives in Los Angeles.

The Ring


My girlfriend wants a ring.

To say that I didn’t see this coming is the understatement of the century. In a way, there is not much to tell:

Los Angeles boy meets Boston girl living in Los Angeles. Though we had some differences — seems the East Coast Ivy-Leaguers up there can even out-liberalize some of the most granola-eating free spirits out West — we agreed on many a film, food and music (a girl who dug Springsteen!). In the first few months I started to sprout hope that this new relationship might even outlast Schwarzenegger’s political career.

But then it happened. Suddenly, I sensed that our current relationship was not enough for her. She hadn’t shown it at first, when my chivalrous romancing seemed to be more than adequate. But that was back in the summer. What changed?

It became fall — though still 80-plus degrees outside my Beverly Hills apartment — and everything I did and said fell miles short. She seemed to want, nay, deeply desire, something more, something bigger. I could sense that this "thing" welling up inside her was not going to fade away of its own accord. Soon I would have to make a serious decision about our future together.

One day, out of the blue, she said it: She wanted a ring. I gasped, I froze; sweat started to drip from every pore. How could she be jumping into things so quickly? I asked myself. We were getting along so well. How could she ruin it with talk of such a commitment? A ring! But this was no ordinary I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you type of ring. Oh no, to her, it was much, much more.

This ring was about baseball.

For many in Los Angeles, baseball has long been a cute, outdated national pastime which, from the moment Magic Johnson first stepped onto the court to be greeted by Jack Nicholson, has given way to our current obsession, basketball — namely, the Lakers. I just blindly assumed that the rest of the country felt the same way. Heck, aside from Shawn Green (his being Jewish makes it a mitzvah to know who he is), I probably couldn’t tell you the names of more than a handful of players in the entire league, and I doubt that many of my native Angeleno friends could either. But it seems that there are still more than a few people — most of whom were raised in the Northeast — who don’t quite see things the same way. And it also seems I am dating one of them.

My girlfriend is many wonderful things — but from Los Angeles she is not. Make no mistake about it: you can take the girl out of Boston but you can’t take the Red Sox fan out of the girl.

And this Red Sox fan wanted a World Series Championship ring. This was not an "OK, let’s go to Tiffany’s" type request she had. This was not something that money could buy. She wanted something I couldn’t provide.

Four hours after the Sox lost to their arch rival, the New York Yankees, I feebly tried to console her — but right away, it seemed, I was DOA.

"How could you even call me on such a night of mourning?" she screamed, pointing out her other 200 friends (all Bostonians living in Los Angeles — who knew there were so many?) would never call at such an hour. "You could never understand what I’m going through," she cried.

Am I really so callous? I really can empathize. I also get upset when my team loses.

Therein lies the rub. She, like other Bostonians, was always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Always the post-season loser and never the World Series champ. The Red Sox haven’t even won one championship since 1918 (a date I have heard so many times it has taken on a mythical-type quality). So how can I even bring up not winning four in a row? The Sox have no "three-peats," so how can I even try to understand?

Her friends did. The following day, the Bostonians had a shiva-like lunch in order to just sit together and stare into their salads, not speaking, about what they repeatedly called "a death in the family."

At that lunch my girlfriend finally figured out that … drum roll please: I am not from Boston. I guess she always knew it, but maybe she just didn’t want to admit it. But with the finality of her "loss" it suddenly hit home.

With that realization came forgiveness. She finally concluded that we from outside of Boston are not the enemy. And that maybe I was being truthful when I told her that I do hate the Yankees as much as someone from Boston. (Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in the ’77 World Series against the Dodgers — what’s not to hate?)

My girlfriend and I have moved ahead in our relationship. We just had to learn that there are many different types of people in this world, and that perhaps we can understand each other better sometimes by admitting that we don’t understand each other at all.

Last week, as my girlfriend and I both rooted against the Yankees in the World Series that suddenly nobody cared about, the one thought that repeated in my mind was — "Thank God I don’t have to deal with this again till next year."

Greg Ross is an actor and musician living in Los Angeles. He can be contacted
at greg0202@yahoo.com.

Illuminating ‘Moonlight Mile’


Brad Silberling heard the terrible news from a police detective the morning of July 18, 1989. His 21-year-old girlfriend, actress Rebecca Schaeffer (TV’s "My Sister Sam") had been shot dead by a stalker in the foyer of her Sweetzer Avenue apartment building.

On many a Yom Kippur since, Silberling — the director of "Casper" and "City of Angels" — has lit a yarzeit candle in her memory. This Yom Kippur, he’ll also remember Schaeffer in a more public way with the premiere of his intimate drama, "Moonlight Mile" — inspired by the relationship forged with her parents after he moved into their Oregon home for the funeral and shiva.

At the beginning of the film, as in real life, Silberling’s alter ego, Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal) places a spadeful of earth on his murdered fiancée’s casket. He dutifully stands beside her parents (Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon) as the cantor chants the "El Malei Rachamim" memorial prayer. But when another woman unexpectedly enters his life soon after, he’s torn between following his heart and fulfilling his role as the bereaved son-in-law-to-be.

The movie, Silberling’s quick to say, is based on emotional, rather than literal truth. He was Schaeffer’s boyfriend, not her fiancé, though they’d just started talking about the possibility of marriage. He didn’t even attempt to go out on a date for two years after her death. In fact, it took him five years to muster the emotional distance he required to begin writing "Moonlight Mile."

"I wanted to explore this very strange journey that I’d never seen on film," the 39-year-old director said of the movie. "Like, how you go through every possible emotion in the aftermath of a death. For example, I’d be sitting with Rebecca’s parents, and we’d just be roaring with laughter, dishing on people who were mouthing [platitudes]. There would be this bizarre, completely inappropriate humor at moments you’d never expect."

Gyllenhaal, who spent hours quizzing Silberling about his experience, said he was drawn to the movie’s quirky-funny approach. "Brad taught me that what we consider strictly a sad time is actually filled with everything: humor, oddities, idiosyncrasies," said Gyllenhaal, whose mother, Naomi, is Jewish. "The movie isn’t a high drama about mourning, like ‘In the Bedroom.’ It’s more about the subtleties of everyday life after a tragedy."

On a recent afternoon, boyish, affable Silberling — who grew up attending Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village — is wearing faded jeans in his office, not far from Schaeffer’s old apartment. He recounts how he was 23 when he met her on a blind date in 1987 at the nerve-wracking premiere of his UCLA graduate student film. He knew he liked her when, sensing his anxiety, the dark-haired actress patted his knee and told him everything was going to be fine. "We just sort of fell into each others’ lives," said Silberling, who said he was surprised to learn that Schaeffer had once aspired to become a rabbi.

The morning she was murdered, Silberling found a loving message she’d left on his answering machine. It was the last time he heard her voice. Within a few hours, he was sequestered in a room at Cedars-Sinai, waiting for her parents to identify the body. Although he’d only met them just a few times, he bonded with them during endevors such as cleaning out Rebecca’s apartment, while tabloid reporters slapped $50 bills on the windows.

The director discovered that Schaeffer’s father, Benson, a child psychologist, had interrupted his lucrative practice for a time to study Yiddish theater. Her mother, Danna, a wickedly honest, salty-tongued writer, told Silberling "Of course, I’d like you to remain celibate for the rest of your life, but we can negotiate that." (Sarandon said that line in the film.)

The three became inseparable when Silberling moved into Rebecca’s old room for several weeks after the funeral. "I needed to be there partly because when all three of us were together, Rebecca was present," he said. "And I remember thinking, ‘It’s wild, but we’re kind of this weird new family, and I can see never leaving. But at the same time, I was aware of the people tugging at my sleeve saying, ‘You know, you’re it for them now. You are Rebecca for them, because she was an only child. So any time you can hang with her parents would be really good.’"

Silberling said he brought those conflicting sentiments to the character of Joe as well as "the swirl of emotions over, ‘How do you dare connect with another [woman]?’"

In real life, the Schaeffers were supportive when Silberling finally began dating again around 1991. They attended his 1995 marriage to actress Amy Brenneman (TV’s "Judging Amy"), where the bride andgroom read a tribute to Rebecca. (The couple now have a 1-year-old daughter, Charlotte.)

The Schaeffers were the first people Silberling allowed to read a draft of "Moonlight Mile." "I was nervous, but they liked it," said the director, who recently traveled to Oregon to show them the completed film. The screening, he said, was an emotional high. "I think they feel proud of the journey they’ve taken, and so do I."

I Can’t Hang Out


I went to a big Hollywood party last week. My girlfriend, Alison, was out of town. The occasion had something to do with a photo shoot for a fashion magazine.

I don’t know why this would occasion a party, but why not? Beautiful people love to party, and almost any excuse will do. There was valet parking, of course, a small army of black-suited, ear-pieced security, four bars, a DJ playing unfamiliar music with a thunderous beat and a wait staff that looked like they just dropped out of modeling school. Catering was by In-N-Out, an inspired choice — slumming amid so many riches.

This was a gorgeous-people party. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the front door security made everyone bare their abs before allowing them in. An occasional average-looking person made it past the palace guards and we greeted them with a sense of wonder, as if they were from another planet — the planet I live on.

There was, of course, the mandatory smattering of celebrities great and small: an aging rocker, a Brazilian supermodel wearing a "skirt" that would be called a "belt" in any other culture and a bunch of people who all looked vaguely familiar. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. Maybe they’re all on the same WB series. It’s possible. I may never know.

In Los Angeles, there is an uneasy sense of "Don’t I know you?" Everyone looks familiar, and with good reason — they may have been your lover or they may be on a national commercial. The reason everyone looks familiar, is because everyone is familiar.

It seems the women stay the same age at these parties and the men get older. It looked like everyone was attending a post-op breast-enhancement surgery reunion. The only thing missing was Hef.

I used to work with a young woman who dutifully reported every Monday morning that she’d spent the weekend "hanging out."

"What’d you do this weekend?"

"I hung out with my friends."

I wanted to know how, exactly, does one hang out? I might be doing it right now at this party, but I’m not sure. At what point do you cease to "hang out" and enter into the realm of "doing something"? Could one be a multitasking hanger-outer?

There, among the tattooed backs and ironic cheeseburgers, I’m told that I’m hanging out. You can just imagine my surprise. Hanging out is exhausting and very time-consuming.

The right thing to say while hanging out at these parties, where you can barely yell over the thump-thump-thump of the ignored DJ, is, "Nice to meet you." It doesn’t matter if you’re coming or going, if you’ve chatted or not. "Nice to meet you" is shalom.

Everyone — while thoroughly fabulous in their own right — was looking over the fabulous shoulder of the person they’re talking to in hopes of spotting someone more fabulous when they come in. Either that, or they were on a cell phone, which says to the uninitiated: I’m here, but I’m so cool I don’t even care.

It looked as if the party was going to rage all night, but I just didn’t see the point of it. I’ve lost the will to swing. I’m not looking to score and even if I were, these girls looked like they were going to spend all my money, smoke cigarettes in the car and then leave me for someone else — maybe the kid on "Smallville." Ever the optimist, I believe this sad scenario is almost "best-case."

When I became aware that I was really trying hard to have fun, it was time to go home. I finally got inside the temple and I felt like a tourist. I have nothing to wear. My haircut is all wrong. I’m too old for this nonsense. It’s not as though I had anything better to do at midnight in Malibu and, for an absolute certainty, there was nowhere else to be. This was the party on that night. A model named Giselle was making her way in just as I handed over my ticket to the valet. She seemed to be surrounded by an invisible protective shield that mere mortals from my planet cannot penetrate.

Surrounded by belly buttons and long, shimmering legs, gigantic waifs (if you can still be waifish at 6 feet tall), everything a red-blooded Jewish boy could dream of, I was thinking about my girlfriend, Alison. She would feel even more out of place at this party than I, which is how I now come to face the music: What happened to me?

Au Revoir, Mes Amis


I want to take this opportunity to say hello … and goodbye to my friends. If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately, as my pal Mickey did in a phone call last week, I’ve got a new girlfriend (let’s call her Alison), and I won’t be seeing you around much anymore.

Let’s be clear: I love my friends. They’ve stuck with me through thick and thin, and now I’ve dropped them like hot potatoes and consigned them to the ash heap of history without so much as a fare-thee-well, all because of a broad. They’ve done nothing to deserve such shoddy treatment, but I’ve always been one of those guys who meets a woman and then disappears for a while. I take a powder. I never claimed any different. No one stuck a gun to my head.

Still, you have to be careful in case the relationship goes bust. It has happened in the past that after a few months of romantic bliss, I return, tail between legs, broken-hearted, looking like a busted umbrella, practically begging them to take me back. They always do. There’s an old saying in business that applies here: Be good to the people you meet on the way up, because you may need them again on the way down.

Among my friends, there are the Alison haves and Alison have-nots. Those who have met Alison seem to like her, but you never know. You hope that your friends will tell you what they really think, but they seldom do. They’d rather watch you make the biggest mistake of your life and tell you that they knew it all along when you’re crying about the alimony payments. That’s what friends are for. Why didn’t anyone warn me about Lisa? Because they wanted to see me fall on my face, that’s why. I’m sure it was very amusing. Could’ve saved me a lot of time, money and heartache, fellas. Thanks a lot to all of you. Thanks.

Now I’m in a bit of a tricky spot because those who have not met Alison are convinced that I’m keeping her away from them — and with good reason: I’m still trying to impress her. Mickey, for example, is a lovely guy, and we go back a long way, but if I introduced him early in the relationship, there might not be a relationship. He makes a nice addition to my collection of colorful friends, but I’m not exactly trotting him out as the poster boy for good mental health. There are certain people who I think should be kept in the closet until maybe our 10th wedding anniversary. (In years past, I might have hidden her from Mickey, because there was a decent chance that he would steal her — or at least try.)

To be fair, some of the people who are clamoring for an audience with us are married with kids and have virtually disappeared off the face of the planet themselves. If you want to see them, you (a) come a-calling or (b) have dinner within a half-mile of their house at 5:30 p.m. on the one day a month they can work out a baby sitter.

To be even more fair (get your own column), when I was an unattached single guy, I was the third wheel for a lot of these married friends. They weren’t exactly falling all over themselves to make sure I wasn’t lonely, and now that I actually don’t need their company, they’re acting all hurt and jealous that they’re being snubbed. Ha! The irony thickens.

Part of the problem is that I really like spending time alone with Alison. There’s still a lot of "getting to know you" to do. I already know these other guys. They are my old friends, after all.

I find that now, after dating for a few months, there is a tacit accounting going on in terms of trying to meet each other’s friends. I wonder if we should be going out with someone a second time before we get around to covering the entire phone book. Are we democrats or elitists? Of course I have to meet her friends, too — and I have to be nice to them — all of which cuts into my social calendar.

So now we start to weigh our friendships. Our time is more valuable as a couple than when we were two singles. Suddenly, we’re a hot commodity. People like being around us, breathing the air of people newly in love. We’re like a sold out show or a table at the new restaurant in town. I can’t blame my friends for wanting a piece of the action, but it’s hard to make everybody happy. "Let me see, I can fit you in a week from Tuesday — 6:15 or 9:45?"

Hit the Road, Jeff


I have heard people refer to the process of meeting someone as "the dating minefield." I can’t think of a place as chaotic, dangerous and fraught with anxiety as a minefield, except possibly anywhere one might go on a trip with one’s new girlfriend. Out of this chaos comes order. There are rules. Things go a certain way. A-B-C. My friend Marcus used to describe it as, "Getting your ducks all lined up in a row."

After you’ve been "a couple" for a while, it’s time to hit the highway together. The inaugural weekend road trip is the first test of your emergency relationship system. You drive somewhere, maybe Palm Springs or Santa Barbara. As far as New Haven is from Broadway. Far enough that you’re "out of town," but still close enough that you can bail out in two hours if things don’t quite go as planned. A lot of nice new couples have blown up on their first trip together. Take two normal, healthy adults out of their normal, healthy environment, put them in a confined space for 48 hours, and there’s a reasonable chance that at least one of them will go completely crazy. That’s why you must have the escape hatch built in to your travel plans. Some people leave on the freeways of Los Angeles as lovers, but return in icy silence as mortal enemies. In the theater they call this "closing out of town."

Keeping one foot out the door gets harder to do as you go along. The second trip is going to require an airplane. The number and variety of vehicles involved is like a scorecard for where you are in your relationship. A travel agent is involved. Your girlfriend’s name is now on file — the same file where your travel agent keeps your credit card information. This may be the first time her name and your credit card number are officially linked. This is a "moment" you won’t soon forget.

I’ve been dating someone for a little while — let’s call her Alison. Two months into the action we took our first trip, but we’re seasoned veterans, so we bypassed all these half steps and went to London for a week. My friend, Steve, asked, "What if you have a fight?" Good question, Steve, and I want to thank you for putting that notion into my head. "I think we’ll be okay," I said. "But, if it should come to pass, I will look back on this informative little chat and realize that’s why carrying cash and ample available credit is so important. That, my friend, is a long drive home."

Alison and I had a wonderful time in London. I don’t think you know another person until you get away. And the further you get from home and hearth, the more you’re likely to meet their inner child — especially where shopping is concerned. Alison developed a tic when we passed by the JP Tods store on Sloane Street, and I think I saw her head do a 360-degree turn when our taxi passed by Robert Clergerie. By the time we entered Harvey Nichols, she looked like Indiana Jones discovering the lost ark. "Eureka!" she said, disappearing into a sea of Burberry plaid, from which she did not return until tea time with the Queen Mum.

I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. I mean, I thought the Prada store on Rodeo Drive was perfectly fine. But no. Oh, no. No, no, no. Obviously, I am not familiar with their entire line of fashion accessories, or I would not give voice to such an uninformed opinion. The Prada store in London is totally different, you boob. Ditto Paris and anywhere else worth traveling to. For that matter, civilization can now be gauged by the presence of a Prada store. Aspen has one, but Omaha does not. I rest my case. The further you get from one of these temples of urbanity and their insanely expensive nylon Sportsacs, the worse things get. Look at Afghanistan, for example. The nearest Prada outlet is in Rome, nearly 3,000 miles away. The entire situation there could be solved by the construction of a Rem Koolhaas designed boutique on Main Street in Kandahar.

On the flight back, we looked at the map in the back of the airline magazine and mused about where we’d like to go next. Turkey? Sicily? Thailand? Alison tells me there’s an outlet mall with a Prada store on the way to Palm Springs. Is it too soon to start taking separate vacations?

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.