My New Reality


Last week was the first time in as long as I can remember when my schedule was not dictated by reality television. As someone who has blogged about reality TV between 2 and 5 times a week for years and years, it was liberating and brought me real peace and happiness. I did not rush home to watch a show, I did not interview a reality celebrity, and I did not spend any time with Jose Cuervo.

I went out for dinner with friends, I went on a couple of dates, I spent quality time with my son, and I wrote about my own reality. It has truly been life altering and I found myself wondering why I didn’t retire Keeping it Real sooner. I did not realize how it had consumed my life until I stopped doing it. I watched a couple of the shows I used to write about, and enjoyed them more as a regular viewer.

The most interesting discovery is that while I enjoyed watching, I did not feel invested, or have any great need to watch them again. It is fascinating how important I thought these shows were. Not only are they not important, they are not particularly entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking reality television, I am just viewing it differently now that it is not part of my job.

It turns out my reality is much more interesting than what I was watching. From my dating life, to exploring my faith, to my newly empty nest, to wanting to spend uninterrupted time with my son, my life is reality television worthy. I would never do a reality show of course, even though I have been asked, because some crazy blogger would come and share her unsolicited opinion of me, so no thanks.

Last night instead of watching Real Housewives of Atlanta, I watched 60 Minutes, and I must tell you it feels better. I have not engaged in social media other than to post pictures of sunrises, sunsets, cocktails, and food. It is a whole new world and I am happy. Instead of waking up and checking my Twitter to see the reaction to my blog, I woke up and celebrated the announcement of a new princess.

Keeping the Faith has been a very important part of my life, and she has been neglected due to the demands of reality television. That stops today. I look forward to posting often and welcoming you back into my life in a bigger way. My longtime readers have been through a lot with me, and I take comfort in knowing you are out there, wishing and praying for good things to come for me.

You carry me through. I went back to read Keeping the Faith over the years and it is wonderful to see how many people have come into my life through this blog. People who matter to me in profound ways. I’ve made friends, dated readers, battled hate, embraced love, and defined who I am as a Jew, mother, friend, daughter, and partner.  My life is truly blessed because I am keeping the faith.

 

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

Happy Thanksgiving Jose Cuervo


This time of year inspires people to reflect on their lives. We take the time to say thank you and count our blessings, even if it is just for a day. Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday, but as a woman who gives thanks each and every day, saying thanks is just a small piece of the pie. In the spirit of the holiday however, each year I like to pick one thing or one person in my life that has gone unappreciated, and say thank you. This year’s selection happens to be both a person and a thing.

My son has moved into his own apartment and it’s been hard. Even though we talk all day and I see him regularly, I miss him so much it aches. I am not ashamed to share I have cried every day since he left. I have also slept in his room twice, and sat in the middle of the floor weeping. By sitting, of course I mean I was in the fetal position while looking at baby pictures with my boyfriend. By boyfriend, of course I mean Jose Cuervo, which leads me to my special thank you for 2017.

Thank you to Jose for helping me through this difficult transition in my life. I have spent almost 22 years preparing my son for this moment, but sadly forgot to prepare myself. The truth is that even if I had prepared myself, I still wouldn’t have been ready. He stayed at home longer I did when I was young, but I could have used a little more. Another five years would have been nice. Pathetic to be sure, but still nice. It has been him and me for so long it feels strange when he tells me he is going home after dinner, but it is not our home.

He was six months old when I got divorced and so our bond is special. It has been him and me against the world so long, I guess I’m just scared about how I will do it on my own. It would keep me up at night if it weren’t for Jose. He relaxes me so I can stop thinking and get some sleep. I love him. Important to clarify I don’t love him so much that we are together all day, but I do love him some evenings and imagine it will be a couple more weeks before me and my tequila boyfriend cool off.

Being a mother is the highlight of my life and most important job I will ever have. I am proud of my son for taking this milestone step in his life, and proud of myself for raising such a wonderful human being. He is living his best life and his successes are mine. I respect and admire him. I also trust him. He makes good choices and that is because of me. He is fearless, compassionate, aware, and kind. In the interest of full disclosure, it has not been all bad. There are blessings.

My home is always clean! There are no clothes on the floor, there are no dishes in the sink, and there is something quite liberating about walking around your home naked, just because you can. I am actually writing this while naked on the couch with Jose. I’m not sure I will ever get used to my empty nest, but with Jose by side I will learn to embrace it. Happy Thanksgiving! Count your blessings, acknowledge someone worthy, and raise a glass to keeping the faith.

Photo by Shiloh Kanarti.

The Journey of a ‘Single Mother by Choice’


“How many of you bother reading all the emails from your kid’s school?”

When a presenter asked that question at a Tel Aviv conference for working mothers, it was met with peals of laughter and the shaking of heads. Only one woman in the entire auditorium raised her hand.

Yael Ukeles reads every note regarding her 6-year-old son, Amitai. She attributes her conscientiousness to the “tremendous power of choice” that brought Amitai into the world.

Part of a growing network of religious women who have chosen to raise children without a partner, Ukeles is a co-founder of KayamaMoms, an organization that supports such women and advocates for their needs in the wider community. Bordering on a misnomer, she said, the term “single mother by choice” fails to incorporate the emotional anguish that comes with the choice between being a single mother and not being a mother at all.

“You speak to any single mom by choice — Jewish or not Jewish, in America or in Israel — and it’s really the same story,” she said.

Unmarried and approaching 40, Ukeles realized that if she wanted to become pregnant, she would need to act quickly.

“I felt angry — well, maybe angry is too strong a word — but I felt pressured at having to make this choice. But I understood that no decision is a decision,” Ukeles said.

So she started to do research, speaking to psychologists, financial advisers and, being an observant Jew, to rabbis. She also had to let go of her lifelong vision of what her future would look like.

“The literature calls it ‘mourning the dream,’ ” she said, adding that clinging to vestiges of some ideal long past its expiration date was an irresponsible way to bring a child into the world.

“That child shouldn’t feel anything but 100-percent wanted,” she said.

Apart from letting go of ingrained paradigms, Ukeles’ advice to women considering to go it alone is to, well, not go it alone. Although she credits her family with being “150 percent on board” with her decision, it was really her community of Tekoa — a mixed religious-secular community in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem — that eased much of the burden.

“Find a community that you want to live in and raise a child in and be a part of that community by giving,” she said. “Give, give, give.”

That way, she said, by the time you need to ask for help, you’ll already have a built-in support network.

“I felt pressured at having to make this choice. But I understood that no decision is a decision.”

As her voice cracked, Ukeles recalled the exhilaration she felt at Amitai’s brit milah.

“It was beyond … just beyond. … When I walked into the room, I felt this swell, literally a wave of love and support. Every time I think about it I almost can’t breathe because it was just so beautiful.”

Six years on, is Amitai aware of his uncommon origins?

“Oh sure, we speak about it constantly,” Ukeles said.

Ukeles told Amitai before he turned 2 about how she wanted to have a baby, so she went to a doctor. When he was a bit older, she added that she had wanted to get married but didn’t find anyone, so she went to a doctor.

“And then I added a little biology,” she said with a laugh.

She has revealed to her son details about the sperm donor so that “it’s not a ghost in the house.” She has information about the donor because she used an American sperm bank. Israeli law requires that sperm and egg donors remain anonymous.

Still, in most ways, women wanting to become single mothers have it easier than their U.S. counterparts. In religious circles, the subject is less taboo in Israel, so there are more single mothers by choice than in comparable U.S. communities. And the state covers fertility treatments, which can be prohibitively expensive in the U.S.

To date, Ukeles — with KayamaMom co-directors Dina Pinner and Dvori Ross — has supported some 80 women in Israel and the U.S., and welcomed more than 100 KayamaMom babies into the world.

Although she never imagined her “Plan B would be this awesome,” she said, she hasn’t entirely lost sight of Plan A: “I’m still hopeful that I’ll find myself in a nurturing relationship someday.”

Motherhood 101 – Growing Up


I survived week one in my empty nest. It was really hard, but I did it. The simple truth is I really miss my son. We talk several times a day, and I saw him during the week, but I miss having him at home. Not only do I miss him, but so does Fiddles the cat. When he came over today she about lost her mind. She followed him around like a dog and could not get close enough to him. When he left we both cried. Literally. We sat together on the couch and cried like a couple of babies.

When he said he was coming over I started to cook. I cooked as if I was having a dozen people over for dinner, even though it was just us. He walked in with a load of dirty laundry and I was so happy I thought I would burst. I did his laundry, fed him, watched Fiddles snuggle up, and stared at my grown up baby. He is a wonderful human being and I am proud of him. There is a piece of my heart that will always wish he was still with me, but a larger piece that is happy he has gone out on his own.

We are both out on our own for the first time and it has been bonding. We are going through the same changes and emotions. If you want to gage who is handling this time in our lives better, and make that decision based on the number of tears shed, I lose. He is thrilled about being on his own and I don’t think he has cried. I on the other hand still cry a lot, but for different reasons. I cried in the beginning because I was sad, and now I cry because I am so proud and excited for him.

I also cry because I am proud of myself. I have raised a good man. He is very much like my beloved father, and has all the good parts of his own dad, but at the end of the day this kid is just like his mom. I don’t have to worry about him because like me, he will always land on his feet. Maybe that is why I love Fiddles so much, we share that skill. My son is going to be fine and I am quickly realizing that so will I. My life is blessed and this time is important for a variety of reasons.

Life changes when you are not cleaning up after someone. I don’t have to pick up clothes off the floor, because I never throw my clothes on the floor. I never find dishes in my sink, because I put them straight into the dishwasher. I don’t have meat in my fridge, which as a vegetarian matters. Important to note I cooked a vegetarian feast for my boy on Sunday and he loved it. This are all really good things. Plus, there is the joy of walking around naked, simply because I can.

I am ready to shake things up. It is time to live my life out loud in new and different ways. I am going to slow things down so I can properly enjoy everything that is happening. My Rabbi taught me to meditate and I am going to implement her teachings into my everyday life rather than just my religious life. It is time to not only take a deep breathe, but listen to the air going in and coming out. I want to live a purposeful life, all the way down to my breathing. Listening to not only people, but things, matters.

The truth is I am lucky my son stayed at home as long as he did. He was ready to move out a long time ago, and only stayed to take care of me when I got sick. He did more than was required or expected, and I will be forever grateful. His leaving means not only have I done my job, but I have kicked cancer’s ass. I look forward to seeing my boy embrace all life has to offer. We are both growing up. It is time to count our blessings and focus on keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Naked in an Empty Nest


After living together for almost twenty-two years, my son has moved out of our home. The countdown to his leaving was long, and though I tried to write this blog every day for two weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it as I felt that if I didn’t post a blog about it, it wasn’t true, and therefore he wouldn’t leave. Genius thinking really. It has been very difficult for me to accept he was leaving, and even harder to understand why he would want to. I cried more in the past month than my entire life.

I am not ashamed to tell you I would spontaneously burst into tears daily since he started to pack. I would start crying for no apparent reason. I didn’t have to be talking to him, or even thinking about him, I just started crying. Not a pretty or ladylike cry either. A snot pouring out of my red nose while I was heaving cry. It wasn’t cute. I’m sure people thought I was not well as I looked truly horrible. If I saw myself on the street I would cross to the other side. I was scary and found myself talking out loud to myself quite often.

I was 18 when I left home, and beyond ready to go. I cannot imagine what my mother thought sending her baby away, and she did it with four children. It has just been my son and me so there is the additional bond of being a single mother to an only child. We are connected in special and important ways. We take care of each other and his fear and nerves are the same as mine. He was nervous to leave home and worried a lot about how I would be on my own. He is a wonderful human being and I am a lblessed mom.

In anticipation of his leaving, I purged my home. For every box he packed, I got rid of two. Each day I would take a load to Goodwill and they’d ask me how I was doing since I turned up with swollen, red eyes. It was rough and an aching I had not ever experienced before. I love this young man more than anyone or anything, and aside from knowing I would miss him being in my home, I have never lived alone in my entire life. It is the beginning of a new and unchartered life for me, which is both exciting and scary.

When he left last weekend I cried like a baby, but each day since Saturday has been a little bit easier. I find myself wondering where he is, and if he is home safe, so I haven’t been sleeping very well. Yesterday was a turning point for me. As I was sitting in his empty room, wondering if I would ever get used to his not living with me, my girlfriend called to check on me. Before I told her what I was doing, she asked if I was sitting in my son’s room crying. She knows me well.

I told her I was whimpering not crying, which was a big step. She told me I needed to snap out of it and the first step to embracing this stage in my life was to get naked. She pointed out I had a child in my home for over two decades and with him out on his own, it was time to be a grown up in new and exciting ways. She insisted I take all my clothes off and walk around my home naked. I told her she was nuts, but I did as instructed, mostly to be able to mock her stupid idea. I was suddenly crying and naked.

I then spent the next hour walking around naked. I made a cup of tea, straightened up, had a chat with the cat, organized my closet, and chose a new paint color for my room to brighten things up a bit. There was something very liberating about being naked in the comfort of my own home. I felt like a grown up in a whole new way. It was great. Really, really, great. It was also the moment I stopped crying and started to appreciate what an important time in my life this is. Stripping down put things into perspective.

I have raised a man all by myself. He is funny, smart, rooted in his faith, compassionate, empathetic, and supporting himself financially. He is almost 22 years old, working, pursuing his passion, finding his way, and unaware that the last three times we spoke on the phone, his mom was naked. My nest may be empty, by I’m naked, and it is all very exciting. I am embracing being alone. By embracing, of course I mean I am trying really hard to embrace being alone. Change has begun.

I will worry about him every minute of every day, but the truth is that I would worry the same way even if he still lived with me. That is how motherhood works. I love him and am blessed that he loves me back and left because he wanted to spread his wings, not flee the nest. We are close and his leaving will only make us closer. Important to note I did hire him to help me with something at work so I get to see him during the week. Don’t judge. I really needed the help and why not him?!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing this blog while naked. I am in my bed, naked, and it is fabulous. I put a chain on my front door so should my son come by unannounced, I can grab a robe. You think of these things when you begin a naked life. This has been the hardest two weeks of my life. I honestly did not think it would hurt so much to have him go. I have put all my energy into preparing him to leave, but never prepared myself for the day he would go. Motherhood is tricky like that, always throwing surprises your way.

This weekend I will paint, reorganize things, and turn his room into a guest room/office, rather than the shrine it has been since he left.  I will always have a room for him, and he will always know he can come back any time he wants. He just needs to call first because chances are I will be naked. I am happy today. Happy with my accomplishments as a mother, happy my boobs look so good at 51, and hopeful that one day I will have a great man here with me, naked, and keeping the faith.

Motherhood


I am blessed to the mother of a wonderful human being. My son is a remarkable young man and I love him very much. Every mother thinks she loves her kid more than every other mother on the planet, but I’m certain I do. I adore this kid and am proud of him on all levels. He makes me happy and I don’t remember what my life looked like before he was in it. He means the world to me and I love watching his life unfold and his dreams come true.

I am blessed to the daughter of two wonderful human beings. I lost my dad quite a few years ago and miss him a little bit more everyday. My mother is amazing and has been visiting from Canada for the past couple of weeks. She will be in LA for another 3 days and the thought of her leaving makes me cry. I literally start crying if I think about taking her to the airport. She makes me happy and loved in a very profound way. She is both fun and funny.

It is an interesting revelation when you realize your mother loves you in the same was you love your child. I have had many revelations about my relationship with both my mom and my son this week, and with the clarity comes deeper levels of love for my mother. My son is moving out of the home we have shared for almost 22 years in 17 days. I am anticipating his leaving with pride, fear, happiness, and sadness. The countdown has begun has put me on edge.

My mother had four children move away from her. I don’t know how her heart handled it. I feel sad about his going, and she felt that sadness four times. I feel worried about what his life will be like without me there. My mother felt that worry four times. I have actually never lived on my own in my whole life. I went from home, to school, to a roommate, to a husband, to my son. He has been my roommate for over two decades.

There is joy of course because this is the natural progression of life. I am blessed to have a healthy and accomplished child. I suppose one could look forward to walking around home naked, not having to do another person’s laundry, and not having to clean up after anyone but myself. I may get to a point where I enjoy those things, but all I can do now is cry at the thought of them. I don’t want him to go, but at the same time I am ready for him to go.

He is my only child and I raised him on my own, so there are multiple levels of connection between us, which makes it all just a little sadder and harder.I will be sad when my mother leaves this week, and sad when my son leaves at the end of the month. I will wonder around my home, probably sleep in his room for a little while, call him nonstop, worry nonstop, and call my mother for comfort as she has been through it all herself, four times. It will be a challenging couple of weeks.

I am emotional on a normal day, but every emotion is now on high alert. I am willing myself to not lose my mind when I get home and see moving boxes everywhere. I am praying that when he walks out the door I don’t grab onto his legs and beg him not to go. I am hopeful that not only will he spread his wings and fly, but so will I. Motherhood is my greatest blessing. Being a mother and loving my mother combine into true happiness. Everything will be okay if I just keep the faith.

 

 

My London Life


I have been spending a lot of time in London over the past year and I love it here. I am sitting in my room, looking out the window as the sun is desperate to break though, watching people walk past, and feeling very happy. This city is alive and hopeful and even though there is palpable stress and fear, my soul is at peace here. On many levels, and for many reasons, it feels like London is home.

To clarify, home is ultimately where my son is, so with him in London with me this week, it truly is home. We have had a terrific time and he feels the same way in London that I do. It is a great city, with great people, namely our friends J and S, who I have written about often, and call Victoria and David Beckham. They are wonderful human beings and we truly love them and their children.

We spent last night at the Beckham Castle and I slept like a baby. I have not slept well since I got to Engalnd because internal clock has been screwed up due to all my traveling. I went from Los Angeles, to London, to Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, to Toronto, to Los Angeles, to Melbourne, to Los Angeles, to London, all in 10 days. Sleep has been elusive, last night however, I slept like a baby.

I went to bed at 10:00 pm and was Sleeping Beauty for a divine 9 hours. I don’t worry about anything when I am there, and that peace invites sleep because I’m very comfortable and happy there. Today my son is at Wembley stadium with the oldest Beckham son, watching two football teams compete to get into the Premiere League. It makes me happy when these two young men hang out.

My son spent the past week on holiday in Greece and Italy. He went on his own and it was a great adventure. It takes courage to travel on your own and his bravery inspires me. (To be clear, it also scares the crap out of me!) I am seeing my son in a new light following his trip. He has grown up somehow and it is exciting. He is 21, and will always be my baby, but he is also an amazing man.

Tomorrow I am going to take my favorite person on the planet to Paris. We’ll spend a glorious day walking around, seeing the sights, and eating the perfection that is French cuisine. It has been over 30 years since I was last in Paris, and to take my son there for his first time is special. We’ll be there for 28 hours, so will jam pack as much as we can into our day and I hope it doesn’t rain!

I love my London life and being here has allowed me to have my son come over and see parts of the world he has wanted to visit since he was little. He always wanted to see the world and it is an honor to watch his face as tells me about what he has seen and done. He is a remarkable child and being even a small part of his dreams coming true is the greatest gift I can receive as his mother.

Israel is home because I was born there and it is where my parents met and fell in love. Canada is home because it is where I grew up and where my family is. Los Angeles is home because my son was born there and it is where he is building his life. London is home because it makes me comfortable and happy. I’m a lucky girl to feel connected to so many places. I’m grateful and keeping the faith.

Dating 101: Snakes & iTunes


My dating life is interesting. By interesting, of course I mean slightly more pathetic than interesting, but still interesting. I truly have to laugh at the absurd things that happen to me, otherwise I would cry. Cry and scream. Cry and scream and adopt a cat. By cat of course I mean a dozen cats, two dogs, and perhaps a parrot. One I could train to laugh every time I said “I have a date”.  I am good at a lot of things, but detecting crazy in men is not one of them. I suppose in the big scheme of things this is not a terrible gift to be saddled with, but some days the inability to see exactly how insane a man is exhausts and depresses me.

I was chatting on Match with a man from Beverly Hills. He works in mining, was sweet, and if you took out one contact lens and squinted with your other eye, looked a little bit like Kelsey Grammer. We were texting back and forth as I am in London, and made plans to go out when I get back. He asked me to tell him something interesting about myself every day that I was in London. Seemed like a cute thing to do. I told him I was Canadian and had a Canadian flag tattoo. He told me that he had a very large penis, that he refers to as “snake”, and you can see it even when he is wearing a suit. You can’t make this stuff up people.

I marveled that of all the things he could have told me as we did the dance of introduction, he opted to tell about his genitals. I told him I thought it a was strange and disrespectful choice. He told me he meant no disrespect and was simply sharing. I reiterated it was offensive, and he told me I had no sense of humor, sent him mixed messages, and should “fuck off and die”. He then proceeded to tell me I would remain alone because I hated men. Dear Lord. I don’t think I hate anything, other than Donald Trump as President, so his outburst was hilarious. The snake charmer was anything but charming and I was in shock.

He was texting nonstop, then started to talk about my son, who he knows nothing about. Well that’s no fun, so I blocked him on my phone, blocked him on Match, and sent them a screen shot of his text telling me to die. This is a guy who has put his picture online, given me his phone number, then threatened me, all because I told him it was disrespectful to talk about his penis with a stranger. His name is David and he’s 48 years old with glasses, so if anyone comes across him run because he is unstable and dangerous, with or without his snake. As of this morning Match had not suspended him. Dating is strange to be sure, but this is terrifying.

Cut to James, also from Match, who also happens to do something with mining. He is originally from Brazil, and is looking for love after having his heart broken. We exchanged a few emails, then exchanged phone numbers and started to text rather than call as I am in London. He wrote to say he was going to Boston and would let me know when he had arrived. He did as he said he would, and when I asked him how it was going, he told me he got an iPhone. I am a diehard Apple person, so I congratulated him on stepping into the light. I asked what he was up to on a Sunday in Boston, and he told me he was downloading an app he needed for work.

He then told me he did not have his credit card and could I buy him an iTunes card and send it to him by email. Really? Yes. Really. I’m not sure how he bought the phone since he said he left his credit card at home, but I’m guessing details are not important to James. Details or the truth. When I told him he was insane to think I would send him anything, he stopped writing. Not a word since I said he was creepy and I would report him to Match. It makes me sad because there are women who will fall for things like this and in an attempt to not be lonely or feel desired, will buy into this type of scam. James should be arrested, not dating.

Cut to today, when James wrote to tell me I misunderstood him and he expected more from me. He doesn’t know me, so I’m not exactly sure what exactly he was expecting, or what was disappointing. He said he wasn’t asking for money, just asking for an iTunes card to get some apps, for his work, so he could give a great presentation. He said he has a daughter, and friends, and a boss, and family, so why ask a woman he does not know? This is insanity and makes me sad for people who are dating from a place of deep loneliness, as I am sure money is being sent and snake selfies are being taken. It is very sad and frightening.

I looked this morning and the profiles for both James and David are now hidden from the Match website. I am not sure if that was done by them or Match, but they should be looked at more closely. These men are predators and ruin it for others who are online genuinely trying to meet someone. I invite Match to get in touch with me at angel@jewishjournal.com and I will give them the details of these two loser who are polluting their website and good work. Dating is scary in general, but when you do it online, there are risks involved that perhaps women don’t think about. It can be creepy, but if you want to find someone, a necessary evil.

I date not because I love to date, because who would love something so revolting? I date because I would like to share my life with someone, and dating is how I will meet that person. I am hopeful, which is truly the most important thing to have when dating, because without hope you’ve got no shot in hell of ever meeting anyone. Please just be careful out there, and I don’t just mean the ladies. There are women online who are scamming people just as often as men. Do not send anyone any money, do not tell anyone where you live, meet in a public place, and don’t let anyone pick you up at home. You cannot be too careful.

It is sometimes hard to trust people you know, let alone strangers, but you really must try to be aware. If you come across people you sense are dangerous, tell someone. Write to the dating site you are using and tell them. You owe it to yourself, and also to the other people who will innocently stumble across these people. If you’re wrong and they are not dangerous, just crazy, still better to have said something than to be quiet. James and David are bumps in the road and I will not be scared off by a couple of idiots. I will be cautious and I will be brave because my bashert is out there and he is keeping the faith.

Force of Nature


Where does a parent — a Jewish mother — begin a frank consideration of her daughter’s sexuality? As the Zen master says, you have to start from where you are, and then let it flow.

I am a single mom, and as a single mom, my sex life is pretty much on display. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve known single mothers who crawl out of the window at midnight to visit their lovers, but I’m not good at taking off the screens. I have secrets from my daughter, but they happen during the daylight.

Because I’m a single mom, in some ways it is easier for me to discuss the facts of life with my daughter. My mother left this particular job to my father, and, finally, just the other day, he got around to asking if there’s anything I’d like to know about men.

Avoidance just doesn’t work with Samantha and me. We’re not obsessed with the mechanics of sexuality (she gets too much of this from reality-based TV, see further on) but, rather, with its operational flow. Samantha looks at my life, a virtual relationship laboratory right in her own home. She sees me dating, making my own mistakes, frisky in perfume one minute, wearing my heart on my sleeve the next. She notices when a guy comes by, bringing flowers, and she’s right there when the flowers stop. Recently, when I was on the phone with a guy for a full hour, she came in to give me a hug. The lesson my mother could never teach me — that the heart is a sexual organ — my daughter already knows.

Sometimes, I feel I’m a failure in this department, but it’s as much history’s fault as my own. Sadly, the “sexual liberation” that I’d hoped to bequeath to my daughter doesn’t mean much in today’s terms. For my generation, the “Fear of Flying” crowd, liberation means the freedom to participate in one’s own sex life, to enjoy passion and fantasy, to understand lust as a natural hunger, as related to but distinct from love. See, it still casts a romantic glow.

I was hardly a libertine; I wanted then what I want now: a stable partner with a great imagination. I’m a ’60s Gal, electrified by the right to be alive during lovemaking, to choose my partners (rather than to be commanded by them), to own a wakeful body, and to never fake satisfaction just to be polite. The other side of the equation, the part I try to stress to Samantha, is that I believe in self-protection, taking responsibility for bad choices and learning from my mistakes. No matter what has happened since — no matter how naïve we were about the fragility of males, no matter that even great sex sometimes pales next to good companionship — I still regard the women’s movement as the purest time of my life, when the battle was waged for a full definition of female adulthood, a battle only yet partially won.

In my fantasies, I’d hoped my daughter’s generation would take up the fight. But woman plans, and God laughs.

One day, when she was in fourth grade, Samantha came home from school with the report that Magic Johnson got AIDS from unprotected sex. All her life, we had been talking about sexuality, body parts, where babies come from and the rest. But nothing like this. Looking at my little girl, my heart sank, and I still think of that moment as the true “fall from grace.” Her news (she said it just this way, “Magic Johnson got AIDS from unprotected sex”) meant that Samantha, along with every little girl and boy in America, was learning about sex not as joyful, loving, free and natural (if strained with emotional complications), but as a health crisis, tainted, diseased, stained. I flew the flag for sexual freedom at half-staff.

Even today, so many years after accommodating to our new, darker era, I still well up in a protective rage on behalf of our young girls. The bad news broke too soon. Samantha didn’t yet know what love means, what physical ecstasy evokes. Before she could develop her own unique metaphor — a fantasy of bliss or a vision of herself locked in a “From Here to Eternity” love embrace on a pristine beach –she was already thinking mechanically, clinically, of sex as “safe” or “unsafe.”

She knows too much about the wrong things, and not only about AIDS. She has been warned against child abusers, sexual disease and sexual harassment in a wide variety of forms. A macabre sideshow of twisted sexual images come to her from “Jerry Springer,” MTV, Angelyne, Michael Jackson’s androgyny. She’ll never be allowed a moment’s purity, naivete or nonchalance. I grieve for her imagination’s prematurely lost virginity.

I’d be less than forthright if I said that being a Jewish parent provides security, or spiritual advantage, in this regard. Like every parent, I worry about my child’s friends and her values, and I seek to insulate her from the dangers of the cruel world. Where Jewish tradition helps is: 1) in providing a long list of women who survived their own child’s teen-age years, and 2) in offering stories that encourage independent thinking, even in the midst of chaotic times.

Increasingly these days, I use both parts of that heritage: I think of my own mother, scared to death throughout my adolescence, while I felt certain I could take care of myself. And I

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