Wednesday, November 26, 2014

You asked

6:00 AM... the world is still and silent,
lights flickering off one by one
the night sky still black.

It's cold out,
my body still waking up
but invigorated.

At work at 6:45 am...
because you asked
and so I came.

To feel needed...
to feel wanted...
your face says it all.

That you didn't know I would come
that you appreciated that I came
but you asked.

And so I came,
no questions asked
because you take care of me.

So I take care of you
and it feels nice
to be needed.

I know I give you a hard time,
but if you need me
just ask and I'll be there.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chill

I used to hate the cold, dark dreary nights
the light waning at 4
going dark and sucking you in
the cold hitting your hands, and face
places you never knew could feel a draft.

I used to hate the heavy feeling that descended along with winter,
the desire to eat more
extra padding emotionally and physically
wanting to stay indoors
and never ever seeing the sun.

The sky is clear tonight,
millions of stars pricking
the black silky expanse
the cold searing my lungs
but pure and fresh and beautiful,
oh so beautiful.

I can't feel my hands
but I feel alive
I don't feel elation
but the heavy feeling is gone,
for once I don't feel like eating away my feelings,
and I know that means that I've changed.

Huddled in my coat
braced against the cold,
I could stay here forever
frozen in time and place,
just a girl
sitting on a subway platform
wiling away the time
enjoying the beautiful
chilled
silence.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Me

She startles me.
I don't recognize her.

I approach the glass tentatively,
trying to see some trace of familiarity.

The black inky sky creates a one-way mirror,
and I see her.

I see me.
But I've never seen her before.

The hallway is empty
and so I stare unselfconsciously.

Look at her,
that girl who was once ashamed of mirrors and photographs.

That girl who walked awkwardly by guys
wondering what they were thinking.

That girl who begged the world to accept her, love her,
but who couldn't even love herself.

I look at her, at me,
in admiration.

I've had more bad days than not this week,
and yet still the fighter in me won't give up.

I trace the curve of my hips, turn this way and that,
and then simply sit awhile.

I look out at the night sky, loving the view from up here,
the quietness so peaceful it causes me to drift off.

I sleep, and when I wake up she's still there,
staring back pensively.

She's not a stranger.
She's an old friend who was lost for awhile.

And now I've found her.
I finally found me.

Mistakes

It's like Deja Vu, only...different.
I said I'd never make the same mistakes again
and yet here I am.
Weird how we keep circling back.

Frustration builds inside of me
every time you're around.
It's stupid, really. We're grown ups
and yet you act like a child.

Some people victimize themselves
and blame others for their own mistakes.
Is that what I'm doing here?
Were you a mistake?

Every day, every look, every taunt
is a reminder of how foolish this is,
how stupid and careless this is
how I stopped thinking.

I stopped thinking for one minute,
and that was it.
You can't undo what you've done
and consequences follow.

I want to turn back the clock
and start over
but how different would it be really?
There'd be no you, no me. No us.

Just as it's supposed to be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I wanna get away

Restless.
Can't sit still.
I wanna jump on a plane and fly away,
enjoy the warmth of the sky's embrace.

Close my eyes
and point to a globe,
just go anywhere
and stay for awhile.

Come back when I'm ready,
whenever that may be.
Just not here,
I can't stay here.

I think of all the things that tie me down,
and all the reasons for me to go.
If I were impulsive
I'd be gone by now.

Restless.
Can't sit still.
I think of all the fun I could be having
and all that I'm missing.

I just wanna get away.
Take a break for awhile.
Come back when I'm ready.
Whenever that may be.

Or never.
Imagine starting over somewhere fresh.
Leave your old life behind.
You can be anybody.

How can you keep going
when you want to be
anywhere
but here?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Quietude

I put my mom to sleep in the other room. She's spending the night with me.

I'm waiting for the place to be quiet so I can think.

I think best in middle of the night, when everyone is sleeping. I love the peace, the quiet, the alone time.

I love being alone.

Even if sometimes it gets lonely.

My mom came to class with me tonight. The topic was suicide. She talked about my grandmother.

I never knew her. She died before I was born.

We all knew about her suicide early on. My mom says there are no secrets in our family.

Except for the things we never say.

I used to tell my friends that my grandmother committed suicide before I realized how socially unacceptable that was to talk about.

But isn't that the point, really?

Why must we stigmatize things that we have no control over?

Depression is a sickness and must be treated like any other.

My mom said Bubby Dorris loved to shop, and would buy tons of clothes in many colors.

She would have probably taken us shopping, if she was still alive.

But she's not.

I never really felt anything about it, until I was in Florida when I was 18. I thought about visiting her grave, but never made it there.

I thought, how incredibly selfish of her, to kill herself without thinking of the people she was leaving behind.

Why didn't she think of me??

My mom told her she would be okay. Because that was all she could say.

It's not okay, really. It never is.

My mama stood up there speaking in front of the class, and told them things I never knew.

I knew about her own depression, and finally deciding to get the help she needed.

My teacher told us the way to know if someone is serious about suicide is to ask them if they have a plan. If they do, you should be worried.

My mom said she once thought she would go to Coney Island, start swimming, and never stop.

But she didn't want to do that to her family.

I'm glad she got the help when she did.

They say depression is hereditary.

I wonder how much it will affect me.

Sometimes I feel sad.

But sadness is not depression. Sadness is feelings of pain or loneliness welling up inside of you and seeping out as much as you try to stuff it down.

Every time I get stressed or overwhelmed, I calm my self down by saying, you're okay, everything will be okay.

And it always is.

It's quiet now, and I wish it would stay this way. I wish the quiet calm would last.

Except it never does.

Tomorrow I will get up and go to work and go to school and deal with the stresses and responsibilities that come with my life, and hope that I can get through the day with a smile on my face.

I wish my grandmother lived to see the legacy she left behind.

She wanted to know that we would be okay.

I know we will be okay.

I know, because it took us years to get to this point.

I know, because I knew what depression felt like, that black hole that makes you feel like you will never be happy again.

I know, because you changed, and so did we.

I know we will be okay, and as you sleep in the other room and I remember everything you said to the class tonight, I think about how lucky I am to have a mother as strong as you.

We will be okay because we have each other.

And two is stronger than one.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Winter

That dark, dreary feeling you get from walking outside on a cold rainy night. Hood drawn up, hunched in a sweater, walking fast, hands bunched in the sleeves.

Cold, yes. But refreshing. Walking inside to light and warm air, and already you miss the fresh exhilarating cold of the night air.

Wearing work-out clothes, but not working out. Pretend studying. Waiting for the clock to change.

Procrastinating....

Winter is coming on fast. Think: dark and depressing.

And so it begins.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Languages of Love

I punch him even though I'm not supposed to touch him, because he said my name wrong.

Deliberately.

He says, ow that really hurts, and I tell him he deserves it, because he should know my name by now.

And still I bring him cookies.

~~~~~~~~~~

I'm at the checkout counter and all I have are two boxes of brown sugar.

It's late, the guy behind the counter is eating something, maybe a sad meal he calls dinner.

I feel like talking, saying something, anything.

I'm tired, he's probably tired and couldn't care less what I have to say.

I say, I was in middle of baking and realized I needed brown sugar. How great is it that you are open so late.

He titters. Definitely not a full laugh.

I leave with my purchases, wondering why humans feel the need to interact with complete strangers.

~~~~~~~~~~

My roommates comment every time I bake, asking me what I'm making, what it's for, who it's for, if they could have some.

I tell them I was feeling down and instead of eating away my feelings, I decided to bake and make other people happy.

I know there are people who will be very happy tomorrow to hear I made cookies.

~~~~~~~~~~

I go to pick up my tray from my friend's house, after eating there on Shabbos.

The tray is still filled with my lemon bars, and that makes me sad.

She apologizes and tells me her family doesn't really like to try new things.

That's fine, I will take my lemon bars elsewhere, to a place where people appreciate them.

~~~~~~~~~~
 
I found out that the family friend I have been davening for passed away today. 

I saw the news right before class started. 

I couldn't focus in class.

There was a guy in my class who also knows the family.

It was nice to have someone to commiserate with.

Tomorrow I will be going to a levaya, and that makes me sad. 

~~~~~~~~~~
 
She always had a smile on her face, asking about my mom and my family.

She was at every bris, every family simcha, taking pictures and helping make the family happy.

Her family was our very first neighbors when we moved to Crown Heights.

I grew up with her kids.

Most of her kids are married now, but I keep thinking of her husband, and how very hard it will be for him to move on.

Do people ever really move on from death?

Are they supposed to?

~~~~~~~~~~

I stay up late baking cookies,and think of her smiling down on her family. 

I hope they will be okay.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Praying for a Miracle


A Facebook status. That's how news travels these days. I don't know much, it simply said 'Please say tehillim for'-- and a name. We never called our friends' parents by name, and yet I know the name. How suddenly things change. I don't want to ask questions, I don't know what is going on, but it doesn't seem good.

Surreal. All we can do is pray and hope for good news.

Please have Bracha Miriam bas Chana in your prayers.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lonely

It's like being in a huge supermarket with many people around you smiling and laughing and talking, but not to you, no never to you.

It's like standing on a street corner talking to a stranger and wishing you weren't strangers any more.

It's like standing on a subway platform and watching the train speeding farther and farther away and suddenly realizing how empty and isolated it feels.

She opens her mouth and a Spanish accent comes out, like she grew up in Spanish Harlem, and yet both of us know we used to go on the same bus to school as kids. She keeps readjusting her hat, like she feels uncomfortable in her own skin, or maybe that's just me projecting my feelings, her pants staring me in the face, the guy standing next to me sans kippah, joking about how he used to be a mashgiach in a restaurant back when he was frum, me laughing at the irony, he thinks I'm laughing at him, but no it's just the situation, trying to find common ground and suddenly the fact that he doesn't wear a yalmuka makes no difference to me, and I don't know why.

It's like trying to form relationships and all they know me for are cookies, and that is something I did to myself, bring cookies once, twice, thrice, and suddenly you are the cookie lady and you can never get away from that, the jokes every day, the demands for more cookies, and you will never be anything more than that. I just want to be friends, except maybe that is a lie.

Sitting in a classroom talking about disorders, anxiety, depression, and trying hard not to diagnose yourself, except you feel yourself experiencing some of the symptoms, speeding heart, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, you just want to go home and eat cookies and watch TV and feel better, except you remember how you are staying away from cookies for awhile, and you have a 10 page paper to write, and suddenly it all seems too much, except no one cares and they all just want you to give it 100%, but you just can't right now.

My mother is driving to Florida tomorrow, I just want to jump in the car and go with her, the sun, oh I miss the sun. And freedom.

Monday, October 13, 2014

See the change

I came out tonight for you, babe. To prove I was there.

There's a selfie of us last year, and the year before, and as our phone cameras get better and better, so do we.

You ask me if I see the change, and I'm happy to say that I finally do.

We measure our lives in segments of time. It's been x amount of years since high school, x amount of years since seminary. What have we done since then? Can you see the change?

I see it in the way I carry myself, in the way I walk. I see it in the way I deal with people on a day to day basis. I see it in the way I show extreme patience with people who wear me thin.

Do you see the change?

I see it in my eyes every morning in the mirror. I see it in the pride I take in my school work. I see it in the joy I have in going to work every day. I see it in the countdown to my diploma.

Do you see the change?

I saw it tonight as we walked down the street, the music blaring as a backdrop, little girls and little boys doing the best they could to make themselves known to each other, hazy smoke the only form of communication between them.

We may have once been them, in some form or another. We all know why those little boys are on the women's side while there is ample room to stand and dance on the men's side, as well as a huge walkway in between. It is pretty obvious in the co-mingling going on till the wee hours of the morning.

The contrast between the drunk and stumbling youths just trying to make their presence felt in the world, and the beautiful stirring niggunim coming from a farbrengin upstairs is quite glaring.

Why?? I want to ask them, shake them, tell them how foolish they are being, why waste your time on little girls and little boys and meaningless relationships that will destroy you little by little until you have no idea of who you are or who you once were.

I want to tell them, I get it, I was once you. But they wouldn't understand, and I don't blame them. We must all go through our own stumbling paths in order to eventually find the light, and as painful as it is to watch, I cannot live the journey for them.

But I see the change in me, in us. We were never really them. We were we, only younger and stupider and filled with angst. We wanted to make noise, and make our presence felt, and make sure the world knew our names.

As I stumble home at 2 am, wondering why I'm still up, knowing that the pain in my back indicates how old and tired I am, my alarm set for 7- since I must get up in the morning for work- reminding me that I'm too old for this, little boys and little girls all over the street drunk or high or whatnot, and then there's me- not better-than-thou, or smarter, just older and wiser. And ya, a little smarter.

I can see the change, not because I hoped and prayed that it would happen, but because I made it happen, and every day that I wake up and try to be a better person and stick to my New Years resolutions, and pray and give tzedakah and try to do all the things I'm supposed to do, and go to work and go to school and take on more and more responsibilities till I'm stretched so thin that it's 2 am on a Sunday night and I'm wishing for the weekend already- that is how I know that I've changed.

I'm no longer that little girl anymore who's definition of self-confidence was synonymous with 'validation', and 'compliments', I don't need to be loud to know that people are looking at me, and watching me, I see it every day when I go to work. And every day is a new opportunity to educate people on who I am as a Jew, as a female, as a Lubavitcher. It is a new opportunity to break down barriers, to redefine misconceptions, to be myself and let people know that it is okay to ask questions if they want answers, but it is not okay to insult out of ignorance.

We have changed, and will G-d willing continue to change and grow into better people.

I can't wait for our next year's selfie, wind in our-- sheitels, watching our men dance. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hashem Hu Haelokim

"Why are you crying?", he asks me. He's 7. I doubt he would understand.

"I'm not crying", I tell him.

"Then why are there tears coming from your eyes?"

I want to tell him, because I got lost driving here, my phone died, and I drove around for an hour with no idea where I was going, watching the sun set and knowing Yom Kippur was coming.

I want to tell him, because I am tired and running on no sleep, because my friend's grandmother passed away this morning, and it hit me harder than normal.

I want to tell him, how scary it was to be lost, knowing I was so close to my destination but making so many wrong turns that I was getting farther and farther away.

I want to tell him, how relieved I was to speak to his father and be reassured that I was very close, that the street that looked unfamiliar was actually their street, only I was at the other end of it and had to keep driving straight for miles.

I want to tell him how excited I was to see him and his family, how I just kept repeating in my head over and over 'keep driving straight' until finally, finally, I made it.

I want to tell him how close I was to losing it and falling apart on the road, but I kept hearing a voice in my head telling me to 'relax'.

I want to tell him, how I called my father and heard him bless me over the phone, I just wanted to say, 'Abba, I was lost and I was scared and I just want you to make it better', but I'm 24 and no one can make it better anymore.

He's 7. He wouldn't understand.

But HE would.

I cried through maariv. And at the end of the fast, when we say 7 times 'Hashem Hu Haelokim', I realized that He is my father, that He is the one and only G-d, and He is the only one that can make it better.

I was lost, and I found my way back.

It doesn't matter how many times you fall, it matters how many times you pick yourself up and keep going.

May my prayers on Yom Kippur help give me the strength to keep going throughout the year, and keep getting back up after every fall.

Shavua Tov, and Shana Tova.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Checking In

Hey G-d, what's up? I had a really great year. No regrets here. Every time around this time of year, I find myself faced with the question: Do I have any regrets from the past year? Is there anything I can improve on for the coming year? When my answer came up as: no regrets, I thought, maybe I should dig deeper.

I used to be flooded with spirituality, emotion, a conscience telling me right from wrong. Now, I have to work really hard to feel bad about anything that I may be doing wrong. I find myself caring less and less about the things that once gave me a pang when I thought about it. Self improvement? Not so much.

It comes down to: no time, lack of caring, exhaustion, etc. When you find yourself simply not caring for self-improvement, that's when you know you need it the most.

I told a friend recently that I'm comfortable with who I am. She had commented on a top I was wearing with a slightly low neckline. My response was, ya maybe there is room for improvement in my tznius, but I just don't care anymore. I feel comfortable, and that's okay with me.

But what that is really saying is, I'm too lazy or stubborn or careless to do anything about it. I simply don't want to. I want to keep on living the way that I am, without anyone trying to lecture me or guilt me into changing. I don't want to change. I want to be happy with who I am.

But is G-d happy? Today I tried explaining to a coworker the definition of a chossid. A true chossid does what the Rebbe has asked and demanded of him, and he does it without questioning, without superimposing his own will, because he knows that the Rebbe has his best interest at heart, and he must do everything mehadrin min hamihadrin- the best of the best. He can't slack, he can't be lazy, he can't go around saying, I am what I am and I just don't care to change.

What happens when you get too comfortable in your lifestyle, and you stop feeling bad about doing the wrong things?

Time for a wake up call.

I'm still waiting for that.

Good luck finding your own way. Wishing you a Gmar Chasima Tova, an easy fast, and a year filled with spirituality, positivity, and growth.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Just a Ride

I close my eyes and let the wind whip over me,
caressing my hair.
The music at full blast.
No need to open the windows,
for the top is down.

Guys and cars,
that's what they say.
He has a convertible.
He is oh so cute.
He has good taste in music.

And yet we ride silently.
The music meant to dissuade conversation.
And at the end of the ride
we exchange polite 'good nights' and say
see you at work.

I have no need for little-girl crushes
but my heart flutters at the way his eyes light up
when he sees me coming.
I pretend to like football
to keep the conversation going.

It's just a ride,
I tell myself.
But if this were a real date
instead of a gracious favor from a coworker
it wouldn't be just a ride.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who am I?

You want to know my name.

You ask me if I'm "Chabad".

Does it matter what I am? I'm a Jew, you're a Jew, we're all the same.

Suddenly, I'm the odd one out. You poke fun at Chabad.

I don't see the humor.

You ask me if my middle name is Chaya. You seem to assume we must all be Mushkys, or closely related.

You ask me if I'm Gezhe (Chabad Bourgeoisie). I'm not even sure what that means. Only, I know I'm not it. You say I must be Gezhe, since I would only marry within Chabad.

I don't see the humor in that.

You say things like, 'Oh I've been to Chevra shul'  (the controversial Crown Heights 'modern shul'.')

That's great. I don't care.

I ask you why you assumed I'm Chabad.

You say I have a certain 'look'.

I still don't get it.

You say it must be because I'm not wearing the thick seam stockings.

Huh.

In class a guy with a clearly Jewish name asked me what my plans are for 'HH'.

I look at him blankly.

'High Holidays', he clarifies.

Still not getting it.

He asks me what synagogue I'm affiliated with.

Um, none really.

He tells me he bought  new 'Talis'.

That's great. Really. I would totally buy a new one if I wore one too.

I wonder if this is his once a year check-in with G-d. Maybe that's why he is so eager to discuss it with me.

Truthfully, I haven't really thought about Rosh Hashanah. I've thought about it, as in I'm aware it is coming up pretty soon. But self-reflection- none of that.

Does this guy have it easier than me? Once a year check up, get a new Talis, go to synagogue. He keeps talking about it. Either he is trying to impress me, or it is really important to him.

Me: Oh wait, when is Rosh Hashanah again? The 22? No, wait, that's the day of my friend's wedding. (Think: Dress, hair, make up, shoes. Yup, that's what I'm looking forward to.) So, Rosh Hashanah must be a couple days after. Huh. Okay.

Who am I, you want to know?

I'm different. I'm Chabad and to some that means making fun, singing yechi when I walk in the room, mocking me.

To another, I may be as frum or more frum than his lady-Rabbi. I may be that one connection to real Judaism. I may be the representation of everything religious to him.

I don't know what I am. Everyone wants to know these days, esspecially Shadchanim.

'How tznius are you?'

I don't know, do you want me to measure my skirt?

Who am I, you want to know.

People, does it really matter?

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.

This year, we are all celebrating Rosh Hashanah together.

And that's all that matters.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's a Man's World

In the company where I work, there are mostly men employed in upper management. Amongst the females are myself, and about 4 other women. For some weird reason, the women's bathroom is in the all-male manager's office, while the men's bathroom is in the break room. Any time I need to use the facilities, I must walk amongst all the guys. It's awkward.

What I learned while working here:

1) Grown men are really just little boys in grown up bodies.

2) They have no filters. Even when women are in the room, they crack dirty jokes. The kind of things I'm sure they'd never want repeated to their wives.

3) They curse. And then put fake money in the swear jar.

These people are all older than me by at least ten years. At times I feel like I'm in a room full of children.

Hopefully this is just their 'playground', and they can then go home and be respectful husbands and fathers.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Calm before the storm

Calm denotes peace, serenity, the opposite of pressure and stress. I'm never really calm. And there is no real storm coming.

I just started a new job, working full time hours and some Sundays. My new semester just started and this semester I'm taking 5 classes. So all in all my schedule will be full. I know things will begin to get busy quickly, either get with it or get left behind. I'm trying to prepare myself as much as possible, so that I know what I need for each class, so that I don't freak out or decide it is all too much and I'm moving back home with my parents and abandoning my life. (As if.)

I keep saying, I know I'll be okay, I can handle it, I will be fine. I know I CAN handle it. The question is, will I?

People always talk about juggling things in life. A new full-time job + full-time school = no time for anything else. I even started considering cutting out TV in my life, and that's a big deal for me.

Well, who needs fun and relaxation anyway?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

This one's for you, Ma

I've seen a lot of my mother in the past week. I used to go to Monsey for Shabbos a lot more, in the earlier days when they first moved there. But lately, between work and school and the general schlep of getting to Monsey, I've seen less and less of my family. (And that's just the way I like it.)

Last week was family day. My grandparents came to visit, and all of my nieces were under one roof. Now I know why people have kids. For all the funny, cute, weird, adorable, annoying, smelly, squishy, chubby inch of them. You know that expression, 'My heart melted'? Gag. But when little ER ran over to me randomly, gave me a hug and ran away, I wanted to keep her forever.

Anyway, back to my mother. She stayed with me for a couple of days. Apparently, she is telling everyone how great my cooking skills are, how I feed her so well, how she just loooves this restaurant. I don't eat out, and it's nice to be able to cook for my mother.

My mother is a selfless person. Always doing for others, barely for herself, never wants to get in anyone's way. My room is small, and when I have a guest over I put a mattress on the floor. Of course, how can it ever be said that I let my mother sleep on the floor? But I was tired, and she insisted that it was okay, and that it was actually respecting her is she specifically wanted the floor and I let her sleep there. Ya, she sure convinced me.

It is really hard for me to understand. I live a singular life. I take care of myself. I have no one else to take care of. I like it that way. Whenever anyone comes into my sphere of being, automatically they annoy me. Why are you talking to me? Why are you asking me questions? What do you want from me? With my mother, she is always, "Go in front of me in line, take the last piece of food, it's okay, I'm okay, we're all okay, do do do for everyone until she herself is obsolete.

I love you Ma, I really do. But do you know how annoying it is when I'm trying to make the bed, and she says, I can do that. I am making her food and she says, you don't have to do that for me. But I want to. So LET ME.

You can be selfless, but let people give back to you. Let me do for you, not because I have to, but because I want to.

It has been so nice spending time with my mother alone, outside of the house, away from my siblings. Introducing her to my life, my mature adult life. Look Ma, I'm all grown up. Thank you for letting me be the hostess.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Is that the face of desperation?

When my oldest brother was approaching 30 and still single, my mother became desperate. She contacted a girl on his behalf who declined to go out with my brother, and wrote her a whole long letter about how wonderful my brother is and how great the girl would be for him. (I'm pretty sure that kind of behavior warrants a restraining order.) The girl was non too happy about being begged to marry my brother.

My mother would jokingly say, "He's a great catch, he comes with health insurance! And that's hard to come by these days." (She wasn't really joking.) She went to the ohel regularly to beg G-d to find him a girl to marry. She was so scared he would never get married.

Well, thank G-d married he is, with a beautiful daughter.

Next: my second oldest brother. (Still single.) One time we were sitting by a shloshim, and my mother was talking about her upcoming trip to Florida. Somehow she mentioned my brother (who lives in Florida), and a woman behind us said, "Sorry for eavesdropping, but what's he like?" My mother was so happy to have someone to sell her pitch to. She went on and on about all my brother's great qualities, about his self-starter business, about what kind of girl he needs. (I bet that poor woman regretted butting in.)

One purim, driving down Kingston Ave, we stopped to give tzedaka to a girl collecting money for a family who recently lost their mother. My mother, recognizing the girl who was collecting, said "Will you marry my son? You'd be perfect for him!" Ya, by then I was driving away screaming, "Ma! You're nuts!"

So now we have established that my mother will do anything to get her son married, and that she's a bit crazy.

At what point does one cross the line between doing ones part to find the right match, and doing things that can label one as crazy?

Does my mother wear the face of desperation?

P.S. Still single brother but declines to be set up, says he's done with blind dates. Believe me, I've tried.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When the world accepts a challenge

We have all seen what the world can do when following in the footsteps of evil. We are now seeing how much good can come out of following for the right reasons.

I was never much of a follower. As the great Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Whether I follow that advice to be true to myself, or merely because I feel that many people are idiots and I'd rather not follow an idiot, matters not. Unconsciously, somewhere along the way I chose to decide for myself where I wanted to go in life, and not merely be a sheep following the masses.

I cannot help but notice the huge and necessary coverage that the ALS ice bucket challenge is spreading. Yes, people are doing it for fun, yes they all look like idiots, yes I have heard and seen my friends shriek more in the past few days then ever in my lifetime. All the famous people are doing it. It's trending. Everyone is dumping ice water on their heads for the cause. The question is, will you?

I was curious to know how it all got started. This article enlightened me somewhat. If there has to be internet trends, it should only be for a good cause like this one. If people have to get on camera and act like idiots, it should only be to raise money for a charity.

I stayed as quiet as I could and as far away from the videos in an attempt to not get nominated. Thanks to my friend, (I use that term lightly. You know who you are). I got nominated. The premise of the challenge is to take a video of yourself dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, or to donate $100 to an ALS fund, within 24 hours of being nominated. My coworker got nominated, and he told me to stop being such a scaredy cat and just do it. But really, who will benefit from seeing me dump ice cold water on my head? (Don't even think about me shrieking, that would never happen.) I especially like Charlie Sheen's stunt of dumping $10,000 dollars on his head (which he then donated to the ALS fund). Personally, I think that giving money is better than a little act on video. But the awareness it is bringing is amazing.

A Chabad shliach, Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, was diagnosed with ALS. If you would like to donate to their family fund, please do so here. I came across his blog, and I think it is amazing that he continues to inspire other people while going through such a great personal struggle. Such are the children of G-d.

Here is a video of a friend of mine doing the challenge, unfortunately her father passed away 9 years ago from ALS. Hearing personal stories brings it closer to home.

Tick tock, the day is almost over. Will I accept the challenge?

Sorry everyone who was waiting expectantly for my video. I donated to the cause instead.

YOU have been chosen. What will you do?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Existentialism

I smell like vanilla extract. That has always been one of my favorite smells. The cupcakes are sitting on the counter waiting to be frosted, the frosting is in the fridge getting nice and thick, waiting to be piped. My roommate had the nerve to ask me if I used Duncan Hines. Nope, not me. I'm a sugar n spice kinda girl.

You ever get that feeling waking up in the middle of the night, coming off of a dream or a thought, and not remembering what you were just thinking of? How it bugs you, and alludes you. Looking off into the distance, trying to find the answer, and then forgetting the question.

I am coming down off a high, not a high really, but a crash you get after writing a paper for school. The midnight deadline approaching, the rush, the stress, the panic, the nerves, the blaring music, the headache, the pounding behind the eyes, tick tock, the clock strikes 12, you are not finished, oh well, keep going, the screen blurs, 12:37, you are done, thinking, thinking, should you submit it now or read it over, and what good will it do to read it over in your exhausted state, alas it makes no sense, did it start out making sense and lose it somewhere along the way, or did it make no sense to begin with? And why are you still sitting here, and why are you still up, and why haven't you sent it yet?

And so you leap and you jump and you hit 'send' and that is that, and what's done is done, and what shall be will be, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

I've had enough of existentialism to last a lifetime, and that is the pun, isn't it. Well, here is the last paragraph of my essay:

"The Existentialists says that there is no meaning in life, yet all humans spend their whole lives searching for meaning. Absurdest philosophy says that humans search their whole lives for meaning, and yet find none. So then what is the point of looking? As in Rosencrantz& Guildenstern Are Dead*, they keep searching for their purpose, and in the end they die. That is true of humans. In the end, we all die. What is the meaning of life, the Universe, and the world we live in? Ah, that may yet evade us, but we will go on living until we discover the meaning, or until we die, whichever comes first."
*A brilliant film (featuring British actor Tim Roth) I highly recommend if you have the time. Nay, make the time. Such wit I haven't seem in awhile.
So then, what is our purpose here?
I can't say I have much of an idea, although after spending most of the day avoiding writing my paper and then scrambling to finish it at the last minute, I am not much clearer on that then when I first started. 

Stop while you're ahead. Okay then. Goodnight all.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hello old friend

Remember your angsty teenage self? Ever get a glimpse of her? Usually accompanied with embarrassment, "oh my gosh, I can't believe I ever did that/ spoke like that/ thought like that/ dressed like that!" Oh yes, dear reader, there was a time when even I was not perfect. I wrote in all lower case letters. I spelled words like 'wut', I was uberly sarcastic and self-deprecating, way more than I am now. I came face-to-face with her today, and I can't say that I liked it.

I tripped over it by accident. An idea I came up with 7 years ago for our school play. We didn't end up using it. The funny thing is, the idea itself mirrors my life pretty accurately. In Freudian theory, you could say that my unconscious mind was trying to express itself. Unless I was very conscious of it, I can't really remember, it was 7 years ago.

I cringe. But here it is:

Written by me, 7 years ago:


"title: "the juggler" / the juggling act


A girl moves to a new town with her family. new school, new friends. in her old school, the girls were chassidish, and she was too. but here, the girls are not so chassidish, in dress, behavior, etc. Out of the need to fit in, she decided she has to be like them, but thinks, it wont be for real, just an outward act. at heart ill still be a good chassidish girl. she still keeps in touch with old friends, so when shes with them shes an aidel chassidish girl, but when shes with her new friends, shes just like them. 

one time, while shes hanging out with one group, the two groups happen to meet. and when they both see the other group that shes hanging out with, they pressure her into deciding who she really is. but at this point, she herself doesnt even know. the whole 'act' she thought she was putting on, turned into reality, wut she ended up becoming. by now she doesnt know wut to do at all. but advice comes suddenly, in a form she would never have thought, through a teacher at school. the teacher was telling them about galus and geulah. "galus is like acting", she explains. "its not the real thing, just temporary, till we have moshiach, the ultimate goal. but unfortunately, some ppl forget theyre supposed to be acting, and end up internalizing it, till they become it. ex: when s/o cares more abt a fancy car, or being rich, then learning torah. they forget that torah is the real thing, and the car is just an 'act'. 

this is wut the teacher says. the girl takes it to heart, internalizes it, and uses it to get herself out of her situation. shesw trys to think of a solution. finally, comes up with an idea. purim is coming up, and the school is putting on a talen show. she decides for the show shes gonna do a juggling act, to try to explain to her friends wut she was going through. 

gets up on stage by her turn, starts juggling nicely, then suddenly messes up, purposely. drops the balls, etc. she takes the mike and asks to say a few words. both sets of friends are there, at her request. she starts with saying, whoever i am talking to, will know who they are. she explains how until now she was putting on an act, didnt really know who she was, or where she belongs. till now, she was juggling two personalities. but now, she says, i dont want to juggle anymore. ive finnally decided who i really am. and she walks off the stage, and goes to stand with the chassidish group of girls. she was scared that after this, her new group of friends would reject her, but she sees that on the contrary, they respect her for standing up to them, and showing them wuts really right, and in the end, they start following her example. The lesson is, galus is an 'act', geula/ moshiach is the real thing, and we shouldnt lose site of it, stop acting, or we'll forget who we are."



 I copied and pasted this exactly as it was, therefore all mistakes are not my own, rather old me. I did go through this struggle myself in high school, trying to figure out who I wanted to be, what group I fit in to, who I was trying to please.

I am pleased to be able to say that I am now passed all that. I have found a balance, and it no longer matters to me what my friends or people think. I am finally living my life as I want it to be.

As scary as it may be for me to bump into my past self, she is or was once a part of me. She is me. Just old me. I no longer think like that, talk like that, or act like that immature girl of yesteryear. But I would not be the me I am today if not for those struggles.

This play may never see the stage, but I think its purpose is complete.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Date Night

I was expecting a rose, but I got none. I stopped and got chocolate. I was supposed to receive flowers. That was the deal.

I got dressed languidly, applying my makeup and picking out the dress and shoes, without the usual nerves normally accompanying a date.

We walked together in public. It was freeing, to be out and about and not worry who will see us, what people will say or think.

I saw a friend; She asked where we were off to. I said we were going on a date. She laughed and said, that's nice.

My father said, don't call it a date; but a date is what it was.

A date with my friend. Female friend.

No we didn't hold hands. I didn't get flowers or a goodnight kiss. I actually think she thought I was supposed to be the man in this scenario. Not sure why, maybe due to my take-charge attitude.

We saw a movie (not very good.)

We ate dinner at a fancy restaurant.

We took a leisurely stroll.

We walked arm in arm.

We took selfies.

We ate a heavenly chocolate dessert together, two spoons one plate.

I had a great time, minus all the stress of 'what is he thinking of me, how do I look, is this awkward? this is awkward, so awkward. What is he saying, am I even listening? I'm not listening, G-d this is so boring."

I was able to relax and simply enjoy the company of a good friend.

I wish all dates could be that stress-free.

Listen up ladies: a night on the town with your best gals can really do you good.

So forget about guys for a night. Strap on your heels, zip up your dress, grab your clutch, and go out and have fun!

This one's on me.



Friday, August 8, 2014

Snippets

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The kids were all finally sleeping. Ahh, time to relax, raid the kitchen, and make some money while doing it. Suddenly the pitter patter of feet sounds in the hallway. The 3 year old, with tears in his eyes, blankie in tow, and pacifier in his mouth comes towards me. I rush to him, hoping he recognizes me and isn't scare to see that his mother isn't home. He is mumbling something around the pacifier, so I take it out and ask him what's the matter. He says in a tear-filled voice, "Something's bothering me". I cannot even fathom what could be troubling a 3 year old in middle of the night. I lead him back to bed and sit with him until he falls asleep, a mere 5 minutes later. Oh, the burdens of a child.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With headphones in his ears and a bag swinging from his hand, he ambles down the crowded subway platform, brushing by someone as he passes. The other guy turns around and says 'yo!' but Headphones cannot hear him. Again, he says 'Yo! My G, you just hit me.' I watch nervously, hoping it will not turn into a brawl. Headphones turns around and says something softly. I cannot hear the words, but I see him stick out his hand. The once huffy victim, now placated, slaps and shakes his hand and both go on their way. A simple apology and friendly handshake can go a long way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My mama came to school with me today

Kinda weird, but kinda awesome. My professor's late father, Rex Harrison, was a famous actor in his day, and my mother saw all the plays and movies he acted in. She was excited to hear about my professor, and wanted to meet him.

It was cool bringing my mother to class. I'm happy for her that she had a nice experience, and that I was able to do that for her.

P.S. in my last post I shared my friend's new blog, which has now moved from tublr to blogger. Check it out: http://talkjewishtome.blogspot.com/

Blogging: Oh how I miss you

I miss the sense of community, of being part of a greater whole.

I miss following link after link in middle of the night and discovering new worlds, new people, new perspectives, new ways of looking at things, things I have never even thought about.

I miss the rush, the excitement, the newness of it all. I miss being a virgin blogger.

After years of blogging away, I feel sullied.

It has become routine, to the point that I have scheduled posts in advance instead of writing spontaneously.

I have gone weeks without blogging, and felt not a twinge.

It is as if the reservoirs of my mind have dried up and disappeared, and while I grieve for the good ole days, it seems that the end may be near.

And that makes me sad.

Every time I try to recapture it I realize those days are dead and gone, and can never be had again.

I sat in class and froze when my teacher recited a familiar email address. It belonged to the guy sitting two seats away, and I recognized it as that of a former blogger.

My heart pounding, I wondered if I should introduce myself, say hey you, it's me, you may have read my blog, I may have read yours.

But after a quick search I saw that he hadn't blogged in 4 years.

Would that invade his privacy? Would he find it weird, or detached, so far in his past that he couldn't care less?

The more I thought about it the less I felt like asking him.

There was no need to ask him, I knew. I've met bloggers before, they come and go. I always thought I was different.

I'm not like them, thought I, not here merely to share the events of my day/week/life/bad dating stories. I'm a writer, and I will make something of myself someday.

One day a man called me 'unpractical' for majoring in English. He expressed his surprise that I hadn't read all the classics, that I couldn't name all the famous authors, that I wasn't like all other writers, weird and hip and high on crack.

Who am I, then?

Not a writer, not a blogger, not an academic.

Ah, the question I've been asking myself for quite some time.

As Mike-from-last-semester told me all about the novel he is writing, and I nodded my head and oohed and aahed to be polite, inside I was wondering if I could ever speak with that much confidence about anything I had written.

I wondered if the story I began, the one that I never finished, the one that, although it garnered positive feedback from my 'writerly friends' now sits in a dark box on my windowsill, will ever see the light of day again.

Oh, but the effort to force myself to sit down, the mental energy it takes to crank out a story, it hurts. It doesn't come naturally.

I do wonder about the effects of opium, the drug of choice for the Romantic writers.

Oh to be free of my own constricting mind, to be free of self-censorship, to be free of self-consciousness, to be free- to be free.

Ah, but my eyes grow tired and weary, my hands grow weak, and my words stutter and die.

Someday, my love. Someday.

Please, do take the time to check out this fresh new blog, a young friend of mine who is beginning her journey into the wonderful world of writing.

Update: my friend moved her blog to http://talkjewishtome.blogspot.com/, much easier format than tumblr.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Beautiful Person Award

Invisibility
was to be
the topic of the night.

But we'll leave that for another time.

Someone sent me a beauty award. Though at times I find it weird and creepy when people are overly nice to me, I decided to pay it forward. The premise is that you send the award to 3 people whom you find beautiful inside and out. Supposedly, if you get the award from 3 people that means you are truly beautiful. N.B. I don't really believe in forwarding stuff. But I'll give it a shot.

Your voice
like the calm ocean breaze
washes over me,
I can hear your laugh in the waves.

Your face
like the warmth of the sun
shines bright
I can see your full smile.

Your self
you give up for others
put them first
before your own needs.

Your life
you live for the good
of the world,
and G-d's will.

Yourself
you demean
but you are much more
then you give yourself credit for.

You and I
may not always agree
but to me
you will always be beautiful.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A good cry

Feeling so empty inside
got no where to hide
the lights ablaze
please let me hide my face
from you.

Guy on the train
talking about whats-his-name
tries to hand me a page passing through,
I say no thanks I'm a Jew
he asks 'do you know what that means'.

Stumped for words
my speech slurs
couldn't keep my mouth closed
while he's so composed
talks about the bible and stuff.

My brain on alert
my gaze I avert
look away
wonder what you'd say
if you knew my thoughts.

I want to say, I'm a Jew! I'm a Jew! And settle the matter. But he keeps talking. The ride is almost over, the train is pulling in, he's still talking. I wonder what I started, and where I was when we learned that class called 'know what to say.

They say I'm smart, my mother calls me brilliant, now I know that isn't true. I can't say that I'm dumb, but I feel lacking at times, like some people got an extra gene that I must have missed, called 'the comeback'. I'm not good at rapid fire debates. Give me Google any day and I'm all set. 10 page research papers are easy for me, time to prepare what I have to say. But on the spot I'm no good.

In the classroom I come up with a theory regarding the story we are reading, I have points to back it up. No one concluded the same that I did, my teacher sounds skeptical. I try, I try, but with everyone seemingly against you, it's hard. One student attempts to side with me, but it was weak. My teacher asks me to back up my theory, and I cannot. I grasp for outside references but nothing comes to mind. They seem to know it all. My mind is blank.

Some people call it a bad day, or a bad week. Perhaps a bad state of being. It is laughable, to be in a school filled with and surrounded by people who together make up so much knowledge, and to feel that you know nothing. Grades mean nothing if you leave knowing no more than when you entered.

I was looking for that paper, the one with my goals. A few years ago I wrote down five goals that I wanted to accomplish, and at the time I did not believe I could do them. I thought about it over the years, but forgot about that paper. I went digging for it tonight, and to my delight I can now say I have accomplished all five of those goals. My problem is that sometimes I don't have the confidence to recognize my own accomplishments.

A velvet bag stuck out of an envelope with a card. What is that? I pull it out. And open it up. My face lights up. The card, it reads, "I smile because you're my sister...(open it up) I laugh because there's nothing you can do about it."

I am crying now as I open the velvet bag. Inside are beautiful heart shaped earrings, sparkling blue. He didn't realize that I can't wear earrings, I feel bad that I ever told him. I want so badly to pierce my own ears just to wear the precious gift he gave me.

I call my little brother, hoping he won't realize I'm crying. I get his voicemail, leaving a tearful message telling him how much I love him and miss him. I matter to someone, though at times I forget that.

Sometimes a good cry is all it takes to feel better.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Frailty the name is woman

Pain

Discomfort hinders your abilities
your face in a permanent wince
as you sit, stand, walk, sleep.
You start to anticipate your next dosage of pills
and wonder how bad it would be to overdose.

I've had a pretty rough week. I hurt my back on Sunday, right before I babysat three cute toddlers. I swallowed some pills, swallowed the pain, and took them for ice cream. I couldn't get to the doctor until Thursday. My friend Google informed me that indeed I could take ibuprofen and acetaminophen together. The days were okay, except sitting hurt and standing hurt because of the sitting. The nights were bad, not being able to find a comfortable position, and the excruciating pain of standing up in the morning.

Today I went to the doctor. I am beginning to feel better. He gave me a shot for the pain. It's helping somewhat.

I claim to have a pretty high threshold for pain. I barely flinch at shots, or giving blood. But when your body is in pain, it shuts down. Suddenly every task that used to be so simple, like walking up the stairs, is agony. You just want to wrap yourself in a blanket and drown out the world. You want the pain to go away. You move slower. I'm usually a fast walker, but every step sent a shooting pain down my leg. I was cold. I wore a sweater when it was hot out.

B"H it is getting better. Hopefully by next week I will be back to normal. It is hard having physical limitations.

I know I am probably way late in the game, but thanks to modern technology, I downloaded a siddur app on my phone, as well as a tehillim and the chabad.org chittas app. (I kind of wondered how it works if you bring your phone into the bathroom. I suppose if the app is not open then it's not a problem.)

This might make me sound lazy, but in my life I do things by convenience. If it's not hard, then why not. I recently made a hachlata to begin saying the daily portion of tehillim every day. Then I kind of added on chumash and tanya, making it the complete portion of daily chittas. Since I have the siddur app, I figured why not daven on the train on my way to work, since I have free time. I realized that I have free time in my life when I make the time, and it is so easy to work spirituality into your life if you just try.

My high school alumni made a tehillim group for the safety of Israel. I took some tehillim upon myself, and my tehillim app has a setting where I can save 'my chapters' so it is easier to say. Feel free to join the group, round 2 is already filling up.

The title of this post is in reference to Hamlet. If you have never read Hamlet, (I don't blame you), Hamlet says this line about his mother and he is basically saying that he thinks she is a weak person and she has no backbone. (That's as much context as I can give without summarizing the whole play.) I find is kind of rude that he assigns the word frail to an entire gender. I am here to say that women are not frail. Sometimes we choose to be weak. That doesn't make us weak. You must find it within yourself to be strong. And you will be strong.

I can find the time for prayer even in the midst of pain. And when I say even, I should add that that is the most important time to pray. Do you see the irony of saying, I'm in pain so I don't feel like davening right now? Rather, daven so that the pain will go away.

If this doesn't make sense, I blame the shot my doctor gave me. No idea what was in it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Steven, Joseph, Michael

With names like
Steven, Joseph, Michael,
the kippah is the first thing I see,
But the names,
the names they get to me.

Teacher says to (other) Michael,
do you wear a yalmuka,
He tilts his head in response,
displays his bare head.

I know he's Jewish too,
but them,
the ones who look like
frum Yidden
with names like
Steven, Joseph, Michael,
what are they trying to hide?

Friday, July 4, 2014

I Hair You

D says, "Let's talk about our alliance, or our disagreements." Then he catches himself. "Sorry, I didn't mean to say our, I mean, we not the one's who been fighting. I got no beef with you". I laugh when he says that. We are discussing the Crown Heights riots and the history of Jews and blacks in the united States. Every time my teacher sees us two talking and laughing, he says, "It's great that you two are getting along and bonding, but it's time to be quiet now." Ya, it's funny. But it's also a bit racist.

I wasn't there during the riots of 1991. My family moved to Crown Heights shortly after. Seems like an insane move for that time. The blacks were saying that all the Hasidim were moving out, disappearing. And here my family moves, from a quiet suburb in Massachusetts. I always wondered what would have happened if we would have stayed there. We might be a nice Modern Orthodox family right now.

We read Anna Deaver Smith's play, Fires in the Mirror. She acts it out here. I like how she interviewed people on both sides of the dispute, and then laid their words side by side, so that instead of seeing how very different they are, you get to see how they are somehow the same.

My teacher told us to bring our "work in progress" to class, and we would discuss it and help each other. The paper is due on Tuesday. I submitted a proposal for the final paper, to which my teacher replied, "Regarding your well-written proposal: Instead of thinking about your final paper as a research paper that traces the origins of the Crown Heights Riots in Jewish/Black relations in the U.S., I'd like to encourage you to foreground Anna Deavere Smith's play and write a more argumentative paper that engages deeply with the text. Use context where it matters, but do examine how the text deals with particular aspects of the relationship you are interested in." I thought about it and came up blank.

When he said "the relationship you are interested in" my mind immediately went to the Jews struggle, as the weak and helpless protagonist, and the black rioters as the antagonistic bullies. I told my professor that I feel too close to the dispute, and that I will undoubtedly side with the Jews. He told me to try to look at it objectively, not as a horrible incident that occurred where two people were killed, rather as two cultures colliding. He suggested I write about hair, and I thought he was nuts.

(Anna Smith interviews reverend Al Sharpton. Reverend Sharpton's hair is in the style of James Brown's hair.)

"James Brown raised me.
Uh ...
I never had a father.
My father left when I was ten .
James Brown took me to the beauty parlor one day
and made my hair like his.
And made me promise
to wear it like that
'til I die.
It's a personal family thing
between me and James Brown.

there's nothing wrong with me doing
that with James.
It's, it's, us.
I mean in the fifties it was a slick.
It was acting like White folks. '.
But today
people don't wear their hair like that.
James and I the only ones out there doing that.
So it's certainlih not
a reaction to Whites.
It's me and James's thing."

~~~~~~

An interview with a Hassidic woman about wigs.

(Early afternoon. Spring. The kitchen of an apartment in
Crown Heights. A very pretty Lubavitcher woman, with clear
eyes and a direct gaze, wearing a wig and a knit sweater,
that looks as though it might be hand knit. A round
wooden table. Coffee mug. Sounds of children playing in
the street are outside. A neighbor, a Lubavitcher woman
with light blond hair who no longer wears the wig, observes
the interview at the table.)

Your hair-
It only has to be
there's different,
uhm,
customs in different
Hasidic groups.
Lubavitch
the system is
it should be two inches
long.
It's-
some groups
have
the custom
to shave their
heads.
There's-
the reason is,
when you go to the mikvah [bath]
you may, maybe,
it's better if it's short
because of what you-
the preparation
that's involved
and that
you have to go under the water.
The hair has a tendency to float
and you have to be completely submerged
including your hair.
So ...
And I got married
when I was a little older,
and I really wanted to be married
and I really wanted to, um . . .
In some ways I was eager to cover my head.
Now if I had grown up in a Lubavitch household
and then had to cut it,
I don't know what that would be like.
I really don't.
But now that I'm wearing the wig,
you see,
with my hair I can keep it very simple
and I can change it all the time.
So with a wig you have to have like five wigs if you want to
      do that.
But I, uh,
I feel somehow like it's fake,
I feel like it's not me.
I try to be as much myself as I can,
and it just
bothers me
that I'm kind of fooling the world.
I used to go to work.
People ...
and I would wear a different wig,
and they'd say I like your new haircut
and I'd say it's not mine!
You know,
and it was very hard for me to say it
and
it became very difficult.
I mean, I've gone through a lot with wearing wigs and not
wearing
wigs.
It's been a big issue for me.

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I stayed after class cuz I didn't want to leave. It's always hard leaving on the last day. We took a group picture. I asked D if I could take a picture with him. We took a pic together, both doing the two fingered 'peace' or 'what up!' symbol. Of course we got photo bombed. I'm gonna miss him. On the first day of class when we all barely knew each other, we were discussing the stereotypes regarding African American's. D said, a co-worker told him that he doesn't look very threatening, but that she is sometimes afraid of other black guys in the street. He replied and said, "If you see me at midnight in a dark ally wearing a hoodie and I come up to you and say, "scuse me, you got the time?" you'd run the other way. We all assured him that we would never do that. He demonstrated with the hoodie and a deep gravelly voice, and we all laughed. He said, now that you know me, don't run screaming.

I stood chatting with two girls in my class about hair, wigs and weaves. I asked about dreadlocks and braids. I mentioned Chris Rock's documentary, "Good Hair" (2009). I remember watching an interview with him on the Tyra Banks show. She says the movie discusses emotional, psychological, political, and chemical issues with their hair. My classmate said, "You get up in the morning and have to style your hair, but me, I get up and I'm good to go. This hairstyle will last me 6 weeks."

To many people, hair is an identity. My hair has it's good days and bad days. I've gone through curly phases, and straightening crazes, and frizziness. I ran out of mousse and decided to go au naturale, and my hair surprised me with it's own natural volume. Whenever I think about wearing a shaitel, I start to feel a little bit claustrophobic. I barely ever wear hats in the winter because I hate things on my head. I feel stifled. I can't imagine shaving my head, I'm happy that Lubavitch doesn't have that custom. I can't even fathom having it "two fingers" short. I spent a long time growing out my hair, and I will miss it when I have to cover it.

I told these girls, for them it's a choice, for us it's a commandment. For them, it's a deep rooted part of their identity. Many black women in professional careers feel the need to relax their hair to appear less African American. I don't think I will understand it. But the one thing we have in common is wigs. While they do it cosmetically, and we do it halachically, we are both covering up a part of ourselves. We are taught that by one covering her hair, she brings down many blessings from heaven.

This class has taught me appreciation for diversity. In the classroom, it doesn't matter that I am Jewish and D is "African American", or J who has Asian features and is from California and speaks with a Spanish accent, or J who is Italian and Jewish, (who has tattoos but claims she was told she could still be buried in a Jewish cemetery). Our features are not what define us. When you look past the labels to the person inside, you find a personality. Humor, and wit, and sensitivity, and timidity, and shyness. You find motherly pride on a 5 year old daughter's graduation from preschool, and a father proud of his little girl who only smiles at his girlfriend (who incidentally is not the kid's mother). You find an older brother who feels the responsibility of having to act a certain way because his siblings look up to him. You find a professor who refuses to tell us where he's from because he doesn't want you to think about him a certain way.

In this classroom, we discard the labels and our differences. We learn to find common ground. We argue respectfully. We expose each other's differences, only to try and look for similarities. To me, the Crown Heights riots will always be a tragedy, an explosion of sorts between two vastly different ethnic groups with so many glaring differences which stood in the way of much needed unity.

D snapped the pic and said, we just ended the riots right there. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Moments

It is dark when I leave campus, like everyone has already gone home for the night. I feel rather than see people moving by. I want to talk to someone, connect with them. But I left all connections back in the classroom. The frustration they call a discussion. We get a grade for participation. My hand hangs limply. It shoots up every time a voice stops talking. But no one sees me. My frustration mounts. Let me talk! By the time it gets to me, all the good stuff has been said already. It's no wonder I don't feel like talking in class.

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My hair hangs down around my face, like a curtain. The benefits of having long hair. Duck down behind it and pretend that I am invisible.

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I wait after class to have a private word with him. Seems like I'm not the only one. I'm tired. I pretend that I don't understand so he will keep talking. His eyes focus intently on mine. He has an accent, lending an allure to the way he talks.

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He says no phones allowed in the classroom. I ask how we will know the time, there's no clock in here. I get a secret thrill when he throws his watch to me. I feel like a groupie.

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He sees me in the hall going in the opposite direction of the classroom. He tells me that I better not be leaving. I can't help smiling as I say, don't worry I'll be right back. He says, you better come back. I try not to let the feeling that he wants me there go to my head.

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The movie is violent and I wish he would skip over the bad parts. Instead, we watch a second time as the black guy is killed by the cops. It's not a good night for me to see this. I never like violent films, but this is truly depressing. He tells me to cover my eyes, but nothing will make me unsee that image.

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I look down and fiddle with my pen during the love-scene. Call me a prude. When I was little we always covered our eyes during the kissing parts. And this, in a college classroom. Ugh.

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He's not from here. He tells us he thinks everyone in NY has guns. He looks at me and says he'd be particularly worried if I had a gun. I'm not sure to be insulted or take that as a damn fine compliment. How big is the line between tough and gangsta?

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I didn't wear my Magen Dovid that day. She comes in, that girl who said she's Italian and Jewish. I see a small Jewish star hanging around her neck. I can't help feeling proud, and like it was because of me.

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Her, with the mickey mouse pen, who looks like she's 12, with a wedding ring on her finger. She keeps repeating her name back to him, because he keeps saying it wrong. But really, who cares?

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He, who talks about the disadvantage of blacks in NYC, how the lucky ones go to college, and the rest go to prison. He says it's important to him to make it in life. He shows me a pic of his daughter. Huh. He looks too young to have a kid.

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The accent, I wonder where it's from. I ask him, since he seems to want to know all about us. He says it's a long story, and that's all he will say. I do a little stalking online. Germany. I hear it now. I wonder why he refrained from sharing that information.

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The song is stuck in my head. It's the music that gets to me. The lyrics play on repeat:

I know you're tired of loving,
With nobody to love.
Just grab somebody, no leaving this party
With nobody to love.

I try to interpret that. I hear desperation in the song. Yet here I am not sleeping, listening to it over and over. I wonder where the line is between desire and desperation. I'm the last single one, after all, in my high school class. I don't think about it, until I see that last girl who got married. I can't help noticing her baby bump.

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The letter 'Aleph' is painted on a beautiful background of brilliant vivid color. The artist is quite talented. But I won't see that painting, or the artist again. We could say, hey this didn't work out, but let's be friends. But that's just not how it works.

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I wish I knew how to translate music into words. I wonder what my song would be.

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Those lonely nights when you feel like going back to your 'safe haven', only to discover that your haven has moved on.

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My hands tense around the pen, breaking it in half. The ink pours into my hands. I watch it stain, and wonder if it will be with me forever.