Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Recently, I Netflixed a DVD of Henry Rollins’ stand-up. I’ve always thought of him as the archetypal post-modern badass, what with his prodigious tattoos, swarming use of profanity mixed with SAT-worthy words and charmingly liberal politics. His persona is that of literate, hyper-aware, angry white guy which sharply contrasts with the mass of other angry white guys in the public light who generally espouse shtick on intellectual par with the average FM radio morning show.

Amid stories of ill-advised adventure on the Trans-Siberian Expressway, Rollins related his extreme devotion to keeping busy at all times. His rationale for this dogged devotion to activity is that if he slows down, he’ll delve deeply into introspection, realize his misery and his mid-life crisis will finally catch up to him. As someone borderline struggling with a self-indulgent, thinly-defined quarter-life crisis, I instantly related.

I’ve long said that having too much time on my hands equals bad; but I found in this former punk rocker an incredibly kindred spirit and some sage advice. “What doesn’t kill you makes you a funny mother fucker,” Rollins quipped and suddenly it all made sense.

In this strangely consoling worldview, my frequent feelings of general malaise of late are really just fantastic fodder for this blog and my readers’ collective entertainment. Maybe the daily insanity of my job, such as the regular discussions of tablecloth colors at meetings I helm, is a disguised blessing since it will surely yield treasure troves of bar-night stories. I’ve heard on more than one occasion that my dating stories are received with delight – though mostly by my friends who are either married or in long-term relationships. Maybe every bad date I endure is truly a gift to the world transfigured by my gift for bullshit and eloquence.

Either way, as another season and year (at least according to the Jews) slip away – it’s certainly cause for some bizarrely warped and yet refreshing optimism.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Because "Legally Brunette" doesn't have the same ring to it

Do you ever wonder if people suggest you should enter a specific career because it's either what they do or what they want to do? In "The Graduate," Benjamin was urged into the growing field of plastics, probably because Mr. McGuire had found some amount of personal satisfaction and monetary gain in the field of plastics. Likewise, I suspect my grandmother's sporadic suggestions that I become a lawyer stem partly to her own thwarted (the 1940s and the Nazis tended to derail women's dreams of the bar) career aspirations.
This advice comes with recognition of my opinionated nature and my lack of fear about voicing said opinions, and with praise of my ridiculous ability to memorize seemingly useless information. All skills that serve a lawyer well. However, my grandmother also knows I recently graduated with two master's degrees in fields wholly unrelated to law - she even went to my graduation ceremonies - and knows I have two years left on a commitment to working in Jewish federations.
My standard protests to her prodding include the financial (I never paid for undergrad or grad school so why start paying tuition now?), the chronological (I'll be 29 when I finish my existing indentured servitude, putting me a few years beyond the average first-year law student) and the self-preservational (why subject myself to endless lawyer jokes?). Beyond that, I simply have no interest in pursuing the legal professions.
All this career-based navel gazing has, well, made me navel gaze about what I really do want to do with my life. I do enjoy working for some sort of greater good, no matter how disconnected I sometimes feel from that lofty goal. So in the short term, I definitely see myself doing some sort of nonprofit, foundation or philanthropy-type job; likely with a development and fundraising focus. Beyond that - who knows?
My fanciful notions range from wine store owner (with my sister) to professional foodie to paint chip color namer (seafoam frost anyone?). With full understanding of my original statement that people often recommend either their own jobs or their optimal jobs to those soliciting career paths - anyone got some ideas for me???

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why I hate shopping in Summer/Fall 2007

Read the tabloids while standing in line at the grocery store and you will notice that "the bump" is THE best fashion accessory these days. J-Lo has one and so does Angelina. Nicole Richie's has morphed into a full-blown bulge, but look back a few months into the People archives and you'll notices that subtle little bump curving over the top of her low-riders.
First it was heroin chic, then boho chic. Now it seems we've shifted our sartorial focus from the drug addicts and trust-funders to the nascent soccer moms.
Numerous dressing room encounters over the past few months have convinced me that I am not the only woman in America who looks 3-months pregnant in all the latest tops available at the local mall. It appears that some bizarre consortium of designers (no doubt led by the evil Mugatu) got together and decided to take their inspiration from Katherine Heigl's wardrobe in "Knocked Up" and have unleashed a torrent of empire waists and flowing mumu-esque concoctions upon the world.
Having reconciled my recent sexual past and having regained some modicum of my self-esteem, I have conclusively determined I am NOT pregnant and am now left wondering why clothing manufacturers would have me believe otherwise. Sure, it's great to give all those women who are pregnant some additional clothing options, but does our collective fertility have to be called into question as a sacrifice?
While I've never had someone ask me if I've got a bun in the oven when I don't, I can only guess it is an unpleasant and thoroughly embarassing experience. So why force many women (and the general public) into awkward social situations? Is the empire waist garment the stirrup pant or unitard of the new millenium? A cruel joke by the fashion designers to find out just how stupid women are willing to make themselves look? Or, as my cyncial tendencies would have me believe, is it just another example of society forcing women back into their bygone role of barefoot maternity?
We burned our bras in the 1970s protesting those who would try to restrain us. We asserted ourselves and literally took up more room in the 1980s with our shoulder pads, proving we could fight with the "big boys" in the boardroom. Now in the 21st Century the pendulum has swung to the other side with a parade of baby-doll dresses that help women remember the clanging biological clock that we've neglected these past years, what with our careers and ambitions.
As you head out to conquer all those Labor Day sales, be sure to stash your family planning calendar in your ginormous purse, you might need it to determine if that telltale bump is due to bad fashion or an impending bundle of joy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Name Game

Let me start with a disclaimer - I am not getting married any time in the near future (unless Tyson Beckford converts in the next few weeks, moves to New Jersey and develops an affection for mouthy, zaftig Jewish girls), but still this entire idea of name and identity fascinates me. So, why not blog about it?
For centuries of human existence we didn't even have last names. We were Dina bat Leah, Sadaam from Tikrit or Lothar of the Hill People. Somewhere along the line, there got to be too many of us so we started using last names to differeniate between all those Jennifers and Williams running around. And, the world being what it is somehow linked those names to men and assumed women would be more than pleased to take their chosen (or not-so-chosen) man's name upon marriage.
Rich people, being rich and all, didn't always think these rules applied to them and plenty wealthy broads kept using their "maiden" names, with or without their husband's names. Then the 1970s and women's lib brought Peggy Guggenheim's bright idea to the masses and 30 years later, young women across America struggle with what exactly to name themselves.
This past weekend, I had a conversation with my cousin, an Orthodox Jew since birth, whose serene ability to accept patriarchy and feel comfortable with her uniquely feminine role I both envy and fear. She said that when you get married, you naturally give up a bit of yourself (i.e. your name, sometimes your job and sometimes your hometown), and if it's the "right guy" it's a small sacrifice. My mother, who despite her attendance at Woodstock gladly changed her name to my father's, said that one's name is not the only mark of one's self. There's also the voices who say it's easier on the kids, on various bureaucratic forms and - as I know from professional experience - on socioreligious institutions whose databases and short-term memories cannot always comprehend multiple last names per household.
OK, these are valid reasons and if you're a married woman reading this post and you changed your name on one or more of these grounds, cool. It doesn't really offend me or raise my feminazi hackles, I just don't know if it jibes for me.
Truth be told, I've said many a time that I don't even like my last name. For those readers who happen not to be personal friends, my last name fits nicely in front of the word "toe" and after the words, "scud," "nuclear," or "heat-seeking." It wasn't a fun time in the fifth grade being chubby and having the first President Bush invade Iraq with explosive projectiles more popularly referred to by a word homophonic with my last name. However, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around changing it to someone else's. On that note, I have also blatantly refused to change my name to one worse than my own such as Lipschitz or Weiner.
The entire semantics buried into this issue even bothers me. Why say I'm loyal to my "maiden" name? At 27, I don't think my mother will blush at the notion that I'm no longer a maiden.
Further blurring the boundaries is the revelation that our name has only been in my family for about three or four generations. Like many Jews, neither side of my family tree has a last name that goes back further than a few branches and at Ellis, everything inevitatbly changed. So is there a sense of loyalty to my father at the root of this nomenclature problem? I guess not.
More than anything, I think it comes down to a sense of equality in marriage. Why should I be the one to go through the hassle of a new driver's license, passport, social security card and email address when he goes right along as if nothing happened? Why am I as the female expected to sacrifice a sense of my identity - risking envelopes addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jim Smith where I don't even get a first name?
I have plenty of friends who've gone the triple name route and some who have simply kept the names they were born with. My aunt, a well-known cardiologist, uses her name professionally, but doesn't mind the occasional letter using her husband's last name with her first name.
As for me, I like to think out of the box. Maybe we'll combine names - I always liked being an M in the middle of the alphabet. Or maybe we'll just pick a new one. I can just imagine the Seinfeldian response when my white, Jew-fro'd spouse and I arrive at a restaurant claiming the 8 p.m. reservation assigned to the Chang Family.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Back in the Garden State

After a week in Mexico, five days in Chicago and two-and-a-half in New York City, I have finally returned to Jersey for a stretch of at least a week. To those of you who read my blog for its scintillating political commentary and searing indictments of our modern dating system - I apologize for veering off into travel journal these past few weeks. When you're alone in a non-English speaking country, it helps to jot down some thoughts in your mother tongue.
Hopefully with the last dregs of summer upon us, I will have more than a few opportunities to comment on current events, update you on my love life (truth be told I can give you the high points of that right now: dating sucks when you have no chemistry with the guy, professional conferences rock when you do have chemistry with the guy, and half-Dominican, half-Honduran bartenders can be really hot!), and generally rant about the state of our society.
Thanks for reading and check back soon!