Friday, April 29, 2011
As some of you know (since I blogged it here), I got a tattoo in during Hanukkah with a friend. And now, a few months later, I rationalize that decision in a discussion of this week's Torah portion, Kedoshim, which features the infamous prohibition against ink. My rabbis from high school who taught me how to parse the text would be so proud -- or perhaps they'd regret ever allowing women to become Torah literate. It's a toss up, really.
Check "Branded" out over at Tablet. Shabbat Shalom!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I am a fan of Ms. Winehouse and her music but that doesn't fully explain why I chose to wear a flammable wig to resemble her for the night. After all, I have never dressed up as Sarah McLachlan or Rufus Wainwright or any other singer I've put on repeat. Well, finally I can share the reason for the choice: I had spent the better part of a month working on an article about her.
It actually wasn't my idea. (Not all of the strange things that I write are.) After Ms. Winehouse made her ludicrous assertion back in the fall that she's "just like an old Jewish black man," I sent this quote to a particular editor, who responded to my joke by assigning me a long piece to write about the singer. The lesson I learned from that -- don't make jokes to editors.
Many months later, here it is -- A Hot Mess.
That's a reference to Amy, not me. Just wanted to be clear.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
What will you see there? Art. Now, I've admitted on several different occasions how I'm not "arty" or "highbrow" and "don't understand any of the Latin on my college diploma." While this is true, I must say that I am looking forward to the paintings that will be on display since they are the work of Margarita Korol, fabulous urban pop artist I know from my time at Tablet/Jewcy. Before you think she's riding on the nuclear coattails of the tragedy in Japan, know this -- she's began planning this event way before the events of last month took place. Like since birth. She was born in 1986 (that young, precocious bitch!) during the same week as the Chernobyl meltdown to Ukrainian refuseniks. This art event was clearly her destiny so blame the universe or whatever deity you believe in for making her show important and timely.
Bambi Shlomovich, the Jewcy sex and relationships columnist will also be there, serving her famous drink specials. Go and ask her for her number. If you have a number saved in your phone under "Bambi," people think you know a stripper. This is important for street cred.
Here are the important deets: Tomorrow, April 28th @KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, New York, NY) from 7-9. Looking forward to seeing you all there.
Monday, April 25, 2011
So at this party I got glitter on my face. I'm not going to tell you how I got glitter on my face because my friends who were with me have enjoyed spreading that little anecdote around. Posting it here will diminish their joy in telling others because they will be greeted with "already read it on this thing we call the internet" eye rolls. They both have boring day jobs. One is a lawyer.
Two days, three scrubbings and one shower later, the glitter is still with me. As a friend and reader of this blog accurately noted on my Facebook wall, glitter is like herpes. It never goes away completely. Which got me thinking about the other ways that glitter is like that insidious STI. (There I go again, buying into the newfangled terminology.) You know how network radio and television stations have to do a certain number of public service announcements -- well blogs aren't like that. But I'm a giving person and this site hasn't posted a PSA since the awesome warning about Proximity Penis syndrome (which will be formally recognized in the next edition of the DSM) so here are some facts about Glitter Herpes:
1. Anyone can get it. While you should always use protection, latex condoms will not protect you and there's no known cure.
2. While it can go into hiding, for days, weeks, or even months, it can reappear at any given moment, often migrating to a new part of the body. For instance, you might be shaving your toe hairs (come on ladies, you know we've all got them) and something glistens in the corner of your eye -- it's glitter under your toe nail.
3. Even if you have no symptoms, you can spread it to a partner. If, for instance, a man stays over at your place months after the initial glitter outbreak, he can still wake up the next morning with a little fleck of it behind his ear or between his eyebrows, which he will then spread to his next one night stand. (Here I'm assuming that you guys have the same luck with men as I do and have no expectation of ever hearing again from the man you brought home from that house party.)
Feel free to add any other facts about Glitter Herpes in the comments.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
On a related note, Amy Klein writes in Heeb about being the Wicked Child in her family and at her Orthodox family's seder in the midst of a debate about the nature of the bad son's statements:
Everyone, I think, is looking at me. I understand why my usually quiet sister (The Innocent One) is so interested in this debate. This debate about the Wicked Child is about me. I am their Wicked Child.
She goes on to write that her brother, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi tries to soften the rebuke by stating that his sister is the One Who Doesn't Know How To Ask:
I smiled in triumph and then realized this is the biggest insult of them all. The One Who Doesn’t Know How To Ask is not Good or Wicked or even Innocent, just someone who understands nothing. That’s what my brother thinks of me, that I just don’t understand Judaism properly. That I don’t see how beautiful it is. That’s how we have maintained the peace between our differing lifestyles. “She is not evil,” they think. “Only misinformed.”
This is perhaps my favorite of Klein's insights. When I speak to some Orthodox individuals (especially those with an kiruv-y bent), they often assume that my straying has to do with a lack of understanding of the tradition and law, that if I only knew better, I would've chosen differently. But it is precisely because I understand and have been properly educated that I don't observe the way I had been raised to, and I find it incredibly insulting when Orthodox people assume ignorance in the less observant.
“I’m not the Son Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask,” I say and everyone looks at me. I was raised a God-fearing, Kosher-eating, Shabbat-keeping, Israel-worshipping religious Jew, and now I am a liberal, secular, spiritual artist, so I understand the world from both sides. I am one of the few people in the religious-secular wars who can see the beauty of the religion and the sensibility of secularism.
I understand her wistfulness, which is a feeling I've often felt myself. For a time, I tried to do both -- live Orthodox and worldly -- but the former is far too demanding to make the latter possible that I had to give up the project altogether.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
In this video, author Joel Chasnoff talks about his experiences as a child trying to sell Passover "candy" not just to Jews whose rabbis make them pretend to like the garbage but to Gentiles, who have no need to eat this stuff EVER.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Had I been given creative license to change the Four Questions at last year's Passover Seder, they would've sounded something like this:
Why is there an avocado pit on the Seder plate?
To replace the egg that was taken from the laying hen that is confined to a cage all day.
What's up with the cooked beet?
That replaces the shank bone that was taken from the cow that never had a chance to graze.
Well, what does the orange replace?
Nothing at all, sweetie. Because women are rarely mentioned in the first place. This fixes that little omission.
Is weed kosher for Passover?
Yes, but only if you don't add water so it doesn't leaven.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Earlier this week I wrote about the cringe-worthy gymnastics looks and how my favorite team, UCLA seems to somehow rise above the rest when it comes to leotards and general styling. My theory is that it has something to do with the team being located in the middle of a major urban center with a strong fashion and design presence -- most of the top programs for women's gymnastics are in small college towns in Alabama, Georgia, etc. -- though having lived in LA through the Uggs paired with mini jean skirt phase, I'm not sure that I completely buy my own theory. Anyway, today I was watching the women's event finals from the NCAA Gymnastics Championships and saw Cassidy McComb's (UGA) hairstyle.
There are so many things happening on McComb's head -- the side swept bangs, the longer pieces that were purposely pulled out from the ponytail to frame the face (note: you've already got bangs for that), the pouf, the bow, and the ponytail. She looks better suited to walk down the aisle in a hideious bridesmaid gown than to compete at a major sporting event.
Monday, April 18, 2011
A few days ago I responded to a friend and fellow writer's Facebook plea -- Who wants to come with me to the Kinky Jews Passover seder?
I quickly responded with an "I do," though I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I hadn't bothered looking up the group before I signed on. I have a healthy sense of adventure and after spending the last month on a Dan Savage bender, catching up on most of the podcasts from the past couple of years, I felt like I was game for it.
The seder, which was held at an East Village restaurant was called for 7 but my friend and I arrived late just as you would to a party and walked in just as the Four Questions were getting started. Most of the chairs and stools, which were arranged around small round tables, were occupied by the time we arrived so we waited until the questions were asked and sort of answered. While we stood, I scanned the crowd. A range of ages were present though it did appear to tilt towards middle age couples or people in their 30s. As I expected, many were dressed in leather from corsets to pants but no one seemed too far over the top. (Well there was one guy in a corset and a short skirt and Mad Hatter hat. But more on him later.) From where I was standing, it all seemed pretty tame, the kind of kinkiness that's sort of mainstream these days what with women receiving fur handcuffs at bridal showers and all that jazz.
I was eventually seated at a table with an older couple and a man in his 50s. The table was filled with chocolate and candy causing me to remark that the spread was "like the plague of diabetes." All of the traditional foods were replaced by chocolate, which I guess was supposed to symbolized pleasure. Chocolate milk instead of Manischewitz (both equally sweet if you ask me). Chocolate chips instead of the bitter herbs. Chocolate pudding and marshmallows as a stand in for haroset. And the matzoh sandwich was replaced by a s'more.
A few minutes into the proceedings, I was tapped on the shoulder and not by the friend who came with me. I turned around to see an Orthodox Jew I knew from the Upper West Side. We had met a Shabbat meal a few years ago. He quickly returned to his seat but throughout the rest of the seder, I kept glancing over at him and giggling. I assumed that he was a fellow traveler like me, that he had heard about this seder and was intrigued. I would later learn that he was something of a regular at these kinky Jew events and had been attending them for two years running.
The highlight of the seder was the haggadah, which contained very little of the traditional liturgy. Instead there were songs set to showtunes, the Four Submissives (which replaced the usual Four Sons) and some pretty corny and groan-worthy jokes. Such as:
What do you call a person who enjoys eating the bread of affliction? Matzochistic!
What do you call a condom filled with Matzoh meal? A Pesach-dick!
As I said, none of this seemed particularly shocking. The atmosphere was genial and even when we were invited to "whip" each other with chocolate licorice whips, it all seemed very childlike and innocent.
The seder concluded with a search for the afikomen. The prize for finding it was a vibrator and the young man who found it dutifully gave it to his girlfriend.
I stood with my friend, each of us wondering what was going to happen next. The invite had said that the festivities were going on until 4 a.m. and it was barely 10 p.m. Surely there was more to come.
We soon found the back room, joined by two attractive Brazilian men who were also there out of curiosity and seemed equally out of place in the homely, leather clad crowd. Together we sat on and watched the after party.
On the couches opposite and all around us (and to the tunes of Florence + the Machine -- yay!), everyone else was getting busy. Two busty women had their tops off and were caressing each other. Another leather clad woman was having clamps attached to her nipples (and then later was whipped repeatedly by a man she dwarfed both in height and girth). A couple of men were led around by their leashes. But the star of the show, so to speak, was a woman who was receiving the "full-service treatment": two men were fondling her breasts while a third, the Mad Hatter that I mentioned earlier, knelt on the floor and performed oral sex while the rest of us-- not just me, my friend and the Brazilians but everyone-- looked on. This might've been even a little extreme for the Kinky Jews crowd.
As I watched and smiled sheepishly, I couldn't help noticing how unsexy all of this was. It seemed very easy and natural. You could approach someone, talk to him/her and see if he/she wanted to fool around with you. "There's no game aspect," explained one regular. And as someone who plays "the game" poorly, I can appreciate wanting to do away with it entirely. But what I realized is that playing it, even badly, lends much needed tension to the proceedings. When you go to a bar and flirt with a guy, part of the excitement you feel comes from wondering if he's interested, how interested and where it all will lead. At the Kinky Jews event, there was no ambiguity, no push and pull. Unless of course you were on the other end of a leash.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Like many other NCAA gymnastics fans, I admire Val Kondos-Field's exquisite and original choreography, which the girls perform expressively. (It appears as though they hear the music they're performing to -- what a concept!) But I also appreciate another component to the UCLA gymnasts' presentation -- their leotards.
Gymnastics is not a subtle sport. Everything is done to an extreme from the salutes (swayback anyone?) to the flicked wrists to the fashion. No sport where scrunchies and eye glitter are the norm can be considered elegant. And most of the NCAA teams represent this extreme sensibility in the leotards, hair and makeup that adorn their gymnasts. The leos are brightly colored and iridescent and the girls wears decals on their cheeks and occasionally, bows in their hair. Here are a couple of examples:
Friday, April 15, 2011
The New York Times has an article today about (drum roll, please!) -- Jews! This time around they're the NYT's favorite flavor of Jew, Orthodox. The story is about the voting bylaws of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council:
According to the bylaws of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, a social service agency and community pillar that has received millions of dollars in government grants over the years, only those who meet the following requirements can vote for its leadership:
- Jewish and religiously observant residents of Crown Heights
- Married, previously married or at least 30 years old
Well, at least the bylaws don't stipulate that they also have to be "white" and "landowners." We've come so far.
The council have good reasons for not extending the vote to women. One is that it's never been done. Orthodox Jews are nothing if not traditional and can't just change like that ( cue: snap of the fingers). I mean, it's only bee 90+ years since women received the vote in this country. That's not enough time to see if this suffrage thing will really catch on. I mean voting isn't a technology like timers for your lights so you can pretend you're not using electricity on the Sabbath. It's important to tread lightly when it comes to the equal distribution of rights and responsibilities.
Another argument put forth is that extending both spouses the "vote" would plant the seeds of discord in otherwise perfectly happily married couples. Nothing says shalom bayit like one person deciding what you should think and feel. It's about as comfortable as wearing shoes that are a couple of sizes too small.
But perhaps my favorite reason the vote hasn't been extended to Lubavitch women is that the act is immodest. Yes folks -- suffrage is for sluts.
I mean, I vote. My American history and civics teaching mother would kill me if I didn't. But as you all know, I'm a slut. Of course I want my viewpoint to be heard. And by "viewpoint" I mean that I want to show you my breasts.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
This song is about not about going "all the way" but about polite physical contact -- handshakes, high fives, pats on the head. "I just broke shomer/And it felt so good/A woman let me put my hand on top of her," the chorus goes.
This song/video begs one very important question: What base is patting someone on the head? I mean, it's probably in the same ballpark but is it the outfield? The dugout? The concession stand?
"When I touched this girl/All of Hillel found out," is another lyrical gem from the song. It is unfortunately too true. Back at Penn, which is also filled with Orthodox Jews who strongly thought about attending Yeshiva University, who was and wasn't "shomer" was frequently a topic of discussion. As in -- "I don't they're shomer because they were holding hands." As strange as it sounds, it is rather sweet and innocent given the type of sexual activity that college campuses are famous for.
Another good line: "Cause before this all I had was my old yeshiva lover," sings one of the eligible bochurs as he reveals a young man sleeping beside him. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Speaking of old yeshiva lovers, I too have a shomer past to cop to. Here's a photo taken during my senior year of high school in Florida. I was there with five friends from school and though we were not chaperoned, there was no hanky panky between us and members of the opposite. Here we reenact a scene from Titanic, sans men.
I am at the ship's helm at the back. The two girls up front are playing Kate and Leo in the famous scene. (Just for the record -- those two friends are married but not to each other. I, on the other hand, am still searching the horizon, so to speak.)
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The article is pretty thorough in going through the possible reasons why an Orthodox Jewish girl might be more vulnerable to an eating disorder -- from the large multi-course holiday meals and fast days (mixed messages anyone?) to the pressure to marry young and thin (size 4 or smaller). I found this observation to be particularly astute and interesting:
Experts say that eating disorders usually emerge during adolescence and other times of transition. And in large Orthodox families, the girls are often expected to help care for their younger siblings, leaving them little time to pursue their own interests. Experts suspect that anorexia may provide a way to stall adult responsibilities by literally stopping the biological clock: the drastic weight loss can halt menstruation.
Anyway, the article acknowledges that Orthodox leaders are taking particular pains to help these young women recover, especially Rabbi Goldwasser, who has told patients that they must eat on fast days. But the article fails to take into account the role that modesty rules may play in Jewish girls' body image.
I was raised with the idea that tzniut was there to protect my dignity. The standard line goes something like this: "We respect you so much we want you to cover up your bodies." As a tenth grader that logic seemed to make sense. The outside world wanted me to strip but the Jewish world wanted me to cover my collarbone, knees and elbows in order to respect me. At the time, I didn't realize that both covering and uncovering were two sides of the same coin -- the one that reduced women a pile of body parts. One group says show us your tits; the other tells you to hide your knees lest some man get an erection. Both are equally reductionist and potentially harmful.
Now, obviously Jewish culture and religion is not alone in objectifying women. Girls from all walks of life are feeling the pressure to remain slim or to alter their appearances to make them more pleasing to men. But I think it's worth thinking about how pressure to hide and cover up might contribute and how reducing a woman to her limbs and insisting she hide them can be just as detrimental to her mental well-being as asking her to disrobe.
While I'm not going through any withdrawal symptoms as I surely would if I attempted to give up coffee or painful exercise, I do have to keep reminding myself not to click on the "Facebook" link in my favorites menu. And I find myself wondering what's going on the site. Though I am pleased to be refocusing and getting work done again (finally), I know that my daily, real world encounters are not all there is. There's a whole shadow world happening online, one that I'm no longer privy to. There are people's birthdays that I'm missing and videos of babies laughing at the tearing of paper and lots of rants about Israel/Palestine. Wait -- none of that sounds so great. I think I just talked myself off of the Facebook ledge.
Anyway, I asked a friend via Gchat -- What's happening on Facebook?
After a little puzzlement on his end -- apparently he doesn't stalk me and hadn't even realized that I disappeared -- he listed the following events:
- Someone had alcohol for dinner.
- Someone posted a music video The Slackers--Come Back Baby.
- Some people have new friends
- Someone is attending an happy hour for Taiwanese-American professionals
- Someone posted a video about the 2011 TED prize winner.
It doesn't seem like it. Except for the Slacker's video. But I don't need Facebook for that. I can post the video here even though fewer people will see it on the blog than would in my newsfeed. (Sad but true.)
Saturday, April 9, 2011
This week over at Tablet, the fabulous Allison Hoffman published "Persian Gulf," an in-depth story (go long form journalism!) about the Persian community in Los Angeles, where they are a visible presence. A fan of the first incarnation of Beverly Hills 90210 should know that the real Beverly Hills High is dominated by Persians, something that the original casting failed to reflect in their hiring of Jason Priestley, Shannon Doherty, Jennie Garth and Co.
Over the past 10 years, an equally vibrant Persian shopping area has emerged in what might be called the mahaleh, or Persian Jewish ghetto: a mile-long stretch of blocks along Pico Boulevard from La Cienega Boulevard to Beverly Drive. It’s a traditionally Orthodox neighborhood, with a dense concentration of shteibls, glatt kosher markets, and long black skirts. Now, in addition, there is the Elat Market, which has an aisle devoted to kosher rosewater, a restaurant called Kolah Farangi that sells glatt kosher kebab and Chinese food, and even a Farsi-speaking orthotics specialist.
I moved to Los Angeles in late 2004 and as I took a cab from the airport to the home of a friend of a friend (I flew across the country without really knowing many people -- my bad), I peered out the window as I the taxi spend down Pico (the very same thoroughfare Hoffman describes above) and wondered -- Why is there all of this Arabic writing?
I'm glad that I kept these thoughts to myself because I quickly learned that the words and letters I was seeing was Farsi and that my new home has a significant Persian population. Whoops. I guess you can say I was farsically challenged. (I hope I'm not the only one who finds that funny.)