Category Archives: marriage

SLEEP NO MORE and My One-Night-Hand-Stand

vanity fair sleep no moreLast night a strange man held my hand. That’s right: I, Ester Bloom, married lady, mother of a young child, partnered with the same dude since I was 18 years old, committed hand-adultery. I had an anonymous one-night-hand-stand.

Mr. Ben and I were at SLEEP NO MORE, the immersive theater experience where you wander around a huge, five-floor, dimly lit but extravagantly designed set that was once a hotel, forbidden to speak or to remove your opaque white mask. Around you, actors and dancers silently recreate scenes from and inspired by “Macbeth.”

To reach peak surreality, as an audience member, you are encouraged to explore the dreamscape solo. Mr. Ben, who takes this shit very seriously, waved me goodbye early on and dashed off to try to get as many one-on-ones as possible. (That’s when certain cast members take you “off-stage,” into a small enclosed space, for a special bonus dose of weirdness.)

So there I was, be-masked, silent, and alone, watching the banquet scene in the basement, when another audience member — a well-dressed white dude — took my hand. TOOK IT, LIKE IT WAS HIS. Like he was Christopher Columbus and my hand was America.

I cycled through several immediate thoughts:

+ Oh, how embarrassing for him! He must think I’m someone else.

+ Is he a member of the cast who’s going undercover, The Prince and the Pauper-style, by wearing the mask of an audience member?

+ His hand-holding sure is confident! He probably works in derivatives.

+ If I can’t speak, how can I say “no”?

+ Is this like improv, where I’m not supposed to say “no,” at least unless he does something super creepy?

While I was wrestling with all that, Christopher Columbus assertively led me out of the ballroom and to another scene, and then another. After a few minutes it became impossible to shake him off, not just because he was holding my hand so tightly but because perhaps I had missed my window of opportunity. Soon we would be joined together for life! What would I say to Mr. Ben and Babygirl? “Sorry, Christopher Columbus grabbed me. Gotta go. See you maybe in twenty years when he lets go!”

His hand was very warm, yet dry. I didn’t hold his hand back, per se, but I did allow my hand to be held. In almost fourteen years, this is as close as I’ve come to sexual contact with a person besides the father of my child.

Finally, Christopher Columbus led me to the bar on the second floor, which is the oasis in the SLEEP NO MORE desert: the place where you’re allowed to eat and drink and catch your breath and talk.

“Hello,” I said, because I’m exceedingly clever and make my living using words.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he said.

“No thanks?” I said.

He shrugged and smiled and disappeared. That was the last I saw of Christopher Columbus. I put my mask on and went back to SLEEP NO MORE.

“For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” —
Romeo & Juliet

The Internet: Deliver / Destroy?

This week, friends and I attended a live taping of “On the Media” at the Greene Space on the subject of whether the internet will deliver or destroy us, after which I read the Adam Gopnik piece in the New Yorker on the same topic.

Many of the points raised in both forums were interesting (avatars vs. our real life selves),  timely (Watson vs. Ken Jennings), and significant (the people of the Middle East vs. their dictators). But to me, it was all so much background noise, because my decision was made a long time ago. The Internet delivered me — absolutely, over and over again, beyond question.

The Internet gave me Mr. Ben.

Mr Ben poses in the sculpture garden at NOMA

We did not meet over the Internet, not per se. The first time I remember seeing him, my freshman year of college, was on a Septa train platform. His dark hair stood out against colorful clothes and he had a camera slung around his neck. We were both going to Philly, so we chatted for a bit, though as he was going to see about a girl there, it was not romantic. Still, since I always got a bit swoony over the idea of meeting some dashing stranger on public transportation, my heart beat a little faster.

(Why public transportation? I can only assume that because my adolescence was so proscribed — for 13 years at the same school, I saw the same Jewish faces get a little bonier, a little hairier, a bit more pimply, but never change in fundamentals — the Metro was basically the only time I was guaranteed a glimpse of something new.)

Mr. Ben does not remember meeting me on that train. He does remember the next two times we ran into each other, casually, on campus; neither encounter amounted to anything.  Then a friend told me that Mr. Ben kept a blog.

Naturally, at the time, it wasn’t called a “blog” really so much as a “web journal,” and it was a pretty rare thing to have. I was impressed. When I started reading, I was more impressed, because the boy could not only take pictures and wear vivid colors, he could express himself in words, and words are the Most Important Thing to me.

On Valentines Day, he wrote that he offered a girl a rose, and she declined. He was very straightforward about it, not at all maudlin or self-pitying, but, for all that, sad. He used the phrase, “a requited love interest.” I knew exactly what he meant.

How awful! I thought. Who turns down a rose? My friend K. Ross was in my dorm room with me when I read the entry, and ranting to him only made me more incensed. Before I knew what I had done, I had posted in his guestbook expressing my sympathy & outrage, and saying, “Don’t worry — I’ll be your requited love interest.”

Dear reader, this was BC — Before Comments. There were no comments, there was only a guestbook, and I opened myself in it for the world to see. Once I had done so, there was no turning back. K. Ross gave me an uncertain look, because I am not usually so bold, but it was too late.

Mr. Ben replied by email, and we corresponded — commiserated — for a couple of days. Then, that Saturday evening, he invited me over. No fool, I. Several unfortunate encounters with boys over the course of that year had taught me to be wary of such invitations. Yet something about this particular boy compelled me to go.

That was exactly ten years ago, today.

When I say the Internet delivered me, I don’t mean I have succeeded in the game of Life because now I have the blue peg beside me in the car and I’m all set to stock up the back seat with little pegs. Fuck the blug peg, and fuck the little pegs in the backseat too, for that matter. That, to me, is not success.

The Internet delivered me because, in helping me not meet but really connect with Mr. Ben, it gave me someone who would watch my back, lift my spirits, make me laugh, be there for me when my dog died followed by all the men in my family, one by one, and just generally make me a better person, a cleaner, saner, happier, honest, less sarcastic and more vulnerable person.

He also brought me to New York, where I wouldn’t have had the courage to come on my own, and I am as enamored of this city as I could have ever hoped to be.

Happy anniversary, baby. I thank the Internet for you.

Posing in Audubon Park

On the beach

On the beach
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.

I was in Santa Cruz on a business trip and this was as close to the sand as I got. Can you tell from my shadow-self that I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, a blazer, and a scarf? Because it was FORTY NINE DEGREES that morning.

Of course, when I finally returned to the proper coast and I was four thousand miles from the Pacific, it hit 90 in NYC.

Experience has taught me that I am sort of an Unexpected Weather Goddess. When I went to Arizona, the wind roared like an angry child the entire time. When I went to LA, it rained. When I went to Florida, it rained. When I went to Seattle, it was 85 degrees and sunny. The only day I spent in San Francisco, it was so beautiful I took a nap on the grass. (Also I had a migraine from seeing the wretched mess & wasted opportunity that was A.I.)

In a week, Mr. Ben and I head to Israel, where I can only hope my streak will break. Perhaps there is so much religion in the air that my powers will be completely drowned out. This trip — ostensibly to celebrate my darling friend Tamar’s wedding — also serves as a ten-year anniversary: those of us going over now to hold up her huppah on the beach were there a decade ago after our high school graduation.

Surely the country has changed since then. (The intifada started just after we left, and there’s probably a totally different frozen yogurt craze.) We’ll spend some time in Tel Aviv, and some in Netanya, where the ceremony takes place. But what else should we make sure to see or do? Like a barista, I am thrilled to receive any and all tips.

On marriage, flagging, and snooping

In responding to a “non-stereotypical-looking lesbian” who wants to know how to signal her availability, Dan Savage stumbles upon an idea I had about a decade ago.

… maybe all lesbians everywhere should start wearing a button. No words, just a solid color, something small and tasteful that could be pinned to the strap of a purse (popular with “not-stereotypical-looking” lesbians), the lapel of a jacket, or the belt loop on a pair of jeans. Thinking outside the lavender/pink/purple box, I think the button should be green—green for “go,” green as in “Go ahead and hit on me, ladies. I’m a lesbian.”

My version of this idea was not sexuality-specific, or gender-specific, for that matter. I just figured, at the time, that everyone should wear a button — red, yellow, or green — signaling their availability. Then I learned about flagging, which has the benefit of being uber-specific and the drawback of dying out, possibly for the same reason.

On the other hand, what’s easier to interpret than red / yellow / green? Folks could even take the initiative to further decorate their buttons with the most vital specifics of their profiles.

Sadly, a flash-forward to a guy in a witness box protesting, “But she was wearing green!” and a lawyer retorting, “A button does not imply consent!” made me realize my idea had any number of flaws.

Still, Dan, if you’re interested in sifting through my other youthful fancies, I once thought it would be brilliant to have marriage be a 7-year-long contract that could be extended. Sure, if a couple decided not to renew, they would have to figure out what to do with mutual children and property, but it could be a simpler and less vicious process than divorce.*

To the turn the tables for a second, though, Dan, I got kind of stuck on this, from your column a couple weeks ago:

A confession: I’ve looked through my boyfriend’s e-mail; I assume he’s looked through mine. I’ve scrolled through his text messages; I assume he’s scrolled through mine. Expecting your partner not to snoop is like expecting your partner not to fart or fantasize about other people. It’s a nice thought, JB, but knowing what we know about human nature—and knowing that we ourselves snoop, fart, and fantasize about other people—it’s a little unrealistic.

That’s pretty strong language there. I would be upset if I found out Mr. Ben had gone through my email or my text messages. Dude, I don’t even open letters that I know are intended for both of us if they’re addressed only to him. To me, this is standard practice, because everyone is entitled both to privacy and to vent, whether in journals or by email or whatever. Also, the couple times in my life I have seen someone else’s gchat conversation windows or text messages, I’ve had to deal with unwanted information, the kind I wished afterwards I could un-know.

Snooping is counter-productive: you think your curiosity will be slaked by just a little bit more information, but that’s not usually the way curiosity works. If you feel like you’re being lied to and can’t trust the person you’re with, the trust is probably gone and the relationship is probably over, no matter what exists in the other person’s inbox. Right?

Or is there something here I’m not seeing? Has anyone ever had a positive snooping outcome?

*Turns out a German politician not only read my mind, she went public with the notion of a time-limited, renewable civil marriage. The only folks who took her seriously were the Catholics, who demanded that she be ejected from the Christian Social Union (CSU) party. Ah well.

Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go


  • I am married.
  • My husband wants to be a law clerk one level up in a District Court
  • District Court clerkships are incredibly hard to get, especially in popular locales such as Washington, DC, New York, NY, and San Francisco, CA, and their environs
  • I have no interest in leaving Brooklyn
  • But my husband has a dream

ME: How about when we’re 30? I thought we agreed that when I’m 30, you are allowed to take me from New York.
HIM: 30 is a long time from now. I would really love to apply for next year.
ME: Next year I will still be less than 30.
HIM: But now is when we are still young, still mobile, still flexible …
ME: 30.

HIM: How about we look at where I could go and you could say if one place or another would be more enticing to you? After all, it would only be for a year.
ME: Okay. Shoot.
HIM: Bridgeport, CT.
ME: My parents did not send me to Jewish Day School for 13 years so that I could wind up in Connecticut!
HIM: But I have roots there —
ME: Anyway it’s too cold. Next, please.

HIM: Concord, NH.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: Burlington, VT.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: New Haven, CT.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: Come on! We’re not talking about Alaska.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: Providence, RI.
ME: Maybe.
HIM: Maybe?
ME: Maybe. But probably too cold.

HIM: Okay, how about the South?
ME: Where are the clerkships there?
HIM: Nashville, TN.
ME: Too Christian. I’ve heard horror stories.
HIM: Shreveport, LA.
ME: The last Confederate command to surrender! Plus there’s a whole Wikipedia section labeled “Churches.”
HIM: Roanoke, VA.
ME: Are you crazy? People disappeared in Roanoke. It could have been aliens. They could come back. Plus there’s a whole Wikipedia section labeled “Crime” with a subsection on “Gangs.”
HIM: Yeah, but it’s gone from 2nd worst city in VA to 5th.
ME: Next, please.

ME: How about you wait a year to apply?
HIM: That’s fair. And in return, you’ll be fine with my applying to …
ME: Hawaii; San Juan; Columbia, SC; New Bern, NC; the Virgin Islands; Arlington, VA; Portland, OR; Jerusalem; and the Hague.
HIM: And maybe Memphis and New Orleans.
ME: Yes.
HIM: Thank you.