Category Archives: musing

Who Said What to Whom?

Starting pretty early on in my 13 years of Jewish Day School education, I had to take Bible quizzes where I confronted the question, “Mi amar l’mi?” which translates roughly to, “Who said what to whom?”  So, like, if the quote was, “Lech l’cha m’artzecha …” (Or, more recognizably, in English, Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you) the answer would be, “God to Abraham.”

Most characters in the Bible sound alike, the way main characters in Woody Allen movies do*, so the test was more about remembering context than about identifying, say, our matriarch Rebecca by her sophisticated use of metaphor.

I think about this old memory test sometimes when I come across great quotes out in the wide world of the Internets. And so I present to you a pop cultural and political version of the old JDS standby: Who Said What to Whom? Except in this case, I think it’s more fun to answer, Who Said What ABOUT Whom? Bonus points for being able to identify the medium from which the quote comes.

No penalty for guessing; you can’t be more wrong than most of the people either being quoted or being spoken about. But no cheating. God, and my aged 2nd grade Hebrew teacher, is watching.

#1) “He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice.”

#2) “Ryan Gosling didn’t get an Academy nomination? There’s some bullshit right there.”

#3) “His actions have made it look like people in Texas are absolute fools. I always thought he was foolish and then the more he talked, the more doubt he removed.”

#4) “By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.”

#5) “Crying is one of the great pleasures of moviegoing, but tears can be cheap. … And, yes, you may cry, but when tears are milked as they are here, the truer response should be rage.”


*Which could give you a hint, if you were inclined to take it, about the collator or creator of these stories, but that’s beside the point.

Nota Bene

This week’s New Yorker is brought to you by:

– Paul

– Stephen

– Nicholas

– Adam

– Ben

– Alex

– Dan

– Peter


– Anthony.

Oh, and Patricia–writing about men’s clothes.

It’s not that I object to a male-only New Yorker. I just wish it were a “Masculinity Issue” or something rather than the status quo.

Growing Up

How do you know when you’ve crossed the fuzzy line between prolonged-adolescence and adulthood? When you pay your own rent? Do your own taxes? When you lose a job, get another job, lose THAT job too, and keep going? When you surrender your wisdom teeth to a terrifying hobo dentist?

When all the adult men in your family are dead?

When you publish writing for money? When you can loan out money? When you begin to think of a womb as a space that, conceivably, could be filled, instead of negative — and I do mean negative — space?

When you realize that you’ve been married for four years, and four years is a presidential term, is an undergraduate education, is high school, is a LONG TIME? And you vote not to switch horses in midstream? Four more years! Four more years!

When you think about buying an apartment in a neighborhood that lacks all white-people amenities you’re used to being surrounded by (cupcakes, coffee shops, boutiques, indie bookstores, Trader Joe’s) because if you’re going to push a stroller anywhere it may as well be in this modern-day Sesame Street: past small cafes filled with families, and through a park overrun with kids, and along sidewalks where old men at tables play dominoes and bridge?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially while watching the Hogwarts kids we’ve been following for a decade finally leave the school (after getting to defend AND destroy it, which feels like an excellent metaphor to me), while reading this mind-blowing Cheryl Strayed essay, “The Love of My Life,” while bracing myself to turn 29. As you know, American women do not age beyond 29 until they hit menopause, and then they resume aging*, however grouchily, so this is quite a milestone.  (*Exception: All “Real Housewives” everywhere.)

Am I an adult? Dr. Worthless told me I was in 2007:

The original prescription for adulthood

He also gave me prescriptions for real drugs. The transactions were simple: I gave him my $40 co-pay; he gave me a scrip. “What separates you from a drug dealer?” I asked him once. “Ha ha ha!” he said. “Ha ha! But seriously, drug dealers don’t care about your health.”

Now I have a new doctor I largely trust, one who keeps me chemically in order. I also see another guy who does therapy through body work. It’s fascinating. The therapist, who I call Obi Wan for his demeanor and dress, presses on a particular muscle and associations push to the surface. Getting up off the table after an hour, I feel like Frankenstein’s monster, hyper-aware of every limb and how each connects.

And I have a new job at my job. Believe it or not, I am the “Manager of Institutional Development,” meaning I do research into various foundations and them write them earnestly to make the case that my foundation deserves their cash. That is an adult title, and my office gave it to me rather than telling me to take myself out along with the trash. (True story!) That’s progress.

Except growing up isn’t progress once you’re past 21, right? Isn’t that what we learn from the horrifying posters for The Change-Up? Babes make you happy while babies make you miserable. Commitment corrodes our free-loving souls.

Thanks Hollywood

Or is that only true for men?


Maybe you never actively identify as an adult until one day there are enough kids around — or twenty-somethings, but they look like kids — treating you as one. Maybe that’s how it happens. Or maybe it’s when random men stop asking when you’re going to graduate from college. I’ll just have to wait and see.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Time Travel

A new piece of mine is up on ThoughtCatalog: “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Time Travel,” which offers some really useful advice. (“Bring condoms!”)

It occurs to me that it would be fun to put together a collection of these, called “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Everything: Practical Advice for Improbable Situations.” Like:

— Staging a coup

— Running for President

— Running a country

— Winning a Nobel prize

— Space travel

All ideas welcome.

The Author According to Her Browser

Me in an alphabetical nutshell, according to my browser:

A is for AstrologyZone. I’m still a Cancer, thank god, since I’m told Geminis are “confusing.”

B is for Babblebook (RIP!), and then, less narcissistic-ally, Brooklyn Public Library

E is myself again.

F is for Facebook, then Flickr. Also “Fake.” How apropos.

G is for Gallup. Obama broke 50% approval again yesterday! Today he was back down to 49%. Still, we’re doing better, guys. Doing better.

H is for Huffington Post. Really? I guess not a lot of sites begin with H.

I is for IMDB

K is for Kickstarter, where Tara Leigh showed us all how it’s done.

M is for Modcloth, where I go to “love” items of clothing I will never buy: 107 of them so far! I can’t help it. How could you not “love” this dress? You’d have to be inhuman, or perhaps allergic to polka dots.

N is for the NYT

O is for OpenSalon, where I had a blog for about five minutes.

P is Pandora and Pajiba, two sites that I think could be friends if they hung out.

Q and R are for nothing and nothing, respectively (fascinating!).

S is for Slate & Salon. Slate is the daddy and Salon is the mommy. Their child would be some kind of hipster who reads The Awl.

T is for Twitter. U and V are disappointments.

W is for Washington Post and Wikipedia, the past and the future.

X takes me to Pajiba again for some reason.

Y is for Yelp. No, there are no good restaurants where I work, but I keep looking anyway.

And Z is for Zappos! Of course it is.

Vampiracally Speaking

I have never been one for vampires.

There was that one class in college my senior year, when I needed a diversion from thesis writing and Honors seminars. It was memorable mostly for the professor, a youngish, spry fellow who you just knew would someday end up in bed with a student. One example of his questionable judgment: On the day that specs — i.e., high schoolers — were sitting in on the class, he showed us a long clip from an NC-17, campy Andy Warhol romp.

Anyway, I have no real complaints about that class. I ended up with an A and got to read Dracula for the first time, which I recommend as a perfect Victorian artifact.

Years before, as a young teenager, I read Memnoch the Devil, about which I only recall that two lovers bond when — spoiler alert! — the undead man laps up the woman’s menstrual blood. That would never fly in an age of AIDS education.

One Twilight movie was quite enough for me, thank you. The closest I’ve come to the books has been listening to Alex rip hilariously through them.

And so on. Vampires? Eh. They’re strong, I guess, generally European and high-class; they dress well. I remain unmoved.

Why then have I gotten so drawn into Buffy the Vampire Slayer over the last month? And how embarrassing is this to even admit? It’s a TV show (check) that aired on the WB (check) aimed at teenage girls (double check) featuring witches, vampires, and a sci-fi / fantasy plot (KILL ME NOW).

Even worse: I developed serious flutterings for one of the characters. You know which one. The one with the cheekbones and the (okay, fake, but still unfathomably sexy) British accent. Watching Spike — his name is Spike, for christ’s sake! what is he, a pit bull? — I felt like a 15 year old again unable to look away from Titanic.

I cried during Titanic. Then I went to the theater to cry through it again. Only on the third viewing, this time on HBO, did I notice how awful the script was. Sure, it was sad that the Irish moppets died, and the sweet old couple, and those noble musicians, but mostly I watched Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and I cried because I thought I would never have a love that pure.

Spike is a much darker protagonist than Jack, of course, more in the line of merry, amoral Rhett Butler for whom I also nursed a teenage devotion. When push came to shove, though, Rhett Butler was willing to walk away from a passion that was killing him. Spike and Jack, bless their tragic hearts, see it through like characters in Italian opera, expiring to save the woman they love.

I’ve been in a happy relationship for almost ten years now, and apparently, for some reason, that moony 15 year old lives on. I am no better than the girls participating in the endless “Spike or Angel?” debates. To which, btw, I say, Are you kidding? One of them stomps around looking sullen all the time. The other?

The other is a funny, lanky, sex-obsessed, cheerfully profane Brit. You hear me, out there in tween land? NO CONTEST.

And now I’m telling you about it, because I have not even a smidgen of pride left.

clean, clear, and under control

My mother’s thyroid biopsy came back empty. No cancer! One of my parents doesn’t have cancer! I would have thrown a party when I found out if I hadn’t been about to leave for a weekend in DC.

Mr. Ben and I Vamoosed for a mere $25, and if you’ve been craving an alternative to the Chinatown bus, I recommend it highly. Clean, roomy, with working televisions (even if all they did was inform me How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days if you’re the reasonably charming Kate Hudson). Plus, they drop off in Bethesda, close to where my ailing parents reside.

As to my ailing parents, I do wonder a bit what’s to be done. Though my mother was found to be out of danger, the surgeons who removed her thyroid left her with a scar that makes her look like Juno, the chain-smoking caseworker in Beetlejuice played by Sylvia Sydney. For some reason I can’t find a picture, but you remember her — the afterlife expert who exhales through the slash in her throat.

My mom’s had her throat slit, my dad’s been disemboweled. What a year for my parents. My mother is rocking it, though. She looks great — and when she asked the doctor what the condition of the scar would be in early August, he said, “Well, I can tell you one thing that would help.”

“What’s that?” asked my mother.

“A really striking diamond necklace.”

I fear that my father might need more than some frost to distract attention from his situation. Chemo hasn’t been sitting well with him after all; he’s hardly been able to eat or sleep. I can only hope he adjusts soon, or something? What can I hope for?

Probably to keep us from thinking such mopey thoughts, when Mr. Ben and I were in town, they wouldn’t let us stand still for a moment. The weekend whirled by & all I recall looking back are flashes of my wedding dress, about a hundred pairs of silver slippers, a much amended song list, a stack of stamped invitations, a strapless bra, the Rabbi in his office, some really terrific strawberries, and faces made up to look pretend Japanese for a spirited if a bit silly production of the Mikado at Wolf Trap.

I made it back in time to catch the Sopranos with my next door neighbor. David Chase really knows how to gut a viewer, doesn’t he? Except for that overdone bit with the model train, it was an amazing hour of suspense; I think I was whimpering from start to finish. Idly it occurred to me as I watched that it was ridiculous to get all emotionally involved with the deaths of these fictional monsters, whereas I’ve managed to stay relatively calm about the sickness of both of my parents. But I guess that’s what art is for.