Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What's in a Name?

I have many siblings with many names, so I will be sort of limited in the names I can give my own children. My sister and I went through some possibilities on Pesach last year (we were very, very bored), and still available are: Gad, Atnial, Knaz, Pooah, Shamgar, Aminadav, Chuldah, Noach, Shem, Rachel, Calev, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov (my parents are not such big fans of the avot, apparently), Menashe, Chagla, Orpah, Chabakuk, Matityahu, and a few others.
Point being, my siblings and I may have to get a little creative when we have children of our own. But not as creative as the Palins can be. First, Sarah Palin had Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig. Now her daughter has Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, which is more than a mouthful.
I've definitely considered the "Boy Named Sue" camp (builds character), but there's a limit to how cruel you want to be to your children that early in life.    

Therein Lies the Problem

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fast-Forward 40 Some Odd Years

This will totally be me when I am 70. If I have a forum in the NYT at least.
Though I reassure friends all the time that I will not judge them for spelling or grammar mistakes in instant messages, I wholeheartedly agree that it is "scandalous that a multi-billion-dollar world-wide telecommunication corporation would order its employees to commit an egregious (and comical) grammatical error millions of times a day."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On Sex Education and Yeshivas

At work recently, some of my coworkers were expressing in a public forum how they feel about sex education, namely, how important it is and how abstinence-only education is a crock and how the religious nuts who refuse to accept that their children might want to have sex before marriage are backwards.

It's nothing I haven't heard before, but these conversations always make me queasy. My Ivy League-educated self is nodding along. But my yeshiva-high-school-educated self is shaking my head no as vigorously as possible. 

I am the product of a religious environment that preaches that marital sex is the only type of sex one should be having--and I believe in that value. It is halacha.

In school, we didn't really have abstinence-only education; we didn't have any form of sex education because it was assumed that we would wait until marriage to have sex, wait until marriage to even touch (though that was more questionable at my Modern Orthodox school). Nobody taught abstinence; it just came with the territory. 

And I am not so naive as to think that no Orthodox teenagers are having sex. Of course they are (though I would like to think in much lower numbers than the general teenage population). But that means there is a huge risk in not teaching sex education, and can yeshivas really ignore that risk?

I guess sex-education conversations in the outside (the bubble) world make me queasy because I know a lot of what they say is legitimate. And I do not know how a religious school could address the issue without seemingly approving of relationships the Torah prohibits, but that's not a reason to ignore a problem. (It is yet another reason to make me happy I am not in the field of Jewish education.)

One of the biggest problems with the Orthodox community is that we like to pretend we are immune to problems that afflict others. If we don't acknowledge that girls are starving themselves, maybe anorexia won't exist. If we don't acknowledge that teenagers are having sex, maybe they won't get STDs.

I like the way I was raised. I like to think that I have a relatively healthy--if conservative by secular standards--view on sex and marriage, and I am happy I was taught those values. But I just don't think the solution is to hope the values stick and let those who don't accept them loose without the knowledge they need.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Chanukah

"A menorah is, uh, like the nightlight of our people. In times of darkness it shines on the whole world reminding us not to be afraid to be different, but to proud of who we are." --Rugrats Chanukah Special

Menorah parades. The rise of Chanukah in pop culture. An eco-friendly holiday. Stars who are (at least sort of) Jewish. A latke-eating contest. Christmas movies for Jewish kids. A giant, rotating dreidel. Dreidels for dummies. How Chanukah works.

[Also, I feel like I am betraying my copy-editing sensibilities when I refuse to use AP style for "Chanukah." But "Hanukkah" just doesn't have the same ring to it.]

Monday, December 15, 2008

'[W]riting is harder. Lonelier. And nobler'

"A writer, like a boxer, must stand alone. Having your words published, like entering a ring, puts your talent on display and there is nowhere to hide. The truth is revealed and sometimes the results can be disastrous."

During the traditional end-of-semester advice dispensation once, a creative writing teacher told my class, "Be careful who you show your work to." She told a story of showing writing to a friend, whose response was: "This is great. I like it much better than all the other stuff you've shown me. That stuff was bad, but this is good."
I knew then that she was right, but every once in a while I am reminded of how right she was, of how people who are not writers fail to understand how much of oneself goes into one's writing, how personal it is, and how every criticism is a personal attack, and so how carefully criticism should be given.
A good reminder for someone who spends her days editing other people's work, if nothing else. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Boys Are Stupid, Part 'I've Lost Count'

Proofs for the title (or things I've heard from boys on dates--with the exception of the one that didn't get to a date):

  • "Did you ever tell your parents to stop having kids?"
  • "Do you think your parents were irresponsible for having so many children?" [Same guy, for what it's worth.]
  • "I don't think secular studies have any value." [Really? And you decided to go out with a girl who went to Columbia just for kicks?]
  • "Actually, I don't think we're a good match." [After one phone conversation.]
  • "I mean, boys don't really need rabbis as much as girls because boys can just look up the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch." [I can use a Shulchan Aruch, too, thank you.]
  • "So, I took a few minutes to look at the publication that you work for, but then I decided it was a waste of time." 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

Things that are harder to do, statistically, than getting into Harvard or, y'know, elsewhere:

[But then again, "He who has never hoped can never despair."]

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Welcome to My Life

In which I discover that stress and coffee should be mixed carefully. Not that I didn't know that already, but I have reached all new levels of stress in the past two days. 

Contemplating ripping out all my hair (because being bald might make me less stressed about other things) or making national news so that the campus newspaper has to mention my year and my campus-newspaper affiliation when discussing national news or finding people with whom to do "secret nondenominational solstice-related holiday authority figure" or single-handedly saving the newspaper industry. Right, there's that.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

NYT Asks, 'What Recession?'

I am not a fan of pantyhose in any variation, which is why my stocking-less legs are currently quite cold (it was that or the stiletto-heeled boots and coldness won out over pain at least until tonight, when I might switch it up). But I respect other people's legwear choices, so long as they don't tell me my pedicured toenails aren't tznius.

And I even might understand the choice of funky tights if you can pull them off. I might even own a pair or two. But I cannot understand why anyone would pay $405 for the pair above. Or any pair. $405, really? For a pair of tights? That is going to rip sooner than later because that's what tights do?
Also, if you were going to make a recession gift guide, don't you think you'd leave off the $130 moisturizer, the $150 book covers painted on wood blocks, and the $37 scissors "for cutting coupons"? (Although I am very tempted by the $99 Connect-Four, though frustrated by the inability to link to individual slides in the slide show.)
This gift guide effort was a little better in that it only includes gifts that are $25 or less, but who really wants shredder scissors (don't know what the scissors obsession is), cheese tools, soap shaped like rain boots, or plastic household brushes?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Geography Is Not Taught in N.Y., QED

A conversation with my 6-year-old brother who was playing with a mini Columbia basketball when I got home for Thanksgiving:
6-year-old bro: Hi, Eli7!
Eli7: Hi.
bro: Did you buy me this ball?
Eli7: Yup. Do you know where it's from?
bro: Israel.
Eli7: No. It's from Columbia.
bro: Oh, close.
(Full disclosure: Actually my parents bought him the ball and told him it was from me, but I wasn't going to tell him all that.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Something Old--but Amazing--to Crave

A friend tore this out of a magazine for me. It's actually a car ad (the tag line is "Something new to crave"), but whatever. On that note, I think it is coffee time. What's that you say? It's 9:15 at night? As someone I know once said, "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

Monday, December 01, 2008

Adventures in Toilet Paper Land (or Where Not to Go on a Date)

When I was in Israel for the year, Michlala's tour guide joked that he could write a book on public restrooms in Israel after years of seminary girls desperately making pit stops throughout the country.
But public restrooms have reached a whole new level with the discovery my sister and I made on a late-night scavenger hunt in Times Square (because there was nothing else to do in the whole city). We dubbed it Toilet Paper Land. Actually, they are public restrooms sponsored by Charmin, but they are so much more than just that.
There was a long line to use the actual bathrooms (which we did not test) and a guy on a megaphone entertaining as people waited—"The place you want to be when you have to pee"; "How old are you? Seven. She's a big girl. She's going to go by herself!"; "I don't want to embarrass anyone, but this lady closed the door when she left. Leave the door open so we know if the room is free."
There was a small indoor playground with a slide and swing for the kiddies. A stage where you could put on a show. A sleigh for photo ops complete with a photographer and free (!) photos. Postcards to send to friends.
It was a softer, plusher alternate universe. And we now have multiple pictures with the Charmin logo in the background. Considering how few good pictures my sister and I have together, the fact that we now have six Charmin pictures is truly remarkable.
Though I would note that we spotted more than one shidduch date in Toilet Paper Land (and, shockingly, none in Toys 'R' Us, where we maybe sort of went for the purpose of, um, spotting such dates—and to find a "monstrous stroller" for our hunt), which was amusing for us but probably not the best place for said activity.