Monday, 20 December 2010

A Really Long-Ass Pathetic Post

I'm not sure if it was consumption of far too much food, actual exhaustion, a bit of depression, or a combination of all three, but I slept until 10 today, and then slept, on and off, until nearly 5:30 pm.

Yes, really.

This was after sleeping until noon yesterday.

This is not like me at all. I'm usually up at 6:30 or 7, and even on a weekend I struggle to sleep past 9. Once I'm up, it's nearly impossible for me to go back to sleep.

But I feel under water at the moment. Or like a stray molecule. Or something like that. I spend an absurd amount of hours (lawyer hours, really) doing a job I loathe. One of my favourite people in the world is gone. And I just feel... disconnected and out of place. I know I'm unhappy, but I'm not even sure at this point what would make me happy – and whatever it is, I probably lack the energy to get it.

And so here I am on Sunday night, having spent the weekend reverting to behaviours I haven't resorted to for years. Yesterday I binged on food in my apartment, something I haven't done in at least four years.

It all started on Friday. I could feel myself being edgy, irritated, exhausted. I wasn't even particularly hungry, and yet I ate my snack an hour early, at 3 pm. I just wanted to eat.

At 4:30 pm we had margaritas and chips in the conference room – a holiday party of sorts, because our editor loves Mexican food. I didn't have any, not particularly a struggle. I dragged myself out of the office, wanting nothing more than to go home yet fearing that being home alone would depress me. For all the usual reasons, but also because Friday was the seventh anniversary of my mother's death, and I had a Yahrzeit candle in her memory flickering in the kitchen. When I'd bought it earlier in the week, I couldn't help remembering the struggle to find the candles in England, and how I'd always take them from my grandmother when I visited her. I thought to call her – my mother was her daughter – and realized I couldn't; in fact, that I never will again. It's still like a ninja kick to the stomach.

On that oh-so-cheerful note, I carried on with the evening's plans – to Brooklyn to meet a friend for dinner, and then on to a party. I perked up slightly en route to Brooklyn – my friend who I was seeing is one I consider myself lucky to have. I could feel myself flagging en route to the party, and almost from the minute I arrived I wanted to leave. Not actually so much for the food – macaroni and cheese and all kinds of Southern things that made me super-grateful I'd eaten first and didn't have to navigate – but just for how totally out of place I felt. Besides one other guy, my friend and I were the only white people at the party – a small party where everyone knew each other well, and where it was difficult to mingle. Normally I'd almost enjoy the challenge, but in this case it just made me feel hopeless.

I made a few attempts at conversation, and then gave up. I just wanted to go home, and I took off, feeling lame.

When I got off the subway I had a text from another friend saying she was having a party with her (American) football team and that friends of ours from college were there and wanted to see me, and I should come by if I were around. It was only a few blocks away, and against my better judgement, I went.

There was brie in puff pastry. And s'mores. And marshmallows. And pound cake. And chocolates. And nuts. And bourbon pecan pie. And multiple kinds of fondue (chocolate and cheesecake). And I just dove in. Quickly, I felt so full and so tired all I wanted to do was lie on the sofa. I watched people put their coats on to leave and kept thinking: I should go now. But I sat on the sofa, ate more, and retreated further.

Someone asked me about the job transition and all I could hear was our editorial director earlier this week. "You were running around Afghanistan and now you're editing Love Your Month," she said, sounding bemused.

I nearly burst into tears.

I shared a cab home with a couple – wife so drunk she could barely form a sentence (I say this by way of description, not judgement) and husband quizzing me about my job in a way that remind me so exactly of the evening I met my friend O.

I got home, still so full and exhausted I didn't even have the energy to set the alarm for a noon exercise class I'd committed to take (one of those you-miss-you-pay type – and one of a handful I've tried in a futile attempt to replace my beloved heartcore Pilates).

I woke up at 11:25 am, wondering why I always have to turn everything into a drama (couldn't I have just set the alarm?), and dove into a taxi.

I made the class (just OK – not sure it's worth the trek to the Upper East Side), then decided to walk across Central Park to the Upper West Side, partly because for weeks I've been craving these iced sugar cookies they sell around the corner from my aunt's (and because I know they're within my calorie limits for a snack) and partly just because. I bought a couple of cookies and some fat free blueberry pound cake (another Upper West Side treat) and headed home, managing to lose one of my favourite (and warmest) gloves along the way.

I got home about 3 pm, and that's when the trouble started. I wasn't sure if I had plans for the evening – one friend L. had mentioned possibly meeting for a drink – and I felt restless, edgy. I had my sugar cookie and settled down to finish a biography of Katherine Parr. I soon realized I'd reread the same page at least four times – my thoughts were on (you guessed it) food.

I justified eating the other sugar cookie I'd bought because I'd missed my morning snack (never mind that I'd eaten thousands of calories the night before). The next thing I knew, I was eating all the blueberry pound cake (fat free or no, it was still 1,000 calories), a macaroni and cheese frozen entree, huge forkfuls (yes, forkfuls – don't ask) of peanut butter from a jar I'd never opened, ginger cookies, and bunch of other things I looted from my cupboards and refrigerator.


It was barely 5 pm and an empty evening and Sunday stretched out before me. I knew being too full would keep me from being able to focus on my book, I didn't want to do any work (although I had tons to do), and I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up weeks or months from now, when everything is OK again.

I lay down and saw I'd gotten an email from another friend saying she and her friend were going to see Harry Potter in about an hour in Brooklyn, but the logistics of getting there were enough to make my head explode. Actually, that's a lie – I just didn't want to have to try to put any jeans on, and I knew my head was still too full of food to focus on a film.

I fell into a food-induced coma and woke up somewhere north of 7:30 pm to a text from L., saying she'd be at a bar in the East Village for a friend's birthday about 8:30 pm.

I finally dragged myself out of bed at 8:30 pm, wondering if there was any way I could just wear my stretchy gym leggings. Instead I threw on a huge purple sweater (ironically, last week's treat for having made it through a record two weeks without bingeing) that I hoped hid how tight my jeans were. It's possible I brushed my hair. I put on one of the foundations I was given to test for work, and it looked orange. I wiped it off and couldn't be bothered to put any more on.

En route, I got a text from L.: "Notice – small and mainly ladies."

"Noted," I wrote back. "I don't need to get married tonight."

The bar was tiny – the size of an alley – and packed with perfectly groomed New York girls of the sort I probably never will be. "Every guy here is married," L. shrieked when I arrived. She'd already had several glasses of wine. "You should meet M's husband – he's English."

I couldn't think of anything I less wanted to do.

There was tons of food but I didn't touch it. I got myself some water and proceeded to focus on attempting to be polite and friendly – easier said than done when one is not particularly in the mood to be quizzed about London or her current job, and when I quickly realized I had little in common with most of them.

At one point, edging my way around the island in the middle, I complimented a woman on her necklace and ended up falling into conversation with her and a guy I assumed was her husband. Turned out he wasn't – he's a longtime friend of hers who's a reporter for a suburban newspaper with an extremely sarcastic sense of humor. (Too sarcastic, probably – at one point he made a joke that involved suicide and mothers and even I was stunned speechless.)

He asked for my number and sent me a text telling me it was "very tolerable" to meet me (this was a joking reference to a part of our conversation.) I responded that I could say the same about him, only in a British accent (another part of the conversation involved everyone's disappointment that I don't have an accent – something I can't understand and that frustrates me no end. Do people in this country really want me to sound like Madonna?)

This morning I woke up at 10:30 am, ate breakfast, and got back in bed, thinking about what else I could eat. I fell back asleep, waking up only to eat (appropriate calories) at various (vaguely appropriate) times. Finally at 5:30 pm, even I'd had enough of myself and my lethargy. I dragged myself out to the gym, promising myself I could leave after 20 minutes. I left after a sweaty hour, the longest workout I've logged in a while.

I felt better. Sort of.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Adventures on JDate

So against my better judgement I agreed to sign up for JDate. Yes, my sister and one of my best friends from college both met their husbands there, but (a) I don't think I care that much about marrying anyone Jewish, and (b) my job takes so much out of me that I have even less tolerance for BS than usual. And God, there is a lot of BS.

For the billionth time since I moved to New York to take this horrendous job, I have to ask myself: Why do I not trust my gut?

First I made the mistake of checking the box indicating that I speak some Russian, so I had to tweak my profile to explain that I am not, in fact, from the bridebasket of Europe. I still get emails from every Russian or Slav in the New York area and beyond, plus various suitors whose conversational gambits include: "So what do you know about Hungarian Jews?"

On the phone the other night with another guy (a Canadian living in New York) I got grilled like a hot marriage prospect – or, given his reaction, a rather cold one. The guy clearly has issues, though: He told me he carried on watching Sex and the City "even after my fiancĂ©e left" and proceeded to ask me which two characters I was most like. I'd already told him via email that if he was looking for a TOTAL SWEETHEART (something he had, capital letters too, at least four times in his profile), I probably wasn't his girl, and yet he berated me for describing myself (I played along with his stupid game) for not being more of a Charlotte.

I get emails from 69-year-old men with 3 kids living in Los Angeles. And lots and lots of emails from men who are 5'6" and 5'7" (sorry, but no). Emails from men who are separated (sorry, I've lived through BN2's divorce and I'm not doing it again), and men who have kids living with them (ditto). Of the some 50 people who've emailed, I genuinely want to have a conversation – never mind an actual date – with exactly none of them. I think it's because they're all jaded, too – they send lists of questions, or generic emails, or just: "Emails are a waste of time. Send me your phone number."


The other night I logged on to delete my profile only to receive a request for an IM chat. Usually I decline but I was mildly curious about this guy, especially because he was in Zurich. I mean, yes if I'd met him already and was mad about him, but not under these circumstances. It was 5:30 am there, so I wrote: What are you doing up? And he wrote back: Dreaming of you.

I had to log off before I could even end my membership.

And so I got an email from a guy whose profile includes photos of himself with various celebrities. He says something about ignoring the celebrities in the photos, that that's his job, but um, then why post them? I respond to his email because he's 5'11", roughly the right age, and seems vaguely literate (hello, scraping the bottom of the barrel) and he writes back to tell me he's been to England to film with Duran Duran. I haven't told him about my own celebrity past, and frankly, I'm not at all interested in his (name-dropping) celebrity present. Plus he mixes up your and you're.

Today's email is from a 50-year-old man whose profile picture shows him blowing a bubble with his gum. Be still my beating heart.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Three Wishes

My grandmother – quite possibly my favorite person on the planet – wanted three things this year. She wanted to meet her great grandsons, my sister’s triplets. She wanted me back in the U.S. And she wanted to die before estate taxes went up.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving – on what would have been her seventy-something wedding anniversary – her last wish was granted. She was 92.


Last week, when I was trying to describe my grandmother to the rabbi, I jumped from her famously jet black hair to her love of jewelry and anything purple to how proud she was to become a great grandmother and finally gave up and said: “I hope I’ve given you enough.”

“It’s OK,” the rabbi said. “I know the type.”

And I thought: “But you can’t, because she’s an original.”

Doctors, waitresses, bank tellers and pretty much anyone who ever came in contact with her would all say some version of: “Your grandmother is a character,” and she was. Anybody who heard she was in her 90s and was expecting a doddering old lady probably never knew what hit them. She was climbing the Great Wall of China in her 70s, putting my social life to shame in her 80s, and pointing out a tiny error in a bank statement just last month. She was sharp and funny and perfectly accessorized and you never had to wonder where you stood with her – or what she thought (good or very bad) of what you were wearing. One roommate listened to me on the phone laughing and gossiping. “’Bye Grandma,” I said at the end of about a half hour.

“That was your grandmother?” my roommate asked. “I thought you were talking to a friend.”

One of my favorite stories about her: Years ago, after an exhausting day at the hospital when my mother had had an hours-long surgery, we got home and the phone rang. It was a telemarketer. “I’d like to speak to [your husband], please.” I held my breath, but Grandma didn’t pause. “He’s been dead for 10 years – I’d like to speak to him, too.”

As my sister and I drove up to New York from Washington last week, Grandma’s three great-grandsons in the back seat, it was almost a reflex to pull out my phone and call her. My sister and I talked about how much she would have loved that we were together, and all the lines we could still hear her say. How if her food didn’t have steam rising from the top it was “ice cold.” How she’d always ask: “How’s your social life?” How when we made her proud she would say, “My buttons are popping.” Tops on my list of Grandma-isms was how she would start every single phone call: “So what have you got that’s good to tell me?” Last year, I finally said the line was starting to make me feel like I couldn’t call her unless I’d won the Pulitzer Prize or gotten engaged or both, and she answered with uncharacteristic gravity: “Just you calling is a good thing to me.”

A call from her, however, was a very rare event. I can remember my mother saying ruefully: “Ma, the phone works both ways.” The first thing my sister said to me in the hospital after her triplets were born was: “You’re never going to guess who called me.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Grandma,” she answered triumphantly.

Sometime in the past year I asked Grandma why she never picked up the phone to us. She said: “That way I’ll know you really want to speak to me.”

In the last couple of years, often she would say she was too old to be of any help. Yet the next time you spoke to her she would say something like “I woke up thinking about” and it was always the answer to some problem you’d just told her about, even if it was just a passing mention weeks ago. She was always looking for some way to make your life better or prettier, and there was no rack of clothing in some faraway corner of a store that she wouldn’t patiently pick through to find it. “You never know who might have put a size 12 in with the 10s,” she’d say as we rolled our eyes and tried to give up.

“I don’t need that,” we’d sometimes protest.

“Buy it and you’ll find a place to wear it,” she’d say. And as always, she was right.

She suffered great loss in her life – her mother died when she was nine months old, she lived with a foster family, and she buried her husband and both her children -- but she remained an optimist. If not always for herself, but for everyone she cared about she believed something good was just around the corner. I remember telling her once about a date I was going on and saying I couldn’t remember how tall the guy was and whether I could wear heels. “So you’ll know on the second date,” she responded.

She would not feel sorry for herself and did not approve of anyone who wallowed. Last year, when I had little work and less money, I complained that I’d eaten nothing but peanut butter and eggs all week.

“That’s fattening,” she said.

Last week I spoke to my cousin, her only grandson and the only child of Grandma’s son, who died suddenly in 1996. He wasn’t coming to the funeral. Though privately I thought it disgraceful – and was glad Grandma wasn’t around to be hurt by it – I told him not to feel bad. I told him Grandma would probably say what she said when my sister and I wanted to come great distances to see her in the hospital.

“What do you want to do that for?” she’d demand to know. “That’s no fun.”

“Come and see me when I’m home,” she’d add.

Grandma, I wish I could.