Wednesday, September 30, 2015


My roommates and I lounged around in Sunday pajamas, which became our outfits for the day, when a friend walked in, plopped onto our sofa, and announced how last night she had come close to losing her virginity.

"Do I have a story to tell you," Frieda Leah said to us four-suddenly-transfixed-"you"s.

It started with  a high ponytail, a pair of acid wash skinny jeans and a couple of modest vodka rounds. Cutting through the bar throng, Frieda Leah was approached by John, whose body smelled of packed people and breath reeked of bottled yeast. John said he remembered F.L. from freshman year oral communication class.

"What a smooth talker," she said with a faraway glance.

John showered her with compliments at the bar and before long the two were making out on her tie-dye blanket back in her apartment. She described the pace and place of their movements and how their contact erotically accelerated, so that the packed-people smell of the bar was back. It wasn't long until John made his intentions clear: he wanted to have sex--without a condom.

By this point, my roommates and I were like tamed snakes wholly bewitched by the tune F.L. played. My mouth tasted dry, at which point, I realized I was gaping.

When F.L. decided things between her and John were getting precariously pregnant, she told him flat out, "I'm not having sex with you." And his single response sobered Frieda Leah to guilt and actually made us feel sorry for John.

"Did you know we weren't going to have sex when you brought me here?" he asked.

(Side note: My intent is not to explore the severity of rape and sexual exploitation on college campuses but rather to note that in every moment we have the right to change our minds, and we often do at the expense of another's expectation. In this moment F.L. did not change her mind, but told her mind, which is a a commentary on our need to be better communicators so expectations are consensually fitting before they are formed.)

Last year I lived in a dorm on campus with a library  that made me feel misplaced without a terry cloth robe and engraved Sherry glass. I would do almost all my work in that library and take frequent breaks to chat with Wyn. He would tell me about the screaming nuns in Catholic school and I would tell him whatever he wanted to know about Judaism. One day though, I put religious discussions aside and asked Wyn about sex. (Tell someone once in your life that you're a virgin, and I promise, you'll be replaying their furrowed, blushing and contorting face as they process the unfathomable over and over. It's pure gold.)

I asked Wyn how long he usually waits after meeting a girl for them to have sex. He said usually after their third hangout or date, confirming the Hollywood image I knew. "But, I'm seeing this girl right now and I've never met anyone like her," he said. "I want it to be special, so I'm going to wait three weeks."

In my 2.5 hour poetry workshop class, it doesn't take long to discover who out of the crew isn't catching on. With a class of seventeen success-exually prowling poets, my homework is to read about drugs and sex.

I've scanned stanzas of Skype sex describing "pink pixels," cringed through rhymes of rape and blushed at ballads depicting  boats hitting the dock back and forth, driven by the current. My poems, on the other hand, were about a pickpocket, a mother putting her daughter to sleep with a fairy tale, and moving into a new house; they're not the ones that have you running to google "areola" and "coitus." Never mistakenly hit Google Images.

When I was at my Bubby's for Sukkot, I was trying to find one of my poems in a folder and she accidentally picked  one up one of my classmates' entitled "I Lost My Penis." My Bubby's  blouse rippled as she shook in a fit of laughter. If Mom and Dad had been there I would have heard for the umpteenth time their disgust and misgivings over not sending me to Stern College for Women ( a Jewish university).

I don't judge Frieda Leah--how can I? Do I consider myself much better? Not at all. Because to be poetic- to wield a judge's mallet against another requires virtuous values that my own two feet cannot support- and to be blunt, we all can relate to having sexual drives. 

Being immersed in secular college , with its own cultural code of conduct, my Orthodox ideologies are being pushed and shoved to accept or reject this sex culture that I haven't come to terms with. As an Orthodox Jew I believe in saving sex for marriage, and as a Jewish college student I feel this tug of war between making my parents proud while enjoying the funnest years of my life; but just as Me, I know I'm deeply jealous of those who don't have to reconcile both.

To my sexually active peers who read this, use protection. To my very-modest friends, don't worry, I promise the world is safe. To mothers who read this, teach your kids everything they need to know about sex before sending them to school. And to sisters who read this, make sure mom isn't reading this.

Never Google Images.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Foreigners, Fortune Cookies, and my Fickle Future

My uncle is both a  famous electrical engineering professor and the hospitable Abraham incarnate, so on the Shabbos  my thirteen year old cousin became a man, my uncle invited his entire PhD class to Seudah Shlishit, and I introduced myself to a group of Asians that eat IQs like mine for breakfast.

I met a girl whose name started with an X but called herself  "Sally." The 23-year-old engineer gave herself the name 7 days prior to our conversation, the day she landed at LAX airport to begin her life in America.

I met "Joe"- or Jin- a chatty 30 year old with a smile that reached  from the corner of his eyes to the tip of his chin. I welcomed the freshness of their foreign politeness by jumping into reporter mode and interrogating them with questions like, "I've heard about the one child rule in China, are you an only child?" and "Do you ever feel that because you're so smart it's difficult to interact with normal people?"

Oddly enough, my probing questions made their smiles grow wider, and I got to know a lot about them. Sally likes taking pictures at the nature arboretum; Joe enjoys ping-pong. Their families gave everything for their education. They both think the world of my uncle, and he, thinks that any of them could easily do his job.

 Eating bagels and cream cheese on a warm L.A. night at my cousin's Bar Mitzvah surrounded by less than strange strangers, my uncle cleared his throat:

"Half of you sitting here are smarter than me, it's your job to figure our which half," he said. Chuckles all around.

"Look to your right and your left, all of you scored in the 99th percentile. What sets everyone at this table apart, is the last .1%"

At this point I hold both sides of my folding chair and take a huge scoot back from the table. Everyone laughs.

We continue with the banter and before I know it our arms our linked in rippled circles with the havdala candle at the center. And as daytime folds into night, I cant help but think how these kids come full with ambition, grab hold of opportunity, and quite literally, make names for themselves.

This Rosh Hashana I was unimpressed with the congregants' spirits. As someone at lunch pointed out, "it felt like a room full of observers not participants." And while I couldn't disagree, I too fell victim to a  deluge of distraction.

There was the woman cautiously teetering in her too-high cheetah stilettos. The 5 foot granny who owned a glasses case with purse-like handles and peace signs. The shietal hairspray fumes. And the 14 year-old nuzzling her forehead into her mother's shoulder wondering how the chazzan can hold a note for that long. And as I was ready to flail my arms in a "serenity now" motion, the Rabbi quoted a fortune cookie, and I was brought back:

"Challenges aren't there to make us bitter, they're there to make us better."

There I was, altogether moved by an obscure cookie  scrap written in a factory producing fortunes by the minute, probably with the phrase "lucky numbers 39, 8, 4" on the other side. But from then on, I plugged in.

I plugged into the challenges this past year that made me bitter. Rejection letters from jobs. Interviews that ended with "but you're so young." People who finally apologized for tormenting me and making 8th grade a dungeon with school bells. People with problems who say to me: "help I'm bulimic," "I'm an ex-cutter," "my parents found out I smoke weed." Insert problem here.

I plugged into the challenges that made me better. Competitive awards and scholarships. 27 hour deadlines. Love-filled relationships and new friendships.

While the room around me had much to recapture, the room within me filled with rapture. I felt my mind replay snippets of this past year and i felt my heart swell with appreciation and awe. More than anything I felt eager for the new year and energized to recommit to my two-year Aliya timeline.

- Exhaust Nefesh B' Nefesh website
- Make as many contacts as you can when you intern at an Israeli newspaper this winter break
- Learn Arabic
- Become a super nerd in all things Investigative Journalism related
- Convert those 20 new pounds into self-defense/Krav Maga muscle
- Only date guys who want to make Aliya too

In my prayer quorum of one, I felt like Sally and Joe- not ready to shake off the world of challenges that brought me to today- but rather ambitious, opportune, and ready to make a name for myself.


I really got to work on my don't-scare-the-foreigners  with questions about Communism skills

P.S. shout out to friend since five and fellow blogger Aaron Bloch on starting and carving out his own name in the bloggers' community!