Posted by Elliot Steingart
For a pretty good talker, I kind of suck at listening. My girlfriend has made me understand this point more clearly. We frequently play a game where I ask her what her plans are to which she responds, “I already told you.”
She dismisses me by saying, “you don’t care.”
The truth is I do. I just didn’t care the first time. Maybe I did but I was pre-occupied thinking about something I wanted to say. This came to a boiling point when my girlfriend was talking about a mole she had removed. Without meaning to cut her off, I jumped in saying, “I have lots of moles too.”
“That’s it,” she blasted. “I’m done.”
“No, I want to hear more about your moles.” I said.
“No, your mole story is more important.” She said. “Go ahead.”
The end of my story is that "I have lots of moles." I didn’t have a good mole story. I don’t think a good mole story exists even among dermatologists.
I know a lot of people who only talk about themselves. These people are what you call, annoying. I admit that I talk more about myself with my girlfriend than I do with others because she is someone I trust and can depend upon to listen. I am hoping to become a better listener in 2013.
Seeking listening tips online, one helpful source suggests leaning in, tilting one’s head and occasionally nodding. This seems great for listening and fake listening. Another helpful tool is paraphrasing someone's previous statement. For example, if she says, “I am leaving you because you don’t listen to me.” I would then say, “Okay, you are leaving me because I don’t listen. Wait! Don’t go.”
As important as I sometimes think I am, I never want to feel like I am annoying, unless I’m spending time with my sister. Struck with a sore throat this past week I have been unable to talk as much. I also have an excuse for not listening as much since my ears are plugged. My excuses are running thin, and I'm also running low on stories. Though I do have a pimple that I think might actually be a mole. I'll have to tell her about it.
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January 11, 2013 | 10:18 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
My girlfriend and I see things differently. When I use her Netflix account she tells me I'm mooching. I get that she doesn't like me using her account out of fear that I will tweak her preferences. She wants recommendations for “Critically-Acclaimed Cerebral Crime Dramas” not the “Rise and Fall of the WCW.” Fair enough. Though, after nine months I feel she can decide on a better word than “mooching” like maybe, I don't know, sharing?
I share many things with her. Just this week she asked if I could order her a hair curler through my Amazon Prime account. I didn't accuse her of taking advantage of “relationshipping.” Nor would I call her a mooch for spending more time at my apartment than at hers. I am happy she does. I do not ask for much--a roll of toilet paper here and there, help hanging a picture frame, organizing my tennis shoes.
No one said sharing is easy. I own a small love seat that is comfortable for one person. When I'm alone I sprawl out with my legs crossed hanging over the end of the couch. When sharing the love seat there is nowhere to turn. The only move is her letting me rest my legs on her lap or spooning her with half her body hovering over the edge. Despite its intention the love seat is not adequate for the act itself. I'm also past the point of having sex on Ikea furniture.
Anyway, the bed, as my Dad puts it, “is for sleeping and sex.” My bed is the one item we share the most and what I envisioned would bring us the greatest joy. In reality sharing my bed is hard. To get situated I toss and turn without regard which wakes her up. She wears ear plugs because when I fall asleep on my back I snore. She is easy to sleep next to except for the one time I woke up to the sound of an uproarious toot.
“What was that?” I asked startled.
“It was nothing,” she said half asleep. “Go back to bed.”
What it was, was the world's funniest alarm clock.
“I love you, but I hate your bed,” my girlfriend confided.
Ready for an upgrade we shared in the fun of mattress shopping. One other couple besides us was laying on beds. “Get a room!” I shouted at them.
We laid on Beauty Rests and Sealy's. The mattress salesman wearing a blue tooth handed me his card. I figured it was weird he would know where I was sleeping. Dave, at Mattress City, explained the inner workings of the Queen latex Englander as we rested peacefully.
“I can give you a great deal on it,” he said.
“What do you think?” I whispered to my girlfriend.
“I think it's great, but it's ultimately your decision,” she whispered back.
I'm glad she approved since I wanted her to share in the decision. The challenge was negotiating lying on a mattress in the fetal position.
“Let me crunch some numbers and see what I can do for you,” said Dave.
He accepted my counter offer and the mattress was delivered the next day. We are loving the new bed. "It's great for sleep and sex," I wrote on Yelp.
It's been a great investment for our relationship. She doesn't hear me toss and turn and so far I'm the only one farting in bed. All things considered, purchasing a brand new bed is a small price to pay to keep using her Netflix.
January 4, 2013 | 11:52 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
My girlfriend and I fought for the first time in 2013 over the crispiness of chicken wings.
“You might want to put the other wings in the pan to get them crispier,” I advised.
“That’s it,” she scowled. “I’m never cooking for you again.”
Forget the contentious drumstick vs wing exchange that took place at Albertsons. Rage steamed within my soul, like buffalo sauce stewing from the crock pot.
“What the f*ck are you talking about?” I shot back.
“I cut two dozen bones, put them in the crock pot, and now you expect me to put them on the pan while you eat?” She asked.
I tore a wing apart with my teeth, split apart a bone and shouted “These are great--really great! I just like a crispy wing.” I noticed she brushed her plate aside. “Why aren’t you eating?”
“I’m not hungry anymore,” she replied.
“You’re eating!” I exclaimed as I ran up to the kitchen to begin frying. I turned manic flipping the wings in the pan. “Welcome to Crispy’s” I yelled. “Crispiest wings in town! Who wants crispy wings?” I asked. “We got em’ here at Crispy's!”
She sat silent on the couch refusing to talk. I preyed on the new crispy wings and pretended to care about the Rose Bowl.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “You made great wings. Seriously, these wings are delicious.”
She remained silent. Knowing she comes from a Stanford family I spitefully declared, “Go Wisconsin!”
“I’m sorry,” I started again. “You made great wings and I had no reason to lose my temper.”
My blow-up weighed on me well into the night. I felt like a real chicken for losing my cool and yelling at the girl I love over some stupid clucking wing dings. I have long struggled with minor rage issues. Though infrequent, when I do lose my temper loved ones are the ones who are affected the most. Rather than fume, I must leave the room and take a walk. I could visit the local library or buy Sour Patch Kids at Albertsons. Cussing make me feel bad and the recipient feel worse. Foul language is for the birds. Here’s to a clean 2013, and not being an asshole, from all of your friends at Crispy's.
December 28, 2012 | 10:01 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
When my girlfriend invited me to church on Christmas Eve I hid under the kitchen table hoping she would not find me. She did, however. With no way out, I agreed to celebrate Christmas for the first time. If Jesus could make a sacrifice, I could too.
I didn't go home for Hannukah so it was nice to join my girlfriend's family during the holidays. As a token of my appreciation, I presented her parents with a Rosenblum Shiraz, the Jewiest red I could find. Her dad fixed me a wonderful dirty martini which I drank near the Christmas tree marveling at the many sparkling ornaments.
“Who is the Angel?” I asked. “And how does she know Jesus?”
I felt the man of the hour's presence in the family room as I studied the nativity scene. What a scene it was with lots of Christianity taking place. I embraced the holiday spirits and got reacquainted with my girlfriend’s sister home from Stanford. At the dinner table my girlfriend led grace. I did not thank the Lord, but did thank my girlfriend's mother. We all drank two glasses of wine during dinner and quickly grew tired as a result of the wine and the tryptophan from the turkey. I was hoping we would all fall asleep and miss church. Everyone pulled through except for me.
As we took our seats a great thirst took hold of me. Desperate for a glass I nearly drank the holy water. Chewing gum helped for the moment until I saw the altar boys march through the aisles wearing white robes and waving flags in a scene reminiscent of KKK rally. I nearly choked until I saw a purple flag and remembered there are no gay Klan members. Once the music set in I felt more at ease. A sucker for Christmas music, I joined in song during “Hark the Harold Angels Sing.” The actual version seemed different than the version I sang to my girlfriend leading up to Christmas. The real words to the carol are not “Holy is the Jesus night.”
Before communion, the majority of my row knelt to the ground. I sat up straight and felt prayer books flicking the back of my head. At least I was the tallest person in my row for half a minute. I remained seated during communion next to my girlfriend’s sister. I gave her a fist bump for staying back.
After communion, Pastor Ed Bacon delivered a powerful sermon centered on ending gun violence in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. He thanked the many congregants and guests and even folks of different faiths for attending. So moved by his graciousness, I put $3 in the basket, the most I donated all year to any religion. I even sang the final carol the “First Nowell” extra loud, or especially off key, according to my girlfriend. I survived church and could hardly contain my excitement for opening presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
Attempting to pull my car into the driveway for the night I could not turn the steering wheel. It was locked. I tried again and slammed on the break as the car slid down the hill. No luck restarting the car. Was God punishing me for going to church?
"We'll call AAA tomorrow after we finish opening the presents," my girlfriend announced. The sheer number of presents under the tree amazed me. We needed to call AAA to help us open presents. We sat by the fire opening gifts. We ate breakfast and then opened more gifts. Gift giving was seamless. I only gave one gift to my girlfriend's sister that was in fact intended for my girlfriend. I received new bed sheets, kitchen utensils, personalized stationary and a brand new edition of Monopoly and later a new battery from AAA.
My girlfriend appreciated the gifts I gave her, a lot more so than the Hannukah collection of TJ Maxx toiletries with the price tags still on. Towards the end of the holiday we christened my new Monopoly game. I moved in on properties aggressively snagging Broadway and Park Place early in the game. I dominated the board and became the Jewish property owner collecting rent from everyone on Christmas.
For a first timer, I think I behaved pretty well on Christmas. There was no real reason to hide under the kitchen table. It's not like Easter.
December 20, 2012 | 11:39 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
My girlfriend complains I don’t teach her about Judaism but it’s not for a lack of trying. During Chanukah I explained that the candle burned for eight nights.
“It was the oil, not the candle.” She corrected me.
Like she was there! She asks me to take her to synagogue, a big step for someone who wants to learn more about Jewish culture but refuses to watch even a moment of Billy Crystal hosting a special edition of SportCenter.
The point is I’m trying. I invited her to the Jewish Journal’s holiday party, which made for a teachable evening about Jewish culture. When else would she attend a function at one of LA’s hottest nightclubs, “Morry’s Fireplace?” Before the party I prepped her on a few basics such as talking with her hands and using the phrase “you’re kidding” when at a loss for words. I even gave her a short quiz.
“How many questions are there in Passover?” I asked.
“Three?” she guessed.
As I mentioned, it was a short quiz.
Before the party we stopped for dinner at Factors, a signature deli on Pico. We ate pickles, ordered matzah ball soup and drank root beer then walked to Morry’s Fireplace complaining about the cold.
I was excited to meet many of my contemporaries. The rumors swirled about which Jewish Journal stars would arrive. Would the enigmatic Morry make an appearance? Blog Coordinator Jared Baker, perhaps? To my delight, the event was star studded with Jewish Journal celebs like Blogger Ilana Angel of Keeping the Faith; entertainment reporter, Danielle Berrin aka the Hollywood Jew; and even, Tamara Shayne Kagel of the controversial blog Tattletales.
We drank kosher wine and chatted about each other’s blogs. An older women approached me, “Are you Jay?”
While I very well could have been Jewish Journal Web Editor Jay Firestone, I politely said, “No. I am Elliot. ”
“Where’s Jay?” I was pressed.
Because I established that I am Elliot I was therefore not Jay. I could only answer, “I don’t know, but I’m sure he will be here.”
We met a very lively and wonderful new blogger named Michelle Azar. “I write Yoga Breaths” she shared. “It sounds like Yoga breasts,” she laughed. “It’s breaths.”
Also an actress, Michelle has appeared in numerous television programs and recently played the role of “Jewish Woman #3” on Community. She introduced us to her husband, Rabbi Jonathan Aaron of Temple Emanuel, a very friendly and down to earth Rabbi who complained about his Passbook App not working to find his seats for VH1’s “Divas Live.”
“I’m interested in learning more about Judaism,” my girlfriend said to the Rabbi. “My boyfriend doesn’t tell me anything about texts and the traditions.”
Not wanting the rabbi to look down upon me, I introduced him to Zite, my favorite news aggregator for the Droid/Iphone.
With no sign of Morry, Jay, the man of the hour, finally arrived with his girlfriend, Julia.
"A lot of middle aged women want to meet you" I told Jay.
I complimented him on the Journal’s reporting of the Wilshire Blvd Temple bomb scare earlier in the week. I also suggested we take a group picture with all of the writers and bloggers posing with pen and note pad.
“Can we also get all the writer's to sign a copy of the print edition?” I requested.
I thanked Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman for the opportunity to blog and bade farewell to the rest of my contemporaries.
“What did you think?” I asked my girlfriend when we returned home.
“It was really nice; thanks for taking me.” She said. “I really like the Matzah ball area of town.”
At least she didn’t refer to us as “you people.” Even if she calls Pico/Robertson the “Matzah ball area” she is becoming more educated, slowly but surely. She knows the meaning of “schlep” as in I have no plans to shlep to synagogue. She ought to know I am happy to expose her to other aspects of Jewish culture. Our next lesson of Jewish culture is a Netflix introduction to the films of Charles Grodin.
December 14, 2012 | 10:40 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
For Hanukkah I gave my girlfriend a bag of toiletries from TJ Maxx. From the moment I heard her say “You left the price tags on,” I knew I was in a heap of trouble.
“It's a bonus gift,” began my cop out.
“You didn't even take the time to wrap the gifts.” She sighed. “It's like you put no thought into this.”
I learned my lesson. TJ Maxx is no Marshalls. Still, I thought she would appreciate the toiletries a little more. One Hanukkah my dad just handed me a shaving bag. No razor. No shaving cream---an empty shaving bag. My girlfriend has no idea what that's like. At least she received toiletries.
Besides, a week earlier she was showered with birthday gifts. She received new eye glasses, experiences like dinner, a Clipper game, and a the gift of a Green Flash Brewery V-neck.
She hurt my feelings when she said I put no thought into her gift. I put thought into getting her a gift for a holiday she doesn't even celebrate. I spent a good half an hour befuddled in the women's section of TJ Maxx. I pulled shirts off the rack over my chest cluelessly to see if I was a size six. After every skirt in the clearance rack I scoffed “Over my dead body” or “that will be the day!”
Exasperated I found my way to the hygiene section. I put fruit flavored body soaps and shampoos up to my nose. I remembered she does not like the smell of bananas. I smelled every banana free soap and shampoo in the aisle. The accusation that the gifts I chose were thoughtless was simply wrong. Lack of thought? “Tuscan Blood Orange body bath” is one of TJ Maxx's finest Italian imports.
Is “Bath and Body Works Passion fruit facial cleanser” not a gift of passion? Do you know what it's like spending seven minutes reading hand lotion labels. I located a special “H20+ waterfall moisture-boosting body balm.” She located the $3.99 price tag.I bought her a brush to straighten her curly hair. She brushed the gift aside.Not even a block of Giardelli peppermint bark could excite her.
“Would you rather I take these gifts back?”
“Maybe,” she said defeatedly.
No way would I return peppermint bark. I was growing tired of Hanukkah before the first official night. “I'm going to get you a nice Christmas gift.” I told her. “You can get me something small. I really don't care.”
“I was going to surprise you for Hanukkah. I'm going to tell you now. I got you a crock pot.”
“Awesome,” I said matching her enthusiasm.
As Hannakah drew closer I apologized for not wrapping her gifts or making her a card. She apologized for not acting more gracious. She is using her toiletries and I am making Chili in my crock pot.
We haven't talked about Christmas presents yet. One of her presents is that I am going to mass with her on Christmas Eve. I am excited to attend church for the first time wearing my new red and green yarmulke. Here's hoping the gift of laughter is an adequate Christmas present. Maybe even a bonus gift?
December 5, 2012 | 10:42 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
I'm amazed by stories of heroism. I caught a snippet on the local news about a three year old boy who saved his grandma's life by calling 911. “That little boy is a hero,” said ABC 7 General Assignment Reporter, Robert Holguin.
Heroes sometimes save lives. Sometimes heroes do less. Other heroes are unsung, like me negotiating a special rate for my company at the local gym.
It's a simple story of a company moving into a new office in the financial district of Pasadena with a prime view of the gym. From the street level you can easily see the tushes through the glass grinding on the elipticals. For months, all I was lifting were buffet trays next door at Souplantation. After enough crouton salads and potato soups, I kicked myself for not spending my time better.
I felt that my coworkers would feel the same as me. I continually see how many gush over cupcakes and eat more than one cookie when no one is looking. I would present my work friends with a convenient lunchtime/after work alternative and do so at a better rate than ordinary gym members. My co-workers would find it in their hearts to respect me as someone looking out for their best interests.
My name would be brought up casually in a 10AM meeting. “That Steingart is a real company man.”
I phoned the gym and spoke to Ernie telling him that I received a lot of interest from co-workers about joining the gym. “Six people are committed and we are hiring like crazy.” I explained. “Knowing we'll be funneling all this new business your way, is there anything you can do for us?” I asked.
“I can waive the initiation fee, no problem,” replied Ernie.
“That sounds good, but it would really help if we can get a break in the price, especially if many of my co-workers would need to leave the gyms near their homes and switch to yours.”
“This is the best I can do,” said Ernie. “It's a corporate policy that is beyond me.”
A few more phone calls with Ernie resulted in the same answer. Per Ernie's request, corporate emailed me and explained that the gym would waive the initiation fee if our company committed to a finacial sponsorship.
“When I spoke with Ernie there was no mention of a company sponsorship. The only way I would even feel comfortable approaching my company about a sponsorship would be to lower our monthly fee.” I made clear.
Corporate agreed to move forward waiving our initiation fee. I ducked my head into cubicle after cubicle announcing the good news with a smile. I shook hands with esteemed colleagues and hugged and kissed my girlfriend. As a final declaration, I sent an office wide email stating that we as a company shall join the gym intiation free for 30 days! Never before was I so tempted to end an office email with “Booya!”
A moment later a representative from management responded to the company via email. “I know that this company is a bit shady in their membership contracts. If you cancel in advance you're going to get hit with a negative mark on your credit rating. Be careful what you sign,” he warned.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I kept saying over and over in my head.
With my heroic status in jeopardy I decided to bring Ernie into the office. I figured the six who had initially committed and others on the fence would surely join after hearing Ernie's pitch.
“Ernie's here!” I shouted.
Two people came into the small conference room. “I heard something about a credit rating being affected if I cancel early. Is that true?” asked Jessica.
Ernie began to sweat. “Boy, is it hot in here.”
“I'll grab the others interested in joining,” I said to save the day.
Ernie led myself and four of my female co-workers on a private tour of the gym. Ernie showed me the men's the locker room, a stuffy, carpeted, dong filled space. “Let's see the rest of the gym,” I requested.
We saw the 2nd floor filled with elipticals and free weights in addition to a studio space. “That's cool that there are so many free weights,” I said trying to impress the group.
“Is there towel service?” asked Michelle.
“Towels cost extra,” replied Ernie.
We ran up to the third floor to see the many stationary bicycles and leg presses. Ernie led us back down and into his office. I was the only one in his office as the rest of the group stood outside. I couldn't figure out what everyone else was doing.
“Are you guys ready to sign up?” asked Ernie.
Almost in unison the girls said, “I'm good for now, thanks.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes,” they said walking away.
So far one other person besides me has signed up. She claims she was overcharged. However, I like the gym fine. I'm getting in shape. My main workout routine is speeding past Ernie when I walk through the entrance. For the rest of the company, I'm negotiating a special rate at Souplantation.
November 28, 2012 | 9:53 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
I continued to scroll through Drew's Facebook until I found a picture of the two of us wearing our cap and gowns on college graduation day, like the freeze frame of Julian and Clay leaning against each other at the end of Less than Zero. This might have been the first picture we took as UC Santa Cruz alumni—my arms around Drew, the first friend I made in college.
“Hey, my name is Andrew,” said the little guy who stepped into my dorm room. “I'm in the room two doors down.”
The two of us ate lunch in the dining hall with some other guy who was about as cool as an RA. By looking at each other Drew and I realized the other was Jewish. We established that both of us moved across the country during adolescence. We talked about sports and music and why we decided on Santa Cruz. I knew him for 20 minutes, but he was my best college friend.
I stare at the picture of us on graduation day and wonder why on the same day I graduated from UC Santa Cruz I'm wearing a tee shirt that says the University of British Columbia. It was as if it didn't matter to me where I graduated from as long as it was from somewhere. A few days after the picture was taken I would move to LA to become a comedian. Drew would move back to Minneapolis and travel and eventually teach English in Vietnam.
Drew wasn't the easiest person to be friends with in college. He lost my sunglasses, another time he spilled wine all over my carpet. I yelled at him both times.
When he visited me in Vancouver he lost his temper when I wouldn't walk with him to McDonalds when earlier I said I would. He drank too much, and wandered off from me and his other friends often. He was sloppy and indignant when he drank, but as bad as it got at times, his dark side only lasted so long.
I never thought I would look up to someone who was three inches shorter than me. He was someone I wanted to be like. I admired that he could fit into any social situation and relate to the richest or poorest of people. Girls loved him. He kissed more girls freshman year than in a night than most did in a year. He was a good tennis player who would make you run all over the court, and also a relentless poker checker on our floor hockey team. He played the guitar well, traveled to foreign countries and studied Macro Economics and European History subjects that seemed well above me. He wore warm up pants more than anyone I've ever known. It was as though his whole life up to that point had been one long warm up for all of his amazing potential, for the person he was sure to become.
Drew died four years ago at the age of 23. He was my first friend who died. It was the worst and hardest tragedy to comprehend.
For those that knew him it's a comfort to see his Facebook is still intact. I can see him dressed as Frodo on Halloween and smile. I'm thankful that someone took our picture together on graduation day. That picture is a reminder of what friendship means to me and how I must try harder to maintain the friendships I have.
I'm grateful that over thanksgiving I saw my old friend James who I hadn't seen much of since high school. I told him I didn't have a car and asked him to pick me he up. “I'm a 14 year old girl.” I explained. Along with our buddy Adam, we enjoyed a long night out in Encinitas that concluded with us relieving ourselves in the sand of Moonlight Beach.
This coming Saturday another old friend, Todd and I are going to our first minor league hockey game in Ontario, CA. Todd was my freshman roommate who I roomed with again my senior year until he was diagnosed with cancer. He bounced back and we are now playing golf almost every Saturday, albeit very poorly.
My best friend in college, Aviv, moved to Israel a few years ago. Earlier in the week he told me via Gchat that he is moving back to California, the best news I've heard all month. I'm trying to recruit him to my soccer team even though he is moving to San Jose.
Then there are my best friends Brad and Zach from Pittsburgh, who I visited over the summer and am now trying to arrange a time we can all hang again in LA with our other best friend Eli who now lives in Venice. These are the same three that saw me off from atop Brad's driveway before my family moved across the country.
Other friends, like Ryan and Ben, with whom I shared a house for two years I don't see enough. I wish I talked more to my other college friend Lewitter and many others I've cracked jokes with over the years. I'm grateful I still have the opportunity to see these guys.
I just want more pictures like the one I have with Drew.