Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I was downtown recently and stopped by the Occupy LA protests. My heart is with the Occupy Wall Street protesters and I truly believe they may bring about positive changes in our political system. But on a lighter note, I also noticed that there seemed to be a lot of new friendships/relationships that were emerging from the movement. Hence, here is some advice for dating Occupy LA Protesters:
1. If you are older than 35, you are too old to be hitting on anyone there.
2. Don’t focus on more complicated issues like the fact that less than 50% of Black men will graduate from high school, instead focus on white college-kid protest issues like how recent grads have to take low-paying jobs out of college that don’t utilize their liberal arts degrees.
3. Dress Like a Hipster (ironic t-shirts, skinny pants, vintage clothing, Ray-Bans, American Apparel). Also, police brutality bruises are in - flaunt ‘em wherever on your body they are.
4. Remember that if you’re white and participating in a protest, no you still don’t have enough street credit to use the N-word.
5. The woman passed out on the bench, has not been roofied. (Skid Row is nearby and organizers are giving out free food).
6. This isn’t some sort of 60’s lovein. Protest girls still expect you to make some sort of effort. Your tent or mine, isn’t going to cut it. And I’m already sick of you can occupy me lines.
7. If your boyfriend has dreads and you are a white USC student, expect him to get arrested and possibly beaten while you are given a lecture about the trees on the lawn.
8. Change your Facebook profile pic to a picture of you holding up a protest sign, preferably while hugging Tom Morello.
9. Beware your hook-ups may end up on tv. MTV is filming a new reality series of True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street so choose wisely if you’re occupying in the bedroom.
10. Never admit that you secretly would jump at the chance to date a hot 1 percenter.
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October 28, 2011 | 3:18 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I showed up this morning at my boyfriend’s apartment at 6 am with three dozen pumpkin cookies. Perhaps I’m not the most naturally domestic girl I know, but every so often I feel inspired. He’s had to put up with a lot from me lately and I wanted to do something nice and surprising for him to let him know how much I appreciate him. However, being flat out broke lately left me with only two options - making something or baking something. Seeing as Halloween is approaching, I thought it timely to make something sweet that he could bring with him to work. He seemed delighted this morning and it’s just brightened my whole day knowing how happy something so small can make him.
I’m including the recipe from All Recipes below. I think they came out tasting pretty good but unfortunately I was a little embarrassed by how they looked. The consistency of the dough made it really hard to get them into smooth balls before I baked them so they turned out a bit misshapen which made them look even funnier when I iced them. Perhaps a more seasoned chef would have known how to fix this but Mr. DB didn’t seem to care.
Now, I have to figure out our Halloween costumes for our big plans this weekend. So far I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite 2011 sex scandals: Anthony Wiener and pregnant Huma Abedin, Dominque Straus-Kahn and Sofitel maid, Ghadaffi and Ukranian nurse, Schwarzenegger and maid, Silvio Berlusconi and teenage girl…I’ll keep you posted on what we decide. Enjoy your trick or treat!
Iced Pumpkin Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.
To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.
October 27, 2011 | 5:48 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I’ve gotten the distinct feeling lately that as my relationship has gotten more serious, there are a couple people in my life that seem to prefer that I be single. Early in my relationship, I had a few reservations that I discussed with friends – they seem trivial and meaningless now and to be sure I had actually forgotten about them but recently some friends of mine have brought them up to me. A month or two into dating Mr. Dreamboat, I was wary of an exclusive relationship because I felt like I hadn’t yet sown my wild oats to speak. It seemed to me that before I settle down, I needed to explore a few more trysts with a few more men. But when love happens to you, these notions of what you should do become irrelevant and so I had completely forgotten about it till my friend Ted recently brought up to me. Are you sure you really want to be this serious with someone, he asked me. As I’ve decided to at least postpone moving to New York to explore where my relationship goes, my sister reminded me, you’ve only known him for a few months. Then two nights ago, I expressed what I thought was a typical common relationship hiccup to my friend Shepp and he told me maybe you wouldn’t be feeling this way if he was the one. I get the distinct feeling some of my single friends don’t want this relationship to be it for me and I can’t help but wonder if it’s more a reflection of where they are than where I am.
For some people, being single can become your identity. And there are lots of benefits to being single: you only ever have to do what you want to do, you have more time, some studies even suggest you’re more ambitious. Personally, I have found some of the habits of singledom are hard for me to break. I’ve gotten so used to flirting with men to get what I want that I am constantly confused about whether or not I’m being respectful to my relationship or not. Old habits…
On the other hand, some girls are relationship girls. But if being in a relationship becomes your identity, this too has its own pitfalls. These girls are always in relationships and in the brief periods they’re not, they’re figuring out how be a good girlfriend in the next relationship they will shortly jump into. For a brief time in my life I was one of these girls who was single and looking around desperately not for a life partner but someone who would make an adequate temporary partner. I was shocked at what I was willing to overlook to be in one of these fleeting relationships. Ok, he may be a little dumb, but I’ll just keep him from saying more than a few sentences at a time. So we made out a few times, I cringed at every other sentence which had some made up word in it. Or ok so he’s constantly quoting Ann Coulter to browbeat your liberal tendencies, I’ll just keep anyone from mentioning anything political around him for a few months. Or so he’s fifty-three, it’s not like he’s married.
Yes, this was a bleak time in my life, but I had just been through a heart-wrenching break-up and thought if I could be with someone again right away, it would just ease the pain as I slowly arose out of my depression. Of course, this was a dumb idea and I’m embarrassed to be writing about it because it’s a sad commentary on my emotional state at the time. But I was young and naive and not sure of myself enough to have faith that I could get through it on my own.
Of course, in the end I did get through it on my own and am a much stronger person now. But the point is, all these filler boyfriends didn’t do anything for me except buy me a lot of meals. In the end, I did pull myself out of the darkness on my own and realized I was so happy with where I was in my life that I hardly thought about wanting a boyfriend (unless my Grandmother was telling me I needed a man in my life). And of course as fate would have it, once I finally become truly happy being single, I found myself in a relationship again.
But I can’t imagine that I would end a good relationship with someone I’m very much in love with in order to be single again. When my friends have repeated back to me my own hesitations about being in this relationship, while they may be true, they hardly seem like good enough reasons to give up the person I love. It does seem though like perhaps they’d like some company. As much fun as being single can be, it’s way more fun when you have good friends to share it with. And of course, therein lies the irony…human beings just weren’t made to be alone, even when life demands that we go through it completely single.
October 26, 2011 | 11:03 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
In a follow up to yesterday’s post about relationship psychobabble, I happen to read a very relevant New York Times article yesterday. It was all about how we make confident predictions about performance and why we’re usually wrong. Daniel Kahneman focuses on how stockbrokers are on average no better at predicting stock values than randomly generated selections, yet stockbrokers think they can predict stocks because they research companies and spend a lot of time focusing on past performance. But markets are so volatile, it turns out that the future conditions are so unlike past conditions that predictions are no more valid than mere guesses.
This got me thinking about relationship conventional wisdom. People give out relationship advice they’re not qualified to give but we listen to them because we trust their opinions. I first noticed this widespread phenomena when the book and Sex and the City principle He’s Just Not That Into You first dropped. I heard girls quoting this line back to each other all the time. He didn’t text you back immediately? He’s Just Not Than Into You. He called but didn’t leave a message? HJNTIY. And so on. But this turned out not to be true all the time. Some guys just prefer texting to calling or are too busy during the week to talk on the phone or really thought it would be weird to bring you to his sister’s wedding for a second date. Men are individuals and sometimes the traditional wisdom just doesn’t apply. We’re so quick to give our friends advice on their dating lives based on our own past experiences but there’s no reason to think that there is any correlation between the guys we’ve dated and the guy our friend is now dating. We are all limited by our own experience so it’s really just ridiculous to think that we know what a guy’s behavior means because we also have dated people of the same gender. Your friend’s advice on this subject is as valuable as asking a magic eight ball whether or not he really likes you.
The best indicator of whether or not he likes you or how quickly to contact him again is your own intuition based on what has happened between the two of you. If you like him cause he’s hot and has a good job but you’re forcing a conversation, yeah when he doesn’t return your text, he’s probably not into you. But if you felt like the two of you really connected and you haven’t heard from him in two days, don’t be so quick to write him off.
In the beginning of my current relationship, I really struggled with this because after seeing Mr. DB on the weekend, I would go most of the week without hearing from him and then Friday would come around and he’d be eager to make plans for the whole weekend. My friends kept telling me that I should go ahead and make plans for the weekend without keeping Sat night open for him to show him that I was busy and to teach him how desirable I was and that maybe he wasn’t that into me. Now, I know it was not nearly this complicated. He works finance hours during the week and just got so consumed with work during the week he wasn’t able to get in touch as much as he would have liked. It wasn’t because he was lukewarm about me or was trying to communicate some apathetic interest.
We all think we’re experts. And dating is so hard we like it when there are rules to follow. But the truth is there are no short cuts to find out what he’s really thinking. You just have to find out for yourself by being willing to take risks and pursue what your heart leads you to. The next time you find yourself asking your friends if they think he really likes you, remind yourself that they are no more reliable than the tried and true test of pulling petals off of a flower. He loves me, he loves me not turns out to be way more effective than we all thought…
October 25, 2011 | 10:19 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My sister and I had a terrible fight on Saturday night. It was about my relationship. In the end, everything got all worked out but the thing that bothered me the most about it was I let something she said bother me when it wasn’t true in the least. She planted this seed in my head and I started questioning if there really was a problem in my relationship. She made many accusations in the long car ride where our conversation occurred and one of them was true so she brought up a good point but the others were completely ludicrous and eventually when I gave her more of the facts, she even agreed with me. But why did I ever question myself based on her spurious accusations? For a while there, I was pretty upset and wondering if she was right about everything. Why were her words simply enough for me to start doubting myself. I knew part of what she was alleging was just ridiculous but I couldn’t help but take it seriously. It was like she had said you know what your relationship problem is, you’re gay. And instead of saying, actually I know I’m not gay but thank you very much, I said hmm, maybe I am gay…That never occurred to me before but if she thinks it’s true maybe she’s seeing something I’m not.
We live in a time, where everyone and anyone wants to give you a psychological diagnosis. But just because a smart friend thinks she knows what your problem is, doesn’t make it true. We read magazines that have quizzes and articles that make you question your relationship with absolutely no accountability. We tell some women they are pushovers and need to stand up for themselves when really they’re just compromising. We tell someone who are just asserting what they want, that they are bitchy. We call some bossy and some too meek. We tell some not to settle and others that nobody’s perfect. We tell girls to have self-esteem and love themselves and women that they are too self-absorbed and vain. Some women need to be more honest and communicate and some need to know when they are being disrespectful and keep their mouths shut. Did it ever occur to you, that you don’t have any of these problems?
The problem is this, most of us are all of these things some of the time. So when we diagnose our friends and say, it seems like you make all the compromises in your relationship and he doesn’t do anything for you – we may have planted a seed that is completely unfounded so that our friend might start thinking maybe I do make too many compromises and demand that everything suddenly be her way. No one knows what goes on between a couple except the two people in a relationship. Everyone else’s opinion is going to be unreliable because it is an opinion that is not based on all the facts.
But of course, we love the idea of an easy answer to our problems. It’s very hard to keep a broad view of an entire relationship and then make nuanced judgment calls about behavior when you’re in the relationship – it’s practically impossibly when you’re not!
This problem is exacerbated by all of our TV and movie characters. As a screenwriter, it is very difficult to write nuanced balanced characters but one of the ways we do this is to make our characters flawed. We gave them a negative character trait – like hubris or being lazy or being a workaholic. And stories usually involve this character confronting this trait and eventually changing into someone who has shed this negative character trait. But in real life, no one is that one dimensional so while the diagnosis works for female characters in movies, it’s not necessarily true in real life.
I recently overheard two girls talking about whether or not they close the door to the bathroom when they’re peeing in front of their boyfriends. One did, one didn’t. Now it occurred to me that if this were an episode of Sex and the City, this would be a metaphor. The girl who closed the door would have an issue with letting men get close to her and she’d constantly be trying to be perfect in front of men. The episode would be about how she finally lets the man see the messy side of her and the credits would run while the door was open to the bathroom. I was thinking about all of this because the girl in front of me who leaves the door open was making a case to her friend and telling her she had to get over her fears of letting men in and how she finally had to allow this boyfriend to see the other side of her. The other girl was agreeing saying you’re right, I need to do this.
I desperately wanted to interrupt these two girls and say you’re not on tv! Maybe she has no problem letting men in or connecting with her boyfriend and letting him see the imperfect side of her; Maybe she just wants the door closed and it doesn’t mean anything! Psychoanalyzing our friends and their relationships has become so common that we all do it to each other all the time. But it’s dangerous to be haphazardly giving out these diagnoses.
If you’re worried that you really have fallen into a pattern of behavior that’s not healthy, see a therapist and get a professional opinion. Otherwise, stop convincing yourself that you’re a psychopath because your friend called you one after reading a Women’s mag that said psyhcopaths are reclusive and don’t go out Saturday night. We all think we know what everyone else’s problems are. But really, unless you’re a character on TV, none of us have it figured out. Especially the people trying to tell us that they do.
October 21, 2011 | 11:26 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I’ve been debating whether or not to post this, but since I don’t feel quite right posting about my usual quasi-snarky dating observations just yet, by default it’s going up. I spoke at my Grandfather’s funeral on Wednesday and below is what is I said.
Whenever I would see Grandpa Joel, he would always say that I was his first. His first grandchild. Not better, he’d remind me. But first, and with that to him, there seemed to be some implied responsibility. He seemed to expect something more from me.
When I was ten years old, my mom took my sister and me to dinner once at Grandpa house. I remember it was 1992 because there was a big presidential election coming up and I was as big a political junkie as a ten year old could be. As soon as the dinner conversation turned to politics, I jumped in and told Grandpa he should be voting for Bill Clinton. Grandpa asked me why I liked Bill Clinton. Because I’m a Democrat. Grandpa stared back at me, why are you a Democrat? I fell silent. I was racking my brain trying to remember any reason in the world one might be a Democrat but was coming up with nothing. I was silent for a long time as Grandpa waited for me to answer. I stared back at him but refused to say I don’t know. I looked towards my mother then back at him. I was furious he was interrogating me like this. Up till then, when I had told an adult about my political affiliation, they responded either by telling me how impressed they were with my early interest in politics and command of big words or they would comment on what a precocious little girl I was. So not only was I shocked that Grandpa wasn’t impressed when I tried to show off to him, but I couldn’t believe he was giving me a hard time about it. But really, he was the first grown up who actually took me seriously enough to treat me like an adult. Finally, he broke the silence and told me If you’re just a Democrat because your parents are Democrats, than you aren’t really anything at all. I was so mad. I stared at him angry and frustrated. I was really furious with him for embarrassing me. But soon after I left their house that evening I forced every adult around me to have what were probably some very awkward conversations about Dr. Kevorkian, late-term abortion and even the tax code. But I knew I would never be caught silent like that again. I knew that if I was going to say I believed in something, I was going to be able to tell you why.
Ten years later, when I was at college, Grandpa came to visit me at Northwestern. I had recently begun my second term as the vice-president of student government but this second term was sort of a consolation prize because I had ran for President and lost. Now most people had said things like you tried your best or you should still be proud, you only lost by ten votes. But Grandpa asked me flat out, why did I lose the election. Once again, I stared back at him, angry at him for asking me this question. I was indignant that he didn’t understand what I had been through. But I had to say something. So I stopped to ask myself, why did I lose that election. I made a mistake Grandpa. Until, I said it out loud to him, I didn’t even realize that it was true. That was the moment when I finally admitted the truth to myself. I had let something personal affect me in the last days of the campaign and I told him about it. It’s alright to make mistakes he told me. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but the important thing is not to repeat them. I knew I would never make that same mistake again.
Years later, when I was pursuing a career in dance, he again asked me an uncomfortable question. What are you going to do next Tamara? Once again, the same feelings of anger and frustration rose inside of me. I didn’t want to think about what was next. I wanted everyone to focus on the cool stuff I was doing now. But Grandpa was just pointing out what I knew was true but again didn’t want to deal with. When my mother would ask me the same question I could say Mom! Leave me alone! But when Grandpa asked me, I couldn’t say that. So once again, I had to search inside myself for an answer. I had to ask myself, what will I do next? Deep down, I had always known what I wanted to do, but for whatever reason, I hadn’t been ready to face it. I told him I was going to go to law school and a few years later I did.
In the years leading up to when I actually started school, Grandpa had a running joke with me. He would tell me that if I would vote Republican he would pay for me to go to law school. Now, this wasn’t really meant as a bribe to try to get me to vote Republican. And not just because he knew I would never vote Republican. But rather, it was a reminder to me. A reminder and perhaps a test. A test to find out if I had become someone who truly believed in what I said I stood for. Or if I could be swayed by easy money. But Grandpa had taught me well and perhaps he only made the offer because he knew that I had become the type of person that truly acted based on what I believed in even if it did mean racking up large amounts of student loan debt.
And now today, law school is over and Grandpa is gone. And he’s not here, to ask me the tough questions I need to hear. He’s not here to let me get angry and frustrated at him. He’s not here to ask me what I’m doing with my life right now. And though I miss him very much, I am so grateful to God and to him that he was a part of my life in this way and for helping push me forward to become a better human being. And though he won’t be able ask me these questions in the future, I will continue to ask them of myself. I will honor and respect him by forcing myself to search deep within myself and emerge the better person he expected of me. And so for the rest of my life, I will ask myself these questions for him and I will miss him every time I do.
October 18, 2011 | 8:41 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I’m sorry for the brief delay in posting. My Grandfather passed away on Saturday. He had been sick for some time now so although at one point we were close, it wasn’t a total shock. But death is always hard. And it forces another side of all of us to emerge. You can only truly understand your partner in life when you’re confronted with hard times – how he acts when he’s fired from his job, what choices she makes when unexpectedly pregnant, how he deals with the loss of a parent or God-forbid much worse. But no matter how happy we think we are, life is full of hardships for everyone and so the person we are when faced with difficulties is one of the most important factors in a relationship.
In my newish relationship, there’s been a lot of smooth sailing so far but of course it’s easy to be happy and in love when life is good. But now my boyfriend will see the side of me that emerges when confronted with despondency and I will see the person he is when he is needed to support his partner. I am much less worried about how he will respond. I am fearful and embarrassed for how vulnerable I may be.
Having struggled with depression in the past, my natural inclination is to retreat. No one likes to be around someone depressed so when I feel upset, I usually avoid seeing people to spare them being around me. When I first found out about my Grandfather, I did have a good cry on Mr. DB’s shoulder but then he asked if there was anything he could do for me. I wanted to tell him I needed him to stay with me but instead I told him I was fine and I left.
So now he thinks I’m fine and I don’t need him and I’m furious at myself for letting my ego get in the way. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen me cry but it wasn’t far from it either. We’re at that point in the relationship, where it’s time to come off down from cloud nine and step into reality. If you’re lucky of course, you have times of bliss where you feel like you’re back in that beautiful place, but we all know you can’t live there permanently.
I was tempted to call him in the middle of the night and make him listen to me complain and recount my painful familial squabbles. But I also am fearful of letting him see me as some overly emotional victim. I want to tell him I need him by my side more, but I’m afraid to be needy. I want to tell him I don’t need him at all, but I’m afraid to appear cold. I don’t know how to be.
The funeral is tomorrow which is the same day he has some very important meetings at work. He’s asked me how important it is that he be there for the funeral and reception at my parents’ house afterwards. I told him on Sunday that I was fine, that I didn’t need him and that I would understand if he couldn’t make it because it was a critical day for him at work at a crucial time in his career. I was lying. I want to be ok alone. I don’t want to need him. I’ve gotten through tough times before without him and I could do it again if need be. But it’s just hard right now. My family is complicated and tense and sporadically fighting and I want to be together enough to be there for my mom. And I want him there for me in my corner so I can turn to him and tell him what I’m feeling.
But I’m afraid to be needy. I’m afraid that if I admit I need him, then what am I going to do if our relationship doesn’t work? Yet for my relationship to work, I need to be honest with him right now. He said that if I needed him to come he would. And I need to stop proving to him that I don’t need him. I need to tell him that I need him. I need to call him right now and tell him that I could use his support tomorrow. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me, but it is. I’m about to see him for dinner. I hope I can find the strength to tell him that right now, I am not strong.
October 7, 2011 | 3:00 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Guest blogger and my dear sister, Jenna Kagel has written a letter to her boyfriend to make amends for Yom Kippur. She has allowed me to repost it here.
I’m sorry that every time you watch a boxing match on TV, I feign a terrible headache that necessitates your assistance.
I’m sorry that every time your non-Jewish afro grows beyond reasonable limits, I demand that you urgently get to the barber shop for a military haircut.
I’m sorry that I buy you clothes that say polo playing aristocrat, when I know you prefer the worn out vintage professor look.
I’m sorry that I continually cook ultra spicy Mexican delights for dinner that give you heartburn for the next three days.
I’m sorry that my vegetarianism prevents us from enjoying the delectable meats that has made your country internationally notorious.
I’m sorry I am lactose intolerant, which means that neither one of us can ever enjoy lapping up an ice cream treat - your favorite food.
I’m sorry that I don’t like your girl friends because they hang on to your every word and glance, which translates into me frowning upon all interactions with people you work with.
I’m sorry that I get emotional when I drink because I drink often and usually while I’m in your company.
I’m sorry that I laughed at you when I discovered that for two weeks you had been using bath gel as a body lotion because you actually thought it was a body lotion.
I’m sorry that I automatically get mad when you show up for dinner late, when I know it’s actually not your fault and it’s really the non-existent bus system in the city.
I’m sorry I never read the book you published, which you dedicated to me.
I’m sorry I have never really read anything you wrote because it seems laboriously taxing just by looking at it.
I’m sorry for making fun of your over-gesticulations because I remember finding that to be endearing when we first met three years ago.
I’m sorry that your name is not Jewish enough for my family and that they re-named you Manny Nunnstein for a year and half, which made you wildly angry even though you never said anything and that there are still distant relatives that call you Manny.
And lastly, I’m sorry that you’re not Jewish. Because if you were, you would have so much more patience and understanding with my kvetching and my chutzpa, and my mishpocha would finally shut up about it already!
Jenna Kagel is a writer and English teacher living in Argentina. She can be reached at JennaKagel@gmail.com