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I’m worried my therapist hates me

Usually I dress up to go to therapy. It’s important that my therapist doesn’t think I’m as big of a mess as I am. Plus, her shoes are always so cute – she’d clearly judge my Uggs-and-pajama-pants look, no matter how chic it may be…

I hate the box of tissues at my therapist’s office. They sit there taunting me trying to get me to cry-which I’m desperately trying not to do. I don’t want my therapist to think I’m too neurotic, after all. Also, I’m not a pretty cryer. I bet she is.

I wonder if she knows that I’ve spent hours googling her, that I know her husband’s political leanings, her maiden name, and her synagogue…

Have you ever been in a therapist’s office that does not have an orchid? A white one of course. Those fuchsia ones are just too upsetting.

Just Your Typical Morning (Part 1)

4 AM: 2-yr-old comes into your bed screaming for yogurt. Because it’s breakfast time…You spend the next hour and a half explaining that no civilized human eats before the sun rises.

5:36: You relent and let 2-yr-old feast on crackers & yogurt in your bed.

6:30: You alarm goes off, which your husband doesn’t hear. You are covered in crumbs and your snoring 2-yr-old. You kick husband hoping he understands he must wake up and start the morning. But QUIETLY so as not to upset the monster on your chest.

6:38: Husband stumbles out of bed and creeps around in the dark getting dressed. You try to reach for your phone without waking your slumbering child.

6:41: The 2 other kids come racing into your room. They are yelling about a Lego piece which apparently belongs to both of their Lego sets, and which, if unsuccessfully procured, will undoubtedly ruin their life.

6:41 & 23 secs: 2-yr-old wakes and joins in the Lego battle, though you are 97% sure she thinks the sole purpose of Legos is for sticking in her mouth to torment you.

6:53: Everyone is in the kitchen screaming about breakfast. By the time you manage to pull on some leggings & brush your teeth and make it down, the 2-yr-old has already thrown her eggs across the room because she wanted the Batman plate, not the Paw Patrol plate.

6:54: Your husband escapes upstairs for his morning shit, which somehow never takes less than 15 min. Your kids assault you for their gummy vitamins, which you throw at them while slicing cucumbers (the long way, NOT the round way) for the empty lunch boxes waiting on the counter.

6:56: 7 yr-old pulls out a folder from his backpack and reminds you (inform you for the first time) that he has HW to fill out questions about his family.

6:57: You curse, abandoning lunch prep and settling for the well-rounded meal of cucumbers, applesauce and oreos.

6:58-7:06: You sit with 7-yr-old and attempt not to pull all your hair out while out loud you spell Every. Fucking. Word.

7:07: Husband reemerges from his epic poop & sees the vitamins out on the counter. Panicked, he tells you he already gave them to the kids. You consider calling the pediatrician. Or poison control. But then you see the time and decide that the vitamins are probably more sugar than vit., and what kid has ever OD-ed on sugar?

Things my kids have said about my body…

Things my kids have said about my body…

“Mommy, I love how your boobs hang down and point to the ground”

“Eww, Mommy, you smell terrible!” (As 5-yr-old sticks face in my croch

“Look, Mommy’s undies are so big I can use them as my suitcase”

“Squish. Squish. Squish.” (As 2-yr-old kneads my belly)

“Mommy, why do you wear your underwear all the way up to your boobs?” ANSWER: it’s the only way to squeeze this empty baby-sac into my high-waisted leggings.

“I love the strips on your belly” (Thanks, I wouldn’t have them without you!)

“Mommy, why do you have booboos all over your feet?” It’s called dry feet, MF. And in case you haven’t heard we are in the midst of a global pandemic and I haven’t had a pedicure in years

“Mommy, why are your arm pits hairier than Daddy’s?” ANSWER: daddy is a Swedish WASP. Mommy’s a Russian Jew. Who is too lazy to shave.

“How come Daddy always wears pants with buttons but you never do?” ANSWER: because of YOU!

“No, Mommy! I can’t sit in your lap because of all the prickles”

THANKS KIDS FOR KEEPING IT REAL! WHO NEEDS CONFIDENCE ANYWAY?

Book of Life

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for G-d to judge whether we live or die. If you goyim think Christmas is stressful, and are on your best behavior all year lest you find a lump of coal in your stocking, you should try living with the weight of The Book of Life. Just when you’re over that back-to-school anxiety – when those naked-in-the-hall-can’t-find-your-math-class-didn’t-realize-there-was-a-history-test dreams stop haunting your sleep, it’s time to face your Maker. Time to account for your sins. Take stock of the very worth of your life. This is the beauty of the Jewish High Holy Days. And, let’s be honest, one of the (many) reasons so many of my people find themselves in a lifelong relationship with their therapist. When I was little I was sure I wouldn’t make it to the five thousandth and whatever year it was of Jewish life. Mostly because I stole a Playmobil baby from my best friend’s dollhouse. (This petty theft was followed by my friend’s Mickey Mouse watch, which I then wore in front of her, insisting that it was just a coincidence that I suddenly had the same watch she had misplaced). There was no doubt in my mind that G-d would strike me dead for this. And no amount of apples and honey could convince me there would be anything sweet about the coming new year.

The Biggest Smallest Irritations

You know what I feel like people don’t talk about enough? How incredibly painful it is when a corn chip gets lodged up in the roof of your mouth. That sh*t can really ruin a perfectly delicious bag of Doritos – which, by the way, my mother never had at our house but which I discovered in my BF’s pantry and may or may not have been an important reason I maintained this friendship for such a long time…

It is a universal but unacknowledged frustration when your phone, which is supposed to recognize your face and open without your having to do anything at all, does not, in fact, know who you are and apparently, like Ron DeSantis, taking a very strong stance against masking. Imagine having to work our fingers when all we want to do is check our Twitter. The injustice!…

Remember when finding something to watch entailed getting in the car, and spending at least half an hour perusing your choices, and trying to find the strength to NOT get sucked into the 2-for-1 candy deal at Blockbuster? These days I can’t even believe the extent of my TV-consumption-laziness. Sometimes the vastness of choices for date night is just so overwhelming that we simply don’t even attempt to find an exciting new show and instead rely on a tried-but-true classic which for us mid-30-somethings is more often than not some mediocre rom-com. But that’s a good night. Because I can’t tell you how many times our evening plans have been derailed by the mere suggestion that we should use our Amazon Fire stick to sign into Netflix or HULU or Disney+. There is just no movie or show good enough to merit moving our fingers up and down to select the proper letters for the search box. And that’s only IF we remember our sign-in info to begin with. Because truly, how many times can you reset your password before losing your F-ing mind?!…

The summer is a challenging time for me. Not only because I hate the heat. But also because I can’t decide what is worse – being blinded by the sun or attempting to tolerate the sweat trickling down my nose from my sunglasses…

You know that nauseated feeling caused by one of your kids rolling down the window in the back when you haven’t cracked your window up front? Yeah…me neither…

Black Death

Sometimes in the evening when I’m struggling to bathe my children – which in my house entails wrestling, screaming, crying and endless (often unsuccessful) reminders that, no, we never drink the dirty bath water, and, yes, I am indeed sure that the only place we poop is the potty – I wish we lived at the turn of the 17th century when many people believed baths were dangerous, not cleansing, and should be avoided at all costs. Sure, maybe the science was a little hazy. In my experience, water doesn’t open my pores enough to let disease (save for the rare bath-induced UTI). And, if it did, boy would I have clear, glowing skin. But the idea that all one needs to do to achieve acceptable standards of hygiene is to change their undershirt, in my opinion, would be the smart way to clean children. These people had too many kids to spend their days pleading with them to bathe. And maybe, for this, they deserve our respect…

Before germ theory (c. 1900), people had many ideas about the agents of disease. In early modern Europe, “miasma,” or the concept that sickness was caused from bad smells, was a leading explanation. And before you scoff, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of needing to relieve yourself in a port-a-potty, you, too may have arrived at such a theory. It just makes good, smelly sense…

During the Black Plague, doctors invented these terrifying-looking beak masks to help fight the drink that they were sure spread death. They would stuff sweet-smelling spices in the beak of these masks, protecting them from the foul and dangerous buboes of their patients. I can’t 100% decide whether to be grateful our own pandemic masks don’t look like this, or envious as I smell my own breath of their innovative genius.

Best Effort

I’ve never won anything in my life. But that’s only because best grade on an English essay counts for squat. There was the time I thought I had won an all-expense paid cruise, but that turned out to be a scam, and is also probably the reason I’ve gotten about a million fake calls every day for the last decade. Like everyone else, we’ve been watching the Olympics (or whatever highlights we can find on YouTube because we’re millennials, and, like, what’s cable?). It’s truly amazing what these athletes can do with their bodies. And given that there are people like THAT in the world, it’s no shock that I don’t win things sitting around and doodling all day. So imagine my surprise when I received a text from my mother: “found your trophies!” The tiny image that appeared on my watch was really impressive. For a fleeting moment I was rewriting my self-narrative – I guess I had just forgotten the award-winning athletic prowess of my youth. But upon enlargement a different memory was triggered: cheerleading at camp with all my tiny, thin friends. And the award ceremony, which had been repressed safely away in some dusty box in my brain, where I was handed this giant, sparkling trophy, with the words “BEST EFFORT” etched clear as day at the base. My mom’s follow-up text: “Don’t worry! If they gave trophies for art and personality, you would win!” And true that, mommy…

I really peaked in 5th grade. Mr. S had a point board that showcased all the high-scoring students from years gone-by. I, of course, was determined to earn my glory with a spot at the top. You got points for all sorts of things (including – and, yes, I won this – smallest handwriting). But you also earned points by reading books and doing book reports. And so, I pulled my first all-nighter when I was 12, when I stayed up reading Catherine Called Birdy. I could not for the life of me tell you what this book was about. But I can proudly report that I am still, to this day, at the top of that point board.

Baking with Mom

“Baking is a science, Jessie! It’s chemistry.” I heard my mother reprimanding my every time I pull out my mixer. “What are you doing? You can’t use your finger to flatten the flour. You must use a straight edge. Be precise.” And she wonders why I detest all domestic activities in the kitchen? God forbid I learned to enjoy myself during baking projects. Or didn’t space the cookie dough PRECISELY 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. God knows what would happen if my muffins aren’t uniformly scooped into the cups and bake at slightly differentiated speeds. And to be honest, it took me 30+ years to realize that butter + sugar is delicious – slightly browned or under-baked. It doesn’t matter. It will still make you fat. And taste like happiness…

I no longer prepare food with my mother – I’ve realized enjoying HER perfect food is much more satisfying than striving – but never achieving – that kind of culinary perfection myself. And also – everything she makes just tastes better. Even toast and butter. For years I chalked this up to the phenomenon that whatever energy one puts into a food, the less delicious it tastes. But then I watched my mother make me a PB+J sandwich – for 10 min. Because the peanut butter had to be perfectly smooth. And even. And cover every millimeter of bread right up to the crust. The jelly, too, obviously. And don’t even get me started on the ration of PB to J. And of course, eating this sandwich is more enjoyable than those which I make, using the same knife that’s been sitting out on the cutting board overnight. Because, watermelon can’t be that unsanitary, right? And might add a lovely, surprising flavor to my sammy. And getting that spread all the way to the edges? Forget it! I barely have the time to even glob it on the bread before I have to duck out of the way of the macaroni and cheese my daughter just flung at me because I cut her apples the wrong way. So yeah – my mom’s PB+J tastes a lot better.

Mirror, mirror…

It’s strange to think that there was a time when only the wealthiest owned a mirror, or an object meant to reflect one’s image. Mirrors are ancient tools – yet the thin piece of glass with a layer of reflective metal behind it that we think of as a mirror is a relatively recent invention. And it’s only in the last century that owning a mirror became commonplace among the masses. This meant, of course, that for the most part, humans throughout history were only able to view their person in its entirety on occasion. What has this done to our society? How have we changed as our reflections greet us (one might say bombard us) everywhere we turn?…

The 1st glass mirrors (only owned by the very rich) were not flat, like those we are used to today. They were rounded, much like the circular mirrors in parking lots and alleys that allow us to see oncoming traffic. Which means that people’s reflections were much distorted, like the eery clown mirrors in amusement parks. Perhaps this distortion explains Mr. Arnolfini, in my opinion, one of the creepiest looking subjects in all of art history. What else could explain this man’s deliberate and goofy look? His pallor and giant hat? Perhaps when he looked in his small rounded mirror his hat appeared normal-sized, his long, skinny nose petite and pleasing. Maybe his eyebrows seemed thicker in that mirror, compelling him to pluck himself bald. It’s no coincidence that these mirrors became popular at the same time as the emergence of the portrait when self-obsession became de rigueur…

I recently gave my 2-yr-old daughter a hand mirror so she could examine her nether-regions. Thank you 2nd-wave feminists for the inspiration. She was shocked and delighted – I was a bit concerned we’d have a vaginally-related Greek tragedy on our hands. Narcissus’ reflection had nothing on this tiny twat.

And you think you’ve got sleep problems?

Before the Industrial Revolution and the creation of better forms of artificial light, people had to make the most of the natural light. Which meant in bed by sunset. When I try to explain to my husband that my body simply is not strong enough to resist nature and therefore I cannot possibly help with bath and bedtime since I must be asleep by 7, he simply scoffs. History-denier!…

Sometimes as I lie awake at night, eating handfuls of melatonin gummies and resisting the urge to smother my husband for breathing too loudly, it helps me to remember one of the most important things I learned in my history PhD program: that back in the day, people slept in 2 distinct windows – 1st and 2nd sleep – which were divided by an hour or so of awake, active time in the middle of the night. So, though delicious, all those gummies are just fighting my natural circadian rhythms….

Some French medical manuals recommended that couples wishing to conceive children have sex during this between time. After they were well-rested from their 1st sleep. Oh the French! If my husband ever dared attempt this deed at 3AM, he would never get in my granny moo-moo again!…

You’ve probably heard of the “witching hour.” But did you know it was born out of this period between 1st and 2nd sleep? Since liturgical prayers stopped at night it was believed that demons had an easier time roaming free. Plus, since it was darker – and let’s face it, spookier – witches would have more freedom to do whatever it was that they did. And despite the Catholic Church banning activities between 3-4 AM in 1535, how could those naughty demons and witches be trusted?

FOOTNOTE: Roger Elkirch, At Night’s Close: Night in Times Past (2001)

The Trouble with Sushi…

Friday nights are date nights. For us, with 3 kids under 6, during a pandemic, this means we order a giant platter of sushi and eat it in front of whatever show Netflix has been telling us to watch all week. Sometimes I eat a magic gummy when the kids are in the bath and it hits me at the perfect time, usually as I start sorting out our sushi platter. Yet, I can’t figure out if this helps with my sushi OCD or amplifies it. You see, sushi, though one of my favorite foods, is riddled with complications. First and foremost, of course, is the fact that I start feeling sad about its impending disappearance as soon as I pop that 1st salty, smushy morsel in my mouth. This is a problem I seem to have with food in general – the idea that this most wonderous experience of eating must come to an end often overshadows the simple joy of the eating itself. I think this is a very Jewish phenomenon – sort of like the breaking-of-the-glass at a wedding: lest we not forget the suffering! But with sushi the mourning is heightened since there is such a finite number of pieces. With each delicious bite, you are one step closer to losing it all. So, I find myself counting down as I eat, periodically glancing over at my husband’s plate to make sure he’ll still have pieces left to donate to my sushi fund when I am done…

And then there’s the matter of sushi-piece-preparation. Not only must I go in a certain order – never would I have 2 of the same kind in a row – but each piece deserves the perfect ratio of ginger and soy sauce, which means there is a rather stressful estimation that ensues to ensure each piece receives the right amount of flavor. In the end, I am so utterly exhausted by all the sushi-induced anxiety that I have no energy left for the bedroom portion of date night.