Thursday, October 18, 2007

put ze candle beck

it always amazes me how my postings change when i'm at home versus when i'm at school. when i'm home i post about things like fallen cakes, with pictures, almost daily. i sound completely self-contained. you can almost hear the security in my gruesome canterbury-tales-rip-off prose. i don't think that's the kind of thing i could write here.

what i write here in new york is confused and it rambles. it hesitates. i always feel like i'm on the verge of something i just can't put my finger on. and i think in earlier years i did write about the joyful frivolities of college life more often, and i still have a few of them; but now it seems that whatever words cross my screen at college are heavier in tone.

i've thought about this, and i think i have ('has', if you will) the solution:

there are two of me.

there is the monday-wednesday version and the tuesday-thursday version (the weekend variety is always a surprise). but i don't call them that; i call them The Black Skirt and The Jean Skirt.

Black Skirt me wears makeup and jewelry and pays forty dollars in metro card bills. Black Skirt me sits in banks for hours trying to negotiate with smug executives to whom she represents less threat than a flea. Black Skirt me calls authors' publicists, struggling to keep her voice even while her hands shake under the desk; she huddles over her keyboard at work desperately pretending not to overhear intimate details of her coworkers' lives and fretting over how much banter is not enough and how much is too much. Black Skirt me is awkward, uncultured, naive, and painfully, painfully aware of all of it. she weighs every word she says with crippling hesitation and finds nothing safe to voice. this makes her boss sound old, this makes her sound too eager, like she's trying to show someone up. Black Skirt me is, in a nut shell, exhausting. every minute lasts an hour, and every hour is a mental warzone where it must be a cakewalk for everyone who already knows the rules.

then there is Jean Skirt me. Jean Skirt me could not be less concerned about anything. she wanders into class and wanders out, eating her meals in the hallways and staircases between. she is not afraid to say anything class and does not mind doing all the talking when no one else raises their voice, and when other students worry about homework projects and the severity of tests, she laughs and laughs. Jean Skirt me will laugh at nearly anything and bumbles about in such a way that her floormates think she has a disorder, but not an emotional one. nothing seems serious or crucial to her. everything can be dealt with. everything can be taken care of.

i can feel the transformation as soon as i put on the other skirt. i can feel myself changing. i guess that's how everyone is, or maybe it's just the way they are when they first start out in a real work environment, but i honestly believe that if people from work met the person i am at school, they wouldn't recognize me. and vice versa. which is why the disparity of my own posts catch me off guard sometimes. it makes me wonder which one i really am.

but anyway, along that vein, i have discovered something important: there is no good way to force yourself to have fun.

it must have been Black Skirt me who spent the summer fretting that all this work and class and one-person dorm room would leave me no time to Socialize. socialize. because that's the kind of thing i do. define the term 'socialize' in a sentence, i dare you.

anyway i had only a hazy idea in my head at the time, and to be honest, i think a lot of it stems from a popular syndrome at stern and yu - it's called the 'OMG I'm In My Junior/Senior Year And Show No Signs Of Being Engaged' syndrome (OMG for short). you will of course tell me that i am foolish because i am deceptively young, and i'll opt for that, but it's a catchy disease. students here who i have always admired for their brash spirit and level-headedness seem to have succumbed overnight; suddenly they're crashing all the unspokenly-freshmen-only events, hoping to meet someone. it would be grim if there weren't a few guys who resorted to this as well. who's to say? maybe it works sometimes. as one of my floormates put it, 'i have no problem with desperation. how else are you supposed to meet people?'

i really have no idea, and i was definitely caught off-guard when a kindly member of my shul sidled up to me at simchas Torah and asked me what my list was ('well, i could use some more mouthwash, and i really need eggs...'). i was left speechless, and those who know me will realize that this is no mean feat. my reaction to this (horror) convinced me that i am not ready to Go To A Shadchan or whatever it is everyone else who knows what they're doing does. but nonetheless i made up my mind to do my part, and apparently, at the time, this struck me as signing up for the very awkward mixers that i studiously avoided in my freshman and sophomore year.

you know the kinds of events i mean. they sound like they should be meaningful or at least fun, like a great place to find a wide variety of people, like great conversation starters, and if nothing else, a night off for you. participate in a treasure hunt around the midtown campus! saturday night trip to ripley's believe-it-or-not! volunteer in six different places and get free dinner and show at the knitting factory!

i say these are freshmen-only because in my experience the juniors and seniors rarely have time to go to these things. it's the freshmen who are still excited and intrigued by new york, by the yu scene, even. consequently it's the freshmen who are most inspired and entertaining. but it is undoubtably awkward. you go to meet new people and then, when you get there, immediately search the crowd for someone you know, even remotely, to attach yourself to, so you won't look like an idiot with nothing better to do than stand by the desert table alone sneaking cookies. i've never been to a bar but i can only imagine how much worse they must be. when you do catch sight of the occasional older student, you know why they're there, and a momentary feeling of doom passes over you. you see yourself coming to events like this for years to come, absurdly pretending you are there for the place and not the people and then eventually realizing you don't really like the people either. bleh.

i think after a certain point this year i began to realize that i truly did not have time for these kinds of events nor was i getting half as much out of them as i needed to put in. ultimately, running around new york for two hours and seeing all the landmarks could have been a beautiful thing, but the superimposed structure of the event - treasure hunting - brought me right back to eighth grade on my trip to washington, where all my teammates were so focused on finding strangers in red-white-and-blue scarves that they couldn't be bothered to look at the capital. and i end up lagging behind, looking at these things myself, waiting for the activity to end.

but so far i've been going anyway. it's almost an addiction. who knows, you think. maybe this time i'll go and everything will magically work out, and if i don't go i'll be alone forever. (although seeing what more and more of these guys are like, i wonder if that is such a bad thing.) and you race and you cram to make it fit into your tight schedule because you are convinced it is important somehow. like i said - it's a Black Skirt thing. all this uncertainty about the future.

well, tonight was one of those nights. the truth was that i already had a commitment - my radio show - and i felt particularly skeptical of the night's planned event; i couldn't imagine it attracting a good crowd. a crowd, just not a good one. but my friend wheedled and whined. 'c'mon honey, you can do your show later, you can do your show next week, your show's always the same old thing and which would you rather, sit and talk to yourself all the way uptown or run around and have fun with a bunch of people here? i don't want to go alone...c'mon...'

i couldn't cancel my show, i'm too well-trained, but i shrugged and figured i could do both. she was probably right. i would be all by myself that late on a thursday night, and it might be kind of lonely, and times square did sound like fun even if the sketchiness factor, for such we name it at stern, veered high. so i threw my playlist-toting jukebox in my purse and i went with her.

and lemme tell ya, from the first minute to the last of the whole wretched exercise, it was AWFUL. the school brought in professionals who clearly had no clue what audience they were speaking to, as evidenced by their suggestion that we play 'huggy bears' to pick team mates. also these people were even more convinced than i was that the sole purpose of the event was to Meet Your Match; we could win a prize, they informed us, which would no doubt be a romantic getaway for two at some upscale restaruant. i saw several girls who perhaps thought they were in for the thrill of the scavenger hunt alone change colors, and some of the guys looked longingly over their shoulders for their long-since-gone bus.

the game itself had fair-to-good challenges ('get everyone underwater', 'take a picture with the worst-dressed person you can find') which had the potential to be hysterical in new york. but my team was composed mainly of obscene, embarrassing guys who harassed ordinary citizens and made lewd suggestions to us, other smart-alecks who spent the entire trip whining bitterly about the lack of leadership in our group, and a few frustrated girls who had actually made room on their schedules for this. aside from the obscenity, it reminded me quite vividly of all those silly yet crucial spats my elementary school class used to argue about. i enjoyed the nostalgia and dutifully drifted towards the back to enjoy my own tour of times square. but it wasn't what i had imagined it to be.

eventually i lost everyone altogether, bought myself some pumpkin pie ice cream from a tast-i-delight (egads) and settled comfortably on a park bench, and it didn't feel half bad to be alone.

the shuttle was late. it is always late on nights when i do my show and while it was harrying it was also strangely reassuring. i ran the entire way to the station to end up three minutes late. recently i have been doing some organizing and bureaucratic things for the station which have been at times frustrating, hard to keep up with, and that vibe of glumness and work partly contributed to my decision to go to the event and jeapordize my show. but when i barreled through the door and jumbled my jukebox only to plug it into the wrong cable, with the shift manager (no, not weed, not like the old days, nor mayerhoff, but still someone i knew for awhile) chiding me and snorting through my routine ('at this point we will eulogize my dead playstation by burning it in metaphorical effigy'), and my dad imming in ('i'm going to bed, your mike's not on') and everyone cracking up while the songs were playing....it was like i had never left. back again. home.

it was a lot of fun. and i don't think it occurred to me for a moment that there was anything significant or profound at stake.

i guess that's a Jean Skirt thing.

but you know, i kind of like being Jean Skirt me. and i think now i'm pretty confident that i can still get my fun without having to e-mail my request for it to a school-sponsored event.

16 Comments:

Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Compartmentalization is an important skill. All of us who work in the professional world have to learn how to do it. There is an appropriate way to behave at the office and a different way that you behave at home.

My contention has always been that all of these issues that you have been dealing with--social, financial, extracuricular (how the heck do u spell that)--are just as important as your official academic education. So don't fret it. To quote Ahnold: "if it doesn't kill you, it make you strohnga" (actually I think he said "if it blids, ve cahn kihl it.")

Seriously, when you went to college as a 16 year old freshman, I was petrified that some rapscallious YU boy would ensnare you and derail your education and your future, just like the one that caught your mom.

But you did pretty well, and now you're less than two years from graduation, and if the right guy comes along, don't be afraid to be interested. Obviously we're talking within the boundaries of halacha. But if you were engaged by the end of college I would not have a problem. Just so long as his family knows you're going to have a wedding in the back social hall at CBJ with Adam and Bryan as the band. Someone has to take a stand against out of control wedding costs, and it might as well be me!

FWIW, I'm pretty sure it's going to be Jean-skirt Perel that gets the guy.

6:27 AM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Free MP3 to the first person who correctly identifies the source of the title of this post!

6:28 AM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Also I REALLY think you should call your show "Planet in Perel"!

6:31 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

It wasn't until I'd been away for about 2-1/2 years that I learned how to let the T-shirt wearing me's personality exist within the button-down shirt wearing me.

And even then, I sucked at it until I went to Israel, when I got to start over a bit.

And even then, I didn't get really good at it until I started dating my now wife. Now that line she told me is the header on my blog: "Be yourself, because the people who care don't matter, and the people who matter don't care."

For me, it was learning that people generally liked me - and more importantly, I liked me - when I was being myself, and that I was incredibly awkward when I over analyzed every stupid little thought and action I did.

Sounds like you have a head start.

Oh, and we'd still really love to have you for a Shabbos! :)

(As to the rest of the post, eh. You never know where things come from. Sometimes even from these incredibly stupid things, where you find that one other person who looks equally lost and flustered at being there. That's actually how I got my job, pretty much.)

8:29 AM  
Anonymous jackie said...

I'm sorry you had such a sketchy experience at the scavenger hunt. Just keep on being jean-skirt Fudge, and do the things you enjoy without caring about what other people may think! And events like last night's are a lot more fun when you try not to do any groom-seeking, and instead ignore the rowdy guys! Not all the seniors you saw there were looking for husbands.... :-)

11:48 AM  
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

I actually like the business-suit wearing me more than my casual-me. In my business suits, I feel COOL, PROFESSIONAL, and COLLECTED. I feel in charge, in control, WITH INITIATIVE, and like I can handle anything. When I'm NOT wearing business attire (which is most of the time nowadays, unfortunately), I feel like I just need to get a grip. I'm experiencing the same sort of psychological pressure to get a job NOW IMMEDIATELY NOW NOW NOW as that situation with finding a guy. And I feel neurotic. I guess I'd better go put on my business suit...

12:37 PM  
Blogger fudge said...

abba - you know, i really felt better after reading what you said. however, i maintain that there is no reason to further the usage of such epithets as i have been accruing (ie, 'danger girl.')

ezzie - so you think it's more a matter of time and acclimation? that's interesting, because i can't imagine the people i work with started out as comfortable as they seem to be now. i think being just you and not caring about what others think is an excellent theory, but personally, i've always found it challenging to carry out in situations like work or large gatherings. i do know that certain people seem to make me feel more comfortable just saying what comes to mind, and in the end, those are the friendships i value more than anything. thank you for the advice and the invite - as they say on askaninja.com, i look forward to seeing you soon!

jackie - my apologies. having sat next to you in class for two months, i should certainly know better by now than to generalize like that. and i think you're right: if you go with a good group of friends there's a lot to be milked from these events. i wonder what your team's pictures looked like ;) you're a good example of someone who is always, irrevocably and unabashedly themselves, and i'm glad i met you. even if i need to wikipedia most of what you say.

irina - you know it depends. if it's a really good day, when my skirt doesn't look wrinkled and i seem to have accomplished something worthwhile (you try it as an intern - it takes work!), then i think i get that feeling you're talking about. also from being on the subway. you garner cred from the people around you. 'yeah, i drink black coffee and wear pin-striped slacks and have to rush to be in the door at 9 am too.' you belong.

still, i firmly believe - weekday clothes is where it's at.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous jackie said...

Well, the scavenger hunt was the first time that I gave a sketchy Stern event a try. It took me a couple years to ignore whatever stigma might be attatched to those events. The key is to go in with friends!

Next time, join my team!

Oh, and our pics weren't too crazy....except for the one of all of us underwater....hehe.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Eeees said...

“Be Who You Are and Say What You Feel Because Those Who Mind Don't Matter and Those Who Matter Don't Mind.”
Both Dr. Seuss and Serach know what they are talking about!

7:59 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Hehe. When I wrote the original comment, I almost wrote "and Dr. Seuss, zt'l, said something similar." :)

ezzie - so you think it's more a matter of time and acclimation?

Well, no, though those certainly play a large role. It's more about becoming comfortable with the idea that people like you for you and aren't as judgmental as we tend to worry they are of us.

To some extent, that takes getting used to; those valued friendships where you feel more comfortable speaking up is a great way to get used to speaking up, and seeing that others actually DO want to hear what we really think.

And we look forward as well. :)

1:37 AM  
Blogger Rafiki said...

I figured this out like three years ago? where have YOU been?

12:27 PM  
Blogger fudge said...

rafiki - what else do you know that you aren't telling us? wisdom is meant for SHARING!

3:40 PM  
Blogger Erachet said...

Wow, Fudge - kudos to you for going, even if it was a rather sketchy experience. I'm still afraid of going to events like those and I'm already a senior! And I do wish people would go to events for the events, since some of them sound like they could be a lot of fun. But, speaking about the engagement syndrome at Stern, I know I definitely don't want to get engaged until after I'm done with college. Then again, I don't actually have a boyfriend so...shouldn't be a problem. :)

6:29 PM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Last week, while you were on the air at WYUR, I IMed you not to let the gals in the dorm talk you out of having fun your own way (in this case, playing video games). The opposite is also a good idea, in my opinion: Don't let other people talk you *into* doing things you're not interested in (unless it's a necessity like work and homework, obviously).

What's the rush? Will the world end if you're not married within two weeks of graduating? Tell that yenta at shul that you're not ready to write that kind of a list yet, and ignore the OMG business. No one has a right to pressure you into making such a serious decision. Look for a husband *when you're ready,* when *you* want to, not when and/or because everyone else is nagging you! This is *your* life, not anyone else's!

9:12 AM  
Blogger RaggedyMom said...

You're very brave. Socializing is h-a-r-d. That being said, OMG often takes care of itself when you least expect it.

Having hung up my black skirt a few years ago, I'll agree that weekday wear is certainly where it's at. But it can be fun to pull it together once in a while, and there's a sort of adrenaline rush that comes from not knowing what you're doing, but realizing afterward that you did a pretty good job of it. Feeling like you're a waitress who's about to faint, but managing to put all the plates down on the table straight nonetheless. (What?) Most everyone else doesn't know what they're doing as much as they appear to.

Since the Goldishes live around the corner from us, here's hoping you'll kill two birds on Jewel Avenue with one Metrocard. That was convoluted. I meant to say, you can stay here and split the meals if you like.

Finally, what IS the source of the title of this post?

4:34 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

This is the first time I've seen your blog and I must say that I am very impressed! You have a very engaging writing style.

Good luck with everything!

K.

11:32 AM  

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