Monday, June 30, 2008

Mature Atheism?

I was just thinking about the freedom or the constraints that Atheism can give you, in terms of morality.

But first a story (It's related, I swear)
When I first moved out of my parent's house, I lived on a diet of muffins and candy bars. My mom was what some may call a 'health nut' and we never had any soda in the house (except for once a year at parties), no sugar cereals, no chocolate bars, no candy in general, etc.

So when I moved out, it was like "Hell yes! I can eat whatever I want! I can have a dinner of ice cream and snickers bars! I can have mac and cheese every night if I want! AND NO ONE WILL NO!!!" And I did!

And I gained like 40 pounds, but that's a whole other story

Meanwhile, over time, i've realized that eating mac and cheese and muffins and candy bars every day didn't make me feel so great. I switched to frozen dinners, cause they were easy to make and cheap. And I could lose weight that way!

And then came yet a third stage in my food-eating developement, when I realized that eating frozen dinners (which are chock full of preservatives, including high fructose corn syrup and tons of sodium) was probably not in my best long-term interests. Including the interest of, you know, not dying at age 50. And that I may have lost some weight, but that weight wasn't the most important thing- overall health counts too. And that at age 25 I shouldn't have high cholestorol and high blood pressure (which I did). So even if it takes a lot more effort (which it does), cooking my own food, eating fruits and veggies on a regular basis (which means I have to go to the grocery store semi-frequently), and staying away from chinese and pizza take-out is really the best thing to do.

And I do it. Even though I'd rather cross the street and get some of the kick-ass sesame chicken they sell out of a truck, right now I'm having a homemade salad with homemade balsamic vinagrette dressing.

I guess that's called "Maturity." Doing things that are in your long term interest instead of your short term interest. Even though no one is watching. See also: working on my research every day, even though no one will know if I don't (except me).

Anyways, what does this have to do with being an atheist?

Everything! I think atheists go through the same stages of development, except instead of with food, it's with morality. At least I did.

Stage 1: You realize there's no god. Or at least you strongly suspect there isn't one. And you realize that the religion you were brought up in is wrong.

Suddenly you are free! You can do whatever you want, and NO ONE WILL KNOW!! I (at least) started out by breaking every rule of the religion I was brought up in, and then moved on to breaking some more rules that are present in the larger society. Like shoplifting. And throwing stuff on the floor instead of in the trash. I did that for a while as a teenager. And as long as I didn't get caught (and I never did), who cares? There's no god!

This also applied to being a total dick to people. What reason is there to not be, if there's no god? Making promises and then going back on your word, outright lying, talking shit about people behind their backs, talking shit to people's faces, not helping people (even friends) who clearly needed help.

I did all those things.

But a bit earlier than I went through my food transformation, I went through a morality transformation.

I guess now I try to live by the karmic principle, golden rule, whatever you want to call it. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. First, do no harm. What you send out in to the world will come back to you. Don't be a dick.

And it's not because there's someone watching, or becuase I will get rewarded at the end of my life in the magical fairy tale land where someone will add up all the things I've ever done in my life and then tell me whether I get to suffer eternally or live in some boring heaven playing a harp and flying around in clouds.

It's because I don't believe there is a heaven that it's so important to not be a dick! Because I only get to do this once! And lets say one day I'll be on my death bed looking back at my life (assuming i don't get hit by a bus or die in a nuclear attack); do I really want to have lived my entire life getting my own way at the expense of other people? I'm pretty sure there are some people who would say yes (many of them are probably CEOs), but for me the answer is no. I look at the world, and I would like it to be a certain way. I think it would be awesome if everyone got along, helped each other, shared what they had, and wasn't a dick to each other.

I can't change the way other people act, so I can't make that world a complete reality...but I can change the way I act. No one will forgive me or punish me if I do the wrong thing, and no will will reward me or like me more if I do the right thing. For some people, their 'long term interest' is precisely that- the reward of heaven or punishment of hell. And maybe some people need an idea of a reward or a punishment in order to act in a responsible way. These people are not even at stage 1. They are still acting a certain way because they think someone is watching them. Kind of how I ate healthily when I lived in my parent's house. If one day god fell out of the sky and died, would they act a different way? (For a great book on that topic, check out James Marrow's "Towing Jehovah"). If the answer is no, than this is not true morality. True morality is acting the correct way, even if no one is ever going to know. Including god.

At the end of my life, or at the end of the day I hope that I can look back at my life or at the day and have no regrets for the way I acted, and the way I treated other people. That I made my best effort to reconcile relationships with people who were inadvertently hurt by the decisions I made (ie my parents), that I maed the best decisions for myself with minimal damage to other people, that I never did anything out of hatred, and never intentionally hurt other people for the sake of hurting them. For at least the last 4 or 5 years, I've been doing pretty good on that front.

oh crap it's monday

guess I should like...go to work and stuff (ahh, the life of a grad student)

So in a weird coincidence, sometime over the weekend one of those first date dudes I was talking about in that last post emailed me!

It turns out that the physics phd dude is now running for state legislature in Maryland. And I went to his facebook page to check it out (we are facebook friends) and it turns out he has been a policy advisor in washington for energy policy for the last 2 years.

That's freakin awesome! A dude I went on a date with is running for a political office! Also for the last 2 years has been writing policy briefs for senators! That's probably the coolest thing anyone I've gone on a date with has done (at least that I know about). Although my ex fiance and his wife DID start a fancy cake baking business, which is also pretty cool (they make super awesome cakes like ace of cakes!). Coming in a distant third is probably a dude who moved to California. His job isn't cool or anything, but moving to the west coast= awesome in my eyes.

What are some weird/cool things your ex's have done? And not in a bitter way, in a "wow, I went out with that dude and now he is awesome, therefore I will bask in reflected awesomeness!" kind of way.

Friday, June 27, 2008

So many unexceptional first dates...

Part 3 of my summer series on crazy dudes I have dated!

I tried to come up with a list of all the first dates I have been on, so that I can blog about them. But it's so hard to remember! It's strange...these dates (for the most part) happened in the past 4 years, and pretty much every one was a big deal to me at the time. Would I like him? Would he like me? Will he want to go on a second date...oh man I hope he doesn't want a second date! Should I call him, or should I wait for him to contact me...I don't want to have to sit around like some wallflower, but I don't want to show how overeager I am.

Dating kinda sucks, aye?

So here's a post dedicated to those first dates I can barely remember. I'm probably even leaving some people out. Maybe the details I CAN remember say something about me? That's probably reading too far into things...

*The physics phd student dude who I went to dinner with at a place that had bubble tea. I specifically tried not to date other phd students, cause I don't want to have to deal with 'two body problems' when I want to get a job (getting an academic job is hard enough, let alone two academic jobs in the same area). Don't remember why I went out with this one, or really anything about the date, except that there was a giant blizzard while I was walking there, and when I got to the date my hair was all messed up and crazy from the snow.

*The guy I went out for drinks with, who kept talking about cars and working out at the gym. Just a hint dudes: don't talk about cars and/or the gym on a date.

*The Russian dude who I met up with on valentines day one year. We walked around to a bunch of art galleries and had italian food. I was unclear whether it was a date or not until he tried to kiss me, and paid for dinner. That was still when I lived in NYC

*The dude who was a rower (which I thought was pretty cool) and who ended our date abruptly (like mid-sentance) when I mentioned that I smoked...err...'stuff'.. sometimes.

*The dude who had huge arm muscles...We went out 3 times for lunch, and I was never sure whether it was a date thing or a friendly thing. He's still at my school in an urban design program I think. His giant arm muscles were kind of scary to me. (like seriously, giant)

*The dude who wouldn't tell me where he worked, but who did let on that his job was programming missiles for the government. It wasn't too hard to figure out that he worked at Boeing, as even though he was trying to be all mysterious about it, he showed up the date wearing a Boeing hoodie. I decided I couldn't go on a second date with him cause his job actively contributed towards killing people.

*The dude who wanted to come back to my place to watch a movie, when I would have preferred the date be over after we had a drink. I couldn't think of a way to tell him to NOT come to my house, so we watched a zombie movie, during which my roommate came home, and later made fun of me for how far I was sitting from this dude on the couch.

*The much older dude with a kid who took me on a 'real' date which involved some crazy dinner at "my most favorite dessert" (a place way out of my college student budget) and bowling at chelsea piers. I was 21 and he was 29, and during the date I realized just how much older he was than me, when he talked about tv shows from the 80s I had never heard of. Also during the date I found out he was divorced, had a daughter, and was working as a 'freelance advertiser' which I think is code for 'unemployed advertiser.' He insisted on paying for everything, and I think he spent like $200 on the date, which made me feel super bad when I turned him down for a second date. But seriously, at 21, I was not ready to deal with older dudes with kids. This was my second real date (after obese opera singer guy).

I randomly ran into that guy like 3 years later when we were at a party together. But neither of us acknowledged to each other that we knew each other from before. Weird.

*The dude who was really into radiohead (like me!)...we had a great date, went to a few bars, he ended up coming to my place cause he "needed to sober up a bit before driving home" and we made out until 4am. A few days later I got an awkward email about how he liked me but he realized he wasn't over his ex or something (ha! the awkward email!)

*Cowboy guy! the dude who was in NYC for a film festival who had the same name as a famous actor who plays cowboys. We walked along the east river and it was all romantic, and we hooked up...of course I knew he was going off into the night since he lived in pittsburgh and was only in NYC for like 2 more days, but this was my last month of college, and I somehow got the idea into my head that I couldn't graduate college without ever having a one night stand. Ahh, the follies of youth. The only part I regret is that 3 years later he IMed me and asked if I wanted to meet up with him in (current city) in what was clearly a booty call. I met up with him for a drink, but left alone.

*The no-tv dude who kept going on about how he was so cool cause he didn't have a tv and just read books all night. Like in a seriously pretentious way. Later it turned out he DID have a tv, but didn't have a cable hook up. So he was a lying pretentious no tv dude! We went out for gelato, and walked around a park for a bit. We actually became friends afterwards, and hung out several times, until he met some new girl and suddenly disappeared from the internets. I'm pretty sure he blocked my AIM screenname. Either that or he hasn't been online in over 2 years. Ok, and I did hook up with him that night of the first date, so the way I think this screenname blocking thing went down is that he told his gf about that, she got all jealous, and he blocked it cause of her. I especially suspect this, because he disappeared from the internet soon after I ran into the two of them in the street randomly, and she was all shadey when she found out who I was.

*the dude I went on like 3 dates with, but on the third date he told me he couldn't go out with me anymore cause he was dirt poor and had no money for dates, and also that he needed to focus on not failing out of college, cause he was close to doing that apparently. Last I heard he moved to California to become a salesman.

I do have some more first date stories, but i'm saving those for later as they are slightly more memorable than these.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

starting is so hard

I have much more of a problem with beginning to write than actually writing.

Once I get into the swing of things, I can write like the wind. I started writing about half an hour ago and have written 2 and a half pages of a journal article I'm working on in that time. If taking this blog break doesn't kill my momentum, I will probably finish up a good chunk of the revisions I am doing in another hour at the most.

But it's the starting that sucks.

The way journal articles work, for those not in the know, is that you send in an article to a journal, and they get 3 anonymous reviewers to give you comments. Then you get back one of 3 decisions: 1. rejection 2. revise and resubmit and 3. conditional accept. You almost never get a conditional accept, which is when they accept your journal article outright with very small changes. The only people who get that are like Karl Marx or something.

So the vast majority of people who are not Karl Marx, get a "revise and resubmit" decision. That's when the reviewers suggest a bunch of semi-major revisions, you revise them in the next 2-3 months, and then return the article back to the editor. He/she then may or may not send it back to the same reviewers, to different reviewers, or just read it over himself. At that point many people get a conditional accept, some get a rejection, and some get another round of revise and resubmit.

The whole process is long. It can take years to get from an article submission to a publication. Even after they conditionally accept it, you have to make those last small changes, then they send it back to you for proofreading, then you have to read actual publisher proofs to make sure the publisher got it right, and then it could be anywhere from several months to over a year until your article get to print. Also each time you send it back to the editor, it can be several weeks or several months before you can do the next stage.

For instance, I have an article coming out in August that I started working on when I was a junior in college in 2003. We first finished the article and sent it out in 2005. Then it got a revise and resubmit. Then it took a few months to make the changes, and then a few months for them to review it again. By then it was the end of 2006. And we got a second revise and resubmit decision. By the time we actually got a conditional accept, it was early 2008. We did those minor conditional accept things in March, did the proofreading in April, read the publisher proofs in May, and the article is coming out in print in August.

Anyway, my long blathering here is because I'm working on revising and resubmitting my masters thesis. I got my MA in 2006, sent it out to a top journal, got rejected, sent it out to another (top) journal, got rejected, sent it out to a second tier journal, and got a revise and resubmit. I got this in April, when a whole lot of shit was going down (dissertation proposal draft 1, a grant proposal, end of the semester grading, proofreading that other article).

But over the past few weeks I have finally done the actual research necessary for this revision. Cause they of course wanted me to use a whole new data set to compliment the data I already had, plus collect a bunch of other data on maternity leave and child care policies for 20 schools. That stuff took forever, but I did it.

But now it comes to writing. And I'm having such a hard time actually sitting down and writing up my results. For the past 2 weeks I've been putting off starting. Today I finally sat down and started, and I'm already done with a major chunk (describing the findings in that extra dataset they wanted me to use). If I can actually sit here until I write up the stuff on maternity leave policies, I"ll have finished like 70% of the revision. After that it's all minor stuff, and making sure stuff makes sense with the new stuff in the paper, and maybe rewriting a bit of the conclusion. I can be finished with this by next week, which is my goal. But sitting down to write is just so damn hard!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

the way too much information (TMI) dude

Part 2 of my summer series on crazy dudes I have gone out with.

Well this guy, I don't remember where I met him, some internet site, probably jdate. This was after I had moved out of NYC to go to grad school, and he was one of the first dates I went on in this new city. On the internets he seemed fairly normal, if not a bit boring. I met up with him at a local coffee shop. For the first half of the (short) date, he still seemed boring. In fact, I recall thinking to myself "wow this dude is so boring, no second date there." As it happens, there was no second date, but not because of how boring he was.

Now I have no problem with kinky dudes. Well, I may have some problems, based on personal experiences with an extremely kinky dude, but that's another story for another day. But I strongly believe there is just some information you should not share on a first date. Like anything having to do with sex. That's like 3rd or 4th date information. And extremely kinky sex stuff? That's for when you've been dating a month or two at least.

I mean, it's one thing if you are having one of those wonderfully long first dates where you totally connect and are just talking for hours and hours, and after several hours some mostly-vanilla sex related story slips out. But if you're on an hour long coffee first date? No siree. That's just TMI.

So this dude, about half an hour into the date, starts talking about his ex (Also not a subject for a first date). He starts telling me how he was really into tying up his ex, and taking pictures. And how once his ex broke her pelvis (he didn't explain the details there, or if he did I can't remember them). And he has pictures of her tied to a chair sucking him off, with a big pelvis cast thing. And he posted these pictures to the internet. And his ex wrote a letter to savage love about it! (Savage love is a sex columnist for those not in the know. It gets printed in the back of the village voice, and a bunch of other places). And Dan Savage (author of savage love) posted the question and the response in his column!!! TMI dude was so proud of the fact that his sex life had gotten onto the savage love column.

Anyways, this dude was not for me. I have no problem with many things. Really, I'm an open minded person! But posting naked tied up pictures of your broken pelvis ex girlfriend giving you a blow job, and then telling me this on the first date, is just waaaay too kinky for me.

Anyways, I just googled the savage love column he was referring to (I looked it up after the date as well), and here it is!

My boyfriend and I recently posted pictures of ourselves performing medium-to-very-kinky sexual acts on a porn Web site. This is the frst time we've left our faces unblurred. To access the site you must pay a yearly fee. Pictures stay up on the site for about a month before they're removed. Here's my question: What is the probability that, say, a boss, a little brother or a jealous ex-boyfriend with a purity complex will fnd these pictures? My boyfriend claims the chance is next to zero, but I want an unbiased expert opinion.
-- Settle Unsettling Bet

You probably should've sought out my unbiased expert opinion before you posted the pictures, SUB. I'll bet you anything you like that someone you know -- a family member, a coworker, your congressional delegation -- has already seen the pictures. Your boyfriend is full of shit. The pictures are on a pay site? They're only up for a month? Well, guess what: People download images from pay sites, post them on free Web sites and e-mail them to their friends. As a general rule, folks shouldn't put anything on the Internet that they don't want their bosses, parents, siblings, ex-boyfriends (with or without purity complexes), children, children's children or children's children's children to see.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

atheist 13 10 meme

I suppose I should get around to doing this meme thing that jewish atheist tagged me for. But I'm not tagging anyone else, so there!

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

Someone who doesn't believe in established religion, or 'god' in any conventional definition of the word. But I think beliefs such as that "God" is in actuality just the spirit or life or whatever that imbues most things to be perfectly compatible with atheism. Plus, atheists don't have to be 100% sure there is no god. I for instance, am not sure that there is no invisible pink unicorn ruling the world. It's a possibility. A small one, but it's there. Same with god. Small possibility he/she/it exists, but not in any way conceived by people.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

I was brought up modern orthodox jewish, although my parents were less modern and more orthodox. Actually, up until I was around 12 years old my parents were pretty modern, but then around my 12th birthday my mom started covering her hair, stopped wearing pants, and took away all my pants. Since then they have been becoming more and more religious. I was allowed to watch some tv and movies growing up (but not friends cause my mom pre-watched it and saw an episode with lesbians, oh my! more like star trek and sesame street and buffy the vampire slayer, which were deemed wholesome. Also was not allowed to watch rated r movies till I turned 17 and went there on my own). Throughout my childhood my parents kept strict kasharut and shabbat, had seperate beds for nidah purposes, although they did not keep chalav yisrael, and they consider black hatters to be 'extremists'. When I had a secret boyfriend at age 15 and my parents found out they grounded me for 4 months, since I should only be dating for marriage.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?

Nanotechnology? sounds pretty awesome to me. Also I just read some article about how they are growing people's fingers back using some kind of something. I guess the only science I'm *really* excited about is sociology and demography, which some don't even consider a science (but I do, it's a social science!). I love making discoveries about the patterns of social life.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be?

I think a big problem in the 'atheist community' if such a thing could be said to exist is that their arguments are not convincing to non-atheists, and only to themselves. So I guess I would like if their/our aguments were more convincing to the people who need to be convinced.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

I would talk to them and try to find out why they wanted to join the clergy. If they could convince me they had a good reason, then I would support it.

Q7. What’s your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

I think some of the most ridiculous and therefore entertaining arugments are those that ad-hoc explain things and can't be refuted. Like "god put dinasaur bones into the earth to convince us it is older than 5000 years". There's no way to argue with that, cause the argument is non-falsifiable.

"Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

I have no idea? You tell me!

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favorite, and why?

I've read none of them! Was I supposed to? I guess I missed the atheist memo...

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

My Mom.


last night I did something to my back...not sure what. Basically, I turned sideways, my back cracked a bit (like normal) and a minute later I was writhing on the floor in pain. Possibly the worse pain I have ever felt.

So bad that I
a. thought I was going to throw up and crawled to the bathroom so I could writhe on the floor there in front of the toilet, where I sat sobbing from the pain for approximately an hour and

b. while sobbing and writhing had a serious debate with B over whether we could afford the $50 copay (plus whatever other bullshit fees will come up) that is required to go to the emergency room. I was pretty sure at one point that my kidney had exploded, since it hurt that bad.

In the end B helped by bringing me hot towels to put on my back while I lay on the bathroom floor, I took a pretty strong painkiller we had lying around from previous hurts, and we decided if I was still in bad pain this morning when it wore off, B was drop me off at student health on his way to work. This morning it still hurts, but only a bit, so I'm forgoing even that.

But man. That freaking hurt. Is this what happens when you start getting older?

In other news, I really love ms moon's latest post about her views of religion and god. I especially liked this part:

it reminds me of a group I used to go to of sexual abuse survivors and so many of the women gave god the glory for their ability to heal and go on with their lives, making sure that the chain of abuse had been broken in their families and I always wanted to shout at them, "Give yourself the credit! You're the one who did it! You're the one doing it! Not god. And by the way, where was god when you were a little child being abused?"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Another one bites the dust...

my little brother, fresh off the boat from his year in israel intense brainwashing, wrote something about how he's a republican now (he was super liberal before he left). So I write something on facebook like "wow you're a republican now? They totally brainwashed you, aye?"

Apparently that hit a nerve, cause this is what I got back:

"You want to know why?

You've been trying to convince me to be like you for a long time, so I looked at you and quite frankly you strike me as a person who's bitter and miserable all the time.

Why would I want to be like this? The beliefs and life style I've adopted makes me feel much better and happier emotionaly, physicaly and spiritualy.

So I'm joining the "other side". You enjoy your life. I'll enjoy mine."

Here's what I wrote back via email:

Wow your beliefs and lifestyle you've adopted may make you happy, but it sure has made you into kind of an asshole. Is that part of your beliefs? To try and publically humiiate your sister by leaving obnoxious public messages on her facebook page? I'm sure god would be very approving of that. Sounds like something that's sure to get you into heaven. Oh wait, didn't god say something like that embarrassing someone is worse than murder? I guess that only applies to people who are exactly like you; if not, god must be cool with treating them like shit!

Listen [Brother's name], we don't know each other that well. I moved out of our parent's house when you were 13 or 14, and I'm sad to say that I never really got to know you that well as a result. This is partially my fault, and partially yours. Neither of us have really made an effort to know each other.

You see a very small part of my life - the part when I am at home with our parents. For a variety of reasons I'm not going to get into, me and them don't get along very well. Clearly. As a result I'm usually pretty stressed out and upset when I go home. Yes, I'm bitter- about the way I was raised. You didn't notice most of what went on in our house probably, but I cannot forgive our parents for the way I was treated, and continue to be treated, simply because our belief's were different.

Did you know that mom told me that I shouldn't talk to you anymore so that I wouldn't 'corrupt' you? Several years ago? Out of respect for her wishes, and out of an effort not to antagonize mom anymore than necessary, I respected her wishes and stayed away. Then when I came home to visit a couple of years ago and we went to Aunt E's house for purim, we got to talking and I thought you were pretty cool. I became friends with you on facebook because I wanted to get to know you better. I thought you were turning out pretty cool, and was happy that I had reconnected with you.

However, you seem to interpret everything I ever said to you as a personal attack. Maybe that is partially my fault. Although I remember taking your side against [other brother] several times when we were kids, I'm sure you interpreted me and [other brother] as ganging up on you. With [other brother], we used to fight a lot as kids, but then when we were both growing up we eventually made up and became friends. I didn't really have that chance with you, as I moved out when you still probably saw me as a bully, and I've never really had a chance to change your perception of me.

I know we will probably never be close the way we could have been if I had lived at home for longer. However, I was very hurt to read what you wrote on my wall.."You enjoy your life. I'll enjoy mine" it seems you are disavowing me because my beliefs are different than yours. I'm not sure if part of your belief system is to not talk to your sister because she is an atheist and you are religious. And as for the brainwashing comment, I wasn't referring to your religious beliefs, just your political ones, when you said you were a republican. However I seem to have hit a nerve.

From my outsiders perspective, it looks to me like you have changed ALL of your beliefs in the past year. I'm worried that you will be giving up things you have always wanted to do because you were in an intense environment for a year, where you were told that you will be happier if you act a certain way. I saw a lot of people act like this after coming home from israel for a year, and I worry that you will not be happy with this lifestyle.

I don't think I've been trying to convince you to be like me. If you've interpreted my actions (and my tendency to be pretty argumentative when at home) in that way, then you have misinterpreted my intentions. I just was trying to find some common ground with you.

If you want to 'live your life and i'll live mine" or whatever, that's fine with me. I just hope that one day you'll wake up and let go of whatever past hurts you are harboring, and reconnect with me. I would really like to know my little brother.

Anyways, I hope you are happy with your life, and even though you think I am bitter (probably cause I get all bitter whenever I'm home), I assure you I've in a very happy place in my life right now. B just moved in with me, and we are planning on getting married at some point in a year or two. In fact, I'm pretty much more happier in my life right now that I have ever been before. Probably because I have complete control over my life, and am able to live the lifestyle I want. If you cannot have a relationship with me becasue of my lifestyle, then that is your issue, and not mine. I am always open to being closer with you, and I hope that one day we can be as close as me and [other brother]. I know that if that ever happens, it will take years to come to pass, but I would very much like it to.

I will probably not be coming home to visit our parents again for a very long time. Going home makes me too upset, and I don't really think our parents want me to go home anymore. Partially because they don't want me talking to you, as they make clear every time I am there. I also was invited to go to chicago and meet B's extended family for thanksgiving. However, you are always welcome to come visit me in [city], even if you just drive down for an afternoon. If you want to come to a festival or go camping sometime, I would really like that too. Not because I want you to be more like me, but because I want to get to know you better.

~Abandoning eden

Meanwhile, That "the beliefs and lifestyle" line sounds like it's straight of the brainwashing textbook. Am I bitter? Definitely when I go home/write this blog. Sigh. Meanwhile, I guess that's just one less reason to ever go to my parent's house.

Friday, June 20, 2008

alright internets!

I am off to Stonehenge music festival until sunday, so have a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I am now officially ABD!!! (That's "all but dissertation" for you non academic folks, i.e. the only hoop I have left is to actually write my dissertation!!!)


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome is so common in academia that my school actually has workshops on avoiding it.

Basically the symptoms are this: You do really well at something, and then you can't believe that you actually deserve it. They must have made a mistake! You are not actually that awesome! The reason it's so common in academic circles is probably that most people in academia went through college thinking their professors were infallible holders of wisdom and knowledge. And then when you're about to become a professor it's like...wait a minute, I don't know everything! How can I possibly be a professor! Or how can I possibly have gotten into this top 10 ivy league university! I'm not actually that smart! Any day they are going to figure out that I'm not as smart as they think I am! And then BAD THINGS will happen! Holy crap!

One of my dear friends has what I believe to be a strong case of impostor syndrome right now. She is starting a new job next week, and can't believe that they are going to be paying her as much as they told her they would be paying her. She is absolutely 100% convinced that when she shows up on Monday they will realize that it's a mistake, and actually bump her down a pay grade so she'll be earning $10,000 less than they told her she would be. So convinced of this, that she speaks as if it's already happened. Impostor syndrome!

A blogger friend was so convinced yesterday that she was going to have a miscarriage that she started making plans for what she was going to do afterwards. She couldn't believe that she was not having a miscarriage. She went to the doctor this morning, and everything seems fine. Impostor syndrome!

Anyways, I suffered from impostor syndrome my first semester or two of grad school, but then pretty much got over it when I realized that pretty much every person in my cohort (that is, the people who started grad school at the same time as me) thought the same thing; that everyone else in the cohort was smarter that them, and that they had been admitted by mistake. It took until the summer after my first year, when we were all reminiscing about how lost we felt when we first started, for me to realize this.

Since then I've pretty much accepted that I belong here. I may not be the 'best' person in my cohort, but we started out having 8 people and now we only have 5. So I at least have outlasted 3 other people (2 of them dropped out and one was kicked out).

However, today, on the eve of my dissertation proposal defense, this impostor syndrome is back with a vengeance.

I remember my first year of grad school, I befriended a third year grad student. I thought she knew everything. Anytime I had a dumb question (like: in grad school are papers supposed to be double spaced or single spaced?), I would ask her, and she would know the answer! (double spaced) And not just dumb questions, hard questions as well, like how to detach myself to an adviser who was using me to do bitch work and not helping me at all! And she knew the answer to that too!

Now I'm done with my fourth year of grad school, soon to be a fifth year. Most people ahead of me have already graduated, so I'm what in my department we call the "old heads"; people who have been around for a long time and know what's what. I thought by this point I would know what the hell is going on. But I still don't! They're giving me a first year student this Fall as a "grad buddy" in this thing my department does where they assign an advanced student to make sure you don't totally fuck up your first year. What the hell! I can't be responsible for making sure other people don't fuck up! I've having a hard enough time making sure I don't fuck up!

Meanwhile, this all seems suspiciously waaay too easy. I read lots of academia message boards and blogs and such, and everyone seems to freak out a lot more than I do. And work a lot more than I do. Someone commented on my blog yesterday that they want to take a year off to work before going to grad school, so they can have an easy 50 hour a week workweek and take a year off. Um, I don't work more than 50 hours a week. Even when I was teaching last semester, I worked like 40 hours a week at best. Now I have a steady work schedule of 10 or 11am to anywhere from 5pm to 7pm, Monday through Thursday. So what is that, like 25-30 hours a week? And approximately 50% of that was spent fucking around on the internet. Is everyone working 80 work weeks but me?? What if I'm not working as much as everyone else is!

And yet I seem to be right on schedule..I have 2 peer reviewed journal articles out, another I am revising per an editor's comments, and a non-dissertation project I'm working on with a prof that will hopefully end up as at least 2 journal articles. I've jumped through all the hoops that I am supposed to have finished by this point for my joint phd program (20 courses, 3 comprehensive exams), with the exception of my proposal, which should be done by tomorrow. Along the way I even got a teaching (at the university level) certificate and a women/gender studies certificate! I have a few semesters teaching experience, have presented at conferences around 10 times, and have a pretty damn good curriculum vitae if I say so myself. If you google my name you'll find 4 pages of links to articles I have written and honors I have received.

So why do I have that sinking feeling in my stomach today? Why am I asking myself 'What if they've just been humoring me all along?' and 'What if I've bullshitted my way through this proposal, and tomorrow they will find out and not pass me!!' Why did I have an anxiety dream last night in which my committee chair died on the way to my proposal defense, and they brought in a new guy who was all "Oh man, your chair was letting you off waaaay easy, there is no way this proposal is acceptable." Why, when people reassure me that only a real douchebag of an adviser would allow me to defend my proposal without being ready, do I think to myself "hmmm, you know, my adviser IS kinda a douchebag!"?

Impostor syndrome that's why!

You would think that knowing what is giving me anxiety would help me not have it, but you would be wrong.

Monday, June 16, 2008

After effects of breaking an engagement

This is part 1 of my other summer series: Seemingly insignificant things in my life that in retrospect have had huge effects on the direction my life was taking. (althouh this one seemed significant at the time)

So I figured, since I just blogged about the horrible ex-vasion of my life, and in honor of seeing said ex in 4 days, and also cause this is probably the longest one, so I figured I'd get it out of the way early, that part 1 would be about how that engagement ending totally changed my life.

So here are the ways:

1. Grad school: Some might argue that the reason the ex dumped me is cause I wanted to go to grad school, and he did not want to follow me to grad school. Some. Some might also argue that if we were right for me he would have followed me. But anyways...

My ex dumped me like literally the day after I had started sending out grad school applications. I think me actually filling them out and sending them away made him realize that I was serious about this whole grad school thing.

But being that when I was first selecting grad schools to apply to, I thought he would be coming with me, I selected grad schools in two categories- one was "reach schools" that I thought I had no chance of getting into, but were great programs, and the other were schools I realistically thought I could go to without having to move. Oh and one was in texas, where his family was from.

Well by the time he got around to breaking up with me, it was really too late to change the places I was sending my applications to. I had researched the 9 schools I applied to quite thouroughly, and while I could have theoretically researched more and applied to them, I was pretty depressed and not really up to researching new things. Good thing my applications were mostly done by the time the break up happened.

Then a few months later, so my suprise, I got into 8 out of the 9 schools I had applied to (with the exception of harvard, those bastards). However, having just gone through this terrible break up, I didn't want to move to one of the far away kick ass schools I had gotten into. Yeah, I could start my life over, but I would be completely alone- whereas if I had gotten into a school while still with my ex, I had some idea that I could convince him to go to said kick ass school. Which realistically, wouldn't have happened (lesson learned- don't get engaged to people whose lifegoals are completely incompatible with yours!). But anyways, I was too scared and sad to go away, so I ended up turning down the #1 school in sociology, which is University of Wisconsin in Madison.

On the other hand, I didn't want to stay in NYC. Too many of my friends knew me as "Abandoning Eden and Ex fiance" and running into people who kept asking "so when's the wedding?" was not so fun. I decided I needed a somewhat new start, and ended up where I am now- a drivable distance from home (about a 2-3 hour drive), but not so close that I can make regualar visits.

If I had stayed with the ex, what would have happened? No one can know. But I doubt I would have ended up here. I would have probably stayed in NYC (I got into NYU), or gone for the far away school if I could have convinced him to come with me. Or I would have not gone to grad school at all. Most likely I would have been at NYU.

So there's one thing.

2. Judaism

Breaking up with my ex pretty much ended for me any sort of vestige of an orthodox jewish lifestyle. During the engagement we had several arguments (with my dad) over different wedding rituals, and I ended up having a lot more questions that no one could answer. I saw how sexist some of these ritauls were (like the wife not even giving the husband a ring or saying a single word during the wedding ceremony), and things started to piss me off. After me and the ex (who ironically is no longer religious either) broke up, I had no reason to follow anything. A few weeks later I tried non-kosher chicken, a few months after that, non-kosher beef, and the rest is all in this blog.

If I had gotten married, I would have been in the jewish community. I would have probably lived near to my parents, I would have been invited to my parents for holidays, and I would have probably gone. Anyways, now I've pretty much escaped that community completely.

3. Hippies.

A month or two after the break up, a friend of mine (who I started hanging out with pretty regularly after the break up, given he was like the ONLY friend I had left) invited me to go with him to a jam band concert, and then to a hippie meet up, and then to another jam band concert, and then yet another concert and then to a festival... I took to those concerts like a fish to water, and entered this whole new hippe community. I had always been really into music, but didn't take up going to shows as a pretty serious hobby until my single days. It also helped that I had turned 21 and was now able to get into a lot more venues. Now I go to 4-6 music festivals every summer, and between 15 and 30 jam band shows every year.

4. Spending 3 years on my own

It was approximately 3 and a half years between breaking up with the ex and meeting B, and I was single for pretty much all of it. Those 3 and half years..I wouldn't trade them for anything. I learned how to be totally independent and take care of myself, learned a lot about myself, and got lots of crazy date stories for this blog. But if I had married my ex, I would have gone straight from living in a dorm to living with him. I really value those years on my own, when I had to pay all my own bills, and kill my own roaches and mice, and make my own social life. During those years I became a grown-up. Pretty much.

5. Oh yeah....B!

If I hadn't been dumped by the ex, I would have never met B! While he's not perfect (who is?) B is everything I want in a relationship. Including that he is super excited to follow me to whatever job I get after I graduate from my phd program. And that he wants to be a stay at home dad when we have kids (which is awesome for me cause I hate childcare/housework, and I want my career to come first in a relationship). Plus we have similar outlooks on life, compatible temprements, and similar poltical views (and B is just as big a feminist as me)! While me and the ex had a terrible relationship and would fight all the time (and broke up 3 times), me and B rarely fight about anything serious (our fights are usually like "omg I can't believe you like that music! You are so totally lame!" and 9 times out of 10 are related to something else we are stressed out about).

So yeah I'm going to stop there. But more life-changing events to come!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

10 things

I just self tagged myself from Quiet girl's blog

The Rules:
Once you have been tagged, write a blog with ten strange/ random facts or habits about you. When you are done, pick ten people to be tagged. List their names and why you tagged them. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they are tagged and to read your latest blog....

Random/Strange Facts about me:

1. I haven't had my own car since August of 2000. I am an expert on public transit. Although I have to admit, since B moved in, having a car to use when I want to drive to festivals (instead of begging rides off of random hippies) has been freakin sweet. Festivals are pretty much the only thing I really need a car for at this point.

2. I hate tomatoes. Every time I order something, I specifically ask for no tomatoes. When taco bell used to put tomatoes into my burrito all the time in college when i had a bean burrito for lunch ever day (despite the fact that bean burritos aren't even SUPPOSED to come with tomatoes!) I used to sit there picking out every last tomato. Something about the texture freaks me right the fuck out.

3. In college I ate a taco bell bean burrito every day for lunch, like 4 days each week for 3 years. In my senior year they closed the express taco bell on campus. They cost $1.06.

4. For the first 4 years that I lived on my own, I didn't have any air conditioning. Last summer I finally talked my landlord into installing those air conditioning bars on my living room and back bedroom (now office) windows. I still have no AC in my bedroom.

5. I was supposed to have been the saluditorian at my college graduation, but since I had 12 transfer credits I was disqualified. Even though none of those credits actually counted towards my degree, since I stayed in college for an extra semester. Grrr.

6. My refrigerator broke on friday, and my landlord told me to use a mini fridge from the basement, and that she would 'take care of it' today. It's after 9pm and I haven't heard from her...this mini fridge barely fits my enormous collection of condiments, despite throwing half of them out when transferring them from the broken fridge to the mini fridge (some of the ones that got thrown out were expired and some had gone bad from the fridge being broken). Meanwhile, I am not thrilled about this mini fridge- I can't really cook cause I have nowhere to put my leftovers!

7. When me and B started "dating" we didn't really go on dates. But we did go to the grocery store across the street from his old apartment pretty frequently. Like maybe every other night. We would walk around and buy like 3 things but would look at all the cool things from other countries that they sell in that grocery store. Occasionally we would pick out something slightly odd but not too weird to try- like guava juice or yerba mate

8. I am now addicted to yerba mate, and have been going through withdrawal since it's been too hot to have hot tea in the morning. I made some iced tea with it last week, but then the fridge broke, and now I have no room for it in my new tiny fridge. :(

9. I was the lead in our class play in 4th grade (a social studies play about the different things that states have, like the biggest export and stuff. Everyone was a state or two except me..I was like the narrator position who asked different states' questions), and then captain hook in peter pan in 5th grade. Then in high school I was a reverend in the importance of being Ernest, a lost boy in peter pan, and the mayor of the munchkin city in the wizard of oz. I was also the set designer for peter pan, and made some awesome sets out of foamcoreboard with windows that opened, out of our $150 budget. I tended to play all those male parts because I was pretty tall, and I went to an all girls school so there was no one to play the male parts.

10. I once had dreadlocks for around 9 months, until I felt I had to cut them off for a teaching job (no one told me to cut them off, but I felt like college students just wouldn't respect a white girl with dreadies). This was fairly recently. I have a whole blog post coming on what it's like to walk around with dreadlocks...that was a trip and a half.

Obese opera singing dude

This is part 1 of my summer series entitled "crazy dudes I have gone on dates with"

Obese opera singing dude (or OOSD) was the first of many things. He was my first "grown-up" date. My first date post-engagement break up. My first internet date. And most decidedly, my first bad date.

See, I met the ex-fiance (or XF) when I was 17, and by a week later we were "boyfriend and girlfriend" (ahh, remember those days?). Although we broke up once or twice, and I hung out with other guys during those break ups (and also had other boyfriends before the xf), I never went on what I considered a "real" and "grown up" date until this date with OOSD when I was 21.

Real grown up dates were (to me) kinda a combination of dates I had seen on TV and the way my parents talked about dating. Basically, in my head it goes like this: a guy you barely knew would ask you out sometime, he would pick you up and you would go some place (food? movie?) he would drop you off at home, there may or may not be a good night kiss, and then the next day he would call you to see if you wanted to go out a second time.

My date with obese opera singer dude actually went quite a bit like that.

Why the internet dating? In real life, dear readers, I tend to be fairly reticent when it comes to talking to strange people. Put me in a party full of strangers and I will walk around aimlessly for the duration just so I look like I"m occupied and/or I will cling to the one person I know. Or, more likely, not show up to the party at all. I'm not what one would call an 'extrovert.' Although, put me in a crowd full of friends and I will talk your ear off. So who knows. Maybe I'm not so much an introvert as a misanthrope. But I definitely suck at the small talk.

But put me in an internet crowd full of strangers, and I will be the most e-popular person on the block. I can talk (write?) your ears (eyes?) right off.

So internet dating seems fairly built for me. Once we're in a one on one situation, I am charming and's just initiating those real life conversations that can be tricky. Also, at the time, I was trying to date jews, and there just weren't that many jews at my college. Also, later on, I was going to grad school, and the only people I was meeting were people in my grad program. What I'm trying to say here is that the majority of dates I went on when I was single came from the internets. And I am not ashamed!!

Back to the story of obese opera singing dude. I had just broken up with my ex fiance. Well, not JUST. We had broken up in like early november, and then sometime in late december I was like "hmm, my ex seems to have moved on to date his future wife, maybe I should go on dates!" And then my friend told me about jdate.

Which brings me to Obese opera singing dude. OOSD was my first jdate. He did not look obese in his jdate picture. He looked quite average in fact. But he had gained approximately 200 pounds between the time that picture was taken and the time of our meeting.

Now listen, I have nothing against fat people. In fact some might consider me fat, if not at least a bit chubby. I think some fat guys can be pretty good looking, and I actually prefer bigger dudes to those skinny wirey ones who are all boney. But this obese opera singing dude..he was repulsively obese. Like multiple chins obese. I am not particularly picky when it comes to a dude's looks, as long as he doesn't repulse me.

They say that going on dates will help you learn something about yourself, like what kind of guys you don't want to be with. Well, this date taught me that I can't date guys who physically repulse me. It's just not going to work out.

Also, he sang opera.

In front of my dorm.

See, we went out for thai food, and I was quite charming if I say so myself. Even though I was repulsed by him physically, I tried to think of it as practice for a date in which I actually was not repulsed by the dude. But the dude..well not only was he physically repulsive, he was mind-numbingly boring.

But then he walked me back to my dorm. And then he asked if I wanted to sit on a bench outside my dorm.

Picture me, chain smoking almost half a pack of cigarettes, so that hopefully this guy would be repulsed by my smoking habits and not try to kiss me. And so that the cigarette would be there in my mouth to burn him in case he did try. And him..well the poor guy kept trying to hold my hand, and I kept pulling it away under the guise of lighting another cigarette.

And then..he told me how he sings opera. And how he had even performed in a choir once or twice! And then...he started to sing. Loudly. Right outside the main entrance to my dorm, where several people I knew were hanging out with their cigarettes (this was NYC after all), and others walking in and out of the building. And this obese, opera singing dude was singing opera. To me.

Being my first 'real' date, I hadn't yet mastered the art of politely ending a bad date. But after that display, I came up with something and excused myself. He went in for the kiss in a rare moment of non-chain-smokage, and I deflected it to the cheek.

The next day he called and I didn't pick up. Twice. He didn't call again. That's the first and last time I've blown someone off by not picking up their call. Now that I'm writing this I actually feel kind of bad for the dude. But seriously OOSD: don't sing opera at the top of your lungs outside a girl's dorm. Also, I appreciate that if you put up a picture of your actual obese self you would never get any jdates, but try not to put up one that is 200 pounds worth of lies, so it won't be such a shock.

Friday, June 13, 2008

On trying lobster and crab for the first time

Ok, well I gotta say, it was good, but definitely did not live up to the hype. After the way some people go on about lobsters, I was expecting the best tasting thing ever in the history of tasting. But no, in kind of reminded me of the taste of artichokes. Probably because I was dipping it in garlic butter sauce, and I usually dip artichokes in butter lemon stuff I make...I tried it without the dipping sauce as well, and while I liked it, I definitely didn't like it a $25 amount.

I did not like the snow crab. It tasted way too much like the sea. But B ate most of it, so it was all good. I did however greatly enjoy the tiny fork.

Anyways, re: the lobster and crab. It took waaay too much effort to eat it, and I doubt I will ever have it again, just cause it's so damn expensive for something that I don't think is the best food ever made, and also I like eating my food without having to dig through it first. I'd rather spend my money on some awesome chocolate or something. So that was somewhat dissapointing.

What I DID love was coconut shrimp! OMG! And the awesome coconut (and dare I say pineapple?) sauce that you dipped it into! And the regular breaded shrimp as well! I've had shrimp before, but never with any kind of stuff on top of it, just plain shrimp, and while I liked that as well, holy crap coconut shrimp is good.

here are some of the things that I ate

The bottom of a lobster tail has some crazy things going on!

nom nom nom nom nom nom nom

When we were driving home I saw Quiet girl walking her dog like a block away from my house, so of course I jumped out of the car to say hi. She came and hung out in front of the house for a bit
she asked me not to post her face, so here is her body and her dog, on my neighbor's lawn

All in all a good day. Except that I got a haircut, and I asked for it to be "chin length" and the evil haircutter cut it like 4 inches shorter! I am super pissed about this, but everyone seems to think it's cute. Still super pissed though.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy 1.5 year anniversary to me and B!

I didn't want to post this in that other more depressing post I just wrote, but as of today me and B have been together for a year and a half! Yay! I've decided you get to celebrate half year anniversary's until you have been together at least 2 or 3 years, so tonight after work we are going to go to red lobster, where I am going to try lobster (and possibly crabs) for the first time. I've been wanting to try lobster for a while, but the prohibitive cost means we had to save it for a special day. And that day is today! yay!


I came up with a whole list of topics to write about in my blog last night, now that it isn't only jew-related. I've decided on three themes that will probably give me enough blogging material for at least the rest of the summer. They are "moments in my life that seemed insignificant at the time but that in retrospect totally changed the direction my life was taking," "crazy dudes I've gone on dates with," and "crazy stories that are just begging to be told."

I was also thinking of a 4th category of "crazy drugs I may or may not have done and the crazy things that may or may not have happened while I was or was not on them" but since this is a public blog, I'm probably going to skip that one.

But instead of starting on all that today, I have something else to rant about today. The ex-vasion of my music scene.

See, after me and the ex broke up, I started going to see jam bands on a regular basis. That summer I went to my first music festival and now, 5 years later, I go to festival and ruined the whole festival for everyone.

Anyways, that was two years ago, and he hadn't gone to fests since then. At least not any fests I was at. Until this year. In mid-May he shows up at a fest I'm working at, and our mutual friend and him set up camp right next to where I had set up camp the day before (as a festival volunteer I got to come a day early, chill with the other volunteers, and nab some prime camping space). During the course of this festival, the ex has the 'brilliant' idea of vending some kind of food product his wife makes (trying not to be so specific here) at the next major festival of the summer. The festival that is a week from tomorrow, that is my favorite festival of the year (this will be the 4th year in a row I will be going to it). If that goes well, he may start doing this on a regular basis! His wife may or may not be coming!

Oh, his wife. Did I not mention? 3 weeks after he broke off our engagement, he started dating this girl that he had mysteriously visited the weekend before he broke off our engagement. A week after he broke off our engagement, she mysteriously broke off HER engagement with some other dude. A little over a year later, THEY were married.

Our mutual friend is fond of saying "Oh but you guys were HORRIBLE for each other" whenever I bitch about the ex. And he's right. We were horrible for each other. However, whenever this mutual friend says that, I get pissed off to no end. Cause what mutual friend seems to be saying is "oh, you were horrible for each other, so why should it bother you that this dude is now ex-vading your social life?" What this mutual friend doesn't seem to understand is that while I'm over the relationship (indeed, 5 years later I can barely remember our 4 year relationship), I am not over the break-up.

Folks, there are good ways and bad ways to break up with someone. Here's an example of a bad way:

Date someone for 4 years, get engaged to them, have a huge engagement party with family and friends, start making plans for a wedding, finalize those plans for the most part by 4 months after the engagement, including money deposits and everything.

Then, go visit a high school (female) friend for a weekend (a female friend who had come to your engagement party), come back, and act super weird for a week or so. Come visit one day and start getting it on, but can't finish. Tell your fiance that it's you, that you're feeling kind of sick. During this week, consult with rabbis and your fiance's parents about whether or not you should marry her after all. Do NOT consult with your fiance about your doubts, so she is totally in the dark, and has no idea what is coming, and no chance to talk about what is bothering you. Then, a week and a half after this trip, Call your fiance up randomly and say something mysterious like "We need to talk, I'll be at your place in an hour." Let your fiance worry during that hour that since you had visited a doctor for your 'sickness' that morning (that was most likely anxiety in retrospect), that your doctor had told you you were dying of some mysterious disease, cause it doesn't cross her mind that 'we need to talk' actually could have meant "we need to talk about how I'm breaking up with you" as it usually does.

Then show up at your dorm, tell your fiance you're calling off the wedding and can you have the ring back, and disappear back into the night HALF AN HOUR later. Leave your now-ex-fiance to deal with canceling wedding plans, returning the insane amount of engagement gifts you got (including writing checks to people who had given us that was painful in a way that had nothing to do with the monetary aspect), and telling most of your mutual friends that the wedding was called off. Oh and then 3 weeks later start dating that girl you mysteriously visited a week and a half before you dumped your fiance, IM your ex and hint at how excited you are to be dating someone new, but leave it to the grapevine to tell her exactly who it is. All this while your ex is such a puddle of hurt that she can barely get out of bed, and is eating out of vending machines cause she can't bring herself to go to the grocery store.

Ok, maybe you get the idea.

It wasn't the break up itself. In retrospect, that break up was the best thing that's ever happened to me, and one of those "moments in my life that seemed insignificant at the time but that in retrospect totally changed the direction my life was taking," and in an awesome way. We WERE terrible for each other, as our mutual friend is so annoyingly fond of saying.

It was the method of the break up. Calling off an engagement and a 4 year relationship in half an hour. Consulting rabbis and MY parents (who didn't say anything to me, and that may have been the straw that broke the camel's relationship with her parents), but not saying a word to me. So that the whole thing totally came out of left field. Like being shot in the gut by the guy you thought was your best friend. And then afterwards, leaving me to pick up the pieces and deal with all the official wedding canceling stuff. Going on his merry way with a new girl (with whom I will never know if he cheated on me with during that mysterious weekend visit) barely 3 weeks later, while I was still incapable of getting out of bed.

That's not the way you break up with your fiance. That's the way you break up with your middle school girlfriend.

While the break up was a good thing, the method still has reverberations in my relationships with other people. For instance, there's a reason I'm not making a big deal out of the fact that me and B are planning on getting married. And that reason is there is no way in hell I'm going through the pain of telling a bunch of people I'm not getting married AGAIN if this engagement also goes south. That's also why me and B are getting married at city hall, cause there's also no way in hell I'm going through planning a wedding again. I definitely have some trust issues. In that I don't trust people not to suddenly leave me one day out of the blue. After we broke up I didn't date anyone (in any sort of serious fashion, I did go on many first dates) for a year and a half, and I didn't have a real relationship again until B, three and a half years later. I dated 2 other guys for about 6 weeks each in the interim, but broke up with both of them when things started getting more serious. I couldn't resist B though. :)

Meanwhile, I'm sure you, my dear readers, are not surprised that I am not so much looking forward to the ex-vasion of my favorite festival. I can hang out near him, and even talk to him when other people leave (so no more awkwardness?) and B is coming with me, so I have that buffer. But I'd just rather he wasn't there. He's like an ink stain on your jeans that you can live with, but you just wish wasn't there. I just have no desire to ever hang out near or with him again. But there's also no way in hell I'm giving up MY favorite festival and MY music scene cause he's decided to invade it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


In case you haven't figured it out yet dear readers, when I'm not blogging here, I'm a grad student. Working on a joint phd in sociology and demography. I also teach a class or two here or there and work as a (extremely) part time research assistant for a prof, but my primary daily activity is working on my own stuff (especially my dissertation proposal right now).

Which brings me to my rant o' the day. There is nothing that is more excruciatingly painful to me than reading my own work. I love to write, I can just spew out pages and pages of stuff. In fact, I mostly wrote the first draft of my 60 page dissertation proposal over a period of 4 intense (but actually kind of fun) days. But when it comes to re-reading what I've written, and editing it so that it makes sense, I just hate every minute of it.

B is the opposite. In fact, so opposite, that it is his JOB to do what I hate. Right now he's working as a writing tutor, where his job is to read over people's papers for grammatical and clarity errors and such.

Meanwhile, why am I ranting about this? Well today is the due date for my dissertation proposal. I've decided to to spend the day reading over all 60 pages of my proposal for one last edit. I've made quite a few changes already in fact, in the 15 pages of it I've read so far. But now I'm back to procrastinating again, cause this sucks. I mean, my paper is interesting and all (to me at least) but agonizing over whether a committee member will take issue with the word "implicitly" is not my idea of fun times.

A week from today, my committee will all meet up for my dissertation proposal defense so they can talk about what I've written, give me feedback, and let me know whether or not I have successfully jumped through the penultimate hoop in my phd program. If all goes well, at this time next week I will be ABD- all but dissertation.

Regardless of the outcome, right after my defense I'll be going home to get extremely fucked up, either in celebration or dismay.

In fact I wish I could spend the next week fucked up and trying to forget that my defense is coming, but sadly I have a conference extended abstract due on Tuesday, and I really need to work some more on revising a journal article I received a "revise and resubmit" decision on. Ideally, I'll have that all done by a week from today, so that when I go on my post-defense mini-vacation/music festival with B a week from Friday, none of this will be hanging over my head. All this so I can improve my chances of getting a tenure track job when I graduate.

Well there you have it, a fascinating description of the daily life of a grad student. Now I just gotta go edit those last 45 pages...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

New direction

I'm taking this blog to a new place. I was looking over some recent posts, and man, is this thing depressing. I'm not actually a depressed person (although I play one on the internets), I just happen to always write in this blog (rather than my other more general "stuff going on in my life" blog) whenever I'm down and thinking about religion. And thinking about religion brings me down. And then when I'm down, I think more about things that bring me down, such as religion.

It's a self perpetuating cycle of sad blog posts.

But I'm turning things around! No longer will all my blog posts be about how my parents make me sad. This blog is called "leaving orthodox judaism, and what came after." Well, what came after isn't all depression and stupid family and being cast out. What came after is wonderful and free and freaking awesome.

I'm not going to stop blogging about the crazy things my parents do. But I'm going to expand the borders a little bit. Maybe I'll start talking more about my relationship. Maybe even about my career once in a while. Maybe I'll just post a bunch of pictures of food I make and B sleeping with cats. Who knows? But I'm tired of defining this blog as my "sad jew blog" and tired of defining myself as a ex-jew/jew skeptic. I mean, I am that, but I'm so much more!



Thursday, June 5, 2008

New favoritest quote

"My family and I are like oil and water, if oil made water depressed and angry and want to kill itself"
~Shalom Auslander

Monday, June 2, 2008

What happened to your family?

I've been thinking more on yesterday's conversation, and how my friends' parents reacted to their conversions. And how parents in general react to conversions of their children, whether into another religion, or into atheism. I've also watched several episodes of Big Love recently, some of which have been dealing with people who are rejected or disowned by their parent's because of their beliefs.

My dad's first cousin married a woman who isn't Jewish. He has 3 other first cousins, and my childhood was filled with visits to those 3 other families, and I was close with many of my second cousins. (all my first cousins on my dad's side of the family lived in Israel when he was growing up, so he made a point of hanging out with his cousins and their kids, who mostly lived in the area). I didn't meet my cousin who married someone not jewish until his sister's son(my second cousin)'s bar mitzvah, when I was 14 or 15. I have not seen them since. But it turned out they had a son the exact same age as me!

When I was growing up, my mother's best friend and business parter was a women who was a baal tshuvah. Her "orthodox" husband cheated on her, and when they divorced, she had a bad experience with rabbies she talked to, and between that and the cheating, she decided she was not going to follow the orthodox religion anymore. She had a son a few weeks younger than me, who was pretty much my only friend from age 1 to age 11 or 12. We carpooled together as kids, and since our mothers were business partners, we were at each other's houses several times a week at least. When his mom decided not to be religious (and took her son with her) my mom told me I couldn't be friends with him anymore. I didn't see him again until I was 19, and randomly ran into him at a party. My mother convinced her friend to leave their business partnership, and she basically stopped talking to her, in the middle of her friend going through a really bad divorce.

She had another very close friend, who stopped being religious when SHE went through a divorce. After 15 years of living next door to each other, and being best friends, when her friend moved away and took her kids out of religious school (to put them in public school) my mom stopped talking to her.

Here are some things that have happened to me because I did not want to be orthodox jewish:

*At age 17 when I first told my parents I didn't want to be religious anymore, I was forced to go to family therapy, at a therapist who was a friend of my dad (who is also a therapist), who tried to convince me to listen to my parents, and then convinced me to 'confess' to them about specifics aspects of the faith that I wasn't following.

*My brothers both got a car when they turned 17, which they kept at older ages. I had a car for a year when I was 17 (and my parents didn't want to pay for the bus to high school) and a few months after telling me parents I was not religious, they gave the car to my brother, who had it for several years before he sold it. My (younger) brother could use it whenever he wanted without talking to my parents first, but I had ask my friend's for a ride, or talk to my parents and tell them exactly where I was going, who was going to be there, and when I would be home in order to borrow a car, which they frequently refused to lend me if they didn't like the friends I was going to hang out with, even if no one else needed any of the cars. I was still living at home (in the suburbs, with no public transit) at the time (this was when I was age 18-20).

*I was told that after I graduated college I could live at my parents house for one summer, but that after that, I had to find my own place- my (nearly 25 year old) brother still lives at home. Fortunately I started grad school soon after, and have a stipend to pay for rent.

*When I was in college, my parents would only pay for my dorm on the condition that I came home every shabbat, as they "knew I wouldn't keep shabbas at the dorm and they wouldn't pay for me to live that lifestyle." So every friday for 2 years I made the 2-3 hour treck back to my parent's house (via 4 different trains). Also they wouldn't let me dorm at all for my first 2 years, becuase of all the 'bad influences', so for my first 2 years of college I commuted for 4-5 hours each day.

*Parents refuse to meet my boyfriend/fiance who I live with/who I have dated for a year and a half, despite repeated requests.

*Parents have thus far visited me 2 times in the 4 years I have lived a 2 hour drive away from them, and one of those times was because their friend happened to be getting married in my city; they stopped by for half an hour. My dad visited on his own for a third time recently to talk about cancer (mom didn't come). They have visited my brother (who is Israel for 9 months) twice already.

*Parents have not helped me with any money (apart from the cost of visiting them, and that summer they let me live rent free at home) since I graduated college. In college they paid for my dorm and tuition, gave me $20 a week, and everything else (including food, as there was no food plan) was paid for by the 3 part-time jobs I had during all of college (which I attended full time), which was barely enough to cover my minimal bills (cell phone and food and a metrocard- I didn't even have internet, and I never went out). For a year of college I ate a taco bell bean burrito ($1.06) every day for lunch, cause I couldn't afford anything else, and at least that had fiber and protein and filled me up. I became an expert at finding places with free food, and ended up in quite an insane amount of clubs and organizations on campus. I also am somewhat ashamed to admit that I frequently stole food from the school cafeteria, as I couldn't afford to pay for it. My brother (a year younger than me) didn't have a job until almost a year after he graduated college, and still lives at my parent's house, rent free.

*My mom told me around 4 years ago that I shouldn't talk to my youngest brother if I could help it, as I would be a bad influence on him.

*I can't mention the name of the man I am in love with, without my mother talking over me or outright ignoring me and changing the subject without ever acknowledging a thing I have said about him.

I was talking to B about this earlier, and we were wondering if our parent's were especially bad, or if we were especially unable to forgive our parents for their past mistakes, the way other kids are able to? Most people I know of around my age don't seem to have as severe problems with their parents as we do. But many of them have at least some problems with their parents at some point. He thinks it's probably a combination of both...both of us with exceptionally insane parents, and exceptionally stubborn personalities. And also exceptionally stubborn parents (although his parents eventually relented when they both came down with life threatening diseases and hadn't talked to him for a few years). Just something that we have in common I guess.

So my question to you, dear readers, is: how are people in your family treated if they want to change their religion from the religion of their parents? Are my experiences normal? I sometimes lose sight of what is normal, and I need a reality check here. Also I like dramatic stories that I can relate to, so tell me some of those.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


At one point yesterday during my par-tay, me, B and two of our friends were having a conversation about our religious upbringing.

Me and B both grew up super religious (Me orthodox Jewish, him Catholic), and are now both staunch Atheists. Our two friends however, are both converting to Judaism. One grew up with no religion, and got interested in Judaism after meeting her (jewish) husband's family. The other grew up catholic, later became Wiccan for a few years, and then recently found Judaism, has been dating a jewish guy (and good friend of mine) for a few years, and is in the process of an orthodox jewish conversion.

So the four of us we got to talking about our religious upbringings and how different they were. And the first friend, let's call her quiet girl was talking about how her parents never said anything about religion, except to point out how wrong it is. The second friend grew up catholic, but her mom was very open minded, and would take her to any kind of religious service if she wanted to go. When she became Wiccan she had a long conversation with her parents about what exactly that means, and later her mom brought her back a Wicca bumper sticker when she was visiting Salem MA. She's been going through the Jewish conversion for quite a while now (over a year I believe) and my impression are that her parents are supportive as well, and are interested in talking to her about religious views even if they are different from their own.

Me and B contrasted this with our own experiences, mine as described here, and B's, where his mother kicked him out of the house (at age 16) because he didn't want to get confirmed into his church (he eventually relented and went through with the confirmation, after spending 4 nights sleeping in an underpass). B's mother is a lot cooler now (and they are actually thrilled about us living together), but in between then and now there were 3 years where they did not talk, and his mom was diagnosed with a disease she will probably soon die from.

I couldn't help but wonder what life would be like in Bizarro world, where my parents/family hadn't tried to enforce their religion on me once I had made it clear that I wasn't interested in it. Or what it would be like growing up, as my children hopefully will, in a family where religion is talked about using a critical eye, and does not permeate every part of life. And where my dad wasn't crazy and controlling (something I haven't gone into in great detail here except in regards to religious stuff, but I'll just say that my teenage years were not the happiest, and that was only partially due to religion). It's a crazy concept.

I don't know if my life would be exactly the same (would I be in grad school? Would I be with B? Would I have a closer relationship with my youngest brother?) and thinking about what might have been had certain decisions and experiences turned out differently seems useless. Although that can be a fun game to play.

But I can't help but imagine what my life would be like, exactly as it is now, except without the baggage of having grown up the way I did. Recently I saw a picture of myself at around 12 or 13 years old, and I couldn't help but envy that person, who hasn't gone through the last 13 or 14 years of my life. I wouldn't take back any of those experiences, as they have turned me into the (IMO) awesome and strong person I am today. But what would life be life if only those experiences hadn't scarred me so much. I try to live as if they hadn't, but sometimes those scars just leak out a bit in the form of anxiety dreams, or in having a hard time trusting people, or in bitterness, or more recently, in this blog. I would love to be someone who only had a blog about school and cats and how awesome my boyfriend is, and I have that blog too, but I also have this one, where I can write about all the bitterness I don't want taking over that other blog.