It started out like any other Saturday night – drinking scotch, listening to my Cool Yule CD, working on a sad clown paint-by-number, and watching Yentl – when something made me stop in my tracks. I think it might have been the scene where Amy Irving and her family are clucking around Yentl/Anshel with the, “Are you cold? Let me put another log on the fire,” and “More potatoes, Anshel?” and “Would you like milk or lemon with your tea, Anshel? Another almond cookie?” I mean, clearly no one could actually believe for even one minute that Barbra Streisand is a man, but there she is, getting fitted for her wedding tuxedo and being fawned over by Mandy Patinkin’s ex-fiancée.
I began thinking about my three other favorite movies – Tootsie, Just One of the Guys, and Victor/Victoria – and suddenly it hit me. It’s what Hollywood has been trying to tell me all along: my life would be so much better if I pretended to be a man. Just think about it – I would get to build deep meaningful friendships with men, people would listen to my opinions, women would fall all over themselves to cook for me, my career would take off, and finally I would get to experience the thrill of ripping off my shirt in the breast-baring big reveal that always seems necessary to convince people that Yentl and I are actually women.
And there’s never really even that much of a downside to leading a double life. Let’s review:
Tootsie: man pretends to be a woman, becomes America’s unlikely sweetheart and makes mad cash on major soap opera. Forms lasting friendship with Jessica Lange.
Victor/Victoria: woman pretends to be a man pretending to be a woman, becomes France’s unlikely sweetheart and makes mad cash on Parisian stage. Forms lasting romance with James Garner.
Just One of the Guys: woman pretends to be a man, becomes rival high school’s unlikely big man on campus and gets sweet job at the newspaper. Forms lasting romance with geek turned stud.
Yentl: woman pretends to be a man, becomes Poland’s unlikely star yeshiva student and scores the hottest woman in the village. Forms lasting friendship with Mandy Patinkin.
I mean, sure, there is always that painful moment of betrayal where everyone who trusted me realizes they were being deceived, but if the Hollywood model holds true – which it always does – the resentment rarely lasts. All I need to do is tell people that I only did this because a) I needed the money and this was the only way I could get the job or b) I was forbidden to read the Talmud and this was the only way I could study or c) I wrote a great article that didn’t get published and this was the only way I could prove my writing chops or d) I was running out of topics for my blog and this was the only way I could keep posting. Eventually, they will all come around and forgive me.
And even if they don’t, by then I will have made so much mad cash that I can just find a whole new bunch of friends. Friends who understand that sometimes you have to lie to people to get what you want or to prove an important point.
I don’t know. It’s not like I’m gonna do this right away – in order for this to work, I have to find a new job, transfer to a new school, or get accepted into a new yeshiva. But the next time I’m in a position to do any of those things, I’m for sure going to do it as a man.
December 15, 2006
Dear Diary –
Ugh! I’m so like, totally, P.O.’d! Here’s what happened: I was in Social Studies with Sandra and Sizzle when they started passing notes back and forth to me while we were supposed to be silently reading. They were all, “Let’s make this Friday the Official Reveal Your Blog Crush Day!” But I was like, “No way! I’m not telling you who my crush is! You’ll totally make fun of me!” Then Sizzle goes, “Jenny! Don’t be such a baby! We’re totally not going to tell anyone!” and then Sandra was all, “No duh. It’s just between you and me. And Sizzle. But that’s it. We just want to know.”
So I go, “You tell me yours first!” But then Sandra just told me hers was Dooce and I was like, “Whatever! You’re just saying that because everyone says that. Why don’t you just say your crush is Scott Baio while you’re at it?”
Anyway, so then she was like, “Look, I just told you mine. Now you have to tell me yours.” So I really had no choice, since I promised her I would. So then I said, “Okay, my blog crush is… you don’t know him. His name is Roy. From Why I Blog.”
So Sizzle was like, “Roy? How come I don’t know him? I thought you were so crushed out on all those Canadians?” I think I totally blushed when she said that, because it’s so true, but I just explained that she didn’t know Roy ‘cause he goes to a different school. In Kansas City. Then Sandra wouldn’t let it drop. She kept asking me all about Roy and why did I think he was so cool. And then I just made her a list because that’s how I organize things when I’m stressed out:
- He has a blog mascot named Roswell that is a bamboo plant.
- He changes his blog template a lot, as well as his blog name, and sometimes ends up deleting all the comments in the process. But he doesn’t care, because he’s not into stats or stuff.
- He used to have a lunar calendar on his site to track the phases of the moon. Then one time, I asked if we could have a party when the moon was full, and he totally hosted a kick-ass party on his site called the Loony Comment Party. Just like that.
- He won an award for his flash fiction – twice!
- He’s more than just an entertaining and intelligent writer – Roy is also a talented musician. He wrote this song for a friend, and I think it’s just the sweetest thing ever. Every time I listen to it, it makes me sad at first, then hopeful, then really happy. It should be in a movie. The song is called Wiggy and the Moon
- He takes pictures of manhole covers.
- Most of all, I love going to Roy’s blog because for some reason, I always feel like I’ve just stopped by a party. Not a wild, rowdy drunken type of party where you end up holding someone’s hair. More like a party you have with your good friends. The kind of familiar gathering that really isn’t so much a party as it is simply the five or six of you getting together for drinks and laughs and great conversation. And cupcakes. Roy will always have cupcakes.
So that’s why Roy is my blog crush. But after I told Sandra and Sizzle all that, they were all, “You’re so full of it, Jenny! You totally don’t know anyone in Kansas City. Nobody has a blog mascot that is a bamboo plant – you totally just made up this Roy guy.”
But I like things the way they are, so I just let them go on believing that.
In case you haven’t heard, the blog sirens known as Sandra and Ms. Sizzle have declared this Friday, December 15th to be Official Reveal Your Blog Crush Day. I love a good crush as much as the next gal, so of course, I already have mine all picked out. But you’ll just have to wait until Friday to find out who it is… (tee hee, blush blush, coyly kicks ground).
For official rules and just to let them know you’re in, check out Sandra or Sizzle’s blogs. And let the crushing begin!
On Monday afternoon, after days of near frost-bitten fingertips from waiting on the freezing train platform every morning, I went out at lunch time and bought the absolute greatest pair of mittens ever created. I’ve never owned mittens that kept my hands so warm and cozy – it was as though they had been woven by magical heat fairies from the land of Thinsulatia. Sure, they transformed my hands into useless stumps, but they were warm useless stumps. And not only did I snag the last pair, but when I went to pay for them, I found out they were on sale for only $15!
On Thursday evening, I left them in a cab.
I almost collapsed when I realized what had happened. I was in a state of shock and disbelief. Eighty hours. I owned these mittens for eighty hours. I turned to my close friends for comfort, and they tried to make me feel better by telling me things like, “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” and “They’re in a better place now” and “Think of it this way – they only cost you $0.19 per hour” and “The stars that shine the brightest burn the fastest,” and “It was a pair of frickin’ mittens – get over it you big crybaby sissyface. I mean, Christ, some people have no hands and you’re complaining about some stupid discount mittens?! You make me sick.”
And I know they all mean well, but I guess what hurts the most is the not knowing. We might have had something special, those little grey mittens and me. Might have been real special.
I know that Thanksgiving just passed, but as soon as I start to smell the cinnamon scented candles and see people sipping gingerbread lattés, I start to think about the new year. More specifically, I start to think about my resolutions for the new year.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t so much come up with resolutions as I do a theme for each year, and my 2006 theme was “More Love.” Although I won’t bore you with the specifics, I will happily say that this year lived up to its name on many levels. Not to spill too much, but in the wise words of my mentor and idol, Cyndi Lauper, she bop, he bop, a-we bop, I bop, you bop, a-they bop. Be bop, be bop-a-lu, she bop.
So anyway, that was this year – let’s talk about next year. I’ve been contemplating the 2007 theme for quite some time now, gone through countless iterations and at least two legal pads, and am pleased to announce that next year will be all about… REVIVAL.
It’s a broad theme, I understand, so I’m tackling it in pieces. There are spiritual revivals, Broadway revivals, sexual revivals, friendly revivals – no wait, that’s friendly rivalries, scratch that one. The point is that if I’m going to be successful in 2007, it will require a laser-like focus. That’s always been a problem for me – I lack focus. I’m a hobbyist, a friend once told me. I am prone to fads.
Figure painting led to film classes led to bartending school led to tap dancing led to jug band led to hip-hop. Somewhere in between, I took up knitting, paint-by-numbers, latch-it-hook, and crock pot cookery.
Well, hobbyist no more. I’m narrowing down my passions to a critical few. My artistic revival in 2007 will be all about getting back to the basics, like whittling, and now my latest passion, which is diorama. What’s more basic than a shoebox, some clay, a few pipecleaners, and your endless imagination?
So I guess I let my passion get the best of me a few weeks ago, because I got a little short with my friend Natasha when she didn’t fully approve of my latest pursuit. Sure, she was fine with the whittling idea – she even promised to buy me some balsa wood – but as soon as I started to get serious about diorama, things changed.
“I can’t wait to get started! I need some shoeboxes, a bunch of different colored clay, some twigs, and… hey, where would I find that fake grass? Like the kind they use with model trains.”
“Okay, first of all, you cannot have any of my shoeboxes. I need them all. Secondly, I forbid you to go to a model train store.”
“You forbid me? Whatever. You’re not the boss of me.”
“No, Jenny, I’m serious. You cannot go to one of those stores. Those people are insane! You’ll never get out!”
“You’re just jealous, because I’ve got a cool new hobby that involves things that are tiny. Oh, I’m going to a model train store, all right. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me!”
“Fine. Just don’t say I never warned you.”
So against Nat’s advice, I did some research online, hung out in a few model train chat rooms, then finally got up the courage to go to a model train store. I think the only way to describe my experience is like this: Cowboy rides into a new town, dusty and parched from his long journey, so he walks into an unfamiliar saloon. The doors swing behind him, squeaking. The piano player immediately stops playing his jaunty tune, and the tawdry ladies pause from flirting with the poker players. Three mangy roughnecks at the bar turn in unison to look at the outlander. The one with the scar across his left eye kicks back his shot of whisky and slams the glass on the table, hard.
“Looking for something?” says the old barkeep, as he pours another shot of whisky.
“Uh… no, I mean yes. I’m just looking… my nephews just started getting into trains. So, I’m just going to look around. For them. For Christmas. Gifts for my nephews.”
The cowboy then quickly ducks into the aisle with model airplanes and water rockets, randomly picking up boxes and pretending to examine them.
What I learned from this experience is that sometimes you really do need someone to be the boss of you, to forbid you from doing certain things. Because when you are free to do whatever you want, to pursue your every whim, what happens is that you will walk into a model train store in a little suburban town, where the owners are sitting behind the counter, and they’re really passionate about model trains. And then when they ask you what they can help you find, you won’t even know enough to fake it, so you’ll blame your nephews. (Aside: you often blame your young nephews when you buy things that embarrass you, like Spongebob Squarepants stickers, or six boxes of bombpops, or Gameboy games, or porn.)
Not understanding that you’ve walked into their store partly as an anthropological research assignment, they will continue to try to assist you. And then when they ask you technical questions about what kind of (imaginary) trains your nephews have – because without this information, they can’t possibly know if you’re buying the right type of equipment (accessories?) – you will glance down at the rack of miniature hay bales and cows and fences, and say, “I think this kind.”
And you’ll see from the look in their eyes that your answer made no sense. Then later, when they see the box you have in your hand, which you grabbed because you now feel obligated to buy something and this was only $6.95, they will ask you if you’re looking for a military set. And you won’t understand the meaning of this question at all, particularly because the box you have in your hand has nothing to do with the military, but instead depicts some strange rural scene somewhere in Asia, so you just say, “Uh, this just seemed really interesting.”
You will eventually try to distract the owners from discovering what a fraud you are by asking them if the store gets really busy around the holidays. This question will probably initiate a 15-minute description of the unique seasonality of model train business – when it ramps up, when it slows down, what they do when the unexpected pockets of off-season customers crop up, how they wish they could close on Tuesdays, but some Tuesdays are busy. You might then suggest to them that if they just closed on Tuesdays, those Tuesday customers would simply come another day, but again, the look in their eyes will indicate that your answer made no sense.
Finally, to redeem yourself, you’ll probably say something like, I’m sure you’ve both been to the model train exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, right? Then if they tell you no, they’ve never been there, can you believe that, you’ll respond that oh my gosh you have to go! Then you’ll start to talk about the unbelievable detail and how the El tracks light up and how the bridges really raise and lower and how they decorate everything for the holidays (although you’ll have a sneaking suspicion that you made up that last part).
Anyway, if you’re smart, you’ll make your exit right then and there, on that high note. You’ll have an Asian diorama set that you never wanted to begin with, you will have tricked them into thinking you know something about trains, blamed it all on your nephews, and it will only have cost you $6.95 plus tax.
So you see? Revival. Revival of mind. Revival of spirit. Revival of soul. And yes, revival of the lost arts like whittling and diorama and macramé owls. Everything old is new again, and I just know that it’s going to be even better the second time around.
I am rendered nearly speechless by the joy of meeting Amy Sedaris, funniest person in the universe.
And while this doesn’t compare to the novella that Ms. Sedaris wrote in Jessica’s book, for me, it really says it all. Good times, indeed. (ps – big thanks for saving me that prime seat in the third row, Jess!)