Thursday, December 8, 2016

Confucius Says: I Have No Idea What to Cook for Hanukkah

I have a problem. And, if you usually host a first night of Hanukkah celebration, I’m guessing you have a problem, too.

Hanukkah this year begins on Christmas Eve. So as I prepare my menu for the first night, I find myself wondering: Latkes or kung pao?

Before we dive into the sweet-and-sour meat of my problem, first let me be clear that I don’t think Hanukkah is something special. It’s a weird little commemoration of a short-lived military victory that pales in comparison to Yom HaAtzmaut in terms of pride and importance – and to Christmas in terms of absolutely everything else.

And second, we’re all going to have to come clean about Christmas. My rabbi, of all people, last year wrote a Facebook post about our tribe’s devoted rituals surrounding the holiday that began, “I think we should stop pretending that Jews do not celebrate Christmas. We do. Perhaps not with Christmas trees and Jingle Bells. But certainly, we have created our own tradition…”

And yes, the rest of that line read, “Chinese food and going to the movies.”

We Jews love our Christmas rituals. We love Hanukkah, too, but only because of its proximity
to Christmas. Without the Christian holiday as a counterpoint, Hanukkah is basically Veteran’s Day with hash browns.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Advanced Child Placement

I never liked my belly. Long before its served as an infant Airbnb, my abdomen has been abominable. Now that three children have stretched me out like a spent Mylar balloon, my gut is even more of a problem. But every problem has a solution, right?

I’ve discovered mine.

No, it’s not diet (and to hell with you for suggesting that). It’s not exercise either, smarty-pants. It’s the Strategically Placed Child.

A few years ago, I realized that by standing directly behind an adorable child, perhaps with my hands draped gently on the kid’s shoulders, I can both hide my gut and make myself appear warm and motherly all in one selfie. This pose also makes me look tall. It’s a nice trick.

Since first unleashing the cosmetic power of children’s heads, I’ve made sure to shove a smiling (if bewildered) child in front of me in every Flickr pic or Facebook photo I take. The marketer in me is brimming with taglines: It’s like Spanx that you’re no longer allowed to spank! It’s like a tummy tuck, only without the surgery and you still look lousy in person! OK. Maybe the taglines need work.

The strategically placed child is the photographic cousin of the weirdly placed lamp or large envelope that TV shows typically use to hide actresses’ pregnancies. In those case, the babies are the problem. In mine, they’re the solution.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Babs Revisited

After years of hearing mothers’ laments about how Barbie poisons young girls’ minds with an unrealistic ideal of womanhood, Mattel created a new line of Barbies with three different body types (short, tall and curvy), 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. These are not “friends” of Barbie, but actual Barbies.

I should be rejoicing. But instead, I feel a little disquieted.

It was so much easier to bash Barbie when she was the mean girl from high school with the perfect coif and the impossible bust-line. But seeing her transformation is like running into your nemesis 20 years after graduation in the plus-size aisle at Target and having her bend your ear about her scaring divorce.

I need Barbie to remain ridiculously proportioned and blonde. The uber shiksa with the unobtainable curves. I need her to be that way because – after all these years – I realize that my problem with Barbie wasn’t a problem at all.

As it turns out, I relied on Barbie to be blonde and button-nosed because I needed a foil for my Jewishness. I needed her to represent the ideal for assimilation and the ideal for womanhood, so that I could know what to push back against, as well as what to embrace.