SM’s Helpful, Non-Comprehensive Passover Primer

It is that time of year again, folks! By which I mean: Passover. Heretofore referred to by the Hebrew name of Pesach, because that’s how it is in my head. (Note: all of the following refers to Ashkenazic practices of Pesach. Sephardic practices are very different, but I am not familiar enough with them to write a compare/contrast piece.)

 

 

For those of you who don’t know, Pesach is, to borrow a friend’s favorite suffix, crazypants.

This friend also laments the fact that when you see Jewish characters in fiction, the only holiday they usually talk about is Hanukkah, as if that is the big poobah of the Jewish calendar. To that we say, HA. Hanukkah is one of the least important Jewish holidays from a religious standpoint, since it was instituted purely by the rabbis and not by the Torah itself, and also requires relatively little action, both during the holiday and in preparation for it. Basically, you gotta buy candles or oil and dust off your menorah (which you probably got for your bar or bat mitzvah, or else you can get a cheap one from the internet or your local bodega or whatever) and be home around sundown to light it. And if you get home later than sundown, okay, you light it then. Different customs may require that you don’t do anything more strenuous than reading a book for about 30 minutes after lighting the candles. Very intense.

Pesach…whooooo boy. Where do I even start.

Well, there’s the fact that if you live in America, the first two days and the last two days of Pesach’s eight days are, unlike any days of Hanukkah, capital-H Holiday days, which I’m using here to mean that they are basically two-day Sabbaths in the middle of the week. No electricity, no driving, no public transportation, no writing with pen/pencil and paper, no igniting fires (alas), no sewing, no talking on the phone, no texting, no internet. (Fun fact: Josh Malina, the actor, once tweeted, “Good Shabbos!” and when asked what that meant, he explained, “It’s Hebrew for ‘I don’t have access to google.’ ” High fives, Josh.)

Capital-H Holidays are different from the actual Sabbath in a couple of ways, the major one being that you are technically allowed to cook on Holidays for what is immediately needed. Although since you are still not allowed to ignite a fire, there are obviously limits on what kind of cooking you can do, and therefore most people who are planning to be at home and eating all their own food for Holiday meals have to do a metric boatload of cooking and baking beforehand. You do not want to know how many quiches and kugels and casseroles and lasagnas we (read: mostly my mom) have made in the past few weeks. And that’s not counting the desserts —brownies and blondies and cookies galore.

And THAT’S not counting the fact that Pesach has its own dietary requirements. As in, you’re not allowed to eat almost anything you normally eat. Or anything that was in close contact with anything you normally eat. The technical prohibition is against chametz, i.e. leavened food, but for practical purposes (since what is leavened food anyway) chametz includes everything EXCEPT water, raw fruits, vegetables, and items that have been officially certified on their packaging as Kosher for Passover, or kasher l’pesach.  You basically need to completely restock your fridge and pantry for this holiday and cook everything with flour substitutes such as matza meal and potato starch. Also, you have to boil, cover, or temporarily replace all your dishes, pots, pans, silverware, countertops, table tops, and anything else that may have been used for chametz. Plus you must clean every nook and cranny of your house to find any other possible chametz that might be there. Lurking. Waiting to pounce.

I like to think of it as the ultimate holiday for OCD, sanctioned and encouraged by Jewish law. On the eve of the Holiday, you even get to burn the chametz that you didn’t manage to get rid of. Partay!

 

 

Lots of people avoid all this by going away for Pesach. They go to visit family who have turned their houses upside down, thereby sparing themselves the necessity of doing it to their own homes. Or they go to a hotel, which is sparkling clean already and serves them their Kosher for Passover food.

My family has never gone away for Pesach. This is probably due to a) more family in one house for 8 days? No thank you, b) a family of nine in a hotel for 8 days? Pfft, ain’t nobody got money for dat, and, probably most importantly, c) my dad is the rabbi of a local congregation and the rabbi MUST be available on Pesach to answer questions regarding Jewish law on a holiday that is this completely neurotic and overwrought, and as I said before, for at least 4 of 8 days, phone calls and internet are not allowed, so he must be available for face-to-face consultation. Also to give sermons, which he is very good at since naturally he takes after me.

Additionally, the congregational rabbi must be around very close to the beginning of the holiday for another reason — he is the congregants’ representative to sell all the chametz that was not able to be cleaned/eaten/burned/flushed down the toilet/fed to pets/hidden in gifts given to “friends”/etc. This means that in the week or so leading up to Pesach (and, let’s be real, at midnight on the last possible day), people come to our house, meet with my dad, fill out a form delineating the value and location of said chametz, exchange an object of a certain minimum value (e.g. they hand a pen back and forth), and thus my father is authorized, as is traditional, to go to a gathering in Riverdale with the rest of the New York rabbis who hold all the forms from all their congregants and sell their chametz to a non-Jew for the duration of Pesach. (There are of course stricter opinions that say this is not allowed, but we will ignore those for the time being.)

I have to admit that I find the whole selling-chametz-to-a-non-Jew to be, well…kind of hilarious, to be honest. The basic way it’s done is that the non-Jew (who is a lovely Christian gentleman who used to live locally and now comes in every year specially for the sale, which is incredibly sweet in itself) pays about a penny or two upfront, with the agreement that he will pay the rest of the untold millions of dollars the day after Pesach, or the sale will be voided. And even though this is clearly a charade and everyone involved knows it, there are apparently six different ways that the rabbis ensure that the sale is solid and legally binding, even though it will be voided in a week. And when I was there with my dad one year, in the room with like 50 rabbis, the meeting kicked off with a check on the exact value of gold or silver or something on the stock market or whatever that morning, to make sure that the pennies being paid upfront are of enough value to bind the sale. The whole affair is compulsively neurotic in that adorably Jewish way.

Lastly, of course, is the tradition that most people have heard of if they’ve heard anything about Pesach: the seder, or sedarim in plural, since in America, we have two of them, on the first two Holiday nights. You can probably Wikipedia it and get more information about the technicalities of seder procedure than I can possibly give you (four cups of wine, dipping of parsley into saltwater, recitation of the Haggadah, festive meal, singing of incredibly repetitive Hebrew and Aramaic songs, et al), but what it probably won’t tell you is that since a seder is a family or communal get-together, no two sedarim are alike, just like no two Thanksgiving dinners are alike, even though most of us Orthodox Jew types are reading the story of the Exodus from the same Haggadah.

A seder can be huge (we host our synagogue’s seder every year on the first night and this one had close to 50 people in attendance) or not terribly large (a friend of my was bemoaning the fact that his sedarim were going to have only his parents, brother, and grandmother, so he’d have to be very present and talkative and unable to slink off unnoticed). Our home seder often serves as a mini communal seder, topping out at 16 to 18 people, who can range from “fun guests you enjoy having” to “that guy with terrible hygiene who mutters incoherently to himself half the time and spends the rest interrupting people’s conversations to complain that his sister refuses to host him anymore and he can’t understand why.” Win some, lose some. In ancient times, it was typical to invite as many people as possible to your seder because the korban pesach, i.e. the Passover Sacrifice, i.e. an entire roast lamb, was required to be eaten before the dawn of the next morning; leftovers had to be burned. And while the base text that we read from the Haggadah is fairly standardized, people are free to, nay, encouraged to expound and elaborate and offer up additional thoughts, possible lessons learned, and questions about the story and the rituals of the seder. A common answer given for “Why do we do X Random Seder Ritual?” is “So that the children will ask.” It is a holiday of questions, although the answers may range from the satisfying to the creative to the ridiculous.

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Independently of one another, my 13-year-old little sister and my 21-year-old little brother have already said to me this holiday, “You know, I really don’t like Pesach,” as if this is a surprising revelation. It’s really not. I obviously find many aspects of it amusing, but I can’t necessarily claim to like it. I’m sure there are people in the universe who like stressful cooking and compulsive cleaning and having strangely unbalanced guests at their table and having to read huge chunks of Hebrew text before getting to the actual meal and having to eat obscene amounts of charred-cardboard-tasting matza and not being able to eat normal food and stammering through neverending songs in foreign languages, but I don’t think it’s all that scandalous or presumptuous to say that most of us, y’know, don’t.

This holiday is nuts. It’s over-the-top and designed to drive anyone bonkers.

It is also clearly designed, in the way that it has evolved over the centuries, to force members of families and communities to interact with each other, forging and reinforcing connections between them. The preparation for Pesach is a massive undertaking, and would not get done in my house if everyone didn’t pitch in, at least a little bit. We band together against our common enemy: Pesach. And even if you don’t have a huge family, turning everything over from chametz-tik to kosher for Pesach isn’t always something you can do alone; this year I was hired by a family friend to help her lug boxes down from her attic and restock the kitchen. It forces people to ask for help that they might not otherwise ask for, and for people to provide that help because we get it, we understand that we are all at the mercy of this nutty holiday and can’t in good conscience make it even harder for someone else.

And the evolution of the system of selling chametz, in addition to creating a situation where rabbis of various communities have a forum in which they are able to get together once a year (no other holiday has such a thing built into it), also forces people to have face-time with their community rabbi. Depending on your rabbi and your comfort level, this can be a fate worse than death or it can be kind of nice. The old joke is “What’s the difference between a rabbi and a therapist? Therapist costs money.” And many a chametz-selling meeting has taken a turn for the therapeutic, I can tell you that. I found out this year that you can sell your chametz online, and I can’t help feeling like that kind of misses the whole point.

Pesach is supposed to be a time where we celebrate our freedom, how we were Exodused from Egypt. But I see Pesach as having more in common with the slavery we were freed from than the freedom we’re supposedly celebrating. It’s kind of a holiday of endurance, not celebration. In essence, in its present incarnation, I see Pesach as a trial by fire that we have to go through every year with our families and our communities, and hopefully come out stronger on the other side, and THAT’S when the enjoyment of our freedom can kick in. We are reenacting the Exodus, people! Freedom awaits at the end; you just have to survive long enough!

Although, of course, there is also the fact that absolutely nothing in American law prohibits any of this crazypants holiday. We can be as weird and bizarre as we want and our government does not care one whit. That is freedom, folks. Freedom to be complete whackjobs and fruitcakes and never having to fear for one minute that anyone will stop you. Enjoy that. Savor it.

Chag Sameach, everyone.

 

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This post was originally published in slightly altered form as a Facebook Note on April 17, 2014. There were, sadly, no gifs in the original.

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Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you (yes, you, you wonderful and very attractive reader) that my GoFundMe campaign is still open — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. Like, you can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Return of SM’s Dating Advice Column! Inspired by the Godawful Relationship Writing on “The Flash”!

Well, hi there! I know, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, let alone this column. But I am not gone! I am still here!

 

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And I’m still capable of advising you on how best to live your life, because I’m definitely not an internet hermit to whom it makes no difference that I’m snowed in on a Sunday because it wasn’t like I was planning to go outside anyway. Nope, that’s definitely not me right now.

Anyhow, I was inspired to write a post lambasting some of the horrendous relationship choices made by the writers on The Flash this season, specifically one particular section of dialogue from the most recent episode.

If you’ve never seen The Flash, don’t worry, I shall explain:

Barry Allen is the Flash. He can run super duper fast. He thus became a superhero and fights all sorts of supernatural threats that regular cops can’t deal with.

This season, he met a lady cop named Patty. Patty is awesome and they start dating, but Barry never tells her anything whatsoever about being the Flash or about the supernatural threats that are endangering her, even though Patty is on the special police task force specifically established to deal with supernatural threats. 

He constantly flakes on her, backs out of plans without explanation, lies to her about everything from his whereabouts to his emotional needs, etc, all because he refuses to tell her anything she needs to know, even though this is constantly putting her in danger because she lacks the critical information necessary to protect herself.

Girls, boys, and others — this is SUPER unhealthy. But my even bigger issue came this past episode, when Patty finally confronts him about his behavior. How does she do it?

“Look, I have been a really cool girlfriend, okay? Most girls wouldn’t have the self-esteem to deal with [begins to list numerous ways in which Barry is a lousy boyfriend].”

This line…this line…I don’t even have the words to explain how much I despise this line.

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You want to know why many girls put up with lousy boyfriends? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because of self-esteem.

Usually, it is literally the opposite.

We put up with lousy partners, negligent partners, abusive partners — and why? Because we don’t think we deserve better. We think that our emotional needs aren’t worthy of attention. Because we think that making our needs and desires known will make us “uncool” or “clingy” or “demanding” or “shrewish” or, god forbid, “nagging.” This goes for all genders, fyi, but I do think that there are extra complications for women because there is SO MUCH societal pressure on women and girls to be nice and polite and sweet and accommodating and “cool” in a low maintenance way.

Note that “shrewish” and “nag” are used almost exclusively to describe undesirable behavior in women. Note that Patty equated her silence with being “a cool girlfriend.” Note that on other occasions, she prefaces perfectly reasonable requests with, “You know I don’t want to nag, that’s not who I am.” The fear of being considered a nag can be so intense that we frequently shut up about what we want or need in an effort to just be “cool.”

I speak from experience, as someone who dated a lousy boyfriend, years ago, and put up with all the flakiness, the cancelled plans, the broken promises, the constant “compromises” that weren’t compromises because they just amounted to me giving in to what he wanted.

I thought those things made me a good girlfriend. I thought that I was being nice, that I was being strong and not giving in to insecurity, that I was being generous and understanding. Because I did understand that, say, he was tired and didn’t want to hang out, or that he canceled on my birthday because he was feeling really anxious about a lot of things so we skyped instead, or that it made more sense for me to travel an hour and a half to see him on certain days because he had class until noon and if he had to travel to me after class ended, we’d have less time to hang out.

All of these things individually were understandable, but they piled up, skewing the reciprocity, so that I was giving, giving, giving, and he was taking, taking, taking. And when I did try to say that it felt unfair or that I needed something from him in return, he would call me “clingy” or “demanding,” and I would be appalled at myself and shut down my needs, and concentrate on just giving more and being better.

It was not because of self-esteem.

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I haven’t forgotten that this is a dating advice column. So here’s my advice:

To girls, because we’re socialized to be pushovers (but this can of course be applicable to other genders as well): Speak up about what you need. Don’t be ashamed of it, don’t repress it, don’t be afraid that it makes you naggy and clingy and undesirable. If it’s something that you honestly think you would willingly do for your partner, it’s not too much to ask. And if your partner is repeatedly unwilling or unable to meet or respect your needs, walk away. You will be better off.

To boys, because it’s not your fault but you’re probably not aware of just how much girls are socialized to accommodate others: If you feel like you screwed up, but the girl says, “it’s okay” or “don’t worry about it” — don’t always take it at face value. Sometimes it is okay, for sure, don’t get me wrong. Like when I walk into a guy’s place and he’s all, “sorry about the mess” and I’m all, “pffft, whatever, don’t worry about it,” I genuinely mean that, because messes genuinely do not bother me. And if it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon canceled plan. But if it’s a fairly big no-no, like canceling on her birthday, or if it’s a pattern, be mindful of that. There is so much pressure on us girls to just be okay with everything that sometimes we stay silent when we should speak up. So just in case, try to make it up to her sometimes. Nothing flashy, just “I know you said x was okay, but I felt weird about it, so I did y, or I got you z, or I made q plans” — just something.

And please, for the love of god, do not call her “clingy” or “naggy” or “demanding” or any of that stuff. They are all ways of saying, “your needs are not important,” and if she believes you, and starts believing that, the psychological damage is enormous. Believe me.

If her needs or desires genuinely do overwhelm you and you can’t meet them, either because what she wants is truly outlandish or because you personally are not equipped to handle it, that relationship is probably not the best fit for either of you, and you should probably end it.

 

I know all of this is general and oversimplified and each individual relationship comes with its own calculations, but overall, I think these are important to keep in mind, along with the most vital piece of advice I can give you: Don’t listen to the Flash writers about dating. Just don’t.

 

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Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open —http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

Slingback Sunday — “Constancy Characters Tavern”

I have missed an inexcusable number of Throwback Thursdays, and I just came across this while sifting through some old posts, and it made me laugh out loud, so I’m posting it here with only the thinnest veneer of a pretext for it, and a run-on sentence intro to boot.

Originally published as a Facebook Note on September 11th, 2012.

 

Constancy Characters Tavern

 

My professor said we can do anything we want with our response papers. So I did. You’ve been warned.

 

Persuasion – Final Response Paper

[Dimly lit tavern. Several small wooden tables in the center of the room. Seated around these are Anne Elliot (Persuasion), Bella Swan (Twilight), Severus Snape (Harry Potter), Jack Bauer (24), Miles Vorkosigan (The Vorkosigan Saga), Ginny Weasley, and Harry Potter (Harry Potter). Buxom tavern wenches swoop periodically between the tables, resupplying drinks.]

 

ANNE: (finishing up what was clearly a long story) “. . . And that is why one must never waver from one’s first and dearest love. Constancy and loyalty will always be rewarded.”

 

BELLA: “Oh, totally. When my Edward left me, I was, like, completely depressed, I started doing super dangerous stuff like riding motorcycles and jumping off cliffs — but he only left me to protect me! For my own good! When he saw how much I loved him, he took me back! It was sooooo romantic!”

 

GINNY: “Ugh, gimme a break. As if your younger self has any idea what’s good for you. If someone’s not interested and treats you badly, MOVE ON.”

 

ANNE and BELLA: (shocked gasp)

 

SNAPE: “To be perfectly frank — and when am I ever not? — I have to side with the two ladies on this. My eternal and constant love for Lily Evans is my only redeeming quality. Otherwise I’m a total douchebag.”

 

HARRY: “Can we not talk about your creepy unrequited crush on my mom when I’m sitting right here?

 

ANNE: (with stiff politeness) “And what is your opinion on the matter, Mr. Potter? Do you concur with your wife?”

 

HARRY: “Uh, yeah! If I’d stayed all hung up on Cho Chang, I’d never have married Ginny, and we all know what a mistake that would have been.” (smiles goofily and nuzzles Ginny’s cheek)

 

ANNE and BELLA: “Awwwwwww.”

 

SNAPE: “I’ll just be over here, drowning my sorrows. Don’t mind me.”

 

JACK BAUER: (leaning over from an adjacent table) “Sorry for butting in, but I’ve gotta agree with the happy couple. I mean, my wife died pretty early on, and yeah, that sucked and I was depressed for a couple years, but then I got a hot new girlfriend. I don’t remember what happened to her, she probably died, but whatever, I got another love interest like practically every season after that. Plus I saved the world a bunch of times. So here’s to moving on!” (Jack, Harry, and Ginny all clunk their mugs together)

 

MILES: (ducking between Jack and Harry with a winning smile) “Well, I wouldn’t be so cavalier about it, but you certainly have a point. My crush on my childhood sweetheart didn’t work out — she rejected me and married this annoyingly decent fellow — and I had various relationships over the years, but as I matured, I came to better understand my own priorities and what I need from a partner, and wound up marrying a woman who wasn’t even introduced until the tenth book of the series.”

 

ANNE: “The tenth book? How on earth did you manage? And how could you simply abandon your first love without a fight?”

 

MILES: (shrugging) “It wasn’t easy. But sometimes you’ve just got to be a grown up.”

 

ANNE, BELLA, and SNAPE: “Never.

 

 

(A great debt of inspiration is owed to Zeke, creator of the Underused Characters Tavern on Fiveminute.net)

REVIEW — The Flash, Season 1, Episode 15, “Out of Time” [#SPOILERALERT]

 

 

I was commissioned way too many months ago by a generous [and patient!] donor to review an episode of The Flash of my choosing. (Commissioned post #8, booya!) First I thought I’d do the pilot, because it was a pretty darn good one and record-setting to boot. Then I thought I’d do the Flash/Arrow crossover, because it was pretty epic.
And then last night’s episode came along, and, well, I had to write about it. Not because I loved it, but because it is such a hugely important episode (a real “gamechanger” as the showrunners have been telling us), and ultimately, to me, a hugely frustrating episode. And I feel like most reviews are going to be going gaga over how awesome they thought it was, so I just have to come along and poop on everybody’s opinions before it’s too late.

[SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS I CANNOT BE HELD LEGALLY OR MORALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGES INFLICTED ON YOUR SPOILER-PROTECTED SOUL IF YOU READ PAST THIS POINT]

 

So on the one hand, I am really really glad that they FINALLY told us who Harrison Wells is (or confirmed it, anyway, since my comic book geek friends have been telling me for weeks that in the comics, Reverse Flash’s last name is Thawne, and thus he’s probably a descendant of Eddie Thawne — aka Mr Romantic Obstacle who will be discussed later — and that’s why Reverse Flash didn’t kill Eddie when he had the chance). And the show told us his main motivation: to pull a Marty McFly and get back to the future. He’s been trapped in this time period for 15 years, and he believes the Flash’s speed holds the key to him getting back to his own time, and he’s so desperate to return that he’s been sociopathically murdering anyone who might hurt or kill Barry, because that would destroy his only chance to get home.

 

Great. Got that. It mostly makes sense. (Except the part where he was going back in time to kill Barry in the first place. That one’s still a mystery for a later date.)

 

What I did NOT get:

 

What are the parameters of Dr Wells’ powers? Wtf is that speed mirage thing? How fast can he go and what else can he do, and also WHAT THE HECK was Cisco looking at when he was reexamining the containment field? That was what almost killed the whole scene for me — he’s running some kind of test on the containment field and then the Reverse Flash appears within the forcefields, doing and saying exactly what he did and said that first time, and it’s supposed to be this BIG REVEAL MOMENT, but I…didn’t get it? What was it? A recording? A hologram preprogrammed by Wells to do all that stuff, including beating him up (there were actual bruises on Wells; they treated him for his injuries) and killing all those cops? But can a hologram beat up a person and kill things? And if it wasn’t a hologram then what? Huh? Was it another application of this whole speed mirage nonsense? That Wells-in-the-Yellow-Suit was a speed mirage left over to beat up Wells-not-in-the-Yellow-Suit? But a speed mirage lasts seconds.

 

I haven’t looked up anyone else’s reviews or explanations of what that was, because I want this review to be about my untainted reactions at the time that I watched it, and my untainted reaction at the time was: Error. Error. This does not compute in any way.

 

 

 

So for me that whole scene was a fail because when your Big Reveal moment winds up being just a Big Huh??? moment, it’s incredibly distracting and not only takes away from the reveal but takes away from what comes afterward because I was still all WHAT IN THE NAME OF ZEUS IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOING ON HERE when Wells himself came into the scene and [SPOILERED] Cisco and I suspect that part had much less of an impact on me than it was supposed to, because my head was still stuck several minutes back.

 

Speaking of which!

 

The other awesome/gamechanging development in this episode came in those final seconds when Barry somehow punches a hole through the fabric of the spacetime continuum and travels through time. Woohoo!! And surprise, he doesn’t go to the future or the very distant past — he goes back, conveniently, to nearly the beginning of the episode, so that the writers have in effect hit a handy dandy reset button on everything that happened after that. Cisco isn’t [SPOILERED], Wells hasn’t revealed himself, the police chief hasn’t been struck by lightning to save Joe, Joe hasn’t been kidnapped by the Weather Wizard, Barry hasn’t revealed his powers to Iris AT LONG LAST, Iris hasn’t confessed her undying love for Barry, Iris and Barry never did something so abominably thoughtless as smooch each other while in relationships with other people — but more on that development later.

 

As for time travel, it’s still super unclear what the rules are. Like, are there now two Barry Allens walking around in the past or did he somehow merge and become only one, because I didn’t see a second Flash on that streetcorner when he appeared in the past? And can he alter history now, or not? Because if he could, then what we saw happen would never have happened, because there would have been a second Flash running around stopping it in the first place, because time travel is circular and paradoxical and totally makes no sense.

 

But I figure they probably won’t address that and just have him try to change things and have OTHER things go wrong. Which I’m looking forward to, for sure.

 

But I think it’s a bad thing when an episode makes you feel glad that it pressed a reset button if the reason you’re glad is because you think most of the choices made by the characters were stupid choices and phew, now they get a do-over.

 

Like, oh my god, I am not okay with the direction the romance on this show has taken. I am really not a fan of when a show presents alternate love interests who (a) might as well have OBSTACLE emblazoned on their foreheads and then (b) proceeds to treat them poorly, depriving them of development and having the main characters who are dating them instead of each other treat these disposable obstacle characters like crap. (This is what happened to Dean after Jess got introduced on Gilmore Girls and so much NOPE there too.)

 

Barry, you are dating Linda. Focus on that. Stop dwelling on Iris. Stop asking Joe for advice about her; ask a neutral party. (Joe gives terrible advice here that deserves to be erased from the spacetime continuum; he advises Barry to “hold onto those moments” when he thinks Iris loves him back, rather than pay more attention to the girl he is actually dating. You cannot date someone seriously — and Linda has made it clear she would like to be dated seriously — if you are actively holding onto hope for someone else. Bad, Joe. You should know better.)

 

Iris, you are living with Eddie. You know Barry has feelings for you. Stop feeding that. Stop inserting yourself into his love life, by crashing his dates, being touchy-feely, giving him your unsolicited opinion that the girl he’s trying to date is wrong for him. That is an area of his life that you need to butt out of, period. Let him get over you and build new relationships. Not to mention the discomfort you’re causing Eddie. Which has reached a point where he speaks up about it and calls Iris on it. (Aside: I really liked how he did it, btw, the way he phrased it: “I didn’t like how I felt when…” I didn’t like how felt. He doesn’t accuse and blame her, but he makes his feelings clear that he felt like a third wheel when he shouldn’t have to feel like that. He was much more diplomatic than my little sister’s assessment, who is only 14 but can still tell that Iris’s behavior is not okay: “Iris is really bugging me right now.”)

 

All of this detracts majorly from the moment at the waterfront where Iris confesses her feelings and they kiss — the whole time my brain was just screaming “WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS ROMANTIC??? You are dating other people! You are lying to them! This is not romantic! This is not okay!” But with the music swell and the camera’s loving, lingering shots, clearly the show is presenting this moment as romantic, and I am so not cool with that. (Also Joe was being held hostage and there’s an impending tsunami and why are you kissing. Also that.)

 

 

Also was not cool with Linda’s line to Iris that she thought Iris had told Linda about Barry’s feelings because that was “typical weird crap women do to each other” — that line just radiates Male Writer in a way that really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe a woman who sees herself as such an outsider compared to other women might say something like that, but we really don’t know enough about Linda for that to feel authentic to her character. It basically sounds like a man writing a woman, and doing it badly.

 

Female representation on this show is not its strong suit, which is a crying shame, because representation of other minorities is done so well. There are multiple non-white characters in the regular cast, and it was established in an earlier episode that the chief of police has a boyfriend, who is now a fiancée.

 

That’s the one moment that I am sad to see vanish into the ether of rewound spacetime: the way everyone reacts to the fiancée — that is, they don’t react at all. They treat him as anyone would treat any distraught significant other, with no mention whatsoever of the fact that this is not a heterosexual relationship and no “look at us, we have a gay couple on our show!” It’s presented as completely mundane and normal. The show made such a statement by deliberately not making any statement at all, and I loved, loved, loved that.

 

One final gripe: Dear lord, everyone is so stupid about the Weather Wizard. After Cisco makes that magic weather wand, and after it has been proven to work, WHY ON EARTH IS JOE GOING ANYWHERE WITHOUT IT? What is wrong with you?? And since he didn’t take it, why didn’t Barry take it when he went to the waterfront?! WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID. (I know, I know, gotta pass the Idiot Ball around because Plot.)

 

One final non-gripe: The Weather Wizard is pretty. So glad he’s the one who gets to have a recurring role, and not the creepy-looking dude who played his brother.

 

So…yeah. These are my thinky thoughts. Basically, most of what happened in this episode bothered me, especially the romantic subplots and the stupid way everyone dealt with the Weather Wizard, and I was glad it was stricken from the record of history. If it was the intention of the writers to make me feel that way, well, good job, writers. But that doesn’t make me any more thrilled with the contents of this episode.

 

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Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Edition #2: Full Frontal Nerdity!

Well, last week’s debut of this new column was pretty well-received, so I suppose onward an upward is the way to go from here!

An anonymous person posed a question to me the other day, and in the ensuing back and forth we came to address a more general issue in addition to the specific question asked. Intrigued? Okay, enough with the intro.

At what point do you reveal to a date that you are a raging nerd? (Specifically, if you are female and he is male and as far as you know, not geeky or nerdy in any way.)

I don’t think there is any specific time or way. I mean, as it comes up?

Yeah, but what if it comes up early, like, first-date early? And I am a RAGING nerd, not just a Star Trek fan. An “I hate JJ Abrams” level Star Trek fan, a “let me show you my thesis on the reboot” level Star Trek fan.

I’d say talk about what’s relevant to the conversation – let the guy know what he’s in for. I mean, I’m not saying give him your kindle and be like “LOOK AT THIS METRIC BOATLOAD OF FANFIC I’M READING” but “oh, in case you can’t tell, I’m a huge nerd” seems like a perfectly legit thing to say.

Like if the conversation is about Star Trek, and you start rambling about all your opinions, it’d probably be kind of charmingly self aware to say, “Um, I kinda have VERY STRONG FEELINGS about this.” As a rule, a little self- deprecating humor makes plenty of quirks go down easily.

Which is NOT the same as apologizing – there’s no need to apologize for being a nerd; it’s part of who you are and how you see the world, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. If a person is automatically scared off by your niche of interests or passions, chances are they are a pretty boring person.

Boring is not a dealbreaker!

But boring in this case would indicate a certain narrow-mindedness, and THAT is probably a dealbreaker.

True.

But some people seem boring at first and take a while to warm up to people but then they turn out to be amaaaaazing —

And here’s where the conversation morphed into that aforementioned general issue: When dating, how much time do you give a person to establish themselves before you write them off and turn them down?

And the answer is…exactly as long as you are okay with. Yes, that is the same as saying “there is no right answer.” Sorry. But it’s also the same as saying, “there is no wrong answer.” Sure, there are people I’ve thought were boring initially but after a while, a connection was built and we’ve become close friends. But there are also people I’ve thought were awesome who, upon getting to know them better, turned out to be not so awesome.  And boring people who stayed boring. So yeah, it’s always theoretically possible that that ugly duckling fledgling relationship will become a beautiful swan, but it is by no means guaranteed.

You have to make a judgment call, is what it comes down to. There are different things people weigh in order to make that call. Some people prefer to feel an immediate interest in the person from the very first date. For some people, if the person doesn’t interest them, but there is nothing about him/her/xem that actively disinterests them, they’ll give ’em another chance. If there is immediate interest but also factors of disinterest, it’s more complicated and probably worth allowing it to play out a little longer to see if the positives come to definitively outweigh the negatives.

But if there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether or not you are interested in the person you’re dating, at any stage, you are under no obligation to hang in there and wait and wait and wait to see if something blossoms. You can if you want! It may work! But you don’t have to. If you’re sticking it out, make sure you’re doing it for reasons that you are okay with. For instance: If you feel like you owe it to yourself to find out if it can work, or you feel like you will deeply regret ending things with this person at this point, or you feel like your emotions are on a trajectory and are progressing but just aren’t yet where you want them to be — those are probably good reasons to give it a little more time.

I personally would not advise staying in it for reasons such as:

a) fear of having to start over with someone new (because life is not like TV; you don’t have to keep circling back to the same person; there are new ones out there that you can forge something with)

b) Everyone else (friends, family, parents) thinks you guys are great together (because they are outsiders and only you know what you feel)

c) For the sake of the other person and not wanting to hurt their feelings (because believe me, if your heart isn’t in it, sooner or later the other person will notice and they’ll be hurt all the same).

To be clear, all relationships have an element of uncertainty and there’s nothing you can do about that, and it’s not inherently a bad thing, just a fact of life. But you can still be on the lookout for basic red flags that your internal relationship meter is sending you. Like if the uncertainty is causing you excessive stress. Or if you used to feel happy if someone said “oh, I heard you’re dating so-and-so!” and you don’t feel positively about it anymore. Or if the thought of people knowing and associating you with so-and-so has never made you happy. Sometimes your gut knows these things before your head can catch up. Try to be attuned to that.

Well, golly gee, look at the time! I think I’ve blathered long enough. Ciao!

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#ThrowbackThursday — Untitled

This is VERY different from a usual Throwback Thursday post. It’s not from a previous Facebook note, blog post, or even radio segment. This is from a personal email I sent once, to a boyfriend. It’s probably also in a file somewhere on my computer — when I start having stress about a relationship, I start a file with the guy’s name on it where I write out my feelings. Sometimes I send them or parts of them to the guy (like this one), sometimes I don’t because it would only compound whatever the problem is, because it’s unfixable and I just need an outlet so I don’t explode. I have probably a half dozen files titled with various boys’ names floating around my computer, accumulated in the past 3 years or so that I’ve been dating. Some of them have many, many entries, some have only one or two. Some haven’t been opened in years; one was just created recently.

But I decided I wanted to post this email (editing out certain personal information pertaining to people who are not me) because it seems that I have a number of friends embarking on new relationships and new relationships are terrifying, especially when your previous dating/relationship experience has been crummy, and this email did a pretty good job encapsulating some of the many complicated emotions of that roller coaster.

It’s from November 11, 2012.

 

 

*   *   *

“I’ve been having a lot of thinky thoughts about us.

What I keep circling back to is this line from the movie trailer of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — Emma Watson’s character says: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” And I think that was always [insert name of another ex who has his own file on my computer]’s problem – I loved him so much more than he felt he deserved, and he couldn’t accept it and pulled away.

And now there’s you, and you’re crazy about me in ways I don’t think he ever was, and even though I’m supposed to be the one with the ego and the confidence and everything, I think on some fundamental level I feel like I don’t deserve this insanely high opinion you have of me. In a perverse way, I was more comfortable being treated worse because I know I’m not perfect so I didn’t deserve to be treated perfectly all the time. It’s like, you’re the exact kind of person I need, someone who appreciates all these things about me that other people never quite get, so you can’t possibly be real; things like that just don’t happen. So all these walls come up to insulate me and protect me from getting too attached because my brain is sure this can’t last.

What I can tell you is: I really enjoy spending time with you. I think you’re an incredible person and I don’t understand how you were still single when I met you. I really like that you’re honest about how you feel about me even when it puts you in a vulnerable position. I have to admit that I do get a little uncomfortable or pressured whenever you say something or look at me in a way that reminds me that your feelings for me right now are stronger than the ones I have for you, but that’s only because I want to reciprocate so badly and I don’t know how yet and I get scared that I won’t be able to and that I’ll hurt you and hurt myself by ruining something amazing.

I feel like there’s also this perverse instinct that we humans have, where we most want the things that we can’t have, and since you’ve made it abundantly clear that I could definitely have you if I wanted, that instinct doesn’t kick in. So I don’t have that superficial kind of “want,” and I have to build up a real, serious emotional connection instead if I want this to work.

And I think it’s pretty clear that the only way to figure these things out is to be patient and give it more time, which I of course absolutely intend to do. I just want to continue in our tradition of hot emotional honesty and make sure I keep you informed on exactly where I stand.

SM”

 

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#WaybackWednesday — “Stop.”

An old warning to myself to steer clear of toxic friendships and relationships. I’ll never be a poet but very occasionally I write poems.

Original post was a Facebook note on April 10th 2013, and it was also published on the Boylan Blog while I was interning for the English department at Brooklyn College.

 

Stop.

 

“Hey, you — You actually left your house to see me!”

“Just needed to get some air; don’t feel special.”

“Don’t worry, you are very good at making me not feel special.”

“Oooh, burn!”

 

I laugh. You smile.

We talk

fast

easy

back and forth

familiar rhythm

I’m sure we look adorable

we always look adorable

bickering

that old married couple vibe

we give off

as a pair of 20-somethings

striding through the park

No one would ever guess

that you’re killing me

and I’m killing you

 

I match you insult for insult

smile for smile

and you do the same

stuck in this loop

eviscerating each other

with our laughing smiles

our barbed jokes

I hit every one of your weak spots

You hit every one of mine

 

And still, we laugh

and still, we smile

because it’s all we know

because we’re both too proud to say

Stop.

I care.

You matter.

That hurts.

Stop.

Stop.

Stop.

 

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