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Archive for February, 2010

Pining after fictional characters:

First, let me begin by stating that Mr Right does not resemble a fictional character. You may think you are going to find an attractive and wealthy Mr Darcy, but in actuality, you will meet Joe the Plumber. And well, then you have to contend with his politics, his brawn, and his propensity for spending exorbitant amounts of time with human feces. (Insert “ew” here).

I speak from experience. Since the first time I read Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” I believed that if I waited long enough, Mr Darcy and his Pemberley Estate would eventually be mine. That was ten years ago, and I’m still waiting. Of course, seeing “Pride and Prejudice” as a theatrical production at the Oxford Playhouse certainly did not help matters tonight. As usual, Mr Darcy was charming, mysterious, and ridiculously attractive. Clearly his mother and G-d were on speaking terms when she conceived him. Simply put, Mr Darcy was the perfect man. Only he was on stage, and when the curtains dropped I realized I was sitting next to a pseudo-homosexual, who prefers boys named Adam to girls named Yaffa.

It’s kind of the story of my very short-lived dating life. I wait, I pine, I try to dream fictional characters into reality. I blame Hollywood. It transforms my favorite Victorian narratives into cinematic visuals, which deepens my connection to men that simply don’t exist. It inspires me to make “Must Have” lists on Microsoft Excel, where I delineate, in no uncertain terms, every attribute of my Mr Right. And as my dear African Politics tutor used to say to me each week, “Yaffa, sometimes you can’t quantify things– and more specifically, people.” Mr Right is not a mathematical equation waiting to be solved; he is not a theorem waiting to be proven. Trying to quantify his personality traits is code word for FAILURE.

Instead, it is better to embrace what the ManhattanCraftRoom terms “Cat Lady Friday,” where cat ladies around New York City share the photos of their adorable life companions. They may not resemble Mr Darcy, but they are furry and cuddly and potty trained, which is more than I can say for most British men.

Furry, Cuddly, and Potty Trained

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Well at least I would have before the Zimbabwean government accepted the terms of  a foreign currency. In African Politics lecture today I learned that Zimbabwe has had some of the worst currency inflation in human history. The proof is in the following photo, which shows a fifty billion dollar bill. Yes, you read correctly. Enough money to cover American private university, an apartment on Park Avenue, and the acquisition of a few small islands off the coast of North Carolina. Only not really because Zimbabwean money was worthless. In actuality, that bill would buy you a cup of coffee, and not even from Starbucks.

Show and Tell: The Oxford Edition

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Whoever said planning a society ball was a leisurely activity, to be accompanied by Moroccan mint tea and a “Welcome Back, Kotter” Marathon (theme song featured below), clearly was not sober at the time. It involves hours of your life and your sanity– neither of which you will ever regain fully.

The Oxford JSOC Ball is less than two weeks away, and between creating a special cocktail for the event and arranging for ten individuals who have never waited tables in their lives to be the ball’s waiters, I have been cat-napping, rather than sleeping. And even those naps are punctuated by thoughts of H & H Bagels crashing on the Virgin Atlantic flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Can you imagine a New York-themed ball without those bagels?

Of course, these thoughts are interrupted by financial woes. Balls cost money, and money is something the United Kingdom has all but deprived me of. It’s carrot sticks and cinnamon till the end of the year. I am just using Operation DETOX as the excuse for my impoverished eating habits. But I digress. This ball costs thousands of pounds, and well, having access to that quantity of cash makes me want to take off for the Bahamas, a place that in ninth grade I, with the inspiration of a few fresher friends, recreated in our high school classroom. It was magical, until some Teaneck peers decided to design an Antarctica to counter our world of pina coladas. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens in single-sex, estrogen-driven high schools. All that bottled up hormonal energy manifests itself in “Battle of the Islands,” the 14 year old female edition. In the end, I am pleased to say, the Bahamas won. And we cleverly took their cardboard penguins, placing them on our beach chairs under our paper palm trees.

Oh, for a little Caribbean weather in Oxford.

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here is a sense of what Operation DETOX entails:

BREAKFAST: Bolivian Quinoa Delight

Breakfast shockingly was not an epic fail. Only an under-caffeinated fail. The quinoa, blueberries, and cinnamon delight resembled some American oatmeals I dream fondly of every so often. Though neither Adria nor I could pour the quinoa in any semi-coherent fashion into the boiling water, we managed to make it “pop,” which is what the bag claims is the stated goal. Meanwhile, Fjodor, an Estonian in our dorm, grinned in the background as he watched the Americans prove every stereotype he ever had about US incompetency correct.

LUNCH: Leafy green goodness

Between the cucumbers, olives, pine nuts, spinach, green beans, and my new personal favorite: Pumpkin seed butter, lunch was blissful. No dressing, no oils, no balsamic vinaigrettes. And lunch came after a delightful walk to the Covered Market, Oxford’s best kept secret, where I bought fresh Mexican asparagus, Chilean sweet potatoes, and the longest cucumber known to mankind. Seriously, it was Guinness Book of World Records worthy.

DINNER: Representing the Rainbow

Tonight was my turn to cook dinner for Adria, Marissa, and myself. We will be alternating nights to reduce cooking time per person. Being the first to have a go in a kitchen quite foreign to me,  it was not too surprising when my perfectionist, over-ambitious, “Wendy Wellesley” woman manifested itself in all its vegan-friendly glory. My dishes: Wild rice stuffed peppers with an olive for a nice aesthetic touch; agave nectar and cinnamon coated butternut squash, and of course, the Mexican asparagus, which make me happier than a Jewish New Yorker with a potato knish.

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In a quinoa comatose…

Welcome to DAY 1 of detox. Adria, Marissa, and myself– collectively known as Team AMY– have begun the quinoa diet. It’s kind of like South Beach, only in place of excessive amounts of ricotta and sweet potato, we consume quinoa, cinnamon, and blueberries for breakfast each morning. Oh, and amaranth, which apparently is very popular among African refugees. I consider the amaranth preparation for my senior thesis, during which time I will be getting down and dirty in the sub-Saharan with a few potential refugees.

In preparation for detox, Adria, Marissa, and I decided to have a last supper or two. Saturday night was marked by whole wheat pasta, cheddar cheese, grilled asparagus, roasted pine nuts and the favorite vegetable denied by our detox diet- mushrooms. We perpetuated this sorry state of edible affairs with the Seven Sisters Tea at the Liberty in London, which I can say is the department store I would easily pay rent to live in, if they would have a non-stylized, hyper-caffeinated New Yorker. Between the Stella McCartney floral dresses and the $100 be-jeweled and be-dazzled dollar headbands, I would be happy to treat the store as my personal closet. Especially if they gave me one of those revolving clickers that makes the clothing pass by quickly and in color coordinated fashion.

The Liberty, in addition to restoring my faith in the fashion industry, also offered High Tea, which included red velvet cupcakes, coffee creme cakes, smoked salmon finger sandwiches, cinnamon raisin scones, and other such heat attack-inducing baked goods. To cite myself, “Moses, have mercy.” Adria and I, of course, recognizing that the next two weeks included no more than refugee food and assorted  berries, took that as our cue to embrace the present– truly live in the moment. And as good refugees, not leave anything on our plates. If only Marissa hadn’t had rowing, she could have saved Adria and I collectively from consuming our body weights.

If only we had taken a single bite.

We followed the confectionary sugar coma we were in with a trip to the Barbican, where as mentioned, we witnessed the wonders of Philip Glass, who in a very real way did help me escape for approximately one hour and 15 minutes from the Oxford madness. No thoughts of champagne receptions, ball ticket sales, failed Middle Eastern politics policies, or gender discrimination in the polity crossed my mind. Though, I won’t lie, I did consistently think, “Tomorrow I am becoming a African refugee wannabe vegan. Oh, this will do wonders for my marriage prospects.” Somehow the wedding madness could not escape my mind. While my high school friends are popping out babies like there is a population shortage in the world, I am drinking bellinis with a black Pentecostal, who is more in love with Jesus than any Jew adores Moses.

And yet, despite thoughts about leafy greens and Orthodox babies, I enjoyed my time in London. This study abroad experience has taught me just how wed to city life I am. I need skyscrapers, artery-clogging food stands, hipster vintage clothing stores, and schizophrenic hobos to feel at home. I need them as much as a winter wedding needs white roses.

Just as an aside, if I were to start a diet blog, would people read it? Kind of like “Iwillnotbeafatbridesmaid” part two. (Message me your thoughts.)

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Coffee and cupcakes.

While I must go print out pages upon pages regarding failed female representation in the British and American governments, I feet the need to preview my day trip to London, which includes High Tea with the “Seven Sisters of London” at Liberty, the Bloomingdale’s of the United Kingdom. It will be the perfect end to  my non-dietetic ways before Operation DETOX For 7th March (FYI: Date of ball) commences. High Tea involves excessive amounts of creatively flavoured teas and scones. Sometimes there are even those adorable finger sandwiches, that in human form you’d feel the need to pinch (assuming they had the cheeks as well).

Cupcakes + Coffee = Happy Thighs

The evening will include a trip to see Philip Glass, the great classical composer of our times, take to the stage in all his musically-gifted glory. I am ready to be moved emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise. I hope his music can, in a very cliched manner, penetrate my soul and take me to a world where there are no JSOC Balls, Oxford essays, or summer internships applications.

Can you even contain your excitement?

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Bringing Chassid back.

Midnight. Front Gate of St. George’s Gate. Hoards of drunken Kukui partygoers thrust past.

FRESH PRINCE OF OXFORD: “So can I get your number?”

Ladies, if a boy asks for your number at the end of the night, it’s been a successful first blind date. If he thinks you should “definitely see each other again,” that’s also a promising sign. And yet, given my track record and propensity for creatures that “meow,” I was genuinely shocked when the Fresh Prince of Oxford, as I will now forever refer to him, said both those statements to me.

It shouldn’t have been so surprising. Our conversation flowed, our laughter was audible to those near us, and our lack of watch-examining reflected our sincere interest in each other. Seriously, I went 2 hours without looking at a watch, cell phone, or iPod for a time check. The time was irrelevant. Mr. Nigeria-meets-Sierra-Leone (his parental origins) was far more fascinating, and I preferred picking his brain about the current political unrest in Lagos than perusing old text messages from boys who never call. Call me an African politics, nerd, or maybe just a politics of the Middle East escape artist, but I was mesmerized by his familial background.

And it was the perfect time for me to discuss Africa. I have spent the last three days in a cavernous, Israel-bashing hole, where Chomsky, Finkelstein, and Said were found eating, drinking (non-alcohol in Said’s case), and being all around haters on anything Zionist. And to top off the always subjective alternative narrative to Israeli history I have been exposing myself to, I attended a Palestinian Child Protection seminar yesterday, where once again the “Israel is the Goliath” theory emerged.

Given my emotional investment in anything Israel, I welcomed a discussion of political conflict in any place but Israel. And when we weren’t discussing failed policies of structural adjustment in Ghana, we were assessing the success/failures of dates nearby. My mom, the inherent matchmaker, taught me everything I know on this subject. Basically, you examine leg, hand, and facial positions to determine the thought processes of the daters. For example, if a girl’s legs are turned towards her date, that means yay, happy fun times are here. If, however, she is turning them outward, to cite a classic Hollywood film, “She’s just not that into you.”

The Duke of Cambridge, the site of our critical romantic assessments, possessed a mixed bag of couples. This, of course, made for more interesting observations. Fresh Prince and I agreed that one couple was set up by someone other than my mom because there were far too many “awkward turtle” moments between them. Thank G-d, our conversation lacked those moments. Fresh Prince was far less reserved than most British boys. He lived in Nigeria for six years, though. From this I conclude that I like British boys who have lived outside of England more than boys who have never left the motherland. Said boys are less reserved. Provide them an alcoholic beverage or two and then pull up a chair.

Oh, and the best part: He offered to pay. Of course the raging feminist that is emerging within me rejected this offer. But, seriously, British boys never offer to pay for me. It could be my body language as well. My mother says the whole crossing my arms at any moment, while quintessential New York, doesn’t exactly scream “If you buy me alcohol or any food substances, I’ll make it worth your while.” Then there is also the issue of not showing enough skin. Though Fresh Prince said he “appreciated” what I was wearing so maybe more is more, particularly with Brits. According to the Fresh Prince, American girls intimidate British boys– talking incessantly and so confidently. A little reservation, physical or verbal, helps alleviate the fear of G-d Americans seem to instill in them. I guess I’ll be taking a trip to Brooklyn when I get home; the Chassidic girl is clearly my ticket out [of spinsterhood.]

In the interim, I am setting a new goal: Find a non-black Pentecostal for my second blind date.

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