Archive for June, 2010

Yes, in the last 10 days I have played Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” on repeat.  In part, it is because the one-year anniversary of the death of John Hughes, the director of The Breakfast Club (1985), is just around the corner. His films formed the basis of my adolescent knowledge of the secular world; if it didn’t happen in a Hughes film, well, then it couldn’t possibly happen in some material reality outside of it. And his soundtracks, including the aforementioned song, formed the foundation of my non-Jewish musical education.

The other part to the 1980s musical rendezvous, however, is a direct reflection of the fact this blog is coming to its logical conclusion. It is about to enter the arena of gone, but hopefully not forgotten. Get it? Don’t you forget about the blog. After a wonderfully enriching year abroad, I feel that I can no longer pursue the lyrical prose that has consumed 120+ entries thus far. Of course, after 9 months of electronic intimacy, I also know that there will be a forthcoming blog surrounding themes such as dating, city life, and inevitably, religion (and the food associated with all three).

To cite John Kerr, lead vocalist for Simple Minds, “Won’t you come see about me? I’ll be alone, dancing you know it baby.” Stay tuned for the transformation.



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and other tales of my readjustment to New York and its sauna-like weather conditions to shortly follow. Since my return to the Empire State on Friday, I have served as a Disney-themed princess at a Brooklyn wedding and ushered in my entrance into adulthood via a New York restaurant without a liquor license. In between, I have begun work at the World Policy Journal and entered the working world, in a 10-6,  unpaid internship sort of way.

For now, I leave you with an image of the cupcake that I consumed on my 21st. It was purple and floral, and despite the fact that I generally despise both, I thoroughly enjoyed basking in all its caloric goodness.

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You know that moment when you gain that epiphany-induced clarity, and your entire future seems to be neatly delineated before you? Well, I certainly have not experienced that in the days since returning from the land that gave us Cadbury World. In fact, the only place in the world where my life has taken such a definite shape is Israel. But, being 6000 miles away and all, I fear I must reserve that sensation for a future travel.

Anyhow, the “it” is a reference to Peanut Butter and Co., a restaurant dedicated to glorifying the wonders of peanut butter, in all its healthy fat glory. I happened upon this little gem one summer, while perusing the streets of the West Village with my friend, a recent member of the vegan club. Needless to say, the traditional New York Deli was not within her realm of acceptable edible establishments. We opted instead for the aforementioned peanut butter heaven, where we sampled a variety of flavors from Smooth Operator to the Bee’s Knees. And we received an unlimited supply of fruits and veggies to dip into these delectable options. Yes, I quickly went into food coma, and vowed that someway, somehow, I would earn the money to rent out the apartment above the restaurant. I was sure that the only thing missing from my life– aside for a cat named Booboo– was an apartment the size of a walk-in closet above a restaurant that catered to those who preferred nuts to normalcy.

Conveniently, within one week of returning to the United States, said apartment has gone on the market!

The window above the "B" could be mine.

Consequently, instead of wasting my days dreaming of an academic year abroad gone by, I have been focusing my efforts on earning the necessary funds to secure said apartment before some other spinster in the making claims it for herself. Hence, my motivation to meander up to Boston, work for my professor, and take a crack at turning my pipe dream into a semi-respectable form of reality. And though my week of fundraising draws to a close tomorrow morning, I have already planned a walk through for this weekend; but only after I treat my lovely Wellesley ladies to the restaurant that restored my faith in the fast food industry.

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you suddenly hear the flamboyantly gay American boy next to you– in queue for boarding– whisper to his female best friend, “Where do you think she got that copy of The New Yorker?” And you, lacking an ounce of tack and unable to hold back your excitement about the prospect of a 7.5 hour journey next to a beautiful man who prefers men, say, “WHSmith. And it’s totally worth the 6 pound investment. It’s the best of American fiction issue.” At that point said female best friend eyes you suspiciously, aware of the fact that gay boy–we’ll call him Dave– might find female companionship elsewhere.

Dave, excited by the prospect of an entire issue devoted to Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss, completely ignores the mounting tension and opts for a grande no-whip frappucino light. And if you didn’t think he was G-d’s gift to the world already, his selection of a no-whip frappe from your favorite caffeine supplier pretty much secures him a permanent place in your heart. He may not be Johnny, the Will to your Grace this past year, but he will do for however short a period of time you two are together.

And it is with Dave by my side that I finally mounted the plane bound for New York. Saying goodbye to Laura at the airport, I thought I might never make it through the flight without bursting into uncontrollable emotion. But Dave, an American who had studied abroad two years before, understood my sentiment and provided the perfect ear for the separation anxiety woes. He and his friend had just come from visiting their British counterparts, who they befriended on their year abroad in London. Magically, they had maintained the friendship. Dave assured me that I would be no different, especially if I was the send-you-random-postcards-just-to-say-I-am-thinking-about-you sort of girl, which apparently he thought I was.

I hope he is right. In the interim, I will relay a wonderful New York moment. On route to the bus station this morning, I randomly bumped into Rachel– a girl from my secondary school who is shockingly not married and not even dating. We met in Starbucks, as per our usual way, and though we had not spoken for over three years, we instantly had a connection.

RACHEL: So you went abroad to get away from all this wedding madness?

YAFFA: Truthfully, yes, that was a large part of it.

RACHEL: I should have gone to England, or perhaps Siberia. Any place without a lot of Orthodox Jewish men in search of wives/mothers.

YAFFA: Yes, that’s England in a nutshell. Devoid of Orthodox Jewish men, longing to find wives, fronting as mothers.

We exchanged a few laughs and phone numbers, and agreed to begin our first installment of the “Single, Ready to Mingle, But Definitely Not Ready to Marry” Club when I return from my week in Boston. For now, though, I must reintegrate into American society by selling my soul to the academic devils at be, who unlike in the UK, pay me for my sacrifices and services.

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And with that Hallmark card sentiment, courtesy of a Mr. Latham farewell card, I segway into a photo montage of my Oxford Visiting Students Ceremony. Combining champagne, strawberries, and speeches infused with emotion, it proved to be a moving and meaningful experience. Unquestionably, I will miss the institution that provided me with what the Acting Deputy Master referred to as a “second identity.” This year has provided me with a new lens with which to view my future and make sense of my past. In place of the subjective American, I have grown into the objective global citizen.

Thank you, Oxford and specifically St. Peter’s, for making me strive to be the best possible Yaffa I can be. Your academic and cultural gifts of excellence almost make up for the hideous black robe I had to adorn today.

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Tomorrow afternoon at 1600, I will be sitting in the Oxford Visiting Students Farewell Ceremony. And Helen, my African politics partner-in-crime, will be Rory Gilmore, standing tall before her fellow classmates. She will deliver a speech, which will inevitably inspire us all to return to America and be the change we hope to see in the world. It will be Hallmark card worthy, and knowing me, I will attempt to hold back the tears. But, much like the scene in Season 3 of Gilmore Girls, when Rory graduates from Chilton, I will be Lorelai, sitting next to Sookie, in this case Adria/Marissa, trying to remain my calm, cool, and collected self for as long as humanly possible. I will start off strong and determined, but shortly thereafter the blubbering will begin. And it is because of this realization that I have decided to forego the mascara:

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I have this tendency, when I am about to reach the top of some metaphorical mountain I have been climbing, where I just stop and attempt to take in the magnitude of it all. With 84 hours left in Oxford, I find myself at this point. Over the last few days I have concluded my final essay (#36 of the year), completed my last tutorial, in which I quite shockingly received a first (translation=A), and cooked my closing smittenkitchen-esque dinner. It was an asparagus and mushroom risotto, in case you were interested. In that period of time, I have also written some of the most sentimental pieces of writing, in the form of goodbye cards, to the men and women who have inspired me this year.

In the midst of this emotionally-driven rendezvous, though, I might digress to tell a story prompted by the Mr. Boy Who Prefers Boys. Said boy decided I was not yet well acquainted enough with the gay scene in Oxford. And y’all must know by now that meant that after a rather heterosexual-dominated formal hall at St. Peter’s, the two of us took a trip to the Jolly Farmer, notable for its sign featuring a half naked male model, whose private parts are covered in rainbows. Shockingly, on this particular night, I was exposed to a few lesbians– instead of the typical incestuous gay male scene, of which I did not need better acquaintance with. Now while I am all for homosexual relationships, be they man-and-man or woman-and-woman, I am not a fan of the lesbian-on-straight girl flirtatiousness.

And as I left the Jolly Farmer, determined not to go to yet another gay club and politely avoid the gaze of another lesbian, I bumped into a lesbian I refer to as Kate. Kate is a fairly well-known lesbian, who has repeatedly tried to dance/grind with me in Plush, the always entertaining gay club around the corner from my annex. However, I, in all my heterosexual glory, had successfully avoided all physical contact with her until that night. As I glided– as one does– down Paradise Street, I encountered her, a bit inebriated at the side of the road. Unsure as to whether I had good samaritan obligations, and hence needed to stop, I paused just long enough for her to recognize I was aware of her situation. The following conversation ensued:

KATE: O-M-G! It’s Yaffa, the girl who thinks she’s straight. How are you, lovely?

YAFFA: Um, fine. And definitely straight.

KATE: You know, Yaffa, I know your religious type. You think you can’t be open about your sexuality; that your friends and family will judge you.

(pauses to puke a bit)

But, Yaffa, it doesn’t matter what they all say. We have each other, and we are very supportive. I, myself, would make an excellent girlfriend.

YAFFA: I’m sure you would– to someone who prefers women, that is. Oh, and also, if I were a lesbian– which I most certainly am not– I would be judged by many of the friends and family members I call dear. And while those people may seem insignificant to you, they aren’t to me. I wouldn’t jeopardize those relationships so easily.

KATE: So you are just going to stay in the closet forever?

YAFFA: Oh, Moses, I am too claustrophobic for closets. And I like men, a lot. Perhaps someday I will know one in the biblical sense. My point, here, is that if I were a lesbian, and I knew it bothered the people I cared about, I wouldn’t parade my homosexual ways in front of them. I would respect their space, their beliefs, etc. I would find a balance.

Kate seemed content, or just too ill, to argue further. And so I gave her my water bottles and a few tissues, and then went on my merry sober way. However, I have replayed the conversation several times since then. I think part of my fascination with it is that I closed by saying life is about balance. When I reflect on my year in Oxford, I think my greatest accomplishment is learning to balance work and play. One of the reasons I was so dissatisfied with the end of my sophomore year at Wellesley was due to the lack of balance. I took six classes, worked four jobs, ran a few random organizations, and taught Jewmba classes twice a week. It was a full schedule– as per my usual approach to life, but I was definitely unhappy.

And then I arrived in Oxford, where people certainly worked extraordinarily hard, but they also didn’t feel guilty about taking breaks, throwing back a pint, and playing pool. They were not obsessed with landing the perfect internship or work study; they preferred traveling around Southeast Asia instead. I, and my Type A personality, were certainly put in check. I took to a more 9-5 schedule, as opposed to the 9-9 hours I had been living and breathing for the last two years. And guess what, I smiled more. It probably doesn’t seem like an epiphany with any depth. However, in America, and specifically in the Northeast, where people rarely take holidays and perpetually work long, arduous hours, taking breaks is not socially acceptable. The basic motto– “If you’re not working/studying/feeling like clawing your eye balls out, well, then you’re behind.”

I may return to New York this weekend and discover that in all actuality I am behind, but unlike a year ago, it will no longer bother me. I will work my 9-5 hours. However, upon completion of those hours, I will play, eat, indulge my inner cinephile, and get re-acquainted with a city I have missed terribly.

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