Monthly Archives of: April 2009

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Women, careers, big cities, and other thoughts

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I’ve been thinking a lot about women lately.  I’ve seen a couple articles floating around online about the role of women in the workplace, with children, and so on.  Penelope Trunk talks a lot about it in her blog (which you can Google because I’m still undecided whether I want to link to her).   While I’m convinced that she’s having a mental breakdown, in the meantime, she is running a company and taking care of two children, one of which is autistic.

There are studies about whether being married makes a woman happier.  There are articles about whether women can balance working, being a mother, etc.  And there are whole books about womens’ psychology and how we react to each other, why women are mean, and what we do to get ahead in our careers. What I’ve been thinking about most lately is work-life balance and how I see it reflected in my life, as well as the lives of the women I work with and interact with on a daily basis.

Do women necessarily need to foresake marriage and children to have a career? That’s the ever-present question in Washington, DC, and in all big cities, where the most single women always are.   When I moved here, I didn’t realize how many women in my age group were single.  But here is the map:

singlemap(from The Boston Globe)

Look at how many single ladies are waiting to put a ring on it on the East Coast, as well as in the South.   The women remain single, and they remain single for longer, into their early thirties.  I run across this all the time, both in personal and work life. In DC, women work.  They work for consultancies and non-profits, for intergovernmental bodies and Senators, and they work at amazing job opportunities for ridiculously long hours.  Then, they go to graduate school.  And they get PHDs.  In their free time, they go out to really cool clubs, meet cool people, and dance until the early morning.  And then, they dish about it on weekends with their girlfriends over mimosas.  Then, they go get a manicure.

I spend my days finishing my work and then brainstorming about whether I have enough energy to make dinner (because I usually don’t plan out a menu a week in advance because I am Lazy) and worrying whether we will have to go grocery shopping.  Then, I try to get home as early as I can because I want to spend more time with Mr. B since I don’t see him for eight hours and Life is Short and You Should Spend Time With Your Loved Ones (but, more likely,  I probably want him to give me a foot massage).  After that, we go to the gym, together, and maybe watch a movie.

Being married in DC at age 22 seems, well, kind of uncool.  It seems like a hassle, something that prevents people from doing what they really envision in life.  Obviously, I don’t see it that way, or I wouldn’t have spent 4 hours alternating between doing the hora, Russian techno dances, and desperately wanting to get at least a little bit drunk at my own wedding.  I think marriage is great, as well as important in the long scheme of things.  But there is always the perception that being a young(er) married woman pursuing a career is weird, because no one even starts thinking about marriage here until they are 25.  If you are married when you are young, you are either really religious, or in the military, but nothing in between.

I think the one place this is an exception is any community of young Russian professionals.  As I’ve said before, Russian Jewish (and Russian) immigrants are probably the most conservative immigrant group without being religious.  Early marriage is preferred, and as a result, was never unnatural to me.  I remember my mom telling me she got married last out of her group of friends, at 24.    Anytime I meet Russian people my age, for some reason, I always feel a little more comfortable telling them I’m married, as if they won’t judge me.

Anyway, this blog post isn’t going in any conclusive direction.  I just wanted to bring up some issues of age, marriage, and career that I’ve been thinking about lately.  It’s probably time for my foot massage, anyway.

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Why we all sometimes need a Roman Holiday

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I just finished watching Roman Holiday with Mr. B, who harbors a long-time crush on Audrey Hepburn, cause he’s classy like that.  It’s actually one of the reasons I admire him most.  I like to think that, not being able to marry Audrey, he saw me as the second-best choice. I also like to think that I will lose 5 lbs simply by switching to low-fat ice cream.  I live in delusion-land sometimes.  Come join me, it’s great over here (lots of vanilla and rocky road for all.)

Anyway, so I was completely taken by how charming and simple and elegant the movie was, as was Ms. Hepburn herself, and many movies from that era.   The main premise, for the unenlightened (which included me just a few short hours ago) is that A. is a princess of an unnamed European principality who is on a tour of Euorpe.  She’s already been to a great many countries, and by the time she reaches Italy, the last leg of her tour, she’s exhausted.   She must constantly courtsey and greet royal leaders, wear uncomfortable footwear, and be escorted around wearing big white dresses.  In a way, it’s like my wedding day, only I didn’t get to drink champagne with German dignitaries.  Only complimentary vodka in a container made of ice provided by the Russian restaurant where we had our wedding.  Hey, it was on the house.

By the time her handler reads her her schedule, she is exhausted and starts going into hysterics. She has her life all planned out and the stress of the day waits.  She decides to escape.  And during the 24 hours that she’s gone, she completely lets loose, meeting an American along the way.  She gets to do all these things she never planned on before.  She smokes her first cigarette, eats gelato, and rides a scooter, among other things you can no longer do in Italy because they have probably been subregulated by some government agency.

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The day is completely carefree, but at the end, she has to go back to her royal duties.  I think we all need days like that sometimes, where we completely unplug.   I usually check my email at least once after work.  I’m on Twitter every weekend.  But this weekend, I didn’t do any of that.  I just spend time with my family.  Today, particularly, me, Mr. B, and my parents went to ride bikes.  At first I didn’t want to, but I really liked it.  I didn’t have my cell phone or laptop, it was just me and the bike.  Oh, and a bunch of cows on the side of the bike trail.   I call her Caramella.

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It was quiet, I didn’t have to think about what I was going to blog next, or whether I needed to check my email.  It was just me and my family.  And today, where we spend about 80 bajillion hours of our lives at the computer, that’s especially important.

I think especially in this world of Twitter, Blackberries, constant streaming something or other, Friendfeeds, and 1000+ articles in my Google Reader since I got back, it’s just sometimes important to let loose like Princess Ana and eat a gelato, if only to go back to the grind.  Make mine fat-free.

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Voting in India

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We now take  a moment away from being cynical about politics to look at this picture from the Indian elections: voting(Getty Images, Via Jezebel)

I love how much power and quiet grace this picture conveys.

Not because I ever wore a sari.  That would just be ridiculous.

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I’m trying to convert to being Indian.  Don’t tell my parents.

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A failure of a Jew: clothes discounts and budgeting

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All of my life, I was taught NEVER to buy retail pricing.  Not so much taught not to buy, as we just never did it.  We just went right back to the sales racks.  Pants for $48?  That’s ridiculous, when last season’s pants were $20.  In fact, up until I was 18, I don’t think I bought a single piece of clothing over $40.

Even now, it is unnatural for me to buy something full-price.  Which is why I knew I had to have this sweater from Old Navy:

on632596-08p01v01But in blue.  It was exactly my style.  But it was $25.  I agonized over this decision for two weeks.  I even left a comment on the blog where I found this sweater.    I went to the store, I thought about it.  I thought about how much utility I would get out of this sweater.  Then, I bought it.  I cried the whole way home.  They were tears of Jews past who had not bought retail.

“You’re assimilating,” they cried.

But that sweater was AMAZING.  And I’ve been wearing it once a week for the past oh, 6 weeks, coming out to, so far, $4.17 a week.  It would be one thing if I hadn’t ever worn it.  But I’ve been wearing that sucker.

That’s why I cried today when I saw it on sale at Old Navy for $11.50.

What do you think? Should I have waited, or was it worth buying it?

By the way, I’m currently stalking a $50 trench coat.  Yes, I know I’m crazy.  It’s my lot in life.

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יום השועה

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My mom calls me.

“Do you have a candle,” she asks.

“No..”  I think of all the Glade scented candles I have.  She can’t mean those.   Her voice sounds serious.

“Why not?  Don’t you know what day it is?”

I start to panic.  I didn’t know.  I felt like I failed some sort of Jew test.

“No.  What day is it?”

“It’s Holocaust Memorial Day.  Go light a candle.” Oh, I had candles.  But,I wasn’t going to light a Glade Scented (R) Cinnamon Apple candle for 6 million Jews.

I can’t believe I forgot about the holiday whose primary message is “Remember.”  I knew it was coming up, but not exactly when.  That’s the disadvantage of not being involved in a Jewish community.  You have no clue when the holidays are anymore.   One year you’re celebrating Yom Hashoa in Beit Shemesh with Israelis on a cloudless day, the next you’re reading names of victims in the rain on campus.  The next, you’re doing nothing because you are a Big Career Woman in DC and completely forget.  But even if you forget, the fact what happened remains,  and nothing that people say or do, including Ahmedinejad, can really wipe that fact away.

Hannah Szenesh’s song is probably the most symbolic to me of the Holocaust because I first learned it when I was in Poland and my  Israeli chaperone sang it in Auschwitz.   And then, a couple years later, I read parts of Hannah’s diary in Hebrew.  And couldn’t imagine how she wrote such beautiful poetry, but then died in blackness.

So here it is.  Song of a lonely paratrooper, for Yom HaShoa, by a fellow Russian Jew.