The life and times of an ethnically ambiguous little lady.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Dave Who Ruined Christmas

“Man, I wish you could join me for Christmas,” Dave said.

“I know. It’s not even like I’m doing anything special—maybe a movie and some Chinese food.”

“Why don’t you come up to Syracuse? My family always makes it a really big event, and I’ve been wanting you to meet my parents anyway. And . . . I miss you. Besides, maybe then we can finally, you know, take our relationship further.”

That was all it took. I had never celebrated Christmas before, most likely because I’m Jewish. But like most Jewish people, I’d always been kind of curious as to what actually happens at Christmas. Was it as warm and fuzzy as all the Hallmark commercials? Did someone always get a diamond and happiness abounds, like Zale’s says? Would I get the hottest new toy that I had been wishing for, as Toys R’ Us predicts? I’d also never dated a guy who was so freaking . . . nice. There were no games with Dave, no mystery as to how he felt about me. And it was refreshing. I couldn’t wait to see him.

Several days later, after a long and snowy six-hour car ride, with me gripping the wheel until my knuckles turned white, I found myself at Dave’s parent’s house on Christmas Eve. He greeted me with a long hug, as did his parents, his ninety-three-year-old grandmother, his three older sisters, their spouses, and their multiple kids. I found myself overwhelmed. I smiled and made small talk, but I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. There were so many people. And so many Christmas decorations. And so many representations of Jesus and his various relatives.

We sat down to dinner. There was a large ham. There was turkey. There were about fifty side dishes. I picked at the sides and made small talk about my classes. Dave and I held hands under the table. I felt the pressure of his thumb stroking my inner palm, and it soothed me. Every time one of Dave’s parents would ask me a question, they would look at each other and smile after my answer. After dinner the children ran off to play games that small children play.

“Okay, guys,” Dave’s dad said, looking at all of us adults expectantly. “It’s time to take communion!”

Oh, no. Was he really serious? Is that something you do at Christmas? Was I expected to do this, too? I imagined if I actually took “communion” some Jewish child would lose his Hanukah gelt.

“Pssst, Emily. Over here.” I looked over to see John, Dave’s oldest sister’s husband, gesturing to me. “You look scared,” he whispered. “Don’t worry. I’m Jewish, too.”

“Do they know?” I asked, alarmed.

“Of course. Listen, since we’re Jews, I’ve come up with our own special ‘communion’ that only we can do. Join me.”

“Okay,” I said, looking over at Dave, who gave me an encouraging smile from across the room.

“Take this Ritz cracker. I want you to eat it, say ‘shalom’ and kiss me on the cheek on the count of three.”

We did. It seemed to make John incredibly happy. I’d forgotten how good Ritz crackers can be. Probably much more buttery than a communion wafer. I also wondered if John would just perform this ritual with himself before I came along. That must have been really weird.

“Now go back to the Christmas stuff,” he said, as Dave came over. We sat in front of the fire and looked at their Christmas tree. It was huge and leaned slightly to the right. The ornaments were plentiful, some homemade, and didn’t match.

“We add new ones every year,” he began to explain in great detail, as if I had not only never celebrated Christmas before, but as if I was also autistic.

“Nice,” I said. It was really a very good idea, those Christmas trees. Kind of like a shrub of memories.

“See this one?” Dave said, pointing to a small ornament that looked like a movie camera. “My parents gave me that one when I started college and I decided to be a film major.” Dave was now in his junior year and I was a sophomore. We had met while working on the school newspaper as Features editors. We were just like the movie Up Close and Personal without the excitement or Robert Redford.

It was getting late so we got in our pajamas. I had packed the most flannelly pajamas I owned, not wanting to alarm Dave’s parents. If I could have found footie pajamas, I probably would have brought them. I was surprised to find out that I was sleeping in the same room as Dave, him on the floor and me in the bed. That would not have been cool at my house. Of course, a Christmas tree wouldn’t have been cool either.

“Well, my sisters are so much older that my parents probably aren’t even thinking about us being in the same room. That or they’re really glad I finally have a girlfriend,” he said, smiling shyly. He seemed almost giddy. I had a feeling I knew what was coming. It felt weird doing it here, but kind of exciting, like I when I used to smoke pot in my parent’s basement.
We said our goodnights to everyone and went to bed. Spooning me from behind, he whispered in my ear, “I really am glad you came up.”

I was glad, too. I wondered why I hadn’t always made life so easy for myself by dating someone free of drama. Sure, it wasn’t always nonstop excitement, but it was comfortable. We started to kiss, when he stopped and looked deeply with his navy blue eyes right into mine. “I want this to be the night,” he said.

“Are you sure? You’re ready?”

It wasn’t me I was worried about, it was Dave. He might have been older, but I was more learned in the ways of the sex. And by more learned, I meant I’d slept with one other person.

“No. I want to do it,” he said, blushing furiously. “I’m glad I waited for you to come along.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle,” I said, laughing. And we went to it. Or at least we tried to. Dave had a little, how shall we say, performance anxiety. So after trying for a while, we gave up and fell asleep, still content to be next to each other.

The next morning we woke up to Christmas. I got a sweater from the sisters, sans Christmas tree (‘we weren’t sure you’d like that,’ said Carole, the middle sister) and I ate more cookies than all the kids combined, most likely because there was no one there willing to stop me. I headed home later that day, with a container of more cookies and ham (I couldn’t say no) in my backseat. While I was slightly irked by my lack of booty, overall, it had been a memorable experience.

Dave and I kept dating for a few months. It was nice but fizzled out. We never consummated the relationship, despite quite a few attempts. That probably didn’t help things either.

A couple years after college around Christmas I got an email from Dave. “Here's a surprise about my life,” he wrote. “I'm in medical school up here in Buffalo! I finally got in this past summer! Additionally, I am dating someone. Her name is Tracy and it is going really well. Give me a call if you get a chance, I’d love to catch up.”

So I contacted him. And he emailed back. And soon it became clear why he had really contacted me. “So I really like Tracy,” he wrote. “And I think we’re ready to sleep together. And I know that we didn’t, but we got pretty close. I don’t know how to say this, but, you didn’t have any diseases, did you? I mean, I’m sure you don’t but I just figured it would be good to know these things before I take the plunge. Okay, thanks and glad to hear you’re doing so well! Best, Dave.”

I stared at my computer. Dave thought I was whore. And Dave was in medical school, so unless he was studying some new disease, I’m not sure what diseases he thought I might have given him just by making out. (I do not have herpes. My lips are just chapped.) I responded with a terse “No, I’m clean.” So much for catching up.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sweat It Out

I never thought I would find myself sweating profusely while twisted in the position of a pretzel, but such was the case when I took a bikram yoga class for the first time. I was told that it would be good for my back and help me stretch out my tired, world-weary joints that feel, these days, like they belong to a 95-year-old. I also tried it because I love a good challenge—my friend had me at “holy crap, it was freaking impossible!”

For those of you that do not hang out with the earth-loving hippie crowd, bikram yoga is performed in a roughly 105 degree room. Classes last 90 minutes, basically without a break, where you go through a series of 26 yoga poses and breathing exercises.
I noticed quite a few interesting things during the class. For instance:
  • Working out in 105 degrees is hard. This is even more difficult when you’re in a closed room, with a bunch of other sweating bodies, which creates an odor that smells vaguely like dying feet that have been left in a pile of rotting fish.
  • We were told that some symptoms people suffer from during the class include dizziness and nausea, but that’s it’s “OK and totally normal.” Yup, sounds healthy.
  • The instructor mentioned as soon as the class started that there were “no judgements.” This was initially difficult, as there was an older obese man in a Speedo, a Brooklyn bike cap, and glasses attached to a string in one corner and a woman who looked like she hadn’t eaten in a while because she had used all her savings to tattoo every square inch of her body in the other. But this judgment quickly ceased when I had a clear view in the mirror in front of the room of myself as I attempted to pull my leg over my head, bend forward, drip sweat, and breathe all at the same time. I am not graceful.
  • I can attempt to meditate through deep breathing. I can not, however, do this when the instructor sings a song that he obviously wrote—perhaps in his mind with Lenny Kravitz—about how we should not let life get us down or worry about “the man.” Seriously. Really hard to concentrate.
  • Apparently, I don’t know my left from right. I had to keep putting my “other right” hand behind my heel before contorting myself in ways that young ladies simply did not do in olden times. The instructor suggested when in doubt, the hand that shows a correct “L” is your left hand. I was not sure if this comment made me cry or perspire more through my face.

The good news is I survived. Jury is still out if I enjoyed it, though I certainly felt a sense of accomplishment in finishing. I was so excited I would have hugged some of the other folks that finished the class, but I think that if we had embraced our joint sweat would have forced us to slide right down each other onto the floor. Maybe I’ll give it another chance. I just hope that between now and the next time I go they invest in an air conditioner.

Labels: , , , , , , ,