Love, Marriage and Politics

Working in public relations, especially on the digital end of the spectrum, I’m no stranger to keeping my politics private. Most people who know my husband and me, know that we have wildly opposing political views, and wonder how in the world we make our marriage work.

Early on in our relationship, I dedicated lots of time to polishing Adam’s rough edges. Don’t get me wrong; he’s brilliant. Really and truly. But he’s strong-willed. Deciding to get married on the heels of an election year, I never thought I’d have so many, “Shit Republicans Say” reactions to his political commentary.

Love is funny, though. I’ve kept him up until the wee hours of the morning following debates to extend my soapbox, and he’s engaged me, exhausting his talking points in hopes of tuckering me out. He’s not often successful.

We make it work for two reasons. The first, and perhaps most important is that at the foundation of our marriage is a mutual respect. We respect each other’s opinions, because they’re not sound bites. Second, and still important, is that our political positioning, though inherently opposite, overlaps and aligns on issues that have the potential to directly impact us as a unit.

I sometimes wonder if our marriage is actually stronger because our views differ. Either way, it certainly keeps conversations interesting.

Weekends Away

I’ve lived in New York for over five years, and since being here, I’ve shlepped to more places by car and train than I did in my twenty-plus years as a Michigander. It’s amazing how refreshing and relaxing just two or three days away can be.

Over the summer, we try to make it a habit to escape the city on the weekend. During the week it’s hard to power down. I sleep with my devices less than an arm’s reach away and Adam keeps both of his iPhones perched on the windowsill directly next to him. Our lives are rarely free from digital distraction.

But then there was this past weekend.

We made the trek to Rhode Island with two good friends, and not only did we power down (save for a few Instagram posts and Swarm check-ins), we let loose. And I’ll be honest — it felt great.

I’m a very WYSIWYG type of person – I make no apology for my pushy, type-A personality. It’s simply how I’m wired. But this weekend was different.

I was a mirage of myself, in the best possible way.

Friday was a late night, made even later by a round of drinks. Saturday was a long day spent exploring Stonington. And Sunday, our last day, was the perfect blend of beach and brunch, before we hit the road for our return journey to New York.

This weekend wasn’t entirely exciting. That’s not it at all. It was the company we had – family and friends – that made me appreciate the life Adam and I have built together, the characters we’ve carved out for ourselves, and the moments that make us stop in our tracks with anticipation of what’s next.

This weekend away, with friends and no plans to guide us, I was a mirage of myself, in the best possible way.

You Can Choose Your Friends

Now more than ever, I’m reminded of a saying that my mom would repeat when my siblings and I would argue. “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” This was often thrown around with complements like, “blood is thicker than water,” and so on, but never has it felt more applicable than now.

I often write about my family, and our relative (pun intended) dysfunction (almost always paternal). My wedding was met with the coldness of first cousins not coming for an array of excuses, and uncles and aunts barely staying through dinner, all without congratulating us on our nuptials. Nearly immune to the sting of familial nonsense, I found it funnier than I did rude.

It’s not that I don’t like my family. I’ve worked to develop relationships with some cousins, and I genuinely enjoy getting to know them. But then there’s this element in the generation above that I’ll never begin to understand.

I’ve always been pegged as the outspoken one – and I suppose the proof is in this post. And, like anyone with Kirsch blood pumping through their veins, I’m a stickler for protocol. When I poke fun at the fact that my paternal aunts and uncles barely stayed at my wedding, in their minds they likely reason that they were there, and that’s what matters. In their defense, I don’t really know them. In my defense, they never really tried to know me.

Like I said though, it’s the generation above – the parents – that I find to be at the root of this problem. Shame on our parents – all of them – for allowing drama between them to trickle down to the kids. It’s hard to navigate past family mishigas that’s been over a decade in the making, and so bonds that could have been formed among cousins never quite flourished.

But if we really take the time to traverse the course of this dysfunction, it’d probably trace back to the grandparents. The silence – perhaps you could call them silent feuds but that seems like a stretch – between my uncles and aunts and me is trivial compared to the relationship I have now with my dad’s parents.

At my sister’s bridal shower – one that should have been nothing but a celebration of simchot, my grandmother planted a sour seed. She was upset that the thank you note I sent her after my wedding was only two lines long. Leave it to my bubby to be the one person who can accuse an act of gratitude of being an act of hostility. This accusation – an alleged clearing of the air – came four months – yes, that’s right…nearly half a year – after the note was sent.

Passive aggressive at best, her words about the alleged diss were vile. I’m a woman of my words, and so I stand by whatever I wrote in the note. I’m not so bothered that she was bothered, I’m bothered by her complete lack of respect for my family. My parents – and honestly, mostly just my mother – have bent over backward for my grandparents over the years. My grandmother’s words have always been laced with insult and offense (very much meant), but I would have hoped that out of respect for my family – if not my parents, for my sister – she could have held her tongue a while longer.

Instead, she erupted at me – accusing me of fighting some sort of fight on my mother’s behalf. And that’s when she won. I gave in, and I reacted in defense. I let her know that she had offended me by insulting my character. If anything, I don’t fight my mother’s fights, because she taught me to only fight my own, and to always pick my battles wisely. I would never have chosen to engage in verbal battle with my grandmother. But I’m also not going to be walked all over. The truth hurts. It hurts that she’s never had my back. It hurts that she’s never defended my character or my mother’s. What hurts most of all, though, is that she couldn’t – just for once – embody a typical grandmother, and accept my initial apology. Instead, she let me say my piece, which was the final step in seemingly severing our relationship.

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to choose such fantastic friends, and that my mother’s family has been so unconditionally supportive and loving. I’m also thrilled to have married a man – and his family by extension – that only communicates from love. And, if I’m lucky enough that the time comes where more relationships are built on my dad’s side, so be it. I’d embrace such a thing with open arms.

Writing this post has been difficult, because it stoops to the same level of immaturity as my grandmother’s confrontation, but it’s a necessary evil – and a cathartic one at that.

Family Ties

I come from a family of relative dysfunction. I speak to less than a handful of my paternal relatives, and I have both grandparents, so that’s two right there. That said, I don’t like to treat family like a four-letter word. In my book, to love is to love unconditionally.

I’m close with my immediate family, and most of my maternal relatives. We had it easy. Much like my mother’s family and their days in Detroit’s shtetl-like Jewish neighborhoods of yesteryear, we grew up within one square-mile of each other. Each house had its respective open-door, open-fridge policy; cousins were more like siblings.

We had our drama, we had our arguments, but as my mother (and grandmother before her) liked to declare “you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family.” Her other favorite was “blood is thicker than water.”

I hold those sayings close, especially as I plan my impending wedding. It was natural to me, for example, to choose Michigan as the setting. My roots are there, and with three grandparents over age 80 and great aunts and uncles who played such a strong role in my upbringing, it would be so selfish to consider getting married anywhere else.

On top of which, it’s important for me to have my family as part of the bridal party. We tormented each other as kids. I share stories with friends about how my siblings (I’m looking at you, Dr. Kirsch!) would hold my arms back and scream, “free hits on Alex!” But, I love them. My sister and brother-in-law are gracing our family with a true simcha this February as they bring a baby boy into this world. My sister Anne and her fiancé Michael are starting their lives together in Miami. My brother (the doctor!) and his lovely girlfriend (also a doctor!) prove that love can flourish no matter the distance.

Our relationship as kids was fuzzy; we were so close in age that fights were inevitable. But, no matter how much we hurt one another with words or actions, my mother — learning a lesson from my father and his brothers — made sure we always spoke, and that we always made up and moved on.

My mother is my hero. She takes care of her father (my beloved Zaydie Sam), and my father — someone who suffers from a long list of conditions including diabetes and Parkinson’s. She is a giver, and a caretaker, and while I don’t always want to hear what she has to say — sometimes it’s because of how she says it — I love her most of all. She has spent almost no time caring what people think of her, and instead, has devoted herself to our family. To ensuring that we’re all in the loop on family ties, that we’re all happy and healthy, and that we have what we need – literally and figuratively – in life.

When my parents cut me off financially at age 21, I was preparing to move to New York. My father, who comes from a family where protocol and money are king, was determined to share that he thought I was meant for law school, and in publishing I’d end up penniless. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t share her predictions on my future. Instead, she said, “You’re meant for New York.”

She was right.

I’ve been here for nearly four years, have achieved great success in my still-short career, and am getting married in just over a year.

None of that matters though. Life is too short. Family has taught me in all part of life that you’re never too old to ask for help, or for forgiveness, and you’ll never be too old to say “I love you.” Three words, eight letters, endless good feelings.

Jag-U-Are

When I was a kid, I envied my Bubby Cryille’s personality. She was warm and welcoming, but also outspoken. She knew everyone — and everything about them — and she loved life. I remember her beauty routine most of all — second only to my memories of her Entertainment Books. She went weekly to a salon called the Magic Touch in Oak Park, where she went for her hair, her brows, and her nails. It was like Bubby HQ. Bubbies here, bubbies there, bubbies everywhere. Bubbies doing nails. Bubbies doing hair.

Her hair was standard Bubby — brushed back curls — but her nails…her nails were her creative outlet. My dad’s mother is much more tightly wound, but my beloved Bubby Cyrille – she went for red.

Jag-U-Are by Essie was her signature shade. For years, I thought she was simply mispronouncing the name “Jaguar.” It took years, and four years since she passed away, for me to realize I was wrong.

I spent Christmas in Westchester this year — a slight break in my “Jewish Christmas” tradition of movies and Chinese food in Michigan and Amagansett.

We made our way up with Adam’s father, but on the one condition that I could get a mani/pedi before going to the house. Adam and his dad dropped me at the salon before heading to the gym. I walked past its hair styling section to the mani/pedi room, and the first color I picked up was the shimmery red “Jag-U-Are.” It was at that moment that I canceled my shellac mani in favor of a regular manicure with this color as an ode to my late Bubby Cyrille.

The rest of the holiday was lovely — good food, future family, and we even squeezed a movie in there. Most of all, it was nice to have memories of my Bubby with me, even if just on my nails.

Jag-U-Are

From Pinterest to Proposal

I work in social media, and so, it’s reasonable to assume that in addition to cataloguing my every move religiously on Foursquare and documenting my life through Facebook and Twitter, I plan my future with equal attention to detail on Pinterest.

My boards are appropriately segmented from recipes and home-goods, to beauty tips and generic lifehacks. And then, of course, there’s my wish list. This particular board has been so specially curated; I’ve dedicated several blocks of minutes — maybe even hours — to ensure that each pin reflects my taste, and things I’d actually use.

There’s a point to this prose, I swear.

You see, I got engaged on Saturday.

My boyfriend fiancee and I have been together for just about a year, and marriage had been a looming topic. We moved in together quickly, and so marriage felt like the logical next step.

That said, it seemed a proposal would only happen if Adam — said fiancee — had full creative control.

Had he met me? I’m controlling, type-A+, neurotic…the list goes on.

As the one year mark drew closer, I suspected he was up to something. Since when was he in a rush to do yard work in the suburbs on a Friday?

Hint: he was buying a ring.

What role does Pinterest play in the whole scheme of things, you ask? It all goes back to my wish list.

When my friend Janet got engaged, she mentioned to me BlueNile.com. And while Adam didn’t get my ring from BlueNile.com, I spent countless lunch hours and late nights perusing their selection of loose diamonds and settings, dreaming up what my sparkler would look like.

I settled on a simple, pave setting with an emerald-cut center stone. And it was from that pin, that had been sitting there stale for months, that Adam drew inspiration to have my ring designed.

The ring, however, was only half of the proposal.

We had dinner at Piccola Venezia in Astoria. He started with a caesar salad, and I had the minestrone soup. For his main course, he had a veal parmesan-type dish, while I opted for fresh pappardelle in olive oil with roasted garlic and eggplant. (HELLO DELICIOUS!)

After dinner, there was this lull of time where I wondered if a proposal was on the horizon. And, at the cusp of my wonder, the waiter placed a dish in front of me. I remarked that we didn’t order dessert, and then I looked down to see that “Will you marry me?” was etched onto the plate in chocolate.

Cue hysterical tears.

In the midst of my emotional eruption, Adam kneeled on one knee, and asked me formally to marry him. The entire restaurant was our audience, and the moment I said yes, the entire room trumped my tears with applause, and the waiter announced proudly, “SHE SAID YES!”

Image

I am so glad I gave up snooping, as now I enter into Thanksgiving with something even more special to be thankful for.

Thankful, I am

I flew home on Tuesday, not sure of what to expect this Thanksgiving holiday. This had always been my Bubby Cyrille’s holiday, and when she passed away three years ago, I felt much of this particular holiday’s cheer would have passed with her. Fortunately — and not abnormally — I was wrong.

With my dad having had major surgery, and my Zaydie Sam not as strong as he used to be, this Thanksgiving will prove a challenge, along with plenty to be grateful and thankful for.

  • I’m thankful for my amazing family — my mother, for always supporting me; my father, for sharing his unsolicited pride in my success; my brother, for indulging my neurosis and for listening to me randomly rattle off recipes I want to prepare; my sister Anne for encouraging me on my Weight Watchers journey; my sister Amanda (and brother-in-law Dave), for being there for professional advice, and overall sisterly support. We have all come so far, but without each other, we’d be empty and lost.
  • I’m thankful for my wonderful job and incredible colleagues — I made a move this year to our parent company, and in so doing, had to adjust to a new team and new overall professional dynamic. I’ll always miss my old team (although now we’re all housed under one roof!), but my new one has proved to be delightful. I’m thankful for the way we all work so well together, through brainstorms and general effective leadership.
  • I’m thankful for my incredible friends — without the support of my friends…without their phone calls, texts, IMs, and Facetime requests…I’d be a much less interesting person. Thank you for pushing me to be more adventurous, to do things I would never normally do, and to embrace life as it comes my way.

Tonight, we’ll dine at my Auntie Phyllis’ — because that’s tradition, and we like that in my tribe — we’ll see family and friends (some old, some new). Most sentimental of all is that with my Bubby gone, my mother will recite the poem that her grandfather — Zaydie Fred — wrote for my Bubby when she was in the fifth grade.

Thanksgiving Day comes but once a year, but always it is full of cheer. There is but one who rouse this day, who this one is, I need not say. But just in case there is some doubt, it is the turkey gobbler I speak about. For the rest of us Thanksgiving Day is a time to fuss, a time to pray and thank God we live in the good old U.S.A.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, and continuing my Michigan vacation.
So, let’s turn the tables. Tell me, what are you thankful for?