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.

And So It Goes

New Years celebrations, much like birthdays, are inevitable, provided you’re alive. If my Bubby Cyrille were still living, she’d insist that I qualify that statement with “G-d willing.”

More major milestones were crammed into 2015 than I would have ever thought possible – including three weddings in my immediate family, two in my extended family, a dog adoption, and a promotion (my sister-in-law calls me Madame Vice President now…) – and so 2016 promises to be quieter, if nothing else.

If my introductory cynicism wasn’t clear enough, let me attempt to reposition myself as a realist instead of a skeptic. Instead of year-long resolutions that might fall through the cracks, I’m going to resolve to make my new year revolve around small wins — at work, the gym, home, etc. I’m optimistic that as we approach 2017, I’ll be a healthier and happier version of myself, but that won’t happen by setting unrealistic expectations. Small wins will allow me to focus on the more immediate and attainable, and will ultimately (hopefully) help me reach more sustainable, long-lasting results across the board.

 

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.

The 5 Worst Things About Getting Married

A lot has happened since the last time I published a post – most notably, I got married two weeks ago. I have no regrets about the amazing man I married, our beyond incredible and supportive families, and the future we will build together. That said – and you don’t have to be planning a wedding to know this as a truth – planning a wedding can be a painful process. Things will go wrong, feelings will be hurt, and you’ll be struggling to stay focused on the end result, the ultimate ROI: you’ll soon be marrying your soulmate.

While I compiled a list of 5 things that I found to be the antithesis of wedding-planning bliss, I’m sure there are many more that could qualify.

1. More Money, More Problems: Weddings are expensive. Even if your parents are paying for some, most or all of your wedding, hidden expenses will sneak through. We came to a very fair agreement with our parents about expectations for our contribution, but budgets quickly crept up when Adam picked out an invitation that I fell in love with. I loved everything about it; it was so elegant and modern, and elegance and modernity come at a steep price. At the end of the day, I reasoned that if I wanted something, and I felt strongly about it, I should be the one to pay for it. That to me, and to Adam, was the ultimate test for necessity.

2. We Are Family: When people say that weddings bring out the worst in people, they’re not always talking about the immediate family. I think it’s the residual family who can often be pinpointed as the culprit for bad behavior. My advice to brides on this is to omit any people who won’t be able to focus on supporting you and your partner. I’m especially close with my parents and siblings – my immediate family – and my mother’s family. That said, there are deep-rooted feuds in my father’s family that have turned into immature grudges across parties, and have since trickled down to my generation. If I could go back again, I would have made a stronger argument with my parents that the room should only be filled with people who genuinely want to be there, not out of perceived protocol, but out of love and support. Thankfully, we had so many relatives and friends (who are basically family at this point) make the trek to Michigan – all the way from England, to Florida, New York, California, Indiana, Washington, Illinois, DC and beyond.

3. We Make Plans, And G-d Laughs: During our ceremony, the ketubah fell off of its easel, the lights were switched on by accident, the photo booth was unbearably warm, and our “first dance” song (In My Life by The Beatles) wouldn’t play for the DJ (he rigged it so that it would play from my phone through a microphone). There are mistakes you just can’t plan for, and it’s important to accept it, with no expectations beforehand. The only thing you can really realistically plan for is that you are getting married. My rabbi was so sweet; he could sense my type-A personality from my initial e-mail to him about his availability. He made sure to caution me about keeping focused on the love that we’re celebrating, and not the to-do lists and planning. I think he may have underestimated how a career in PR prepares you for poise in the face of even the most ultimate screw-ups and disasters.

4. You Can’t Always Get Your Way: I know that I’m neurotic, and that it’s in my nature to be controlling. But, as much as one’s eventual marriage is a partnership, so, too, is the planning process. I wasn’t one of those women who had her entire wedding planned before meeting the groom. In fact, navigating this with someone by my side was exactly what I needed for each of the minuscule details to be digestible and actionable. I chose so many of the elements, that I really was thrilled when Adam showed remote interest in things like the food, music, and invitations. I decided to forfeit control (with 5 vetoes), so that he could feel like his personal touch was also part of our big day.

5. If You Have Nothing Nice to Say, Don’t Say It At All: From the moment you get engaged, outside opinions will start to percolate. I sometimes think that all brides and grooms should go through media training to learn how to weather the naysayers and over-opinionated. Even now, two weeks post-marriage, my mother comments on how she doesn’t like the way I’ve chosen to stack my bands with my engagement ring. And, as I tell her without polish, I don’t really care.

You will almost definitely experience some sort of struggle in the wedding planning process, and it may not even creep up until the big day. It’s important to remember that while you could certainly sit here and whittle away a list of hundreds of crappy things/opinions/people/all of the above that you encountered along the way, none of that negativity is going to help usher you down the aisle. Turn off the noise around you, and focus on the fact that at some point soon, you’ll be saying “I do.”

 

That Thing About Birthdays

As of last Friday, I’m another year older. In two days, I’ll be one year and a week older. I feel older, but I don’t know that I feel wiser. Birthdays are funny in that way. As a kid, I treated my birthday as a social event. Naturally, back then I couldn’t flex my type-A planning talent, and my parents took the reins on planning. When I hit high school, I placed equal – albeit more controlled – importance on my day. My grandparents also contributed to my annual one-day sense of entitlement. They treated us, each of their 10 grandchildren, to “special days” – daylong shopping trips with lunch. I remember one year (4th grade, if I remember correctly) I opted for a Barbie (the FAO Schwarz Barbie) instead of a more mature option: pearl earrings.

This year, I did the 26-year-old equivalent of a Barbie trade. Adam offered to throw me a happy hour. He lives to surprise me. He even made a Facebook event (in my world – a world that’s dictated by social media engagement and activity – that’s a big deal). And, in classic Kirsch form, I decided that because it was out of my control, I didn’t want it. Even with a wedding on the way, the idea of being the center of attention is far less appealing in my personal life versus my professional life. We’ve had so many milestones in the past year, that I’m kind of celebrated out. So, instead of a happy hour, we did something that removed us far from the center. We attended a Knicks game, along with hundreds (maybe thousands, I’m not good at guessing these sorts of things) of other New Yorkers and the like. Hank Azaria was there, too. So that was something.

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I spent my birthday exactly how I wanted. I feel like that’s how it should be. I should be able to control my day, after all. I took the day off of work (which is hard when you love your job as much as I love mine), ate a solo lunch at Il Bambino (their crostini are delectable – get the olive spread, and you’ll have no regrets), hopped over for a mani/pedi at Kiki’s (it turns out that a spa pedicure is totally worth the up-charge), and perused the newly opened Lockwood Style, sister shop to Lockwood on 33rd Street in Astoria.

Maybe I’ll feel different in 2015. I don’t know. Until then, I’m grateful for the well-wishes, the macarons from my colleagues, the perfume from a dear friend, the cards and all other tchotchkes. Would I be deemed ungrateful if I said I could have done without the cold?

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.