Happy Newish Year! Happy Annishversary!

Oh, dear. I’ve done it again. I know, my absence has been inexcusable. I mean, we’ve been over this—you’re now all well aware of my shortcomings, my tendencies towards listlessness and USA Network original programming marathons. Let’s not dwell, okay? My therapist has that covered, which is annoying enough. When I hit upon the deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing from which my laziness doubtless stems, I promise to keep you all in the loop. How about I make a newish year’s resolution to write more often? Like once a month, at minimum. Hold me to it, because I really need the push. So, you understand that now it’s on you and nothing is my fault if you don’t remind me sotoolatenobacksies.

Anyhoo, next Wednesday marks the one monthiversary of our FIRST ANNIVERSARY, which is when I should have written this in the first place. Pretty big deal! We’ve been married for a whole year + a month, which is nothing to sneeze at. Side note: I cannot stand it when people use “anniversary” to describe monthly and weekly landmarks. It’s not an anniversary, because it isn’t annual. It’s probably something else deriving from Latin, don’t ask me. I don’t know everything. You’re the one who insists on celebrating monthly achievements, you look it up. Okay I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be mean. Let’s make up. I drank too much wine this week, cut me some slack. The Steelers lost on Sunday, did you hear? This affects me in the sense that it affects Matt profoundly, so I kept myself preemptively sauced to deal with the storm cloud of black feelings and the sadness to end all days which settled into the apartment last Sunday night.

He was one sad monkey.

Anyhoooo, our actual anniversary date fell on the Sunday night of a three-day weekend, so being the nauseatingly romantic couple we are, we made it a regular Mardi Gras.

Friday night: we took ourselves out to Daniel using a gift certificate we’d been saving since the wedding. Highlights included too much wine followed by a mild coma, and a free dessert presented aside a life-sized, solid chocolate bust of a woman. Sorry, no photo, because I am the classy type of person who doesn’t take pictures of her food in super fancy restaurants. It’s also possible I brought my camera and was scolded by a mortified Matt when I took it out of my bag.

Saturday night: We went to a lovely wine and cheese class which was given to me as a birthday gift and conveniently fell on our anniversary weekend! Oh wait, no, we canceled last minute and stayed home and watched football.

Sunday morning: We prepared a lovely breakfast for two of mimosas, coffee, and the top layer of our wedding cake. It was delightful.

See? No joke here. Sometimes we're actually nice.

Sunday night: We stayed in and had a cozy, romantic evening. No, wait, we went out to our favorite restaurant and had a cozy, romantic evening. Oh no, I totally remember now. Matt went out for an annual guys’ dinner and I went out for the counterpart girls’ dinner, then we all met up and stayed out until 2AM. Highlights included a bouquet of anniversary flowers from one of the girls, and the revolutionary offer of simultaneous half-portions of TWO pastas when I simply couldn’t make a decision. Best waiter ever.

Honestly, my world will never be the same.

I know what you’re going to say: “Aaaw, you guys are sickeningly sweet. Gross me out.” Right? I know, we’re totally THAT couple.

Really, though, while I was happy and excited to be celebrating our first whole year of marriage, I’m a lot more annoyed that our actual nine year tally has been erased. Sure we’ve had our ups and downs this year, and in many ways we felt them more strongly given the underlying knowledge that we’re legally stuck together forever. But we’ve weathered many more difficult times by far, and that was before we had the security of a contract that can ideally only be broken by invoking the death clause. I feel a little silly putting so much importance on year one of a lifetime. And that’s another thing. Part of me feels like if we make too big a deal out of one year of marriage, what do we do with the next 50 some-odd? I’d like to imagine that the accomplishment of staying married year after year gets more impressive as time goes on. This one was kind of a gimme.

I think celebrating in our strangely disjointed and haphazard way, a portion of which was spent apart, was sort of perfect for us. Marriage isn’t hard yet, nor should it be. We’re still young and relatively unfettered by weighty responsibilities like property and child ownership. Our worries and arguments are rarely earth-shattering, and neither of us has secretly begun to wonder if the other would ever consider some minor cosmetic surgery, you know, just around the eyes. Why shouldn’t we honor that by feeling relaxed enough to have separate dinners and meet up later in a drunken group? This year already felt special just by virtue of being the first! Let’s not shoot our wad so early that we can’t make the future decades feel exceptional, too. Hooray for us! Hurrah for the Schwajaks! We are a modern couple with new ideals! We are confident and capable of a self-awareness and perspective on our lives which suggests a maturity far beyond our years! We are sometimes only okay at planning! And that’s okay!

Oh, also, we’re going to Paris in March when the weather is a little warmer. Perhaps I ought to have mentioned that.

Huzzah!

It’s a Hannukah Miracle!

I’m back! Soon I will come up with a delightfully entertaining excuse for my three month lapse in blogging, and you will love it and, consequently, me again.

Oh hi! I lurve you.

But today I want you to set aside my personal failure while I take a moment to wish you all a very happy Hanukkah!

I bought some of you presents. Some of you have made agreements with me to forgo a gift exchange, which makes me like you more than I like most people in general. The rest of you may cherish our friendship and my return to your computer screen, which is not nothing. Or at least, not entirely.

A great deal is unknown or misunderstood about the Jewish version of Christmas. And I’m here to help, because while many people undervalue it, Chanukah has always been a favorite of mine.

Hanukah is a festival of lights to celebrate the fact that a little bit of oil lasted for eight craaaaaazy nights. Some Greeks and/or Romans was attacking us Jews, as they always is. And we were hiding, because come on. And then there was some fighting, too. There were the great Maccabees and Queen Esther and King Hamentashen. Three bears. Goldilocks woke up. Miracle! This all took place way long ago, but very close to the time of year when Jesus was born and/or died, which means we get to do some pretty fun stuff while everyone else goes a-wassailing, and most stores will devote at least one shelf to desirable items like giant plastic dreidels filled with chocolate gelt. Double miracle!

Gelt is super because it never goes bad, and unlike real coins there are no dates stamped on the back. That's lucky for stores. They never have to restock or throw any away at the end of the year! See you in 2020, gelt!

Channukkah is fun because nobody knows how to spell it. Also, it is a word easily blended with the names of other religious holidays, in the manner of Christmukkah and Kwanzaakkuh, making for adorably quirky party invitations and seasonal television programming.

Finally, to commemorate the thing with the oil, we fry potato pancakes on top of the stove so that our clothing and hair become soaked with grease, and we all smell like a diner at 3am.

The End.

Happy Channuukkaah everybody!

I’m not a girl, not yet a hopelessly lame woman

Last weekend, we and some friends wound up at a pub on the Upper West Side. Those of you who are NYC locals, you know the type. You know that place that always smells like vomit from the curb after 11pm? Well, it’s a notch more respectable than that, so let’s just say we were probably the only people in the place who weren’t affected by some form of the dread Bieber f(i)ever.

Children, look away. This is one of the first documented cases of full-blown BiebFev. Photo reprinted with permission from the CDC.

Two of my girlfriends, let’s call them J. and N., decided they wanted to partake in the beer pong tournament that was going on in the back of the pub (I told you it was a young crowd). So, in order to convincingly relate to the youth, they gave themselves aliases. J. and N. were now Rutgers coeds Sally and Tish (this name choice should signal to all exactly how in touch they are with Generation TXT), in the Big Apple for the summer with internships in publishing (a glamorous selection indeed). At first, this was hilarious. But it didn’t take long for a few key facts to reveal themselves:

1. Their opposing team was 19 years old (bouncer, for shame).

2. Said 19-year-olds were very, very drunk. Do you remember how you acted when you were drunk and 19? It’s self-preservation that you do not.

3. Sally and Tish are a little rusty at beer pong, which placed them pretty evenly against the sloppy teenagers at the other end of the table.

Not surprisingly, the game stalled out after each team managed to hit about half their cups. One of the kids on the other team was much more concerned with a girl in a nearby group of friends, and when his teammate reminded him that they were still playing a game, he whipped around and publicly berated him for cock-blocking (except he used a cool Millennial term which I’ve never even heard, let alone remembered. Anyone?)

Maybe to amuse herself, maybe to make the game end, Sally decided to go for the big reveal and drop the “gotcha.”

“We’re really 28!” she crowed, beaming mischievously.

Long pause. Sneers of confusion and, ultimately, mild disgust.

“You’re old.”

No one is amused.

Tish, a little injured, a tad horrified, but hopeful to salvage their collective pride, piped in, “Well, we’re accomplished!”

The boys, unimpressed, point out that they have no knowledge of any alleged accomplishments, nor do they care to learn. They’re pissed they wasted twenty minutes on a couple of old women who, now that they look a little closer, are both wearing engagement rings. Newfangled-term-for-cock-blocked indeed.

Now that's an old-fashioned cock-block. Get it? Cause he's a rooster? Get--forget it. Kids today. Tsk tsk, I say I say.

So, I’m not pretending that 28 is elderly, and no, I’m not about to say that getting married = aging out, but let’s call a spade a spade. Marital status aside, we old. I’m not sure when and how this happened, but there it is. We don’t even know how to pretend to be 19 anymore, not that I really want to be 19 again.

Much.

I’m not down for the count yet, though. No, I didn’t want to play beer pong with college sophomores. And yes, I find the occasional gray hair (oh, god) and have to work a little harder at the gym to keep it all together. But I can still throw down and remain among the last old ladies standing. And I totally still resort to peer pressure to get my friends to keep drinking with me. That makes me young and cool, right? Are peer pressure and drinking still cool?

Unfortunately, all of this pales in comparison to the joy I felt the following day, when Matt and I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and got storage containers for our extra linens. We came home and were able to clear away the piles that had been gathering with no home, and I danced around the apartment, ecstatically placing sachets in closets and boxes. I happily unpackaged my new digital food scale, obsessively weighing every food item in our kitchen.

“Matt! Matt! This cup of melon weighs 4.2 ounces!”

“That’s…good?”

“Yep,” I said, moving on to the smoked turkey, dizzy with glee.

Matt looked at me for a little while. “Does this, uh, will this serve some other purpose for you?”

I gave him a withering look while I considered the question. Ultimately, I’m not sure why I need to know that I put 2 ounces of deli meat in my salad, or that my cookie weighs 1.6 ounces. But I do. I know that much. “Yes,” I said cheerfully, and began to position a tomato on the scale. I forget now what it weighed, but I’ll tell you that I was thrilled to find out then. Thrilled.

I honestly can’t imagine a Twilight doll or a lava lamp or whatever the tweens are into these days being a better toy.

Oh! And we have new towels. They are soft and fuzzy, but not too fuzzy, and I didn’t even realize it at the time we bought them, but they match our shower curtain perfectly! Isn’t life good? I may be old, but people who can’t appreciate a new towel and a food scale and well-stored linens and a seafresh-something-or-other sachet are just plain missing out.

And yet, as I write this, it is 12:30 AM on a Tuesday and my husband is still out drinking. I am up for absolutely no reason at all, but I am taking this time to update my blog, a decidedly trendipoo hobby. Plus, I have yet to use wrinkle cream with any regularity or conviction (though I’ve been gravely warned against this cavalier attitude). So, I guess we’re not quite at our height of fogue*, either.                                                                                                                                           *That’s the noun for fogey. I made it up because I am forward-thinking and FTD.**                                                                                                                                          **That means “Fresh to Death.” Did you know that? I did, and I used it in a sentence.

Where does that leave us? And for how long? Do we have to pick a side? Because as much as I still love binge-drinking, eating pizza at 4:00 AM and frittering my money away on shortsighted crap (NOT referring to my food scale), I’m ultimately going to have to pick the team with fresh laundry, a clean bathroom, and an apartment where it’s safe to take off one’s shoes.

I hope — and I’m pretty convinced — that I can straddle these two worlds for at least a few years longer, or until my organs begin systematic shutdown. At 30, perhaps I’ll need to reassess. But for now, I’m comfortably in limbo, and I plan to chill here for a while. So I think I’ll just grab one of my very lovely new Riedel glasses, pour myself some $8 wine, and settle in for a few episodes of South Park before bed.

Welcome to my darling and well-stocked kitchen! Pour yourself a stemless glass from the jug and kick off your loafers so that you may enjoy my pristine floors. Dinner will be ready in just a jiff. I hope you like cheeseproduct!

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On falling off the wagon (no, not that one, I was never on that one)

Let’s play a game. It’s called: List the diets you have tried at some point in your life. I’ll go first:

  • Calorie counting (Endless possibilities, never goes out of style.)
  • Atkins (Lasted 4 days before I caved and ate a salad. I have never craved roughage so badly in my life.)
  • Grapefruit diet (Eat 2 grapefruits a day? A grapefruit for breakfast? I have no memory of what this was, only that it was as awful as it sounds.)
  • Special K diet (As it turns out, a “serving” of Special K cereal could pretty much fit in the palm of my hand. No shit you lose weight. See above: calorie counting.)
  • Slim Fast (A shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, eat your own foot out of boredom and desperation, and a sensible dinner!)
  • Peanut butter diet (No joke, you eat a tablespoon of peanut butter in between meals. As it turns out, food is an amazing appetite-suppressant!  Side note here: has anyone heard of “fullbar”? Where you eat a bar before you eat a meal and it makes you eat less at that meal because you have already eaten something? I mean, by that logic, everything is a “fullbar,” from a banana to an ice cream cone to any other snack bar by any other company. Someone, somewhere, is making actual money off of this. )
  • Cabbage soup diet (Had to be quarantined and colon very nearly exploded.)
  • Ephedrine diet pills (Starring me, in my very own version of the Jessie Spano caffeine pill freakout scene. Classic.)
  • Weight Watchers Core (I wound up eating an absurd amount of fat free cheese products and probably shaved a few years off my life in the process.)
  • Weight Watchers Points (It works, except for when I cheat all the time.)
  • Drunkorexia (This worked in college. Since then, attempting it has pretty much consistently led me to get uncontrollably hammered, inevitably ending in a 3AM pizza-binge followed by deep, deep regret.)
  • The Master Cleanse (Within 3 days, I was on the edge of madness. A bunch of really TMI stuff happened vis-a-vis the bathroom, from which I will spare you. After 10 days, I nearly cried when I took my first bite of dressing-free lettuce. A week after that, I’d gained back every ounce. Damn you, Oprah! I ought make you drink all that laxative tea I bought. That shit was expensive. Literally! Ha ha.)
  • And untold others far more fleeting even to remember, not to mention the smattering of mostly harmless and crashingly unsuccessful flirtations with your more run-of-the-mill eating disorders, as is the rite of passage of any good Westchester Jewish girl.

Actually, now that I’m rereading what I wrote, this list is way more hilariously tragic than I’d realized. There is a terrifying number of bullets up there. It’s like, a gory drive-by barrage of bullets. Especially when you consider the fact that the amount of time I’ve been truly, objectively, get-that-girl-a-pizza skinny probably accumulates to roughly six months out of my entire life.

 

Oh, goddamn it, now I want pizza.

Luckily, or rather, totally deliberately, several of those months occurred leading up to my wedding. It was always my plan and my hope that I would get in great shape and wear a smoking hot, form fitting gown. And for all the times I’d tried and failed to lose weight, or lost and then gained it back in 5 minutes, I knew I HAD to try harder for this singular event in my life. I mean, this is my WEDDING. These are photos I’ll look back on forever, and a dress I’ll only wear once! This is a day I’d fantasized about for years, and that fantasy always involved looking just fucking amazing. Call it superficial, call it shortsighted, but there is an army of angry, hungry, determined bride-orexics who can back me up on this one. The pizza could wait (Shhh, my darling, patience. You know I’d never leave you for good). There was work to be done and there was no time to slack. And you know what? I did it! I did the work and I ate mountains of tofu shirataki noodles and I didn’t starve myself but I did make it back to college-thin and I looked pretty darn good, if I may say. What I really wanted was this:

 

Person 1: Hey gang, didn't Nina look great at her wedding? People 2-4: Hm, I don't know. I thought she looked too skinny. People 5-7: I disagree, she looked terrific. {general murmuring, rutabega rutabega}

So there was that. And then it was done, and I was so sure I was going to keep the weight off for the first time in my life. I wasn’t going to let that hard work go to waste. Plus, I had just bought a whole bunch of new clothes for the honeymoon and to celebrate my awesome bridal body! I was going to stick to my hard won good habits for as long as I could. As it turns out, that number is approximately 15 hours. Upon arriving at the terminal for our flight to Argentina, I beelined it to an airport bar and ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a beer. I mean, I was on my honeymoon! I was a newlywed! I DESERVED it. And all married people let themselves go a little, right? Well, as they say, there’s no time like the present. And as they also say, a cheeseburger in the hand is worth two…in the…not…

The point is, I blew it, and I did it quick. Almost pathologically so. So quick, unfortunately, that I didn’t make the most delicious choice I could have. On the other hand, it was phenomenally greasy and fatty. And revelatory. Before the guilt had time to settle into my arteries, I realized that to attempt to maintain my wedding diet on my honeymoon—in the land of beef and wine, no less—would be both foolhardy and regrettable. So I lived it up. Ate enough chorizo and steak to last me a lifetime, and built my alcohol tolerance back up to its rightful place.

Besides, I had just worked my ass off for months. Two weeks in Argentina could hardly set me back for long. And it’s true, it didn’t. What set me back was the month post-honeymoon during which I pretended I’d never ever belonged to a gym. Also, the countless dinners out to welcome us home, during which I made excellent use of my newly redeveloped hollow leg. Not to mention the “meh, I’m married” response to most extremely momentary moments of pause at the eatey end of a forkful of pasta/cake/pizza/pizza/pizza.

Should I feel badly for Matt? It’s only been six months, and his slender bride is now…well…she’s a lot more fun, for starters. She can also beat him in an eating contest any day of the week. And really, the girl with whom he fell in love at the heady age of 19 was already a veteran yo yo dieter. I’m not letting myself go. I’m picking myself back up where I left off.

Sorry, there’s no uplifting life lesson or moment of clarity here. I’m not really going to learn anything or evolve or gain any deeper insights into my relationship with food. Now pass me that cheesecake, it’s time for my fullbar.

q.e.d.

 

 

 

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What’s in a name? Oy veys mir, don’t get me started.

*Disclaimer: No offense, Dad.

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve given up my given name. I dove right into the name-change process, and I am now legally, officially, irrevocably (kinda) Nina Anne Pajak.

I like it. I’m getting used to it. It’s got a much more powerful punch than my old name. It’s got a P, which is snappy, and it ends in a K, which is strong. And in South America, the J is pronounced as an H, which is both adorable and fun to say. Paaaah-hak. In other countries, it’s pronounced as a Y, so you know, we’ve got a lot of options.

I’ve always envied those with consonant-driven names. Nina Schwartz always sounded sort of shapeless in my mouth — I used to have to take a drink of water and do facial muscle-warming exercises before enunciating it over the phone, and even then I often found myself slurring through it, mainly induced by the stress of worrying that I was about to slur through my own name.

Perhaps I’ve just opened your window into my neuroses a smidgen too wide…

And not to join the legion of self-hating Jews out there, but let’s be real. As much as so many of my sisters have eagerly paid (through the nose? Ha ha.) to lop off their well-endowed nasal birthrights, we Jewish girls also seldom shed tears at the thought of losing our old lady, easily ethnically identifiable last names. I don’t mean to sound overly critical, but just think about it in this context for a moment: before I was born, someone who shall remain anonymous suggested that I be named Frieda. Now picture Frieda Schwartz. It’s a pretty straightforward image, isn’t it?

This isn't actually Frieda Schwartz. To be honest, when I google image searched the name, all I got were photos of headstones and groups gathered in the Yahrzeit. Too dark for this blog.

But fine, I’ll admit it — my name was never so bad. It’s not like I was ever teased about it or anything (of course, there was much more obvious material to be mined by my peers, as evidenced in my previous post).

I never had any unflattering nicknames, and it didn’t rhyme with anything anatomical, sexual, or scatological. The worst anyone ever came up with was “FAO Schwartz” (different spelling, and, um, that would be awesome) or “Bermuda Schwartz,” which was really more stupid than annoying. And as a matter of fact, I voluntarily used it in my byline once, as I was writing about actual Bermuda shorts. I mean, how often does that happen? Now that I think about it, I kind of love the idea of Bermuda Schwartz as an alter ego. I’m a laid-back, tough-talking, jaded island cop who busts drug dealers and kidnappers each week and has been known to put ice cubes in her white wine. I’m totally unapologetic and I just won’t play by the rules, but my sidekick, Seersucker Jones, keeps me in line. Plus, I totally love smoked fish on a bagel (which is pretty impossible to find in the Caribbean) and he totally doesn’t get it, but it’s okay because it’s a cultural thing and you kind of have to grow up with it to appreciate it. Don’t even get him started on gefilte fish.

 

I keep telling him with a name like his, he can lose the getup. Then again, he looks pretty spiff. That's his chicken, Parmigiana.

Really though, this whole name change thing is very trippy, and I’m having a little trouble getting used to it. It’s like a bureaucratic out-of-body experience.  And since I’d always just assumed I’d ditch Schwartz one day, I didn’t really give it quite as much thought as it merits. That was my name for 27 years, and now it just isn’t. I meet people every week who will never even know that Nina Schwartz existed.

And who is this Nina Pajak, anyway? Who is this Semitic-looking girl with a Polish last name (which, evidently, also sounds Indian)? My background is not exactly a closely-guarded secret, regardless of my name, but I find it a little weird that other Jewish people can’t necessarily immediately identify me as one of the tribe. There’s something extremely nerdy in me that misses that obvious association, that understood (if ultimately tenuous) alliance. So, faced with a sort of cultural whitewashing, I think I’m finding myself playing up my Jewishness to strangers. Not in any religious sense, god no. But the New York Jew in me is cutting a pretty high profile lately. My Westchester accent comes out in full force (how tall is the wall in the mall? Is it very, very tall?), I make an excessive number of Jewish jokes, I’m way more anxious, paranoid and pessimistic than ever, I try and break out the few Yiddish words I know as often as possible, and I’ve been known to wax endlessly nostalgic about things like brisket and chopped liver. A dish I would never have dreamed of going near until very recently, because, I agree, ick. But also, omigod delish (that’s pronounced: duh-LISH).

If we’re going to get deep about it (and we are, because obviously I’ve found myself a standard-issue Jewish shrink with an office on the Upper West Side and a closet full of peasant skirts), it’s as though I’m completely exaggerating the identity which I so heedlessly abandoned in some sort of last-ditch effort to rescue her from deletion. So basically, this whole thing completely backfired. Instead of being cooler-than-before Nina Pajak, I am now the dorkiest version of Nina Schwartz who has ever existed. I’ve created a monster, and she genuinely worries that you could put your eye out playing baseball. Because you COULD.

I guess it’s no surprise, in retrospect, that I’d adapt by subconsciously exerting my heritage onto the Pajak name and my new wifey self. Especially knowing that one day we’ll have little Pajak children, and they’ll never know what it’s like to be automatically teamed up with every Jewish kid from the Northeast whether they like it or not. Plus, they’ve got a 50/50 shot at turning out to be athletic, in which case they may never truly understand the adversity from whence they came. Then again, I’m probably getting ahead of myself. We haven’t even gotten to the point where Matt will agree to get a dawg. Ahem, I’m sorry, I mean dog. Must run, I left the kishkes in the oven!

 

Evidently, this is a kishke. Now I'm not entirely sure they even go in the oven, but there you have it. I guess I'm not as far gone as I feared.

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Shame on me.

Oh, dear. Dear, dear me. I haven’t posted in two months! This is terrible and shameful. I started something, I pulled you in, I got you involved, and then I just abandoned it. Or, well, paused it. Left you in the lurch. Left you on the corner in the rain. Left you with a roast in the oven and a bottle of cab decanting on the table. Oh wait, no, I’m quite sure I took the wine. Sorry, but I wouldn’t have left the wine (ref: fig. 1).

Fig. 1

But listen, it’s not like I MEANT to abandon anybody. You were always on my mind. I kept meaning to write, honest. It’s just that things get so busy! Soooooo beeeesy! There was the…hm. And that…well. Yes. Huh.

Awkward.

It just doesn't get any more awkward.

Okay? I can’t believe I posted that. Now you know how sorry I am, how shameful I feel. There you go. You’re welcome. Thanks a lot, Mom, for going along with the whole bangs decision. Could nobody have let me in on the fact that there are people whose entire lives are dedicated to eyebrow-depilation? Can we please put this behind us and move on?

Oh, great. Seriously, this is so great. I love you, too.

See? Marriage is all about patience and understanding. I’m so goddamn good at this shit! I’ve realized something, though, and this may somewhat explain my past two months of silence. The fact is that being married can be a bit…slow placid. Wedding: done. Honeymoon: done. Gifts: received, thank you’s: sent. Apartment: found, moved, furnished. I know I’ve touched on this, but what I’m talking about is not the same as post-nuptial depression. It’s not depression at all. Quite the contrary: it’s lovely. I’ve never felt so secure, so stable, so sure of myself and my future. But the thing is, it’s forever. Until death, in fact. So, basically, there’s no hurry. Nothing needs to happen right now. We have successfully progressed together, and now it’s life on the plateau for a little while. Which, in all honestly, I love. Unfortunately for all of us, I have a lazy, complacent, obese monster living inside of me. She is extremely fond of salami and cheese sandwiches and this one time? They had to cut the couch in half because it had fused to her thighs, which were covered in a thick layer of orange snack food product dust. It’s not a pretty image, I know, believe me. I rarely lose control of her. In fact, only one known picture exists:

She's losing and growing hair in ALL the wrong places

Being married has fed her while I wasn’t looking, and things got a little out of hand. The more settled I felt, the stronger she became. The stronger she became, the more episodes of Law & Order she discovered on cable. I won’t lie — it got ugly. But I’ve awoken to the situation and I won’t let it happen any longer. I’m back, and I vow to be both married AND productive.

Note to self: Do not become housewife.

Sidenote: do you know what comes up when you google image search "housewife?" People are sick.

From the Baltic Sea, suburban vikings emerge

This weekend, we took a day trip to Scandinavia, a mythical and confounding area. On our way, we saw a great many things. It was an unexpectedly long and arduous journey, one that took us through parts of New Jersey by all accounts uninhabitable by man. We discovered the little-known nexus where much of the nation’s Vietnamese population has settled and dines on aw-tentic Italian pizza with la famiglia at their side-by-side-by-side (by-side) 99¢ ceramic tile wholesale emporiums. And me without my grouting gun.

We passed yards filled with beheaded, truck-less trailers, lined up and waiting to be filled with all manner of exotic trades — rich spices, fine silks, live chickens, discount tiling — and to be subsequently overturned on the L.I.E., because I’m pretty sure that’s all radio traffic reporters report.

Finally, after many weeks of driving, we came upon it. In an unfriendly land which smelled strongly of feet and fetid air conditioner filters, it towered before us over the vast fields of oil pumps and belching refinery smokestacks. Blue. Yellow. White. The pure and not at all foreboding colors of the majestic, the pristine, the magical Sweden.

Ah, Sweden. The land of breathtaking fjords, enormous blond people, and various herring preparations.

I’m pretty sure the actual country very closely resembles what we experienced and I feel confident that I can cross this one off my list of “1,001 places to go before I get so bored I buy that stupid book.” If I’m correct, I can tell you that Sweden is extremely clean, very well lit, and is composed of an endless maze of furniture showrooms which highlight how very much you can do to optimize a small space. Most items are made of pressed particleboard, but they look and feel like real wood! Even the trees! There is an inordinate number of pregnant women who make up the population, and even more babies and toddlers. Unfortunately, I observed the Swedish childhood to be a rather unhappy one, as most young people appeared to be in a constant state of crying, screaming, crying and screaming, or attempting to flee their parents’ clutches once and for all. So, not a great place to raise a family.

At first, I was completely overwhelmed and confused. Where do we purchase things? Why is this same bookshelf in another color all the way over here? What am I supposed to do with this golf pencil? Why does everything smell like meatballs? Of course, traveling in a foreign place is always trying. But, by the time we hit Mile 17: Ktchuëns, I had succumbed completely to the brainwashing tactics of the infamous Swedish totalitarian government. I was a Swedish Nationalist! Raise the flags, pass the Lutfisk, hand over the Fläskkorv, and also while you’re at it we should probably buy that lamp shaped like giant mushroom. It’s only $1.43! Also, we definitely need that bunk bed set. It’s 47 bucks! One day we’ll have a kid, and she’ll get older, and then we’ll have another kid, and then she’ll get older, and all of a sudden they’ll want bunk beds and we’ll be like, holy smokes bunk beds are expensive, we should never have passed up that crazy deal at Ikea. In fact, let’s get two. Here, okay, no, you can’t actually buy that one, just write it on this little piece of paper with this adorable little pencil and eventually someone will let us into the warehouse so we can retrieve them ourselves and carry it all on our backs. It’s just the way they do things here, quit being the Ugly American, you’re embarrassing me.

By the time we finished hauling our enormous boxes of flattened furniture through checkout, I was riding high. Sure, the bill added up, but we had just furnished our entire apartment and bought each of our neighbors couches for the cost of a really (really) nice dinner out! Matt, on the other hand, was thoroughly defeated, not to mention starving. He looked like a two-day-old Surströmming. I saw a girl walk past with a giant hot dog in her hand. I turned to him, bright eyed.

“Want a–” I began.

“Don’t…spend…any…more…money,” he growled.

“But…”

He shook his head gravely.

“But it’s just

“No.”

“It’s just a hot–“

“NO. I’m fine. I just need some fresh air.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Grouchy Lederhosen, once you exit through those blue and yellow doors, you’re back in Elizabeth, NJ and the air is about as fresh as Loki’s armpit, which I imagine to be pretty rank.

This dude was definitely not Sure.

So, with a car full of living room and our bellies empty of hot dogs, we made the long voyage back to the Upper West Side where we set about constructing our new furniture. From scratch. Because what we had bought essentially amounted to raw parts. So fine, we had to put a little elbow grease into it, and okay, yes, I may have lost part of my pinkie toe. But now Matt and I are practically licensed contractors! And who uses the pinkie toe anyway? Not me, not when I have a brand new table that seats 8 whole people with both legs and everything. Besides, it was probably my fault — I was trying to use part # 22507178 when the instructions clearly called for part # 22507179.

I mean, duh.

Oh well, live and learn. Or, as they say in my new naturalized country:

“Yorn desh born, der ritt de gitt der gue

Orn desh, dee born desh, de umn børk! børk! børk!”