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Friday, November 20, 2015


 A Word From the Weiss


Allegra and me at Women of the Year Awards.jpg

        Even with Hanukkah fast approaching, the life of a nice Jewish mom (well, this NJM, anyway) is hardly all about spinning dreidels. It’s full of drama, drudgery, an ever-present dread that someone in the family will get sick, or something else bad will happen, and the occasional chance to gloat that one of my kids has done something wonderful, like get into grad school, or land a new job, or suddenly remember that he or she has a mother.

       Glamour, though? Not so much. Usually not at all (not for this NJM, anyway).

       Last week, though, I got to leave all the drudgery, drama, and dread behind and get a rare, hefty dose of fun and glamour.

       Make that Glamour. Literally. Thanks to my daughter, who invited me to join her at a star-studded event involving Glamour magazine’s annual Women of the Year Awards.

Lena Dunham at Glamour Women of the Year Awards.jpg

       And when I say star-studded, I am not referring to mere Dancing With the Stars caliber stars. Recent past winners have included everyone from Barbra Streisand, Lena Dunham (pictured left), and Lady Gaga to human rights activist MalalaSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and both of the Taylors (no, not Elizabeth. I mean Schilling and Swift).

George and Amal Clooney.jpg

       Past years also had reportedly attracted attendees the likes of Hillary Clinton and George Clooney.

       Plus, this year’s event, the 25th annual installment, was to be hosted by the funniest woman of the year, maybe even funniest woman ever, Amy Schumer.


      Which only prompted me to ask Allegra whom she would be most excited about seeing – George Clooney… Amy Schumer… or Malala?

       Please don’t ask me how she had gotten invited to something so posh and glam. I pinky-swore I wouldn’t tell. Suffice it to say that someone she knows was involved with the event, and this person had not only offered Allegra a ticket, but also had said that she could bring along a "plus one" on this fabulous magic carpet ride.

       That’s where I came in.

       As golden an opportunity as this clearly was, I felt a little hesitant to accept at first. This hesitation wasn’t along the lines of believing I didn’t deserve it, in keeping with the typical nice Jewish mom’s penchant to insist on taking the messiest piece of pie. It was just that there was only one extra ticket, and had I not happened to have been in NYC on the Monday night that the event took place, that ticket would have gone to Kaitlin.

Kaitlin and Aidan.JPG

       I'm talking about Kaitlin, who is not just Allegra’s dear friend, but also my son’s wonderful fiancée. How could I possibly deprive her of a chance like that?

       I finally succumbed to the invitation only on the grounds that this would be an ideal thing to blog about (far more compelling than the usual drama and drudgery of my life); that it was arguably beshert that I would be in town on that particular night; and that if there’s one thing I cannot resist, its getting to trade in my usual dread that something bad will happen, or that someone will get sickand go out for a night on the town with my daughter.

       Yet that did little if anything to assuage my lingering sense of Jewish guilt.    

       I tell you this so that you will grasp that I approached these high-brow festivities with a mixture of crying-out-loud excitement and crippling shame. Also, so that you might be less inclined to judge my actions at the end, which were well-meaning, but ethically dubious.

This event was running on Jewish time.jpg

       Allegra told me to meet her at Carnegie Hall, where the event took place, at 6:30 because it began at 7. As I said, there would be all sorts of celebrities attending, and we hoped to get an eyeful.

       When we were ushered into our box seats on the first level of many balconies, though, we discovered that there were few people seated on the orchestra level yet. Rather, the place was almost empty. This event was evidently running on Jewish time.

       No matter. A pair of nice young women had just arrived in the box next to ours. “OK, let’s get this done before the place fills up,” declared one, reaching for my iPhone. “We’ll shoot you if you shoot us.”

Allegra at Glamour magazine event.JPG

       It made me glad that I had bought something new and glittery to wear the week before at my favorite store, Kimberly Boutique in West Hartford, CT. My sequined top might be a little too glam for my usual humdrumdrudgery-filled life. For Carnegie Hall, though? Perfect!

       I also took this opportunity to snap a picture of Allegra, who was looking pretty glam herself.

       Moments later, another pair of people arrived in our box, one of whom turned out to be another friend of our benefactor. I think his name was William. But since I am not sure, and I am keeping things on the down-low, I will call him "Fred."

Martha Stewart and Caitlyn Jenner.jpg

       Fred and Allegra proceeded to scour the growing audience and exclaim things like, “There’s Martha Stewart!” Or, “There’s Caitlyn Jenner!” Or, “There’s Ivanka Trump!”

       Of course, I had seen these people on TV and would recognize them anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. Even though we were in the first ring, and there were two or three rings even higher up, it was hard to make out their features from such a distance. Good thing that Allegra and William were there to point them out. I mean Allegra and “Fred.”

Caitlyn Jenner (in blue) in the distant crowd.jpg

       I don’t know who all of the other people at this shindig were, but every single seat in the place was soon taken, mostly by women, and all of them were dressed to the nines and beyond.

       Sadly, neither George nor Amal Clooney, appeared to be in evidence. Neither was MalalaNo matter. My celebrity sweet tooth was totally satisfied at the mere sight of pop singer Selina Gomez and Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss (both presenters, I would later discover) and actress Reese Witherspoon, one of this year’s honorees.

Jennifer Hudson singing at Glamour event.JPG

       And soon enough the lights went down and the proceedings were called to order.

       Singer Jennifer Hudson, from American Idol, soon took the stage to belt out a number from the show The Color Purple, in which she is currently making her Broadway debut.

      Then, after the requisite opening remarks, Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive hastened to introduce our mistress of ceremonies, the woman she called “my favorite trainwreck.”

Amy Schumer in Trainwreck.jpg

       “Hi, guys! I’m national treasure Amy Schumer!”announced the sassy comedienne, star and creator of last summer’s runaway hit Trainwreckstriding out in an uncharacteristically modest lipstick-red dress to welcome everyone to what was “the hottest ticket in town.”

Amy Schumer at the Glamour awards.jpg

       At least she’d been told it was the hottest ticket in town. “It is such an honor to be here,” said Ms. Schumer, whose image, like that of everyone else involved, was projected on a giant screen behind her. “I mean, that’s what Cindi told me before she told me I wasn’t getting paid.”

       She went on to note how out of character it was for her to be at such an event. Normally, she said, she was more inclined to make fun of women’s magazines instead, for printing articles like, “How to trick your stomach into thinking you ate that week,” or “How to make your pussy smell like a Christmas ornament.”

       At least I think that’s what she said.

       The New York Times would later report that the word she had used was “look,” not “smell.” When reporting this, The New York Times would not use that other word she had used. It would sanitize it to the extent of calling it “one’s private parts.” But this is NiceJewishMom.com, not The New York Times, and whether Ms. Schumer actually said “look” or “smell,” I hope I did not offend you with my otherwise accurate reporting.

Lupita Nyong'o.JPG

      I would also like to point out that The New York Times did not go on to give every last detail of the presentations that followed. And for the sake of brevity, neither will I.

      Suffice it to say that every famous person there to be honored was first introduced by someone equally if not even more famous. For example, dancer Misty Copeland, the first-ever African-American prima ballerina with the American Ballet Theater, was introduced by Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o of Ten Years a Slave.

Misty Copeland at Glamour event.JPG

      And Reese Witherspoon was served up by the original Reese Witherspoon (perky, petite blonde actress, that is), Goldie Hawn.

Madeleine Albright et al at Glamour event.JPG

       Ms. Gomez, also in red, was on hand to introduce an impressive group of former honorees including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, American Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, fashion icon Imanmodel Naomi Campbell, tennis legend Billie Jean King, and the world's No. 1-ranked tennis powerhouse, Serena Williams (whom I initially failed to recognize due to her ultra-glam glittery black dress and spike heels).

Serena Williams all glam at Glamour event.jpgSelina Gomez at Glamour event.JPG

       And the entire U.S. women’s soccer team (honored as “game changers” for having won the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history), were ushered to the stage by talk show host Seth Meyers, who joked about his own athletic prowess, or total lack thereof.

       “Not only would I lose to both Serena and Billie Jean King,” he self-deprecatingly confessed, “but I’m pretty sure I would go down in straight sets to Madeleine Albright.

Seth Meyers at Glamour event.JPG

       Then again, not everyone there to be saluted was what you might call a celebrity.

       In one of the evening’s most rousing moments, the entire crowd gave a standing ovation to a quartet of women from Charleston, South Carolina, all of whom had lost loved ones in the horrific massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Standing ovation for the Charleston women.JPG

       Elizabeth Holmes, the 31-year-old founder of the blood-testing business Theranos, was honored as a trailblazer and the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. (She spoke of the dire need for women to help other women, referencing Albright’s apparently historic remark that there’a special place in hell” for women who don’t.)

       And I must say that I thoroughly admire Glamour for having the chutzpah to defy any potential backlash by honoring Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood.

Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood.jpg


       “I want to thank my own mother, Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas,” Richards said. “She received this exact same award 24 years ago, and I just want to say thanks to all the mothers who encourage their daughters to do whatever – whatever – it is that they want to do.”

      As not only a mother myself, but a nice Jewish one, I'd like to say “amen” to that.

      Speaking of both controversy and backlash, the magazine incurred its fair share of both by honoring Caitlyn Jenner as a “Trans Champion” and Woman of the Year. During the following week, a man whose late wife had been the only female police officer to perish in the 9/11 attacks would choose to give her Glamour award back.

       "Was there no woman in America, or the rest of the world, more deserving than this man?" he wrote in a letter to the magazine that was later posted on Facebook.

       To this fellow, and anyone else who might question the choice, I would counter that Ms. Jenner’s acceptance speech proved to be a deeply moving testament to her evident decency and courage. (It could not have been easy for her to endure becoming a worldwide target of ridicule, not to mention the No. 1 Halloween costume of the year.)

Caitlyn Jenner at the Glamour awards.JPG

       In what were clearly heartfelt remarks, the 66-year-old described the torment of always sensing that her life was “not authentic” and having “never felt like I fit in anywhere.”   

       "I had many many, many years of isolation from the world, of lying to the world, of not being myself,” she said. It got to the point where she spent years hiding inside her house. Finally, she began to wonder, What am I going to do with my life? I've isolated and lied to myself and lied to the world for so longWhat am I going to do with my life?”

       Ultimately summoning the nerve to come out, said the former Olympian and reality show star, had not only given her new hope, but also a new sense of purpose.

       "Maybe this is why God put me on this earth -- to tell my story, to be authentic to myself about who I am," she began to speculate. "And maybe in doing that, maybe you can make a difference in the world. What a great opportunity in life to have. So few of us ever get to have that opportunity."

Reese Witherspoon was inspiring.JPG

      When it came to being inspirational, however, none of the honorees could quite rival Ms. Witherspoon, who closed the night with a stirring call to action for women everywhere.

      The Oscar-winning star of such film classics as Legally Blonde and Walk the Line had long ago tired of being offered scripts in which the female lead invariably turns to the (invariably male) hero in a crisis and gasps breathlessly, “What do we do now?”

       “What do we do now?” she repeated incredulously, in a derisively mocking tone. “Do you know any woman in any crisis who ever turns to a man and says, ‘What do we do now?’

Ambition is not a dirty word, Witherspoon said.JPG

       Convinced that “women are so much more complex than the ones we were seeing on film,” she decided to follow her own mother’s sage advice: “If you want somethin done, honey, do it yourself!” So she had started her own production company and begun to option and produce scripts with strong female protagonists, such as Wild and Gone Girl.   

        "I believe ambition is not a dirty word," Witherspoon asserted to the rapt audience. "It's believing in yourself and your abilities."

       In the end, she asserted, it was high time for all of us to combat the current “culture crisis” in this country, in which women in almost every field of endeavor are underrepresented and underpaid. This was one crisis in which it was appropropriate to ask, “What do we do now?”

       She urged everyone present to defy the limitations that others had imposed on them. “What is it in your life that someone told you you could not do?” she asked. “Wouldn’t it feel really good to prove them wrong and do it?”

There was a stampede down the stairs.JPG

       As I applauded emphatically with the rest of the crowd, I felt suddenly empowered. Indeed, there were so many things I wished I’d done. Or wished I could do. Couldn’t I -- shouldn't I -- try?

      But now was not the time to do anything but get up and rush out, Allegra advised me urgently. She had been tipped off that there would be fabulous goody bags given out, courtesy of Glamour and the event’s main sponsor, L’Oreal Paris. We had to make sure we each got one before the supply ran out.

There was a mountain of pink gift bags.jpg

       Indeed, as we were practically trampled in the stampede down the stairs, we spied mountain range of hot pink shopping bags emblazoned with the name of the magazine. Young staff members were distributing one to each guest as she left. As I claimed mine, clutching its white-ribboned handles, I felt euphoric, as though I had just triumphed over adversity or defied gravity.

       But the moment that we reached the sidewalk, I reconsidered my good fortune. I still felt guilty that I had preempted Kaitlin’s own chance for relishing this literal taste of glamour by accepting Allegra’s gracious invitation myself. Did I deserve this booty? Wouldn’t it help settle the score somewhat if I were able to bestow a bag on her too?

The bag was full of products from L'Oreal.JPG

       Allegra began to gush excitedly as she examined its precious contents, all from L’Oreal: an industrial-sized can of Elnett Satin Hairspray (the best ever, she exclaimed); Revitalift triple power moisturizer; Voluminous Super Star mascara and liquid eyeliner; Nutri-Gloss High Shine Glossing hair mist; and a lipstick in a color called Julianne Red.

       There’d been so many bags. Did I dare go back in and try to score a second one?   

       I know, I know. I simply could have given Kaitlin mine.

       But I’m a nice Jewish mom. Not a nice Jewish saint.

       So after it looked like almost everyone had exited, I slipped back in and, seeing that there were countless bags remaining, will admit that I sheepishly snagged another.

       Then I joined Allegra back on the sidewalk to await the appearance of her friend, the one who had given us this opportunity of a lifetime (but who shall remain nameless).

Zoe Kazan in the passing crowd.JPG


        While we waited, we gawked at the well-dressed and extremely glamorous crowd, hoping perchance to catch a glimmer of one of the famous celebrities exiting. The closest we came to stardom was spying gifted young actress Zoe Kazan, who has appeared in the movies It’s Complicated and Our Brand Is Crisis and the amazing HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge,and who has just been tapped to star in a new HBO comedy pilot to be directed by Lena Dunham.

Gayle King at the Glamour awards.jpg

       I also saw Oprah’s BFF Gayle King, co-anchor of CBS This Morning, hurrying past en route to the after-party at the Rainbow Room (to which we were, alas, not invited).

       At last, Allegra’s friend who shall remain nameless appeared, but after lighting up to see her, my face fell. Allegra had assured me her friend would get a bag of her own. She clearly had not, though. So I valiantly offered her my extra one. She was thrilled.

      But now I was squarely back in the guilt game. I had nothing to give to Kaitlin.

      And so, as much as I tremble to admit it, I dared to go back inside one more time.

There were plenty of gift bags left.jpg

      There were still gazillions of gift bags left. But at this point the lobby was almost deserted, and there were virtually no departing guests left inside to claim them.

       To my horror, a pair of women wandered in off the street at the same time I did and asked if they could each have a gift bag. One staff member waved them off, insisting that the bags were only for people who had just attended the event, and they, clearly, had not.

       Then another staffer explained that these women had been working at the event. So they were each allowed to take a bag, after all.

       That’s when I thought, to paraphrase Ms. Witherspoon, “What do I do now?”

       I didn't want to risk being affronted by one of the staff members. But I didn’t want to give up so easily either. So I just stood there awkwardly texting my husband on my phone, asking where he was. I realized I didn’t have the chutzpah to try to snag another bag. So after awhile, I decided to walk out.

       But as I did, one of the staff members handed me a bag, and I’ll admit that I took it.

Kaitlin loved getting the bag.jpg

       I didn’t feel good about taking it. No, I felt cheesy. But I felt very good about getting to give it to Kaitlin a few days later. And I can assure you that she was thrilled to have it.

       That may not make me one of Glamour’s Women of the Year. Or even nice Jewish mom of the year. But now that my night of glamour is over, and I’m back to the usual drama, drudgery, and dread, I’m glad that I took it, and almost feel entitled to gloat a bit about it.

Glamour goody bag.jpg

       No, didn’t see George Clooney. Or Malala. But I had an incredibly fun and inspiring night out on the town with my daughter, and I rememberethat I had a wonderful future daughter-in-law, too.

9:29 pm 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

5:47 pm 


A Word From the Weiss

With our kids (always a pleasure).jpg

      My apologies for not posting a word last week, but no matter how nice a Jewish mom you may be, you need to take a vacation now and then.

        The fact isthough, that I wasn’t entirely on vacation last week (unless you consider New Jersey to be a true vacation destination). I was just away with my husband for a few days, in both the so-called "Garden State” and NYC, spending some time with my kids (always a pleasure) and attending two very exciting events.

        Exciting and exclusive events about which I will tell you in the coming week or two.

Pattie with Latke last Hanukkah.jpg

        It will take me a few days to do that, though, as well as to catch up on the laundry and my holiday shopping. (Chanukah, which falls early this year, is now less than three weeks away!) So in the meanwhile, I want to tell you quickly about another highlight of my trip.

     Getting to be with my children, of course, was the undisputed highlight of my trip. But if there were a close second, it would probably be this.

     At some point, nearly every day while I was away, I made sure to give part of nearly every meal that I ate to some poor starving soul.

Jewish Mother and Other Jokes.jpg

     A posting on my site, listed among the Nice Jewish Mother and Other jokes, compares being Jewish to being "goyish" (Yiddish for non-Jewish) and states that it is Jewish to take doggy bags away from restaurants, but goyish to actually eat their contents. I’m not sure that's entirely true, even though I would venture that I throw away more than half the leftovers my husband invariably insists on carting home from restaurants. (Needless to say, little if any part of these doggy bags actually go to Latke, our dog.)

Latke rarely gets her paws on the doggy bag.jpg

       Even so, wcontinue to take away our leftovers because too many restaurants serve larger portions than anyone but a small elephant should eat, and I am forever watching my weight. Not to mention that I grew up being reminded on a fairly regular basis that there were people in India, Africa, and [fill in the blank] who were starving.

       Sadly, decades later, there are still too many people in India, Africa, and [fill in the blank] who are still starving, as well as far too many others far closer to home. It seems like a sacrilege to waste food.

       When we’re staying in a hotel, though, we can’realistically make good use of leftovers ourselves. Even if we could manage to cram them into our room’s mini fridge along with the teeny bottles of minibar booze, we’d have nowhere to reheat them. Or anyplace to eat them. No matter. I always have them packed up anyway.

       I don’t do this merely out of force of habit. I take them because there are so many homeless people everywhere. Hungry homeless people. At least there are in New York.

Too many homeless and hungry in New York.jpg

       You see them on the subway. You see them on the street. And for some reason, it seems like you see even more of them at this time of year, when the air begins to chill.

The Stan Rubin Orchestra at Swing 46.jpg


       One night, we went to see my son perform his weekly gig with the Stan Rubin Orchestra at Swing 46, which bills itself as NYC’s only “all swing” jazz and supper club. Aidan plays the bari sax in this lively joint every Wednesday night with SRO, a 16-piece big band that performs classic numbers by Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, et al.

      It’s always fun to make total fools of ourselves on the dance floor demonstrating our best version of swing dancing, which I will readily confess is absolutely dreadful at best. But before we dance, we always dine in lieu of meeting the required drink minimum on our bill.

Lynn dancing at Swing 46.jpg

    Fortunately, the food is not only fabulous there, but the portions are fairly generous. So generous that when it comes to the roast chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies I ordinarily order, I can eat no more than half.

       So after we left the club last Wednesday shortly after midnight, I carted my leftovers along. As late as it was, I'd barely gotten halfway down the block when I spied a bedraggled man proffering a paper cup,into which he entreated us to drop our spare change. When I forked over what I assured him was a perfectly good, untouched piece of chicken instead, he seemed unable to believe his good fortune.

        "Why, I'll take food over money any day," he declared.

Homeless man with cup.jpg

       Then he proceeded to do a joyful little jig on the sidewalk far better and more exhilarating to behold than anything my husband and I had exhibited on the dance floor.

      To guarantee that I had more provisions to offer during the rest of the week, I made sure to take something from breakfast dailyGood thing that our hotel, a Fairfield Inn & Suites in the Long Island City section of Queens, happens to offer a rather ample free breakfast.

Fairfield Inn Long Island City.jpg

       “Free,” of course, I fully realize, does not necessarily mean we were free to take away more of it than we were able consume on the spot.

      So you might say that the scrambled eggs, bagels, carton of yogurt, or pieces of fresh fruit I would slip into my tote bag after eating were arguably a form of stealing. I admit that I felt a little sheepish about making off with them.

      On the other hand, though, I knew that I was simply saving these items from the garbage. Having stayed regularly in this hotel, as well as several others like it, I have often been horrified to observe that the moment breakfast is over, any leftover food, which is often copious, is instantly and rather unceremoniously tossed in the trash by the kitchen staff.

They dump dozens of bagels in the trash.jpg

       At another nearby hotel, I’ve repeatedly seen several dozen perfectly good bagels and freshly baked pastries dumped directly into the garbage can. At first, I used to prevail upon the staff to give me some of these things to bring to a homeless shelter. But that required me to drive to a shelter as soon as I got home after the weekend. And the fact is that my life is very busy, and I often got very home late, and there aren’t any homeless shelters close to where I live.

      Still, throwing away that much food seems like a travesty to me. Or worse. I mean, seriously, why don’t they donate all this food to a food bank or homeless shelter somewhere? Hotels might not be able to feed these items to their guests the following day, but aren't there homeless people who'd be delighted to eat day-old bagels? Or even two-day old bagels?

       I’m a Jew. There’s hardly any bagel I would refuse to eat.

They dumped a whole pan of scrambled eggs.jpg

      As for the hotel at which we stayed last week, one morning I watched a staff member pour an enormous chafing dish full of hot scrambled eggs into the trash the moment that breakfast was over. It turned my stomach to see it. If only I had gotten to it first.

       After that, I had little compunction about making off with a few other items to distribute during the day.

        I got to hand a cup full of granola and small carton of milk to a weather-beaten man in an alley.

      I presented a buttered cinnamon raisin bagel and strawberry yogurt to a scarecrow of a fellow hunched over on the ground outside a subway entrance. Then there were the pair of hard-boiled eggs, English muffin and Granny Smith apple I offered to the hungry woman huddled against a doorstep.

Homeless and pregnant.jpg

       Meanwhile, I'm still feeling guilty about the rotund young woman holding a sign that read “Pregnant and hungry” whom I was obliged to hurry past shamefully one night because I had long since disseminated my booty for the day and we were running late

       It saddened me immeasurably to see all of these people in that sorry state. But it warmed my heart immeasurably to be able to provide what may have been the only morsels of food they’d eat that day that had never seen the inside of a dumpster.

Here's where the homeless have to

      By the way, being a nice Jewish mom, I didn’t just hand these people a plastic bag with a few scraps of food. I made sure there were utensils inside. Maybe even a napkin.

      I’m not urging everyone to become modern-day Robin Hoods by stealing from the rich (or large hotel chains) in order to bestow edible alms on the poor. The truth is that it would be somewhat more ethical to buy or prepare such handouts ourselves.

       Then again, it still sickens me to know that there are countless hotels and restaurants throwing away massive quantities of leftover food every day, rather than going through the trouble and red tape required to donate it to those in need.

Robin Hood.jpg

       I wish I had the time and wherewithal to create a service that would help facilitate this on a large-scale basis. Or even a small-scale basis. There are hundreds if not thousands of hotels in NYC, and G-d knows there are probably tens of thousands of homeless close by. Isn’t there some way to hook up these two sides of the hunger equation?

       Yet it’s not just about hotels and restaurants. According to the December issue of Consumer Reports, for every dollar Americans spend on food, they discard about 10 cents’ worth into the trash. That amounts to about $1,500 worth a year being dumped for a typical family of four. Now, thats a whole lot of eggs, bagels, and other good stuff.

       Stuff that the starving could eat.

Doggy bag.jpg

       So at the very least, I hope you’ll remember the needy during this season of giving thanks and in the year to come. It isn’t hard to take along a handout after you leave a hotel, restaurant, or your own home. And that kind of doggy bag isn’t Jewish. Or “goyish. It’s just human. And humane.              

5:44 pm 

Friday, November 6, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


Halloween 1990 Aidan, babyAllegra and me.jpg

      As any parent knows, raising children is a gradual process of learning to let go – let go of their hands, your heart, your dignity at times, but hopefully not your hopes.

       Letting go of the more challenging aspects  -- like helping with math homework and having to foot the bill for everything from bar and bat mitzvahs to college tuition  – can be liberating. Letting go of the fun stuff, though? Not so much.

        Especially when you’re a nice Jewish mom.

       I still miss getting to plan my kids’ birthday parties and help choose their clothes. But if there’s one thing that ranks way up there on the Venn diagram that mashes up motherhood and fun, it’s getting to help choose their Halloween costumes. And I would like to say that I miss that annual ritual. But truth be told – and it’s a dirty little secret, as truths go – I don’t truly miss that yet because I still make it my business to do it.

       Never mind that my kids left the house years ago and are both well into their 20s.

      Allow me to explain.

Venn Diagram of motherhood and fun.jpg

      About two months ago, in early September, I began to be barraged with emails offering me discounts on Halloween costumes. At the time, I was still grappling with the dreadful realization that it was Labor Day Weekend, and summer was regrettably over. About the last thing on my mind was Halloween, let alone how I would dress for it.

       But I knew in my heart of hearts, not to mention the mounting chill in my bones, that soon enough the leaves would begin to fall along with the temperature, and I’d soon be carving pumpkins and stocking up on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Junior Mints.

It would be time to stock up on Junior Mints.JPG

       I also knew that it was only a matter of time before I got a call from one or both of my kids asking if I had this or that lying around the house to help with their costumes.

witch's hats or hula skirts -- I have 'em.jpg

       The fact is that after celebrating Halloween in a pretty big way for many a decade – and being an incurable pack rat by nature – I do have both this AND that. Whatever you want, be it witch’s hat or hula skirt, if it has to do with a costume of some sort, I have it. And I am always happy to lend it. But I’m a little less happy to have to mail it overnight.

       I’m not casting any aspersions, mind you. My kids happen to be extremely busy people. Along with being a rising young jazz singer and songwriter, my daughter has a demanding day job. As for mson Aidan and his fiancée Kaitlin, they are both in the throes of getting their PhD’s in NYC and doing a whole lot of other important things. About the last thing on their minds is what to wear for Halloween. Until it’s Halloween.

They dressed as F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda.jpg

      Being extremely literate and literary people, what Aidan and Kaitlin generally want to be for Halloween is not something that you tend to find at the nearest Party City. The first year that they were dating, they dressed as F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.


       The following year, it was 19th-century Romantic English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (who wrote Ozymandiasand his novelist wife Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (author of Frankenstein).

Writer Mary Shelley.jpg

      What, you might ask, could they possibly wear to look like either of thShelleys? All I can tell you is that I looked it up, and I had all the necessary pieces in my closet.

Kaitlin and Aidan as the Shelleys.jpg

      In fact, I had so many options for Mrs. Shelley that Kaitlin was able to go to three different parties dressed as Mary Shelley and wear a totally different outfit to each one.

Kaitlin as Mary Shelley 2.jpg

       I would wager that she was by far the best Mary Shelley that anyone had ever seen. Or, to be more accurate, the best Mary Shelleys that anyone had ever seen. I couldn’t wait to see which dynamic literary duo they would choose to impersonate the following year.

      Shortly before October 31st, though, when I dared to ask, she told me that this time around they wanted to dress up as cats.

Jody and Wuftie.JPG

      This was no major surprise. Kaitlin and Aidan happen to have two lively feline companions, Jody and Wuftie, on which they both passionately dote. (Although in Aidan’s recently published book – a biography of rock legend Lou Reed – he was kind enough to thank his father, sister, and me in the acknowledgements section, in almost the same breath he also expressed gratitude to this demonic duo, “who sat patiently for untold hours listening to the Velvet Underground as they watched me write what eventually became this book.”)

Kaitlin as a cat for Halloween 2014.jpg

       No, the only surprising part was that, on impulse, I’d just happened to have purchased a sexy cat suit on clearance a few weeks earlier when I’d spied it on the shelf at Target. I immediately offered to mail it to Kaitlin, along with a pair of long furry tails left over from one of my husband’s college reunions at Princeton, where a tiger is the official mascot.

      You’ve heard of letting the cat out of the bag? Well, this was putting the cat into the box. And I was more than happy to do it, and even to shell out for the rush shipping.

       But this year, when I received those emails in early September offering deep discounts on Halloween garb, I decided it might be prudent to head them off at the pass. Why not be prepared in advance for once and save on the shipping and schlepping?

      So I looked at the options from Party City, Halloween Express, and Costumes.com. And that’s when I saw it – something I was certain would look incredibly cute on Kaitlin.

Flapper costume from Party City.jpg

      It wasn’t part of a literary coupleIt wasn’t a cat or animal of any kind. But it was kind of historic and classy, yet also sexy – for in the end isn’t that what grownup get-ups for Halloween are all about?

      What I saw was a fringed Roaring 20’s flapper dress, complete with a sequined and feathered headband, to which I figured I could add my own long knotted string of faux pearls.

Zoot suit costume.jpg

      As for Aidan, I thought the snazzy black pinstriped zoot suit I found, along with a matching fedora and big fat fake cigar, would suit the jazz musician in him just fine.

       I ordered these items and soon handed them over with the proviso that I knew they hadn’t asked for them, so if they didn’t like them or want them I would gladly return them, no offense taken or questions asked.

       But Kaitlin tried hers on and loved it and said that they would keep them, after all.

    Meanwhile, while perusing the offerings online, I also had noticed an amusing couple’s costume. It also wasn't a literary duo. Nor was it animal or vegetable. Well, maybe it was kind of animal. It consisted of bacon and eggs.

      G-d knows I didn’t want to be bacon.

      And I didn’really want to be eggs.

Two hot dogs on Halloween 2014.JPG

      But I didn’t want my husband to be a hot dog again for the third year in a row. And I didn’t want to have to dress up as his sidekick, a sassdiner waitress, again either. I prefer doing something new and different every year, and I hadn’t liked that silly hot dog suit in the first place.

Pattie as diner waitress 2014.JPG

      So I showed him the bacon and eggs.

      My husband, I must admit, is mad about bacontrayf though it may be.

      “Get that!” he cried emphatically.

       So I did.

       But when these outfits arrived, he was not all that impressed.

       He did not want to be bacon.

       He did not want to be eggs.

       He just really wanted to be the hot dog again. ("My costume has a first name. It's O-S-C-A-R...?") 

      So I promised to return those costumesAnd I meant to do it. I really did. But instead got busy, and simply put them in the basement and forgot the whole thing. Until last week, that is, when my daughter and her boyfriend JP came to visit.

      They are also both very busy people and were still debating what to wear for Halloween.

Allegra and JP.JPGAllegra (center) as Carmen Miranda.jpg

      Allegra began searching her closet for various old get-ups – the sexy Carmen Miranda suit she wore a couple of years back, and the even sexier Cleopatra outfit from who knows when.

      But the fact is that she also shuns reruns and hand-me-downs for Halloween. She prefers to do something new and different each year.

      That’s when it hit me.

Bacon and eggs couple's costume.jpg

      JP happens to love bacon too. And so I told them. “Have I got a costume (or two) for you!”

       They took one look and had no doubt. It was love at first bite... er, sight.

       Now, I just had to dissuade my husband from dragging out his wiener yet again (so to speak).

      So back to Party City we went, where he found an odd orange mask and flashing sequined hat. I don’t quite know what the heck he was in them, but at least it didn’t involve mustard or buns.

      I still had no idea what I would wear myself, but I figured I would eventually think of something. After all, we have our own Halloween tradition going back several years.

      It all started when we discovered that our good friends Sally and Dial live in such a remote location that they had never had a single trick-or-treater come to their door. We tend to get a steady stream of them and we always get into the spirit of things by dressing up to pass out candy to them. So we invited them to come over that night, on the condition that they dress up too.

Sally and Dial Halloween 2010.jpg

       Sally came decked out in a big orange pumpkin suit that she’d apparently fished out of a dumpster at her son’s college when he was packing up after graduation.

       I have since lost count as to how many years they've been joining us now, but every single year she wears the pumpkin suit again… unless Dial putit on instead.

       We also collaborate on making a festive holiday dinner including something ghoulish (although not goulash). Two years ago, by chance, we both made the same mozzarella cheese eyeballs. There are only so many eyeballs that anyone wants to eat. Ever since, we have made sure to compare notes beforehand.

Sally and I made the same eyeball hors d'oeuvres.JPG

       This year, our friends Rafi and Lois admitted that they, too, had never received a single trick-or-treater at their place. So we insisted that they join us too... on the condition that they also come dressed up in some fashion.

       That’s when Lois asked if I possibly had a spare witch’s hat I could lend her.

       Didn't she know who she was talking to? I mean, couldn’t she come up with something a bit more challenging? That was like asking Zabar’s if they might have a bagel lying around.

       Meanwhile, I learned that Aidan and Kaitlin had a short break from school and were flying down to Miami Beach to visit some good friends for the weekend. But they assured me that they planned to bring their costumes along with them.

German bar maid and man costumes.JPG

       So they were fixed in terms of both fun and fashion. Yet it was now the night before Halloween and I still had nothing to wear. So I started perusing the costumes from Party City online again, just for inspiration. The one that caught my eye was a German barmaid’s outfit. I had a skirt in my closet that looked a lot like that one, and my husband had a beer stein Allegra had once bought him on a trip to Berlin.

Pattie as Viking bar maid.jpg

       Then there was the horned Viking hat in the basement, left over from… well,something. I don’t know what a Viking hat had to do with a German barmaid. But somehow it all just worked.

       Sally said that she was bringing a cauliflower “brain” dripping with red food coloring “blood” and filled with green guacamole guts. Phew! That would in no way conflict with the cheese-stick fingers I had prepared, nor my newest creation, creepy meatball eyeballs.

Meatball eyeballs and cheese stick fingers.JPGCauliflower brains dip for Halloween.jpg

       After preparing a small feast of other dishes, both trayf and otherwise, I decided to add one more thing.

       This one wasn't animal. It was vegetable.

       I made the mash. I made the Monster Mash!

       Speaking of vegetables, it turned out to be Sally’s turn to sport the pumpkin suit this year. I think Dial was... what? A flower child?

The Monster Mash.JPGI made the Monster Mash!.jpg

      My witch’s hat turned out to be the crowning glory for Lois’s witchy wear.

      And Rafi arrived dressed as a coach.

Dial and Sally in her pumpkin suit.jpg

     I still don’t know what the heck my husband was, but at least he wasn’t the hot dog.

      And so, not to make him feel bad, I retired Latke’s hot dog suit, too. This year, she was a wicked little witch.

My Halloween decorations 2015.JPGRafi and Lois dressed up too.jpgLatke as a wicked little witch.jpg

      My heart sank a little when I checkeFacebook soon after we sat down to eat and saw that Aidan and Kaitlin had posted pictures of themselves out to dinner with friends in Miami, and they were dressed in their normal clothes.

      Oh, well. I'd tried. At least those Roaring 20s costumes were timeless, unlike many of this year's top choices, like Donald Trump. Maybe they could wear them next year.

       But Allegra and JP soon posted photos too, and they seemed to be having a great time. We have always called Allegra "Leg" for short, but JP prefers to call her “Legs.” And so they’d decided to dub themselves Bacon and Leggs.

Donald Trump was hot... as a Halloween mask.jpg


Allegra and JP as Bacon and L'Eggs.jpg

They looked so amazing that my husband said we should have worn those outfits ourselves. He was sorry I’d given them away. But being a nice Jewish mom, I wasn’t.

       And then as I was serving dessert, a text message arrived from Kaitlin. She and Aidan had evidently changed after dinner.

Aidan and Kaitlin in their Roaring 20s costumes.jpg

       There he was in gangsta garb, mugging for the camera with that big fat fake cigar. And she looked adorable in her flapper dress.

Aidan in zoot suit with fake cigar.jpg

      I must say, they were the best Roaring 20s couple I had ever seen.

      I know. I know. They’re getting married next summer, and soon after he will turn 30. Maybe it’s time for me to finally let go of this little pleasure too. From now on, I should let him choose his own Halloween costume. Or let his wife-to-be get one for him.

Lois Sally and me on Halloween.jpg

      Besides, I now have a new tradition to uphold, or maybe just an expanded old one. I assume that Lois and Rafi will be joining us from now on, and maybe I can help dress them.

It's time to dump his wiener costume.JPGHarlan and me on Halloween 2015.jpg

       I also still have my work cut out for me with my husband. Maybe we'll decide to reclaim the bacon and eggs for next year. Or maybe we'll come up with something a little more kosher (and more kosher than Donald Trump). But if I can finally learn to let go, then I think it's high time for him to let go of his weiner for good at last.      

9:48 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.