Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

Yenta Gets Educated

In Career on April 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Yeshiva boys photographed by Margaret Bourke White

As many of you have noticed, the frequency of advice giving has waned over the past year.

This was due to a serious Torah intake, and a revitalization of the information Yours Truly has to offer.

As the Jewish Education of Your 29-Year-Old Yenta continues, watch for workshops like this one in your area.

Keep your eyes peeled, post Yenta sabatical, for a bigger, badder, and more Jewish voice to come.

Sex And OCD

In Dating, Health and Body, Mental Health, Sex on April 20, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Redefining fun, one move at a time.

Hi Yenta,

I have been with my boyfriend for nearly a year now, and it is better than I ever imagined a relationship could be. We live together, we have a cat, and we are both very happy. The problem is this: my OCD makes any type of sex impossible.

We are plenty intimate – we mostly pleasure each other by mutual masturbation – but I can’t even bear to be completely naked with him when we do this for fear of fluids. He is very patient and understanding, but I worry about how long that will last.

He wants to spend the rest of his life with me, but there is a very real possibility that it will be a very long time – if ever – before I am able to have sex, and I am afraid that he will eventually start to resent me for it. Is it possible to have a lasting romantic relationship without sex?

Thanks for your help!

-Keepin’ It Dry

Dear KID,

When you say “my OCD,” it sounds like, “my puppy,” or “ my favorite cat.”  If your OCD is held and coddled, it will snuggle you and remain with you.  I don’t know where you are in your healing process, but I encourage you to challenge your OCD threshold.

That is to say, how far can your disorder go until it runs your life?  Phobias are real, OCD is real, anxiety is real: but human beings have an even realer capacity for healing.  With proper time, care and attention one can reverse, or at least lessen these types of discomforts.

If you have not already tried, perhaps begin first by thinking outside the therapy box, and later, outside the sexual box.   Ie, instead of Psychiatry, dabble in the other healing arts for answers to your questions.  To every thing there is a season, and to every ailment, there is a root. Working with an acupuncturist, a cognitive behavioral therapist, sex therapist, massage therapist,  sexual surrogate, shaman or even a regular psychologist or clinical social worker could begin to address your fears of fluids from a new angle.  Other ideas: doctor-monitored herbal remedies, yoga, meditation, and/or drastic changes in diet.

On the flip side, you could also take another route.  That is the route of acceptance.  This means accepting you will never sleep with your man in the traditionally anticipated way.  You worry about him, and I worry about you.  Are you selling yourself short sexually by so quickly giving your OCD free rein in the bedroom?

If not, maybe this is your threshold.  Maybe this sex, at all, is your triumph in which case I congratulate you.  And the truth is that yes, sexless relationships are possible.  Especially in your case, where you are actually having sex, just not intercourse.  A lifetime commitment to mutual masturbation has happened before and can be a phenomenal way to explore the less-known regions of sexuality and sexual pleasure.

Click here for details on enhancing sex without intercourse.  Everything from new forms of touch and activity, to using other senses and forms, like talking, smelling, etc as means of enhancing your bedroom delights.

Other reads:

Sex Without Intercourse by Gerda Mundinger, a book of anecdotes from real people on how they enjoyed each other without “doing it.”

Let Me Count The Ways: Sex Without Intercourse by Marty Klein, Ph.D. and Riki Robbins, Ph.D.

I am all for you committing to and celebrating a non-intercourse-having existence, as long as that celebration is not a way of quitting and selling yourself and your partner short before reaching towards healing your phobias.  Our bodies are limitless in the knowledge and secrets they hold, you might need to grin and bare it and begin (again) the arduous process of exploring the underside of your OCD.

Merissa Nathan GersonCreate Your Badge

yenta yenta yenta

He Eats Like A Pig

In Dating, Health and Body on April 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm

When you kiss a man, you are eating his breakfast with him. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear Yenta,

I just started dating someone about a month ago.  I really like him, we make a great match in a lot of ways.  But there’s one way in which we really don’t match up: food.  I’m a vegetarian, who loves good healthy food.  Food isn’t just sustenance to me, it’s culture, its experimentation, it’s nurturance.  Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilemma is one of my favorite books.  There isn’t a vegetable out there that I don’t love.  Cooking is a very important thing to me, and in other relationships it’s been an important part of my connection to the other person.

This guy is exactly the opposite.  Not only does he absolutely hate vegetables, he doesn’t even know how to identify some of the very basic ones.  He’s in his 30’s, but when we go out to dinner, he might as well order off the kids menu– he eats pizza, grilled cheese, hamburgers (no tomato, lettuce, pickles, or onions, of course) and cheese omelettes.  The only color other than white and yellow on his plate is the occasional ketchup to go with his french fries.  Even with beer we don’t match up– I’m always looking for a fun new microbrew or craft beer, and he rarely strays from Miller Light.

I know it sounds like a trivial thing, but this mismatch has actually been pretty challenging for me in our burgeoning relationship.  It’s obviously not just about the food itself, it’s an ideological thing.  Am I overreacting?  Should I try to convince him to start eating like an adult?  Sneak veggies into his food like you do with little kids?  Help, Yenta!


Dear Foodie,

There are a few key points here.  1) You have been dating a month and he already annoys you.  That is not fly.  Month one should be easy and blissful.  2) He eats like a child.  You are what you eat.  There is nothing burgeoning about this relationship.  Get out, and get out now.

I strongly believe that you can decode a great deal about a man based on how he tackles his plate.  Go to a quick-paced eatery and watch one day with a notebook in hand.  Look at how some men gobble, others slice and chew slowly, others eat in small piles or leave flung chunks of food across the plate or the table.  In the way a man approaches what he consumes, you can detect a great deal about his interior choices.

Ie, does he waste food?  Does he care where it comes from?  Is he connected to the world beyond himself, or is food a frenzy, a moment of need rather than a moment of gratitude, consciousness and connection? Also, remember that what we eat affects our temperament.  If he is eating Ramen noodles, his nutrition is low which means his emotional stability is not being fed.  This translates across the board.

This sounds judgemental and absurd, but it is just judgemental.  What are your values?  List them.  Figure out what you need your man to understand, appreciate, be connected to.  He might not have to be a vegetarian to be your lover, but perhaps a conscious eater?  And consciousness can come in a million forms.  This bozo sounds like he is stuck in a fourth grade mentality and it shows in his choice to eat Wonderbread instead of spelt.

I don’t understand why women think it is too much to want someone to be evolved.  That is your god-given right, and really your obligation for the sake of humanity and generations to come.  You must hold high standards and seek a man who has progressed beyond fourth grade because fourth graders cannot rise up and grow to the potential you have inside of you.

Leave him, maybe send him a cookbook, and seek a better man elsewhere.  There may be nothing seriously wrong with this particular guy, but there is plenty wrong with this particular guy when it comes to dating YOU.  You HAVE to be picky because you CAN be picky because you owe it to yourself and to your community to find a man who raises you up, or at the very least, meets you where you are.  Why on earth would you want to spend your good energy educating a child-man on how to eat vegetables when you could be exploring life eye to eye with a man of your caliber, discovering new things and expanding daily.

You didn’t learn to eat well for nothing.  You are an evolved woman.  Onwards and upwards!

Other books to send him off with:

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman

Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship With Food by Jan Chozen Bays

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

Prayer On The Road

In Career, Mental Health on February 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Even on tour, Madonna finds time for G-d.

Dear Yenta,

I am 27 and just got a job that involves traveling. I am from a small Jewish community and am worried about missing Shabbat and feeling isolated. Is there anything you have to offer? My job is based in the US, and only rarely we go abroad.


Wandering Jew

Dear WJ,

Vagabonding is a normal and easy state for some, and rocks the core of others. If you have a Type A personality, the lack of control and structure can be torture. I heard many a story from the Obama campaign about moving and roaming on a nightly basis. A few things in the face of such constant travel can help.

One, a gentleness and kindness with oneself. Keep a journal, bring bath salts, invest in a robe. Two, friends and family. And three, well, G-d. Yes, that three, or in my case, two letter word and the community that goes with it. Church and synagogue, a meditation session, an AA meeting, pick your poison. Whatever it is that reminds you that you are connected to something bigger than the roving body you inhabit will help as you flit across the country and beyond.

In lieu of actual Jewish resources, here is a list of some of my favorite synagogues and communities across America. In addition to these, you can find your own with just a little research. When I was a constant traveler I made sure I went to synagogue every Friday, a meditation center whenever I could find one, and yoga twice a week in a effort to stay as sane as possible. If you call a synagogue in advance and tell them you will be in town on business, I guaruntee they will find a home to host you for a homecooked Shabbos meal. If they don’t, I will cook you dinner myself next time I am in America.

The List:

There is one in practically every city, and they are very welcoming to travelers looking to honor Shabbat.

Adventure Rabbi
This woman brings her torah on ski trips, to hiking summits, etc, and leads services and weddings in the wilderness.
Boulder, CO

Nashuva: A Soulful Community for Prayer in Action
Services involve live music, chanting, silence, etc. Feels like revival.
Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Naomi Levy – famous, particularly for her book “To Begin Again.”

HaMakom: The Place for Passionate and Progressive Judaism
Santa Fe, NM
Led by a lesbian rabbi who leads community discussion and learning as part of the service.

Rabbi Malka Drucker

B’nai Jeshurun
“B’nai Jeshurun is a passionate Jewish community that inspires spiritual searching, lifts the soul, challenges the mind, and requires social responsibility and action.”
New York, NY

Tikkun Leil Shabbat: Songful, soulful sabbath services featuring a teaching about a social justice issue and followed by a potluck vegetarian dinner.
Washington, DC

Bet Mishpachah: An Egalitarian Synagogue Embracing Diversity
GLBT synagogue in DC with services led by congregants. No rabbi.
Washington, DC

Gishmey Bracha: Rain of Blessings
Online resource for spiritual Judaism.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon

Am Hayam: Cape Cod Havurah
Community-led prayer, potlucks, and learning. Mostly elderly, but a terrific model for positive Judaism and community.
Eastham, MA

Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center (Reform)
Services conducted in a circle around a table with a seated female rabbi.
Parsha is delivered in a discussion form with the whole community.
Vineyard Haven, MA

Rabbi Caryn Broitman

Pardes Levavot: A Jewish Renewal Congregation
Lafayette, CO

Rabbis Nadya and Victor Gross

Yesod Foundation: The Reb Zalman Legacy Project

Nevei Kodesh: Jewish Renewal Community of Boulder, Colorado
Boulder, CO

Rabbi Tirzeh Firestone

Fabrangen: An Independent, Egalitarian, Particapatory Havurah
Washington, DC

Have a favorite synagogue or community? Please share!

Ask Yenta Anything!  Click Here.

For more Yenta, visit Ask Your Yenta at

Merissa Nathan GersonCreate Your Badge

10 Ways to Help Japan

In Health and Body, Mental Health on February 14, 2011 at 10:39 am

Lady Gaga designed this bracelet to raise funds. Buy one at

Here is a list of 10 organizations and causes working to bring relief to Japan. Give to one, give to all. Do what you can, hug a friend, donate a billion – whatever it is, I believe it will help.

1) Searching For Loved Ones

For any who have loved ones abroad, Google has stepped up to help. Along with a tsunami alert posted on its front page, Google has launched the Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake to help connect people that may have been displaced due to the disaster. Google has also launched a crisis response page filled with local resources and emergency information.

Inquiries concerning U.S. citizens living or traveling in Japan should be referred to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 or 202 647-5225.

2) Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and The Jewish Federation
Click on the links above to donate online now. You may also give by mail or phone: For Joint Distribution Committee – Check payable to JDC, please specify the program name. Attn: JDC, P.O. Box 530, 132 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017, (212) 687-6200.

Re: Jewish Federation, to donate by check, please make the check out to The Jewish Federations of North America and clearly mark JFNA Japan, Hawaii and the Pacific Relief Fund on the bottom of the check. The check should be sent to: The Jewish Federations of North America, Wall Street Station, PO Box 148, New York, NY 10268

3) The American Red Cross and Save the Children

The Red Cross has already launched efforts in Japan. Visit or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone. On those rare occasions when donations exceed American Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters.

Save the Children has also responded.
The organization is currently organizing efforts and donations to its Children’s Emergency Fund will support outreach.

4) International Medical Corps

To donate or learn about other ways you can contribute to its medical response, visit
Also, text MED to 80888 from any mobile phone to give $10.


The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund was launched at to garner funds that will be given to a variety of relief organizations helping victims of the earthquake. It has already raised over $100,000, particularly from concerned Twitter users around the world.

6) Salvation Army

Salvation Army personnel are organizing efforts in Tokyo and will soon send a team to help the severely damaged city of Sendai, Japan.
To contribute to earthquake relief, text ‘JAPAN’ or ‘QUAKE’ to 80888 to make a $10 donation or visit designate gift for “Japan Earthquake/Tsunami”
By phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY – designate gift for “Japan Earthquake/Tsunami”

Or by mail: send your check marked “Japan Earthquake/Tsunami” to The Salvation Army World Service Office, International Relief Fund, PO Box 630728, Baltimore, MD 21263-0728.

At this time, The Salvation Army is not accepting in-kind donations from the general public disaster relief operations in Japan as it is extremely difficult and expensive to ship in-kind donations overseas from the United States to Japan. The best way for U.S. donors to help Japanese disaster survivors is to make a cash donation.

7) Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is sending two three-person teams to the Iwate and Miyagi prefectures in Japan.
To learn more about the organization’s efforts or make a donation, visit

8 Operation USA

Along with an appeal for monetary donations, Operation USA has also announced efforts to collect bulk corporate donations of health care supplies. If you are interested in donating bulk medical items, visit

9) PayPal

Judy Chang, head of PayPal’s nonprofit group, announced that transactional fees incurred by money transfers to US 501(c)(3) organizations (or charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency) between March 11 and April 10 will aid relief efforts in Japan.

10) AmeriCares, ShelterBox and MercyCorps

Other relief organizations are also sending representatives to disaster sites, including AmeriCares and Shelterbox. MercyCorps is gathering donations for its overseas partner, Peace Winds Japan, which currently has personnel on the ground distributing emergency relief in Japan.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

Wild Friends After Marriage

In Drama, Marriage, Mental Health on January 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Dear Yenta,

My husband’s best friend’s wife causes a lot of problems. We have a child, and they do not. They, in turn, do not understand what life is like with a child. They expect us to be able to drop everything and go out drinking, partying, etc. at the drop of a hat. Not only do we not want to do this, but we can’t. Recently, they didn’t show up at my husband’s birthday party. He shrugged it off, even though I knew he was very hurt by it.

A week later, she sent me numerous messages about how I took her husband’s best friend away, and they didn’t even know who my husband was anymore. This caused major issues. It has now been a month, and we just saw them this past weekend. Today was her husband’s surprise birthday party, and we did not attend. I have been under the weather, and my husband just didn’t want to go. She immediately attacked him via text message, claiming that I was not ill and telling him that he needed to be there. After he told her I was indeed ill, she proceeded to tell him that she understood that he needed to take care of his son, but he needed to also be there for his friend.

I want to protect my husband and go off on this woman. I have plenty of things to say, and I am at the point where I would really like to scream them at her. My husband is hurt. His friend never says anything to him, but his wife has plenty to say, only when she wants to start trouble.



Not a friend for the wife and kids. Sorry, Lindsay.


Dear Allie,

The key to this question is in the first sentence, “My husband’s best friend.”  While this situation affects you, hurts you, irritates you, riles you, cranks on your nerves, it is ultimately your husband’s business.

Where are the men in this?  Aren’t there key voices missing from the scenario?  This guy’s wife is a pill, and that is a shame, but you certainly a) don’t have to entertain her antics and b) are only involved by extension.  This woman’s fears of your husband’s evolution and change, and her lack of boundaries altogether, are really her problem, not yours.

I would encourage your husband to face his friend and man up on both of your behalf.  All the angry text messages and sideswiping might just be a vile reaction to poor communication.  If this was your husband’s best friend before he found you, it is his job to smooth the transition from wild boozehound to solid husband and father, not yours.

And it is your job to protect yourself and your family.  Tell your husband how much this is upsetting you.  I think he needs to speak to his friend one on one, spend some quality time showing who he has become and how much he still cares.  That is, if he still does.

Sometimes people grow apart as they make smart and mature choices.  A friend from the old “bar days” may not translate, at least not immediately, into adulthood.  With time relationships change, and even through giant life shifts, the relationships that count evolve.

In ten years this couple may be a non-entity, or friends in a different capacity.  Sometimes when alcohol is involved in a friendship, it takes time and trust to find a new way to interact, sans social lubricant.  This requires investment and reconnection, and that job, as I said, falls on your husband’s shoulders, not yours.

Helpful Tips On Sober Friendships:

While your situation is different, take the lead from alcoholics who remake their lives, liquor free.

-Ask your friends to meet you in a place that doesn’t serve alcohol, a movie, a coffeehouse, a hike, a show.  Redefine the relationship with new physical perameters.

-Assess your friendship.  Was it contingent upon drinking and wild behavior?  The real friends remain, after sobriety.  Figure out the nature of your connection.

-Make new friends, based on your new lifestyle.  These may be the real lasting friendships.

-Be brave enough to let go of old friends who do not support the new, healthier you.

Ak Yenta Anything!  Click Here.

For more Yenta, visit Ask Your Yenta at

Merissa Nathan GersonCreate Your Badge

When Gay Means Guinea Pig

In Dating, Drama, Mental Health on January 7, 2011 at 9:33 am calls Sarah Silverman a "Serious Gay Ally" for boldly declaring she would not marry until "All Americans can legally wed."


When my boyfriend and I first started to date, I heard through the grape vine that there was speculation one of his brothers might be gay. I immediately told the person who told me this to not spread rumors and that it wasn’t true. Please note that I am in no way homophobic! I am extremely liberal and I have walked in numerous gay pride parades in support of loved ones. I want everyone to be happy and I would never judge anyone upon their sexuality.

I met this brother, who is absolutely gorgeous. They have 4 brothers in total. Immediately, we had a lot of respect for each other and spoke to each other with ease. I had asked my boyfriend how on earth could he still be single, and I heard that every girl in their town was trying to hook up with him. It’s his good looks that led everyone to notice when he wasn’t hooking up with the good looking girls who threw themselves at him. Now that he is 24, it does seem a bit odd that he has never dated a girl.

As time went on, I couldn’t help but hear more and more about his sexuality from people from their town.  One night, a friend (even though this was not a FRIENDly move) asked my boyfriend about the sexuality of his brother in front of a group of people. My boyfriend got extremely awkward and didn’t say anything. Since him and I talk about everything under the sun, I thought it was strange he did not bring this up to me afterwards.

Recently, I received a phone call from a friend asking me about the situation. Her sister had told her that her boyfriend (my boyfriend’s brother) had confided in her and told her that the brother wrote them a letter months ago explaining that he was gay, and told them everything.

So at this point, we have been dating for years, and I know the truth. I want to show him that I am here for him no matter what, and I would never judge anyone for their sexuality. I don’t know whether he is embarrassed to tell me, or if he just doesn’t want to admit it to himself just yet. But what I feel most horrible about is that people are talking about it. Should I tell him just how many people have mentioned it to me and claim they know it is true? I have told everyone that has asked me that I have no idea and that it is none of their business to begin with. My boyfriend and I are very serious, and when I think of his family I think of them as my own.

Yours truly,

Trying To Do The Right Thing


The first time I read this and answered this, I thought all along you were talking about the brother, not your boyfriend.  So, disclaimer, the paragraphs that follow this are a sassy response to that assumption.  See end for answer to actual question.

Original still-relevant answer to incorrect reading of question:

A big red flag in life is when someone openly declares “I am not….”  Usually, the need to declare what you aren’t, alludes a bit to what you are.  Ie, if you are so adamantly “liberal” and so die hard “not homophobic” then you would probably not be writing so much to prove it.

It sounds to me like this whole deal with your man’s brother batting for the home team is more about you, than about his homosexuality.  There is no evidence in this story that he is suffering, or that he needs you as an ally.  In fact, there is no imperative for a healthy sexy gay man to come out to the whole wide world.  There is no debutante ball for the homosexual emerging.

It sounds, however, like you really want to host a debutante ball for your boyfriend’s brother’s coming out.  What if he doesn’t want a ball, but wants a small dinner?  Ie, what if this guy is perfectly content being gay, living gay, and not speaking up and out about it?  You sound like you feel a need to communicate your acceptance, desperately.

How to be truly accepting?  Maybe stop heeding the talk and gossip about this guy and his private life.  People talking about him is not his problem, nor should it be yours.  It isn’t as if he killed a bunny, he lives an identity.  That’s it.  People’s fascination or repulsion is generally their own problem.

I would say stay out of it, work on your own relationship to homosexuality, and let this guy live a life in peace.  Be his friend, fine, but not in order to save his homosexual soul.

There are a million ways to exercise this need you have to be an ally to the homosexual community.  Try joining, “Where straight friends stand up for their gay allies,” or join a Facebook group for allies to make your support publicly known.  Posting these groups on your profile is a great way of showing allegiance.  These are ways of also making yourself visible as a safe space should this guy ever decide he needs you.

Below is a list from “The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation,” of 10 ways to be a straight ally, without needing, necessarily, to use gay friends as guinea pigs.

10 Ways to Be an Ally & a Friend

1. Be a listener.

2. Be open-minded.

3. Be willing to talk.

4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.

5. Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.

6. Homophobic comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.

7. Confront your own prejudices and homophobia, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.

8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.

9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.

10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at

Also check out “What Would A Queer Ally Do,” or “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, for other resources.

You might, in trying to do “the right thing” be getting too mentally involved.  In lieu of your boyfriend, maybe just ask him about it.  Your fear of the subject isn’t helping.  You don’t need to say, “hey, everyone knows your brother likes men, they are all gossiping!”  Why not just gently mention the truth?  Or, another option…don’t mention it and use the resources I posted to begin to show you are an advocate for the gay community.

Visible advocacy makes it more likely that your boyfriend might come to you.  Either way, be brave, try not to skirt the truth because in cases like this one, it throws everything out of proportion.  Also, try not to presume your boyfriend’s silence is a matter of shame and suffering or that his family needs your help.  This assumption doesn’t bode well for how you view homosexuality.  It is also possible that your boyfriend just doesn’t care if his brother likes girls, boys or smurfs.

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Merissa Nathan GersonCreate Your Badge