The Rating Game

Today I was telling my shrink, Dr. Spielvogel, about this new book by Reba ToneyThe Rating Game.

If you find yourself getting dumped a lot, it’s probably because you’re dating out of your league. If you do the dumping most of the time, it’s probably because you’re dating beneath you.

Reba urges people to rate themselves honestly on face, body, personality and life position and to then seek out partners in their ball park. A fat ugly smelly loser, for instance, should not try to date a socially successful ten.

The women I fall in love with tend to be out of my league.

They don’t mind getting together with me at the hovel for Torah talk, but they don’t want to be seen in public with me.

Ouch! It’s like I’m some chick who’s 50 pounds overweight but gives great blowjobs. You’re happy for the highs I give you in private but you don’t want to introduce me to your friends.

Well, I don’t like that.

I don’t want you sneaking me into your apartment any more and hiding me from your roommate. I’m tired of being told to pipe down with my expressions of joy. I want to share my feelings for you publicly.

Dr. Spielvogel, I don’t know what I’m going to talk about today. The biggest highlight in my life right now is listening to Dennis Prager’s classes on the Torah.

Why do I get so excited about Dennis Prager? Well, 50% of the answer is that I made a commitment in December of 1997 to chronicle his life. If I hadn’t made that commitment, I would not spend as much time with him, perhaps.

Dennis keeps giving me important things to think about almost every time I hear him. He doesn’t let his emotions run away with him. He doesn’t overstate. Most public figures, most rabbis, I’m not that excited about them. I see their flaws too clearly. They’re prostitutes for publicity, for taking bold left-wing stands, and the like. Dennis does not overstate, even when he’s upset. I’m sure I’ve nettled him many times but he’s never lost his cool.

As soon as a person overstates, I become suspicious of everything they say.

I’ve always had good taste in friends. I can spot meanness from a mile away. Dennis isn’t my real friend. He’s my imaginary friend, but I spend more time listening to him each day than I do to the real people in my life.

Oy, doc, I can’t believe I just spent ten minutes comparing and contrasting Dennis Prager’s three wives. Oy, I need to get a life. No, I don’t want to be one of Dennis Prager’s wives. He is a father figure to me. A virtual father. I spent about two hours a day listening to him on the radio (without commercials via DennisPrager.com).

I look athletic? Well, I’m lying out in the sun for about 20 minutes every day. I do yoga and Alexander Technique and daf yomi.

I tend to date women who are above me in social status. They make more money. They have more friends. They’re more socially astute. For some reason, they like the tortured blogger.

The sex is great. Not a holy thing to say, I know. I should wait for marriage. I just have so much to give to the opposite sex, I can’t wait. I must give concrete physical expression to my feelings.

It was so painful to hear that **** didn’t want to be seen with me in public. She was ashamed. She said it was the Orthodox get-up, the beard and the tzitzit out, and how it was incongruent with who I really was. That I was a poser. That if she ever introduced me to her Orthodox family, they’d want to kill me. They’d hire a hit man.

Both Peppys had more friends than I did. Their lives were a social whirlwind. They were so connected to others. By contrast, I feel disconnected much of the time, holed up in my hovel and blogging my heart out, too exhausted to do anything else.

I was excited to be in their world and connecting with cool people. They lifted me up to a higher plane, and I thought, I like it up here. I want to live here. Yay! Finally I run with the cool crowd.

I was gaining in status. I had an attractive articulate girlfriend. I had worth. I had prestige.

When I was close with Cathy Seipp, I was also connected to a lot of cool people, but after she died, my connections fell away. Then I took my life in a new direction and I lost touch with most of my old friends. I pursued yoga and Alexander Technique and dropped out of the writer gatherings that were the center of my social life.

These girlfriends I loved, they weren’t as socially destructive as I am. There’s something rotten in my soul. In almost every social gathering, I start thinking, “What is the single most inappropriate thing I can say in this context?”

If I had stayed at Aish HaTorah, I’d have more friends today. If I had stayed at YICC, I’d have more friends today. If I had stayed at Beth Jacob, I’d have more friends today. If I had stayed at Bnai David, I’d have more friends today.

Well, maybe not. I didn’t develop friends at Bnai David. I was so shell-shocked from my expulsions, I was afraid to talk to people with an open heart. I was open-hearted at Aish and YICC and Beth Jacob and connected with people, but not at Bnai David. I curled in on myself like an infant.

I was on this weird probation program for a while where I could only daven and not go to anything, not kiddush and not Torah study. Then after that, I always felt in danger of getting kicked out, so whenever I interacted with people, it was from a frightened broken place. I kept people at arm’s length.

There’s all the difference in the world between stepping into a room where nobody wants to talk to you and a room where one person wants to talk to you. I’m grateful for my friends David and Monica.

There was this woman from yoga who told a friend of mine, “There’s just something off about Luke.”

There’s a brokeness in me that strangers can sniff out before I say a word. And worst of all, I know it, and I think about it when I’m socializing and it makes me seem all the more messed up.

I saw myself on the big screen a couple of weeks ago and I was appalled. That big ugly beard. I looked so disturbed. I wouldn’t want to get close to that person.

But it’s not the beard. I’ve always had something wrong with me. I remember when I was about four years old, people thought I looked like a Holocaust survivor. I had these big sunken eyes.

Throughout my life, I’ve felt ugly and awkward. I remember I was at a posh cocktail party at age 21 and my sister across the room was pointing me out and there I stood holding bits of lemon rind. You know how they give you lemon slices with your drinks at cocktail parties? Well, I was so nervous that I had torn mine apart and was holding it like a dead possum.

I remember one Sabbath afternoon at Ohr HaTorah in 1999 with Jana. We’d been having sex on and off for a year but we weren’t boyfriend-girlfriend. She didn’t want a relationship with me.

She stood up after kiddush and said, “I’m going.”

“I’ll walk you out,” I said.

“Don’t,” she said. “I don’t want people to think we’re together.”

She apologized for it a few days later, but I understood her instincts.

This was before the beard. I was a good looking chap then.

Was it my reputation? No, it was the whole me. She knew me. She knew my reputation and my reality. She knew my good points and my bad points.

She knew all of me. We’d spent countless hours talking. She’d heard me interviewed on the radio. She’d seen me on TV. She knew who I was and she just didn’t feel strong enough that Sabbath afternoon to be seen in public walking out with me. She wasn’t stupid and she wasn’t evil. There’s a price to be paid for befriending a social outlaw and she just didn’t feel like paying that price that day.

Without even saying a word, I give off the vibe that there’s something not quite right with me. And the more I think about that, the more wrong I get.

I don’t think this can be solved by affirmations or even psycho-therapy. I have to pile successful social interactions upon successful social interactions, accumulate social prestige, and through concrete accomplishment, convince myself that I am a good guy.

This consciousness of my brokenness can be paralyzing. I go into countless social situations and I’m as limp as a noodle. Other times, I’m manic and I forget my flaws and I can mesmerize an entire room.

Most of the time when I walk into a gathering, I can predict how things will go. If I’m feeling confident and smooth, I will act accordingly. If I feel like a loser, I will act accordingly.

I’m not that thrilled with who I am, no matter how much I try to talk myself up and say meditations and affirmations and read self-help book. I don’t think that I am a particularly good person. I want glory but I’m not willing to work for it. I want attention without merit. I want sex without commitment.

Oy vey! I’m mad, bad and dangerous to know.

I cheated through math and science classes in high school. Though I eventually stopped cheating in community college, that same character flaw haunts me. I like to take the easy way out. If I’m pushed to the wall, if I’m caught, my tendency is to want to lie, cheat and steal my way out of trouble. I can fool some of the people some of the time, but I can’t fool myself. I know who I am. I know that my liabilities equal my gifts. I’m trying to nudge the needle towards gift but I can’t pretend that I don’t carry big liabilities.

I’m trying to do more things that I am proud of so this aching sense of badness diminishes. Judaism helps. When I do a lot of mitzvot, I feel better about myself.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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