Monthly Archives: December 2013


Happy Christmas, everyone!  The Orthogals are taking a well-deserved vacation til the New Year.  We’ll see you January 6th, just in time for Theophany.  (Or Nativity for the Old Cal folks.)

Cheer Up!  It’s Not The Holiday Blues [Verily]

Sharing Our Mess [Darling]

24 Rules for Being a Lady in 2014 [Thought Catalog] — and for the gentlemen

In Defense of the Defensive Single Girl Essay [Slate]

Fear of Being Single Leads People to Settle for Less [Science Daily] — I think we knew that already

A Psychologist’s Guide to Online Dating [The Atlantic]

Boston Bombing Victim Engaged to Nurse He Met During Recovery [Today]

See you in 2014!

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Words of Wisdom

I ask myself, “What is hell?” And I answer thus: “The suffering of being no longer able to love.

– Dostoyevsky

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Holiday Gift Guide

So gift-giving can be angsty business, especially if you’re the sort of person who’s stricken with anxiety the moment you see wrapping paper.  But it doesn’t have to be.  The trick is to consider two things: how close is the relationship, and what do they like?

The closer the relationship the more personal the gift can be and the more you’re allowed to spend, but you don’t have to.  It would be weird and inappropriate to give someone you’d only recently met a platinum watch, but it’d be thoughtful to give them a Christmas card.  Incidentally, Miss Manners says one mustn’t accept jewelry from any man who isn’t a husband or family member, and Seraphic’s mother only let her accept flowers, candy, trinkets, and books.  So there’s a good argument for keeping it simple even if you’re close to the person.

As for the second question, well, that’s where inspiration comes from.  Are they excessively fond of their dogs/fountain pen/bicycle?  Maybe they’d appreciate a book of dog humor, some fine paper and ink, or a set of panniers.  Do they like to travel?  Great, how about a National Geographic subscription, a framed map or photo of their favorite place, or a fancy little trinket or foodstuffs that will remind them of the wonderful time they had in ____shire.  And so on and so forth.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

For your friends

If they’re literary: Sense & Sensibility fridge magnets or a grammar mug / teacup set
If they like a little luxury: A homemade salt or sugar scrub, which can be turned into neat cubes or molds
If they like board games: Pandemic and Gloom are favorites

Or host a Christmas-themed party, with caroling, cookie decorating, a white elephant ornament exchange, or something marvelous like that.

For someone you’ve got a crush on

If you’re interested but don’t know them well yet: A Christmas card & an invitation to your caroling party/board game night.
If you think they may also be interested in you: No seriously, just a card and an invitation to a group event—and the card’s optional.
If they’re exceptionally cute: No nifty little whatnots, nothing handmade, and no baking just for the nice young man unless he becomes your nice young man or he comes to a party at which you’re feeding everybody.

We mean it.

For someone you’ve just started dating

If they’re a tea-drinker: A robot tea infuser & some of your favorite loose leaf
If they play an instrument: Cheap neat relevant thing, like a set of fancy guitar picks & some sheet music
If they get all geeky over a certain show, book, or hobby: Did you know there’s a USS Enterprise pizza cutter?

The theme here is light but thoughtful.

For an established boyfriend/girlfriend

If you like spending time together: Tickets to indoor rock-climbing or a band they like (& by the way, if you don’t like spending time with them, we’re concerned)
If they’re a foodie: A cookbook, perhaps with some grilling spices, fancy salts, or herb-infused olive oil
If they live in a cold climate:
 A handknit hat or scarf — though for the sake of your relationship, wait til you’re sure you really like them and then pick an easy pattern; handmade gifts get Very Emotional sometimes, especially if you’ve had to rip it out three times, spent too much on yarn, and lost sleep trying to finish it the night before Christmas. (Don’t ask.) There’s always a chance they’ll never wear it.

While this is the only stage at which personal or pricier gifts are ever recommended, it’s still a good idea to keep some healthy balance.  Nothing too expensive, nothing too intimate, nothing you had to slave over for the length of time it takes a child to gestate—ie no underwear, Rolexes, or handknit sweaters.

See also Art of Manliness’s guide.

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It’s cold outside. Put on your warmest socks and curl up by the fire with a few good links.

the Betars

Longest-married couple in their wedding crowns

10 old fashioned dating habits we should make cool again [Thought Catalog]

Relationship advice from America’s longest married couple [The Week]

Nothing good gets away — John Steinbeck [Letters of Note]

I’m a male, 26-year-old virgin saving myself for marriage [AlterNet]

6 toxic relationship habits most people think are normal [Mark Manson]

Also, apparently there’s a debate on what decade-old Love Actually actually says about love, with reviewers calling it the least romantic film ever“a clarion call to share your pent-up feelings”, and very instructive (with a side of C.S. Lewis).
Movie night, anyone?

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Words of Wisdom

Love, he decided, had been a lot easier in the old days, when he and Elizabeth had met.  Then courting had been a dance, engraved in stone, and everyone had known the steps.  He could remember sitting alone in the tiny one-room apartment he had rented when he was a graduate student at Harvard, counting out quarters and dimes and trying to come up with enough for half a dozen red roses.  Roses were the universal language, practically a proposal of marriage—especially if you were poor and the girl you were seeing knew you couldn’t afford them.  People might not have had so much sex in those days, but they’d had assurances.

Gregor Demarkian, in Not a Creature was Stirring by Jane Haddam.

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Quick movie reviews

Movies you might like on a cold winter’s night.

Another Year is a movie by director Mike Leigh. Because it is a British movie, the acting is fantastic and the actors actually look like regular people. It’s a year in the life of a married couple and the unmarried people that they take care of (one way or another).Another yr pic 2

The most prominent single is Mary, Gerri’s past-her-prime coworker and friend of 20 years. Mary is a woman who drinks a bit too much and doesn’t make the smartest choices in life, especially in regards to men. This we are either told or shown, cringingly so when she makes a ploy for Joe, Tom and Gerri’s 30 year-old son. She does not desire to lure him out of pride, but because she is desperately lonely and unhappy. Eve Tushnet said that the movie comes off as smug because it’s about a happy family surrounded by unhappy singles, but the fact is, much of Mary’s unhappiness is due to her own choices. At some point, Gerri tells her “you must take responsibility for your actions!”

In fact it is refreshing to be shown a happily married couple who are warm and hospitable, but who set limits on how much bad behavior they will tolerate. They have sympathy for the singles in their lives, but they are not doormats. They are strong both as individuals and as a couple. No, the movie doesn’t really show much of how happy single people can be outside of romantic relationships, but that’s not what it’s about. Rather, watching it, one wishes all singles had friends like Tom and Gerri in their lives.



Yes, it’s in black and white

I can imagine how Frances Ha* came to be. The writers must have been sitting around, discussing Girls, and wondering what that story would be like if the protagonist wasn’t a total narcissist. The two even share an actor (Adam Driver), surely not a coincidence. Like Girls, Frances Ha is about a young woman (played by Greta Gerwig) in her 20s who lives in Brooklyn and can’t seem to get her life together. Unlike Girls, however, the characters are actually likable.

At its core, the movie is about the holes in Frances’ life. Her best friend gets a boyfriend and Frances feels the sting of being replaced in her best friend’s affections. She is mostly without an apartment throughout the movie. Frances is broke because she is desperately trying to make her career dreams come true.

There is some discussion as to whether the ending was earned or not (it ends on a positive note), and I do think that it was, because things start to change for the better after she begins to take the advice of a mentor, and she is able to be of value to her community (as opposed to hanging on to her fantasies of what her life should be). The resolution of what happens with her best friend feels true, even if the circumstances depend on coincidence.

I also appreciate that unlike Girls, there is a minimum of “celebrated” promiscuous sex, tho certainly the characters do not subscribe to traditional views on the subject.

*Why the weird name? You have to watch the last scene to find out.


My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a classic, both in regards to the “romantic comedy” category, as well as in the American Orthodox world, since it’s about religious Greeks and contains such scenes as a baptism (played mostly for laughs, but still).

I recently re-watched it and noticed just how silly the romance itself is. When they first start dating, Toula (Nia Vardalos) shows almost no personality or wit and yet the audience is expected to believe that charming Ian (John Corbett) is blown away by her beauty, wit, smarts, and can’t wait to kiss her.

meatIt’s pretty much an ugly-duckling fantasy. Ian goes along with whatever wacky things stand in his way to marry Toula. Join weird family? No problem. Get baptized? Sign me right up. We don’t see any hesitation or understanding from Ian about what he’s doing.

No, the reason to watch this movie is to laugh and fall in love with Toula’s family, who are the stars of the show anyway. Even if you don’t come from an ethnic family, it’s relatable, and it’s clear that Vardalos, who wrote the movie, loves those characters even as she pokes great fun at them.

I definitely recommend watching it just for the sheer quotability.

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Linkage: On Connection

We all need connection, community, a network of people.  Here are links that touch on that.

How Not To Be Alone [NY Times]

People Need a Net [Momastery]

Let’s Be Gentle With Each Other [Mamamia]

For Millenials Connections Are Easy, Friendships Are Hard [Forbes]

Life on the Island [New Criterion]

No Husband, No Friends [NY Times]

Odd-Numbered Hospitality [First Things]

Happy St. Nicholas day, everyone!

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Red Flags

Dump Him List2
by Crystalina; via Megan

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Fasting Fun

Well, we’re a few weeks into the Nativity Fast. All of us Orthogals are kitchen-savvy with our own specialties, and today, I wanted to share a few of my favorite fast-friendly recipes for the last weeks of this season when Chinese, Mexican, and lentils have overstayed their welcome!

Because the last thing you need when you’re in a spiritual battle or slump is your stomach saying, “If you have one more PB&J, I will revolt!”

Crockpot Gingered Chickpeas and Spicy Tomato Stew: Serve this alone or over some rice. Also, I prefer to substitute kale for the spinach. Somehow, these chickpeas are refreshing after days of hummus and pita. Whatevs.

Kushari: I have rarely craved vegetarian/vegan dishes outside of fasting periods. But there is something absolutely lovely about a garlic tomato sauce topped with caramelized onions. This recipe has much less salt in it than the one I was first introduced to a few years back. Regardless, it is close, and as my friends and I say, “Oh, it’s happy.”

Cashew “Cheese” Sauce: Okay, so this can fall under “Mexican” if you go for vegan nachos (which I suggest doing) but seriously, when you need something akin to mac with cheesy-goodness this is wonderful! Again, not the exact recipe I go for (in fact, don’t worry about “soaking” the cashews, just boil an equal volume of cashews and water – i.e. 1 c. cashews for every 1 c. water).

Carrot Pockets: I find pockets/hand pies/turnovers to be more work than I prefer. But the spices and sweetness in these almost makes up for the time lost. Then again, put the filling in a casserole and top with biscuits or corn bread. Can you tell I like to alter things?

Bon Appetit!

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