The Dev

I’ve been exploring the Kindle app store and discovered that I’m very unfamiliar with the slang of regular app users. For instance, everybody keeps mentioning a mysterious “dev” and seems to have very strong opinions about this creature.

“This dev is a total jerk!” “I hate the dev!” “The dev is amazing” people keep writing in their reviews of apps.

So what does it say about me that my first guess as to the dev’s identity was that it was the devil?

It took me a while to realize that the dev was simply the app’s developer.

The Tragic Story of Little Misha

This is an excerpt from my literary translation. Just so that you know what it is I’m working on. The story is completely true.

Once she made sure that Zinovi and Vladimir Fedorovich were prepared for everything, Berta began her story.

“In our communal apartment, we have a young family. These are amazing people, a young married couple called Tonia and Fedia. Their last name is Gustokasha. They have a son called Misha who is three and a half years old.”

“Klara also wants to call her son Misha,” Zinovi observed.

“Maria will never agree to that,” Vladimir Fedorovich said, shaking his head.

“I hope Klara’s Misha never has to experience what our Misha did!” sighed Berta wistfully.

Zinovi had a tragic premonition, just like the one he’d felt when sausage was discussed.

“Berta,” he asked in a half-whisper, “is the kid alive?”

“Bite your tongue, Ziama!” exclaimed Berta. “Would I even be telling the story if the kid, God forbid. . . God help you, Ziama, how could you even think of something like this? Of course, the kid is alive. But just barely, poor mite.”

Vladimir Fedorovich smiled, while Berta calmed down a little and continued, “The parents asked Tonia’s grandmother, Baba Klava, to stay home with the kid until he is old enough for daycare. The grandmother agreed and moved to Kharkov from her village. She is a good person but she’s hard of hearing in both ears. More importantly, she is also tall and as fat as a rhino, especially in the front. And in the back, too, of course.”

“Berta,” Zinovi murmured, “I never realized you had this tendency to recur to Naturalist descriptions in the style of Emile Zola. It’s almost like you’ve become a completely different person right before my eyes.”

“Just hear me out,” said Berta and gave an insistent nod that was to serve as a warning to the listeners. “Once, little Misha went to the outdoor facilities to do his business. The outdoor toilet is quite narrow but one can still turn around in there. And there is a seat. I’m not telling you all this because I love Naturalism but just to make sure you understand the story.”

Zinovi and Vladimir Fedorovich looked at each other. Neither of them had the slightest idea about how the seemingly innocent story was going to end. Berta continued, trying to sound as mysterious as possible in order to keep her listeners in suspense.

“Little Misha always found it easy to go into the facility and sit down. He’d come in, take his seat, and stay there as long as he needed. Baba Klava, however, had a lot of trouble trying to get inside the booth. She couldn’t squeeze in there sideways because her chest made that impossible. If she just walked in there, she found it impossible to turn around in order to take a seat comfortable. The only remaining option was for her to remove her underwear before entering the toilet, bend over, and enter the facility by walking backwards. She always introduced herself into the little booth very slowly and carefully to avoid catching her shoulder on the wall or hitting her head against the toilet’s ceiling.”

Vladimir Fedorovich and Zinovi seemed to start realizing what was going to happen. They were afraid, however, to confess what it was that they had started to realize. Berta, in the meanwhile, continued her story with an implacable determination to get it to the ending that could have become tragic.

“Tonia and Fedia don’t allow little Misha to lock the toilet door from the inside. They want to make sure that in case something happens to the kid, they will be able to rush in and save him, without wasting time on breaking the door down. So little Misha went into the toilet and had barely had time to sit down, when suddenly the door opened, and he saw a hugely grandiose backside of Baba Klava moving towards him.”

As they imagined this scene, the men felt their blood run cold, inhaled and forgot to exhale. Berta didn’t allow them to recover their senses and continued her story.

“If you, two grown men, are so terrified, just imagine what the poor child must have felt! Little Misha screamed, yelled, cried, but Baba Klava’s backside kept moving in his direction. She didn’t hear his screams because, as I said, she was hard of hearing.”

“How hard of hearing do you have to be not to hear a scared child scream?” Zinovi finally managed to exhale.

“Between the child and Baba Klava’s ears, Ziama, her humongous backside was located, that same backside that was moving towards the child like the “Tiger” tank.”

“Do you remember, Berta, how I told you what we used to do to those tanks during the war?” Zinovi commented.

“I can imagine,” Vladimir Fedorovich smiled. “Did the kid chase Baba Klava all the way to Berlin, like you guys did with the German tanks?”

Berta triumphantly finished her story.

“He chased her even further than that. When Baba Klava’s huge behind came close to little Misha’s face, he bit it with all his might. He practically took a chunk out of it with his teeth. Poor Baba Klava grabbed her, to use a polite term, underwear and ran out of the scary facility. She was yelling so loud that she even managed to hear her own screams. She told us that herself when we went to see her at the hospital.”

“And what about the kid?” asked Vladimir Fedorovich and Zinovi who still didn’t dare to laugh.

“Dr. Gilman cured him,” Berta reassured them. “He prescribed showers, relaxing conversations, and a nutritious diet. Of course, Tonia had to take care of the child’s diet while Baba Klava was hospitalized.”

Looking Good for Your Partner

Reader el writes:

Imho, paying *some* attention to one’s looks after finding a partner is necessary. I don’t mean surgeries. I mean may be the same hair creams to strengthen and make hair shinier one used before, watching one’s weight (not extreme, not working crash diets, but healthy food and some exercise), etc. Marriage is a sexual relationship too and trying to look attractive to one’s sexual partner should be a no-brainer. Especially in a marriage, where, unlike in one-night stand, you want the other side to be attracted tomorrow too.

I think we all know by now that I’m very much into makeup, pretty dresses, beautiful shoes, and cosmetics. However, my partner in life is the only person in the world who never even notices what I wear or how I look. He stares at me with the same adoring gaze whether I wear my best clothes and perfect makeup or lie in bed sneezing and coffing with my eye infected and gunk pouring out of it.

I remember how once we spent the entire day at the beach. I usually feel very content whenever I look at myself in the mirror. On that day, though, I saw my reflection and recoiled in horror. My hair was filled with sand and looked like a hornet’s nest. My face had acquired an unappealing red color. My eyes were piggishly small. Freckles had appeared out of nowhere and were covering my entire face. Even I had to recognize that I was no ornament to humanity on that day.

And then I saw N. staring at me. “God, you are beautiful!” he gasped. “You have this Biblical beauty that makes my heart stop.”

If you look at my photo on this blog, you will see that only a completely besotted individual would see anything Biblical in my appearance. This was when I knew that N. really loved me.

Since then, we have nursed each other through flus, stomach bugs, pericarditis, depression, very significant weight gain, etc. And in the midst of all that, each of us was always the most beautiful and desirable person the other had ever met. It is a great comfort in life to have somebody by your side with whom you are unafraid to be not pretty. We all have beautiful moments and ugly moments, both in terms of our appearance and our actions. The only partner in life worthy of the title is, in my opinion, a person who wants to be there by your side, and nowhere else, through beauty and ugliness alike.

A Freebie for Trolls

Dear trolls,

you keep leaving comments that are aimed at hurting my feelings. The problem is that you go about it in such a plodding, unimaginative way that you never achieve anything. I’m in a very good mood today, which is why I will share with you why your strategy is not working and how you could change it to be more productive in your labor.

Emotions always have an internal locus of control, which is why the source of every hurt and pain is always inside oneself. I know this is too complicated for you, trolls, so I will translate it for you. You can only hurt a person’s feelings by calling them a certain thing if that person has actively chosen to see that thing as hurtful. I understand that when you are dealing with a complete stranger, you project your own terrors onto him or her. But this is always a mistake because you are bound to meet somebody who is simply indifferent to all of the things that make you suffer.

This is why telling me that I’m:

a) ugly;

b) fat;

c) a Jew;

d) an autistic;

e) a typical academic;

f) old;

g) childless;

h) have bad hair;

i) an immigrant;

j) have no friends

serves no useful purpose for you. I don’t choose to invest these qualifiers with a negative meaning, which is why they cannot hurt my feelings. If you really want to hit me where it hurts, I have a freebie suggestion for you: remind me that I had an article rejected for publication in October. I still haven’t found a way to avoid feeling hurt by such things and I consider it a huge personal failing of mine that I feel this way about a normal part of an academic’s life.

Good luck in your trolling endeavors!

Concealing Your Age

Recently, my sister was making a comment on my blog.

“I’m thirty years old. . .” she wrote.

“Wow,” I thought, “she is really psychologically healthy and happy with her life.”

You see, the truth is that my sister isn’t 30. She is twenty-nine and will only turn thirty in March. I knew a man who seriously contemplated suicide in the week before he turned thirty. “I realized that I was getting too old for anything good to happen to me,” he said. I’ve heard this many times from people who were about to turn 30, 35, 40, etc., which is why I’m glad that for my sister, turning 30 is nothing but an anticipated cause for celebration.

I never understood why people were secretive about their age and pretended to be younger than they are. It is such a denial of yourself, of your experiences, of entire years of your life that I simply don’t get it.

Of course, I know that I will be immediately told in response to these observations that “society values youth.” But who is this mysterious “society”? Doesn’t it consist of all of us? And don’t we contribute to the idea that only youth is good and valuable every time we conceal our age?

Do you conceal your age?