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Love Is In the Air

Valentine’s Day is the one day a year when it is accepted, even expected, that people will act a little crazy in love. Want to wear all pink? Go for it. Profess your undying love to a stranger? Now’s as good a time as any. While Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday — Tu B’Av, its closest Jewish equivalent, is considered an auspicious day for marriage in Israel — Jewish couples around the world still celebrate it as a nondenominational day of love. In honor of this day, the Forward invited staffers, friends and colleagues to share their stories of lasting love. We asked, “What did you learn in your first year of marriage?” The heartfelt answers warmed us and made us smile.

Although we asked members of both genders to participate, it was the women who stepped forward to share their stories. So men, we challenge you: Tell us what you learned in your first year of marriage.

E-mail us your story at [email protected]

Mayim Bialik

Michael Stone and Mayim Bialik

Occupation: Actress, Neuroscientist

Married: 2003

What I learned:

A kosher kitchen makes for a grumpy husband.

My husband and I took on observance of Halacha during our five-year courtship and, upon marrying, established a kosher kitchen in our new home. Two sets of dishes does not begin to describe the extent of my misunderstanding of this undertaking. In my ba’al teshuvah naiveté, I proceeded to be much more stringent than was required of me (or anyone, for that matter!) For example, I thought it was necessary to have three sets of dishes and utensils: dairy, meat and pareve. My dear husband, who was new to the world of kashrut, felt that the walls of our religion were separating him from the most basic of necessities: simply eating. He was grumpy. Very grumpy.

With time, I figured out that I didn’t need three sets of dishes: I could simply opt for either dairy or meat. And just as my husband and my commitment to taharat haMishpacha — actively separating emotional and physical closeness with the use of the ritual bath, or mikveh — eventually enlightened us, so, too, we both came to appreciate that distinctions do not have to be restrictions, and that limits can make the things we then choose to partake in so much tastier, and ever more satisfying.

Seven years later, my dear husband maneuvers around our little kosher kitchen like a pro. He’s sometimes still grumpy, but that’s another story.

Mayim Bialik is the celebrity spokeswoman for the Holistic Moms Network, has recurring roles on ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and on Fox’s “’Til Death,” and will play Nancy Kurshan in the film “The Chicago 8,” coming out this year.

Lenore Skenazy

Lenore Skenazy and Joe Kolman

Occupation: Columnist, Author

Married: 1980

What I learned:

Love plus a rundown apartment equals a happy marriage.

They don’t squeak.

Mice, I mean. When they’re eating your fancy chocolates in the middle of the night, they rustle, like ladies opening hard candies at a matinee. So what did I learn my first year of marriage? What a “tenement” is.

Oh, I didn’t think of it as a tenement at the time. I thought: “Wow! Not only am I getting a great guy, I’m getting a cool East Village apartment on the ground floor!”

It didn’t seem sad that the windows were shuttered so successfully that even sunbeams couldn’t break in. It was fine that we had to limbo into our loft bed. It was quaint — almost — when we’d hear a gentle stream of rain against the building late at night, only to wake up and smell: That wasn’t rain.

So here’s what else I learned: When you’re young and in love, you can get through a lot.

And so can the mice.

Lenore Skenazy is a syndicated columnist and author of “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip of the Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now” (Wiley).

Allison Gaudet Yarrow

Allison Gaudet Yarrow and Ben Yarrow

Occupation: Editor, Writer

Married: 2008

What I learned:

TV revealed our intrinsic differences.

After the wedding, Ben and I bought our first television. We had prided ourselves on conversing instead of channel surfing, but the allure of beautiful movies, college football and the DVD of our nuptials under the hupah proved too tantalizing. When the flat-screen arrived, we devolved into blobs. It was the 1939 World’s Fair in our living room, like we were witnessing moving pictures for the first time. He wanted to share “Star Wars”; I preferred Bogie and Bacall. He surfed for “Survivorman”; dispatches from New York Fashion Week captivated me. In the dating phase, I hadn’t noticed how someone always caved: “Sure, I’ll try spin class,” or, “Secret Science Club sounds fun!” And yet, a bazillion channels unearthed this truth that — gasp — our tastes were different. But rather than each watching what we prefer in solitude, we compromised. Our loyalty to “Jeopardy” and “CBS Sunday Morning” suggests we’re moving toward retirement, but we love to watch together most of all. Maybe one day soon, I’ll even see “Star Wars.”

Allison Gaudet Yarrow is the deputy Web editor and producer at the Forward. She can be reached at [email protected]

Gloria Feldt

Alexander Barbanell and Gloria Feldt

Occupation: Author, Activist

Married: 1980

What I Learned:

Shared values make a marriage stronger.

We’d both been married before, for 18 years each, and had six children between us. Although it was love at first sight when we met in Phoenix in 1978, neither of us was eager to remarry. Both self-supporting and liking it that way, we moved in together then bought a house.

We traveled cross-country in June 1980, and stopped in Dallas so Alex could meet my grandmother. Though blind, she read between the lines. “So ven are you getting married?” she asked unceremoniously, after patting Alex’s face to take his measure.

We humored her: “Maybe October.”

“So?” she retorted in her Russian-Yiddish accent, “Vat’s wrong with July?”

“Oh, Grandmother,” I replied, “July’s too hot.”

“So? You’re not marrying the veather.”

We didn’t get married until December, by a rabbi, in our home. It was the first Jewish wedding for both of us; we crushed the glass together to symbolize our equality in unity.

I learned that having shared values and a 5,000-year history matters. Affirming our connection in marriage subtly changed the relationship, much for the better. Grandmother was too incapacitated to be at the wedding, but as usual, she was right. We’ll celebrate our 30th anniversary this year, and “the veather” remains hot.

Gloria Feldt is a best-selling author of “Send Yourself Roses” and “The War on Choice,” former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a blogger at

Jane Eisner

Mark Berger and Jane Eisner

Occupation: Editor, Writer

Married: 1980

What I learned:

There are many ways to be together.

After our wedding and an extended honeymoon in Israel, we moved to Philadelphia so that my husband could begin his medical internship, back when first-year interns were treated with all the compassion of a prison gang. During his first month, he was on call every other night. He worked around the clock on Yom Kippur — while fasting. The man I married had been interested in music, art, nature; now he fell asleep in restaurants.

Even though I threw myself into a new reporting job, I never could match his hours, and soon I stopped trying. Instead, I made friends, joined a havurah, began to find my place. The first time I hosted a Kiddush lunch for my new havurah, my husband walked into our apartment after an all-night shift, and someone said, “Who are you?”

But we learned to trust each other and treasure moments together, even if they weren’t as plentiful as we’d like. This ability to feel joined even when apart has served us well these past 30 years, as we’ve lived in different countries, now in different cities. We’ve raised three children, housed too many pets, kissed three of our parents goodbye, faced struggles, celebrated simchas — together, always.

Jane Eisner is the editor of the Forward. She can be reached at [email protected]

Gabrielle Birkner

Gabrielle Birkner and Jeremy Siefer

Occupation: Editor, Writer

Married: 2009

What I learned:

Setting boundaries with friends and family is important.

I have a tendency to be a bit of an over-sharer. You tell me that you like my shoes, and I tell you to look closely, that one shoe is slightly darker than the other… the floor model… half off at Bloomie’s. My over-sharing habit long meant that my day wasn’t finished until it was unpacked — what deadline was stressing me out, what my boyfriend said — with one of my best girlfriends or my mother.

In the eight months since I stood under the hupah with my beloved, I’ve learned an important, if counterintuitive, lesson: how to be more self-contained. That’s at least in part because marriage changes your loyalties: No longer do I feel compelled to discuss the inner workings of my relationship with those outside my relationship.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes share my joys and frustrations with my friends and family; it doesn’t mean that I don’t listen attentively as they share theirs with me. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve learned to say a mere “thank you” when someone compliments my shoes. But it does mean that I have developed a heightened sense of what’s private, and what I want to stay that way.

Gabrielle Birkner is the Web editor of the Forward. She can be reached at [email protected]

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