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Don’t Be A Prick: Dating Without Hypocrisy

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I want to preface this piece by saying that the following is all my opinion and from my own experience. You may disagree. You may have had different experiences which lead you to different conclusions. That’s great. This is not intended to be the piece to end all pieces. Take from it what you will.

I could start, like so many others, with something along the lines of  “dating isn’t what it used to be,” but I won’t. I haven’t dated in any other era or generation. This is all I know. I’m confident, however, that dating, at its core, hasn’t changed. The circumstances in which dating occurs have.

People aren’t really any different now than they’ve ever been. We’re not far removed, as a species, from those who preceded us millennia ago. One might disagree and claim that society is vastly different than at any other time in history, and it is. Society, however, is the product of humans, rather than the reverse. We are what we choose (or in some cases are forced or obligated) to be. Accordingly, the society we live in largely reflects what and how we choose to be, as well as what we are willing to tolerate.

As you may or may not be aware, for some people at least, Los Angeles’s “dating scene” (if you can call it that) is sh*t. It’s sh*t for more reasons than I could begin to articulate. Particularly, however, because we are hypocrites (myself included). Why are we such hypocrites? It’s easy. It’s easy to want someone nice, but easier to be a prick. It’s easy to want someone fit, but easier to not bother with dieting and the gym. It’s easy to want someone rich and hard working, but easier to take a handout. It’s easy to want someone loyal, but easier to keep your options open. You should understand by now.

The ways we envision and express ourselves have also changed and become easier. They have been magnified and expanded to a previously unimaginable degree. Now we can put every detail of our lives, thoughts, wants, wishes, dreams, hopes, hates, and so on, in words and photos, on social media and see others’ as well. We can portray ourselves as whomever we want, to a wider audience, and do so immediately. I won’t go on a rant about how social media is the devil and we would be better off without it. I don’t believe that. I do believe, however, that it is a tool, and like all tools, if you misuse it, there arises an issue. (Trust me, nobody cares about your favorite drink at Starbucks, except market research companies. Tell them, not me.) People aren’t any more vain because of Instagram, for example, but they are able to more easily and widely express that vanity and, in my opinion, are less shy about doing so. Where vanity was once discouraged, the current environment encourages vanity. By acquiring “followers” (the word is used for a reason) who gush over one’s photos and shower them with (presumably empty) compliments, the person posting feels justified in posting more, thereby feeding into that vanity which causes the disconnect with reality I find in so many people. I can’t imagine the purpose of posting a random selfie to begin with (probably with some absurd caption designed to make the poster appear philosophical, artistic, or creative). I can less understand those followers making more or less the same exaggerated comment on more or less the same selfie day after day and week after week.

The problem isn’t really even the countless selfies and posts and inane comments on them. The problem is our obliviousness to the demise of humility and the resulting dating environment. The idea behind dating (correct me if I’m wrong) at least traditionally, is to find a partner, not to make people suffer or humiliate themselves to earn your attention. So, if you’re a self-obsessed asshole, you’ll have trouble dating. If you date nice people, they won’t put up with you for long. If you date another self-obsessed asshole, they probably just won’t give you the time of day if you’re not sucking up to them anyway. Makes sense right? We all want someone better than ourselves. If you think you’re flawless, other people’s flaws are intolerable, naturally, meaning no one is ever good enough (but really it’s you who isn’t). Frankly, I don’t think people want to or are willing to acknowledge that they are self-obsessed assholes (that said, you should try looking in the mirror and admitting that sometimes you’re an asshole. It’s liberating. Trust me.)  However, it’s as if today, instead of humbling ourselves and sharing meaningfully, we really just use the tools at our disposal to celebrate ourselves. Don’t. You’re not that great. Neither am I. Nobody is that damn great.

The fact is we lie to ourselves. We think we’re better looking than we are, smarter than we are, more charming than we are, and so on, and it’s okay (to a point anyway). However, we often make the mistake of setting standards for who we will date based on what we think we deserve rather than who we really are. The obvious problem with such a mindset is dwelling on what we think we deserve. We’re not all supermodels and we can’t all have one. We’re not all geniuses and we can’t all have one. We’re not all super rich people, and we can’t all have one. Frankly, unless we’re doing our utmost to be what we’re seeking, we flat out don’t deserve it.

It comes down to this: being the person you are seeking for yourself and being honest about who you are, as well as who you are really seeking. If you want someone fit, get in the gym regularly. If you want someone rich, work those extra hours and hustle. If you want someone smart, switch off whatever  TV show you’re watching and learn something. None of it matters, though, unless you’re honest with yourself about what you want and why. Trust me, you’re not perfect. The people you will date and possibly marry are not perfect. You will not achieve perfection. We are freer than at any time in recent history to be the person we want and be with whom we want. So be your best self and seek out someone being their best self too. Don’t settle; not because you “just shouldn’t,” but because you really do embody the qualities you seek and nothing less will do.

Really… just have fun. Dating is an experience, not an interview or inspection. Keep your standards high and your mind open. Relax. Don’t set too many little rules, but stick firmly to the big ones. Enjoy life and find people that you enjoy it even more with. Don’t force things and don’t take it personally when they don’t work out the way you planned. Be nice, be kind, be responsive, be honest, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be a prick.

And most importantly, don’t be a hypocrite.

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Eli Melamed lives in Santa Monica and is happy to give you his piece of mind.

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Opinion

Trump and the Iran Nuclear Deal

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Iran’s ever-evolving nuclear aspirations are far from breaking news to most of the world. For over two decades, the country’s desire to continue developing its nuclear program has dominated global conversation. In 2015, years of ongoing negotiations with Iran finally concluded when the U.S. and five other world powers agreed to lift sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s banking and energy sector in exchange for restrictions in Iran’s nuclear program. Now, almost a year after it’s inception, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, will undergo a fresh round of opposition as the new Trump administration prepares to take office.

Snubbed by many as nothing more than a bunch of politicos beating a dead horse, the Iran deal was the culmination of over twelve years worth of negotiations between seven states and the European Union. Under the deal, Iran maintains the ability to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. It agreed to refine its metal to no more than 3.7 percent enrichment, the level needed to fuel nuclear power plants.

Iran also pledged to limit its enriched-uranium stockpile to 300 kilograms, 3 percent of its stores over the next fifteen years. In return, the UN, EU and US agreed to lift sanctions and slowly release more than $100bn in assets frozen overseas.Throughout the course of his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump advocated for a more aggressive Iran policy. Trump pledged that dismantling the Iran deal will be a top priority once he steps into office, calling it “one of the dumbest deals ever.”With less than a month away from being sworn into office, Trump will soon have the opportunity, and the domestic political authority, to reverse the deal in its entirety.

However impulsive Trump may be, reversing the Iran deal would be ill- advised, if not unrealistic. Among other reasons, abruptly dismantling the Iran deal now would serve to isolate the US not just from Iran, but from everyone who participated in the negotiations and who would undoubtedly be affected by the US’s actions. First, renegotiating the Iran deal will be difficult, if not entirely impossible, amidst international pressure to keep the deal’s essential framework in tact. Changing its terms would require the cooperation of Iran and the other signatories: China, France, Russia, Germany, the U.K. and the European Union. Just a few weeks ago, the European Union reiterated its “resolute commitment” to the JCPOA and called for the upholding of commitments by all sides.

Moreover, pulling back now is unlikely to reverse effects already set in motion by the year-old nuclear deal. History rarely- if ever- provides refunds. The fact remains that however strongly critics disapproved of the Iran nuclear deal before its inception in 2015, a deal was still reached. Abandoning the agreement post-facto will neither turn back the clock nor put the US, Iran, or any other world actor back in the same position as it was pre-JCPOA. For better or worse, the sociopolitical climate has since shifted. Since the Iran deal, cooperation between Iran and Russia has strengthened immeasurably. There has been a rapid expansion of communication and economic relations between the two countries, including efforts made to facilitate travel and waiver visa for the two countries’ nationals; negotiations for the establishment of a joint investment bank; agreement for investment by Russia in Iran up to USD 40 billion; and the opening of two lines of credit worth five billion USD and two billion USD by Russian banks. Iran-China ties have also expanded in the post-JCPOA period. With the lifting of sanctions, Sino-Iranian communications as well as various military-to-military exchanges have developed between the two countries. Similarity and interest in developing military technologies to counter U.S. systems struck a resonance between both countries as Iran began to engage China in purchasing several of its military technologies including anti-ship cruise missiles, long distance air-to-air missiles and sea mines.

On a separate note, it is important to acknowledge that despite recent claims of revamping some of its nuclear technologies, in the past year Tehran has reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent, placed two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage, and disabled a reactor capable of producing plutonium. Abrogating from the deal now, or even threatening to do so, would in all likelihood cause Iran to rethink its own compliance. In light of Trump’s impulsive comments, Iranian leaders including Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, immediately warned that Iran is ready to build a new nuclear enrichment plant the moment the other side violates the nuclear deal.

It is too early to say with complete certainty what position Trump will take once in office regarding the JCPOA. To be sure, pushing back on Iran in the Middle East and continuing to shrink the Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations will be an important priority of the incoming Trump administration. However, the international consequences of tearing up the Iran deal in its entirety would only serve to escalate already high tension between the US and Iran.

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Feature

Response to “10 Reasons Persian Jews Support Trump,” Afshine Emrani’s Opinion Piece in the Jewish Journal

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Afshine Emrani’s opinion piece states that his “strong impression is that most Persian Jews in Los Angeles support Donald Trump.” Days before it was published, he wrote on his personal facebook, “Question for my ‪#‎Persian‬ ‪#‎Jewish‬ friends who support ‪#‎Trump‬. Why?” He did not ask the same question to his Persian Jewish followers who are Hillary Clinton supporters. So what gave him the impression that most Persian Jews in Los Angeles support Trump? As an American Persian Jew, I am here to tell you that I would never vote for such a xenophobic, bigoted candidate as Trump and I know many more who feel the same way.  The arguments in the opinion piece are weak, and some of the claims are complete fallacies. You can read more on each claim here.

Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric towards immigrants and minorities is truly disconcerting. He has offended almost every single minority group in the United States, including Middle Easterners and Jews. He has proposed a ban on Muslims, referred to undocumented immigrants as “rapists,” and called the federal judge hearing his fraud case on Trump University “biased” and “corrupt” solely because of his Mexican heritage. He refused to disavow David Duke and The Klu Klux Klan, posted anti-semitic imagery on his twitter and declined to apologize.

The United States Refugee Act of 1980, with the assistance of organizations like HIAS, gave Persian Jews, including my family, the chance to flee religious persecution after the Iranian Revolution and seek asylum in the United States. They left a country that treated them like second-class citizens, and came to a country that celebrates religious freedom. Donald Trump has proposed a suspension to President Obama’s plan to take in refugees from the Middle East. These are people fleeing a familiar vehement religious oppression our families endured. Our relatives were fortunate enough to come to this country. It would be very difficult for them to enter under Trump’s proposed program suspension.

History has taught us that as Jews, we shouldn’t take it lightly when individuals in power threaten to uproot groups of people based upon their religion. As Iranian Jews, we personally know how it feels when this happens. I am not speaking to you as a Democrat or a Republican, as a conservative or a liberal, but as a Persian Jewish American woman who was raised on the values of acceptance, compassion, and humanity. We are proud to be a part of this great nation of immigrants, and we refuse to back a candidate like Donald Trump that espouses hatred and racism.   

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Opinion

SCARED SINGLE PART TWO: Money, Debt, And Entitlement En Route To Marriage Among First-Generation Americans

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The Scared Single series is a glimpse into modern dating and the hurdles millennials face on their road to the chuppah.

Financial strain is one of the most-referenced stressors on a marriage or marriage-minded relationship.

The display of and perception of wealth plays a massive role in how singles choose their mates.  Namely, both males and females are enticed to use marriage as an opportunity to alleviate future financial worries and/or to publicly overstate their financial positions.

Decades ago, as new immigrants, our parents did everything to establish themselves in a foreign country.  Some had the luxury of seeking higher education, but most hustled to put food on the table.  Almost everyone struggled financially at one point or another, and many of the eventual success stories involved humbly “starting with nothing.”

As the community began an acceleration towards affluence, and as the community became synonymous with luxury, pressure to display status grew.  

Against this new backdrop of affluence, our generation began to establish itself through seeking higher education.  Caught in nearly a decade of the effects of a global recession, maintaining merely the status quo of the wealth we were surrounded by seems more challenging – at times, out of reach.  Indeed, the expectation of financial security exists this generation in a way that it never had before.  The fact of the matter is that most young professionals have debt from their educational pursuits, yet the trajectory of the community’s flashiness still seems to dictate the priority with which we give financial status while dating.            

Today, each gender uses code words to gain insight into how a future with a prospective mate may look like.  Women reference education, career, drive, ambition to gauge a man’s financial potential.  Men ask, “Is she down to Earth?  Low maintenance?  Does she work?  Does she come from a ‘good’ family?”, to gauge financial expectations.  There is a common thread in these inquiries – will we, as a couple, ever struggle with finances?  

So many of us wish to establish the unbreakable bond we see in our parents, and yet we just don’t want to live through the beginning of the story.  More telling of our generation’s desire to steer clear of any difficulties is this need, this – dare I say entitlement – to be free of financial worries in marriage.  

The tremendous pressure surrounding money creates a tense dating environment, which disincentivizes communication about the role of finances in marriage.  Even more so, the environment creates the incentive to show that you have more than you actually have, often contributing to broken engagements, rising divorce, and a feeling among singles seeing it all play out that enough may not be enough.  

We all know this, and yet, we continue to close our eyes en masse.  The ever-growing trends within the community continue to revolve around displaying financial status.  Every component of a relationship-gone-public incorporates the need to exhibit wealth – even after the wedding.  If you’re single, you automatically picture yourself in place of the couple and wonder how in the world there’s an endless budget for parties.  If you’re a married man, you pray your wife doesn’t get any ideas.  Co-ed bridal and baby showers?  Live-in nurse post-partum?  Over-the-top bris?

When did the average person become entitled to such luxuries?  And why now, at a time when it’s hard enough to find someone in the first place, have such obscene gestures of spending been mounting?  

And if you can’t have all of that, regardless of the fact that you know you won’t be paying for it…does marriage become less fulfilling?

I understand this overwhelming desire to show the world that you’ve made it.  

To the singles waiting their turn or en route to marriage – continue to hold traditional notions of partnership and building a family from nothing in high regard – resist the urge to substitute substance for status.

Additionally, I challenge those among us who are happily married – parents included – to simply consider the context of their public actions.  It is time to embrace, and publicize, the evolution of the modern-day (two-income) couple for the betterment of the community at large – will you accept the challenge or continue to scare us single?

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december, 2019

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