One Woman’s Perspective
JMag interviews Kimberlee Auerbach, author of The Devil, the Lovers and Me: My Life in Tarot.
In your book, you are a Jewish woman trying to create the life you want, with the man you love, which brings you to a tarot card reader. What happens from there?
It sounds funny when you put it that way, but yes, I go to a tarot card reader, thinking she will tell me my future is bright, that my boyfriend and I will get married, that we’ll have kids, that I’ll find the perfect career path and be happy. Instead, each card in the spread reminds me of a story from my past. By the end of the book, I realize it’s not about looking to the future or holding onto the past, it’s about being present.
So what brought you to JDate?JDate was the perfect combination between being intentional and proactive, while letting fate take its course…
My best friend met her husband on JDate. Granted, she met him after going on thirty dates with men who weren’t quite right for her, but she stuck it out and finally met her beshert. When she encouraged me to sign up, I was very apprehensive. I thought to myself, I’m pretty, I’m bubbly, why would I need to advertise myself online like a piece of meat? I had this romantic notion that the Universe would bring the right person into my life at the right time. I wanted to believe in fate. She explained that JDate was the perfect combination between being intentional and proactive, while letting fate take its course, that it’s important to say what you want out loud, to be specific, and the universe will bring you that, or something better. This was way before The Secret became a bestseller.
What did you write in your profile?
I mentioned that I had been bad about getting my needs met in the past and that I wanted to get better about that. I was clear about what I was looking for in a man and in a relationship. I didn’t “over share,” but I made sure I came across on the page. What’s the point of getting someone interested in you, if when they really get to know you, they’re not going to like you? I figure, be yourself, the good, the bad, all of it. The people who get you will love you and celebrate you. I think that’s what we all want, to be our true selves and be loved for that. In my book, I include an edited down version of my profile:
More about me: I am passionate and full of life. I love to laugh, and when I laugh, I laugh loud and hard. I am a great listener and love to ask people questions.
This is what I’ve learned from my past: I have learned that you can’t change people and that you should never fall in love with someone’s potential.
What was your JDate experience like?
I loved JDate, even though I was only on it for two weeks. I set up six or seven dates in a row. The first date I went on was with a very nice entertainment lawyer who lied about his height. The second date was with a witty investment banker who lied about his age. Then I met “Noah,” who became my boyfriend in a nanosecond. I canceled my other dates and my membership a week later.
When you went on your first JDate with “Noah,” what was your initial reaction?
Perfect time for an excerpt from my book:
I was playing with the hem of my skirt when I spotted him through the glass wall coming up the escalator.
His hair was more ginger than red. He was wearing brown plastic glasses and he had a magazine tucked into the back pocket of his jeans. Everything about him was casual and reminded me of the beach. I watched him enter the lobby. He stopped to admire the outdoor garden behind the concierge desk. There was a stillness about him. Looking at him was like staring out at the ocean. I felt my entire body relax.
He turned around and our eyes met. Smiles flashed across our faces, as if we were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time.
In the book, your parents get divorced. Did you ever recommend JDate to them?
My parents divorced ten years ago. Isn’t that when JDate first launched? I met Noah in 2002. At that time, my father was already remarried. My mother was still single, but I didn’t think JDate catered to an older crowd. There were men in their fifties, I remember, but they were interested in dating women in their thirties. Has that changed? Maybe I’ll tell my mom to give it a try.
Did you ever recommend JDate to friends?
I’ve recommended JDate to a bunch of friends. A very close friend of mine, who got a divorce from her husband/boyfriend of eleven years because she wanted kids and he didn’t, just got remarried to a man she met on JDate last year. Not only are they married, they’re pregnant too!
After only three days on JDate, you immediately started a long-term relationship. Any advice for our members who are looking to do the same?
Well, you can’t control who is on JDate when you’re on JDate. You can’t control whether or not someone will think you’re cute. What you can control is being yourself, being honest, and honoring your needs and desires. Also, I would say, be patient. As I said earlier, my best friend went on thirty dates before she met her husband. I went on three dates, met my boyfriend, but after five years, we just broke up. I think it’s all one big risk. You follow your heart and make the best decisions at the time and trust that you will know what is right and wrong for you in the moment. People talk about success stories all the time. I think any time you open your heart to love, regardless of the outcome, you are a success.
Would you come back to meet someone on JDate in the future?
I’m not sure I would go back on JDate. It would kind of feel like cheating. It was my story with Noah. Not sure I’d want that story with someone else.
In your book, you go into detail about the type of person you can meet on JDate (secular Jew, Orthodox Jew, High Holy Days Jew, etc.). Where do you fit in?
I don’t consider myself secular or particularly religious. I think of myself as spiritual. In a lot of ways, I feel like a Buddhist/Jew. I was raised Jewish, went to Hebrew school, became a Bat Mitzvah, and now I’m a High-Holy Day Jew who likes to cook Shabbat dinners on occasion and go to yoga on Saturdays. When I have kids, I think I’ll want to do Shabbat dinner every Friday, less for religious reasons and more because I think rituals are important and grounding.
At the age of 33, what prompted you to write a memoir?
Are you saying I’m too young to write a memoir?
In the book, you turn 12 tarot cards and each reveals its own lesson. Which card made the most dramatic impact on your life?
The Tower card, definitely. It’s the card that shakes everything up. Buffers, lies, old patterns are blown apart. From the rubble, we can create a more authentic way of being. For me, this card’s influence came in the wake of a literal shake-up, September 11th. I became very aware of everything I hated about my life and found the strength to do something about it.
How do you mix tarot with Judaism? Are your friends or family skeptical?
The 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot deck correlate to paths linking the sephirot—the ten emanations of the Kaballah Tree of Life—so there is a legitimate tie to Jewish Mysticism, which some branches of Judaism also look down upon. My friends and family have been pretty cool about it. They know I’m not into the occult. They know I’m not a witch. And I think it’s pretty clear if you read the book that I use tarot much more a psychological device than a tool for divination.
Your book is full of delightful ‘80s pop culture references, including a hilarious episode involving the misinterpretation of Cyndi Lauper lyrics. Do you, like many of your generation, hold a special affinity towards the era?
I love the 80s. I especially love the big hair of the 80s. I used to hair spray my bangs so high; a bird might have mistaken it for a nest.
When you were the Le Clic girl in the ‘80s, you were thrust into the role of teenage sex symbol. Looking back, how did this affect you?
It was a very strange experience because I wasn’t really a model. I was the CEO’s daughter. Some of the kids my age told me I wasn’t pretty enough to be a model. Then I’d go on a modeling shoot and the make-up person would roll their eyes at me. At the same time, I got inappropriate attention from older men and was forced to smile and look pretty all the time. I would say it confused the hell out of me. Am I pretty? And I not pretty? Am I sexy? Am I not sexy? I think teenagers should be able to figure out what they like about themselves. I had everyone telling me what they liked and didn’t like about me. It took me a long time to sort through it all and come to a genuine sense of self-esteem around my looks and sexuality.
Your book has many music references, including Cyndi Lauper, The Beatles and Joni Mitchell. How does music figure into your life?
I’ve never considered myself a big music person, but I guess I must be. Some people go to concerts all the time. Play an instrument. I just walk down the street singing to myself and then realize the song I’ve been singing completely relates to what’s been going on in my life. For example, when I was really fed up with my boyfriend’s ambivalence toward getting married, I found myself singing, “You better shape up, cause I need a man, and my heart is set on you. You better shape up, you gotta understand, to my heart I must true.” It wasn’t conscious, but when I became aware of the words, I started laughing hysterically. It’s funny how the mind works. Or rather, how my mind works.
Your book has many personal revelations about your family. How do they deal with your candidness?
September 11th had a huge impact on my life, as a New Yorker, as an American, as a Jew, as a person on this planet.
I gave my mother, father, brother and Noah veto rights. Anything they felt uncomfortable with, I changed or took out completely. I wanted the people I love most in my life to feel safe. I also think I reveal much more about myself in the book than anyone else. I think that’s what good first person writing should do.
You were working for FOX News in New York on September 11th, 2001. Explain the impact this had on your life.
September 11th had a huge impact on my life, as a New Yorker, as an American, as a Jew, as a person on this planet. I’m not sure working at Fox added to that impact. If I had seen it happen in person, I probably would have been much more traumatized. If I had lost someone in the towers, I would be much more scarred. Working at Fox on that morning taught me something about myself though. I am someone who is good in crisis. People were running around, screaming, crying. I just shut off emotionally, so I could guide and calm the people in the field over the phone. One of the truck operators later told me that my voice saved him that day. I hadn’t realized I had picked a job that mirrored the panic in my childhood. I grew up with a sick brother who had benign tumors in his parotid gland and sever pediatric asthma, unrelated. There were many times we thought he was going to die, so we’d kick it into high gear, go into survival mode, Defcon 1, whatever you want to call it. I got used to crisis mode. I got used to disassociating. As an adult, I was acting out an old story. I am much, much happier not working in breaking news anymore.
In your book, you found strength by adopting an imaginary persona named Malvina. How did she come about? Are you two still in contact?
She’s the person inside me who knows how to kick ass and protect me from getting hurt. Right after September 11th, she came into my life full throttle, helping me get out of a very bad relationship. At the time, she felt separate from me. I felt like a marionette, and she was pulling the strings. I remember moving into my one-bedroom and sitting down on the couch, in shock, not quite sure how I got there. Now, she feels much more a part of me, more integrated.
Your memoir is a very personal narrative. How can this book help our members navigate their lives and relationships?
The more specific you are in describing your personal struggle and journey, the more universal it becomes. I’ve had so many people say to me, this is my life, when clearly it’s not their life. I think because I’m so brutally honest and reveal so much of myself, people feel let in and more vulnerable and can look at themselves in a deeper way. I also think this culture puts so much pressure on us to be perfect, to have the perfect body, to have the perfect job, to have the perfect family, that when we fall short of these societal or parental or personal expectations, we feel like shit. I think the self-acceptance I come to in the book will inspire others.
Your book stems from a one-woman show you did in New York City. Was it easy to transform the performance piece into a book and still keep the same feeling?
No, it was not easy at all. It was actually brutal. Writing for the page is completely different than writing for the stage. But I did it! With a lot of help, from my editor, writers group, friends.
We heard you once tried to contact Oprah Winfrey to become a special correspondent for her show. Any news on that?
That was in 2004. Right after I sent in my audition tape, I found out they killed the contest. It was good for me to do though. I had a lot of fun. I learned something new about my mom. And in general, I am trying to be more process-loving and less outcome-oriented.
What’s next for Kimberlee Auerbach?
I’m not thinking about next. I’m here now. Breathing. Open.