Even when she’s bombing onstage, comedienne Ophira Eisenberg tries to stay positive, silently repeating her favorite mantra: “They can all go fuck themselves.”
Eisenberg’s defiant attitude may come from the fact that it wasn’t exactly a picnic growing up a Jewish brunette in a blond, affluent oil and cattle town in Calgary, Canada, near the Rocky Mountains – certainly not with the name Ophira (the most people could manage was “Ophelia”), courtesy of her Israeli-born father. The youngest of six children, Eisenberg’s father grew up in Tsfat, and was part of the Allied forces that liberated Holland from Germany. Her mother was eager to leave war-torn Holland behind, and married him at age 16, moving first to Tsfat, then to Haifa and finally Canada. Her mom would dispense advice like, “Wish on stars all you want but no one’s listening,” and “Don’t be picky. It’s not attractive.”
As she tells it her memoir, “Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy” (Seal Press, 2013), when it came to dating, Eisenberg was like the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor… ” She did not discriminate.
“I could make up for not having supermodel-like looks by focusing once again on my best quality: I was not picky," she said. "Or as I liked to see it, I was open.”
Eisenberg wanted to try everything in sex. “Say what you will about going all the way on the first date,” she jokes, “but if you want answers about compatibility faster than what Google can provide, it’s the best way to go.”
In an era of confused gender roles, where most dating advice – from reality TV shows like “The Bachelor”and books with titles like “How to Make Someone Fall in Love with You in 90 Minutes or Less” – focus on women following a certain set of rules or fitting themselves into a stereotypical mold in order to “land” a man, it’s a refreshing change to read “Screw Everyone.”
For once, being a woman isn’t worried about being a slut (“…frankly, I didn’t even realize I was one. I just thought I was being nice,” she writes), or too aggressive or needy or any of the other millions of neurotic things women obsess over when a man doesn’t like them or call them back or want to marry them.
In fact, Eisenberg isn't at all concerned with marriage. After she moves to New York to try to make it in stand-up comedy, she is flummoxed by her girlfriends – beautiful, successful, and always waiting for a guy to call, hoping he’d be “The One.”
“I didn’t give a shit about ‘the one.’ I was still working on ‘anyone.’”
“Anyone” included a guy she met doing stand-up out-of town who did crystal meth in the bathroom and got arrested driving her back to her hotel, where she was threatened by his waitress girlfriend; Roger, an unattractive, balding guy with crooked teeth whose job as a pastry chef blessed him with talented hands (“nothing I had ever experienced before”); and Rob, a “typical angry man” who unfortunately lived in Queens (ugh, outer boroughs!) and collected…drumroll….stuffed Garfields (!!).
The idea of “carpe diem,” living life to the fullest, sounds all fun and breezy, but when you date every man that asks you out – and sleep with half of them – you find yourself in some questionable situations. But these situations provide the foundation for Eisenberg’s great storytelling and comedy.
Yet Eisenberg is no Samantha Jones, the character from “Sex and the City” who embodies pure hedonism, objectifies men and eschews all relationships to pursue casual and quality sex. Unlike Samantha, Eisenberg doesn’t act like a man. Although she asks men out, makes the first move, doesn’t sit around waiting for their call, she still gets her heart broken over and over again and sometimes it’s not clear if she’s looking for sex or affirmation.
“Who walks away from a simple one-night stand?" she complains after she takes home a guy from a bar, pleasures him, but he leaves before it’s her turn. "Was I so undesirable that he didn’t even want to entertain having casual sex with me?”
Through it all, she’s funny, often using her ethnic background as fodder. Her first kiss, for example, was “better than eating bacon on Hanukkah morning”; she had a short window to have sex after getting a bikini wax before the hair grew back – “Being half Israeli, it was about forty minutes”; and, upon breaking into a church: “When two single Jewish college students are alone in a church at night, it is mandatory that they get it on. I believe it’s written in the Torah.”
By the time she meets Jonathan, she’s as cynical as other New Yorkers. On their first date she shares her anti-marriage stance, expecting to uncover his weird twisted secret that he has “a glaring drug problem, mental illness, or a wife,” but could it be that he’s a normal guy?
Here’s where Eisenberg’s lack of game-playing seems to come in handy. He calls her, she calls him back, they date, they move in together. Still, she tries every tool in her box to sabotage the relationship – criticizing his picky eating habits, fighting over a hidden email file about her, going to an S&M club – but ultimately, she has to face her own demons: can she give up her single life, her light-sex as soothing mechanism, and commit to one guy till death do us part?
The question isn't, "Will she?" It's, "How?"One thing's for sure: it definitely won't be the way most women do.