Yakov the Supplanter
YAKOV: Russian form of “Jacob,” meaning “supplanter”
“ Trinculo, if you trouble him any more in’s tale, by this hand, I will supplant some of your teeth.” — William Shakespeare, The Tempest
They say you must love yourself first, before anyone else can love you. Not true. I’ve had lots of boyfriends! And all of them have taught me something. From Steve I learned about music. From Anders I learned about art. From Gerard I learned about sadism. From Roger I learned to speak Swedish and identify mushrooms. From Bruce I learned that some people have webbed feet.
What did I learn from Yakov?
Madonna, Cher, Pocohontas, Yakov. One sobriquet alone suffices to conjure up a unique personality, one so original that any additional information would only dilute its exquisite power. Imagine a much younger Matt Dillon. Yakov was twelve years my junior. Now create a compact version with a Russian accent, a MacBookPro, an iPhone6. Dress him in a black T-shirt, black Levis, and black Converse All-Stars. Now -this is the most important part- shave his head completely bald.
Yakov emigrated to take a class with Milton Glaser, and stayed…..in Crown Heights. Each door in the building sported a yellow placard: “THE MESSIAH IS COMING!” At last you came to Yakov’s door with a yellow Post-it. “Messiah.”
We entered into a May December relationship. I played the part of a bleak December twilight and he, lovely May morning.
Crown Heights was more foreign than Lick Skillet, Tennessee. I slept over in Brooklyn. Yakov called in sick. We were in bed when a key turned in a lock and the door burst open, bashing into my naked thigh. There stood an extremely tall young man outfitted in full Lubavitcher drag: scraggly beard, payot, fedora, tefillin, the works. He emitted something between Rysanek’s famous “Sieglinde” scream at Bayreuth and an Elmer Fudd whimper. He ran shrieking like a rabid bunny down the stairs and out to the street. “What the Hell was that?” was all I could say. “That was Budinsky.” “What’s a Budinsky?” “Well, he’s studying to be a rabbi and today he’s being ordained. He has my key –when I’m out he uses my shower, He doesn’t like to share showers with those guys at the Schul.
For him, even fully clothed women are trayf! What happened is going to set him back ten thousand years. Maybe they can’t ordain him now that he’s had a look at…you.”
My 2000 square foot Tribeca loft seemed a more appropriate setting for us, somehow, than the broom closet in Crown Heights. There were challenges. Trichophobia is a fear of lint, fuzz, towels, hair, eyelashes, and dust. My beloved felines were given away, I stuffed towels and rugs into closets, insuring smoother cohabitation. I hired a miniature cleaning lady, newly arrived from Warsaw. She showed up in scarlet Dr. Denton’s footed pajamas, wielding a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and shrieking, “I AM IOLA! I AM ARTIST! I HATE TO CLEAN!”
Budinsky called Yakov at the loft. Yakov wasn’t home. I talked to him. “You know, that was a pretty crazy thing that happened in Brooklyn, huh?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “When you saw me naked. We made eye contact!” Budinsky said, “I didn’t see no eyes!” Budinsky visited the loft. I loaded up on plastic plates, cups, soda and potato chips. I could not touch anything he would eat with my filthy female hands. He whined, “Why am I doing this Jew shit?
I’m not even allowed to masturbate!”
Yakov and I were both graphic designers. The disparity in our net worth was such that I decided to devote the twelve hours a day that I had reserved for my own career entirely to Yakov’s. This included a campaign of public relations that would make Michael Ovitz look like a Vermont housewife, and resulted in magazine articles, a book deal, and a client roster that oddly resembled my own. I was concerned that by lending him the two thousand dollars to start his art magazine it might “damage our relationship” if this debt went unpaid. Why not just give him the money?
After a year we broke up. In the middle of the breakup, he brought his laundry over for me to do.
Balzac said, “A woman of twenty will do nothing for you, a woman of forty, everything.” He had something there. I made the mistake of attending an Art Directors Club opening. Young Guns: Designers under Thirty. I mentally added, “who have been nurtured, encouraged and supported financially by broken and obscure dowagers on the wrong side of 40.” I approached Yakov to congratulate him on a prizewinning poster (silkscreen class, $350.00) depicting my lamp from my bedroom announcing a reading series at the coffee bar on my corner. If you have seen “All about Eve,” remember the lyrics of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”*, or endured spinal cord surgery you will know the feeling. Eight Words escaped his lips. “This is my new girlfriend. Isn’t she cute?” “Why yes, she’s adorable,” I concurred. Beside him was a diminutive Japanese nymphet, of eighty pounds. I took care not to crush this delicate person while she expressed reverence for this ancient, decrepit oak of graphic design wisdom as young Japanese have been instructed.
I managed to careen almost noiselessly to the door, narrowly escaping collision with the 229 major art directors in attendance. This was the beginning of what has become known as “Bald Male Pattern-ness,” or, “The Recurring Yakov Response.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to present my theory. I would submit that New York City in general, and Lower Manhattan in particular hosts a disproportionate number of male inhabitants who prefer somber colored clothing, an all-black costume being not at all unusual. Are we agreed? I would further postulate that one baldheaded guy dressed all in black resembles nothing so much as another baldheaded guy dressed all in black. Particularly from behind. It is the central tenet of my argument. Nicht Wahr?
If you are familiar with the work of Federico Fellini, you must have seen his masterpiece, “Nights of Cabiria”. It’s the story of a plucky little prostitute, played by Giulieta Masina, who believes she has at last found true love, right up until the moment where he steals her pocketbook and attempts to throw her off a bridge. I have a tiny aluminum bucket that accompanies me to these screenings. At Film Forum I was weeping into it when I noticed a familiar outline five rows in front of me: a smooth, rounded skull attractively adorned with a matching set of ears. I grabbed my bucket and bolted. At those free Thursday nights at the Whitney Museum, the vision repeated itself eleven times. Further sightings occurred at Le Pain Quotidien, Barnes and Noble, The Apple Store, but when one turned up at my great-aunt Ruth’s memorial at Temple Emmanu-El, I began to question the veracity of the sightings. And when it appeared at Pinkberry, my sanity took a nosedive. A girl ought to feel safe at Pinkberry.
Any downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn block sported a handful of Yakovs, wearing black tee shirts and black Levi’s. Baldly walking, baldly talking, texting, or holding their little black iPhones up to their little bald iHeads.
Research revealed the following facts: Of the 753,221 people residing in lower Manhattan, half are men. That leaves 376,610. Of these, some are too young or too old. That leaves 282,457. Of these a staggering two thirds dress exclusively in black clothing, leaving 188,304. Of these, research has concluded that one quarter, or 47,076, are either intentionally or unintentionally, completely bald. I developed a rabid aversion to hardboiled eggs, new potatoes, and studiously avoided bowling, billiards and ping-pong. I took care to avoid movie theaters, art galleries, and Avenues or Streets perpendicular or parallel to Canal, Houston, Fourteenth and Twenty-Third. Anywhere fresh-brewed coffee was served was off-limits as well. With the passage of time, and a good Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, it’s getting better.
Yakov’s put on weight, and no longer resembles anyone even remotely cute. Best of all, he is not even young anymore. At the time of this writing, the sightings have decreased from 67.3 Yakovs per week, to 22.4, calculated as of Wednesday. Although the black-clad-hairless-men trend has increased by 31.7 percent in the subsequent two decades, comparatively few of these sightings, on closer inspection, proved to be genuine Yakovs. On the occasions where a Yakov of the “non-clone” variety does make an appearance, usually accompanied by the female and its young, great care is taken not to disturb it, particularly during mating season.
Yakov has done well for himself! He published a mediocre book, with a dedication on the frontspiece, to every single person I introduced him to. I see it is now available for $1.99. As Spring approaches, I ask myself what I’ve learned. Let me put it this way: my future ex must be at least seven feet tall, with pink pigtails, an eye patch, handlebar moustache, and hunchbacked. He must dress exclusively in yellow. Thus, when we two are no longer as one, he will, at least, stand out in a crowd. A crowd of Yakovs.
C2107 Laurie Rosenwald