I can't escape him.
Imagine, if you will, either Matt Dillon, or Mark Messier of the New York Rangers, depending on who you think is cuter. Now create a more compact version with a Russian accent, a Macintosh computer, and a pack of Marlboro Lights. Dress him in a black T-shirt, black Levi's, and black Converse All-Stars. Good. Now (this is the most important part) shave his head completely bald.
You now have a picture of Yakov. But perhaps not only of Yakov.
We entered into a May-December relationship. I played the part of a bleak December and he was a lovely May morning. Among other disparities, there was the trichophobia.
Trichophobia is a fear of hair. This malady is distinguished by a fear of lint, fuzz, towels, eyelashes, and aggressive behavior toward felines. I gave the cats to my ex-husband, moved all of my clothing into the living room and prepared for cohabitation.
We are both graphic designers. Well, I was one before Yakov undid me. The disparity in our personal net worth (due, no doubt, to mere differences of age, experience, intelligence and talent) was such that I decided, albeit subconsciously, to devote the twelve hours a day that I had selfishly 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 several magazine articles, a major book deal, and an impressive client roster that oddly resembled my own.
At one juncture, I was concerned that lending him two thousand dollars to start his art magazine, pay his rent, and things like that might "damage our relationship" if this debt went unpaid.
My then-psychiatrist had an interesting idea. Why not just give him the money? After a year and a half of qualified bliss, we broke up.
I had the funny feeling that he was, um, using me.
I spent that summer recuperating from the breakup, and ostensibly painting, in a charming seaside community we'll call the mosquito preserve. Of my two remaining friends (those that had not been, by this time, co-opted for commercial purposes by Yakov) both remarked on my surprising and weirdly domestic variation on the artist theme.
The car was painted silver, the mailbox blue, the bathroom, kitchen and front porch were likewise festooned with a daub of the original Rosenwald, but the canvases were notably empty. And I was only renting for one summer.
That autumn, back in the city, I made the mistake of attending a design show, opening on an October night. I was unaccompanied by any friend, relative, therapist or bodyguard.
The show was entitled "Designers under Thirty" (I mentally added "who have been nurtured, encouraged and supported financially by broken and now-obscure dowagers of forty five").
Bravely, I approached Yakov to congratulate him on a prize-winning poster (silkscreen class, 350 dollars) depicting a 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. A cheerful greeting escaped his lips. Eight words: "This is my new girlfriend. Isn't she cute?"
Who was I to argue? "Why yes, she's adorable," I concurred. It was only the truth. Beside him was a diminutive Japanese nymphet, of perhaps 68 pounds.
Although I clock in at twice that on a good day, I took care not to crush this delicate person while she expressed her reverence for an elder in a way that all young Japanese have been instructed. She showed respect for an ancient, moldy and decrepit oak of graphic design wisdom, i.e., me.
I managed to careen almost noiselessly to the door, narrowly escaping collision with the 614 major art directors in attendance. Little did I know that 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 young men who prefer somber-colored clothing, an all-black costume being not at all unusual. Are we agreed? Good.
I would further postulate that one bald-headed guy dressed all in black resembles nothing so much as another bald-headed guy dressed all in black. This is the central tenet of my argument.
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 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.
It is my favorite movie. I have a small but chic aluminum bucket that accompanies me to these screenings. One night at the Film Forum, I was weeping silently into it when I noticed a familiar outline five rows in front of me; a smooth, rounded skull attractively festooned with a matching set of ears, one on either side. Yakov? I thought so. Not only was the film ruined for me forever, but I sensed a certain foreboding.
The very next day, at those free Thursday nights at the Whitney Museum, the disconcerting and bald vision repeated itself, not once, but a total of eleven times. Further sightings occurred at Barnes & Noble, Staples, Lucky's Juice Joint, and (most appallingly) I Can't Believe It's Yogurt.
I was hyper-vigilant, 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. Yakovs were popping up everywhere.
Any downtown street sported a handful of Yakovs, wearing black T-shirts and black Levi's. Baldly walking, baldly talking, holding their little black cell phones up to their little bald heads.
My extensive research in Yakoviana revealed the following facts: Of the 753,221 people residing in lower Manhattan, almost half of them are men. That leaves 376,610. Of these, about one fourth are too young or too old. That leaves 282,457. Of these a staggering two-thirds dress exclusively in black clothing.
That leaves 188,304. Of these, my research has concluded that close to one quarter, or 47,076, are either intentionally or unintentionally, completely bald.
By June, I had stopped going out of the house. On the rare occasions where I was forced to emerge to hunt for food, I took care to avoid all Radio Shacks, Duane Reade pharmacies, Banana Republics, Apple stores, movie theaters, art galleries, and avenues and/or streets perpendicular or parallel to Canal, Houston, Fourteenth and Twenty-Third Streets.
All places where fresh-brewed coffee is served were off-limits as well, along with months ending in the letter "r".
It was around this time I developed a rabid aversion to hard-boiled eggs, new potatoes, and, as always, studiously avoided bowling, billiards and ping-pong.
But now it's years later, and at the time of this writing, the sightings have decreased from an all-time high, in December of 2001, of 67.3 Yakovs per week, to a mere 22.4, calculated as of 2008. Herein lies the pathos of my story: although the black-clad-hairless-men trend has increased by 16 percent, 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 their young, great care is taken not to disturb it, particularly during mating season. I wish them well.
Things are going well for Yakov! A few years ago he published a really lousy design book, wherein he gratefully acknowledged help and support from every single powerful person in the design world I introduced him to. He's put on a lot of weight, too, and no longer resembles anyone cute. He is not even young anymore!
I ask myself what I have learned from this experience with the Yakovs. Let me put it this way: it was a learning experience, but I didn't learn anything from it.
Well, maybe this: my future ex must be at least seven feet tall, with long pink hair, a handlebar moustache, a few facial tattoos, and hunchbacked. Additionally, he must dress exclusively in yellow, and must speak with an Icelandic accent.
Thus, when we two are no longer as one, he will, at least, stand out in a crowd. A crowd of Yakovs.
* You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
When I met you
I picked you out, I shook you up, and turned you around
Turned you into someone new
Now five years later on you've got the world at your feet
Success has been so easy for you
But don't forget its me who put you where you are now
And I can put you back down too
Copyright © 2008 by Laurie Rosenwald. Laurie Rosenwald is the author of And to Name but Just a Few: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue (Blue Apple Books); New York Notebook (Chronicle Books); and the upcoming All The Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* *or, frankly, anybody else (Bloomsbury USA).