Isn’t it amazing what gets done when The Boy is out of town?
The Boy’s parents flew in for the weekend before Halloween. I think anyone meeting the parents for the first time is nervous, but this time left me even more anxious. This was 6 months in. Not a huge amount of time granted, but long enough to have developed a serious emotional attachment and to fear the influence that his parents’ evaluation might have on the relationship. (I don’t think he’s the kind of man to do what his parents say just because they’re his parents, my concern was more that no one likes being the cause of or the reason for there being distance between your sig-o and their parents.)
In addition, his dad was born in Russia and became an adult in Israel. His mom was born in America and became an adult in Israel. That’s a lotta cultures to throw into one room and specifically two that I’m not very familiar with. What if I said or did something wrong?
Add in the history of disapproval over the phone from the past (his dad saying to leave me, to go out with someone else and his mom voicing concerns over the Conservative conversion at least once) and I’m surprised I could even go to my coworker’s kid’s Bat Mitzvah that morning.
We only met for a few hours, but it didn’t go as badly as many of the possibilities conceived by my imagination. Which is good. Now, when his dad calls, he even tells The Boy to say hi to me. And they’ve offered to help me with my Hebrew. And they were disappointed that I wasn’t coming up for Thanksgiving. it’s a start!
The Boy went home this weekend for his high school reunion. I saw him Wednesday night, spoke briefly on Friday, and then didn’t speak to him again until late Sunday. I was miserable. He went home over Memorial Day for the same amount of time, but this time was much harder for me (and come to find out, for him). I didn’t speak to him for 2 days and it made me feel like part of my brain (and heart) was missing. That was mostly due to Saturday being rough for reasons I won’t get into on a blog, but I really wanted to speak to him, even if just for five minutes. I didn’t call him because I had told him I would see him when he got back. Next time I will just call and be the needy girlfriend and risk embarrassing him in front of his friends. I’ve got no shame. Or very minimal.
Last night, he signed on just before bed and we happened to catch each other. He shared bits about all of his classmates that he had reconnected with, and that one of his friends and long-time girlfriend decided to get engaged over dinner, and then how his parents were doing. And some other cute comments because he is awesome…that lead to him saying,
“I still don’t know how my dad feels about us. He tried to subtly hint that I should hook up* with A Friend’s sister.”**
“My mom is keeping him in check though.”
“He doesn’t tell me outright anymore that I should just leave you.”***
I think that was about the time the tears started welling up. And again now, as I write this. I don’t know if he thinks he mentioned all of this to me before, but he hadn’t. It’s not the kind of news one ever wants to hear, but especially late on a Sunday, through instant messaging, when you’re already in a low spot.
But, cue sarcasm, it gets better!
“A Friend and I have a lot in common, which is why I keep referring to him. He’s engaged to a non-Jewish girl. But for him, his mother is Jewish but his dad is not. And so his mom is bugging him and his dad is telling her to just be quiet. Both my parents are Jewish, so it’s slightly different, but the role reversal is interesting.”****
I was pretty much silent at this point. Granted, he does not know that the father of Most Recent Ex refused to meet me during the year-plus of our relationship and referred to me as Jackhole and other lovely sexually-charged epithets for the duration of our relationship. (Because his son should have been out sewing his wild oats instead of being in a monogamous relationship at the “way-too-young” age of 25 and that he used every opportunity to remind Most Recent Ex of his opinion.) And that in the name of honesty, Most Recent Ex told me this each and every time it happened, and failed to relate a single instance of defending us, by omission or because it never happened (knowing him, I suspect the latter).
And The Boy doesn’t know how, specifically, The Ex Before That’s mother rejected me as even a non-serious date for her son because “there’s no way [I’d] ever be a Jew.” She told her son to break up with me and emotionally manipulated him until he did, but clearly, The Ex Before That had his own boundary issues to begin with for succumbing.
The Boy doesn’t know the details here, just that it happened, so he is not aware of my baggage in terms of insecurities and fears.
But, that last chunk of the conversation honestly hurt the worst. Am I being compared to non-Jewish fiancé of A Friend? Does this mean The Boy thinks I’m not Jewish? Or maybe that I’m only somewhat Jewish, like a halfie or something compared to his full-fledged or real Jewishness?
Or was he simply comparing the situation of being a young Jewish man with one Jewish parent disapproving of current relationship status and the other parent (Jewish or not) saying butt out?
I’m torn. I’m trying to write this down, to get it out of my head, to see if it makes me feel better and address my own insecurities myself. Do I bring this up to him and ask for clarification? Am I simply being too sensitive?
Sometimes I really hate electronic communication.
*I think this means meet up with, not the sexual definition employed by some of my generation.
**To be fair, he did say: “I don’t even know her!” right after this
*** And here he said: “Which I absolutely refused to do.”
**** And here he said: “he will come around eventually because he wants his kids to be happy above anything.”
I am still alive, though you wouldn’t be able to tell from this blog.
We had our last class session, which I started to write a blog post on before erasing. That session was deeply personal and I do not wish to betray any of my classmates’ trust in relaying what are not my stories to tell. To summarize, it was wonderful to learn where they were coming from, and to gain greater context for many of their comments throughout the year.
I also am struggling to write a post about my conversion the day of–what it was like, what was asked, what I felt and saw. It always helped me the years leading up to my conversion to know what it was like.
And I’ve been asked to write a piece on developing my Jewish identity for a Jewish publication, which I have not forgotten about should the editor be reading this post.
But I’ve found it really, really hard to sit down and write. Falling in love will do that to you, I guess. The Boy is perfect (for/to me) and every second of down time is a second I’d rather spend with him. He is amazing. And so is G-d for making him.
I hung out with The Boy last Friday. We made dinner and played a game and out of nowhere, he looked at me and said in a voice barely above a whisper, “Now it’s just like you were born Jewish.”
I don’t think he knew what that meant to me. I had to look away to not become overcome with emotion.
Not every Jew I’ve encountered on this path has reacted negatively, but the negative responses far outweigh the positives. Some are out-and-out negative reactions—looks of horrors and scoffs of “Psh, you’ll never be really Jewish.” But some are more subtle, hidden in jest, “Why on EARTH would you do that?” Both place the convert-to-be in a defensive position, of explaining ourselves and our life choices. Yes, we eventually manage to form an elevator response to deliver, along with a thick skin, but we shouldn’t have to.
On the flip side, I’ve also been at services or holiday events where someone’s reaction is really positive, and a good percentage of the time, they will start to explain Shabbat or the chag to me, as though I have no idea what these concepts are and just decided to plow ahead with the conversion process anyway. How do you stop someone short in a mini-lecture without sounding rude? Would you lecture a baal teshuva in the Conservative or Reform movements about what the holidays mean? Do they not know we have, in most cases, spent months and even years studying on our own before working up the nerve to approach the rabbi? The answer is obviously not. (I have an idea running around in my head that I’d like to approach the rabbi with: offering training sessions to the congregation about how to interact with converts and a mentorship program to next year’s conversion class. Much still needs to be fleshed out, but I’m working on it; that’s for another post though.)
The Boy didn’t do either. The Boy just accepted me as I was. As though I were like him: knowledgeable enough to make his own choices about his own Judaism. An equal.