Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Things have been good with my parents- me and my mom had like a 4 hour conversation where we had everything out (or I did anyway-I  told her all the secrets I have been keeping for like...31 years).   I'm glad we did that, because just going on pretending like none of our past ever happened was not working for me, and now I feel better about having my parents in C's life.   My parents actually invited us up to their house for spring break and offered to pay for all our travel expenses. Not sure yet if we will go, but we will be up there in June.  We were also invited to shabbas dinner with my parents when we are up there in June but I'm not sure if we'll do that- we may just hang out during non-shabbas times. Or maybe we'll go to friday night dinner. That would be kinda weird, but why not?  I'm excited that B is finally going to get to see the house I grew up in. 

Lately I've been rethinking a lot of my hobbies.  I've gone back to work, I have a baby, and spending 20 hours a day on the internet just doesn't appeal the way it used to.  I think I'm pretty much done with blogging for a while (here and at my livejournal).  I also resigned as moderator of the Off the Derech facebook page, which I have helped moderate since it took off a few years ago.  I used to spend many hours a day on the computer, now there are days I don't even check my facebook.

Over winter break I bought a new acoustic guitar and a ukulele. I've played guitar since high school, and had an acoustic and an electric (an epiphone les paul) guitar but right before I moved to the south, I discovered my acoustic guitar was broken- the neck had a big crack.  I think it was either our dog, or one of our friends who was always playing my guitar when they came to visit.   I wasn't playing guitar much at that point anyway, so it didn't seem like a big deal. 

But lately I'd been wanting to play guitar for C, and even tried playing my electric for her a bit, but dragging an amp around is lame, and I always preferred playing acoustic to electric.  So I got a new acoustic guitar- a Seagull- at a pawn shop in town that specializes in musical instruments. While I was there I picked up a ukulele for $30, which I've always wanted.  And I've been playing lots of music for C on both, and am quickly picking up ukulele.  Unlike blogging, playing instruments is a hobby we can both enjoy.

I also have been reading a lot more off-line, and am up to book 9 of the Wheel of Time, and just bought a bunch of non fiction books about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and the Suffrage movement, and another book that's about great speeches by American women. After I'm done with that I have a few sociology books that have been piling up, which I've been meaning to read. I also got new reading glasses that are actually my prescription which helps with that.

C is starting to crawl and we just started her on solid foods. I read lots of books to her too.

A few weeks ago B and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary of knowing each other.  In a few months it'll be our 5 year wedding anniversary.

This blog is pretty much for when things are going terribly with my family, and now they aren't anymore.  So for now, I'm going on hiatus.  I may come back and post some more if things go wrong with my family again, but I'm hoping I won't be posting here again. I'll leave all my past posts up for those who are still helped by them. 

You guys have been awesome.  Thank you. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Identity Assignment

From the Abadoning Eden archives, found today because I'm going through old files since I killed another laptop with my clumsy absentmindedness (this one got trampled by dogs when I left it open on the couch under their favorite jumping on the couch and freaking out window). Below this entry is an assignment I wrote for a class in grad school which I wrote in February 2006 (about a year before I met my husband), on what my 'identity' is. This was at the height of the decline of postmodernism, where our teacher was impressing upon us "standpoint theory" which is what has currently replaced postmodernism within academia- the idea that there IS objective knowledge, that things CAN be known, there ARE objective values.  But that all research is still biased by our point of view, and our point of view will always influence the type of research we do.  That doesn't mean our research is not valid, but that we should always remember how we might be biased, since it will make us better researchers.  This bias includes everything from the type of questions we ask, to the specific methods we go about answering those questions- which is something that is influenced by our academic training.

My dissertation was about cohabitation and marriage, and I started out basically trying to prove my dad wrong and say that marriage doesn't matter and is exactly the same as cohabitation. Maybe because I had a "point of view" and something to prove, it allowed me to be more obejctive than researchers who started out with the standpoint that marriage was superior to cohabitation. At the time I was planning on getting married to B, but one of the main reasons we were going to get married as quickly as we did (2.5 years after meeting each other, got engaged 1.5 years after meeting each other) was that my husband needed health insurance after graduating college, and my father in law had been diagnosed with lung cancer and we knew we were going to get married eventually, so we wanted to have a wedding while he was still alive. Part of me believed marriage wasn't going to make any difference, and my dad was just a conservative bouche.

So I did research on cohabitation and marriage, and I made some discoveries about how cohabitation doesn't cause divorce, which showed that it was more about being too young to settle down with one person when cohabitors get married. That was definitely an idea I got when my ex fiance who I had met at age 17 dumped me at age 21 because our life goals had become completely incompatible.

That was exciting, and that discovery made my research important enough so that I easily passed my dissertation defense without revisions (despite my dad warning me that phd advisers always tried to screw you over and steal your research and then not let you graduate- something I think was colored by his own experiences getting his PhD at YU. And despite my research being a bit half baked at that point). I also showed that marriage does make a difference in behavior despite my best efforts to prove otherwise. It doesn't have a huge affect on behavior, but there are some legit differences. Married people are more likely to become stay at home parents and take on a male breadwinner/female caretaker division of labor, even when both partners are working.  Married people buy houses. Married people have kids.

I concluded it was because of the "External barriers to divorce" that marriage gives- the in-laws who can give you support and who will look down on you if you divorce (jews sure know about that one) the laws we put in place to put artificial barriers on divorce, to try to force ourselves to work through our issues when we might have given up otherwise. I also discussed how the external barriers have weakened, now that everyone believes there is a 50% divorce rate. Which there isn't, the divorce rate for first marriages is much lower, but when people believe things to be true, they act as if they are true, and then those actions can make things become self fulfilling prophecies.

But I find that when people who have been married for a certain length of time despite the high divorce rate, they start acting differently (that's why i theorize change doesn't happen right when you get married, but over time).  That time gives us the confidence of a permanent relationship, so we can make long term investments in our relationship that will pay off in the long run to the family as a whole, but may be detrimental individually. Sometimes fights become too much, to be sure, and there are many very good reasons to get divorced.  But sometimes (and this is my theory, not empirical research, so I haven't tested this directly, but it's a plausible explanation of my empirical research) I think people also have unrealistic expectations of what marriage will be like- they watch a lot of movies and think if you have an argument with your partner, your marriage is a failure. If you raise your voice at each other that is "emotional abuse" and you should get a divorce.

One of the most useful articles I read for work that I have applied to my own marriage, discussed how every marriage had a "good marriage" and a "bad marriage" and the trick was to have about 5x as much good as bad. And that some couples are more "conflict prone" and some are "conflict adverse" but what is more important than your fighting style is that you can communicate within your fighting style.   Here are the four horseman of the marriage apocalypse: The 4 fighting styles shown to lead to divorce. One is criticizing a person's character instead of their actions.  One is stonewalling, refusing to even listen or talk to the other person. One is mockery and showing contempt. One is defensiveness and feeling like the other person is out to get you.  These are all about shutting down communication (more on that in my next post too) and not understanding where the other person is coming from, building up ideas about the other person that aren't true. And the only way to not do that, is to talk out those ideas, even if they are scary, and you are afraid of sharing them.  And also not attack people's whole state of being for the horrible actions they do- only the actions.  No Ad Hominum attacks as I yell during fights sometimes.  Being able to discuss ideas without judgement of someone's character, and loving them unconditionally, and showing that you love them unconditionally, even if they have ideas that you are know are stupid and misguided. Because without that dialogue, they will never learn why those ideas are stupid or misguided, or there will be is misunderstanding. The top reason given for divorce is a lack of communication and misunderstanding.

I use the W.I. Thomas Theorum to explain to my students how racial differences in behavior can be real, if race doesn't actually affect your behavior or lead to differences in IQ, like we in academia believe it doesn't.  The Thomas theorum says basically (these aren't the exact words) "That which we believe to be real, is real in it's consequences for you." If we believe black people (men in particular) are "Naturally" worse workers and criminals, we watch them for crime and stop and frisk them more often then white people, convict them for crime at a higher rate, and don't give them jobs when they have a criminal record (I have some excellent research articles on this if anyone would like some).   And then there are racial differences in crime convictions, and employment rates, and black women don't get married, and people misguidedly think it's their race that made them act that way, when really it was the racism.

This is also something I have struggled with my whole life, in terms of figuring out why people treat me the way they do and why they act like such hurtful jerks. And it's taken having a kid and also reconnecting with a bunch of friends from middle school and college and grad school (babies bring people together) and talking about what they thought about me back then, to fully internalize that the reason people act the way they do, is not to hurt me, or because they hate me, or because I'm unloveable. It's because they have wrong information about my motivations, and misimpressions about me.  And because I, thinking that everyone is going to hate me, have sometimes acted like a massive jerk as a result. When you believe things are real, even if they aren't, they become real in their consequences. I'm writing an epic blog post about this, which should be out in another day or two.

After reading all that research on divorce,  I stopped trying to never fight with my husband all the time (as naturally argumentative people, this was leading to me repressing things that angered me until I burst out in fireworks) I went to trying to figure out how to fight more efficiently, and after fighting instead of feeling like a hopeless failure at marriage, I tried to figure out what we had done wrong and how we could do better next time. I decided that my parents being against my marriage was about as good of an external barrier as I could get, and I wanted B  to be bound to me so that we would both be forced to work through our stubborness and power issues, because he was worth tying to myself to, so that we WOULD be forced to work through all our issues.

Next week will be 7 years since we met, and it's safe to say that we will probably always be working out our issues and having misunderstandings that lead to disagreements, and since we are argumentative people, we will never agree completely.  But as a result of of all the hard (and it is hard, and painful, to examine yourself and admit your flaws) work we have done to figure out a good fighting style that wouldn't lead us to killing each other, and that we could live with the rest of our lives, our relationship has only gotten better each year. Because since we are determined to stay together, we try to work things out so that we can stay together and both be happy people too.  This is the first relationship I've been in, that instead of starting off on a high note and steadily declining since then (like a frog in boiling water), started off on a high note, and has just gotten stronger and better the more crap we have gone through, and survived together. At this point we have been through so much- years of unemployment and job uncertainty, poverty, scrambling for money to pay our bills and pretty much using up the $30k+ dollars I had saved before we met as a result of that uncertainty and moving and our wedding and having a baby, and having our savings dwindle to around $3k before being able to start saving back up, Moving to the conservative religious south together, and going through 6 years of my father in law having cancer, and his death during my pregnancy, and infertility.  All the stuff my parents put us through. And having a kid and all that entails (not being able to stand for my last 2 months of pregnancy and being in constant pain, the baby in breech and being afraid of a c section, birth itself).

My husband has seen me pee, fart, poop myself during birth while my butthole exploded like a star.  Early in our marriage, right after he had lost his job, I had taken on a very shitty job to make ends meet, and was looking for a professorship job while trying to write and finish my dissertation. This was right after all the stuff with my parents disowning me had happened, and I was extremely upset about how that had all gone down. And it was late in the season of my second year on the job market, and I didn't have any offers yet (Although I eventually got 3)  And right after we got married I started trying to get pregnant, and after 6 months it was becoming apparent I was not getting my period regularly, and not getting pregnant, and I suspected I was infertile (although fear kept me from going to a doctor for 3 years after that).  So during that time, the worst time in my life, we had a horrible fight about his efforts looking for a job (which I felt wasn't enough, since I was failing at being a breadwinner like I wanted to be) and he was probably feeling like a failure too, and he cornered me in the kitchen while yelling at me to leave him alone about applying to jobs already, and I punched him in the face as hard as I could.

This led to a whole lot of talking and me changing the way I fight in general so I never feel like that again (and having safe words to indicate that I need my husband to back off- plus I explained to him about the cornering thing,  and how it panics me, and he doesn't do that anymore either) because that is NOT ok and I was deeply ashamed of myself for it, and still am.  I  think I had a flashback to being a kid when I got beat up all the time and was afraid he was going to hit me- which he never has, not even when I punched him in the face- so I punched him before he could punch me, and ran away. Not an excuse, but realizing that has helped me never do it again in the 4+ years since then.  The whole time I was yelling at him to hit me, I kept screaming at him over and over again to just hit me and get it over with. I think in retrospect that has always been my worst fear. And now that I have seen that he will never hit me, even after punching him, and not leave me, even after I punched him, I can actually trust him. Some fucked upness right there.  I've never written about this, obviously, because of how ashamed I am of acting like an abusive asshole.   But I wanted to say it.  Marriage is not pretty, and we all do shameful things sometimes. But we can overcome them, and not keep doing them, and figure out why we do them through open dialogue. So we can stop.

B has seen me at my very worst, he knows my weirdest sexual fantasies and every embarrassing thing I have ever done. And he stuck around. And I've stuck around through him pissing off everyone on the internet with his strange sense of humor, him getting severe psoriosis that makes him look like his skin is falling off like a zombie (which is why he always wears long pants and sleeves, even in the summer), going bald, years of unemployment and financial struggling. And if we made it through that shit, and still love each other, and want to spend every day together, and want to fuck each other- well I think we are doing pretty damn well, and I can't imagine anything that we couldn't make it through.  Is that not what marriage is about, when you strip away the religion?

Here is my essay from about a year before I met my husband. Like the time I wrote an essay about "growing up female" in college, this essay transformed my life, because after this I decided that living a "triple life" was even more ridiculous than living a double life, and I decided to no longer try to go to jewish holidays and find a jewish husband just to make my parents happy. It was after writing this essay that I decided that dating non jewish people would probably fit more into my ideals, and how I wanted to live as an adult.  I guess this is what they say about the university being "transformative": just writing about my identity made me realize when I wanted to change that identity and how I had been presenting myself.

I spent the 9 months after this essay doing a "happiness project" where I went around trying out different hobbies I've always wanted to try - joined a gym and lost a lot of weight, I quit smoking cigarettes after years in college in which I smoked them as a way to try to take some control over my life, and instead took control by trying out all the things I wanted to do as a kid but didn't have a chance to because my parents were so controlling. I went to around 35 music shows and 6 music festivals, spent every Monday night at Ortleib's Jazzhaus where they had a great after show open jam, got so involved in the Philly hippie/hipster scene that I smoked pot with the bands in the green rooms, went to secret drum circles with rainbow friends deep in fairmount park, took classes on tai chi, outdoor watercolor, several different kinds of yoga, figure drawing - I love drawing naked humans (my mom is an artist, and I grew up looking at pictures of greek and roman art), and in high school a teacher had seen my doodle of a naked woman and loudly made fun of me in front of the entire class asking if I was a lesbian. I had just cut off all my hair at the time, and had quiet a few "prison gay" experiences as a child (I may be bisexual, who knows, it doesn't really matter -  I think I just get intellectual crushes on people whose ideas and worldview I like, and grew up in a womans only world) so I became very sensitive about it, and wouldn't draw naked humans again for years- until college when I took a drawing class and we did some naked people figure drawing, and I loved it. Humans are so beautiful, there was no reason for that teacher to be a bitch because I think human bodies are more interesting than any stupid flower (although I like drawing flowers too, to be honest).  She was probably insecure about her own sexuality. 

During my happiness project/existentialist crisis, I gave up on dating for the rest of the year, after having my last ever one night stand, right before or possibly right after writing this essay. And I was SO HAPPY not throwing myself into tense meat markets to try to meet some jew to breed with to make my parents happy (as I thought of it- jewish breeding programs).  In September I went on a date with my first non jewish man, an awesome guy, who I was so uncomfortable around that my roommate joked about how he came home to find us sitting on opposite sides of the couch entirely.  We had had an awesome night drinking beers and Around new years that year, I decided to take another crack at dating, and I made a new okcupid account from scratch, in which I was completely honest about myself and my views, for once, instead of writing a profile I THOUGHT people wanted to hear. I just laid it all out there on the table.  I wanted someone who liked me, not some stupid made up fake version of me that I was creating because I was afraid of my parents. 6 days later I got a message from B

"Jan 6, 2007 – 4:55pm "I found your profile really interesting; not many people self-apply the moniker of hippy anymore, let alone with the qualifier of "dirty." I find it sad that most people adopt their opinion of hippies from South Park. If you ever feel like chatting, msg me back or just IM me on AIM. I hope to hear from you."  

Finally someone who GOT it! Hippies weren't bad, they are awesome, you just have to look past the dirtyness that most people find off-putting.  And the rest is history..we met on January 12th, hung out the next weekend all weekend with my weird hippie friends, and then alone, hooked up the weekend after that, and have basically never spent a night apart from each other again.

I eventually cut off my dreadlocks before I taught my first class, because I decided conservative Penn students probably wouldn't take me seriously if their prof had dreadlocks.  And because I went to a hippie festival and was watching george clinton and the parliment funkadelic, and I was surrounded by people with dreadlocks, but instead of feeling like I belonged, I felt like I was being a conforming idiot.  Probably the right call, but I always fantasize about growing them back after I get tenure. I think after I get tenure I'm definitely going to have blue hair for at least a summer.  I miss my crazy colored hair, but some things you love are worth putting aside to get something better. Now isn't that a lesson for life?

Identity Assignment

            My identity is comprised of a lot of smaller sub-identities, some of which conflict with each other.  I can divide it up into three major categories.  First the graduate student / academic / sociologist / feminist category. As a grad student, I spend a good deal of my life doing activities related to grad school.  I plan on remaining in academia until I retire, and insofar as “what you do” defines one’s identity, I’m an academic.  Additionally, the particular subject matter I study- sociology of gender and the family- has greatly shaped my identity as a feminist.  This affects my activities when engaged in non- academic endeavors, such as talking to friends, and how I act when I’m in a relationship. 
            The second major category is a Jewish person.  I was raised orthodox Jewish, and although I’m no longer religious, I still participate in many Judaism-related activities, and a large proportion of my friends in Philadelphia are Jewish people I met at religious events.  However, because I am no longer religious, I am also the black sheep “not Jewish enough” person to my family and community at home.  This is something I’ve struggled with a lot; I don’t believe in the religion, but I don’t want to completely divest myself of a Jewish identity.  Right now I’m at a balance where I celebrate Jewish holidays, occasionally go to Shabbat dinners, and basically celebrate the parts of the culture I agree with, and try to think of it as a culture rather than a religion. 
The third category, which is the hardest to describe, is probably the most important to my identity at this time.  If it was 30 or 40 years ago, the group I hang out with would be called “hippies”, but I don’t think that accurately describes the subculture, especially given the stigma attached to the word.  The group of people I hang out with would be considered by some be weird, or anti-establishment, or even criminals.  My friends are the ones with the tattoos and the dreadlocks and the drug problems, and who chain smoke and go to live music to hear jam bands as often as possible.  They are also some of the nicest people you could ever meet.  A lot of them don’t work a full time job, or have what is considered a traditional life; for instance one of my friends in Philadelphia works as an actor by day, a telemarketer by afternoon, and sells drugs on the side and plays guitar on the subway to get by.  I’m in this group in part because I love the people in it, and in part because I’m a part of the northeast jam band scene (which I was part of before I moved here).  I go to at least two or three shows a month during the semester, and to six or seven a month over the summer. I spend holidays and weekends and new years with people in this group, usually at a show or a music festival. 
Oddly, or maybe not so oddly considering the illegal activities often associated with this group of people, that part of my life is completely separate from my ‘graduate student’ life.  My fellow graduate students don’t know anything about what I do on weekends, or who I hang out with, or where I go.  Let alone my advisor- when I need a day off over the summer to go to a 3 day weekend festival, I tell him I’m going home.  I have baby-dreadlocks now, so I guess that part of my identity is a lot harder to hide now.  A large part of the reason I started growing them was because I was sick of pretending to be some suck up good girl grad student, and hiding what I was doing all the time.  I also started growing them at a point last semester when I was extremely burnt out about graduate school.   Locking my hair then helped to reaffirm my identity as something other than a grad student. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dropping a line

I've been falling behind on posting about stuff.  What's been happening since thanksgiving? Mostly I've been working my butt off. I have a big article coming out in April that I've very excited about (Basically the main argument of my dissertation) and which I think may take my career to the next level, in which the media actually pays attention to my research. :)  It is a big breakthrough in my subfield and overturns a couple of decades of research and common (wrong) beliefs in the general population.  I'm working on a press release about my research, and have been talking to some friend of friends who work with the media a lot, about how to best frame my press release so my message gets through clearly.  And a friend from middle school who is a journalist for a big newspaper.   But there's been a lot of very short notice deadlines for that related to copy editing and reading over the page proofs.

I talked to my parents a few weeks ago about a bunch of stuff. I was working on a new research project and some of my research is related to people who dissent (as part of studying social change).  So I got curious whether my own personal experiences as a dissident matched some of my research, and ended up talking to both my parents about a lot of stuff that happened in the past and that we went through.  Too much to go into.  I also think I have been building up to this and finally had out a bunch of things that we never talk about and that it pisses me off that we never talk about. And in the process found out my mom has some bizarro twisted view of reality that has little to do with mine. But some highlights:

1. My mom claims the letter she sent me before my wedding about how we can never have a real relationship if I marry my husband was not a letter disowning me but she was "warning me" about what people like my aunt would end up doing

2. I expressed to my mother how mad I am about the way my Aunt is treating her and how ungrateful I think she is being considering everything my mother has done for her and her kids. She started to defend her, and I made clear this was not about religion, it was about being a decent human being. I think she had never even considered what a bitch her sister is being to her and I made clear to her that I think her sister is an ungrateful bitch who doesn't deserve a sister who has done half the things my mom has done for her.  I don't think she had ever considered that perspective.

3. I also basically told her that I don't think me and her are that different, that we are both very passionate people, who, when we believe things, feel we have to live our lives according to them. The problem is we believe different things- she believes that judaism is true and i don't. But we are both living according to our beliefs, no mater what the consequences (so we are both kind of dissidents in that respect).  And it's not that we don't care about each other, it's that we think living according to our beliefs is the most important.

I think my mom has thought all this time that I am not being religious because I hate her, or am rebellious, or I think she is dumb.  But I expressed to her that none of those things are true. That I am not religious because I just don't believe it's true. Which is something we have never ever talked about.

I also told her some stories that I think have influenced why I didn't believe it was true- like that for me, the reason I thought it was true was because I was trusting that rabbis were passing down information  and then i got screwed over by a school rabbi/principal in first grade, Rabbi Goldstein, who forced me to lie and say a teacher had not hit me, which made me realize he was a fucking liar.  He was the head of the yeshiva I went to, Yeshiva of North Jersey, so the head of the "School of jewish thought" I was being indoctrinated into, who was basically saying to take things he said in his big assemblies on faith.

My high school principal Mrs. Bak was like that woman in harry potter who wears all pink and has kitty plates, who reveled in publicly humiliating me because she could never answer my tough questions.  As did many teachers in my high school. In Bat Torah once I challenged a GPA policy that prevented a very responsible friend who had been stage manager of the school play from running for school president, by arguing to the principal that only allowing honors students to run for school government gave us a student government that didn't represent the students of our school. I got sent to the teacher's lounge where a teacher asked me what I wanted to do as a grown up and when I answered (that I wanted to be a musician, which was my ambition at the time- I started off college as a music major, and my flute teacher had been encouraging me to apply to juliard in high school), she screamed at me in front of everyone that I would always be a failure in life, and I should just shut up and give up, because I would always fail at anything I tried. I gotta say, my desire to prove that bitch wrong got me through some dark days in grad school...and she is now the head of the Michlalah school in Israel. Devorah Rosenwasser.

I couldn't trust Pia, the head of my sleepaway camp Sternberg, to know what she was talking about, because even though she knew all these great ancient jewish songs, and we learned some neat jewish crafts, she kicked me out of Sternberg my second summer after falsely accusing me of cutting open the counselor's suitcase because I was the bunk 'troublemaker', because I was always going hiking into the woods during rest hour instead of sitting in my bunk gossiping with the other girls and the counselor didn't like that.  What I was doing was hiking across this awesome stream to this clearing I found where I built a little tent out of branches and ferns, where I would go hang out and read books by myself.  I always loved going on random adventures, and still do- at home I biked to go hiking in the woods in a nature preserve near my house, and my parents had led me to believe that this was something I would do in sleepaway camp, so I just went out and did it during rest hour, which infuriated my counselors (because they thought it was dangerous probably).  My dad also sent me some matches because he thought I would actually be camping out at some point (we did a couple of times, but in pre-built tents). These two things got me labelled a troublemaker, so when someone cut open my couselor's suitcase, I got accused, and nobody would believe I wasn't lying about it.  So I couldn't trust them to know the difference between a truth teller and a liar. So how could I trust them when they said religion was right?  ("Them" could easily also include my parents come to think of it).

And then when the rabbi of my shul, Rabbi Yudin, who I always trusted, and who was friends with my parents and the dad of my good friend growing up (so he was like a second dad to me- I saw him in his bathrobe eating shabbas breakfast after sleepovers as a young child) started protecting a fucking child molester (Baruch Lanner) who had kicked my ex boyfriend in the balls several times, which only me and my ex knew at the time as far as I know (he was never one of the public victims). I was just like "Fuck this guy, he don't know shit."  My rabbi supporting a child molester was just the final straw. Because at that point, he was the only rabbi or authority figure in my life left who I thought might have any good judgement at all. And he most definitely didn't.

 And once I didn't have the rabbis to give me trust that it was correct, I started looking for some other proofs. And couldn't find them. That's when I went from being secretly OTD and not breaking shabbas, after experimenting and finding that god didn't strike me down as a teen, to openly OTD.  That's when I went from trying to live within the "spirit of the law" like playing video games on shabbas because that is what I do to relax, to writing papers on shabbas even though it was work.  That's when I went from eating vegetarian food without a hashgacha, to eating non kosher meat and not keeping the torah at all.  It was when I went from thinking that some rabbi's had it wrong but it was pretty much a good religion, to thinking it was all bullshit, and that even the well meaning nice rabbis and people were misguided and wrong about it. That's when I realized you didn't have to be a bad or a dumb person to be duped by religion, just like my Rabbi, who was not a bad or a dumb person, was duped by a child molester and abuser. And religion. Suddenly he was all too human to me.

My mother never knew any of this stuff, because I never had an open relationships with her, because I was always afraid of her judgement (and rightly so, as I pointed out to her). But to her religion was never about the rabbis (it was about her family's mesorah).

And what I didn't add was that I started looking more into religious proofs, because I couldn't trust the rabbi I grew up with, or the principal of my school in elementary or high school or my teachers.  And then all I found when I looked for proof the religion was true was the documentary hypothesis, and nechemya perek 8 where ezra "reteaches" the tanach (destroying the kuzari proof) and the Cohen Godol (jewish high priest) who magically "Found" the book of vayikra. Eventually, when I went to other jewish communities, and couldn't find a group of people or a marriage partner who agreed with my radical leftist political values in which I wasn't even the slightest little bit a sexist and racist, I eventually gave up on all jews entirely and stopped keeping even the holidays.  I didn't tell my mom or dad this stuff in quite as much detail. I don't know that I want to destroy their faith the way mine has been destroyed, because they like the community. Plus they themselves are pretty sexist and racist, and they don't like when I point it out to them (which I do every time they are, since I was a teen). But once you know it's fake, if you are a person of principle, like I know my parents are, you can't go on living that way. And even though I'm not sure I could convince them judaism is not true, I don't really even want to risk doing that to them unless they come to me asking about it. Their careers and social lives are built on their religion, and they like the community.

4. My mom apparently thought I was some weird pathological messed up liar as a teenager.  Because I was constantly being caught lying to them. Because I was trying to hide the fact that I was secretly not religious and had secret boyfriends they would not approve of because I  knew she wasn't about to let me go off to spend weekends hooking up in hotels with my boyfriends, and I figured she would hate me for not being religious and dating boys she clearly disproved of because they were never religious, like me (I always dated other OTDers). Which kind of came true. Plus all these other incidents where I got accused of lying because I saw through bullshit, or would not back down when I was abused by someone, or got accused of messed up things when they happened, because I refused to just fit in and do things I thought were stupid. And I was a weirdo who liked reading in the woods (ha, that so describes me now as well). But I explained to her that that whole time I was secretly OTD and that was why she was always catching me sneaking around, and that she and my dad are actually the only two people I have ever lied to, and it was mostly about being a horny teenager and wanting to date boys.  And I didn't do any of these things I was accused of doing, and was not lying about that. And that I actually hate liars (due to all these experiences).  And I don't think she has ever considered our history in that light before either.

5. I talked to my dad about a whole bunch of different things me and my brothers went through as kids because people in our family didn't really care what other people thought - like for instance, my little brother wore a tuxedo to school for an entire year as a kid  (and got really bullied for it) because he really liked them. Now he works at a job requiring a lot of fancy uniforms and has a side job doing musical stuff where he dresses in fancy tuxedos frequently.   In retrospect I think that was about him wanting to be like my dad, who he saw wearing a suit to work all the time. He just thought that was what men did when they left the house- they wore a suit. Ha.  My dad interpreted this as me reminiscing about the past, and I was like "Hey, that's what normal families do. It's nice, aye?"

So in a word: PROGRESS!  Massive progress.  Saying things that needed to be said and clearing up misconceptions that have been around for 17+ years.

There are several misconceptions they have about B too. They say they can't get any read on him. I know it's because B hates them after the way they have treated the two of us (and especially me) for the past 7 years, and they have poisoned their relationship. So he is afraid of saying anything around them, because he is afraid he will tell them what he really thinks, and he knows I want to get along with them. Meanwhile I pointed out that they are not themselves around him either. Another thing they had never considered.

Some day I'm going to break it to them that when you reject people because they weren't born to the right vagina, and ask them to get a quicky fake conversion just for the sake of being a "jew," and then won't even meet them when they don't do it despite the fact that they are marrying your daughter,  and refuse to go to your daughter's wedding, when everyone knows if his mom was jewish none of this would be an issue, it comes off as super racist and bigoted to most normal human beings. And that when you don't come to weddings, and act like a bitch to your daughter, her husband doesn't feel kindly towards you.  But somehow in a nice way.

I actually think I will one day have to take more of a stand on this. That day will probably be when my brother gets married to his girlfriend (Who he lives with- she is awesome and not jewish).  My parents know about her and have already said they will not come to the wedding.  That was their first reaction to finding out he has had a secret girlfriend for 3 (now 3.5 or 4?) years that he is terrified of telling them about, and they had moved in together. But if they are going to be like that, really, how am I supposed to let them get to close to C?  So they can not come to her wedding when she inevitably marries someone who isn't jewish?  So that is when I will make my stand. And if not, they can know her as well as B knows his dad's dad- they met for the 5th or 6th time at his dad's funeral, and it didn't even occur to us to invite him to our wedding. 

But meanwhile, progress for now, and hopefully things for my parents to think on.  And next June we plan to drive up there- all 3 of us. I invited my parents to come to the bronx zoo with me, B and C. So far no response. We're staying at my OTD brother's place (with his now not secret GF).

We all went to the midwest for christmas. It was out first christmas without my father in law, which was a little bit sad. But C's first christmas, and our first christmas with our new brother in law being married and officially "in the family" which was nice.  My mother in law finally purchased a bed for the second bedroom, now that everyone can sleep with our partners. Ha!  C was showered with presents. All 5 of the adults played a few nerdy rounds of Munchkin, which we bought for my brother in law for christmas. Like intense all night games for 3 nights in a row. Yay for new brother in law nerds!

We used to have a christmas eve tradition of appetizers that my father in law always put together, but this year we went out for chinese food and watched a movie. which is kind of my christmas tradition from when I was younger- I used to have a christmas eve jew open house party at my parent's house (without their knowledge) when I was a teenager and young 20something and my parents went away for christmas for vacation every year.  Later I hosted similar parties at my apartment in Philadelphia before I started celebrating christmas for real with my husband. My friends from back home in NJ would come down to visit for christmas or new years, one year my best friend from back home (the boy I met the night before my 15th birthday, the first OTD I ever met who introduced to me the idea that it was even possible to go OTD) came to visit, and we want to get chinese in chinatown with a bunch of friends and then went to see the Life Aquatic at the indie movie theater in philly. Another year he brought a couple of other OTDers with him. A couple of years these visits ended with going to a hotel hippie party and show with a bunch of our friends. One year it coincided with chanukah and we fried up a bunch of latkes to bring with us.

B and I have decided our christmas tradition is going to be christmas eve chinese food and a movie, presents christmas morning, and dinner in the afternoon. And then we'll have appetizer new years, where we will try new foods (as per our rosh hashana tradition).  Tonight we are trying two types of caviar (I've never tried either) 2 new types of cheese (Champagne cheddar and fontina) and 2 types of champagne.  We're having "2013s": Champagne with strawberry-white cranberry ocean spray. C is having a bottle and night 2 of sleep training. 

Appetizer Christmas with Jim, 2012

B got into a minor fender bender with C while in the car today, so it's like 2013 is giving us a little "fuck you" kick on they way out. But this was an epic year. Pregnancy, the loss of my father in law in January, the June o' 5 paper submissions, not being able to walk most of the summer, C entering the world on July 26th, learning how to be a parent, and a new brother in law in October. I went on trips to Wilmington NC, Asheville NC, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Indiana. I stepped foot in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina . Only one new publication came out this year (an encyclopedia entry) but my favorite article (based on the main thesis of my dissertation) finally got accepted for publication after many years and revisions (I've been working on that paper since 2007!) and I just sent back the final page proofs. I finally successfully grew a pumpkin (but just one) and was able to eat my first homegrown asparagus, blueberries, meyer lemon and saffron from my perennials.

2014 will be the year of toddlers, blackberries, more asparagus, research, beach trips, zoo trips, and more.  Happy new years!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgivikkah Holiday Ambivalence.

On facebook I've been talking to a friend about growing up not celebrating christmas, and the cultural ambivalence that she feels comes with celebrating it as a result. Also about the torment she always felt in December from her parents (Highly educated muslim immigrants from India- her dad is a professor) who kinda let her do some christmas things but mostly didn't let her do them, and doesn't like her celebrating christmas now.

My response:
Is the torment because you didn't/don't celebrate Christmas? I didn't either as a kid, and I'm ridiculously into it nowadays (when I celebrate with my husband's family). Same thing with Halloween (didn't celebrate it as a kid, love it now). But I always super loved thanksgiving cause it was the only holiday we celebrated as a kid that all the "normal" kids the only time a year I felt that kind of group solidarity you get from doing the same unusual thing everyone else in the country is doing, that's just not the same when it's only your small subgroup doing it and everyone looks at you like you're weird.

I get that cultural ambivalence too and it is 90,000 times worse now that I have a kid. Especially since for me culture and religion are so closely tied together that it is hard to separate what I might want to pass on (culture- but not all of it) from what I don't (religion, the sexism/xenophobia/tribal bullshit, the fact that a good large wing of her family including her great aunt and great grandparents and to some degree her own grandparents think she is something to be ashamed of because her father isn't jewish, and that like half her second cousins don't know she exists as a result). I mean we are 100% for sure celebrating christmas with her (I've celebrated christmas every year for the past 7 years with my in laws) but what do we pass on from my side? And do we celebrate things like easter, which seem very religious to me, but to my husband was just a holiday involving chocolate and a fun egg hunt that he did as a kid? 

In a way it's like the opposite of my friend's problem- she is still ambivalent about celebrating christmas and wanting to keep her parent's cutlure, I love christmas and am ambivalent about my parent's culture. For instance my parents just sent me a bunch of channukah stuff for Calliope.  It's funny- when I was a kid one thing I always resented around christmas time was my parents would always say that we couldn't get gifts for channukah, that people who did that were just "trying to be like the goyim" (non jews) so they would give us a very impersonal 20 dollar bill for chanukah.  But now that they have a granddaughter, and jewish culture is competing with secular culture.  Or maybe as they must view it, it's them vs. my mother in law, who they met right after C was born a few months ago, and who is super awesome and nice, so pretty hard to compete with just as a person, especially given the way they have treated us in the past. 

 So here's my awesome mother in law with christmas, showering gifts on my daughter (as she most definitely will cause she's a grandma!) while if they don't send her channukah gifts, it's not like B and I are going to go out of her way to get her anything. Especially in my case, having been taught by my parents that doing this is just a way to try to compete with christmas, and has nothing to do with the holiday at all.  And also to be honest, how many gifts around december time does one kid need?  We're not huge into consumeryness as it is, Christmas we tend to get more personal things, like last year we gave my FIL a framed photo of our ultrasound, I think my MIL who loves tea and snowman got a nice unique snowman mug made by some local pottery crafts people in our area, my brother and sister in law got this beer they love that you can only get in the south, my SIL and MIL both got these awesome wire wrapped amethyst necklace pendents that my husband made out of stones we dug out of a local mine, stuff like that.  Which reminds me, we need to start getting on that stuff for this year.

Anyways I was super not careful about this stuffed dreidel they sent us even though the dogs eat everything stuffed they get their hands on...and they ate it not surprisingly they ate the handle off, so not it's more of a ball than a dreidel (and not safe for babies cause stuffing is falling out). And now I'm like "Was that some unconscious passive aggressive thing on my part because I don't want my daughter playing with a stuffed dreidel and getting to like jewish culture?"

Baby's first jewish cultural indoctrination: The dreidel toy shortly before it's death

In addition to the dreidel toy they sent us a whole bunch of (not judaism related) baby books, a big plastic dreidel filled with chocolate coins (For the grownups I'm assuming), a foam menorah baby toy that she is too young to play with (it says age 3+), and a bib that says "Baby's first channukah" that I took pictures of her wearing yesterday morning but feel ambivalent about her wearing today. Also 2 books about chanukah- one that I remember from when I was a kid that's about a girl who has the same first name as me (same copy) and one that is a baby pop up book about the holiday. I read through it and it doesn't seem to have anything offensive, it mostly talks about the tradition, the only thing about the history is that judah the macabee defeated the greeks which I guess is technically historically accurate?  But I haven't read it to her and I'm not sure that I will.

Meanwhile I called my mom a couple of nights ago- first time I called her directly in probably over a year.  And we talked for a while. Mostly I called her because after driving 13 hours each way to my sister in law's wedding last month (which we still haven't unpacked from), we've decided to spend Thanksgiving at home with just the 3 of us, making our first ever family holiday.  And I wanted some of my mom's  recipes because if we're going to start making our own family traditions, I want to make my mom's thanksgiving stuffing dammit (I also wanted to make chestnuts but for some reason the store only had the ones in jars).  Anyway me and my dad are supposed to skype later this morning and she reminded me 3 or 4 times to make sure it's not "too late" ie. when my bitch aunt is probably going go be there.  Awesome.  

I feel like if my aunt was dead, or a little less of a bitch,  oh and I guess my grandfather would probably have to stop being such a jerk in this scenario too, B and C and I would all be up in NJ right now, celebrating our daughters first thanksgiving AND chanukah.  Or at the very least, we would be skyping much later today, when everyone is over, so that my grandparents (who don't own a computer) could at least see their new great granddaughter. Who in this scenario, would be happy to see her. The way last month, her great grandmother on B's side was super happy to meet her, and during my sister in law's wedding, C was passed around by her grandmother, great grandmother and all her great aunts all night so B and I could have a night off of getting tipsy. The way normal families behave when a new member joins in.  Fortunately B also has a big family, although I wish we lived closer to them.  After the wedding last month, I'm seriously contemplating going on the job market again next year and making another run at finding a job in the midwest for 2015. 

Last night as I watched my facebook page light up with pictures of all my jewish friends who have had babies this year, for a minute I seriously contemplated going up into the attic, where I think my old menorah is- in some box I imagine my great great grandchildren finding one day and being like "OMG we didn't know our great great grandmother the famous sociologist was also a jew! - and digging it out to light for my daughter's first chanukah or whatever.  But talking to my mother reminded me that I really do not want to get my daughter into a religion that makes her own family treat her like a pariah.  Hence my ambivalence.

Friday, November 22, 2013

OTD mom realization of the day

The love I feel for my daughter has something in common with the love I feel for my husband, and the love I felt for 1 or 2 past boyfriends,  that it does not have in common with any way I ever remember feeling towards my parents. 

I think it's been so long since I've truly loved my parents that I can't even remember what it felt like.  I can't remember any time that I didn't feel hurt by them, they've been douching it up since I was around 14 because of religion (which is when I first started going OTD) and now I'm 31.  I always was desperate for them to love me and be nice to me, but I don't think I ever genuinely liked them and wanted to be around them at the same time. Like the way I always want to hang out with B and C.  I haven't been to my parents house (a place I no longer call "home") in over 5 years now, and even when I was going there, I was always leaving as quickly as I could to avoid them as much as possible

My dad has actually been super cool lately compared to what he is normally like, and is warm again in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of the relationship I can at this point barely remember us having before I was a teenager...but he is still distant and douchey in some ways because of religion every once in a while.  My mom is just distant, the last time I talked to her was when they were here when C was 3 weeks old (She is now 17 weeks old).  Maybe I will suggest to my dad that we skype on Thanksgiving or something (although maybe they will be having a big party of all the people who don't know C exists so they won't want to skype with us).  This Thanksgiving will be 2 years since me and my mom supposedly 'reconciled' when I called her after 3 years of not talking.