Sunday, April 27, 2008

Heavy things

B asked this morning if he could start calling me his 'fiance', since calling me his girlfriend seems kinda lame now that we live together. Which just points to the need for something to call your cohabiting partner other than 'cohabiting partner' which is a totally lame title.

Does this mean we should change our facebook to "engaged?" Ha. I don't know why I'm being so iffy about all this. I mean, we do have semi-concrete plans to get married. Well not concrete in the way of actual wedding plans (cause we're not going to have a big wedding), but concrete in the way of we know approximately when we're planning on getting married at city hall.

Oh wait, I do know why I'm being iffy...cause I have family who is probably going to get all up in my business the moment we officially announce any kind of engagement. Especially on facebook...I have like 10 or so first and second cousins on facebook, and the second I change anything there they'll be calling my parents asking why they weren't invited to the engagement party. And then my parents will have to explain that since B is not a Jew they hate him despite never having met him, and are not endorsing our marriage in any way. And then I'm going to have random relatives calling me and trying to discourage me from marrying him. Wouldn't it just be easier to tell them after the fact? My friend didn't tell her family that she was married until a few months after she and her husband got married...I totally dig that model.

But then again, on the other hand, what the fuck family. I'm happy and proud that I'm with B, so why all the secrecy? Oh right, lack of unconditional love. Sigh.

So I guess me and B are pretty much engaged now? I don't have a ring or anything, and I don't want one. Having gone through all those shenanigans last time I was engaged, I'm thoroughly disillusioned with the whole engagement/wedding thing. Besides, I've always been the type to hate doing things the traditional way.

In other news, my dad sent me an email on Friday talking about regular bullshit stuff, and then was like "P.S. i got the results of my genetic tests, maybe we can meet for lunch in [my city] next Friday to discuss them". The genetic tests in question being the test for a BRCA2 mutation that his sister has tested positive for. The BRCA2 mutation being something that causes an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, that is a common mutation among Ashkenazi Jews. Did I mention my grandmother and her two sisters all had breast cancer, and that her 2 sisters died of breast cancer, and she died of ovarian cancer? And my aunt with the mutation also has breast cancer? I'm assuming since my dad is suggesting we talk about it in person after not visiting me for 3 years, this means he has the mutation as well.

After freaking out about this for like an hour, I realized that this doesn't really change anything in my life...I was already going to go for early mammograms cause of my family history, and I always get a yearly check up at the gyno. If my dad has this mutation I have a 50% chance of having it. If I have the mutation that means my chance of getting breast cancer by age 70 is about 86%. So yeah, I'm probably going to get breast cancer at some point, yay. The good news is that with the BRCA2 mutation (unlike the BRCA1 mutation) people usually get breast cancer a little later in life (like in your 50s and 60s), so by then hopefully they'll have cured cancer. :) The weird news is that I can't get tested at this point, until they pass that genetic discrimination bill, because if I do, future health insurance companies might refuse to cover me. Even after they pass it, health insurance can still charge my employers higher premiums for health insurance, so I probably won't get tested until after I actually have a job. But in more good news, that genetic testing discrimination bill just got passed in the senate and is up for a vote in the house this week. And Bush supports it.

So now my dad is visiting me for lunch on Friday? I don't have to worry about him finding out about B living with me accidentally, since we'll probably just meet up by my office. But maybe I should tell him me and B are planning on moving in together? (notice I like to say "planning" and not "already have" as I feel telling him that would be a mistake at this point). Or that we are planning on getting married? Maybe I should ask again if he wants to meet B? Although I think B can't get out of work until at least 2 on Friday...


  1. From my similar personal experience and someone who has read your entire blog, I humbly tell you that you will never change your parents nor will they ever accept him. I think you already know that. (Blunt yet, I am very sincere)

    I also married a non-Jew. My family are OJ with several Rabbi's in the family. They never saw me marry. Yet celebrated my youngest sister's engagement when she was still a teenager because they were OJ.

    Years and years I've spent (I'm 37)trying to get that unconditional love and acceptance from my so-called family. Attempting to have them see that I am HAPPY and PRODUCTIVE and that is what is important to me. (and I think, you too.)

    It is unfair and unjust that the perpetuation of their Judaism trumps any other ethic in their eyes, even their own flesh and blood.

    I still obsess over how I am treated differently than my other siblings who choose to conform.

    These feelings will never subside in me. I do, still, continue to go to that well that is dry over and over again. My stupid human nature, I suppose.

    I was hoping that with age, comes wisdom. But just the opposite is true. Unfortunately, they are MORE arrogant and sure of their rightousness, than ever.

    The only advice for you that I have is, (sounds too simple, but it's the hardest thing to do) that YOU COME FIRST IN YOUR LIFE.

    I struggle with that everyday. But every time I deviate from that rule, my family repeatedly demonstrates plainly, that I am rejected because of my life choices.

    It NEVER stops hurting. We know that WE are not capable of treating our own (potential) children in such an abusive fashion. We cry out for acceptance and unconditional love that, as children, WE DESERVE.

    If you ever want to talk feel free to email me at:

  2. One more thing, Abandoning Eden:

    In my case, as I grew older, I developed general anxiety disorder.

    It was a slow progression. I am convinced that my upbringing and my family rejection PLUS the way I dealt with it, was a major contributing factor in my diagnosis.

    Everybody is different. I really had expectations that my family would eventually come around and accept us. In a way, I deluded myself with hope. And when I finally recognized that this will never happen, it caused much anxiety for me.

  3. elishajan-

    funny, i've ALREADY been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder :) Although I've been getting better...

    I feel like we have a similar situation, and I appreciate your insight here. I also obsess over how my brother's are treated differently because they conform (they both got cars from my parents for instance, and I did not)

    You are probably right that my parents will never accept B, and that i'm deluding myself. It's hard to reconcile how my parents act like somewhat normal people usually, except for blatantly refusing to meet the person who I spent 90% of my day with, and refusing to even talk about him.

    But what now? Do I just not tell my parents we're planning on getting married, go off and elope, and tell them afterwards? Do I never talk about him again? Or do I pull off the bandaid, tell the truth, and deal with the consequences now that will no doubt come at some point in the future? So far my policy has been to push off those consequences by avoiding the subject with them, but that can only work for so long...

  4. This is my suggestion: JUST TELL THEM.

    (think of all the restful nights NOT worrying about what to tell them. They will know now and it is up to THEM to deal with THEIR emotions.)

    Sit them down alone, for now, without B. Tell them that they raised you to be honest. And as your parents they are entitled to a certain amount of respect from you.

    This is why you are speaking to them now.

    You may need to reassure them that they offered you complete exposure to Orthodox Judasim. They carried on their tradition to the best of their abilities. You are now separate individuals with separate interests and lives.

    You don't want to hide a huge part of your life with them. Inform them that before you get engaged you wanted to give them the "proper" respect and tell them. They, as your parents, deserve the truth.

    Make them acknowledge that they want the truth.

    They may need MORE placating words from you. Like there was nothing that they could have, or should have done, any differently.

    Be firm and confident.


    Can you imagine living the rest of your life HIDING from your parents?

    Keeping up some kind of ruse?

    This is THEIR problem, NOT yours. Why should YOU suffer THEIR burden. It's time that you gave it ALL back to them.

    Ask yourself, what is the worst possible thing that can become of this? They'll stop speaking to you. Right? How different is that really from the relationship you have with them right now?

    It's superficial, Right? Are you satisfied with that arrangement? Then add the additional anxiety that this situation creates for you if you continue it this way. Do you want that indefinitely?

    Are you hoping that one day they will come around and open their home for you and B? That's always a possibility. But don't sit around and wait for them. You will be suffering the same anxiety that you are now. Your emotional well-being is WAY more important than making sure that their irrational discrimination are protected.

    Jeez, we could exchange injustices.

    My sister got a fuckin' $700,000 HOUSE because hubby is a Rabbi, and they needed a house within walking distance to the shul.

    All 3 of my sisters got an ivy league college education. I went to the local community college on grants.

    Dad tried to bribe me to send my son to a Yeshiva. He was going to give me $500 per month plus the tuition if I agreed. NEVER

    My parents actually sneaked a Rabbi into my son's penis operation so he can preform a official Bris. WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. He just walked over to the hospital staff with my dad and introduced himself and said that he was there to perform the Bris.

    The retarded staff worker led him down the hallway to the operating room. Apparently he thought that my dad was my son's dad.

    If you don't nip this problem in the bud NOW you will have an ongoing anxiety trigger.

  5. I re-read my last comment. I hope I don't sound harsh. I don't mean to.

    It's just that our family sounds so similar.

  6. Wow elishajan really feels your pain. You are far from alone in your struggle.

    Rejection from out parents is just the most painful thing there is. I am LUCKY to have a mother and father that give me unconditional love. Yet, in adolescence when my mother rejected me (so I felt) in favor of her unstable love life, I felt so deeply wounded. Just the other day, at a moment of weakness, I couldn't believe it when the old remembered words popped in my head (that if she doesn't want me, than neither do I). Wow. I will never truly be able to empathize with the profundity of your dilemma (both of you), and, well damn! I'm just so sorry!

    This is not what Judaism is should be about. Rejecting your family for a closed-minded dogma is just inhuman!

    You need to get together over the high holidays and me non-OJ's together! Be your own family, huh? That family we choose!

  7. wow. brca stuff notwithstanding, mazal tov (on the engagement part), and I'm sorry about the gross distortion of Judaism in which some families engage. Sometimes we need choose/create our own Jewish families (I know I certainly did, at points in my life) who will love us unconditionally. Not that we're tight, or anything, but I'm certainly among the Jews who will love you unconditionally, regardless of whom you marry or how you choose to raise your kids, if you do happen to decide to have kids. I won't buy you or your siblings cars or houses, but in the end, it's not about what's done for others, it's about love, isn't it?

    Please forgive me for not understanding the comparing to siblings thing. My little sister is a teen and I'm around 30, so there's not much to compare. We're treated differently and we're different people, period. (and I will PM you elsewhere re: that)

  8. It sucks. They live in a crazy, warped world. Don't exagerate in your mind how distraught your parents are/will be - you're anxiety is probably 50x theirs.

    You're very self-aware and you're doing great.

  9. Hm AE,
    The voices of (somewhat sad) experience have spoken.

    I wonder how my family will react if/when I came to them with such news...

  10. Thanks for the post and discussion. I deal with this all the time with my parents, since I'm dating a person who was not born Jewish.

    In defense of Judaism as a whole, I'll say that this nonsense about Jews marrying Jews is found nowhere in the Torah, developed around the time of Ezra, was fueled by xenophobia, and has finally been rejected mostly (but not nearly enough) by the vast majority of Jews. It's pure racist mishegos. I'll deal with this on LNM when we get to the part of the Torah when Miriam gets leprosy for speaking ill of Tzippora.

    That being said, we're caught in a web and have to deal with it. I think there's a balance to be struck between confronting this all at once and not confronting it at all. Take your time, but get it done, part by part. Group therapy may help keep the emotions under control. We're here for you if you want to vent.

  11. If you don't try to empathize with your parents at all a time will come when it will be too late.

  12. "was fueled by xenophobia, and has finally been rejected mostly (but not nearly enough) by the vast majority of Jews. It's pure racist mishegos."

    Oh come off of it. There wasn't racism. If it would have been racism they wouldn't have accepted converts.

  13. rabban gamliel- have you ever met a convert? I know several, and they all feel extremely unwelcome in the orthodox community. My ex fiance was actually a convert, and my parents didn't accept him either...after getting his documents from the orthodox rabbi he converted under, and testing him all the time, they never fully accepted him and kept telling me I could do better. My grandmother actually told me she was praying for me to break up with him when she heard he was a convert.

    So yeah, that sounds like racism to me...

  14. Sarah b-

    it's not really about the car thing (although i still can't afford to buy my own at age 25, and it certainly would be nice to have one- but B is lending me his car for fests now) :)

    It's other little things, like that my brother who is a year younger than me is still living at home, has my mom do his laundry, etc, and my parents told me I couldn't live with them after I graduated college because of my 'lifestyle'. And it's how my mom has flat out told me that she doesn't want me talking to my youngest brother, because I might influence him...and blames me for my other brother becoming less religious (the one who lives at home-when he actually became irreligious before I did! But he also lies to my parents, and they don't know about his non jewish gf...). And how my parents traveled to Israel TWICE this year to visit my younger brother who is living there, but this visit from my dad on friday will be the first time either of my parents have visited me - less than a 2 hour drive away- in over 3 years. And the last time they visited it was cause their friend happened to be getting married in this city. So not counting that time, they've only been to visit me once in the four years I've lived a 2 hour drive from them.

    And that all happened before I was dating B...

  15. "abandoning eden said...
    rabban gamliel- have you ever met a convert?"

    I have met more than one and am friends with still others.

    "I know several, and they all feel extremely unwelcome in the orthodox community. My ex fiance was actually a convert, and my parents didn't accept him either...after getting his documents from the orthodox rabbi he converted under, and testing him all the time, they never fully accepted him and kept telling me I could do better. My grandmother actually told me she was praying for me to break up with him when she heard he was a convert.

    So yeah, that sounds like racism to me..."

    I was talking about Judaism not your parochial experience.

  16. judaism or jewish people? And which kinds of jewish people? Plenty are accepting of converts, but many orthodox jewish peopel I know are not. I also have a friend who converted to orthodox judaism but now only dates conservative people because orthodox people won't date her. And I know this person from a totally different jewish community (the one I live in now, which is 200 miles from the one I grew up in).

  17. ae, your mom's behavior would be toxic (all the blame bs) and enabling (doing your brother's wash at his age, etc.), regardless of her religious claims. I'm sorry she behaves like such a bundtloaf.

    my uncle's wife is a convert. I think she rocks. sorry your family doesn't understand that making a conscious choice to become Jewish is a lot of hard work and that anyone willing to do all that who can pull it off should get nothing but welcome and huge yasher koachs. If everyone who was born Jewish had to do all that, there might not be as many Jews in the world.

    As for the semantics argument, it's not racism, 'cause Jews aren't a race, period (imo). It is, however, blatant ethnocentrism. On one end, that's bigotry and discrimination. On the other end, it's no different than someone who is into "hippie" music only wanting to date "hippie" chicks. If people want to share whatever's important to them in common with their partners, there's nothing wrong with that. Being an ahole about it or leading people on, however, is not acceptable. (but what do I know?)

  18. "abandoning eden said...
    judaism or jewish people?"


    "And which kinds of jewish people?"

    Many kinds.

    "Plenty are accepting of converts, but many orthodox jewish peopel I know are not. I also have a friend who converted to orthodox judaism but now only dates conservative people because orthodox people won't date her. And I know this person from a totally different jewish community (the one I live in now, which is 200 miles from the one I grew up in)."

    I'm not doubting your experience but there's a whole Jewish faith out there and a whole Jewish People with a whole and varied history. Did you know Rabbi Akiva's grandfather was a convert? Did you know that the Torah requires us to show love for the convert?

  19. rabban gamliel- historically, maybe, but that's not evidence for the current state of affairs. And yes I do know that the torah says to love converts, but I'm not the one hating on them.

  20. and s(b)- "bundtloaf"? :lol: I love that, I'm totally stealing that word :)

  21. "abandoning eden said...
    rabban gamliel- historically, maybe, but that's not evidence for the current state of affairs. And yes I do know that the torah says to love converts, but I'm not the one hating on them."

    Not historically. If you think the world you know existed 20-25 years ago forget it.

  22. yes, ae, bundtloaf -- a round cake in a rectangular pan. ;)

  23. מזל טוב !!!

    May you have long & happy years together.

    I agree with you about the wedding. If I had to do my wedding over I would have a small pizza party in the backyard. Of course, I suggested that the first time and my wife (to be) and our families weren't thrilled with the idea.

    I agree with elishajan - just tell them. At least it'll be out there in the open. They'll have to knbow sooner or later anyway, so all you're sparing yourself by not telling your folks now is a few months of silence from them, which it sounds like, wouldn't be that different than your relationship with them now.

  24. this nonsense about Jews marrying Jews is found nowhere in the Torah, developed around the time of Ezra

    Judaism as we know it only dates to Ezra, so that doesn't mean much. what came before was a sort of tribal proto-Judaism.

    I think Judaism is mostly clear about the prohibition against marrying non-Jews. I'm happy for AE because I've been reading her blog for a while, see how much she loves B. I think like a human being first and as a Jew only second, but I'm not going to twist Judaism to claim that it doesn't say what it does.

    Similarly, I'm very happy for gay friends when they find happy relationships. The Torah is very clear against male homosexuality, but I'm a human being and a friend first.

  25. I understand BHB's point. Judaism is not supposed to discriminate against converts. The fact that many Jews today do so is unfortunate and perhaps because of the natural xenophobia that results in an insular society but is not part of traditional Jewish philosophy.

  26. One point I made Abandoning Eden that you should try to implement to whatever degree you can. Take it from someone who has no parents anymore and all that was said has to be good enough because it would be too late now: try to see how much you can let your parents know you love them and hear what they have to say about themselves and their lives. It's too easy to take them for granted while they are alive.

  27. AE - I am a BT. I also know many converts. The shul I go to, I consider my Jewish community, does not descriminate between convert and Born Jews. Many converts I know go happily go to other shuls. They are not having problems. They intermarry into regular Jewish community without problems.

    Yes, there certainly are bigotted people like you have described, but they do not represent all orthodox Jews.

    And by many converts I mean more then meer two, three.

    Just recently I found out that a certain person was a convert. Uknowingly, I asked him if he was FFB or BT and he replied a convert. I was really shocked by his answer, he looks like a typical eastern eurapean Jew, instead he has German and Irish blood.

    I assumed you were shidduch dating in your earlier life, how did you end up with a convert?

  28. Melvin- I never shidduch dated, my parents are modern orthodox (although more religious than many MO people- mom covers her hair, doesn't wear pants, etc.). I met my ex through NCSY. :)

  29. hello,

    I just wanted to tell you my story which may give some hope with regards to your parents.

    I have been living with my jewish partner for over 15 years now (I am a non-jewish atheist, she is a non-practising jew).

    Her family were always very clear: they would not tolerate or accept a non-jewish relationship.

    When we moved in together, her family did not break off ties with her, but would not meet me at all. When she went home to visit (rarely), I would drop her off in the car then go and pick her up the next day.

    I think her parents were playing the waiting game, expecting the relationship to wither in the absence of their consent.

    If anything, it helped our relationship, as we new we could only rely on each other for absolute support.

    After 5 years, something changed. I don't know if they just got bored, or finally figured out they were only alienating their daughter with their behavior, or if only one of her parents was in favor of the "partner boycott", but out of the blue I was invited to dinner.

    From then on, I have been accepted as part of the family. Obviously it is not an especially close relationship between myself and her parents, but it is friendly enough.

    So, my advice would be to be honest with your parents, weather the storm as best you can while keeping the lines of communication open, and hope they come round soon. I can't imagine successfully keeping such a big part of your life a secret from them for very long. If you do keep it secret, the stress and the burden is on your shoulders. If you tell them, and they behave badly, then that is on their shoulders to deal with.

    Good luck!

  30. Two questions:

    Did you break up because of your parents?

    How could someone with such an aversion to religion as you be engaged to someone who loves it so much that he went through orthodox Jewish conversion?

  31. mlevin,

    AE's history is all there, if you read her back posts.

  32. mlevin

    1. no

    2. I wasn't so adverse to religion back then? We broke up like 5 years ago, and after we broke up I began to question my beliefs a lot more seriously than I had before


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