Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bitter pill

When my dad was here a few weeks back, he invited me to a memorial day bbq that my parent's have every year with many of my extended family (cousins and aunts and uncles). They started having this bbq becuase of my birthday (which is the weekend after memorial day this year, but is usually around memorial day), and it because a sort of family tradition. So much of a tradition in fact that it no longer matters if I'm there or not.

Last year I didn't go, as I was at a music festival. This year I talked to my mom and she didn't mention anything about it, until I brought it up and asked her about it. My dad invited me though.

Anyways, I've been super busy at school, trying to get another draft of my dissertation proposal in to my advisor so that I can finally defend the damn thing. So busy in fact that I didn't even realize that memorial day is THIS weekend, until yesterday. A friend stopped by our place and asked what we were doing for memorial day weekend. My answer was an unenthusiastic "Bbq at my parents place I guess." He asked B if he'd be coming along, and B said no, as he's not invited.

That made me feel particularly shitty. B is awesome about it all. He jokes about how I'm the best girlfriend ever because he doesn't have to meet my parents, and even offered to lend me his car for the day so that I can drive the 2 hours to their house and back (if not I would have to take the train and rely on my parents to drive me to and from the station. My own car= a quick escape).

Every time I go back to my parents house I wonder if this will be the last time ever. And this time I don't even want to go. I don't want to have to smile and talk to my family about school and such and not mention anything about B. If I DO mention anything about B, and my extended family finds out I have a not-jewish bf, the whole bbq will turn into me being lectured by various crazy people.

Meanwhile, my cousins will all be there. Including one cousin in particular who makes this whole bbq a bitter pill to swollow. She married the third person she ever went on a shidduch date with, was engaged after 6 weeks of dating him, and was married around 3 months later at the age of 18. She had 2 kids by the age of 20. Her and her husband are completely supported by her parnets and her in laws, while her husband goes to law school and she gets her masters (in occupational therapy, one of the stalewart jobs of Orthodox Jewish girls).

I do not approve of this lifestyle. Even though I happen to like her husband (he's certainly a lot less crazy than most people I'm related to), I do not approve of her parents marrying her off at age 18 to the third person she ever dated (it was 2 first dates and then her husband. She never even went on a second date with anyone else), I do not approve of anyone getting married and relying entirely on their parents for money (a little help here and there is par for the course, but neither of them have ever had a job), and I do not approve of her rebbatzin who told her she couldn't use birth control, which is why she has 2 children.

And yet she gets to come to family occassions and sit at the 'grown up' table while patrionizingly asking if I'm dating anyone and reassuring me that my 'bashert' will come along soon (since I don't tell her about B). Did I mention she's 5 years younger than me?

A bitter pill indeed.

Meanwhile I have to keep quiet about B. Well, I don't really. But I've realized that if I tell my extended family about B, it won't be me who will suffer. Because really, if my relatives try to call me up and lecture me about it, I'll just hang up the phone. The person who will really suffer will be my mother.

When I got my eyebrow peirced a few years back (it's gone now, but it was there long enough for my extended family to see it), it was my mother who got tons of shit for it, not me. My grandmother (not the dead one, the evil one) called me up (the only time she has ever called me in her life) and started ranting about how no boy would ever marry me if I had an eyebrow ring, and how I must have been abused as a child, and I have a terrible mother. I told her to shut up about my mother (who is her actual daughter!) and then hung up on her, and we haven't really talked since. Did I mention she'll be at this bbq as well?

Point is, she ranted at me for an hour, but she ranted at my mother for MONTHS. And my mother is not about to hang up on her the way I did. And the same exact thing happened when I had dreadlocks for a year or one said anything about it to me, but my mom got shit for it. Me and my mother don't have that close a relationship anymore, but I still love her, and it's not fair that she takes the shit for my actions.

So what to do? I can skip it, and spend a nice quiet weekend with B. We can go to the farmers market and get some fresh eggs and bacon for breakfast, like we did last weekend. The following weekend we're having a big bbq at my place, in honor of our cohabitation and my birthday, and with our friends, so it'll be nice to spend a quit weekend with each other.

I can go and not say anything about B, and secretely dream of punching my cousin in the face everytime she mentions anything about how I'll "find someone soon."

I'll have his car though, and will probably have to explain how it is I came to be driving a car with midwest plates.

I can go and tell everyone about B, and then leave in a blaze of destruction glory.

Those last two do not result in me being happy about myself. Both because I will be leaving B behind, and that just makes me feel depressed and pissed off at the same time. If I go without B, arn't I just giving in to their unreasonable demands that I hide my relationship? Why should I be forced to live in their paradigm to see them; when do I take a stand that forces them to accept my paradigm if they want to see me?

It seems the only solution that will make me happy is staying home. But knowing me, I probably won't pick that one. Sigh.


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  2. I have a niece in Israel who's getting married at 18. She got engaged at 17. Instead of judging, I've decided to be happy for her, as I know she has a mind of her own and that she's crazy about the guy. Happiness is hard to find in this life, so I'll be happy for her. Different strokes for different folks. Then again, I don't have to deal with her giving me a hard time about my choices, as you do.

    As for the BBQ, if you go, you don't have to say anything outright about B, but if the pitzeleh cousin starts making thse "im Yirtze Hashem by you" noises, you can quietly say "I'm seeing someone" and just beg off discussing it further. If anyone asks you for details, just say you're not ready to discuss them. You don't have to tell anyone B's not Jewish unless they ask you point-blank. They'll just assume that you don't want to discuss someone who you're not ready to commit to yet (even though you are committed already.)

    Another thing to consider: If you're going so you can see your family, ask yourself, is it your immediate family or your extended family that you want to see? If it's really only your immediate family, then go up on a Sunday and visit with them instead. Maybe B will allow you to borrow his car for a Sunday. Or without the rest of the relatives there for your parents to feel ashamed in front of, maybe your folks will give in & allow you to bring B.

    B sounds like a really nice guy. In your parents' minds now, he's just the "goy" you're dating. Put a pleasant face on that concept and while they won't change their minds officially, they might soften in practice.

  3. AE, I think the solution is kind of crying out for itself. Why not just call your mom or dad, preferably your mom, since she has to eat all the shit from your relatives. Tell her that you are uncomfortable with the situation and ask her how you should act at the bbq.

    Your dad kind of alluded that B. is to be kept a secret in his letter to you (several blog posts ago), but never really said so.

    Maybe it's not as big of a deal to your folks as you made it out in your mind. If nothing else, you'll force your parents to come straight out and say that they prefer B. to be kept a secret.

    On the flip side, I have a really easy way for B. to unobtrusively introduce himself to your dad. Have B. make an appointment with your dad's psychology practice. Issue: he is suffering because his jewish girlfriend's parents won't welcome him into the family.

  4. My awesome professor said when she went home for the holidays she would just pretend she was an observer in an ethnographic study, and that made it bearable.
    I think the ideal is to give this as a concession in your roadmap to peace. But if it is still too hurtful to you, you may not be ready to do that yet. So good luck whatever you do! :)

  5. Eden, I'll tell you a little secret. It will help your parents tremendously if you just show up and act frum. Yeah, it's a pain in the ass, but it will make them feel like less of a failure.

    It's a bitter pill, but at some point your folks are gonna have to swallow one too.

    If you don't feel up to it, just ditch the darn thing. If you really feel a bolt reflex, like you really don't want to go and you're forcing yourself to turn the car key, just forget it. No need to make your life miserable.

    You can also bail if you make plans a little later in the afternoon... show your face and leave ;)

  6. Honestly, I don't think you should go if they expect you to hide who you are and who you love.

    That probably means you won't be going there for family events, but the alternative is either to lie (either by omission or outright comission), or start the raging inferno and then leave.

    One is dishonest, and the other is cruel.

  7. I am sorry to say that your relationship with B will probably not work out in the long run. There too many potential conflicts. As silly as it sounds just imagine your parents 'sitting shiva" for you. How can you and B find everlasting happiness knowing that so many lives have been upsurped. I don't know all the ansewers but you'll need heavy duty shocks because the road your about to ride on is a rough one

  8. Jay- it's wonderful that you can make such in informed prediction of the future of my actual life based on something you read on the internets, and I commend you for your 'creative' use of the word 'usurp'.

    But as I only see my parents 2 or 3 times a year and talk to them 1 or 2 times a month as it is, I doubt them sitting shiva or doing any other manner of crazy thing will make me break up with B. It will make me stop visiting them however.

  9. The sad fact is, people of good will can find themselves in a situation where being honest with themselves and their beliefs means an unfortunate result.

    The same thing happens in the other direction; look at BeyondBT for the threads about BT's who won't go to family functions because they don't want their children seeing their cousins eating pork.

  10. You have enough on your plate to work with without judging your younger cousin. You could simply be wrong about things. For instance if she is happily married does it matter how many times she dated? You have to be on the topic of healing. As for your grandmother's relationship with her mother it would have perhaps been better if you would have asked her about why she is hostile and tell her she is wrong than hanging up which only made things worse and calling her evil is not conducive to healing either. For all I know she may be evil but I hope not as that would mean a real stumbling block. In short there has to be dialogue in your family and it only takes one to start it. If you want a relative lack of judging you will have to make the same effort on your part. There is nothing solved in just you winning. Everybody has to win something or you'll all lose. If you want resolution you won’t find it by scoring points against anyone and seeking confirmation of your negative views. In any event as long as you are not officially engaged but rather agreeing to be engaged in the right time there is no lying involved in regard to engagement.

  11. I'm wit da Candy Man... why does that sound familiar?

    One thing to add. Eventually it may come to a point where you just have to be 100% honest with your entire family. No need to rush that if it's uncomfortable and this upcoming event seems a bit soon IMHO. However, you will feel great about yourself, though it will probably hurt when you think of your family and their unfortunate lack of capability to accept things as they are. I don't mean to sound presumptuous. These are just my personal observations.

  12. The CandyMan is right that it would not harm for you to dress differently. Your mother would then see that you showed her concern with this. We all have to dress different ways anyhow.

  13. "My awesome professor said when she went home for the holidays she would just pretend she was an observer in an ethnographic study, and that made it bearable.
    I think the ideal is to give this as a concession in your roadmap to peace. But if it is still too hurtful to you, you may not be ready to do that yet. So good luck whatever you do! :)

    I do this all the time and I AM religous, just not as hard core as my relatives/friends/teachers. Whatever works for them. AE mentions critcism of relatives who got married young, etc. I know 2 guys who married the FIRST girl they met. Creepy is not the word. But what the hell, if they are happy who am I to tell them how to live their lives. Happiness is subjective. Also, I disagree that someone should not be supported by parents in the early years of marriage, especially if both parties are still in college. MANY people have help from either parents or a rich family member while going through grad school. I don't, which sucks ass. Whatever I am paying for law school is coming out of pocket. God bless scholarships. To say that to have a goal of independence is very important is of course true.

  14. common sense jew-

    i guess what i'm saying is not that parents shouldn't help out their kids in early years of marriage. What I'm saying is that I don't think people should get married until they can support themselves, for at least the major things, like rent. And they especially shouldn't be having kids if they can't even pay the rent by the themeselves.

    Honestly, if they are happy, that's all good with me. But these are people who constantly judge me for my decisions, and it irks me that if I was to take a closer look at their decisions, I wouldn't think they were the greatest either. My parents have also made decisions I don't agree with, such as buying 2 SUVs when they don't need to haul anything anywhere, and there's only the two of them living at home now.

    The difference between me and them is that I would never presume to tell them how to live their life, while they constantly tell me how to live mine.

  15. "But these are people who constantly judge me for my decisions,"

    Including your cousin who you mention who married early? Or is she just trying to be supportive? If she is just trying to be supportive try being supportive of her too.

    "The difference between me and them is that I would never presume to tell them how to live their life, while they constantly tell me how to live mine."

    How do we judge based on that? That's your opinion and we don't know enough details. That’s the main obstacle for us on this blog. But in any event do you want them to not care at all what you do? Do you feel a parent should not care like a parent throughout their lives. When you came to the BBQs dressed as you pleased again despite the impact the time before to your mother if she said something to you about it could she be blamed? Did you express to your mother sympathy about how her mother spoke to her? If you did good for you as it was a step in the right direction. It surely cannot be pleasant to be so ill supported by her own mother and it would mean a lot if she had your support. There are things you can do to improve your situation. Venting and getting confirmation for blame is not going to do anything but continue the cycle of blame and anger. If you are going to have a bad time at the BBQ don't go. If you feel with marriage there should be logic then with a smaller thing like a BBQ don't you be impetuous. Only go if you are going to make an effort to have a good time.


    It's called My Yiddishe Momme McCoy and it's a 20 minute documentary on an orthodox Jewish woman who's Irish husband converted for her back after WWII. It's just kind of neat to watch.


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