So as per my friend's suggestion, soon after my dad's visit I sent him an email apologizing for dropping the living together thing on him right when we were leaving the car, and talking about how I hate being secretive so that's why I told him about stuff. Here's the email he sent me back almost a week later;
Hi [Abandoning Eden],
Thanks for your note regarding last week's visit. It was good to see you again too. We should do it more often.
While I know we have different religious practice values I still can't help but feel that this is not what drives us apart. After all, I have a relationship with your brother, even though he is not observant, and I have been close friends with my [friend] for the past 46 years even though he is not religious, as well as keeping close ties with my high school chavrusa, in Houston who is not religious too. As the cliché goes, "some of my best friends ..."
Frankly, I've always thought that being secretive and less than forthcoming creates trust issues which are corrosive to maintaining a good relationship. It would be like a husband who is handsome, friendly and nice to his wife except that he cheats on her from time to time. It is not conducive to a healthy relationship.
In regards to dropping Jewish religious and cultural affiliations, I see it as an unfortunate loss. Having spoken to thousands of people over the years, a common denominator is that we all want to feel that we belong and that we matter. Maintaining an orthodox lifestyle, whether you agree with 100%, 80% or 30% of the rituals and beliefs, gives you instant access and affiliation to family, community and a universe of likeminded people. To discard family, community and tribe is to throw away a valuable commodity. Sure, there are some rules and conventions that come along with belonging to a group. But you can't buck it all, disrespect the group and still maintain the benefits. As an example, I had a famous Yankee baseball player as a
patient a few years back. He had to conform to certain rules. He had to wear the same uniform as the team. He had to have a rbi average of over .250. He had to show up for practice and listen to lectures and admonishments from Joe Torre, the manager, and a host of coaches so that he could be better at what he did. He had to work out in the gym between games to the point of exhaustion. Sounds oppressive, right? But in return, he earned over ten million dollars a year. He was also famous, popular and earned endorsement contracts. He thought it was worth the trouble.
My thinking about the relationship between you and B is as I've described to you. I love you and will always be there as your father. However, I cannot condone or bless some your behaviors such as dating or being intimate with a non-Jewish man. And you knew this going in. After all, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on your yeshiva education throughout the years. You knew the score when you started this and you you took on the risks and consequences of your actions.
It's ironic. My Shabbos Gemara shiur this week (Tractate Kiddushin 68b) will focus on the Torah prohibition of being intimate with a non-Jew. Deuteronomy 7:3 explicitly prohibits this. Marriages of this sort are not recognized or considered valid by Jewish law.
If you don't like the fish and bird analogy from Fiddler on the Roof, consider this analogous to announcing that you are gay and have a partner that you wish to marry. Sure, such people can live together and may even be able to get a civil authority to sanction their union in some jurisdictions but such a marriage would not be recognized or sanctioned as a marriage by the Torah or the civil government in most instances. Being married is fraught with great challenges. That is why we invoke God's presence and blessings in religious wedding ceremonies because we want to start with the odds stacked in our favor. If you want to "come out" and announce your relationship go ahead. But don't expect everyone to embrace it and feel comfortable with it just because they like you or you are family.
Mom and I also would feel uncomfortable with the idea of living with anyone prior to marriage, regardless of their religious affiliation. It diminishes the sanctity of marriage and may cause problems in the relationship.
We wish you continued success in your academic, professional and personal life. We are proud of you and wish you all the best life has to offer. Hopefully, your DNA test results will turn out well and you will have a long, healthy and happy life.
So i'm not sure how to take that? The gay thing...that's funny, I wrote an entry about it earlier, but I think that gay people SHOULD have rights and all, so I'm not sure that works an as analogy for me. And him telling me that cohabitation may cause problems in the relationship....um.....first of all, this is the subject of my dissertation, (cohabitation and union transitions and later marital stability) so I know lots about it, and that is totally not true. Second of all, why would he want our relationship to have less problems?
I haven't replied yet, and might just leave it and not reply at all. I've been invited to a memorial day bbq at my parent's house, and am debating whether I should go to that. B offered to lend me his car to drive there (I don't have a car- it's about 2 hours each way), as if I take the train I won't have a way to make a quick escape- the train station is a 20 minute drive from my parent's house so I would need them to drive me to it.