My family is full of secrets.
Hilariously (at least to me. because what can you do but laugh about it?) it's all the same secret. Or similar secrets. But we don't tell each other, and then we keep up these crazy facades, and no one knows that everyone is secretly doing the same thing.
I'm not such a big fan of secrets. I feel like relationships are not meaningful if you have to keep part of yourself a secret in order to maintain that relationship. There are things about me that I wouldn't want everyone in the world to know, particularly people I'm associated with in a professional sense. That's why, even though I hang around with many people at my school during work and non-work hours, I don't consider them real friends unless they know those things about me that I wouldn't want everyone to know.
Yes, I am being deliberately vague here.
About a month after I started dating B, I went to a big jewish grad/professional student dinner thing at my school. I met up with some random other grad students, and we got to talking about dating not-jewish people. And some random dude went on a whole long rant about how under no circumstances should I tell my parents that I am dating B, ever. That there is no reason for them to know.
I have to say, I disagreed with that assessment, and a few weeks after that I broke the news to them. Since then, while I've hesitated about telling them some things (such as that me and B live together), I eventually told them everything.
My brother on the other hand, is not so forthcoming. This is pretty understandable- he still lives in my parents house (although he makes enough money that he could probably move out if he lowered his standards of living a little bit). He has been dating someone who is not jewish for about 8 months now. My parents have no idea she even exists. Meanwhile, he hangs out with her parents, and brought her over to meet me when I had a birthday/cohabitation party in May. But as far as I know, he has no intention of ever telling my parents about her. How that's going to work out if they decide to get more serious, I have no idea...maybe he never intends on getting more serious? I don't know how you can date someone for months or years and never get any more serious than dating though...
Last Tuesday, one of my cousin's was in town for a conference, and we met up for coffee. My favorite cousin in fact. Let's call him "D." D is a bit older than me (he's 35), is married and has 3 kids, and lives about 10 minutes away from my parents. His parents live in Israel, his wife's parents live a 20 hour car ride away, and my dad is his only close relative nearbye, so him and his family and my parents spend a lot of time together. Turns out that even though my dad isn't saying anything about my engagement to my brothers, he did tell D.
D was remarkably non-judgmental when he was talking to me about it (one of the reasons he is my favorite cousin), and seemed more intent on making sure I knew some of the challenges of getting married in general, and that I'm sure B is going to be a good partner. It was kind of big-brothery, but in a good way.
Back to the topics of secrets- it turns out that not one, but two of my first cousins (his brother and sister) are in 'similar situations to mine.' One, lets call her "N", who lives in Israel, is dating a non-religious man, and they are living together. Her parents have no idea, or if they do, are not telling anyone that they do. The other, "Y" now lives in NYC, and is dating someone who is not jewish. They live together, and may or may not be married. D was kind of sketchy on the topic, and didn't seem to want to spread too much information about it.
Now N was here for thanksgiving, the first time I had seen her since I was 14. In fact I wrote a blog post about not wanting her to visit since I don't keep kosher. But it turns out, as I found out last Tuesday, N doesn't keep kosher either! I did end up seeing N at my parents house, and we were both in our "orthodox disguises" wearing long skirts and shirts that covered our elbows and stuff. And she's not religious! And yet neither of us said anything to indicate that we were not 100% religious, and neither of us talked on a personal level, or had any conversations about the men we were both about to move in with. In fact, Y was there also. Me, my brother, and my two cousins, all had dinner together, and me and my brother (who know we are both not religious) had no idea that N and her brother Y (who presumably also know about each other) were in the exact same situation as us.
Because my family is full of secrets.
My dad's parents have 8 grandchildren. Now that I have this new information, I know that at least four of them are not religious, including 3 dating non-jewish people. 50%. And yet the other 50% (plus our parents, so really it's 4/12, or 33.34%) completely controls our actions. We disguise ourselves, my brother and Y with kippas and me and N with skirts and high-cut 'modest' shirts, and do it so well that we don't even know the other people are exactly the same as us, until some third party, still religious, but totally in the know about everything, lets out the big secret.
On my facebook profile under "religious views" it used to say "against." (now it says "atheist"). Back when it said "against" one of my mom's first cousins who is my facebook friend sent me a private message saying "Hey- I like your religious views. I totally agree, but don't tell anyone."
So on a scale of 1 to completely fucked up, how fucked up is this entire situation? I mean, it could just be my family- even though it's happened on both sides of the family- maybe that's just a coincidence. Or maybe it's endemic in the larger modern orthodox community, where half of the younger generation seems to be assimilating, while half are becoming more and more religious. That seems to be the case among people I grew up with- most of the people I was friends with as a teenager are no longer religious, and many of them are dating not-jewish people. And not telling their parents about it. The people my age who I wasn't friends with all seem to be having thousands of babies and their facebook profiles all say "Jewish- orthodox". And yet us non-religious folks bow to the will of the religious ones, by keeping our situations private or secret.
Have they socialized us so well that even though we completely disagree with them, we have internalized the shame they feel about us?