Read Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6
After being grounded over the summer for meeting up with my no-longer-a-secret BF, I went back to school and called him from the payphone down the block from my school for a few months, but we didn't meet up in person again. Eventually we broke up when I heard he had been seen holding hands with another girl (awwww, young 15 year old me, so sad and convinced I would never love again).
After 4-ish months my parents finally un-grounded me. I still hung out with that group of friends my secret now-ex boyfriend had introduced me to in my town- a group of people my age who secretly were OTD. We started hanging out nearly every single weekend, and I got involved in NCSY (like they were) as well- we were the kids hanging out outside the building chatting with each other while the NCSY (brainwashing) "sessions" were going on inside. we were probably the ones they were referring to as "kids at risk" in the late 1990s.
At home I learned that if I turned the speakers off my laptop I could spend all shabbas playing video games and my parents would have no idea. My parents had no idea the extent to which I was not keeping shabbas. I kept counting down the days till I turned 18.
Years passed. When I was 17 and a senior in HS I met my ex fiance at an NCSY shabbaton (actually simchaton for those who know what that is). I was completely open with my parents about dating him, as I had been about another boy I had dated for a few months right after my 17th birthday. However my parents didn't like that my ex fiance was a convert, even after checking out his conversion papers and talking with the head (orthodox, very respected) rabbi involved. They tried arguing with me about it and even consulted with the rabbi about their rebellious teenage daughter who is always dating people they don't approve of. He advised them to 'ship me off to Israel' for a year (my mom's words). They had me talk to my grandmother, who told me she was praying for us to break up (also because he was a convert). I told her not to hold her breath. She didn't talk to me for several years after that as a result (although we eventually made up and she was remarkably accepting of B many years later).
At some point my parents put a tracing program on my computer that would track everything I typed. This program might have been on my computer for years, but I didn't find out about it until many months after I had started dating my ex fiance, when my parents confronted me about my plans to go away for a weekend with my him (which we had discussed over instant messenger). It was basically an exact repeat of what had happened at 15- I wanted to go away for a weekend and stay at someone's house, he was going to stay at someone else's house in the same area, and we would meet up for meals and to hang out. Only this time I got caught before it even happened.
After they confronted me on this, they decided that based on this weekend thing and everything that had gone down when I was 15 (or rather, everything they knew about), I must be a pathological liar (who only lies about weekends away with my bfs?), so they sent me to family therapy. I was a bit too old to be grounded again (almost 18), and it wouldn't have really worked out since I had a job after school I had to go to, so they told me they would stop paying for my flute lessons as a punishment for lying again, but that they would start paying for them again if I broke up with my ex. I ended up giving up on flute. Which was a shame, since my teacher had been encouraging me to apply to Julliard so I probably wasn't too bad. My ex fiance was also no longer allowed in my house, although he stubbornly kept coming to the front door to pick me up (my mom would look at him through the peephole and then go get me, leaving him standing on the stoop).
In family therapy, when I first went in to talk to the therapist alone, I told him I had secretly been breaking shabbas and kosher for several years and I didn't believe in the religion at all. He insisted I tell my parents this, during therapy. I was soo uncomfortable and scared, it was probably one of the scariest things I've ever done, but I told my parents "I'm not religious anymore." My dad started tapping his foot (the way he always does when he's freaking out, he never yells, only shakes with anger) and was like "What does that mean? Do you eat shrimp? Do you eat ham?" Of course I had to answer no, since at the time I was still only eating vegetarian non kosher food. My parents were so relieved, didn't question me any further, and they instantly dismissed it as a "teenager rebellion phase."
That was the last time we went to family therapy. But from then on we started having huge fights about religion almost every shabbas meal. Not about my level of observance per se, but about the things I thought were stupid and evil about religion, the things that didn't make sense, and the thing my dad couldn't come up with a good enough explanation for. When we weren't having fights it was because I had brought a book to the table and checked out of the conversation entirely while reading from my lap (which I did throughout my teenage years during shabbas meals after I started going OTD and which drove my mother nuts, she was always yelling at me to put my book away). In retrospect I can see I was going through the "angry at religion, lashing out at religious people" phase that I've seen several OTDers go through.
Around this time I was also figuring out what my college plans would be. I grew up in a household where education was highly valued and everyone had a college degree, and most men have a graduate degree. The women in my family have always gone to college. They have always gone to college, worked a few years, gotten married, and then become stay at home moms when they had either their first or second child. So that was what I assumed would be my life. I would go to college, finish my degree, get married and get some crappy job, and eventually become a stay at home mom when I had kids.
When it came time to picking a college, my parents really wanted me to go to Stern. Actually, they really wanted me to go to Israel for a year, especially after consulting their rabbi about me dating my ex. But I flat out said to them "I'm going to be 18 by then, you can't force me to leave the country against my will, and I'm not going." I think my dad was partially relieved because it was so expensive. So they told me to apply to Stern college and maybe Touro and a few local backups. I begged my parents to let me go AWAY to college, but they said they would only help me pay for college if I lived at home.
So my dreams of escape when I was 18 were put on hold. I didn't know much if anything about student loans- I thought you could only get financial aid if your parents were poor, and my parents weren't poor, so I figured I wouldn't be eligible for anything. I had a job at the time, but it was for minimum wage, and was part time besides, and there was no way I could just leave my parent's house and set up my own apartment on that level of income, especially not in the NY area. And I had no idea how to get a better job. And I couldn't NOT go to college, that's what everyone in my family did, and like going OTD was before I was 15- it just didn't occur to me as an option. But I wasn't particularly thrilled by the idea either. Once I knew I wouldn't be able to move away to go, college seemed like just something else to get through before actually starting my life. At least until I got there.
I applied to Rutgers, CUNY and NYU. I didn't get into NYU (not surprising since I skipped a bunch of my jewish studies classes in my junior and senior year of HS, so I had a whole bunch of Ds and Fs in those topics on my report card). I got into Rutgers and CUNY, probably purely based on my unusually high SAT scores- scores that came as a complete shock to me and every administrator and teacher in my HS. I told my parents I was applying to Stern College, and even filled out an application to show them, but I never mailed it out. I really didn't want to go there, so I made sure it wouldn't be an option. By the time they found out about it, it was too late to apply.
My choice was between Rutgers, closer to home- but which would make me more dependent on my parents since I would need their help paying for a car to drive there, or Hunter College- CUNY, which was a 2 hour commute each way by train/path train/subway, but I could walk to the train from my house and would not need a car at all (I also got into some other CUNY schools but they were even further away). Plus it was in Manhattan! The big city!
I chose Hunter.
To be continued...