Saturday, May 31, 2008

Happy birthday/cohabitation to me!

So I'm having a cohabitation/birthday party for myself and B today. I made us a ganache covered lemon flavored cohabitation cake! With 2 layers (filled with more ganache)

Clearly I am not so good at the icing


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And now for something completely different

I've been really into cooking lately. Also I got a kick-ass herb garden started last week (I have cilantro and rosemary, and my friend is bringing me purple and italian basil plants this weekend). So here are pictures of two things I made in the past few days:

Cinnamon and Toasted Hazelnut covered truffles (and the truffle part is also infused with cinnamon), made by me last night! (I even toasted the hazelnuts!) Tonight I'm going to make some espresso and chai tea truffles (not together, two different kinds of truffles)

Mac n' Cheese done right! Baked penne with handmade mozzarella, basil pesto, extra dried basil, and rosemary from my herb garden

And a bonus picture:
B! With my cat, Foo the ninja cat!

And synchronized sleeping with our other two cats this morning!

Monday, May 26, 2008

memorial day bbq with the parents, sans B

Oh where to even start talking about what happened yesterday.

Got lost on the way to my parents house, as I think this may be the first time I have ever driven there. So in the end it took about 2 and a half hours to drive there.
I was the first 'guest' to arrive, as my family has a perpetual lateness problem. I got there just in time to see my brother (the non-religious one, the other one is in Israel for the year) leave for work about 5 minutes after I got there. So for a while it was just me and my parents. My mom put me to work carrying things around and making sauces for the chicken legs. I brought her some books for a book donation thing she is doing, and she gave me a bunch of books that she was going to donate, but that I asked her to save for me (including a heck of a lot Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Ursela Leguin books that I grew up reading).

She only made one comment about B. I brought a cooler with me so that I can bring leftovers home (my mom always gives a ton of leftovers to people after these family gatherings, as she cooks enough for 4 bbqs), and she made a snarky comment about how I should only take enough leftovers for myself, because she doesn't want to be feeding people I live with.

Spent most of the day hanging out with my cousins on my dad's side of the family, and their 3 kids, 2 of whom were infants the last time I saw them, and one of whom wasn't even born yet. They were cute, and I taught the 3 year old how to play catch.

Didn't mention anything about B to most of the extended family (although one of my cousin's knows I've been dating someone for a long time, but doesn't know he's not jewish). When asked how I got up there, and who's car it was I was driving, I said 'A friend's.'

Had an interesting discussion with my Aunt about Barack Obama- interesting to me, because her reason that she would never vote for him is because he "Is Black and Muslim". And also his wife is a jew hater apparently? We got into a whole argument about how he isn't Muslim, with my Aunt insisting that he is because his father was (and me insisting that his father was an Atheist, and that he wasn't raised by his father, and that he is clearly a Christian. She was having none of it). I countered with an argument about how the next president is going to be appointing a lot of supreme court nominees, and she kept saying that I was right, but I still don't think she is going to vote for Obama.

But I think this muslim argument is interesting..I was reading some article somewhere (don't remember where) about how Jewish people are convinced that Obama is Muslim, because they are very tied to the idea that religion is intergenerational, and that you are automatically the religion of your parents, while most other religions don't necessarily believe that. And B confirmed for me when I got home that most christians don't believe that, and pointed out the Bush family, where Bush sr. is Episcopalian, Bush Jr. is an evangelical born again United Methodist, and Jeb Bush is Catholic. Now I have no idea what the difference between those first two are, but I know catholics and protestants are definitely different religions (even if many put them all under "christian").

I also was regaled with a lovely story about how when my cousin's wife first visited Brooklyn (from Monsey where she grew up) she was confused about the Eruv, and was going to take things outside on shabbas!! Because apparently there IS an eruv is Brooklyn, which is good enough for the chassidim (and my other cousin's husband also follows it), but it's not good for my cousin's family's rav. And then my cousin's wife told me all about how she is trapped inside the house on Saturdays, because she now lives in Brooklyn, and can't carry the baby outside because there is no Eruv. Fascinating stuff!

Hmm, other highlights-
*Realizing that I was the only woman at the table over the age of 20 who is not a. married b. a mother AND c. a stay at home mother. And there were at least 7 other women there who were all of those things.

*When my Aunt started talking about how she has to marry off my other cousin soon, because she is 19 and ALMOST 20!! And her sister was already married by 20!! Oh Noes!! I pointed out that I'm turning 26 next week, and I'm not married yet (the implication there are you saying these things to me, as I clearly don't agree with those values? Or even if I do that implies that I can't find a husband, so would probably be insulting?) But she pointed out that my cousin isn't getting a phd like I am, so if you get a PhD apparently it's ok to not be married by age 20.

*My grandfather telling me how he hopes I meet a nice jewish boy soon (he doesn't know about B, and every time we meet up he tells me I should get married to a nice jewish boy soon)

My grandfather is cool though. At least, unlike most people in my family, he has a big appreciation for education, and was very impressed when I told him I have a publication coming out in August, and when I gave him a copy of my business card (which says "doctoral candidate" under my name, which he pointed out with pride). In fact, he spent like 10 minutes reading my business card and looking impressed, which was cool.

*My Aunt and Grandfather asked for a copy of my newest article, but I'm not sure if I want to send it to them, as it's about stay at home moms, and they might be a bit insulted by it (my mother took it as a personal insult when I started working on the project this article is based on, because she is a stay at home mom, and if I was not planning on being one, and writing an article about them, it must be because i don't approve of them. Or so she thinks. Also I point out structural constraints that lead to more women leaving the workforce, and apparently my mom is insulted by the insinuation that her behavior might not 100% be based on free will, and that structural constraints may exist in society. sigh.)

I ended up giving my dad a ride to the airport, after discussing it with B that morning (when my mom heard I was driving up there, she was like "Oh you can give your dad a ride to the airport on your way home!"). I made a point of noting that B knew I was giving them a ride in his car, that he was ok with it, and that this was all despite them refusing to meet him. My dad then spent the half hour car ride asking about what 'rules' we have for stuff like housework and money and me using his car, and talked about how that's similar or different to marriage. He was surprised that B does most of the housework around here, that B isn't resentful of that, and that whenever I try to do more of the housework, B insists that it's him who should do it. (all true, and partially due to me working 70 hour weeks and B insisting that since he works less hours he should do more than his fair share of the housework. Not that I don't do anything, but he definitely does more). I brought up the idea of my dad meeting B again (I don't think my mom is at that stage at all), and he said he doesn't want to condone our relationship, so I was all "it's clear to everyone involved that you don't approve. We get it. It's gotten. We all get it. You don't approve."

In the end my mom gave me some leftovers despite her earlier snark, and me and B had some lovely chicken legs, corn and watermelon when I got home later last night.

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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Summer Reading

One of my favorite parts of the summer is that since I'm not teaching or taking classes, and since I don't have to go to regular meetings every week, and since I generally work at a slower pace than during the semester, I usually find some time to read books for fun. Back before I went to grad school I used to read at least a book a week (and usually more) for fun, but since starting my phd program 4 years ago (has it been that long? Jebus!) I find that after a long day of reading journal articles and academic books, when I get home, I just want to veg out in front of the tv. I usually do manage to read something for fun, but it can take me months to get through a book.

So far, since about two weeks ago when I handed in grades for this semester, I've finished Dancing Girls by Margaret Atwood (which I had been slowly reading since January sometime), re-read the last Harry Potter book and the new Chuck Palahniuk book (Rant), and started reading Bait and Switch by Barbera Ehrenreich. I'm almost done with that though, and I don't have any new books I particularly want to read in my queue right now (I've been about half way through A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn for like 3 years now, but reading it feels too much like school, so it'll continue to live half-read on my night stand indefinitely), so it's time for new books.

I read a Column in the Huffington Post today (my favorite super-lefty daily news source) written by Elissa Wall, who left the FLDS church. This reminded me that I had been wanted to read another book by someone who left the FLDS church, and while I was at it, I figured I could read a book by someone who left orthodox judaism as well.

The reason I started this blog is because last year when my grandmother died, at the funeral my dad used about 20% of the eulogy to talk about his mother, and about 80% to talk about how he has to make sure his children are orthodox jews to "honor" his mother (who ironically was "traditional," not orthodox, and went to a conservative shul). I was very hurt by this, and one random day started searching google to try and find other people who had left orthodox judaism. I came across Jewish Atheist's blog, and was inspired to start my own.

The point here being is that many blogs in the little circle that is the former-orthodox-jewish-current-skeptics-blogosphere are about intellectual critisisms of Judaism, but what I was looking for, and what I try to write about, is the actual personal experiences of leaving a lifestyle which you were raised in, and which all of your family lives by. Sometimes this blog has descended into people bickering about bullshit (ie who I really am "thanking" on thanksgiving if I don't believe in god), but really, I have no interest in fighting about my beliefs or lack thereof. I'm just looking for some people who are going through similar experiences as I am, so I feel a little less lonely on this journey.

Anyways, back to my original point, the theme of the books I just ordered on to start off my summer reading list is that of people leaving their fundementalist religious upbringing. They are:

Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall

A Former FLDS member

Escape By Carolyn Jessop

Another former FLDS member

Foreskins Lament
by Shalom Auslander

A former orthodox jew who grew up in Monsey (where I went to high school!), this book has been mentioned on many a skeptic's blog, so I figured I would check it out. Plus this seems to be the only book out there about leaving Orthodox Judaism, unless I'm mistaken (but looking at related books, and what other people who bought this book have bought, that seems to be the case)

And finally Beware of God: Stories by Shalom Auslander

Same guy who wrote Foreskins Lament, cause what the heck, it was only $10.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Most reasonable email from my dad to date?

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 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.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

To convert or not to convert?

Well, my dad mentioned something about B converting to reform Judaism last week, and the idea has taken hold a bit. I talked with B about it, and he says that while he really doesn't want to, he would do it if it made me happy/helped to repair my relationship with my parents.

I'm more hesitant than him. For several reasons
1) as S(b) mentioned in a comment below this; where does it end? Does it end with him converting, or will we need to have a rabbi marry us, orthodox conversion, bris's for our kids, etc. Would my parents insist on having a big wedding with my family invited? I doubt they would, cause a reform conversion won't be enough for my extended family, but I really don't even want the possibility of that.

2) I'm uncertain as to whether I want back into the Jewish community. I know I wouldn't be back in full force, but this would open up some doors that I'm not sure I want opened up.

3) I've been looking up some reform conversion stuff, and while there's this whole myth among orthodox people that reform conversions are bullshit, from what I've seen they really arn't. The info I've been able to find is that B would have to attend an 18 week class on judaism, celebrate holidays for a year, go to synagogue twice a week for a year, and meet with a rabbi regularly. That seems a bit much to ask him, especially given he's not all excited about this in the first place. And I couldn't in good conscious send him off to a jew 101 class without going to the class with him...and do I want to sit through a judaism class for 4 and a half months? no. So why would I make him do something that I would never want to do myself? That seems very unfair.

4) there's also the rampant atheism on his part. Would he need to suppress that during classes/meetings with rabbis? I can't imagine that would be easy for him. If his atheistic tendencies come out in class (as they are bound to do), would that mean a rabbi would refuse to convert him?

5) While I no longer believe in the orthodox jewish traditions, it seems kinda shadey to me to have him convert for me, and basically lie to a rabbi for a year about his true beliefs.

6) if he didn't lie, and told the rabbi that he was converting for me, would a rabbi agree to convert him?

7) In sum, this seems like a lot of effort just to get back on my parent's good side. And I'm not even sure if I want to be on their good side. Or that it would work to put me on their good side, despite what my dad casually mentioned.

Thoughts anyone?

Friday, May 2, 2008

I totally told him!

Well first I told him (my dad) we were planning on getting married. then he started talking about how I should keep judaism for the culture, and even resorted to the fish and the birds and where would the kids live (and I was like "seriously? you're using a fiddler on the roof argument?"). Anyways, I was going to have him drop me off at work, but then my lazyness overcame and I told him to give me a ride back to my apartment, knowing full well that B would be home already. And when he dropped me off and saw B's car parked in front (it's a prius with midwest plates, both of which my dad knew he had), he was like "Is that B's car? Is he living with you?" and I was like "maybe....ok yes, we're living together, now you know all my secrets." And then we just said our goodbyes.

We also had a pretty good talk, where I pointed out that I wasn't going to change my mind about B, that we're planning on getting married, so that the only thing that makes a difference at this point is how they decide to react. And that what kind of relationship did he think me and and my parents are going to have after we get married...that I would come to visit, and not bring my husband with me? And that he would be able to hang out with my kids without ever meeting with my husband? He tried to convince me that B should convert to judaism (even reform judaism at this point!)

Anyways, the way I told him, like literally as I was getting out of the car, was kind of shitty of me I think. We didn't have a chance to actually talk about it (advantage me) and he didn't have time to react, and now is probably making the 2 hour drive home all pissed off and stressed out. I don't feel great about that. But I don't think I could have told him when I knew I would have to spend the whole 30 minute car ride home with him awkwardly. After I told him he was like "ok".. and invited me to a memorial day bbq at my parent's place. I asked again if he wanted to meet B, and he said no. But that's something, right?

waiting for my dad to get here

I'm in my office today even though I really have no work-related reason to be (just grading papers today, which I can do from home), cause I'd rather meet up with my dad here than at my apartment, where he might accidentally find out B lives with me (B is at work at the moment so they wouldn't run into each other, but there's all his stuff in our apartment. And his kitty).

I just remembered: the last time my dad visited, I was all worried about wearing pants in front of him. I finally did go with the pants, because I decided that since he was visiting me at my home, I should be able to wear what I normally wear and not have to dress up for him. But it was a big deal.

That was almost 4 years ago. This morning I put on some jeans and a very-short sleeve shirt without even thinking about it, even though the fact that my dad was visiting today was heavy on my mind. Now the thought of wearing a skirt or longer sleeves so my dad wouldn't somehow find out how not religous I am is completely alien to me; of course I'm going to wear pants.

I still don't know if I'm going to tell him about B living with me/being engaged or not. I do want to mention something about how I no longer feel comfortable talking to my parents in any more personal way than I would talk to my adviser or boss. In fact, even my adviser knows that B moved in, cause I was stressing out to her about how he was moving in just when I had to finish the first draft of my dissertation proposal (which I handed in a few days ago, yay!)

I'll play it by ear I guess. But if any time is the time, this is the time; even if he storms off in a fit and abandons me at the somewhat-far kosher resturaunt we are going to for lunch, I can always call up B to come pick me up. Much better than telling him on a visit to my parent's house, where I have no clear escape plan. Plus I don't really want to visit my parent's house ever again. I end up being depressed and stressed out on every visit I make.

oops that's the phone... he's here, gotta go. More updates later for sure.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Seeing dad time

My dad is coming to visit tomorrow for the first time in many many years. Turns out he does have that mutation, but that it's BRCA1 not BRCA2 as I thought (not a real difference, they both give you increased chances of breast cancer and ovarian cancer). He's bringing a family history thing so I can go get genetically tested. He has offered to pay for me to get genetically tested (it costs $600 if I don't get my health insurence to cover it, which I probably don't want to, cause that can lead to increased premiums in the future).

So lovely readers of my blog, the real question here is, do I tell him that B moved in or not? Keeping in mind that if I do tell him he might not pay those $600...but also keeping in mind that I can probably always find a reason not to tell him.