Saturday, July 26, 2008

Listen, do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?

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?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Email I actually sent my dad:

Well if you change your mind, we would be happy to have you there. We have settled on a date; May 17th 2009, which is the Sunday after lag ba'omer. The wedding will be held in _____ _______ State Park, Picnic area #17, at around 2pm (we haven't decided on an exact time yet). I've attached some pictures of the picnic pavillion, and this arch thing that we will probably decorate with flowers and have the ceremony by. Our friend J will be officiating, and food will be pot-luck style, so you can bring kosher food if you want.

~Abandoning Eden

The biological basis of religion?

Via the Huff Post:

According to Psychology Today and referencing the American Journal of Psychiatry, serotonin, the brain chemical in charge of moderating mood, metabolism, and sexuality, has been linked to spiritual experiences. Psychology Today reports:

"A team of Swedish researchers has found that the presence of a receptor that regulates general serotonin activity in the brain correlates with people's capacity for transcendence, the ability to apprehend phenomena that cannot be explained objectively. Scientists have long suspected that serotonin influences spirituality because drugs known to alter serotonin such as LSD also induce mystical experiences. But now they have proof from brain scans linking the capacity for spirituality with a major biological element."

So what does this mean? Well, the researchers believe that it provides evidence that religiosity and spirituality are not defined necessarily or entirely by environmental or cultural factors, such as upbringing. Basically, those with a higher concentration of serotonin receptors will therefore most likely show a stronger inclination towards spiritual acceptance.

Read the entire psychology today article Here

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Still haven't written back...

It's been a week and two days since my dad sent me that letter, and I still haven't written back.

I thought that over time I would be less angry. And maybe that's still true. But it seems that before that happens, I'm going to be getting more angry. And I have been.

Today I am meeting up with my cousin, who is in town for a business conference. This morning I was thinking about his sister.

See, his sister is the same age as me. We're about 6 weeks apart. When she was 20 or 21, she decided to marry this guy who was 38. (no that's not a typo, it's 38 not 28). Now normally I don't have a problem with people marrying someone vastly different in age. Well, that's not true, sometimes I totally have a problem when the dude is much older, and clearly exploiting some young naive relative of mine.

So this cousin...she married this 38 year old dude when she was 20 or 21, and my parents went to Israel for the wedding. This dude had like a long beard that was half white already, was extremely creepy looking, and had only been dating my cousin for 2 months before they got married. They ended up getting divorced like 2 months after that, after the guy ended up spending all their money and then selling their wedding gifts for more money. No one will say what he was spending all that money on (my guess is coke)

I have another cousin who married a much older guy. When she was 18, newly graduated from high school, she spent a summer between high school and college in a different country doing kiruv (kiruv is like outreach to non religious jews to try to make them more religious). Anyways, the dude who interviewed her was this 32 year old rabbi. Over the summer he somehow manages to get with my 18 year old cousin, who he hired and is supervising over there, and when they come back they get married. I think they are now up to baby #5.

These situations are both extremely sketchy to me. And yet my dad went to their weddings. Cause the important thing there is that THE GUY WAS JEWISH!! No matter that one was some old dude with a white beard marrying a 20 year old girl who knew him for all of 2 months. And that the other one was a guy in a direct supervisory position to an 18 year old girl who got with her in a different country. Oh did I mention I was in high school when the second dude married my cousin, that the guy was a rabbi at my school, and yet he insisted I call him "rabbi ____" even after we were related to each other? Ew. Cause even though my cousin was only 2 years older than me, I couldn't call her husband by his first name (wouldn't be 'respecting my elders' I guess).

So apparently my dad condones and approves of those two marriages, but doesn't condone mine, in which my fiance is actually the same age as me, and we are starting off on somewhat equal footing. But B had the wrong parents, so our marriage must be the most terrible thing in the world!

My dad doesn't care about my welfare. If he cared about my welfare, he would actually meet B and see if he was some serial killer or something. I know if my kid was marrying someone, I would want to at least meet the guy to make sure he didn't set off any alarm bells for being super creepy. Like my cousins' husband and ex-husband did. But nah, none of that matters. What matters is showing to the world that he is a good jew, tows the line, and will pick judaism over all else, including his own daughter. As he said, he doesn't want to give the "impression that he condones our arrangement". All he gives a shit about is how he looks to other people, and what they might think if they see him going to his daughters wedding.

So yeah, I'm still not writing back to him. I have nothing to say that would change the situation in any way, and I am tired of beating my head against a wall. Maybe I'll just email him a link to this blog.

ETA: While I was brooding about my dad on the long walk to work this morning I had a thought:

Some previous commenter noted that my parents don't want a relationship with ME, but rather an image of me, and one in which they don't have to acknowledge my partner's existence. Which I agree with.

But maybe I do the same thing. Do I really want a relationship with my parents? Or do I want one with an image of my parents? An image of my parents in which they are loving and supportive of me. You know, maybe I've been excusing my parents too much. Maybe religion isn't the problem here. Maybe it's just their excuse for being bad parents.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


According to my brother (who still lives at home- the non religious one), my parents haven't said a word about my engagement to him. If I hadn't told him, he said, he would have no idea I was engaged. I'm guessing they haven't told anyone else in the family either.

Which leaves it up to me or word of mouth I guess. My first cousin is going to be in my city this week for a business trip, and called to ask if I wanted to meet up. I doubt he has any idea that I'm dating anyone, let alone dating anyone not Jewish, let alone engaged to that person (or living with him for that matter). This is actually one of my few cousins who, while orthodox, I actually really respect and think is a pretty decent person. So I'm kinda dreading telling him about B.

It's not that I'm ashamed or not proud of being with B. It's just that I know how family members will react, and I know it will be painful. I'm willing to endure all that I guess, but do I have to tell each member of my family one by one in person so that they each can give me a long lecture/tell me how disappointed they are/act like I'm personally killing the jewish people? I know it's not true, and that they are brainwashed to act that way, and that they're exerting social pressure to maintain their way of life, which they themselves have been socialized to do, but come's bad enough when random internet strangers are telling me how evil I am, and I don't even respect or care about their opinion! Even though I feel like they are wrong for reacting the way they do, that stuff gets under your skin.

I love

for those of you not in the know, is a great place to find handmade unique stuff...and lots of jewelery.

I've been clicking through pictures this morning, dreaming about what I could buy if I actually had, you know, money. And also picking out wedding necklaces, even though I don't have a dress, and still haven't decided what color said dress would be




Anyone of these would make an awesome wedding necklace I think...I like the first one the best, but that's the one I"m least likely to be able to afford. It's great though isn't it? The center of the flowers are all freshwater pearls...

Friday, July 18, 2008

We booked a place/set a date!

May 17th 2009, at a state park around a half hour drive from our house. They have a big fancy mansion in the front of the park, but we skipped all that fancyness and went for a lovely picnic pavilion instead. There's a bunch of little groves right by the pavilion where we could have the ceremony, and it has electric hookup, and there's some bathrooms right nearby that are actually not at all disgusting. There is also a parking lot right by it (we were the only car there when we visited this afternoon) If it rains we can just have the ceremony right under the pavilion. And the best part is it only cost $85! :)

We plan to have it semi-pot-luck style, and ask our guests to bring side dishes and desserts, and we'll get drinks and a few trays of gyros and maybe some spanakopita from the local greek place. We're only going to invite around 15-20 people total (including us).

The picnic pavilion:

There's a playground arch thing near to the pavilion that B thinks we should decorate with something (ribbons? flowers? vines of some type?) and have the ceremony under (it goes right over our heads in the middle

Anyways, I really love it! And that's like the major thing down! Now I don't have to think about anything else until like...winter break!

Also we saw the batman movie today and it was teh awesome.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh man, should I apply for this job???

My dream job in my dream location is hiring assistant professors in sociology, and they specifically mention gender (which is one of my specialties!) But I'm unsure as to whether I should apply. Here's why:

1. Well, first it's important to know that academic jobs only hire people once a year. If I apply to this job, it would be for a professorship starting in September 2009. Also, not every university hires people in my field every year, so if I didn't apply this year, they would probably not be hiring next year.

2. I was not planning on graduating this year- I have funding for a 6th year of graduate school (I'm going to be a 5th year)

3. However, if I skip teaching in the Spring, work my ass off all year long, and graduate in August instead of May, it will be possible for me to finish my dissertation in that time period

4. Apart from writing and defending the proposal(which is about 60 pages of lit review and methods) I have done absolutely no work on my dissertation so far.

5. My chair knows this

6. So in order to have a good letter of reccomendation from him, I would have to have at least 1 and more likley 2 chapters written by the September 15th deadline to apply for this job.

7. I have to write up one of the chapters anyway, for a conference presentation I'm giving in October, due October 9th

8. Although I COULD theoretically finish my dissertation by a year from now, it's going to be super stressful and crazy to do so

9. I am also teaching this fall, although it's a class I've taught twice before, so it may not be so horrible. But that's a major thing that's going to take some time away from research

10. I probably wouldn't get the job anyways, especially cause I have practically none of my dissertation written

11. Applying to the job will require writing a 4 page detailed cover letter, a teaching philosophy, a research statement and putting together a teaching portfolio, in addition to the stuff I've already done (which is basically...I've written a CV).

12. I'm getting married in May, and there's no way I would delay the wedding, ESPECIALLY if I get the job, cause the "dream location" is on the west coast, and I want all my friends to be there.

But I should apply to it...right? Even though it's completely crazy and will make my next year into a nightmare if I get the job? (Which I wouldn't even find out until december at the earliest, and possibly as late as feburary). Cause it's my freakin dream job! Like seriously, this *specific* university is where I daydream about working at when I should be working in real life!

Other awesome things going on in my life

*One of my friends (well really 2 of my friends) had a baby last night. Crazyness!!

*I was chosen to be one of the presenters at a conference in October hosted by the CDC! (yes, that CDC, the Center for Disease control and Prevention!). The paper I'm presenting is chapter 2 of my dissertation. And since I'm one of only around 20 presenters, they pay for all travel and lodging expenses, woo! Now I actually have to write the paper! (to get a paper accepted, you just have to submit a 3-5 page paper proposal with a few preliminary findings)

*My first peer-reviewed journal article on which I am the first author is coming out in August! (I have one other peer-reviewed journal article, but I'm second author on that one)

*I submitted a revised copy of my masters thesis to another journal, and got a 'revise and resubmit' decision back in March. Last night I finally finished the revision and re-submitted it! Hopefully they will think it's awesome, so I can have at least 3 peer-reviewer journal articles before applying for jobs :) Meanwhile, I love getting major projects done! Such a sense of relief!

*In 2 weeks I'm going on a trip to Boston for The ASA meetings! Since my friend is presenting she has a small travel grant, which is totally going to pay for gas for my (ok, B's) car. And then we're going to crash at her mom's place (who lives near Boston) so the trip is going to be practically free! And since I'm not presenting this year, I'm actually going to get to enjoy a business trip and maybe do fun touristy stuff. And maybe also do important networking stuff which is the whole reason I'm going!

*This weekend me and b are checking out a local state park, to see if there are any picnic pavilions that we particularly like. If we do, we're having our wedding there, and our ceremony will be followed by a picnic!

*Me and B have dinner reservations in a week and a half at a local BYOB that I've been wanting to check out for like 4 years! They are normally super expensive, but they are having a special promotion where you get a 3 course meal (appetizer, main course, dessert) for $30 a piece! That's still going to be like the most expensive dinner we've had ever!

*B finally moved his bed over from his old place (that was the one piece of furniture we couldn't move without a truck- but our other friend let us borrow her truck when she was moving away a week ago) (B's old roommate still lives there and let B store some stuff there until he could move it). Now we have a bed in the other room, which actually has an air conditioner (unlike our bedroom! We live on the first floor and have bars on the window- and only the living room and 1 bedroom has those 'air conditioning bars'- and not the bedroom we've been using as the actual bedroom)! The past few nights I've gotten to sleep in a room with AC for the first time since...well, for the first time since I last lived in my parents house, the summer after I graduated college, 4 years ago. It's freakin sweet!

*My basil plants are out of control! However, my purple basil plant is not purple- it's green. It's still tasty, but what am I doing wrong here?

*Just discovered a particularly awesome Dead show- 9/19/70 at the Fillmore east, NYC!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hat trick post: Draft 2 of the letter to my dad.

Well now that a few days have passed, I'm less angry. Right now I'm working on two options of a reply to my dad's letter on sunday. I want to make two points with this letter 1. that I hope he will reconsider and come to my wedding anyways, and that if he ever decides to meet up with B and let him into his life then we can reconcile and 2. if he decides not to let B in to his life, then I won't be coming to visit anymore.

Letter 1( short and to the point):

Dear Abba:

I am sorry, and I love you, but if you cannot accept B into your life than you can no longer be a part of mine. I've changed the wedding to a Sunday in May so that if you'd like to attend, you can. Our doors will always be open to you if you change your mind.

~Abandoning Eden

Letter 2 (long and argumentative, which will probably result in him sending back a letter quibbling with small points):

Dear Abba,

Thank you for your response, I understand that it must have been difficult to write, but I appreciate the considerate tone of your message.

However, I don't think attending my wedding would be a 'meaningless gesture' at all. According to you, my wedding is not a real wedding anyway- so not attending it seems to me like more of 'meaningless gesture' in that you would be demonstrating your disapproval for something, but would not change the outcome. Attending on the other hand would be extremely meaningful to me, as it would demonstrate to me that even though you don't love or support my choices, you love and support *me* enough to attend my wedding despite your misgivings.

You say you hope our relationship will continue and grow in the future. I appreciate the sentiment, but on a practical level, I don't see how you expect that to happen. Do you expect me to continue to come to visit without my husband, knowing that my parents refuse to even meet him, let alone welcome him into their home? By not welcoming B into your home you are, in effect, not welcoming me.

Every time I talk to Mom, if I mention anything about B, she just talks over me and tries to pretend he doesn't exist. I don't know how I can have a meaningful relationship with anyone, let alone my parents, as long as I can't talk about a huge part of my life. Over the past few months my conversations with Mom have become increasingly more superficial, as the only thing I can talk about now is what's going on at school. Which in the end is just like a business relationship - we are as close as I am with my dissertation adviser. In fact, my dissertation adviser had me and B over for brunch once, so at this point I'm even closer with him than I am with my own parents.

Finally, we are planning on having kids in a few years after I'm established in a job. Do you expect me to allow them to go over to your house or have any kind of relationship with you, if you refuse to meet their father? According to jewish law, my children will be jewish no matter who I marry. However, by not letting B into your life, you are ensuring that the only grandparents they will have a relationship with will be their catholic grandparents.

We have decided that even though you do not want to come to the wedding at this time, we will be rescheduling it so that it will be on a Sunday, after lag ba'omer (in May). I hope that you will reconsider your decision about attending before that time, and if you decide to attend we will welcome you. If you ever wish to meet B our home will always be open to you. Unfortunately until that time I will not be able to come home to visit anymore. As such, I have made plans to spend thanksgiving in Chicago with B's family.

Lastly, I know it won't change your mind, but here is an interesting article about intermarriage

Abandoning Eden

So tell me internets: which letter would you send? And feel free to critique either one.

Letter 3, suggested by a friend, in which I do not make clear that they are no longer welcome into my life

"It wouldn't be a meaningless gesture, it would mean a great deal to me, I love you both very much. I respect your desire not to attend, but we've rescheduled to Sunday just in case you change your mind."

Ridiculous ideas for my wedding, part 1

1. For our invitations, have a picture of a flying fish in a veil and a penguin (swimming bird) in a bowtie and tophat and the caption "When birds and fish live together"

2. Instead of a best man or maid of honor, have our tuxedo cat Foo (who we have taken to calling "mr. Foo" since he is so formal) be the "best cat", complete with bowtie and tophat. The best part is that he already has a tuxedo, since he's a tuxedo cat!

mr. foo as an adorable kitten

Hmm, I just noticed both my ideas involve bowties and tophats..

Well, that's all I got for now. Feel free to add some ridiculous wedding ideas!

Also, on the topic of wedding ideas- one of our friends is an artist (my favorite artist in fact, I have 3 framed prints, 1 small original drawing and 2 unframed prints of his work), and has agreed to do a live-painting of our wedding ceremony! (So he will paint the ceremony as it happens). This friend travels around the east coast, live-painting these awesome abstract paintings to live music, incorporating lyrics and stuff, and will be doing something similar for us. Then we get to keep the painting as a wedding memento, and we're going to have all the guests sign it!

Why get married at all?

Well apparently my situation is sooo fascinating that now Frum Satire has a post about it too. And it's not even a satirical post!

I tried to respond to some of the posts there, but his website keeps eating my responses. So I'm posting them here instead.

shoshi wrote:
"Why does the person have a wedding ceremony in the first place? If you are a true atheist (in the sense of the 70ies anti-establishment movement), you do not believe in marriage, so why celebrate it…? … and why insist that certain persons (close friends, parents, family) should attend it…"

I actually have thought about this quite a bit. I consider myself a feminist, and fairly non-traditional, so why get married at all? Why not just live together? (Which we already do). And this is the answer I have come to: while I don't believe in marriage in the sense of a marriage with traditional gender roles, I do believe in marriage in several other senses.

The first is legal. As I teach in my sociology of the family class, marriage carries over 1000 federal rights, and additional state rights (which vary by state). Me and B have several practical/legal reasons for getting married. Well, maybe not several, but at least three.

The first is that B doesn't have health insurance, and I do. By marrying B, I can add him to my health insurance, so he can get fun things like asthma inhalers, and stop wheezing all the time. And also all those other fun things that you get with health insurance, like the ability to not hesitate over going to the doctor when things go wrong.

The second is next of kin rights. I do not want my parents to be able to make medical decisions on my behalf, and I think B would make better decisions, and is more likely to know what I want. Since my parents don't like B, it is particularly important to me that if anything goes wrong, B will be at my side, and my parents will not be able to legally keep him away.

The third is not exactly legal...but I'm going on the job market in a little over a year from now. In my field (academia) people can frequently negotiate a job for their spouse when accepting a new job. It is a lot harder to negotiate a job for a 'cohabiting partner' than it is for a 'husband.'

So those are the practical reasons. But then why not have a wedding at city hall and just get it over with?

Well to be honest, we considered going the city-hall route. But after thinking about it for a while, we came to the conclusion that we want to take our vows in front of our friends and (some) family. Why?

Well, we're not just getting married for practical reasons. We love each other, and plan to be together until one of us dies. And we want to make the commitment to stay together no matter what happens in the future.

See, when religious people get married, they vow before their god to love and protect each other, etc (ok I know jewish ceremonies aren't exactly like that). But we don't believe in god. So whats the point in even vowing anything?

Well, what we want to do is vow in front of the people we love and who love us (including friends and whatever family decides to come) that no matter what happens in the future, we will honor the love we have for each other at that moment by always trying our best to work things out between us, no matter what that takes. I mean, of course there are some unforgivable things we might do...if B suddenly starts beating me (unlikely) i'm not going to be like "oh but we're married I must stay here and get beaten!" But barring that...

It is precisely because we don't believe in god that it is so important to me to exchange vows in front of the people I love. Cause otherwise what are you doing, just exchanging vows in front of some judge you'll never see again? In my opinion, exchanging vows in front of all the people you truly care about is a lot more meaningful. And that's why we want to do it. To make a public declaration of our love for each other, and our intention to be with each other no matter what comes our way. With the exception of beating.

As to what some other people have been saying in that thread...I understand why my parents are sad and angry about my decision. But that doesn't negate my right to be sad or angry at their decisions. Now that I've had a few more days to cool off, it doesn't bother me so much that my parents aren't coming to our wedding. I mean, if they came it would be a very meaningful gesture to me- it would show me that they truly love and care for me despite our religious differences. But I never expected them to come, and I never expected them to make such a gesture. Even apart from any religious issues (or maybe stemming from those issues) me and my parents have never had the greatest of relationships. And that's not necessarily a bad thing desire to be out of my parents house and financially independent of them was a major impetus for me applying to graduate school.

My biggest problem right now is that even though me and B are planning on getting married, and despite my many efforts to set up a meeting with B and my parents, my parents still refuse to meet B. Of course that is upsetting to me in general, but I also don't see how I can continue to have a relationship with them now...I don't want to just leave B at home and go visit them (as I said, even the last time I was home, after I had moved in with B, I felt like I was betraying him somehow by being there). And if my parents continue to refuse to meet B, how can I have any relationship with them at all? I really can't think of any practical way that that could happen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lemonade out of lemons

Advantages to my parents not coming to the wedding:

1. Now we can have the wedding on a saturday! Which is really a lot more convinient to everyone except my parents (as like 90% of our guests will be coming from out of town). And I don't have to move the date for sefirah.

2. That's 2 less guests I have to buy food for!

3. I'll probably save a lot of money by not ever visting my parents again

4. No more awkward conversations on the phone with my mom, cause in her words "I have nothing to say, you know my feelings"

5 I get to go to Chicago for Thanksgiving to meet B's entire extended family (his parents have already offered to pay to fly me out), and not feel guilty about not going to my parent's on the one day a year I always have managed to make it out there

6. No more arguing with my dad about Jewish stuff!

7. No more worrying about whether or not my parents will come to my wedding!

And for those naysayers who are all "well your parents didn't disown you, you can still have a relationship with them!" Well, no. I can't. They can't have it both ways. I'm not going to go to their home without my fiance/husband, and I'm not going to call them up to say hi when they are refusing to come to my wedding. They've made their decision.

I still haven't written back to my dad. Eveything I can think of to write is incredibly snarky. My latest draft:

Dear Abba,

Well, you've made your decision and I've made mine. If you can't see it in yourself to make the "meaningless gesture" of attending your only daughter's wedding, then I can't continue to make "meaningless gestures" such as calling to say hi or coming to visit. You can't have it both ways.

I hope you have a good rest of your life, and that when you die you don't look back upon this day with regret. I also hope for your sake that there is a god, and that judaism is the right religion, and that god cares more about how you followed rituals than how you treated your daughter. Cause otherwise you just ended your relationship with your daughter for fairy tales. Good luck with that.

~Abandoning Eden

Also apparently I've inspired a whole debate, complete with crazies, over at Jewish Atheists blog

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dad's (not suprising) response

Hi Abandoning Eden,

I see you cut your hair short. I guess one has to change one's looks once in a while to get a fresh start. You look good.

I guess both Mom and myself were surprised to hear the news of your engagement this past week. We, of course, want you to be happy and wish that your life turns out for the best. Just as we am concerned about your body and the DNA issue, for example, so too are we concerned for your spiritual side and the various immediate family members and future generations who will be directly impacted by your decision.

I understand that you would wish for us to attend the ceremony planned for next April. However, asking us to attend puts us in a direct conflict of our values. As you must know, based upon your upbringing, education and communications we have had in the past, we are very commited to an orthodox Jewish lifestyle. I've even completed three parts of a "smicha" program, most recently receiving a rabbinical certificate this past January at the Yerushalayim Kotel concentrating on Jewish marriage laws. Unfortuantely, as much as you say you love B, and I believe you do, Jewish law does not recognize a marriage between a Jewish person and a person of another faith.
Our attendance at such an event would be at the least a meaningless gesture and, at worst, might somehow convey the false impression that we recognize or sanction this arrangement.

Our hearts and home will always be open to you. You are always welcome and I hope you continue to maintain your relationship with us. If anything, we continue to hope that, as time passes, we will continue to foster an even closer relationship. We are not rejecting you as a person. However, with all due love and respect, we must decline your invitation to attend the planned April ceremony.

We can talk in person or on the phone more about this if you like.



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Email I just sent to my dad

Hi Abba!

So now that the news of my engagement has had a few days to sink in, I wanted to check in and see what's up. Sorry I was so weird on the phone...I was super nervous about telling you. Thank you for being so nice about it...Mom was kind of nasty about it, and I appreciate that you were trying to be nice even though the news probably took you aback.

So I was wondering if there is any possibility at all that you will come to our wedding, with or without Mom? I know the answer is probably no, but I didn't want to assume that without asking you, and I need to know for logistical reasons. If you are 100% sure you will not be coming, then that is ok, but if you have any chance of coming, we will need to change our plans a bit to accommodate you, which we will be happy to do.

Right now we are planning on having a small (less than 20 people) non-religious ceremony somewhere in (city), and then all going out to a restaurant. As of now the restaurant won't be kosher, but you can come to the ceremony and then leave if you want to, or come join us but not eat or we will find some kosher food for you..we will figure out something if you decide to come (We may have it at a BYOB so we can get some kosher wine for you- not sure if you drink or not).

Right now the wedding is tentatively scheduled for Sunday April 19th, which I am pretty sure is during sefirah. I don't know your feelings on that (if it's a non-jewish wedding does that count? There probably won't be any live music since the wedding will be small). But we will consider changing the date if you would come to the wedding.

So please let me know if you might come and if the sefirah thing is a problem ASAP, as next week when we get back to (city) we are going to start looking at venues and trying to book a place so we need to know when to schedule it.

I know you don't agree with my decisions and are probably sad that I didn't turn out to be religious, but I love you, and I would love for you to be at our wedding, despite all our past difference. I know you will probably be facing a lot of pressure from mom and from your religious views to not come to the wedding, but I am still your daughter, and I hope that you will be able to find it in yourself to be happy for me, and possibly join us. Even though I am sad that I have to disappoint you and (especially it seems) mom, I love B very much, I feel very strongly that I want to be married to him, and I am very excited and happy about our decision to get married.

Hope all is well otherwise. I will find out the genetic testing results on August 11th at my follow-up appointment, and will let you know how that turns out.

Abandoning Eden

I also sent an email to my youngest brother, the one who was a douche to me about religious stuff a few weeks back, saying that even if my parents don't come, I hope he will come, and then some of the same stuff I sent to my dad (about sefirah, kosher food, etc). My other brother (the middle one, who is not religious) has already told me he is coming to the wedding.

Since officially setting a date, even though we STILL haven't told his parents (we are telling them tonight at dinner when his sister will be here), we have been looking at wedding stuff online and talking about what we do and do not want to do at the wedding. B (who loves to write) wants to write the ceremony and our vows and stuff (with my input of course) so that we can have a non-religious ceremony that reflects the stuff we want to have, instead of some generic standard thing. Friends of mine have been really awesome, and have been sending me lots of info on non-traditional wedding planning stuff. I've been checking out blogs and am thinking of ordering some books on planning non-conventional weddings. Also, I have been realizing just how many awesome friends I have who I can get to do stuff for the wedding (paid of course, but I would much rather have friends running my wedding than strangers). For instance, I have a photographer friend, a seamstress friend (if we decide to get custom made clothes for any reason), a friend who can do the ceremony, and of course (even though we haven't asked her yet) we want to buy our invitations from quiet girl, who designs awesome cards.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

ahh! I'm facebook engaged!

annndd...the onslaught begins. B changed our facebook relationship status to be 'engaged' last night, and this morning I accepted it. Now my hippie community is having 'congrats abandoning eden' posts, and random people are calling me, and random people are posting "congrats" and "mazal tov!" on the internet. Including a bunch of super religious people who, I'm sure, have no idea I'm marrying someone not jewish (B's last name is kinda generic jewish sounding).

It took me about 5 seconds after I clicked "accept" to figure out that the word is going to get back to my parents through the jewish grapevine, and if they found out I was engaged without me telling them first, they would be super pissed (as would I, that's not cool even if you like your daughter's choice of husband).

So I just called my parents to tell them about it. I got through to my dad first and told him. The whole thing was super awkward, and I told him if he wants to lie to his friends about B being jewish, he can...ha. Also I commented on how awkward it was. My dad is weird when he is angry or upset...he never yells but he gets super twitchy and upset. The whole time he was being super polite on the phone and at the end he was like "Well thank you for telling me and congratulations on your happy news." Kinda mechanical like, and i can just imagine him twitching all over the place.

I called my mom to tell her and was met with total silence. I was like "So are you going to say anything to that?" and she was all "I have nothing to say, you know how I feel" and then we said goodbye. I have a feeling I won't be talking to her for quite a while.

Well now I have to go to a movie and dinner with B's family and pretend like everything is normal.

I am SUCH a girl!

The last time I was engaged, and we broke it off, I swear I would never go through the bullshit involved in planning a wedding again.

I mean, this is how it went down; when I got engaged last time, my parents were all like "We will give you $20,000 to plan your wedding" (Which I think is fairly modest by well-to-do jewish people with 100 relatives). "You can plan the wedding, and then whatever money you have left over you can keep."

Well now this led to many fights between me and my ex, who wanted to keep all the money and have no ceremony. His parents weren't donating any money to our wedding cause they were poor, and he had very few relatives coming to the wedding anyways. I was young and naive and thought there was no way to have a cheaper wedding, especially given my 100 relatives, and the fact that we had to get kosher food- and any half-decent kosher caterer is pretty expensive.

And then of course my parents were lying about the me planning the wedding part, cause my mom immediately took that part over. And then vetoed all my decisions about what I wanted to do. For instance, I really wanted the band soul farm, a jewish jam band, to be the band. That was the most important thing to me- to have good jam band music. My parents vetoed that idea in favor of some generic crappy jewish wedding band. I wanted the ceremony to be held outside; my parents vetoed that in favor of a fancy hotel.

The whole experience was pretty unpleasant, and then when after going through all that my ex fiance dumped me.

So when me and B started talking about marriage, I was all "CITY HALL!!! Elopement!!" City hall in my city is pretty cool looking, and apparently they have a cool room where they preform marriages by the justice of the peace. The only thing with that is that they only hold weddings on Tuesday afternoons, and they only hold them between like 3 and 5pm. But whatever. Up until yesterday I didn't care.

But then yesterday we went out bowling after dinner (where I lost 3/4 games and only won the first one by 4 points after a fluke strike in the last frame), and we were talking about when we should tell his parents that we are getting married. And we decided to tell his parents on Thursday, when his sister will come home for the weekend, so that we can tell them all at once. And we semi-decided on a date, sometime late next April.

And then BAM, it's like an alien took over my body. Suddenly I started thinking about locations we could have it other than city hall, and who should be on the guest list, and how we can have the wedding at some fancy garden-like place outdoors (maybe in the big city park) and then all go to a restaurant. And whether or not I should teach in the spring semester, so I can have time to plan the wedding. And if I should invite my officemate or not (who would be totally insulted if she wasn't invited, and considers me one of her closest friends, but honestly, I don't really consider her a close friend- If she wasn't in my office, I doubt we would even be friends at all. Also she frequently annoys the crap out of me). And if I should wear a big white dress instead of the white indian-style kurta pajamas we had been talking about. And if I should get my brother to give me away, since my dad probably won't be there, or if we should just skip that part. And if I should send invitations to my parents/people in my extended family, or just assume they won't be coming.

Here's where I want to hold the ceremony (although I have to discuss it further with B). It costs $800 for a 2 hour ceremony, and you can't have a reception there. And it can't accommodate more than 35 guests. I think we can have our 15 guest wedding there and then all go out to a restaurant or something.

Ok meanwhile, what the hell has happened to me? When did I suddenly become this girly girl! It's like years of socialization have taken over my brain. I think the plan to tell B's parents have suddenly made this whole thing a lot more real to me.

And of course beneath that all is this uneasy feeling of what my parents will do when they find out we have firm plans to get married, and how my extended family will react when they find out i've married someone not jewish. (ie, disown me). Me and B talked yesterday about if we should have the wedding on a friday/saturday, which would be more convenient for his family but would totally exclude mine, or if we should have it sunday, so that we can invite people in my family who probably won't come anyway. We decided on sunday..if we have it on a friday or saturday, then my parents can't possibly come at all, and that's my fault. But if it's on a sunday and they choose not to come, then I did my best to include them, and they are the ones who made the choice not to go.

And then I get this uneasy feeling about...well what If I plan this whole wedding (and plan it myself this time!) and then we end up breaking up? And I have to tell all my friends about ANOTHER broken engagement? I don't think we will break up, but I didn't think my ex-fiance would dump me out of the blue either. I told my brother we are setting a date for the wedding and he was like 'ok...' and then when i asked why the hesitation, he was all "well I'm wary of wedding plans because of past experiences". Like I wanted that engagement to end? Gah. Why must my past misfortunes taint my current happiness?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The story of my first ever boyfriend, part 1

Part 4 of "crazy dudes I have dated" and at the same time Part 2 of "seemingly insignificant events which changed my life forever"

My first ever boyfriend...well, I met him at a very strange time in my life, as Tyler Durden would say. In fact, the night I met him, I met someone else- his best friend at the time, M. M is one of my best friends to this day, 11 years later. The night I met M (and my first boyfriend) was the night before my 15th birthday. I was at a friends house for the weekend, as jews are wont to do- since we can't travel on the sabbath, we like to spend the sabbath in other towns, sleeping over at people's houses.

I was sleeping over at the house of a new friend I had made in high school. My first boyfriend and M were both friends of hers from her synagogue, and on friday night we all walked around after dinner and talked. This (in my experience) is what modern orthodox kids do all the time on the sabbath- go on super long walks in big groups, and talk to their friends. It's actually pretty nice.

Well first came this seemingly insignificant event. I was walking around talking to this guy M, who I had just met. One seemingly innocuous comment that M made had a HUGE impact on my life. M offhandedly mentioned that he writes poetry (I don't think he does anymore, but he did back then), and that he "keeps shabbas, unless he has a really good idea for a poem, and then he will write it down." (writing is against the rules of sabbath for jewish people).

This information made a huge impression on me, which should be fairly obvious given that I remember the exact conversation 11 years later. See, I had met non jewish people before, and I had met non-orthodox jewish people before, but since they were 'different' than me, it didn't bother me that I had to do stuff that they didn't. But I had never before met someone who had been raised orthodox, but did not keep all the rules. It didn't even cross my mind as a possibility before that point. But suddenly here was a dude who had broken one of the laws that he had been raised to keep, and nothing bad had happened to him! He hadn't been struck by lightning or anything!

That was a huge paradigm shift for me. It was like waking up after living in a dream for 15 years. I actually have very few memories of my childhood before that night, but after that I can recall specific conversations and events in perfect detail.

So back to my first ever boyfriend...I met him the same night as M, and after a short conversation in which M totally changed my life forever, I ended up hanging out with that other dude most of the weekend. We went on a shabbas walk and everything. And saturday night, a whole big group of us went to see a movie at someone's house, and my first ever boyfriend gave me my first ever kiss on my 15th birthday.

The next day I called him and naively asked if since we kissed that meant we were boyfriend and girlfriend now. And he was like "I guess". But I couldn't tell my parents. My parents (as many jews do I believe) don't think teenagers should be doing normal teenager things like going on dates and making out or whatever. That's for the non-jews. Jewish teenagers shouldn't date at all in fact, until they are ready to get married, and should only date for the purpose of finding their future husband, and not to have fun or anything like that. So my first ever boyfriend became my secret boyfriend.

He would come to visit his friends in my town for the sabbath, and I would visit my friends in his town, and we would hang out on those friday afternoons and the long shabbas afternoons of the summer. That summer I was volunteering at a hospital, and would take the bus to get to the hospital several towns away. I quickly figured out if I took the bus in the opposite direction and transfered busses in the super shadey city next to my town, I could get to my boyfriend's town, and end up just a block away from his house! His father had died several years earlier, and his mom worked full time, so as long as I left by a reasonable hour, I could tell my parents I was working at the hospital all day, and make out with him in his house instead.

I never had sex with him. If I hadn't gotten busted 2 months after I started dating him, I probably would have eventually. But as I said, he was my first kiss, and we were taking things relatively slow.

One time though, his mom came home mid-day to have lunch, while I was there. I spent half an hour hiding in his closet while he tried to act normal, and came back to his room several times to check on me. Excitement!

Stay tuned for part 2, in which I get busted by my parents, continued 'dating' him secretly even though we could never see each other, and eventually broke up with him. And then later found out some interesting (and fairly unpleasant/shocking) things about this dude.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Scary cancer post!

Today I went to my initial cancer genetic screening appointment dealie, where they told me all about what crappy things I have to do if I have this gene, and then drew some blood. In 5 weeks I have a follow-up appointment to find out the results of my blood test. The next day I'm going to a Radiohead concert, so hopefully I'll be able to celebrate not having a highly increased chance of cancer. Or trying to forget about my highly increased chance of cancer for the whole concert.

For those who don't remember, the way this all went down is this: My aunt has breast cancer, and since her mom (my grandmother) had cancer as well (breast AND ovarian, the latter of which eventually killed her), she got tested for this genetic mutation that is common to ashkenazi jews. And it turned out she had it. My dad got tested, and it turns out he has it too. The mutation is a BRCA1 mutation. Since my dad has it, I have about a 50% chance of having it. So today I went to start getting tested. Also I am getting tested for 2 other mutations (one other BRCA1, and one BRCA2) cause even though my dad doesn't have those mutations, my mom is an ashkenazi jew, which means I might have inherited something unpleasant from her as well!

Basically this is what I found out in my appointment with a genetic counselor:

I have a 50% chance of having this mutation. This mutation interferes with one's body's ability to repair damaged cells, and stop cancer growths.

If I have it:
I have a 60-80% chance of getting breast cancer (compared to 13% for the average woman)
I have a 30-45% chance of getting ovarian cancer (compared to 1-2%)
I have a 10-15% chance of getting colon cancer (compared to 5-6%)
I have a 2-3% chance of getting pancreatic cancer (compared to 1%)
and my chances of uterine and cervical cancer are slightly increased.

But with melanoma I"d be ok. yay.

If I do have this mutation, the general course of action is preventative screenings. Which means that I would have to get a mammogram AND a breast MRI every year, starting immediately. For the rest of my life.

Also, if I do have it, a recommended course of action is to have your ovaries removed after you are done having kids. Apparently if you do that before menopause, that also reduces your chance of getting breast cancer by like 50%.

So in 5 weeks I find out if I have to get a mammogram and MRI every year for the rest of my life, and also if I have to get my ovaries removed in like 15 years.

I managed to keep my composure for the entire appointment, only to pick a stupid fight with B the second I got in the car, and crying the whole way home. We made up later though. Meanwhile, I've been obsessing about how inconvenient it's going to be to take out all my piercings for MRIs that I have a 50% chance of needing every year until I die. Also about how I have a 50% chance of probably getting cancer.

This is what 3000 years of jewish inbreeding will give you :(