Thursday, March 09, 2006
Keeping an Open Mind
When my parents married, my dad was a limitedly practicing Jew and my mother was a non-practicing Catholic. She spent her high school and college years under the watchful eyes of knuckle rapping nuns but when she fled to Philadelphia for her Masters, she pretty much left Jesus behind.
After I was born, my mother decided to convert to Judaism. My dad’s family was local and unlike my mom’s parents and siblings, they were relatively sane. Changing religions would provide unity in both my mom's immediate family and the larger, extended one she'd married into. In a buy-one-get-two-free deal, my sister then 5 and I, a diaper clad peanut, were included in the religious transition. Who would have ever thought you could negotiate a bargain on the conversion process?
I was raised Conservative and have attended every High Holiday celebration except for one. This past year, I was sick during the onset of Yom Kippur. For the first time in my history as an adult, I missed Kol Nidre services. Horizontal on my sofa with aloe tissues in one hand and the remote in the other, I flipped through channels on the television. Every so often, my eyes would glance up and look at the spine of my prayer book. I rested all night so I could make it to services the following day.
I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve spent my dating career in search of a Jewish man. It was never a major issue for my parents. Heck, Leslie married a Catholic. Admittedly, this was a teensy bit sticky for my mother who to this day identifies December presents to her grandchildren as Chanukah gifts. Come hell or high water, Meema will never give a Christmas gift. I’m always amused that between my two parents, it is my mother the convert who is most troubled by her child’s willingness to marry outside of the faith. Perhaps my mom feels slighted, taking it personally because she made such an effort to provide a uniform religious experience in our youth.
Being Jewish and a solid education were really the only two absolutes in my dating book of rules. Ex, a bright guy, claimed a Jewish identity and was even in the process of taking Hebrew classes when we met. I quickly learned that he only signed up for the class with the hopes of meeting girls. Unfortunately for him, the only female in attendance was the 83 year old teacher. Once the class ended, so did any affiliation he had with Judaism. Ex turned out to be less Jewish than my Catholic brother in-law. At least Steve knows when the Jewish holidays actually fall.
After Ex, I went back on JDate. I dabbled with various men of the tribe in search of the one. No matter what, I struggled to locate a Jewish man worth dating. Jewish mothers are known for coddling their sons but the last batch did a complete disservice to my generation of Jewish women. The first time I asked Ex to help me with some dishes after I made him breakfast, without even looking up from his laptop, he said, "No." Then he laughed and told me he liked to be pampered. That it made him feel good when I did the dishes. It took all the might in me to refrain from tucking the eggy pan into his side of the bed.
When Jews comprise 4% of the overall population, finding a single, straight man, in my age range, who lives in Philadelphia and is click-with-able, well, I might have an easier time finding the solution to peace in the Middle East. With one stroke of the mouse I left JDate and with another I joined Match. Suddenly, the dating pool went from 40 eligible men to 400. I was a kid in a candy store. I relayed my first foray into non-Jew territory to a friend.
“I have a date tonight!”
“Oh yeah? Who is he?”
“This really interesting Asian guy.”
“Asian or Asian-Asian.”
“He doesn’t look anything like that ‘She-bang, She-bang’ guy from American Idol, if that is what Asian-Asian means.”
“Paige, you really took my step-out-of-your-box suggestion seriously. Like, super striver seriously. Have fun!”
Three outfits later, I hopped in my car and headed out for my date. In a far corner of the bar, there he sat. It took me a few minutes to settle in and order a drink. The conversation flowed easily and I was enjoying myself. Then he said he had to confess something. He paused just long enough for my face to go pale and for me to start rambling off crazy things like “you’re married” or “you have ten kids.” He looked up and with a straight face told me he wasn’t Jewish.
“Wow. You aren't? This might be a problem,” I said with a little laugh. “Since we’re in confession mode, I have something to admit too.”
I stopped laughing, picked up my Kir and took a sip, letting the glass linger at my lips for a little longer than usual. When just enough time had passed, I shared my confession.
“I’m not Asian.”
He fell back in his chair, laughing the whole way. Maybe having an open mind will be a good thing. At least I'm having fun.