Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rosh Hashanah 2016/ Why I Didn't Join the OTD Minyan

Ah, Jews. They can be kooky, irrational, nitpicky and nosey, but they are my people and I wouldn't have it any other way.

One of the guys in my friend group got engaged. I was surprised and not surprised at the same time. The two of them are really sweet together and there is that pressure from her being older than him. It was one of those rare Brooklyn vorts without a mechitzah. (IF I get engaged, I refuse to have a mechitzah at my vort. Mechitzahs at social events are stupid.) While I was happily stuffing my face with chocolate cream, Ned walked over to me.

Ned is over half a decade older than I am, a cerebral OTD man who studied in a prestigious yeshivah for many years. He told me that he was trying to have an OTD minyan in Gromo's apartment. Gromo is Ned's best friend, and my sister's boyfriend. They needed at least 10 people, and would I be interested?

The absurdity of the situation made me smile. So Hashem, or at least the Hashem you were raised with, is not real. Judaism  is not real. You want to fully count women as part of your minyan to the point where this is no longer Orthodox. BUT YOU NEED 10 PEOPLE? If you're throwing it all away, why not be ok with nine people? Or 8? Or 5?

"How is this going to work?" I asked.

It was going to be Hannah, Ned, Gromo, my sister, some woman from the internet, Rosie and her boyfriend, and some other people I had seen on the internet. "You're all going to fit into Gromo's apartment?" I asked dubiously. "I hear it's such a shoebox that there's no room for a roommate." At this point, Gromo came over to us and explained that they could have 10ish people just barely fit into the apartment.

Gromo, being highly musicial, wanted a musical service. "The frum landlord is going to love you guys. You know how Brooklyn goes- they wanted a frum tenant and they're going to find out that they don't have one." Gromo sadly agreed with my point and the musical component was scrapped over a plate of potato kugel.The service was going to be one hour long and then they were going to blow shofar, have a haphazard kiddush and go home. "Invite Ben! Invite Shelly! Invite people!" Ned urged.

Ben is my boyfriend. Ben is the Normal Guy I met at shul when I was in high school, who I then re-met in my last semester at college. He is OTD, but has agreed to work with me.

"I'll think about it," I said. Something about this was bugging me. I knew Ben wouldn't go for it. Ben would say "I'm going to a real service. I don't believe in any of it, but this is what my people have done for thousands of years and if you're going to fake it, you should fake it correctly!"

This was almost exactly what Ben said when I told him about it.

"I hear you," I said. "I told Ned you'd say that. Listen, I don't like a lot of it either. I don't relate to korbanos, and usually whisper "RUN SHEEPIES, RUN!" under my breath. Or "RUN COWS, RUN!" I realize that I wouldn't like living under a theocracy, so I feel uneasy with all these prayers that say that I want a return to the ancient Israelite kingdom....but this is what my people have said and I am not quite a part of my people anymore if I don't say it or at least look at the words and think about it. Also, these are a bunch of goofs from the internet. YOUNG goofs. You're younger than me and you'd be bringing the average age of this "minyan" up. This is going to collapse around Ned's ears."

Ben and I agreed that Ben would either go to the little shtieble where we met or he'd go to his father's shul, and that I would go to one of my parent's shuls. My parents are married, but go to different shuls.

As of Thursday, the minyan collapsed, just as I predicted. Since Ben is going to his father's shul, I will go to my mother's shul on the first day, and go to a different shul on the second day, because my friend had a baby and his bris is on the second day. After the bris, I am eating at Ben's sister with the rest of the family.

This Rosh Hashana, I feel like I am one of my people. I became much more bogged down with responsibilities this year, so I spoke with people less. I only spoke to people who really don't cause me any headaches. I didn't have the time for stupidity and stress.

My one quarrel is with Etty and I believe is 100% her fault- I couldn't go to a function of her,s so she lashed out and basically called me a whore. Being called a whore is never pleasant, but when she did the exact same activities and everyone shunned her, I didn't shun her. I don't even care enough. I just want to cut her loose and move on. After I didn't shun her pendulum-like views on religion, her unhappiness, her this, her that, this is what I get? No. I'm not apologizing.

I need to go cut up things for my family's meals now.

I wish anyone still reading this a great Rosh Hashanah, and good health.






Thursday, July 14, 2016

Life Update

I have graduated.

I'm about to switch jobs, to one with better hours and more money.

Emotionally, I am thawing...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wallet vs Heart

I'm about to graduate. Therefore, I have many friends who are also graduating.

Some of these friends have silly ideas about me, like that I'm a stable individual and great roommate material, so they've been hitting me up with offers.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to move out. With my personal life being what it is, now would be an especially great time to move out. I don't want to sneak around anymore. I'm 22 years old, I'm too old for this.

Rena's family life has gone to serious shit. She is the only friend who has consistently pursued the moving out conversation with me after I presented my budget.

Unfortunately for Rena, I have two very important abilities: being able to do math and knowing how the "Shit happens" factor will skew things.

"I earn $12/hour now," I said slowly, for the third time. "My boss refuses to hire people full-time. I cannot guarantee that I will have a full time job by August, and to be honest, I'd need $25/hour or a salaried job to be able to make it as a roommate. You earn $11/hour and are also part-time.

"We are not going to be able to get one of those magical illegal frummie basement apartments because we are not religious enough to maintain that "quiet religious girls doing shidduch dating"facade. The only neighborhood where we can legally afford to live is one where even Wikipedia says that you can't get anywhere without a car- and neither of us has a car. You are also being picky about neighborhood even beyond the transportation factor. Everywhere you want to live has an average rent that is too high for us two alone at our earning levels. We'd need a third roommate who is about as stable as we are, because we need to allow for sick days and for guests eating our food and for things breaking.....at that point we'd be out of space."

Rena was not discouraged by my facts and figures. "I found a place in a neighborhood I'd want to live in on Craigslist for $1,375 a month!"

"RENA. The average rent for an apartment that size in that neighborhood is $2,000/month. Something is wrong with this place if everything else there is almost double the price. I'm not wasting my precious time trying to figure out what it is."

Oh, but my heart wants to move so badly!

I told my boyfriend about it. "My heart says one thing, but my wallet says another," I sighed.

"Listen to your wallet," he advised. "That's what you do anyways."

I will move out when I can afford it. That much is definite. Getting from here to there seems harder every passing day though. As I get older, I feel the danger more and more acutely. What if I get sick or run out of money?

Now, if I have to go, I will. I just don't want it to come down to that. I want to leave on amicable terms, so that if it goes wrong, I have something to return to.



Disbelief- the end is in sight!

I have 2 more papers to write and then I am done with undergrad.

I actually made it through without ending up miserably married and/or pregnant.

It's hard to believe I made it here. I took the straight road, going directly from HS to college. I got out on time, spending the minimal amount of $ possible. So many people I've known have fallen off the road, regretting picking unnecessarily expensive schools, having accident babies.......I was never the "smart one" in high school, and yet the proof is in the pudding. What is raw brains with no trappings of brains worth next to the trappings of brains? Not much.

From here on forth, life is going to get much more interesting.

Murmurings of the real me have been reaching my parents. This is a bad thing, but I will deal with it all next week.

So much has happened and there has been no time to process.




Saturday, April 16, 2016

What's in a Title Part 1

"YOU LIED TO ME!" It was the night after Purim. I was keyed up, angry, full of artificial courage from a cup of apple-flavored vodka and leading the whole room in a screaming karaoke rendition of "Eye of the Tiger." It was the perfect time to step into the only bathroom and make a personal call.

"IF YOU DIDN'T WANT ME TO COME, YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST SAID SO AND I'D HAVE UNDERSTOOD. YOU'RE ALWAYS SO BIG ON TELLING THE TRUTH, BUT HERE YOU LIED FOR NO REASON. LOOK, I GET IT, YOU DON'T WANT ANYONE TO KNOW ABOUT ME BECAUSE THAT LIMITS YOU. I'M 22, I KNOW HOW THIS WORKS, I'M NOT STUPID. I NEVER DEMANDED ANYTHING FROM YOU. THIS IS STRAIGHT UP LYING FOR THE SAKE OF LYING!"

"I am NOT ashamed of you, and I'm going to prove it. Come out with us. We're going out in half an hour, all of us, my brother and three of our friends, Aviva, Daniella and Jake, to That Place."

I thought about it. Those were the names that came up again and again. I calmed down. This was what I'd really wanted. "I'm in!" My party was winding down. "Let me just say goodbye and I'm going to head straight there!"

I said my goodbyes. My people wished me luck. I charged out into the night. I got a call. Him. "It's too packed. We're switching locations. Where are you exactly?"

I gave him my corner coordinates.

"Stay there. We'll be there in less than 5 minutes."

Precisely 3 minutes later, a car window rolled down. Aviva grinned at me. "Need a ride?"

Holy shit, it was Aviva from high school! I hadn't made that connection. We'd always had a good relationship. "AVIVA! YES!" I hopped into the car. It turned out I know almost everyone in that car already from my lifetime's worth of travels, and there was no one I hadn't been on good terms with, just proving how small the Jewish world is. We made it to the place, and after a minor kerfuffle involving small bottles of vodka, we made it in.

He didn't look well. At first he was into it, all of us passing around the hookah bong thing. At some point we got up and danced and then the birthday party going on started dancing with all of us, and it was great, but he turned paler, and when it's noticeable in a dark smoky room, it's bad.

"Are you ok?" I asked, still slurry.

"No," he put his head in his hands. "They paid me to drink. I'm a big person, but still. This is too much," he waved his hands and the music, smoke and shaking bodies.

"Come here," I held out my hands. He lay down on my lap and I stroked his hair for a while, covering his exposed ear to block out the music. He got up to pee. "Peeing is good!" I encouraged him.

We got glasses of water and stood outside in the freezing cold, but it was a relief after a hard day of drinking, partying and college. Yeah, we went to college drunk, Type A- people all the way. Two Israelis started a fight with each over outside the hookah lounge about whose unit in the IDF was tougher. They paused, yelled "HAPPY PURIM!" at us, and went right back at it.

"Goddamn Jews," I shook my head. "I love our people most at these moments." We drank our water in silence, watching the fight. We really needed it. We got more water.

"I didn't even make it to most of the places I needed to go to," He said sadly.

I nodded in sympathy. "We've turned this holiday into such a spectacle. We've made it about social obligation and the one day where we can let our humanity leak out and then you get this," I gestured at the Israelis, at him, huddled against me, at my "fuck this society" costume. "Really, we just need to be people for more of the year, have a higher "mode" of humanity instead of this one outlier of a day. At least tomorrow is a Friday. You have a whole day to get better."

We went back in to use the bathroom. We just sat down and let the noise swirl around us. I was feeling old and tired. I wanted to go home and go to bed. I wanted to cuddle and eat some real food.

He turned to me. I felt like clam shell that was slowly opening."For Real. What do you say to being exclusive?"

I looked at him. "Yes." We toasted our new exclusivity with water and settled back into the sofa, waiting for everyone else to decide it was time to go. We were different. We felt tired and wanted some stability in our lives. The rest of them wanted their fun. Eventually they'd want to leave also and we could recover.


So Over It

In summer 2014, when I was good friends with Dexter, he had some stupid ideas about how people and the world work. To keep himself from having to change his behaviors or ideas, he engaged in cognitive dissonance.

Being THAT person, I took great pleasure in bursting his stupid ideological bubbles at these moments of cognitive dissonance. At one point, I remember hop-dancing around him in a circle, brandishing a flute, and chanting "This is stupid, this is stupid!" in an annoying singsong voice. Like I said, I'm THAT person. The fact that his whole family liked me more than they liked him didn't help matters.

Then, late 2014- 2015 happened. Anyone here who is a longtime reader here knows that I told myself that I wanted that typical frummy life (albeit with birth control, not going into debt and with egalitarian interpersonal relationships, so I didn't ACTUALLY want that life, but I had to CALL it that, ok?). I tried so hard to change my behavior and it failed really REALLY miserably.

To quote my very respectable married friend Micha at a 3 am January drinking session a bunch of us had at Rory's place, "I guess at one point, I started to tell myself "Who the fuck am I kidding Micha? This "I'm very frum but my penis isn't very frum" thing is bullshit. I'M not very frum!" I started judging my frumkeit on my actions, and I stopped kidding myself. Now yeah, I might seem more frum than all of you because I'm married and have a kid, but that's bullshit."

I mean, sure, that might seem crude, but think about it: he has a point. None of us laughed when he said that because it hit us hard. Sitting around and reflecting on our evolving religiosity is just what my people and I do at our 3 am drinking sessions. Don't judge us.

*****************************************************************
In all seriousness, Micha inspired me to reread this entire blog, and importantly, to think about the things I chose not to write about.

I realized that I am so over certain things, and that I finally felt ready to do something about it.

Rory temporarily talked me out of it, counseling me to do the wrong things in the right way. This is a favor for which I will always be grateful to Rory.

***************************************************************

I wasn't 100% sure when I had "turned the corner" in my mind. I'd guess it was December 2015. I was just very, very aware of the fact that the corner had definitely been turned by mid-January.

 It was like a light in my mind had turned on long ago, illuminating a corner of my mind that I was afraid to look at. I had deliberately chosen not to look at the corner.

Now I was finally squinting into the corner, and I saw that guess what, there was no monster living in the corner. In fact, that thing I'd lost a long time ago and really needed was in that corner.

************************************************************

Then, a few weeks after that, at some point in February in the midst of the giant molestation issue, I lost my favorite winter hat and cleaned my room to find the hat.

I always enjoy cleaning my room- it's like going on an archeological dig and finding remnants of past For Real civilizations. This time, I found a real gem, a diary I'd written in sporadically from 13-17. I sat down to read it, and discovered that I'd been obsessing over this issue in the mental corner since I was 13 in one form or another.

I slammed the covers shut. It was so obvious. I had so clearly had the same opinion on this issue for years, but I'd been paralyzed by fear, by circumstance, by my own forays into the rabbit hole of cognitive dissonance.......but here it was in inky ballpoint.

This issue was something that I'd been afraid of for years- I'd have nightmares of ending up in this certain specific fear-related destiny forever. There was clearly a way out now, and now I was finally not fettered by my age, my circumstance, and most importantly, my mind.

****************************************************************

I have never been one to sit there and froth at the mouth while my butt stays glued to the chair. So when the right time came to leave the chair and finally turn the corner, I did it.

"Are you sure you want this?" He explicitly asked.

All of the reasons I should care were not strong enough to speak up because they were not really part of me.

*********************************************************************
I saw that my previous reasons were a lot like my old friend Bomber's old houseplants. Bomber had wanted pretty flowers to brighten her room in the apartment she shared with 5 other single women, so she had gotten some bright exotic flowers that were not native the the Tristate Area.

She faithfully watered them and kept them in the sunlight, and they kept on living. Then Bomber got engaged, got married and moved out of the apartment. She left the flowers behind. A while later, when she went back to see her old roommates, she saw that her flowers were gone.

Bomber was aghast that not only had she forgotten her flowers, but that her roommates had tossed them. "Come on Bomber," I'd said at the time. "You want something that's going to last around here if someone forgets about it for a few days, you grow some weeds in a flower pot. Those were not native plants, and your roommates weren't the type to maintain plants anyways. Come on, those plants weren't even really important to you, or you wouldn't have forgotten them. Those plants were a stand-in for something else, and you got that something else, or something CLOSER to the something else than the plants were to it, so the plants fell by the wayside."

I saw that the reasons I should care were like a tropical plant in a Brooklyn apartment- the minute a certain set of ideal, artificial circumstances (some person who remembers to keep the plant in the light and water it) falls away, the tropical plant dies because the plant is not really a part of Brooklyn.

My old reasons were totally foreign to my internal environment, kept artificially alive because I made up my mind that I wanted a pretty plant, something that would never survive inside of me because it wasn't really something I believed in. I was no longer an apartment in Brooklyn. I was Brooklyn after a wildfire razed it to the ground and the wild flora and fauna had reclaimed everything.

**************************************************************

It was 2:37am. I looked down at that face I'd obsessed over for six years. Now I know more than the face, I know the person.

He knows where I was coming from, because he is from where I am from. He has what it takes to understand how I have come to be here. He understands about people. He understands that things are imperfect and complicated. He understands that I am imperfect and complicated. He takes responsibility.

I looked at his face, at its undereye shadows, its furrowed brow, its stitches from living life with enthusiasm, its humanity, and I knew. I looked him dead in the eye "I'm sure."

"You're going to hate me tomorrow," he sighed.

"WHAT!" I whisper-shouted, indignant, crossing my arms. Later he said that my eyes had crackled. "I WILL NOT! I made a decision and I'm sticking by it! You're going to see! I'm going to make a whole song and dance about how I don't hate you!!! Just you wait!!!"

*****************************************************************

I was right. I woke up the next day, and I didn't feel any different.

I got out of bed and walked to my mirror. I was reminded of Shalom Auslander, who wrote about how he flipped out in Israel, saw his refection in a storefront, and didn't recognize himself. What I was feeling was the exact opposite of that- like I somehow looked more like myself. It was like I'd been missing something vital and now I had it. I recognized myself more quickly than I had before.

Precisely 24 hours later I called him, laughing. "It's exactly tomorrow now. This is your promised "I don't hate you" call!"

He laughed. "I'm relieved. You're a funny one, For Real..."

"I am not! I'm just trying to find the truth, like everyone else." I had an earth-stopping thought just then; the truth is that leading a boxed, segmented life isn't healthy. The truth is that if someone is important to me, they deserve not to sit wadded up in some dark basement like vermin, they deserve time in my spotlight. "Let's discuss practical matters though. What are you doing on Purim?"












Sunday, March 20, 2016

Molestation

When I was almost 18, 3 weeks into my 6 week relationship with Ex #1, he asked me what my dream job would be.

My answer was immediate. "I'd want to have an office in a shady basement and people who didn't want to go to the police would tell me about molesters in their midst. I'd conduct investigations and gather evidence. If the person they reported was a real molester, I'd kill the person. My preferred method would be a bullet through the genitals. Considering all of the blood vessels there, this would probably be fatal a lot of the time."

This was not what Ex # 1 wanted to hear. I guess he wanted to hear "cook and clean for you and have your babies" or something.

To be perfectly clear, I've gotten lucky. The worst that ever happened to me was being felt through the clothes when I was 20 and too sick to move. The guy, whoever he was, decided that 5 layers of clothing was too much effort and I have no idea what happened after that, but it didn't happen with me.

At the time of that conversation, I was still 17. I knew 2 people who were very close to me who had been molested as children and their lives were shattered in some ways. I felt that I'd be doing the world a lot of good with my dream job, and I'd always loved detective books. That and the setting my own hours thing sealed the deal.

***********************************************************************

When I was 18, a close female friend of mine was raped by another woman in our friend group. To this day, I am the only one in the group who knows about it. I'm pretty sure that I was selected because, as part of the abuse, the rapist used to utter these nasty confessions, one of which involved groping me in my sleep. I was tasked with getting the rapist out of our friend group, a task I completed successfully. This was mid-late 2012.

The whole incident in my friend group only radicalized my viewpoint on this issue.

When most people think about rape, they imagine some woman walking by herself and then some strange guy jumps out from behind a dumpster (or a tree if you aren't from the Land of Grit like I am) and attacks,  but that's actually not how it usually goes down. Most rapists and their victims knew each other beforehand, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it- the rapist has to get the victim alone, you know? (This is when most people's brain-lightbulbs go on.)

The victim felt that she had brought it on herself and turned most of her anger onto herself. It was frightening to watch her lose her self-anchorage. She felt that she had been "asking for it."I was all for going to the cops, because I knew the rapist and I knew that we'd need real help.

The rapist was not fully human. This is hard to understand unless you've met a non-human person, but stick with me here. Most normal people, even non-saps, will get tears in their eyes at that one song or stay up and feel guilty if they think they hurt someone. You look into a normal person's eyes and there is something there. With her, there was often enjoyment- of good food or a good joke- but no joy from loving another person. My youngest sibling, who was 9 at the time, said that she looked like an attack frog. There was something very animalistic about her. She even had long canine teeth. I swear this is all true.

The victim, my friend, is a person who turns to putty when faced with a strong personality. The rapist got into her head, and I'd argue that most of the damage was done in there. This putty-quality was ultimately why she was chosen as a victim and not me. I know this because she said so.

The whole incident radically altered the course of the victim's life and the consequences are still visible today.

On a smaller scale, it altered me as well. I saw that rape is not a question of which body parts are involved, that even if two people agree to do thing X, it does not mean that they agreed to X,Y and Z, and that silence is not consent. I saw that yes, it can be difficult for a person to believe that someone, a friend, really is not their friend, and that yes, the victim might try to recreate that former dynamic and feel torn. Considering the high degree of shame involved, not to mention backlash from the rapist's people, I assume that most people reporting rape are telling the truth.

**************************************************************************

I thought I had left all of that behind. Sure, there was the creepy incident with Rudolpho at the end of May 2015, and the creepy stuff on New Year's 2015, but that involved ME. Bottom line, I'm more worried about the people I know than I am about myself because I have nothing to lose and I'm openly out for myself and only myself these days. Most people I know are shackled by shame on top of the usual worries about safety that everyone has. I thought that I'd surrounded myself with harmless people.

*******************************************************************

Then Magnet went all crazy in a groupchat in late February, railing about "Does casual sex really feel that great?" I called him on the phone, and asked him why he was bringing this up in a chat full of virgins (aside from our token married member). He acted evasive. I applied my brand of peer pressure and jokes. Then, he cracked and told me.

******************************************************************
 
Jay had molested a woman who is very close to me, at a party I'd missed in mid-February because I had work, in a room with Magnet and Sol. Magnet had puled Jay off of her, and Sol had been paralyzed because the whole thing was so discomfiting. Within 36 hours of Magnet cracking, Sol cracked and told me. They told me because I am the one who is closest to her, and as Magnet said "You're the leader!"

The victim herself was acting weird. I didn't know how to approach her- what if she didn't want me to know? Then, Magnet told me that she knew. I messaged her "I know that you know that I know. Do you want to talk about it?"

Murder plans surged through my brain. If the victim hadn't later explicitly told me not to go ahead with it, I'd probably have attempted something. I might be dumb and headstrong, but I'm no coward.

I finally spoke with the victim. The victim is unfortunately used to being treated like shit. The poor dear was actually shocked to find out that no, getting drunk is actually not a good excuse and that no, it's not ok that she was molested. The worst part was what Jay said. "I'd never date you, but I'm going for you because you're easy."

I mean, I've gotten very drunk and not molested anyone. It's not that difficult to not molest people. Really. My issues are more about sending "I LOVE YOU" texts to whoever I most recently texted, or calling up one friend to say, tearfully, that "You're the best potato friend I've ever had!!" (he always imitates this when we hang out.)  There was also that one embarrassing time I sent a friend a long rant about how hot a mutual acquaintance is- even at that level of blackout there were a few error-heavy lines worrying about if he'd like me back.

These sorts of things really tell you disturbing things about your "friends." I told Zorba, since I was now never coming to the apartment again. Instead of being horrified, he kind of took Jay's side, despite the fact that the victim's, Magnet's and Sol's accounts all line up to form an ugly picture.

Now I don't hang out anywhere where Jay will be. I don't want to catch the evil cooties or get molested. If people want to see me, tough luck.  I'm very disgusted at the whole group. I don't care if they miss me. I find myself to be much better company.

*********************************************

The molestation crisis was why I fell off the blogging map. These things take a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy. I'll be back in dribs and drabs. Lots has happened. I am now older than ever and very very tired.