The last time my husband and I had sex after we separated, I wore a Chai pendant necklace and he had on a Saint-somebody necklace.
We were doing it missionary-style and his Saint was dangling next to my Chai. I didn’t want to point out the ridiculousness of our new necklaces, and the fact that we NEVER wore these when we were married. The fact that I am a Jew and he a Christian became painfully obvious.
“We’re both wearing our necklaces,” he said. “Yep," I responded, trying not to think about it. I was trying to just get off and not pay attention to possibly why we didn’t work. I didn’t ask him what the Saint stood for. I didn’t want to know. He knew what the Chai was because I talked about it a lot while making my Jewish calendar. But he never talked about Saints. He talked about Christmas but he didn’t believe in God, and yet somehow I drove him to need a Saint? I guess I can’t complain, I also needed something holy after our separation.
One of the last questions our couples therapist asked was, “Did you have a problem with her being Jewish?” To be honest, I don’t think that was our essential problem, but it was a major difference. It wasn’t a God thing. It was a family and cultural thing. When we were happy our religious beliefs were never the issue. We were both reform in our religious ideas and politically very liberal, but when things got bad, I had " the loud Jewish family,” and his family was “white trash.” Yes, not healthy.
If someone pinned me down and forced me to tell them what I thought about his family Christmas, I would blurt out "I fucking hated it!" But I wouldn’t admit that in public. I hated going to West Virginia during Hanukkah and pretending it didn’t matter. I hated buying $500 worth of presents and opening them on Christmas Day. I hated Christmas cookies and Christmas decorations, and I hated being away from my family’s Chinese food and movie night. I wanted to be the Jewish girlfriend and Jewish wife who was “cool” with the holiday that made everyone happy and giving. But I wasn’t, and I couldn’t admit it.
I dreaded that trip to West Virginia. We always got into a big fight before. It wasn’t Christmas per se, as I actually have never dated a Jewish man, but it was his Christmas. It was the fact that I felt excluded from the fun cause I was Jewish.
Do I think it would be easier if I married someone Jewish? Yes, possibly.
Will I? I don’t know. I’m dating both Jews and non-Jews and I like them all. As a Reform Jew, I walk a line in modern society. I am religiously defined, but I also am an assimilated liberal American. I fear losing someone I really love because he’s not Jewish, but when I’m really honest, I can say that I want my children to be Jewish, and that there is a indescribable cultural understanding when I meet a Jewish man.
I’m curious what will happen. I’ll let you know. I have date tomorrow with a Jewish man.