The Jewish Thing

Posted: May 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Kate's Friends, Miss Kate, Other Mothers | 5 Comments »

Anyone whose known me for more than a day, knows what a wannabe Jew I am.

I mean, it’s so much more fun being Jewish. The food’s better. The mother’s are more obsessive, protective, fawning. (What I aspire to.) On holidays you get extra days off of work or school. And I can’t be the only woman who finds the short, nebbishy smart guys white hot.

Of course, these are all gross generalizations. All Jewish men don’t fit that description. But the ones who do—the really stubby geeky ones—are oh so swoon-worthy, no? (Sure, sure, I married a tall WASP. And I’m attracted to him, of course. But I’m not dead to the short man’s charms, people!)

Speaking of The Husband, the day Mark and I got engaged we were in NYC. We’d stuffed ourselves silly with pastrami, pickles, and matzo ball soup at the 2nd Avenue Deli (may it R.I.P.), and had the afternoon free to bum around before seeing our friend Lorin’s band, The Klezmatics, play at the 92nd St Y.

Kosher food and klezmer music. We were in Jewish heaven. Well, you know, if there were such a place.

And then, to make a perfect day even perfecter, on a walk through Central Park, while standing on a stone footbridge watching some ducks dick around in a pond, Mark suddenly got all love-goofy and kinda nervous and asked if I’d be cool with him becoming my husband. My forever boyfriend. If we could go steady for the serious long haul. Not that he used those words, per se, but that was the intention of the askin’.

I do remember exactly what I said in response, which so eloquently was, “Oh my GOD! Oh. My. God. Oh my God!” Over and over again. Enough times to likely make him question whether he really did want to spend the rest of his life with me.

But not to worry. In the made-for-TV-movie version of my life the actress playing me will throw her head back, hair flowing, and while laughing throatily, murmur, “Yes! Yes, darling! A million times—yes!” (That’s something I planned less than an hour post-proposal, over champagne at some fabulous hotel.)

Before the klezmer show, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Lorin’s then-BF-now-husband, Mike. One of my all-time favorite humans. (Oddly, I still have the take-one-as-you-leave breath mint from that meal.) If it’d been Christmas and we took in a movie afterward, I think the whole day would’ve qualified us for immediate conversion to Judaism.

Eight months later, at our wedding, some friends decided to have the band play “Hava Nagila,” then raised Mark and me up in chairs on the dance floor. It was what every little non-Jewish girl who ever wished her straight hair was curly dreams of.

I get verklempt just thinking about it. Truly. (Except I do still wish I’d known what I was supposed to be doing with that napkin they handed me. I ended up whirling it around like a propeller, no doubt reinforcing in our guests’ minds the tragic imposter that I was.)

After our honeymoon I called Dawn, my friend and long-time tutor in all things Jewish, and asked her if Mark and I being up in the chairs—something she and her hubbie weren’t in on—was at all offensive. Without skipping a beat, she graciously offered that her traditions be mine, then added that she knew a great mohel in the Bay Area, if we’d need his services when our first son was born. Brilliant.

Turns out the baby we eventually had was a girl. And after a year of my staying home with her, we hired a nanny. An Israeli nanny. Her English was fluent but we had her speak mostly Hebrew to Kate.

Wait… that’s not what all good non-Jews do?

I mean, we honestly didn’t set out to provide our Jewish friends with more reasons to razz us over how clearly we covet their culture. It just turned out that we liked her the most of all the caregivers we interviewed. Plus, a nanny with good gun skills can’t be underestimated in Oakland.

So last week we were at a dinner party, rampant with children. Kate and her friend—the neighbor girl she’ll likely smoke cigarettes with and get her ears pierced by some day—the two of them ran into an upstairs bedroom to terrorize a cat and jump on the bed. Those being the four-year-old activities equivalent to cigarette smoking and home ear piercing.

A sweet mom who I met that night went into the bed-jumping room with her younger daughter, likely using Kate to illustrate to her child how one should Never Ever behave.  And in a friendly getting-to-know-everyone mode, the Mom asked Kate and her friend how old they were, and did they go to school. Kate and Future Smoking Buddy were jumping jumping. Hurling themselves no doubt at the terrified cat. And Sweet Mom was slipping in little questions. Where did they go to school? Did they like school? And more jumping jumping, talking, squealing.

Sweet Mom relayed this all to me later, since with Kate out of sight and earshot, I was hiding in the kitchen focused on guzzling wine. Oh, and neglecting Paige.

So she said at one point she tells the jumpers her daughter is starting school in the fall too. More jumping and screeching, and one of them calls out, “Where?” And Sweet Mom says, “Beth El.”

And then suddenly both girls fall silent. Stop jumping and look at Sweet Mom. Which, as she tells me, brings on a momentary neurotic panic. “Oh God,” she’s thinking, “They’re judging us because we’re Jewish.”

But then, before she can get too far down that road, Kate springs up on the bed again, looks at her and calls out, “Perfect!”

Jumping resumes. Neurotic moment passes. All is right again in the world.

Of course, whatever caused the girls to stop for a second likely had more to do with them never having heard of the school, than them passing any judgment on Judaism.

Though who knows. Maybe Kate did somehow recognize Beth El as being a Jewish name, and then paused for a moment to think to herself, “That explains why that Dada is so cute…”


5 Comments on “The Jewish Thing”

  1. 1 oneofthejewishguysyouknow said at 3:58 pm on May 26th, 2009:

    I’m hoping there’s another, non-Jewish reason you want to be friends. Keep up the hilarity.

  2. 2 Becca said at 4:53 pm on May 26th, 2009:

    Jesus, Kristen… we really were separated at birth. I can have my JCC-steeped boys say the food blessing in Hebrew for each meal over Labor Day, if you desire. Unfortunately, the daycare staff knows just how big of posers we are each and every time they change one of our boys diapers…

  3. 3 Mary said at 9:56 pm on May 26th, 2009:

    I’m showing you a photo of my college boyfriend next time you are over. Just another reason to envy my life choices….

    Loved the comment about being in Jewish heaven, if there were such a place.

  4. 4 ROSE LETCHAW said at 7:03 am on May 27th, 2009:


  5. 5 cabala said at 5:49 am on September 1st, 2009:

    Radically the incorrect information

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