The Day I Lost My Last Vestige of Hope

 

No, this isn’t to do with Hillary losing and Trump winning.

That devastated me. That devastated my feminism and my belief in people took a mighty blow.

But I still think people are inherently good, and that when they need to stand up in order to save the rights and humanity and dignity of others, they will.

And I do, I think, still believe in God.

And this too, like all the despotic, terrifying moments in history, shall pass.

It’s up to us to make sure we do not meet it with violence, but with love, reason and compassion.

I am not bereft of the hope that we will see a better time. Every dip is followed by a high, every nadir by a zenith. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

But this isn’t to do with the election.

I have broken my heart for the last time, and I doubt you’ll understand why.

Maybe a handful of Modern Orthodox girls do. Like me, they are screwed over by the system. They are the outliers. They are fiercely independent, yet told to submit if they want the best of both worlds.

I spent the second half of this week crying. Not because I am a citizen of this world and I fear for my fellow humans. I should have been crying for that.

I was crying, as most people do, about my own situation.

I broke my heart. For the last time.

I lost my belief in marriage. I no longer believe in love.

I know what you’ll say. I’m a hypocrite. I just told you to believe in love.

In the universal one perhaps.

Talk to any girl abused by the shidduch system and I promise you, you’ll understand.

For the past year my head has been like that Smash mouth song.

“I thought love was only true in fairy tales,” (Indie movies and period dramas. Jk), “Meant for someone else, but not for me.”

But I wasn’t made into a believer. There was no man’s face that turned me.

Well there were hundreds. This country is full of beauty, and that extends to the men who walk its ways.

But they never looked back and were suddenly converted. I never made anyone a believer (John Keats would have been a martyr for love. Who can say that now?).

I’ve been jostled since I was fifteen.

My lovely neighbor, coming from a place of care and good will would laugh and ask me where my boyfriend was (he was often in the pages of a book, possessing a lot of emotional depth and busy being extremely noble). My neighbor wanted me to “enjoy” life as my gynecologist crassly said after a discussion about my sexual activity. Youth, you see?

Then I was 19 and people were wondering if I’d accomplish it. Would I get married? I was 19. Now was the time to start.

My boyfriends were still walking the pages of the books I read, and were, at that point occupying the black spaces on the pages I typed, dream after dream pouring into their fictional outlines as a I wrote.

I was waiting to meet the real person, the down to earth, complex and perhaps plain one the way other people did.

“I met him my sem year.” (Ha. I was a recluse who looked like a fat nun.)

“Moshavah.(Orthodox sleep away camp.)”(Ha. Couldn’t afford to go.)

“We were in drama club at university.” (Who the **ck had time for drama club? I was writing my effing thesis.)

“Ran for Hillel president alongside me. I won. Then the rest was history. Three years later and we’re engaged.” (I was too shy and insecure to be a good involved Jew.)

“Met him at a wedding.” (I never stood out. Maybe I was too loud and not pretty enough.)

“My best friend introduced us.” (My best friends- I won’t fault them. I am the problem.)

This is what I looked towards in a kind of cynical “never-going-to-happen-way.” The shidduch system freaked me out (though i’d later use it. To my detriment.)

Internet dating. (Also, huge flop).

I’d be fine.

Then I wasn’t.

I am one of the disenfranchised. The dispossessed.

Unsuccessful web dating was suddenly the normal apres work activity. No I didn’t See You at Sinai. Jswipe, you ridiculous thing.

So I turned to my parents. To a shadchanit(matchmaker).

And then it began.

The coercion, the guilt trips. The devaluation and humiliation.

The men got older and older and I was told to meet with people I had nothing in common with. I was told that making rational analysis for reasons why we were incompatible was a sign of pickiness.

The first guy I dated, didn’t want to be there either. He wanted Beis Yaakov. I wanted modern orthodox. Not the YU buttoned down shirt, gemara holding modern orthodox.

The kind who wanted to move here and go to beaches and festivals and drive around the country, going to shul in between.

He didn’t want to move to Israel.

He didn’t like my feminism, or my humor or my quirkiness. He called me skinny and that somehow felt insulting. “You’re a skinny girl. Of course you’d be afraid to go into that shady area.”

WOAH. Dude. Thanks for doubting my strength. But I am #nasty woman. So piss off.

He drove away, tires skidding, appalled by my thinness and the caked on foundation that hid the crazy breakout. He drove away from the sharp wit beneath my brow accusing him of being ungentlemanly.

He was seven years older than me. Nearly thirty. I was just a few months post 22. The age Tay Tay sings about, the one she bathes in a glow of freedom, abandon, choice, abs and rainbows.

The Jewish guilt only increased from my parents.

“I want to see you married before I die.”

Do you know what kind of invisible shackle that is?

I felt like those 16th century girl-children of the nobility who were locked in their chambers, starved and then beaten until they agreed to marry a stranger who was eons older than them.

I know the comparison is dramatic. But I knew, before going on this date, how wrong he was for me.

He didn’t want to move to Israel. He was way more religious than me. Our personalities were so different.

Yet, I went.

I’ve gone on a few more dates like that. With people who are nothing like me. With men who are misogynists and political extremists. Because, as my family would have me believe, “you never know.” To them I am too judgmental.

When I started saying no, I was pleaded with. “Stop shooting yourself in the foot.”

“I only have your future happiness in mind.”

Dating someone ten years older than you, who you can’t imagine being intimate with, is not a shot in the foot. It’s an escape. It’s criminal.

When did “NO,” become a meaningless word?

I don’t want what my female family members want. I don’t want “security” and “to have children soon.”

I can’t believe it’s 2016 and I have to fight for the right to have a libido.

I can’t believe it’s 2016 and I have to justify wanting to fall in love and not into a safe marriage.

My traditions matter to me. His personality matters to me.

These are important things.

But how did this happen?

I never lived life like them. I never followed a traditional path. I moved away from home. I went to school abroad. I moved 3,000 miles away and got a job.

Neither of them did that.

When did my mind and heart matter so little? Why does he get a chance and I don’t?

If the roles were reversed, would they be trying to convince a 25 year old boy into a shidduch date with a 35 year old woman? I doubt it.

I’m not saying hyper shallowness and materialism, like Tinder, is the way.

I’m saying the system has to stop devaluing us.

I might be 25, but my inexperienced heart is 17.

My mind is 50!

I am smart. I am discerning. I know what I want. I see it here all the time.

I once liked a boy. No, really.

Not the crushes. Not the fictional heroes.

Once. In my adult Israel life.

I hope he never reads this.

I knew it wouldn’t work.

I was very determined in my life here and I think he was a little bit lost.

I laughed at his texts. I came out of my shell. I knew what I was doing.

I felt both safe around him and excited by possible adventures.

I felt at ease being myself. I wasn’t self conscious or hyper aware of how I looked.

Around him, I was confident in my skin. I was confident in myself.

When he looked at me, I felt like he really saw me. I was cool and smart and amazing to him.

It felt really good.

We were just friends.

And I was fine with that.

He was a little lost, after all.

I didn’t necessarily want him. I just realized that I wanted that feeling I had with him.

If he hadn’t been a little lost, a little young, a little in like with someone else, maybe, maybe I could have. Asked him.

If we were on the same plains, I could have one day, fallen in love with him.

No, I take that back, with someone like him.

When you overhear young people being talked about, when you read a saga, or a family story, when you look back at the societies that came and went, the old always wished something wonderful on the young.

“She deserves someone young. Tall (Austen loved them tall). Handsome.”

Even in the past, it was obvious that like flowers and blooming seasons, youth was to be expelled, pushed out, then captured back into its stem to age. It is fragrant and transient so that’s why some people hold onto it a little longer.

You shouldn’t hit 25 and be told to be obsequious and drowning in gratitude for a man whose only recommendation is that he has a pulse (and available sperm.).

I’ve gone on every single date I’ve been hesitant about because of Jewish guilt.

No one tells me to hope the young girl hopes anymore. I’m not 22.

They use practical terms  like “settle down”, “security”, “good job” and “babies,” as if I was Charlotte Lucas. As if that’s what I wanted. As if this was 1817. As if I didn’t know my own mind and as if I didn’t value my independence.

Inside I am still dreaming the young girl dreams.

Somewhere, deep down, though I have told all concerned parties (family and friends included), that I have let go of the notion of romance, I haven’t.

I still want him to love me with “every heartbeat.” I still want someone who will make me catch my breath every time I see his profile. I want to laugh at his texts and feel safe and jittery around him at the same time. I want someone who will make me a believer and a martyr for love.

THEN, and only then, will I dream of the house and the coffee table covered in chalk paint and succulents nestling on the balcony. Only then will I think of mikvahs and challah covers and joint bills and pension plans and a baby that I want because it’s with the man who makes me feel jittery, understood and amazing.

This isn’t the 16th c. I can damn well support myself. This is the era of the #nasty woman and I won’t be coerced into selling my body because of some biological fluke.

I am not selling myself so he can fulfill his mitzvah of Pru U’revu.

I don’t want babies from a man I am not excited to have them with.

How am I still making this argument in 2016?

I’m done with the system. I’m done with the lackluster internet dating and the shadchanit who won’t follow up. I’m done with the hope.

I’m done even, with the dreams.

I may be one of the undeserving. Maybe I’m not hot enough to catch the eye of the cute bartender at Japanika (or maybe dressed too modestly.)

Though I work hard to hide the insecurities of my body, that doesn’t mean I don’t value it at all.

I. AM. NOT. REAL. ESTATE.

I am not some man’s fancy or convenience. I am not his wifey.

I am not desperate to be married, just desperate to be in love.

I am desperate to be touched, desperate to have him laugh against my collar bone, share a blanket with me on the beach, sing with me on Shabbat, walk with me under carob trees.

I am desperate for that feeling that my modern orthodoxy says is fantasy, is shtuyot.

Only marriage can bring you that, they would say. It’s transient, fleeting. You need more than that.

The desperateness to be held by someone who loves you deeply, might be silly.

And I am old. That feeling is only acceptable in the youth.

As my setups get increasingly older, my claim to that youthful experience evaporates, becomes inappropriate and regarded as irrational and pegged as “a girlish fancy.”(Thanks modern sexism).

This week, I gave the dream up.

I cried for three days. NO joke. Every night. Because my heart broke for the hope that was gone.

I gave up the dream. I mourned. I cried, bowing to pressure, wondering how I got here.

How did this feminist, this writer, yearning for something nameless and primordial and miraculous (yet plain and down to earth), get coerced into trying safe relationships, dull marriages with men who I don’t even like, have nothing in common with, can’t understand?

To me, a life without passion is reprehensible. I don’t care if it burns out. You cannot light up a room at all without a fire, though the illumination is brief. It is better than total, abject darkness. The memory of the light it brought gets you THROUGH the darkness.

So I cried until I was dizzy and my face stung and my mascara girded itself to my thin lashes.

I mourned the end of the dreams and even the fantasies. I mourned the loss of my youth and my community’s devaluation of women (especially strong women).

I mourned for the fact that I was being devalued.

I mourned the loss of all the little seeds in my heart that made unloved life bearable.

I mourned the betrayal of loved ones. The path to hell is paved with good intentions.

I mourned the set backs and the loss. We still haven’t earned our right to choose, to be in love, to break barriers.

I mourn, though I am undefeated.

*note: The band and song were corrected. It was Smash Mouth, not Smashing Pumpkins and the lyrics have been edited.

 

 

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One thought on “The Day I Lost My Last Vestige of Hope

  1. Oh my darling, your poor, poor heart. I know it feels like you will never find love, but it does happen. It does. Don’t give up just yet. Stay fussy, and don’t settle for second best. I had to wait for my soulmate, but he did turn up and we’ve been married for over twenty years. It’s hard when you are under so much pressure.

    Take a step back and stop looking so hard. Give yourself some time to grieve and recover. Then fill your life with things you enjoy, like challenging and rewarding work, books, friends, and just breathe for a while. Being ‘pretty’ isn’t a big deal to the right one, because you will always be beautiful in his eyes, even when you are old and grey.

    Like

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