(A cautionary tale about NOT mentioning the Holocaust when meeting your Jewish boyfriend’s family.)Once upon a time, I was dating a guy. And he came from a very large, very close, very Jewish family. I come from a smaller, super close, extremely weird and crazy family. So things that, to my family, would be perfectly normal and accepted conversation topics are, to other more normal families, incredibly offensive and strange.
I really thought I could do it, y’all. I thought I could go to his family’s house for Passover, participate in their traditions, respect their beliefs, and be my fantastically charming self. I nearly made it, too. I was SO CLOSE.
Enter Manischewitz. Damn the Manischewitz and its fruity sweet deliciousness that lulls a girl into a false sense of security and familiarity.
I mean, it was never going to end well. You know you’re headed for disaster when you look in the mirror before heading out to Passover dinner and giving yourself the following pep talk:
Alida to Alida: Alright, lady. You can do this. You can meet the family and you can be awesome and they will love you so much they will forget the fact you are a shiksa hobag who has distracted their only son from finding an actual Jewish girl to date. You are Southern. You are charming. You WILL NOT bring up the Holocaust! YOU CAN DO THIS.
Oh, y’all. If only that had been true.
It started off fine. Really. I turned on the Southern charm, made the accent come out a bit more, complimented the home decorating skillz of his aunt, asked for the recipe of the brisket, and pretended to like gefilte fish. (Sidebar: ew.) I made some charming jokes, essentially had the entire extended family eating out of the palm of my non-kosher hand.
Oh, God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, UNTIL.
Things crumbled, as they tend to do in my life, as the result of an innocent question. It was the kind of question one asks to get to know someone but, to me, is like a timebomb of my tendency to overshare. The kind of question that, as I am answering, I hear myself, I feel myself tumbling down the slippery slope of too much information but am powerless to stop myself until I finally STOP talking, blink, and look at the faces around me. It is then, when I see the abject horror reflected back at me that I realize, “Oh. Crap.”
You know, it’s probably easiest to just transcribe here what happened. You’ll thank me for it. You’ll judge me, probably, and maybe you’ll even stop reading my blog. But it’s best to be honest, right?
Auntie M: So, Alida, your family isn’t Jewish, is that right?
Me: Yes, that’s correct.
(So far, so not destructive.)
Auntie M: How does your family feel about you dating a Jewish boy? Are they supportive?
Me: Oh, totally supportive. See, we’re really close and very supportive of one another. We’re lapsed Catholics, although I used to be a crazy fundamentalist Christian. But then my stepdad left the family and had the marriage annulled so that he could marry his mistress, which made my mother angry because HOW could the Catholic church grant an annulment to a 20 year marriage, really, right? So she wrote the arch bishop a strongly-worded letter and kind of excommunicated herself from the church and now she doesn’t go to Mass anymore, though I still take my Grandaddy to Mass every Christmas Eve because I love Christmas Eve service. It’s just so beautiful, right? I mean, well, nevermind but still. YES, they are supportive. My mother even started reading the Big Book of All Things Jewish I brought home last Christmas because she wanted to learn more. In fact, we had a great conversation about it! She told me how she’d always been very interested in Judaism and I agreed with her, that it’s a fascinating faith and culture. And she told me she used to love studying the Holocaust in school because she felt incredibly drawn to that part of history and I told her I’d always felt the same andTHEN she said she felt she might have been Jewish in a past life and OMG what if I was Jewish too and MAYBE WE WERE SISTERS WHO BOTH DIED IN THE HOLOCAUST!
It was the final use of the word “holocaust” that snapped me out of my TMI-Tirade. It was like a bucket of cold water in my face, although in this case “bucket of cold water” = “genocide that was responsible for the deaths of over 6 million Jews.”
So I looked around the table and waited for someone to shake off the horror of what I’d just said and say something different, something more Passover-y and less Holocaust-y.
Inner Monologue of Alida: Crap.
Alida to Alida: I *loathe* you.
Alida back to Alida: Same/same, Self. Same/same.
I’d like to think this story has a happy ending. I’d like to imagine I paved the way for the next girl my ex brings home for Passover, hopefully a nice Jewish girl who already has a good recipe for brisket and loves gefilte fish and chopped liver. I’d like to hope I’ve become a funny family story, one they tell every Passover, about the crazy, oversharing Gentile with big hair. Maybe I’m even a cautionary tale for the younger cousins about the importance of only dating other Jews. Or, at the very least, dating people who are uncrazy.