Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's in the 90s outside and C has been down with a slight cold. I woke up today with a frog in my throat and a bit of a drippy nose--nothing really, but it meant we had to cancel our double date with Carla and Gerry, a hike up at Inspiration Point (which is paved for easy wheelchair access) and a movie afterwards. Instead, I went swimming and C stayed home and played with his new music recording equipment.

The International Interplay Conference is on right now, in downtown Berkeley, all kinds of wonderful folk, doing all kinds of great things--teaching improvisation in the prisons and to parents and young children, music therapy, artmaking, storytelling...

Testimonial: I use Interplay all the time in my relationship with my Little Sister. She's ADD and hyperactive and bounces off the walls; if I couldn't speak gibberish to her sometimes, if we didn't do hand dances together (of course I don't call them that,) or let our Evil Twins come out and goof around with with each other, I don't know how I'd bridge the cultural and generation gaps between us. It also works well with my young nieces and nephews. And with C.

Now the hard part: the conference is being held in a church with a huge shiny cross hanging over the sanctuary. I didn't feel comfortable performing there. I'm done cavorting on Christian altars until there are some other Jews in the community. I don't know if that's a "reasonable" thing to say or not. I feel like the turd in the punch bowl when other Interplayers refer to the Interplay community as their "tribe." I feel like saying "I really do come from an actual tribe and all my other people are missing," but that seems...rude.

I remember when I was dating I reached a certain point when I snapped. I said, "I'm not going to have sex with any more men whom I don't love and who are not ready to commit to me." It was hard, and I had a few slips, but basically I held onto that until C finally showed up, two years later.

When Wing It! performed at an evangelical church a year and a half ago, something in me also snapped. I had never heard so much "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," live and in person in my whole life and it felt traumatizing. I cried the whole next day, called up Phil Porter and cried and raged all over him, and have been obsessed about it ever since. I don't much like being in my own skin when I'm obsessing. And I don't like being angry, putting up separatist walls, or setting boundaries. But that's the rub. Being angry and being separatist may not be very healthy, but setting boundaries ultimately is, even if it's hard.

This morning I respected the boundary Carla has set about not being in contact with sick people. I cancelled our date even though I was sorely disappointed. The kid part of me was protesting, "I'm not really sick! We've planned this for weeks! Let's just go anyway!!" But the adult part of me took over and said, "It's not worth the risk." End of story.

Now, with Wing It! I've set a boundary around my own exposure to Christianity. But it feels painful and uncomfortable every time I keep it. (It would feel painful and uncomfortable to be up there improvising under that giant cross and have something mean escape my mouth "by accident." It would also feel painful and uncomfortable to stifle myself.) I stayed home with C and we tried to watch Saving Private Ryan but it was much too violent, so I ended up reworking the essay on house renovations for the 1,000th time.

Later, I thought about what C said to me the other week: "If I had to convert to Judaism to marry you I would do it. I'm willing."

I responded, "I'd never ask anyone to do something like that for me."

Then I got to thinking--what if he would really be fulfilled being a Jew? Who am I to turn down that kind of full-hearted offer? He's already said that if he could have been born into any religion that's the one he'd choose. He has many Jewish characteristics; skepticism, humor, a passion for the underdog. He feels Jewish to me in many ways.

So I brought the subject up again.

"Remember what you said about converting? Would you still be willing to entertain the idea...?"

He showed me some pages he'd downloaded from the Internet after we'd been dating less than six months. He'd also already bought Hebrew for Dummies--a year ago.

"Ask the rabbi about it," he suggested. So I put in a call to Rabbi David: When are you available to perform a wedding ceremony next July, and by the way, my partner is interested in converting. The journey continues...


Anonymous said...

Don't feel ashamed of not wanting to be Christian. I often have the same feelings as you do: it's as if we're being "un-American" or something. Stay true to yourself, and everything will work out in the end.
I would welcome Christopher as a brother in the tribe, as well as in the family, if that's what he truly wants. I think that it would/will be another unfolding of yet another level of intimacy between the two of you.
Congratulations! I love you.

Anonymous said...

There is much too much emphasis on being Christian today, as if Christianity is equivalent with moral behavior. Well, it's not. Religion does not have a monopoly on morality, and in fact, religion is responsible for a great deal of immoral behavior. Take Hitler, for example. What he did, he did in the name of Christianity. Some of the most kind, most generous, and most moral people I know are atheists.

Alison said...

Thank you Emily, my sister, especially for the sweet welcome to Christopher, which he appreciates (as do I) and thank you also, Anonymous. I agree that too many bad things are done i n the name of religion, especially Christianity, which is such a dominant religion in this country that it feels almost mandatory for presidential candidates to profess a deep personal relationship with Christ before they can even run. We've broken several barriers this election cycle; when will we have an atheist, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim or someone from an "other" religion, (or no religion) up there accepting a nomination?

That said, I am also interested in the places where I may be "wrong"--too rigid, defensive, coming from a place of hurt feelings--and in melting some of the barriers between myself and the rest of the you know what I mean? I don't want to sacrifice my critical thinking abilities, but I also don't want to hide behind them.