I am not an atypical college student. When I return home for long weekends, I bring my laundry and my appetite. After satiating both my demand for clean clothes and my desire for my mother’s home cooked meals, I then engage in the traditional reminiscing one does when she finds herself sipping hot cinnamon spice tea at the kitchen table.
Last night my mother and I engaged in a conversation typical of the times- that of marriage. A girl I used to tutor and occasionally babysit for had just held her engagement party. My mother’s response, “Wow, everyone is so grown up.”
ME: “Um, are they? And if they are, does that mean they are also ready to assume the role of baby manufacturer?”
MOTHER: “Well, clearly you are a long way from engaging in large scale production of Jewish children.”
Clearly. Amidst said conversation, I began flipping through my 8th grade yearbook and happened upon a caption of me diligently working on my Jewish law report. It was an analysis of the biblical law to kill witches. I was analyzing its significance in relation to contemporary literature. Would Harry Potter, which encouraged the wonderful world of witches and wizardry, fall within the Old Testament delineated understanding of witchcraft? Though I am certain my conclusion was no, and that my rabbi vehemently disagreed with my conclusion, this is just an aside.
The caption– the relevant portion of this narrative– read, “Determined. Bold. Apparently Cool.” And at 13 I was the epitome of first two descriptors. Convinced I would someday be a senator from New York, representing both Jewish and female interests in a male dominated political arena, I was definitely an audacious middle-schooler. But the “apparently cool” bit caught me off guard.
I recognize I was hardly Miss Popularity in those awkward tween years, marked by bulging braces and acne worthy of a game of connect-the-dots. However “apparently” was an odd modifier. I was either cool, or, well I wasn’t.
My mother, as she often does, launched into a lecture regarding my daily dichotomy– how I juggle and juxtapose two often contradictory realities: secular and Orthodox. As a result I am hard to define. Words, such as apparent, reflect a certain modality, a particular hesitation to characterize me as one way or another. I defy the norms, and as my mother concluded, that made me “kind of wonderful.”
In returning to the theme of this week’s entries– relationships– I began to realize that my dichotomous character might be contributing to my single status. In pitching me to potential contenders, as my grandmother does, she often struggles to find the appropriate adjectives. Every adjective is preceded by some carefully selected modifier.
I used to believe this made me intriguing. I now realize that intriguing and marriageable are two very different categorizations. I have become the girl you date for intellectual amusement, but I am most certainly not the woman you introduce to your parents. “This is Yaffa, and well, she is kind of hard to define” does not spell Mother of My Future Children.
Instead, it calls into my question my domestic housewife duties. Can I assume a Donna Reed identity, or will I– in a desire to climb metaphorical professional mountains– resemble this gem: