My buddy Rachel’s on the up-and-up now. But it was touch-and-go for a bit. She’s recovering from a seven-year love addiction to her ex-boyfriend, Russell. Russell is from an Irish-Catholic family. He was an asshole. But he was pale and he was tall and he discouraged Rachel’s zealous and overly attached Jewish mother from visiting. And that excited Rachel. It made her feel less like a nice Jewish girl and more like a rebel.
Russell left Rachel eight months ago. And thank God. Rachel’s mother said: “Good. Feh . Stick to your own kind.”
I get that one, too. My good friend Julie, she sees me founder and sink in all my romantic forays. She sees the boys I date: tall, thin blonds, the pug-nosed type. She says: “You have no luck with these boys because they’re not Jewish.” Julie isn’t Jewish, but somehow she knows this. “You need to stick to your own kind.”
So what is that kind? Stocky, shortish, couldn’t use a drill if his life depended on it? No, thank you. I don’t want my kind.
Rachel and I talk about this a lot. She’s now pining away for a big brute of a man, Casey O’Hannon. He is broad-shouldered and he is thick. He looks vaguely thuggish. Rachel says, “He’s so big, and he’s all maleness. But my shrink wants me to date Jewish. She thinks my lack of interest in Jewish boys is very telling. It means I’m self-hating, and as soon as I can get over that, I’m done. I’m good. No more therapy.”
I had a shrink who thought the same way. She’d say, with a thick Israeli accent, “So much self-hatred, Shaina. Why do you shun the Jewish boys?”
I’ll tell you why. Because they are gentle and they have no masculine moves. No machismo. They wouldn’t look right bloodied up after a bar fight. They don’t swagger. And never have I had a Jewish boyfriend offer to build me a bookshelf.
I want a guy who can find a stud and put up a wall bracket, who knows what a molly is.
Rachel’s shrink suggested that Rachel go to Jewish dining night-a once-weekly thing. Jews gather at a restaurant to eat and schmooze. Her shrink thought it was a great way to dispel unflattering stereotypes. So she went.
I asked what she thought of it. “What’d I think of it? I’ll tell you what I thought of it. No stereotypes were dispelled-only reinforced. You know, I met a pediatrician. A nice fellow. He told me why he’s a pediatrician: He just loves the little babies. That is exactly what he said. He said, ‘I just love the little babies.’ That is not manly.”
I’ve dated Jews and non-Jews-plenty of both. And the Jewish boys have all faded now into a lump of Jewish ex-boyfriend. They all resemble each other somehow. Either physically or generally-their manner. They reminded me of boys I knew in Hebrew school. I can’t separate them from those memories I have of them-or their predecessors-being hauled around by their Jewish mothers. The mothers would then go on and on about Daniel or Joshua and what he does best. But ultimately, I guess, these boys feel so familiar because they remind me of someone who is kind and smart, but not the least bit exciting to me: My pop.
With non-Jews, nothing’s familiar. I feel different from them, in a good way. Being Jewish seems sexy and smart then. With non-Jewish boys, I’m more apt to call on my Jewish heritage; I flaunt it, even. I’ll explain Jewish holidays or recall my favorite passages from the Old Testament. I’m eager to bring non-Jewish guys around at Passover or Rosh Hashanah so they can hear me sing along in Hebrew, or so I can show off that I know the meanings of the blessings.
You just can’t play the Jewish card with other Jews. When the topic of Israel comes up, or the state of the world today-or a cultural event like The Passion of the Christ -other Jews just agree with me, 100 percent. Yes! Of course, it’s still hard to be Jewish. There is still so much hatred! No disagreement there.
With non-Jews, it’s a much more interesting story. We talk about anti-Semitism nowadays or Israel, and they roll their eyes. They think I’m paranoid. I draw certain parallels between 1930′s Germany and life today in the U.S. They think I’m nuts. But then I say something like: “You just don’t understand.” And they are putty in my hands. I become their little Anne Frank. Their Jewish girl on the verge of extinction. And only they can protect me.
My girlfriend Deb feels similarly. She wants a non-Jewish man who can protect her against the inevitable armies of neo-Nazis. She has what she calls a blue-collar weakness; she has fantasies of robust non-Jews who work at hauling stuff. “I don’t want a little weenie Jewish boy. God, I feel terrible saying that. I have so many stereotypes-I think of dating Jews, and I imagine manicured and petite hands. That’s awful, but it’s just what I think of. And that’s definitely a no-no.”
She was quiet a moment and then she said: “Besides, why should we want to date them? They haven’t wanted to date us for decades. They all bow down to the shiksa goddess.”
Ah, the shiksa goddess. It’s like the earth quakes and quivers when she’s mentioned. Shiksa goddess-the archnemesis of all Jewish girls.
I was recently introduced to a fellow Jew, a good-looking guy from the Midwest. He is thin and intense. A friend of a friend. Somehow the shiksa goddess came up, and he said: “Up until a week ago, I thought ‘shiksa’ was a compliment. Like ‘über-excellent.’ I didn’t realize it just meant ‘non-Jew.’”
For years, Jewish women have been depicted as sturdy, two feet on the ground, shleppy, ethnic, unable to eat without getting food everywhere. Meanwhile, non-Jews are sexy, exotic, willowy.
It’s all straight out of Philip Roth.
My friends and I are in our 20′s. Our mothers are hoping it’s a phase: You still have time to outgrow this thing.
And maybe they’re right. Single Jewish women in their 30′s seem to want Jewish men. An actress friend of mine in her 30′s told me, “I dream of Mandy Patinkin from Yentl . That’s what I imagine. He’ll be up late studying, wearing wire-rimmed glasses. I’ll be puttering around, I’ll bring him herbal tea, hydrox.”
She belongs to JDate and goes regularly to Makor hoping to find her scholar.
But this is nothing new for her; it’s just more urgent these days. “It’s what I’ve always wanted. A Jewish wedding, Jewish babies. A Jewish husband.”
So is there hope for us twentysomething Jewish girls who lust after goys? Will we see the error of our ways?
“I don’t know,” Rachel says when I ask her if she thinks she’ll outgrow this. “I mean, doesn’t Lenny Bruce say an Irishman who’s lost his religion is now a Jew? If that’s the case, I’m covered.”