Friday, April 03, 2009

Argh

I have to say, I’m not handling things particularly well. But, but…am I completely wrong?

Here I am, in Israel, to attend my niece’s wedding. She and her family are ultra-orthodox, frum, haredi, extremely religious—however you want to put it. I love them but it’s not easy. Their customs are not just alien and anachronistic but many are downright offensive to women. So, it’s hard.

And yet, I seem to be angrier at my father than anyone else. Maybe because I think that he could do something about it.

For example, my eldest brother (B1) decided that it would be a good idea to keep his kids on New York time. I’m sleeping in the same room with the two girls. Meaning that for the nights I’ve spent with them, I’m on New York time. Did it not occur to my brother that I would be inconvenienced? That, perhaps, this wasn’t my preference? No.

But, did I yell at my brother about this? No. I did say something to Dad this morning. Not a yell but a grumble. Dad’s response, “Well, it’s all over now.” (Because we’re going to spend Friday night with the Israeli family and the NY family will be gone when we get back to the apartment we’ve shared with them.)

Would it have killed him to say something sympathetic? Does he not think B1 is slightly insane—and tremendously inconsiderate? And, I don’t know, could Dad not have advocated for me? Say something about how B1’s decisions affects the rest of us—especially ME?

No, I guess not. What gets to me is that when I show up here (“here” meaning anywhere surrounded by the family), I’m always low person. My needs count the least. Only if I yell and scream do I have the slightest chance of being heard and probably not even then.

I was pretty outraged when at the first party after the wedding, my father gave a little speech in which he said that we were “converted” to believing in arranged marriages. Speak for yourself. Later, I told him I was offended and he started to explain how no one was forced into these marriages, etc., etc.…yes I KNOW. I spend so much time explaining this to my friends. The couples get to meet, they can say no, they do have choice. However, that isn’t the problem. The problem is that they live in culture where my niece was rejected once because she wasn’t pretty enough, a second time because of her “background” (a convert father and adopted mother—who is also a convert!), and finally accepted by a family where the parents are divorced.

Now, having met the groom, I’m sure she picked the right one. He’s sweet and shy (and cute!) and a lot like her. I like him and his family who, even though they are also super religious, were much easier to relate to than some of the other families we’ve met in Israel. It helps that his mother is American and that he speaks English.

But, really, Dad, you think this is all “ok”? That you have four granddaughters whose main role in life will be to support their scholarly husbands? Husbands, who may be sweet as pie, but bring in little or no income? Four granddaughters who will have 6, 7, 8, or 12 babies and keep working the whole time and STILL have the main childcare responsibility? Do you really think that’s all just fine? I know you were pissed that your grandson wasn’t prepared for anything other than the scholarly life.  and who is now floating free, depressed, with two little kids (1 &2), at age 24. Looking to join the army as a last resort for some kind of steady work. Why aren’t you as angry about your granddaughters who, while accepted in the community in which they were raised (unlike their brother), will live incredibly constrained lives?

I see no acknowledgement that there’s a problem here. It’s all just “choice.” And if you think it’s ok to keep me up all night, try to get me in the pictures with all the cousins (I had to remind him that I’m the aunt!), suggest that I look into an arranged marriage (jokingly, but still), then what the hell am I doing here?

I did let Dad reimburse me for the cost of my plane ticket and he is paying for the apartment but maybe I should have refused. Yet, I’m here, ultimately, because it’s important to him. It’s important to me too…the kids seem to care. My brother, maybe, though he gave a long speech in Hebrew the other night and didn’t bother to translate. I could have socked him! Argh.

This whole thing is an exercise in frustration.

I did get to see Spesh and he even came to the wedding. He pointed out that it was a rather unusual date, 1) because we didn’t get to sit together and 2) because he has a girlfriend. But, hey, I guess I’ll take what I can get. At least I have one friend here…who is now off to Paris with his girlfriend. I want to be off too. Home would be excellent right about now.

Grateful for: an hour alone.

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