First, I was a figure skating fan, then I was a figure skating TV researcher/producer, then I was a figure skating mystery novelist, and currently I’m a hodge-podge of all the above.
I am referencing my C.V. in order to explain why, while I don’t know the total number of Jews on Team USA for the Sochi Olympics, I do know that there are three of them in the figure skating delegation: two-time World Ice Dancing Champion and defending Olympic silver medalist Charlie White, singles skater Jason Brown, and pairs skater Simon Shnapir. (Ladies’ singles skater Gracie Gold is, alas, not Jewish, despite the name.)
That’s right, the US is being represented at the Olympics by three nice, Jewish boys. The latter actually emigrated from Moscow as a toddler.
It stands to reason. Figure skating is a huge sport in Russia. It’s a huge sport in America, too. But, primarily for girls.
“My son, the Olympian figure skater,” is not something a lot of parents–Jewish or otherwise–dream about. Or even think about. At the rink, girls get signed up for figure skating lessons, boys get hockey lessons. It’s more instinctive than deliberate.
I saw it when I worked in televisions sports. I saw it when my younger brother was a competitive skater. I see it now with my own sons.
They don’t skate (mostly because I know exactly how hard it is… on the parents, and never even gave them the option). But my 14-year-old is passionate about art and costume design (check out some of his Purim/Halloween creations here), and my 10-year-old has been studying ballet since second grade.
I’ve lost count of how many people have congratulated my husband and I on being so “open-minded” about supporting our sons’ artistic interests.
And then, some of them will ask, “But, aren’t you worried about…”
“No. I don’t. What?” (I know. Of course, I know. I’m just messing with them. Because they deserve it.)
I’ve had one father flat out state to me that he would never let his son take dance lessons because it might turn him gay. (There, see, doesn’t it feel better to stop beating around the bush?)
OK… (As I’ve written before, I’ve taken a vow not to Yuck Some Else’s Yum, which means I don’t argue with people; their opinion is their business, not mine.)
But, for anyone who also might be wondering: No, I am not afraid of art and dance “turning” my sons gay. I could say it’s because I know plenty of straight men who danced, including my father and brother; also straight men who skated and worked in design. But, I don’t need to. Because, the simple fact is, I don’t believe anyone can be “turned” anything.
Oh, and also because, for the life of me, I can’t summon up the urge to care about my sons’ future sex lives. Right now, I’ve got so many other things to worry about.
They’re going to be who they’re going to be. And I’d rather devote my ever-shrinking mental energy on making sure they’ll be good, honest, decent, hard-working, sensible, loving, resourceful men (qualities I believe–perhaps foolishly, I realize–I do have some influence over), instead of on something I know isn’t up to me. And that doesn’t really matter, in any case. (On the other hand, if any of my kids come home waving around a copy of “Das Kapital” and singing the praises of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, they know they might as well turn right around again and find a new place to live. Like I said; important stuff.)
For those who counter that I should care, that I should teach my children to be proud of their identity–whatever it may turn out to be–my response is that I think it’s silly to teach kids to be proud of anything they had no control over. Not to be ashamed, yes. But proud, no. I don’t tell my kids to be proud of being Jewish. I don’t tell my kids to be proud of being African American. Pride is reserved for things you actually had a hand in achieving. I’m very consistent that way.
So, on the eve of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia (shrouded in controversy and political stupidity), I want to give a shout-out to the parents of Charlie White, Jason Brown, and Simon Shnapir. They and their children should be damned proud they didn’t let others’ opinions stop these gifted young men from pursuing their “non-traditional” athletic dreams, and giving the Jewish community something to kvell about in the days to come.
I can only hope that my sons (and my daughter, too) are someday “turned” to possess even a fraction of Charlie, Jason, and Simon’s talent, determination, work ethic, grit, and nerve. Because nobody becomes a champion (in anything) without them.