I grew up in a Conservative Jewish household, went to college, and fell in love with a nice Irish Catholic Boy. My mom was not happy about it; she made it clear I was supposed to marry somebody Jewish. The day she met him, she said she felt sick. Four months later, I was teaching my Catholic boy the Kaddish at my mom’s funeral (it was cancer). Gefilte, ICB and I have been together three years now and he really wants to get married. He said he’d be fine with a chuppah and some nondenominational prayers. I want to say yes. But part of me feels so guilty and confused, like I chose him over my mom. What do you think?
Wow. Nice job killing your mother.
Just kidding. You know that’s impossible, right?
Scientific fact numero echat: You cannot catch cancer from a Catholic. Say that five times fast and believe it by the fifth time.
Listen up, Chicken. I can’t give you the green light on this guy, or on any of your decisions. Who am I? I’m just some advice columnist who feels scrambled up enough to name herself after fish balls. But guess what? Your mom couldn’t give you that kind of acceptance either. Because this is up to you, sweet thing. You’re the one looking into his freckly face and trusting him with your heart.
Now that I’ve had my heart broken and scotch-taped together a few times, followed one guy to the casino and another to rehab, here is my official Gefilte Litmus Test of Love:
1. Does he make you laugh?
2. Does he know how to say key phrases like, “I love you,” “I eff’d up,” and, “You make me feel silly inside”?
3. And most importantly, can you be still with him?
Here’s something I’ve never told anyone, including myself: We’re put on this earth for one reason only, and that is to love. When we die, that’s all that’s left of us. The love we gave. The love we made. The love that turned us inside out so we had to dance and shout and yearn and explode.
Your mom loved you so much, Chicken. So much in fact, that she couldn’t imagine anyone else loving you the way she did. So she set up an obstacle course for you to jump through. You know, people will say “only marry someone Jewish” or “only marry someone with a 401k” or “only marry someone who makes their own gefilte fish” (ahem). The truth is, we’re just putting up those fences because we’re scared that we’ll never find true, deep love.
Here’s what that wise guy the Dalai Lama says about love: “Love is the absence of judgment.”
And the dreamy Pablo Neruda: “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”
Or how about the late and great Joan Rivers? “Never floss with a stranger.”
Chicken, your mom was petrified that you’d never be treated as lovingly as you deserve. If he was Jewish, at least she could keep tabs on him at the seder. If he was Jewish, he probably had good skin and could help her figure out how to reboot her email. If he was Jewish, she could get her brother’s cousin’s ex-mailman’s twice removed lawyer’s podiatrist to vouch for him. Or plant a chip in his big toe so she could track him and make sure he was faithful and adoring to her beloved little girl.
But being Jewish doesn’t guarantee anything. We’re all so incredibly vulnerable, brave and stupid. Life, love, eczema–we can’t define or grasp at any of them or else we’ll get painfully itchy.
Your mom didn’t try to kibosh the gentiles because she knew some secret to success. She did it to keep you closer. And you are close to her. You always will be. Death can’t change that. You are alive and it’s your turn to live. So go love this boy loudly. Honor your mom by following your heart.
Have a question for Gefilte? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you might just get an answer.