In the last few posts we got some insight into my relationship with my mother and what 70’s icon she used to tease me. We also saw some ethnicity-elimination strategies my Jewish family employed that helped form the snarky, stubborn, independent, bacon-eating thinker I am today.
What hurt just a wee bit more than Afro threats or “You are what your mother is” was the favoritism my Jewish grandmother showed my little, pinky-white, blonde-haired cousin. His parents, Aunt D and Uncle B, raised him as a true Jew – Bris, Bar Mitzvah; the whole bag of gelt.
Grandpa always told me, “You are Grandchild #1! (Don’t tell your cousin…)” – while Grandma doled out immeasurable joy, affection and pride in honor of my cousin’s achievements in everything Hebrew-flavored.
- “He speaks Hebrew so well! Why won’t you go to Yeshiva, Lorien?”
- “He’ll be such a nice Jewish boy when he gets older!”
- “Awww… did you see the way he lit those candles!? (*indecipherable Yiddish commendation*)!”
- “Look how cute he looks in a yarmulke! Why won’t you let me buy you a prairie skirt, Lorien?”
Maybe they chose to over-compliment his Jewishness for the absence of mine. All I can say is, FUCKIN’ Oy! If I had to listen to that shit on a daily basis, I’d probably be in lockup somewhere not at all suitable for any nice girls, much less “Nice Jewish Girls”.
One year they gave him a 14K gold bracelet for Hanukkah. Mine was very clearly imitation. I was so mad about that I gave it away. His room was chock full of pricey toys. His money-gifts appeared “heavier” than mine. It seemed my cousin was the better investment for successfully reaching their 100% Jewish standards.
Recently I had a somewhat heated conversation with my Aunt D; the subject of which my fucked-up memory will only tell me had something to do with my upbringing. It culminated with her saying, “We always loved you ANYWAY!” And it really rubbed me the wrong way.
Seriously, I was NOT a bad kid. No thievery, no drugs, didn’t get left back EVER, never abused my parents, did what I was told (mostly) and never ran away from home. I was artistic, creative, got good grades; even while going through the trauma of my parents’ divorce in the 3rd and 4th grades. So despite WHAT atrocity, pray tell, did you do me the “favor” of loving me anyway?
Sometimes well-meaning people who refuse to admit they’re even a little bit racist will slip, showing their stripes by saying and doing really stupid things. My Aunt’s statement was spoken almost like she expected a pat on the back or something…
Did she mean, “We loved you despite your being half-brown”? Maybe…
My dad fessed up to me a few years before his demise that mom’s older first cousin had serious concerns about my parents’ mixed heritage. She insisted my mother put me up for adoption because I “might come out black.” Weird that it took me so long to admit that my Jewish family’s strange behavior had a seriously xenophobic undertone.
Coincidentally, that nice-Jewish-boy cousin of mine grew up to have some inter-religious stress of his own when he married a WASP-y, upper-crusty presidential descendant and had children. If you consider his Jewish family’s bylaws, that shit was
fucking infuriating ironic. After all, according to that Chabad website, the soul of the child is more closely linked to its mother. 😉
Next week’s finale: What really happened on Labor Day weekend.