When I was fourteen years old, I fell in love for the first time with a boy named Brett. He was fifteen, handsome, and tall, with silky black hair. He looked a bit like a muscular Steve Perry—frontman for the band, Journey. At the end of the summer—that summer of my first love—Brett and his family moved to Florida. I never saw him again.
Brett and I never kissed or even dated. Too many obstacles kept us from hooking up. First off, he was my boyfriend Scott's best friend. They had been best buds since childhood. Secondly he was my best friend, Tina's, boyfriend. Thirdly, and most importantly, he was Jewish. And according to his religion—if adhered to—he needed to marry a fellow Jew. So even if we were to fall madly in love—leaving Tina and Scott on the sidelines—it was to be short lived. It was a star-crossed love. He was Jewish; I wasn't. Simple as that. It was over before it ever began. At the time, this seemed as silly as saying, my hair is black, yours is brown, so we can never be together. I was an atheist. I was never taught that I was a member of some exclusive club that denies others memberships based on their religious beliefs—or lack thereof. I did not care that he was Jewish—and not atheist. Why should it matter to him that I was not Jewish? Because he was indoctrinated to believe he must stick with his own kind. In the same way that blacks and whites only dated those within their own race. And the way that gays didn't date in the open—at all. This was the early eighties in Akron Ohio—not exactly the center of progressive ideas. So many prejudices. Misunderstandings. Tolerance was not a word or concept on the radar. Political correctness? What was that? Ignorance and fear were dividers—the dividers that kept Brett from even entertaining the thought that we could be together in the future.
Odd, but Tina was not Jewish either. But it was OK in his mind to have a short-lived fling with a gentile. But an everlasting love affair with one? Not a chance. Brett loved me too. I felt the reciprocity in every inch of my body and soul. That Tina and Scott were oblivious to our desires remains a mystery. Were they in denial? Neither were the sharpest blades in the drawer. But still. Scott went on the be my first. Yes, I wish it had been Brett. Elusive Brett. I spent the next five years looking for my next Brett. I found him in 1989 in San Francisco. His name was Israel and he was from Israel. Uncanny. He would become my first husband and the father of my only child, David.
That first rejection—based on my lack of Jewishness—was traumatic. It scarred me—changed me forever. It was not the last time I would be made to feel inferior for not being Jewish. It happened again at the US Embassy in Israel when I was told that my son, who was still in my womb at the time, would be a bastard if I did not convert to Judaism. He would be illegitimate. This was in the early nineties. Ignorance and fear were still alive and thriving there—and possibly still are to this day. Worse still, just a few weeks earlier, I learned that I could not marry Israel anywhere in Israel. There was no civil marriage in the entire state; it was illegal. And a Jew could not marry a non-Jew. Our only practical option was to take a boat to Cyprus and marry there. So we did. And were married by the mayor of the city, Nicosia. It was a simple ceremony—lasting under ten minutes. After we married, another couple, an American Christian woman and a Lebanese Jewish man, were married. Israel's religious bigotry created a thriving, cottage industry in Nicosia. There were even travel brochures advertising wedding and officiating services in Cyprus, much in the same way that Chapels in Las Vegas do. People literally run off to Cyprus to get married just like they run off to Nevada.
After my second divorce in 2010 from a non-Jewish man, I fell for another Jew. Three's a charm? Hardly. Another elusive Jew. Will he be the very last? Has the spell been broken? The fetish extinguished? The chase over? Have I have finally let my demons go? Said goodbye to the Jewish knight that I had hoped would save me, make my life wonderful—complete? My Jewish lover is a façade—an illusion. A delusion that some other person can rescue me, fill in the void, give my life meaning and structure. The elusive Brett is the elusive happiness. And this happiness cannot be found outside ourselves in the other. But rather, must come from within ourselves. The chase is up. I am no longer running towards something, someone. I am standing still, perfectly happy being alone—Jew free.
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