I dream of Birthright almost every night.
I am running for the bus, as it leaves without me. I went back to find him that night he abandoned me, but he was already gone.
I am running for the bus, but I need to use the bathroom and I am making all of us late. I didn’t see him on the bus once and my stupid heart stupid seized and I stupid didn’t even know him at all.
I am not sure I know him now. Every pop psychologist with a degree in English or counseling believes only losers fall in love in the traditional way. Everyone else falls in love over time, over months and years, but if you happen to be in a different social demographic than your beloved then you will never get the chance.
I didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t do anything wrong, exactly, except forget that poor people are different from rich people, women are different than men, disabled than able-bodied, queer than cis, etc. Or perhaps you could say, I forgot that love is not a cure for privilege. Just as true.
Privilege always hides pain. I knew that, but then an awful lot of people I trusted insisted my privilege was more important than all forms of my marginalization that made them feel uncomfortable. People hurt me, and I called it my fault but it was antisemitism.
In high school my best friend fell in love with me. She was Jewish and more Jewish looking than me. I made fun of her with our other friends behind her back. I’m sure what was supposed to be so terrible about her. She was honestly herself in high school when the rest of us were all liars.
I was that person in middle school. I was so grateful to no longer be that person. I thought if I could stay thin enough and pretty enough and straighten my hair and learn to fit in then I would be okay. I would keep ahead of roiling storm inside my chest. I would make it out alive.
I don’t want to make it out alive, without him. I don’t want to make it out alive, and be all alone.
Those early lessons in how to be a white girl didn’t take. I’m not sure what I am instead. It often feels like there is no room in the Jewish community to be an ugly girl. But ugliness gives me a freedom that whiteness never did.
Not, of course, that beauty and Blackness stand diametrically opposed. But prettiness and Blackness most certainly do. Thank you, Western media. Thank you, colonialism.
I dream of talking to him about horses on a hillside. It took me hours to figure out something to say that said enough but nothing I could be caught out for later on. I was ashamed in my stupid Old Navy shorts and my stupid chafing thighs but you know, I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I looked okay. And not talking to him. All that energy looking for something to tell me I was worthy. When maybe I could have been, if I had just acted worthy.
I am not worthy of him. Cinderella married the prince because she was already white enough, blonde and patrician and born wealthy. In this culture, hers is a story of everyone gets where they belong. And where they belong is whatever class they are born into.
I didn’t do Jewish things, in high school. I left Midrasha, I can’t remember why. I had no Jewish friends at my high school, except the one I betrayed. I didn’t spend time with the other Jewish girls, even though they were more popular than me. I thought they were witches. I thought they knew something I did not. I thought they were stupid to wear their identities on their faces like that. One day the villagers would come to burn them and it would be all their fault for not hiding properly.
I never stopped hiding. Not forever. I insisted on shaping my intentions my life my dreams my desires into white girl territory.
When I thought I liked him too much too fast I tried to landscape my feelings over with some other girl’s feelings. I sat next to him and tried to read because I thought he would like me better if I was reading and didn’t say, tell me how to be good enough in your eyes, tell me.
I fell in love with him like a Jewish person. Like someone said Beshert and I thought, well, YES. And next I thought, who the hell do I think I am?
He loved being Jewish but I thought his love would fade. I thought he would go home to all the comforts of whiteness and then the world would be returned to normal. I thought I would forget him, in time. I thought I could force myself to forget.
I’m not saying I took a job near the Bay because I thought he was going to be there. I’m not saying I cried alone in my car when I realized that wasn’t the case. I’m not saying I froze inside like that Dar Williams song and cracked open and I’m not saying I think I deserve better than all this, but really, I suppose, yes I am.
I am resentful. I am bitter. He gets to be Jewish and loved by Jews and white and accepted by white people and I watch from sidelines. I never wanted to be just a cheerleader in a man’s life but now I feel like a cheerleader with no one to cheer for, shivering and wet and caked with dried pig’s blood because how ridiculous of me to think someone saw me for myself, and not my station in life.
I wonder how much potential there is inside every single girl survivor of child abuse, or rape, or homelessness. I wonder how many fat disabled women fighting to work enough to stay independent are actually undercover screenwriters, or singers, or marine biologists. I have always felt that I was chasing life from a few steps too far away. I went to find him, that night he stood me up, but he was gone.
I hate myself and hate myself for letting him think I wanted someone else but I never asked him who he fucked in the dark at clubs I was afraid to go to. I was afraid someone would see that I was fat, and point it out to him. Such things happen.
We have to become heroes, women like me. But admiration is a stupid substitute for love. An unworthy one.
It’s the fighting back, we are told, that is ugly. The cream rises to the top in a colonialist white supremacist society just by doing what everyone else does.
Cinderella is identifiable by her lack of rebellion. By her quiet acceptance of her bitter circumstances. By her faith in her society to put her life right.
The mice and pumpkin coachmen of her community love her even though she sees them as pumpkin or as mice. It is a joy to look at her. That counts for a lot.
No one cares how hard I have fought for the opportunities that I have not gotten. I’m not white passing enough even for my own Jewish community. For a long time I was fighting to stay above water and then I was fighting to see him again and now I am fighting for the right to start again, I suppose. Where do the damaged girls go, when you are done playing with us?
What if there is not enough, in the world? For someone like me. Not enough love, stripped of cruelty or shame or misplaced rage. As I remember it, I got angry and he was horrified and outraged. As I remember it, his face twisted into someone else’s face. And I realized I had forgotten to always be afraid, because I loved him.
Eurasia has always been at war with whoever the most powerful person in the room says it has. I have always been at war with him, just ask him. I sued for peace again and again but he had no interest. He had nukes on his side and I had..what?
His life was always enough without me, dayenu. He wants to be connected back in with the people but he does not want to pay the price connection demands. Introducing himself as that Harvard grad is usually enough and if I wanted more from him, or if I wanted something else entirely, why should he provide it?
Let’s just say, I cut myself on the edges of his life. Call it a day.
Let’s just say. Interacting with people very different from ourselves is very confusing because we value different things. I made him uncomfortable and I mean, of course I did, such is the nature of human interaction. In his world, this constitutes a crime.
My life is an accommodation to the needs of white men who think feeling uncomfortable or feeling called out or being asked to do chores is an excuse to go off. Men who are looking for an excuse.
There is me loving him, and there is him narcissist-hurting name. There is me, Echo in his play of what it means to be the right kind of man. There is me, easy target.
There is him, finding a girl who makes him less angry meaning less aware of his anger and hurt. There is her, letting herself be cast in a play that is not about her. There is me, wishing all my life for love and being alternately abandoned or abused by men I tried so hard to love. Men who love cannot touch, because that is the price of being untouchable.
Men always find a reason to blame women for their rage. Everybody knows it is our fault. Cinderella smiles uncertainly and maybe the prince marries her but maybe he rapes her then marries someone else. Or worse, maybe he pays her rent for years and promises to leave his castle behind for her, but of course he never does.
In books, the prince is always worth the sacrifice. In my community we work tirelessly to make sure the prince gets whatever he needs to advance and assimilate. Sometimes the rest of us don’t make it out alive.
Nobody told the prince it was his job to make sure everybody makes it out alive.
And so, we didn’t.
I have dreams of being late for him because I am wearing the wrong clothes or because I am wearing too many clothes but really, really my life is the ground that giants stood on to build their own dreams. I became what I was always meant to be. The thing underfoot they use to get where they are going.
My relationship with my community is the relationship between a punching bag and a boxer. I say enough, stop, I am bleeding, but it does not stop the pain.
The promise my community made to me was to give me love, if I suffered beautifully enough. I thought he was that love.
It would have been enough, to make up for what happened before. Just knowing he was real. It would have been.