I’ll be writing for the next month, the last month of my twenty-eighth year, to purge stories from my “romantic” history (inspired by recent abandonment).
In an effort to not be such a bitch, I’m going to protect the anonymity of my past lovers by calling them all Eddie. I have thereby entitled this series, “Eddie, I hate you”.
The future of Judaic culture rests on my shoulders. I must find a Jewish husband, says my parents, says the past. And if I don’t, well: “What was it all for?”
Yiddish nightmares haunt these restless evenings. Jewish ancestral heroes of mine appear out of nowhere, presenting husbands, forcing me to use J-Swipe, nagging, “You’re throwing it all avay? You don’t vant meaning? You don’t vant life? I vent through hell for this and you can’t even marry a streyn-geyr?”
I have been summoned since birth to marry a Jewish man.
I am still a millenial, this isn’t Anitevka or any other painfully traditional context, I’m not being chained to a wall, a parade of Jewish bachelors being presented to me on the chance that I might agree to live my life with one of them just for the sake of partial freedom. Judaic propagation is not a prison sentence for the surrendered woman. It is, however, a looming plea.
When your family has somehow, miraculously, been regenerated from the health, hard work and success of a blessedly well-sized clan of Holocaust survivors, partnering outside the faith feels a bit rude (if not completely disappointing).
If I were the type of woman to find men and love, romance and sex in every corner, I’d just throw a dart amidst a congregation of Sabbath-happy synagogue attendants and marry the man I hit. To be honest, I haven’t tried that yet. Maybe that’s my next move.
It’s taken me years to realize that spousal hunting is a full time job. It’s taken me years just to become not-so-afraid of speaking to men. Years. All my years. Just for that first step.
The men have come. They haven’t been Jewish but only one of them really suffered from my repressed guilt regarding how easily I let my culture slip away from me.
I grew up surrounded by Jewish kids, attending a Hebrew school and feeling completely outcasted. The result was a separation from my Jewish identity based in resentment, fueling my ego with the right to meet only people who would never come from the population I grew up feeling bullied by.
For a long time I was best friends with a woman who I now realize was exoticizing my Judaic roots to prove that she was an interesting person. I didn’t like her but I didn’t know why. I went along with the joke that I was her “Jew Friend”. I didn’t like that joke. Still, I didn’t know why.
At the time, I was so sure that I was nothing like the Jewish kids I grew up with. I was completely ignorant. I had no idea that my bias was obviously and absolutely Jewish. Why wouldn’t it be? I grew up ritualistically Jewish, learned everything from the Hebraic and Judaic perspective, I grew up Jewish, I am Jewish, why wouldn’t I have Jewish thought and Jewish tendency, whatever that means. It means something. It means enough to affect the way I relate to people. I could not relate to this friend, though I tried for years. Knowing her, we’ll call her Jan, made it difficult to relate to anyone.
While knowing her I met one man. He wasn’t Jewish. He proved my bias.
I met Eddie in a bar.
Jan and I used to go to this “really cool” bar. Most people in Toronto know it for it’s repeated closures and back-alley entrance, it’s cheapest-in-town beer, menu and labour and it’s Annex-edgy dark-cave-feel of an atmosphere. We liked the patio. I liked the patio. She probably liked being seen by the really cool people. I didn’t like that part maybe because I don’t think trend-happy loud talkers with conformed opinions built to support their lego-like egos are “really cool people”. But, I did meet Eddie there so, maybe I at least wish they would like me.
One summer’s evening, we’re sitting out back, plastic lawn furniture, beer bottle supported candles and pitchers of mostly either urine or water, enjoying each other, maybe, “out” because she made me go there, and we’re sharing a table with a group of out-of-town students. Jan starts conversing with the students. They speak in French. I don’t speak French. So, I sit. Silent. Ignored.
Within the first hour of gracious-fun-best-friend-time, two men our age, and I should mention we are twenty-one ask me if the table beside us is free and then, upon sitting, they cozy the table right up to ours, smile and start speaking to me. One of these men is Eddie. The other is his best friend, we’ll call him Jim.
I like speaking to both men. Men never speak to me. I am only in this interaction realizing I can speak to men. It’s fun. Jan takes a breath from her French party-of-ego and speaks, finally to me, only to ask “Are you really talking to them?” which sounds like a ridiculously boxed question because no one would ever be so blatantly rude but those were her exact words
“I like them.”
I don’t stand up to her. I don’t say “Hey, lady, why not pay at least a little bit of attention to me and I won’t have to speak to strange men in a bar.” I just tell her, “I like them”.
She rolls her eyes in French and returns to her Francophone chatter.
I speak to these men all night. I introduce them to Jan but she only cares enough to flaunt her breasts a bit by laughing with her head completely back and her chest thrusted forward, presumably laughing at them, probably in French, and then returning to Paris at the other end of the table.
I am The Woman of the evening for this men. I don’t know how to advance on either of them but I am thinking about it. The conversation is sex in itself for me because I am still a hopeless virgin.
We leave the bar when the French people are gone because Jan grows bored. All I am left with is the memory of two men who decided to speak to me.
A winter evening with a bunch of people I can’t stand.
Jan brings me back to the same bar. She brings me for her friend’s birthday. I’m with a group of her friends. I suppose that I should be appreciative for the invite but I don’t like her friends. I especially don’t like the birthday boy because he’s usually arguing with me over Judaic topics, accusing me for a million dark things which is a clear sign of anti-Semitic misjudgement which I tell Jan but she tells me that all Jews think everyone is ant-Semitic. (If you’re reading this and you have that prejudice, believe me, we don’t think that. We only think anti-Semites are anti-Semitic and, please forgive us, but it’s about time we say something.)
Within the first hour of this party, I leave the table because of a frank and intimidating discussion about Israel/Palestine. I head to the washroom because where else is there to go. I’m grabbed.
As a twenty-two year old woman with a history of being grabbed in public, with a history of having no way out of a man’s grip (in public), I say “Sorry” to the table in front of me even though I’m grabbed from behind. I apologize to the witnesses,
“What?” says Eddie.
“No, nothing, Sorry, I think this guy grabbed me, behind me, I don’t want to look, I’m sorry, can I just sit here for a second? I’m going to sit down here, ok? I don’t know you. But you do, you’re a guy, so just…so: Sorry. Hi. I’m just going to sit here.”
“That guy? Grabbed you? Like, your ass?”
“That’s, I can’t even say, I don’t know someone grabbed, me I don’t want to look, I think, can I just pretend to know you for five minutes, please, sorry, no, I’ll go.”
“Yeah, no problem. Haven’t we met you? I’m Eddie, this is Jim. We’re Eddie and Jim. We’ve met you!”
They’ve met me. And I’m twenty-two and suddenly relieved.
“Oh my god, yes. Hi. Can I please sit here? The people I’m here with are anti-Semitic. Will you sit with a Jew? Can I sit here?”
And this makes Eddie laugh. He might be laughing because he is an anti-Semite and finds my feeble Jewish plea hilarious but I take it to mean “Anti-Semites exist? WEIRD.” Which…isn’t what it was.
They ask who I’m here with and I explain that Jan brought me. Jim is excited. He’s had a haunting crush on Jan. Can I hook him up with Jan? I stare at him for a bit. I already kind of am in love with Eddie. I don’t know why. I think I just think he’s cute or funny or kind but I’m instantly attracted to him and this isn’t a sensation I’m used to because I’m ordinarily avoiding men, subtracting my vulnerability by avoiding men, excluding fear just a little bit more easily by avoiding men. But I like Eddie.
The evening is taken over by Jim’s pursuit for Jan. The night continues, as always, in Jan’s favour as Eddie and I make sure that Jan and Jim are well connected by the end of the night.
After last call that evening, standing in the alley waiting for Jan, watching her keep her hands on Jim because the guy she was after that evening avoided her (an ex-boyfriend) and now she can be sulk-free in the arms of a new guy. As I watch them, I decide, for the first time in my life, to quietly slip a man, Eddie, my number.
I get him on Facebook the next day. I message him. I never hear back. I’m really sad about it but realistic enough to say nothing. I had a crush. It didn’t work out.
Meanwhile, Jan hooks up with Jim maybe a couple times and then she ignores him.
Jan also hooks up with Eddie.
Months later. She’s out with some friends. Her and Eddie have a mutual friend. She ends up at home with a group of people, Eddie included. He stays after everyone leaves. They fool around.
It wouldn’t be sad if I hadn’t been waiting for months to hear from Eddie.
Think: I’ve never had a boyfriend, I’ve kissed one man in my whole life, I’ve only ever had one ongoing infatuation so far, and then I meet Eddie and, sure he ignores me casually immediately but I’m still fantasizing about him. Like a little girl. Like a grown-up woman who took forever to socialize. Like me.
Jan and I get our hair cut the day after she hooks up with Eddie. She tells me the story. She feels really bad for Jim. She doesn’t ask or mention my feelings. I’m furious but desperately suppressant all afternoon. I cry all night.
The summer I know I Am, I am twenty-four years old, I am working full time for my dad and wearing heels every day. I am somehow a very confident person. At twenty-four, I know more about my brain, I love it a little more and I am not as afraid. When my friend takes me to the same shitty bar I tell her “This is a shitty bar”. Brave hero warrior child.
Jan doesn’t care. When we arrived, she instantly runs into four or five people she knows. She leaves me at the table countless times, alone, just to hug “friends” she doesn’t even think to introduce me to and, just as she is returning, half seated in her chair, she exclaims “oh my god” and rises to hug Eddie.
I stare at the floor. No. I don’t want to see this person. No. I don’t want to hug him but thank you, Jan, for presenting him with that option, should he decide I want to be just friendly as she is with him. He does try to hug me but I just sit in my chair. Jan invites him outside to smoke. I don’t smoke and at this time I am actually repulsed by cigarettes. I tell her “you can’t leave me here again” and she basically shrieks “SO COME WITH US”.
We’re sitting on the landing. She’s smoking. She’s going on and on about something neither of us is listening to. Eddie kind of echoes an exhale and says to me, “So what have you been up to?”
“I’ve been masturbating a lot lately,” I say without any idea why I’m saying it.
We talk about his hat. There’s a dinosaur on it. We talk about dinosaurs. We go inside. We split a pitcher. God knows what happens to Jan. The night becomes about Eddie and I. Apparently I invited other friends of mine to join us and they did but all I can remember is Eddie and I, sitting at the end of the table. He asks if we can step out side together and we do. He kisses me. This is my second kiss.
I say, “I don’t think I should like you very much.”
He says, “Why not.”
I say, “Because you hooked up with my best friend.”
He says, “So what”
I smile without reason, I can’t articulate why that bothers me but I tell him, “I don’t want to be anyone’s sloppy seconds.”
He says, “I’m not sure that’s what that term means.”
I say, “Oh ok.”
And we just keep kissing.
He’s in my apartment. I’m thrown on the bed, we’re still fully clothed and I stop him and say “Ok. I think you should go”.
He says, “why.”
I say, “I just think you should go, now, I think this is when you go.”
He says, “I’m not leaving.”
He shrugs off my demand. Playful or romantic or friendly as it might have been, I am pinned on my bed, I have told this man to leave (politely) and he’s not leaving and I decide it’s cute and I smile. I don’t really want him to leave. I just don’t want him to know that I’m sexually inept.
“Ok. I’m a virgin.”
“I’ve never had sex. I’m a virgin.”
“How is that possible.”
“I don’t know.”
“You’ve never had sex.”
“So then what do you do for sex.”
The question is stupid and penile.
“I use a vibrator.”
“Do you want to see?”
It was the only thing I could think of to get him off of me and the only thing I could think of that would keep me from having to have a humiliating sexual encounter. He watched me. And then: We talked until we fell asleep. I didn’t remember falling asleep but I woke up in his arms on my couch and it felt like a scripted miracle.
He leaves but he doesn’t leave. He leaves and he keeps talking to me. He talks to me all the time for no reason. This is love. At one point, it’s a Friday night and I get an unsolicited, unsolicited, message from him, he’s at a hockey game with his brother and they just heard the funniest thing, he’s telling me funny things and I didn’t even ask and I didn’t even beg and I didn’t even think about him that day. Love love love but I tell no one. I can’t tell anyone. He isn’t Jewish. If I mention a man. I will be asked. Is he Jewish. No. Tell no one.
Next date, I’m at his house. We’re in his bed and I’m sitting up naked, which I’ve never done with anyone. He asks me what we’re doing. It’s only been two weeks. I shrug. I can’t say the wrong thing or everything will be over so I just shrug and silently agree to his “it’s good the way it is right now, I think” even though I have no idea what that means. I leave that night because I have a spinning class in the morning (something that never happens to me again in life, ever). Ambiguity is the same as love, I decide.
Wait a minute: What if we’re already dating? And he isn’t Jewish. Something will go wrong eventually.
I grow anxious about Eddie. Obsessively anxious. I have lunch with my mother and I don’t say a word until I all of a sudden tell her all about Eddie. Blessed woman that she is, she promises she just wants me to be happy. The anxiety worsens. If I’m with this non-Jewish guy, I better be happy.
I meet him again, with his friends in a bar. I’m introduced. Another night together.
I meet him again, it’s Nuit Blanche, more of his friends, I’m introduced again and this time we hold hands.
It’s been a month. Here’s how the conversation went:
I say, “Is this a thing, are we a thing, is this a thing?”
He says, “What do you mean?”
Again, this question is stupid and penile.
I say, “I just need to know now what we’re doing because I just don’t know how to date a gentile.”
Well. Not the best.
He says, “You Jews think you’re so special. Gentile isn’t a nice word, Rachel.”
I say, “It isn’t?”
He says, “No, that’s like calling you a kike.”
I say, “But…but people called Jewish people kikes while we were being persecuted and killed and things like that, no?”
Why am I asking this idiot about Jewish History, I have no idea.
He finally says, “No, and I hate it when Jews call me a gentile like I can’t be part of your special fucking club with your own little secret code language.”
I didn’t say anything else. I do remember trying to remain cute. Which is regrettable.
I grow even more anxious. He gets crabbier. I understand that I haven’t gotten him off yet and he’s probably a little tense, annoyed, frustrated. I try to give him a blow job but I fall off the bed and then lie on the floor wondering what to do next. One morning I rolled over on top of him and told him I wanted to have sex with him but he just sat back and let me make a decision. I never made a single decision while being with him.
From the moment he refused to leave my house, that first evening, right from that moment I completely agreed to him being the Alpha and, pathetically, without him moving me towards doing things, I didn’t really know what to do and I had the bruises to prove it. Eddie would literally throw me around. I liked it. I liked being manipulated. But, that was the nature of most of my relationships at the time.
There’s a birthday party at my house. Two of my close friends have birthdays that neighbour one another and I throw them a party at my apartment under the condition that everyone leave and go to another bar by roughly eleven o’clock. I pretty well begged Eddie to come. He came. I accidentally got black out drunk because one of my friends, who didn’t want to go to a bar that night, kept slipping more booze into my cup. I probably drank twice or even three times as much as I realized.
In the morning, Eddie was gone but a strange assortment of people had slept in my living room.
One of them had been on the couch since 9 PM because he had a bad night and we had to lay him down. It turns out, by 3 AM, when everyone else was passing out, he was wide awake and Eddie and I were on the balcony.
“So, mad confessionals on the balcony last night.”
“You and that guy you were making out with all night.”
“What? What did I say.””
“You were yelling at him but then you kept making out so I’m sure it’s ok.”
“What. Did. I. Say.”
“You told him he wasn’t Jewish enough. It’s ok. I’m sure it’s ok.”
I am so sure it wasn’t ok.
I called Eddie. I spoke to Eddie. I apologized. He said it was fine.
He never spoke to me again.
Goodbye, Eddie. He just wasn’t Jewish enough. I had little idea but he did let me know: Eddie just wasn’t Jewish enough.
Years later I have so let go of the guilt that led me to call Eddie out on his lack of niche cultural association. If he would have stuck around for one more date he maybe even would have benefited from a less childish version of myself. But he chose to leave.
Oddly enough, I still think I’m going to run into him. I still think I’m going to turn a corner and have to say hi. I don’t, ever. I never see him, never even swipe past him on Tinder. I have no idea where he is. He left. He chose to leave. I was in denial for a month but then, I got the hint.
Another episode tomorrow! Come back!