Today marks the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage. You can read my post about it in the Sisterhood Blog here.
If I see one more commercial in which a woman talks about washing her husband’s shirt, I am going to scream.
When I was growing up, there was no embargo or limit on television, I could watch whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. I was also allowed to read anything I wanted, which probably balanced out the amount of crap I took in between the ages of 10 and 17. The news was the basis for debate in my house it was a part of me developing a political consciousness, but TV was also a source of much needed comfort and distraction. It still is, which is why I watch so much of it and why I have trouble falling asleep without the television on.
Let’s be honest, though-there isn’t any feminist tv on anymore, and it’s unlikely that I’d watch it, because I have terrible taste in programming-I’ve been watching Jersey Shore, the Real Housewives of New Jersey and Teen Mom like it’s going out of style. While there are some serious problems in the way these shows portray gender, class, sexuality, etc, it obviously doesn’t deter me from watching them. Because I’m so political and outspoken, people are surprised when I admit to watching this stuff (and dvr-ing it so I can watch it later). I don’t understand why- my brain needs to at least attempt to take some kind of break.
I stopped reading trashy magazines a while ago because I got tired of headlines about weight and dieting and sex and poor, lonely, barren women. The trade-off for lower blood pressure is that I have to google terms like “vajazzled.” Not consuming certain forms of culture-good or nauseating-means not knowing what’s going on, and therefore, not being politically responsible. You can’t unpack the disturbing nature of, say, applying glitter to one’s vagina, if you don’t know that people are doing it.
It’s unrealistic to expect people’s lives to be completely linear with their politics. I understand the instinct-I often get angry and disappointed when people I consider to be radical end up behaving in a manner that’s mainstream. But here’s the thing-when we don’t allow people to act with inconsistency, like all human beings. it makes it difficult for them to act at all.
I am ready for winter, or even reliable fall, just something other than the confinement of heat. A friend pointed out to me recently that there is something about summer that is conducive to hopelessness; maybe it’s the way the city empties out, or the lack of days when it’s passable to go outside. Whatever it is, it’s not helpful.
My days manage to be long and short and full and empty. This morning at brunch, our conversation was around Jewish continuity. (It’s debatable as to whether or not this is a step up from our previous brunch topic of oral sex.) We discussed whether Conservative Judaism will live or die, the role of independent minyanim, and whether or not it’s possible to remain connected to Judaism without believing in Gd. The result is that all day I’ve been contemplating this conversation.
When I was a little kid, I worried from time to time that I’d learn that I wasn’t really Jewish. I don’t actually know where this fear came from, but in retrospect, it makes sense. Being Jewish made me rare and special in a way that I couldn’t see myself being in any other way. I didn’t know then, of course, about the arguments surrounding who a Jew is, or can be, only that I didn’t want this specialness to be taken from me, or worse, have never really existed in the first place.
When Jewish education is good, Jews have not only literacy and language, but also confidence and a feeling of ownership over their Jewish lives and identities. It’s hard to really lose the knowledge, but the confidence, that’s easy to rid someone of. You can certainly bludgeon it away until they don’t remember ever having had it, and it’s hard to get it back.
For whatever reason, my ownership fibers are strong regarding Jewish identity- I know now that no one can take it away from me -but my confidence, that has wavered. The ownership part has been bred by experience and tenacity and righteous indignation. Maybe it can outwit the part of myself that’s tired, frustrated and scared. I’m getting sick of that part. Really.
Rejected titles for this blog post:
1. Shit, it’s Elul.
2. What the hell, Elul?
3. Elul: All Sorts of Therapy Starts Now
Elul is the 12th month in the Hebrew calendar, when Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs, resulting in confusion, frustration, excessive eating, and the mad dash to Jewish prayer spaces. The word “Elul” is similar to the root of the verb “search” in Aramaic, a language good for Talmud study and extremely bad, esoteric jokes.
Right now, the move towards Rosh Hashanah feels tense. In some ways, 5770 has been a very cruel year, and on the other hand, I’m lucky and I should continue to know that. So during Elul, I search, for a prayer community to spend it with, for space in my brain to work out the liturgy that often makes me feel muddled, resentful and distant, and to consider what I want to change.
It’s strange, how I’ve managed to absorb this time into my yearly routine, in spite of living in a world dominated by a Christian culture, where the New Year begins on January 1st, and regardless of my religious beliefs, I’m supposed to be overcome by the joyousness of Christmas.
If I think about it in these terms, it’s crazy that there are openly observant Jews, that any of us are brave enough to defy convention by demonstrating our Judaism publicly. Like it or not, in spite of what our personal politics might be, every second that we spend living in diaspora as visible Jews is a seriously radical act. Maybe, knowing that, we can start this year with different intentions, looking fearlessly, as Marge Piercy says, into “the black zero of beginning.”
Lately, it’s been like I’m falling down the stairs, again and again, every morning. I’m sleeping too much and watching too much tv, and it’s hard to leave the house. When I do, it hurts. It’s a combination of overstimulation and numbness, and I didn’t know you could feel both of those things at the same time.
The last time I felt like this, I think, was for three weeks in March my sophomore year of college after my mother died. I spent that time sleeping all day and missing class, then waking up in the late afternoon. I was more or less completely nocturnal, yet remarkably functional, and that semester, I managed to pull off one of my highest gpas in college. I don’t know how I got through that. I think it might have been the sheer panic of becoming an underachiever that finally catapulted me back into life, but for those three weeks, the depression was so debilitating, so painful, that I couldn’t imagine a way out.
In a way, I am much better off than I was during those three weeks twelve years ago. I know what’s happening, I have medication that at least attempts to balance my brain chemistry, and I have networks. Still, this is the most afraid I’ve felt in a long time, the most hopeless, the most vulnerable.
At 3 am, I was watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” There is probably nothing better to distract you from yourself than reality tv that includes lace, sparkles and tantrums. During the commercial break, I thought, this is why some people get married. Not because of the dress (although that’s debatable), but so that when they’re afraid, there is someone there to blunt the edges, and oh, how I need my edges blunted.
I keep telling myself that this will pass, that it will not always be this way, that soon, I will feel good again, or at least, like going outside. I hear the weather lately has been lovely.
Given the gratuitous amount of instability and frustration as of late (or for the last 31 years? Discuss), I am probably very overdue for a good cry. I’m not usually a crier, but today, when I learned that Prop 8 had been overturned, I cried. With joy. In public. There was water and saline in my eyes and then on my cheeks and my vision was blurry, and then it was gone, the public display at least, but not the strange heaviness that comes with knowing that not only is the crying not done, it hasn’t even really started.
I’m in New Hampshire at the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute until this coming Sunday. Maybe some blogging, but I’m not promising anything.