Thirteen years ago, The NY Times ran a puff piece on the Weddings page about me. A unique angle for their “Vows” column–anti-establishment editor burns her Ms. Magazines and ties the knot in all-concealing gown. Driven by the kiruv fever that often hijacks the newly frum, I was quoted insisting that my new lifestyle was the truly liberated way, and declared that I certainly wouldn’t be one of those sterling-polishing housewives.
All these years later, I wish I had a second in my carpool driving, toilet scrubbing, challah kneading, essay-grading, homework-supervising, grocery-shlepping life to polish some silver. Instead, I long ago packed the good stuff away and substituted ersatz silver from the local Odd Lot.
Maybe I should rate this entry: For Women Only, because I don’t want anyone to take me the wrong way. Far from regretting my lifestyle change, I truly appreciate it, and thank Hashem multiple times a day for the many gifts in my life, no matter how bratty they may sometimes behave! But I also have enough experience to resent that kiruv line about how the drudgery that comes along with the enormous honor of being a Jewish mother uplifts us, just like the Kohanim in the Bais HaMikdash. I mean, come on! I am impressed when I can balance it all but I’d rather not define myself by the shine on my floors.
Which brings me to my surprisingly emotional reaction at finally watching the Women’s version of the Inspired DVD.
Yes, I know it’s PROPAGANDA. Yes, I realize the purpose of Inspired is to motivate FFBs to do kiruv. Yes, I know everyone’s life has its ups and downs.
But still, I found myself jealous. Why are all the Inspired BTs so serene, spiritual, beautiful, enlightened? Why do they have so much time for self-fulfillment? Languid afternoons playing the piano? Whiling the afternoon away with creative writing in a moody Jerusalem cafe? Embracing the opportunity to host thirteen last-minute Shabbos guests week after week?
What FFB wouldn’t want to forge a relationship with one of these delightfully accomplished women? They have as much to offer as to take. What a no-risk, feel-good prospect! But how many of us were really confused, demanding, provocative, difficult evolving BTs?
I don’t really care whether this deception is fair to the FFB; whatever it takes, the ends justify the means if it causes them to look outward and relate to secular Jews or new BTs.
And yet. I felt so…messy? Inferior? Complicated?
Is there an alternative? Looking at the two choices, obviously not. We could:
1) Continue to lure BTs with the Inspired image of fulfillment and belonging.
2) Be totally open about the other side of becoming frum (stresses with money, sholom bayis, secular family, the endless work of running a multi-child household and cooking all those meals, jealousy from a lack of frum family, feeling inferior, experiencing actual discrimination, three-day Yom Tovs, and on and on) and dry up the BT movement forever.
That’s why I so treasure this blog. Until we’re totally accepted by the FFB world, we need this anonymous, non-judgmental forum for supporting each other. And when we finally reach the end of the weekly marathon and view our family enjoying our delicious labors around the Shabbos table, we can recall the tarnish in our lives, and know that our path isn’t the easy way but it’s sure the only way!
Originally published February 8, 2006