I spent the first 25 years of my life big into non-conformity. I prided myself on digging hipper music than my high school friends, choosing a trendy college too cool for grades, eating vegetarian, camping through the USSR before glastnost, living in the East Village, and on and on.
Becoming a B.T. was the ultimate in non-conformity. One friend (now a prominent psychiatrist) tried to de-program me. Maybe I was a Ms Magazine subscriber but I couldn’t shake off that pull toward Yiddishkeit.
In other words, to so radically turn your back on your comfort zone–family, friends, career, even language–you have to be a risk taker, a non-conformist.
But…living frum. That’s the ultimate in conformity. Boy, was it hard the first years. Doing things just because it’s the frum way was, at time, impossible to digest. Squelching my well-honed instinct to disagree. Giving up T.V. All the forbiddens of Shabbos. Keeping a neutral expression at racist speech. Shaving my legs. Realizing that the right thing to do or say was pretty much the opposite of my instincts.
I think you have to be an actor to be a successfully assimilated B.T. And daven that after a while, you fully embody your character.
Originally Published Dec 13, 2005