Fear and Loathing in the Shtetl: How I Came Out to My Orthodox Mother About My Non-Jewish Boyfriend – A Story in Four Parts

A10 Interfaith3

IV: Coming Out, Sort Of

In the ’90s, Ben Folds wrote an anthem for Off-the-Derech kids everywhere. “Brick” may have been about an abortion, but it applies to any situation you’d hide from your parents. Eight months into my relationship with “Q,” I realized that my circumstance—my entire life—was unsustainable. Mostly, “I broke down cause I was tired of lying.”

There is no good way to break someone’s heart, no good interlude in which you can casually drop this kind of revelation. You just have to hope that you’re doing the right thing; that somehow everything will knit itself back together.

My mother and I were baking cookies before shabbat. The place smelled like cocoa and vanilla and walnuts. We were both wearing aprons. It was a made-for-TV moment, the kind that someone inevitably ruins because there is no story without a conflict.

I thought about that as I said “Um … Mommy? I have something to tell you.”

Telling the truth feels a lot like stripping yourself naked. I had lived for so long with this carapace, this illusion that I was a Good Kid, doing the Right Things, that I felt like I was peeling off my own skin. Taking responsibility in a way that was entirely new.

We cried and hugged a lot that day.

I would be lying if I said that everything is hunky-dory. My mother is, to put it lightly, not thrilled, my father still happily oblivious. But I had underestimated the depth of my mother’s love for me, misjudged it against the depth of her religious conviction. She spoke to “Q” on the phone the other night, and seemed both surprised and pleased that “he’s so nice!”

“Yeah,” I said, smiling despite myself. “He’s okay, I guess.” An apt description of the state of things in general: coming out to my mom was hard for both of us. This is not how we imagined my adulthood would go.

But right now, it’s okay.

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