Saturday, January 9, 2010
The Shiksa Paradox, Part One
Summer 1971. Age 14.
“Who Are Parents” The Shaggs
“Teach Your Children” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Lady Faith was a secret. I couldn’t let my parents know that she was my girlfriend. I wasn’t allowed to date non-Jewish girls, a.k.a. goyim, a.k.a. shiksas.
“After what happened with David,” Dad said, “We think it’s best if you only dated Jewish girls.”
My brother David had dated a shiksa. Her name was Tina. She had long straight auburn hair, big brown eyes, a little button nose, smooth fair skin, small perky breasts, and a tight little ass. She was petite. She was delicious.
David brought her to the house and hung out with her in his bedroom in the basement, rock music blaring while the two of them did God knows what. God knew what they were doing, but my parents didn’t, and that drove them crazy.
David and Tina’s high school romance lasted about a year before Tina decided to move on. David took the break up hard. Losing her messed him up so badly, he had to go to Israel to live on a kibbutz for six months. It was an expensive lesson for my parents. Keep your nice Jewish boys away from the shiksas.
I resented being judged by my brother’s actions. I wasn’t anything like him. David was four years older than me. He was impulsive, while I was reflective. He was outgoing, while I was shy and always in my head.
I had enough trouble talking to girls to worry about dating only the Jewish ones. I was fourteen. A very horny fourteen. I was becoming more and more obsessed with the opposite sex with each passing day. I didn’t want my chances to get a girl to be further handicapped by my parents, who were trying to push me into a narrow corner defined by their expectations.
The whole date-within-your-kind thing made me feel like I was a purebred dog. Was my only purpose in life to mate with a Jewish girl so that I might sire pureblood Jewish children? Were my parents worried that if I went sniffing around any shiksas, I might end up fathering a litter of interdenominational mutt kids?
There were other complications to dating only Jewish girls. Chattanooga was a small town. It had a decent sized Jewish community, enough to support three synagogues (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) and a Jewish Community Center. It was just big enough that we didn’t feel the need to assimilate completely, but not big enough to live in a world of our own.
I knew every Jewish girl my age. I had known them since birth. We would end up being together from nursery school until our confirmation ceremony, which was a sort of graduation from Sunday School, when we were seventeen. Dating a local Jewish girl would be like dating a first cousin. It would have been like committing incest.
Besides, none of the Jewish girls liked me. I was all wrong. All the other Jewish boys were loud and aggressive and loved watching sports. I was quiet and preferred sitting in my room drawing superheroes I created than going outside to play basketball. To the Jewish girls, I was the weird fat kid who split his pants in kindergarten. I stayed the weird fat kid until I was fourteen, when I had a sudden growth spurt, but stayed the same weight. Suddenly, I was tall and lanky and I had a Jewfro of soft brown hair that covered my head like a sombrero. My mane of curls was normal to Jewish girls, but downright exotic to shiksas.
Lady Faith ran her fingers through my Jewfro and swore I looked exactly like Bob Dylan. I didn’t look any more like Dylan than an attractive black girl looked like Diana Ross.
I met Lady Faith on a Saturday at the Eastgate Mall. Up until I had my bar mitzvah, I was required to go to synagogue every Saturday morning. I missed entire seasons of Saturday morning cartoons. After my bar mitzvah, I still had to go to Sunday School, but I didn’t have to go to synagogue if I chose not to. Of course, I was encouraged to keep going to shul, but I decided instead to spend my Saturdays sleeping late, watching cartoons, and hanging out at the mall with my friends.
The Saturday I met Lady Faith, I had just arrived at the mall with my friends Ed and Tim, when we ran into her. Lady Faith had straight auburn hair and big brown eyes that were half-opened. My first impression of her was that she looked like an Afghan hound. When she saw Ed, Tim, and me, she stopped and tilted her head, making her look like a confused Afghan hound. My first impression of her was look out, here comes big time trouble.
“Hello, hello, hello,” Lady Faith said. Then she gave us a big stoned smile.
“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye,” I said.
After we walked away from her, I turned to Ed and asked, “Who the hell was that?”
“That’s Lady Faith,” Ed said, “You don’t want anything to do with her.”
I didn’t take Ed’s advice. Lady Faith fascinated me. I knew she was trouble, but I had never been in trouble. That made her even more desirable. Besides, Lady Faith didn’t look like any of the Jewish girls. She definitely didn’t act like any of the Jewish girls.
One Saturday, she ran her finger down my arm and said, “I really like that shirt you’re wearing. Can I borrow it?”
“I like your t-shirt,” I said, “Maybe we should we switch shirts for the day.”
“Okay,” she said, “Let’s do it.”
“What? Really switch shirts?”
We went out to a small cemetery next to the Eastgate parking lot. The cemetery was the final resting place for the missionaries who first came to Chattanooga to Christianize the local Native Americans. In the far corner of the cemetery was a large tree. Under that tree, kids gathered to smoke joints.
I took off my shirt first and held it out for Lady Faith. I figured she would take it and duck behind some bushes to change.
“Oh hell, I’m not modest,” she said and stripped off her t-shirt.
Lady Faith wasn’t wearing a bra. She had perfect breasts; slightly more than a handful, with dark red nipples. I was still trying to memorize every detail of her perfect breasts when she covered them with my shirt.
I couldn’t wait for the end of the day when we would switch back our shirts. I wanted another look at her perfect breasts. I was crushed when she made me wait outside the women’s dressing room at J. C. Penney’s while her best friend, Tina, carried Lady Faith’s t-shirt to her and my shirt out to me.
The following Saturday, Lady Faith asked me to go out to the cemetery again. This time, she didn’t want to exchange shirts. She wanted to kiss me. We rolled around under the large tree in the back corner of the cemetery and made out. I was able to touch her breasts and they felt as perfect as they looked.
Afterwards, we walked back to the mall. I felt high.
“Does this mean you’re my girlfriend?” I asked.
Lady Faith smiled and said, “I think so.”
For Lady Faith and me, dating meant getting together every Saturday at the mall. We never had a specific time or place to meet, we just showed up and looked for each other, then we held hands as we walked and talked and joined other friends who wandered the mall.
I spent the days between Saturdays thinking about Lady Faith. I drew pictures of her as a cosmic goddess floating through the universe. When my parents weren’t around, I called Lady Faith on the phone and we talked about nothing for hours, or until Mom or Dad came back home.
The name Lady Faith was her own invention, “Lady” because she wanted to remain a virgin until she was married, and “Faith” because she was very spiritual. Lady Faith came up with her name and her life direction after Billy, her best friend, had warned her that she was becoming too damn wild and too willing to have sex with just about any guy. Billy told Lady Faith that she should stay a virgin until she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with. When I finally got to meet Billy, I was sorely tempted to kick his meddling ass.
Lady Faith’s rules about not having sex only applied to actual intercourse. Everything else was fair game. My hands were allowed complete access to Lady Faith’s body, while my poor penis had to stay in my pants.
We never discussed religion, though she often tried to sound more knowledgeable than she actually was. One Saturday at the mall, I told everybody that I had to go to a cousin’s bris the next Saturday.
“I had a bris,” Lady Faith said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Positive,” she said. “When I was little, I had a bris.”
“Well, it must have been the worst bris any Mohel has ever performed,” I said.
My friends were rolling with laughter at this point, so I whispered in Lady Faith’s ear what a bris was. Her sleepy eyes woke up and her cheeks turned red.
I really knew I could never fit in with the other Jewish kids when a Sunday school teacher asked in class which was more important; a job you loved doing or a job that paid well? I was the only one who said it was more important that you do something you love. My fellow Sunday school students viewed my attitude as proof that I still was and would always remain the weird kid.
Despite my outsider status with the Chattanooga Jewish community, I enjoyed being a Jew and still do. Every December, in elementary school, I volunteered to do a class presentation about Hanukkah. I loved telling my Gentile classmates that Hanukkah had eight days of gift giving while their vastly inferior Christmas only had one. I didn’t mention that I only got a decent gift on the first day and on the other seven days; I got socks and math flash cards.
My Jewish beliefs were fortified by the constant challenge I received from born-again Christians. For an Evangelical Christian, converting a Jew was like whacking a piñata and having all the candy in the world come pouring out. There were a lot of Evangelical Christians in Chattanooga. The ones I knew tried very hard to prove to me that Jesus was the Messiah prophesized in the Old Testament. I hated that Christians referred to the Hebrew Bible as the “Old” Testament. It seemed like a cheap marketing ploy: how can you use that Old Testament when there is a new and improved New Testament?
These born-again Christians sounded so damn sure of themselves that they made me question Judaism. I had to stop and think about what Judaism teaches and how it compared to what Christianity taught. After much soul searching, I decided that Judaism worked for me just fine.
I decided that Evangelical Christians are religiously intolerant. Any religion that feels its God given mission is to destroy all other religions by converting everyone to their beliefs is intolerant. They were not to be trusted. But I didn’t mind dating their women.
(to be continued)