Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Leaving Home

I’m out of here. The minute I turn eighteen, I’m out of here so fast you won’t even be able to feel the breeze as I run by. I’m done with you. I’m done with your rules. I’m done with the random things you make up to keep me down. I’m done with the pitying stares you give me in the halls and the fake overtures of friendship that you make because you think I need help. I don’t need help. I need you to get out of my face so I can help myself. I need you to stop telling me that my dreams aren’t real and aren’t allowed.
Was I ever a person to you? Was I ever anything but a number? Another Jewish woman of valor, saved so that she could produce the next generation of unhappy women with their dreams dropped onto the floor and ground into the dirt. Another soul for you to add to the little record that you keep so you can show it to G-d when you die and get admittance into whatever heaven you believe in. I won’t be there. I will be in whatever hell you believe in because it’s exactly where you know I’m going. And I think I’ll be happy there because I already have to spend my life with people like you and, if I have to spend my afterlife with you, you’ll probably find me in heaven’s restroom, setting off cherry bombs. If there is an afterlife, which I’m not so sure about. If there is a G-d who makes eternal judgments, which I’m not so sure about either. You can’t threaten me with hell anymore. Hell is only scary to the believers.
I used to believe in G-d, you know. When I was little, I believed in a lot of things. I believed the world was a fair place and that people cared about each other and that, if you tried hard enough, you could be anything you wanted. And I believed that G-d gave me talents so I could use them. I believed that when I put on little plays for my mother after dinner and I dreamed of being an actress. I loved G-d then. It’s very easy to love G-d when you’re young and everything’s allowed.
Then, suddenly, you get big and nothing’s allowed anymore. You grow these bumps on your chest and your legs get long and suddenly, you’re not allowed to walk the way you used to because you might turn some guy on. Suddenly, the male friends that you had when you were little are off limits, even though you’d sooner marry your brother than kiss one of them, and if you do talk to your guy friends, they call you a slut behind your back. Suddenly, the way you talk is too loud, your smile is too sexy, and your body is too shapely. Quick, whisper, stop smiling, cover your body with burkahs. It’s not proper to be who you are.
And that goes for your talents too. It’s all fine and good that you made those little plays after dinner. Tell you what, you can even be in the school productions once a year, as long as your character learns a valuable lesson about life and either: A. Becomes Shomer Shabbos B. Returns to the faith of his youth, or C. Makes a deathbed confession of religious fervor and leaves his money to a poor orphan boy who can now go to Yeshiva. It’s great that you have talent. Just so long as you give it up once you get out of high school so that you can be a mommy. Talent like that is dangerous, you see. We can’t risk you going out there and doing something with the gifts you have.
Then why did G-d give me talent?
It’s a test. He wanted to see if you would use it in a Jewish way.
But there is no Jewish way to use my talent.
There are school productions.
And after high school?
You can always become a teacher. There’s a lot of acting in teaching.
But I want to be a real actor.
G-d doesn’t want that.
How do you know?
This is a test. You know what’s right. Now go out and do it.
Go out and do it. Forget that you ever dreamed of something bigger. We don’t believe in dreams. Dreams are dangerous. Dreams lead you away from here into a world that we do not know and cannot control.
“You know what’s right.”
I don’t know what’s right. I only know what’s not allowed. Everything is not allowed. Everything is forbidden. Everything will get me half-an-hour with the principal talking about the role of Jewish women and how careful I have to be with my reputation. What do I care about my reputation? I’m not getting married to some frum boy in a black hat. I’m not going to be a baby machine and show up in some women’s showcase of talent once a year.
Isn’t it funny? You pushed my dreams aside. You made me swallow them down so they sat in my stomach and grew poison that rose up my throat and choked me. You put me to sleep every night with lullabies of what I could never be. Why? Because you were so afraid that I would go out there and see what it was and then I would leave you. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I would have. But maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I would have walked into that strange world with you on my left side and G-d on my right. Maybe I would have taken what I wanted from out there and come back here to raise happy, powerful daughters who loved G-d. Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know now because you’ve driven me out. You and your angry G-d who gives dreams that I can’t live. You tried to keep me here and you’ve only succeeded in holding me so hard that I slipped out from between your fingers.
I’m leaving. Just two more years and I’m gone. So fast, you won’t even hear me whisper goodbye as I run past you.