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Girl meets Goy

from The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt
Penguin Books 2005

Girl meets Goy
By Francesca Segrè

I’ve laid down the law. I will only date Jewish men. I’ve laid down the law, many, many times. I tell myself that if I date a Jewish man, we’ll share backgrounds, traditions, and beliefs, and, if we get married, we’ll do our duty -- we’ll procreate. Giving birth to baby Ezra and baby Shulamit will help ensure the continuation of Judaism. In short, to marry another Jew is fundamental to being a good Jew. So then why is it so hard?

One soft look from almond-shaped eyes, or, a tender whisper in a Cuban accent, and bam! I’m an outlaw. At least I’m not the only offender. Half of American Jews intermarry. Which, I know, is exactly why it’s critical to couple with another Jew. So, I keep looking.

Looking is easy. Finding is tricky.

In fact, finding another Jew has been complicated for me from the get-go. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. Not exactly the epicenter of Judaism. My brother and I made up half of the Jewish population in our high school. When it came to dating, my choices were not Mordechai, Moshe, or David. My choices were Trey, Travis or Clint. Their emblem of individuality was which truck they drove: Blazer or Bronco? Inclusiveness to them meant inviting all the neighborhood boys, (geeks too,) to go ‘off-roadin’ in the mud together. They dipped and spit. They called my mom ‘Ma’am.’ She winced.

My parents accepted that I’d date Southerners. But they didn’t want me to become one of them with “ma’am” and “ya’ll” speech or bible-belt beliefs. There would be no Southern twang coming out of their daughter’s mouth and I would know that Christmas and Easter were not my holidays. In the car, on the way to school, my father made me repeat “How now brown cow.” I couldn’t leave the car until my “hayow nayows” were “how nows.” While fending off the Southern speech, my parents gently tried to shape my Jewish identity. They sent me to Hebrew school, but didn’t suggest I have a bat-mitzvah, and I didn’t. They sent me to Jewish day camp, but also sent me to a horseback-riding camp. At home, we observed the Jewish holidays if and when it was convenient.

They also taught us, loud and clear, that other ethnicities were to be respected and embraced. For my 5th birthday, my mom gave me, Sasha. Sasha was a foot-high doll with milky brown skin, dark hair and light eyes. Sasha was Indian. Like from India. I was happy with Sasha and her dark, soft looks. I was happy until I went to my friend Christie’s house, and saw Barbie.

“I want Barbie!” I insisted the minute my mom came to pick me up. “Barbie!”

I persisted. I whined. I pestered. “Barbie!!”

Eventually, I wore my mom down and she gave me a set of six dolls. Three females, three males. They resembled Barbie in height and style. But none of them had blonde hair. One male-female couple had black skin. Another couple, brown skin. The third couple, white skin. I didn’t know what to make of them. My older brother did. The second my mom left the room, he twisted the heads and limbs off the dolls and mixed and matched the parts. I shrieked in horror.

“Make the colors match!” I cried. My brother put a male head on a female doll. One of the transplant victims stared at me through her plastic eyes. I screamed. My mom came running back.

She surveyed the bodies strewn across my bedroom floor. A black torso with white limbs. A white torso with multi-colored limbs. She laughed and smiled, relieved.

Now that I’m thirty-one, and have had male limbs of most every color wrapped around me at one point or another, is she still laughing? Maybe she’s re-thinking those “embrace diversity” messages she preached.