Saturday, March 25, 2006

There hasn't been too much knitting going on worth mentioning. A couple of pairs of socks started and rotating around, (Cam's are coming along now) and a few rows on the sweater back. Ho hum. Er, I ate Malaysian food. And had some excellent chicken mole which passed the San Felipe test (which is, if it's as good as the mole in San Felipe which was the pinnacle of mole, the measure by which all subsequent mole is judged, then, it's good mole) and some very crappy sushi. How do you fuck up albacore? I ask you? Is albacore so hard? Albacore is the standard by which all sushi bars are judged. If the albacore is good, I'm happy. Aside from that, a truly spectacular migraine chipped out a few days from my week and we had a houseguest. Woo! I went on a quest to find the Hollywood sign. High drama. What an exciting life I lead and aren't you totally glad that I haven't been documenting every bit by thrilling bit?

Today was spent with the husband's family. They are not quite like me, we don't share much in common. They are fundamentalist Salvation Army, right wing, homophobic, anti-feminist and very conservative. I love them because they are the family I married into, but I do not understand them. We share very little and 98% of my life is a closed book to them. For ten years, I've maintained a quiet balance. Mostly we go, I sit and knit in a corner. Mostly I shut the hell up, listen a lot and I try to show respect to them and find points to be positive about. I've tried really hard.

I do enjoy my tiny nephews who have not yet absorbed their parent's ideology, not yet begun to believe in ideas that break my heart. I have this hope that maybe just having exposure to their whacky auntie and her family, that they'll absorb the idea that people come in different packages and it's okay. That by knowing us, someday they'll somehow realize that if someone can have purple hair and be okay like their cousins and auntie, maybe another someone could also be gay and be okay, feminist, pro choice and okay, be 'not like them' and still be okay. And if one day one of my nephews realizes maybe he's something or someone that his family can't deal with, maybe he'll remember that we were a little different but still okay. Maybe he'll remember and give us a call. Because I'd totally be there and we're family.

That quiet balance is getting harder to maintain. It's getting harder to shut up. In recent visits I've had to shoot back rebuttals, dive into open cans of worms like feminism, sex education, birth control and reproductive choice for teenagers and gay marriage because I could. not. shut. up. any. more.

Cans are open. Worms are everywhere.

Today, was really just the most bizarre visit ever. I've certainly seen anti-Semitism before, duh, who hasn't. But I really haven't experienced much of it personally (some kids in grade school who called me Christ-killer but it was a small town and I was like, a novelty.) So we're sitting around and my MiL starts telling us this story about this woman who pissed her off earlier in the week (broke Godwin's Law at a Kiwaniss meeting, I guess) and then she says (as if this explained it all), "Well, she's a Jew."

So I kinda sat there, open mouthed, shocked, thinking (but too shocked to speak out loud), "Well, I'm a Jew." and she says "She's a Jew. She makes everyone feel guilty."

So I said (out loud this time), quietly, "Guilt is actually not a genetic trait specific to Jews." and it doesn't really matter what else got said because it all boils down to this.

"Well, she's a Jew."

I wish I could reproduce the tone here in print. Like, "Well she's an evil pile of shit." or "Well she's satan." I mean, it was really like that. Like she was describing something ugly. I wish I could express how much it disturbed me. I truly think in that moment, my MiL forgot that I am Jewish and that my children are Jewish and so she let down some guard and what? something a little ugly came out? I am still trying to comprehend it, still trying to wrap my mind around it, still figuring out how I feel.

"Well, she's a Jew."

One of those. Because obviously there is something bad implicit in the Jewishness? What the hell? Whisky Tango Foxtrot? And my children, my Jewish children were sitting in that room eating cake and I could not believe that those words came out of her mouth. I did not know how to speak to that. So I didn't really say much of anything. And now I feel like a coward, like a person who enabled something ugly, I feel as if it was my obligation to SAY something and I blew it because I froze up, didn't know what to say.

I'd never really looked at anti-Semitism in the face before. I've seen racism, sure, lots of times. I've seen homophobia, intolerance, I've seen it. And I've spoken. But all those other times I've seen it and deplored it, it was directed at other people by other people, usually strangers to me. It wasn't about me. This? This hit me where I live. It was in my family, and even if it wasn't directed at me, that's where it landed. That shoe fit. And I don't know what to say.

Jew.

There really are no words.

10 comments:

Inky said...

damn, i am speechless as well.

if it were me there would be no more visits unless and apology was forthcoming. sadly, people who use that tone (and even in text the "tone" came through) don't usually apologize because they didn't do anything wrong in their eyes. it's probably good you said nothing at the time, but now that you've had some time to chew on it I'd bring it up privately, and explain how it affected her own grandchildren.

i'm sorry such a hurtful thing happened to you and your children.

if you get a chance email me privately inkchick AT gmail DOT com

Toni said...

I'm speechless.

What.The.Fuck.

What did J do? Did he hear her say it? Did the girls hear it?

To her obviously your just another member of the family and (I hope!) she forgot that you're Jewish. No excuse, of course, but the alternative is that she was trying to insult you indirectly.

I'm just boggled.

Lucia said...

I would have reacted exactly the way you did: too stunned to speak. Did your husband not speak up for you? If he didn't, he should now, very quietly and factually making it clear to his mother that his Jewish wife and children no longer feel comfortable in her presence since she has shown such contempt for their very existence.

I am so sorry.

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

My husband was not in the room, he was off with the FiL and BiL doing male bonding over computers. I think if he'd heard it, he would have said something. I haven't had a chance to sit down and really talk to him about it, but I plan to tonight.

I do plan to deal with it, whether that is asking him to do it for me or bearding the dragon in the den direct, that's up in the air. I need to think about it a lot more.

Z said...

I am so sorry that happened to you. Sadly, it's what I deal with everyday. Every.Single.Flipping.Day. At work no less.

Send her a happy Passover card.

Nothing like a little passive aggressiveness.

Janey said...

Just surfing by (from inky's comments) and I am shocked too.
Perhaps it would be the time for either you or DH to remind his mother that because YOU are Jewish, her grand-children are too. (That's how it goes, doesn't it - Jewishness passes through the maternal line of the family?)

Or maybe that would cause a whole other set of problems.

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

Z, I think what was so weird is, this is Los Angeles. I mean, we have a whole neighborhood called Little Israel. You cannot live in this city without being around Jewish people of all persuasions and while I realize it's naive of me to think there is no anti-Semitism in LA, it isn't something I think of. It isn't something I expect here. And certainly not at my mother in law's table.

Eye opening.

Jill said...

Hi Hon,
I've stood up many a time in defense of my daughter, who is part Mexican. I am also finding that I need to stand up for myself lately, when I proudly announce that I am a French-Basque. I am so thankful I don't understand the mentality of ignorance.

Z said...

I find that it's not the blatent, skinhead, swastika-wearing antisemitism that is so obnoxious. I mean at least those people are honest about it. It's the little pockets of hicks that live quietly in the suburban hood who would die if a cross was burning in the yard across the street but who aren't above telling a real estate agent that we "don't want, you know who, living here honey..."

My neighbors actually told me once that their dog hated black people. Their little chihuahuas! Bah.

It's the ones who tell you to your face how ecumenical they are and then turn around and use the phrase "you people" when talking to you, all the while smiling like "how dare you even THINK I am not a good Christian!" They are the worst.

And sadly, the most rampant.

Elspeth said...

What a horrible situation! And to say it when her son wasn't around -- do you think that was purposeful?

My DH's uncle is Mexican and apparently his grandfather treated him better than his cousins because he was a blond kid and they weren't. I hope your kids don't get treated any differently than the other grandkids.

Wow, I don't know how I would have handled that.