Thursday, 17 October 2013


I’m twenty-six, married and I have one child. My parents got married when they were just seventeen and nineteen, and I'm the youngest of seven. I grew up in a Satmar family. My mother went to Satmar schools, but my father wasn’t the type who went to the tish every Friday night. His family davened in a little shtibel. We didn’t grow up with the Rebbe on our lips or in our head. 
                                            What about on your arms? (chas vesholom!)
My first year in a new high school, there was a choir, and one of the teachers in the school told my classmate who was heading the choir, give her a solo. It was weird! This teacher had a hunch I could sing. That teacher became the first love of my life.
[R] is crazy talented, she wrote beautifully and she was always involved in everything. She was a big macher. She wore the levush, two braids hanging down to there, grey tights, not the normal beige Palm ones.
She was very different than me. Her father wore the shiny bekeshe during the week. My father wore maybe a vest. Her father wore the biber hat, and my father wore the standard Satmar hat. We ended up becoming “more than friends”…(sighs)…though it started out very slowly and unconsciously.
One evening in early Fall, I came up to [R]'s house unannounced, and we were talking a bit. I felt drawn to her, there was something pulling me to her, but I don’t know what it was. I could tell her anything and she would understand. I never had that with anyone. MY family made fun of closeness, by saying things like: ”Are you getting chummy chummy with her? Why are you running after her?" It was looked down on to be such close friends. We talked into the night. And sometimes we would just sit and be quiet on the phone. And there were even times when there was so much going on inside me and she was just there, even though I couldn’t speak.
Sometime after that day, I got a note from [R] telling me to meet her in the basement of the school. We used to correspond through notes and letters, and since she was faculty, there was nothing weird about her instructing the office staff to give me a note. In the end, she was standing in a classroom. I walked in. She told me to shut the door and she shut the light. She was asking me to come to her, and I was dead afraid. I was terrified. I didn’t know about what. My heart was hammering and my body was shaking and I cried. I can’t! I can't! She said not to worry. That was the first time we touched. She hugged me. 
Growing up, I experienced very little touch in my life. No hugging. No kissing. A kind of default setting. I'd made a conscious decision when I was about ten that no one should touch me. I would sit at the edge of the bench, so no one could sit next to me, and I stopped getting or giving hugs and kisses to anyone. Anyway, one night, [R] and I had a sleep-over, which I think is an unusual thing. So we were having a sleep over in her place, we were both in bed and drowsing off. I was in the bed right next to hers, and the air changed. I wasn’t facing her, but my body tensed like I knew something was about to happen, but when it happens, you have the biggest shock of your life. She laid her hand on my wrist. Just that. But my world exploded. The hotness, the goosebumps, the shivers, my heart stopped. Nothing more. I was sixteen, she was eighteen maybe. It was an unexplainable thing. The chemistry between us…I didn’t have to work hard for it. it was just there. I didn’t have to do anything. I could just be me. It felt so fresh and safe. It was as if I was held all the time.
Soon after, the torment and the guilt and the confusion set in. I was always the one scratching my head and worrying, what are we doing? Is this normal. We always hid it. There was a secrecy. An added sense of shame and fear. It felt like love to me, but what did I know?
After a certain time, my father and my cousins said, "You’re going to vomit from her, one day." They said that because we were always together. They thought I was in love with her. It was true, but I also knew that it was illicit, and could never be owned up to. And I never wanted to get sick and tired of her.
[R] got married first and I was more baffled than ever. I don’t understand? How could she be with him AND me? Maybe she didn’t love me anymore. Was she with me from pity? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. But she said it’s different…I hung out at their house all the time. I was there before the marriage, during and afterwards, shopping, talking. 
    The overly friendly friend at the wedding
Even after we were both married, people would ask us if we were sisters, though she wore the shpitzel and I wore a blond sheitel. Our handwriting was indistinguishable. Our singing was exactly the same. I couldn’t hear any difference between us.
The first time I met my husband, we talked for three hours, but I had no feelings afterwards. I was neutral. And then the second time, a week or so later, I was feeling, “This is stupid…what’s the point?"  I didn’t think I had the option of saying NO. I met this boy. It was okay. Now you get married. My mom asked if he was a nice person, but so what? What makes a person say yes to getting married? What is in it for them? Why should I say yes? But because I didn’t say NO, we got married.
The disconnect became even stronger after the tannaim. I didn’t want to look for an apartment, and I refused to think about what would happen after. I was busy making memories with my girlfriend. The day of the wedding was a horrible one for me, but  G-d made me look beautiful for the wedding. I was so terrified that I would hate my own wedding day.
Before heading out to the wedding hall, when we were still at home, my father began blessing me, and while he was doing that, I began to cry hysterically. To my shock and fear, my parents did too. My father said not to worry, that it would be good. But it wasn't.  It wasn’t okay. It never was. It was horrible.
After the chuppah, when we went into the yichud room, he kissed me on the lips, I was thrown back in a bad way. A lady came back to do my sheitel and my face, and she said don’t worry, it gets better. And then there was the mitzvah tanz…whoever invented that must have been very mean! I was literally freaking out. I sat awkwardly the entire time…it was one of the worst moments of my life. 
The day after the wedding I was so sick, I couldn’t look my husband in the eye. I couldn’t sit next to him. All I wanted to do was run away. It was terrible. And there was no one I could talk to. [R] didn’t understand why I felt that way. She was happily married. I didn’t know what was wrong. And my husband was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t know what to do with me. He didn’t know what to say. 
My mother kept on asking me what is wrong and I told her I don’t know. I couldn’t tell her that I don’t feel like when I am with my girlfriend. She asked me if he hates me, if he hits me. I didn’t have words for it. And then I got pregnant, and when I found out, I was crying so hard, I knew it was over. There was no way of getting out of it. This was it.
Around the same time, I told my husband I can’t go to the mikva. He was hysterical.  If I hadn’t taken a  stand then, I'd have six kids by now.
Everyone blamed the rocky start of my marriage on my tight relationship with [R], and then my father called her up ranting, and she called me up and cried and said she can’t be friends with me anymore.
I wanted to protect her, so we ended up breaking up. I was so torn, that my family wanted to wreck the one thing in my life that was good and that I had going for me.
I still have a lot of feelings for her, even after the upheaval, the wreckage we went through. I still sometimes think and wish that maybe things could turn out differently. I wanted us both to be married, raise our kids together, go shopping, plan dinners for our husbands and scheme about Purim costumes.
But that didn't happen. What happened instead was that I got married and instead of being beautiful, it was awful. I was thrown head first into freezing cold water and the shock was too great. Worst of all, I had no one to talk to about it.
Growing up, we could never talk about sexuality or "private stuff" or anything like that. I couldn’t talk about or hear any intimate words like sex, mikva, or period without cringing in embarrassment. My husband put a lot of pressure on me to go to the mikva. He said, "I won’t go to work if you don’t go to the mikva."
My husband doesn’t want to divorce me. I don’t know why. But maybe there’d be no one here to do his meals, his laundry, and his place in the community would be shattered. He still believes we can work on it and it will get better. He refuses to see the differences between the two of us. He won’t make any compromises.
I used to think I'm not gay. I can't be gay, because I'm FRUM! And if you're frum, it's either or. But I've since learned lots of things about the frum queer community (smiles).
I think that the biggest issue in the frum community is that children do not feel safe to ask questions and to talk about things and the reason is because we don’t encourage it. We aren’t comfy with broaching certain topics and because we project such discomfort, the children imbibe that and they don’t ask. Unanswered questions let a child’s mind go in strange directions. Why does a kid have to guess his way along when his mommy is having a baby or something like that? Kids aren’t dumb. They see. They understand. They are smart! They are unbiased and truthful and they take things for what they are. We give them no credit and we squish their growth by not allowing them to talk about whatever they need to ask. Why are you afraid of their questions?