Sunday, October 08, 2006

Siblings: Definitely mixed blessings

Spent the first days of Succot with one of my "successful" siblings, Jerusha, and my parents. She and her husband are both high-powered professionals, live in a nice suburban home with a big yard and tons of square footage; her bedroom closet is almost as big as my kitchen.

I love the kids, I love my parents, and I guess I love Jerusha. But she can also be a huge pain in the neck, and I get very angry almost every time I'm there. She's the world's least gracious hostess -- makes me feel like I'm eating them out of house and home if I take a snack from the fridge -- am I supposed to shlep out to the boondocks with my luggage AND food for the space of my stay, scrambling on and off a bus and a train? I've got a bad knees!

I can't even write coherently, I'm so angry.

The funny thing is, I know Jerusha loves me. She cried and cried when she finally saw me awake in the hospital, after the coma. She told our mother that she didn't know what she'd do if I died. (Of course, when I was recovering and neglected to return one of her phone calls immediately -- can't a girl check her email? -- she said to me, furiously, when I finally called back: "I knew I should have taken pictures of you in the coma to show you how awful you looked! That was a horrible week for me! When I call you, call me back!!!")

My mom tried to pacify me tonight, saying that Jerusha's under a lot of stress. Hello? Who's the expert on stress? The girl who always has to worry about her totally inadequate health insurance! The girl who worries about paying rent and tuition! The girl who still has years of school ahead before she starts earning a decent salary again! The girl who takes a handful of pills every night and STILL has to work three times as hard as anyone to manage her moods!

The difference is, Jerusha takes her stress out on me, and I don't return the favor. Maybe I should. Maybe I should be as nasty to her as she is to me. Abuse her for things that aren't her fault. Mock things that are important to her. Belittle her ideas and ambitions.

She doesn't understand how vulnerable and alone I am. How I've had to do so much for myself. Friends and family can only help you to a certain extent. She's never been alone like I've been alone for more than a decade; she met her husband in college. She never had to move to a new city by herself, try to make friends, then watch her friends get married one by one, leaving her alone. Scramble to earn a living and to get invitations for shabbos. She's never had to spend Shabbos completely alone. She has no right to judge me.

And when I'm a guest in her home, she should try to make me feel at home. Not like an unwelcome interloper that's eating more than her share. (Right now, I really don't need people commenting on how much I eat.)

It's hard visiting my siblings and their neighbors in suburbanland. They're all happily married, own their own homes, have kids. They have everything I want. And none of them wants to go out of their way to help me. They don't even attempt to network or ask around about available single guys. When one of Jerusha's neighbors asked her to ask me about a single guy she knew, it took my sister MONTHS to convey the message -- during which time we spoke on the phone more than once. By then, he was off the market.

I realize people with kids and houses are busy. Kids are an incredible drain on a person's resources, both financial and emotional. They're incredibly needy, and they're a lot of work. Same is true for houses and yards.

Some married people still manage to make the time to try to make shidduchim. Not nearly enough of them, though. The "singles crisis" is a community crisis. We're not being introduced to each other. It's very hard to approach a total stranger and strike up conversation. No earlier generation was expected to do this. Instead, the community took initiative and tried to introduce compatible men and women. And very few people are doing that today.

I know I'm not the only lonely single person wondering why some people get lucky (in the frum world, that means get married) and others don't. I'm about to face yet another Simchat Torah on the West Side, which is kind of like the Olympics of frum singledom. People descend upon the area from all over and try to hook up (which in the frum world means make a connection that leads to marriage).

And I'm Michelle Kwan -- injured, trying gamely for the gold, but always denied. (Although I do find her kind of annoying. Probably that's how Jerusha sees me.)
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

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