Saturday, July 05, 2008

Taking offense

I've been noticing lately that I take offense to things pretty easily, which is a good way to be offended and upset a lot of the time. It's a concept I plan to explain to my easily offended anger management group, and it's something I need to work on myself. Because I got very offended very quickly twice today, and I don't think the people who offended me are entirely at fault.

The first was Rabbi Enthusiastic, who runs a beginners' minyan -- a place where people new to traditional Judaism go to pray, where the organizers provide a lot of explanation and encouragement -- at one of the local synagogues. I usually don't go because 1) I'm not a beginner and 2) I find that a lot of men I've dated tend to go there to troll for beginner girls, and I am usually not in the mood to see them. But my good friend Chaya was in town and likes to daven there because there's a lot of singing and spirit, so I agreed to go there and meet her.

She didn't show up until services were over -- her parents live in town, and her mother likes to show her off at their synagogue when she visits -- so I sat with some Facebook friends who were very nice to me, even though we don't really know each other terribly well. But Rabbi Enthusiastic totally blew me off, even though he constantly says that he wants to make his service a really friendly and welcoming place (which I haven't always found it to be).

In his sermon, which was about mitzvot that don't always have a clear rationale, like not eating pork or circumcision, Rabbi E said that sometimes Jewish sages have inferred reasons that support doing the mitzvah. In the case of not eating pork, part of the rationale is that pork carries trichinosis and other diseases. In the case of circumcision, Maimonides held that the procedure lowers the risk of venereal disease.

Well, modern science backs up Maimonides. Studies in Africa, where the Moslem part of the continent is circumcised and the Christian/animist part isn't, have shown that circumcision cuts the transmission rate of AIDS dramatically. So I thought I'd share that information with the rabbi after services. He thanked me for sharing and then walked away -- without asking my name, if I was new to the minyan, or making me feel welcome.

So I was annoyed. I considered sending him an offended email, but then one of my Facebook friends hooked me up with an invitation for lunch. Which made me feel less ignored. Lunch was great except for one other guest: a guy I met on a phone sex line and slept with a few times when I was hypomanic. A very unpleasant and embarrassing blast from my sordid past. However, he was as eager to conceal that aspect of his life as I was, so fortunately the topic didn't find its way into the conversation. I decided to let go of my annoyance with Rabbi E.

After lunch it was raining, and I went to Alona and Adir's because they live closer to my lunch host than I do. Alona and Adir have two daughters, seven-year-old Batya and two-year-old Simcha. I have to admit, I'm closer with Simmi. She's more easygoing than her older sister, and she likes me more consistently. Whereas sometimes Batya will play with me and sometimes she won't, Simmi is always thrilled to see me.

I stopped by this morning before synagogue (it's on the way) to find out a good time to come over and play with the kids this afternoon, and Alona said, only half joking "You mean a good time to come play with Simmi. I know she's the only reason you come over here -- you can admit it."

Well, that's just not true. She's the only person over there who's always glad to see me, but I have really tried to spend time with Batya as well so she won't feel jealous. I guess I haven't been doing a good enough job of it, but I've been trying. I told Alona this, and to her credit she apologized. She told me to come over at about 3:30.

I went to synagogue and lunch, and it was raining on and off. So after we finished lunch at 2:20, I decided to walk to Alona's because if I didn't go there then, I wouldn't make it over there. If I went home and it kept raining, I'd stay home and isolate, and I didn't want to do that. I apologized for coming over early, but Alona said it was fine.

Simmi was napping and Alona was exhausted, so she went to lie down. Adir and I played Doll Doctor with Batya for a while, and then she'd had enough of playing with me and focused on Daddy. I offered to check on Simmi so that if she was up, Alona wouldn't have to get up.

"No, that's not necessary," said Adir firmly.

"Yes, because Mommy says --" began Batya.

"Batya, no!" said Adir quickly. He bent down and whispered to her. But it was pretty obvious what she'd overheard: Alona is annoyed at me, and it has something to do with how I act around Simmi. Kids pick up on this stuff, especially sensitive, smart kids like Batya.

I was offended, and annoyed at her earlier remark, so I went home. After all, I've babysat (free, of course) numerous times for Alona and Adir -- often, sadly, I'm not doing anything else on Saturday night. And I don't have kids, and I'm fighting with my sister, so I've got less access to my nieces and nephews. It seemed ungracious, ungrateful, and selfish. I was hurt because I usually don't bother to make plans for Shabbat -- it's hard to be alone, but it's harder to call people and beg for invitations -- and Alona had said I was always welcome in her home. Right then, I did not feel especially welcome.

But Alona works long hours, doesn't have all that much time with her own kids, and doesn't always get enough sleep. She's been a very supportive friend, and she's under a lot of stress lately. Nobody's perfect. Either I could continue to feel offended and angry at her, or I could get over it.

I opted for the latter.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Good for you. I'm sure when Alona is more rested and less stressed she'll apologize. Even if not, it will be a better interaction for you. Good that you could see the other side.