Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happiness is only a Jew Away?

Everyone desires happiness, wholeness, completion. At 25, I’ve pretty much found none of the three, yet notice myself searching for each through different avenues; family, friends, work, school, men. I want to be ridiculously happy, you know the kind of happy where your cheeks hurt so much from smiling, or you feel as if you’ve just done a thousand crunches from laughing so much. Yes, it’s disgusting. Yes, it makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Yes, I want it.

Judaism considers, ‘marriage to be the ideal state of personal existence; a man without a wife or a woman without a husband, is considered incomplete.’ Does this mean that in order to reach that state of nirvana I must marry, because if so, I guess I should search harder, re-do my Jdate profile, up my ‘game.’

In Judaism, they call it basheret zein (to be destined) in my language; I call it Mom and Dad, Brooke and Gary. Truthfully, this statement appears accurate in respect to my life and those around me. These two marriages exist as the ideals set before me. My parents have been married for over 35 years and my sister and her husband are going on year four.

I’ve never had to deal with the D word, divorce; those around me have never become a part of that roughly 50% who can no longer work it out. Divorce is not a part of my language, my life, and I don’t ever want it to be. Well, of course you say, ‘no one wants this to be an aspect of their life,’ but I’d like to avoid this by any means, thus I rely on the facts to lead my life.

Statistics show that certain factors contribute to the likelihood of divorce. Many of them are logical, including age. Those who wed when fresh out of diapers, usually end up divorced, while those who wait till they’re in their boxers, briefs, panties or thongs have lower chances of signing on the dotted divorce line. My mother walked down the aisle at 24, while my father waited for her under the chuppah, wearing a polka-dotted blue bow-tie at 25. My sister signed the ketubah (Jewish marriage agreement) with her hubby when she was 26, he 25.

The odds are with them because, ‘only 24% of those who marry after 25 will divorce.’ I am 25. I’m already beating the odds, but could strengthen my chances if I wait till I’m old, grey and wrinkled, because ’60 year old men and women enjoy the lowest likelihood of divorce.’ It might greatly please my father if I waited that long, and truthfully after my current Jdate experiences, I question whether it might indeed take me 35 years to meet my match. I pray it doesn’t, and hope that God is listening.

Another factor that strengthens the likelihood of dissolution is geography. Where a couple resides apparently has a large influence over marital bliss. People in the south may be politer, making sure to say ‘Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am,’ ‘Yes sir,’ ‘No sir.’ Southern men may be gentlemen, their gals may even be southern belles, but this does not save them from divorce, because ‘the Bible Belt states [Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota] have some of the highest divorce rates of all.’ The divorce rate for Alabama is 5.4%, while the rate for Virginia is only 4.2%. Does this mean that if I move back South and meet a man my marriage might be doomed? My parents have never left their one story brick home on Pine Needle in Mobile, Alabama, and their marriage is still intact and thriving. Does this mean they are the exception? My sister and brother –in-law have yet to relocate from Northern Virginia. Does this mean their smiles are merely a result of their location? And finally, if I move to the North Pole, does this ensure that my husband and I will die hand in hand. These questions appear ridiculous, but when it comes to marriage, divorce, happiness or tears, they might be relevant.

Although these two factors and others (income, education, race) are important, at the moment one factor outnumbers them all; religion. I’ve never been an extremely religious Jew. Growing up, I attended the Jewish Community Center for pre-school, went to Sunday school on Sundays, wore a cute new dress on the High-Holidays of Rosh Hashanna (our Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (our day of Atonement), even sometimes went to Shabbat services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. When it came time for my Bat-Mitzvah, I belted the Hebrew prayers loudly. But, as I grew out of those cute Ralph Lauren dresses, I grew out of my faith as well. I began to question my religion and my place within it. I dreaded Sunday school and saw it as a major hamper to my sleep. I didn’t have many Jewish friends. At my private school, I was only one of five who considered Christ to not be their savior. Instead of attending a Jewish summer camp, I attended a Christian one in which I learned how to sign ‘Jesus loves Me,’ and attended vespers each night. Not one of my boyfriends or crushes were Jews. I honestly believed that no cute Jewish men existed, and that the term ‘hot’ only applied to Christians. But, then I moved to Northern Virginia, met some ‘hot’ Jews, and began contemplating the role my faith played in my future, my marriage, my happiness. Emmanual Clapsis writes: "Controversy abounds on the topic of survival rates, but the best studies show a higher survival rate for single faith marriages than interfaith marriages" Some studies even imply that ‘3 out of 4’ interfaith marriages end in divorce, thus if I to continue to take every action possible to prevent spousal separation my decision regarding a yarmulke wearing mate over a gentile (non-Jew) should be simple, a Jewish man it is. But, there is a big, B-U-T, because I still don’t know. Yes, the ideals set before me are of happy Jewish marriages, but truthfully before I find my basheret, I need to simply find happiness, and until then, I’m not ready to know.

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