It’s said so often, it’s become a cliche. Everyone jokes about it, talks about it, references it.
I just really didn’t think it would happen to me.
Growing up, the idea that I would one day have anything in common with my parents was both laughable and horrifying. I wanted nothing more than to show the world that this? These people sitting next to me, doing embarrassing things? It was all just a big mistake! I wasn’t with them by choice!
I plotted my escape: I would attend a Jesuit school (Georgetown, anyone?), marry a Catholic guy (in an actual church! just to piss them off) and have lots of little blonde-haired, blue-eyed children, who would go on to lead normal, happy healthy lives, free of the scarring effects that come with having parents who insist on being weird.
But the joke was on me when I was accepted early to Penn. I honestly just really loved the school, and it wasn’t until my fate was clinched that my mom broke the news to me. “You know,” she said, speaking in the wise way that only a Five Towns native and Cornell graduate can, “there’s going to be a lot of Jewish kids there.”
Say what? I honestly had no idea (did the nickname JewPenn not exist back then? Or do we just not talk about these things in Connecticut?)
But lo and behold, she was right. The same things that had attracted me to the school – sprawling urban campus, work-hard, play-hard atmosphere, Ivy League seal – had caught the eye of Japs from Newton to Los Angeles. Suddenly, Hillel was apparently cool. There was a mass exodus from the quad during Rosh Hashonah. I had a friend named Hershel.
My whole world was turned upside down.
Still, I tried desperately to cling to my roots – mainly by wearing lots of Polo shirts and failing to let go of my Catholic high school boyfriend.
The charade came to a screeching halt a few weeks after graduation, when I was tricked once again. This time, it was by a guy I met in Spain, who claimed his last name was a common, pronouncable one, so Anglican it’s featured in a Jane Austen novel. I believed him. If anything, I thought he might be Italian.
But I was wrong. The last name was a mirage, changed from something that ended in “witz” a few generations back. Not only was he as Jewish as they come, he was going to medical school.
Of course, by the time he revealed me all this, around 3 a.m., sitting a little too close to me on a couch in the common room of our Barcelona hostel, it was too late. I had already fallen.
So here I sit in Philadelphia, the same city that my parents lived in when they were first married, when my Dad was doing the same residency that Dave will be applying for next year. They lived in an apartment on the main line, literally at the Haverford train station – an apartment that my Mom actually found on Craig’s List last year during Dave’s and my apartment search. (“Looks like they have two bedrooms available!” she wrote, pasting the link below.)
My parents’ path to Philadelphia was a familiar route too, molded and road-blocked by the Match. Their solution (or really, hers) was to simply get married. She told him she wouldn’t be coming along otherwise, resulting in possible the least romantic engagement in the history of the world. A few months later, they were legally bound, shivering in their heat-less suburban apartment as the trains went by outside.
But still, shivering together.
And now, 31 years later, here I am, shivering in my heatless apartment, hoping for nothing more and nothing less than just that.
Laughable and horrifying, indeed.