I’m fine with Christmas. I really am. I like the idea of any midwinter festival involving lots of lights and warm food, because screw you, Seasonal Affective Disorder. I like sitting in my father’s pretentious living room eating pretentious hors d’oeuvres made by my stepmother while her not at all pretentious family sits on the floor and tells stories about things that have caught on fire at parties they’ve thrown. I even like the extremely complicated arranging that happens between my dad’s Christmas, my mom’s Christmas, Ty’s paternal grandma’s Christmas, and his mom’s Chanukkah/Solstice. It may be complicated and difficult to work out without offending anyone, but the fact that we have to do it in the first place makes me so happy that I’m welcome in so many families. I may not be actively celebrating the religious roots of Christmas, but I am celebrating my extended family.
I mean, I don’t mind Christmas gifts either. But that’s not the point.
The point is that even though I’m not a Jew yet, I’m also no longer a Christian. I’ve been spending every Shabbat morning at synagogue for weeks now. I feel more comfortable in Judaism than I ever did in Christianity, and Jewish theology matches my theology more thoroughly than Christianity’s did even with years of study. And I know, like all non-Christians know, that there is going to be some conflict during the Christmas season.That conflict, for me at least, has already begun. So, without further ado, here is a list of things that are obnoxious about being a conversion candidate during Christocentric Commercialism Season 2011:
N Things that Suck About Christmas This Year (Or, I’ll Pick a Number Later, Okay?)
1. Having to explain to even more people than usual that I’m converting.
I’m not ashamed of my status as a conversion candidate. I mean, much. I still haven’t mentioned it to the nice family who befriended me during kiddush after services when their son realized that he knew someone at college that I had gone to high school with. I just want them to liiiiiiike meeeeeee. But anyway, way more people than usual have been interested in my religious affiliation for the very simple reason that Christmas season–and Chanukkah season–is the time of year when every Christian knows something about Judaism, as soon as I mention my extremely complicated Christmas-Chanukkah-Solstice plans, anyone I’m talking to me immediately asks if I’m Jewish. To which I answer, “MmmrkljsdfjdgnobutI’mconverting.” It’s super eloquent.
2. Trying to figure out who it’s appropriate to buy gifts for and who it isn’t.
Admittedly this is not a unique convert problem. But I have a lot of people with a lot of complicated religious situations–and relationships to each other–in my life, and I honestly have no idea who wants a present and who does. The obvious ones, of course, are the parents, the stepparents, and the boyfriend. They get gifts whether they like it or not. But what about the boyfriend’s parents? Does his mom want a Chanukkah gift, or is she not the gifts during Chanukkah sort of Jew? If she is that sort of Jew, should I still get her a Christmas/Solstice/Festivus gift? What about college friends? What if I offend someone by not getting them something? OH GOD OH GOD THE SOCIAL ANXIETY.
3. My conversion is affecting my mom’s Christianity.
Now I can only write about this because my mom doesn’t read this blog or even know that it exists, since I am one paranoid bird, but the Christmas season is making her… a little wacky. She’s always been the tiny Christmas tree with lights and no ornaments type, midnight mass and maybe an advent calendar but with a generally casual attitude toward the whole thing. But every time I visit her house this year, the decorations and the baking and the planning get a little more intense. I’m starting to think that she is reacting against my conversion by becoming as Christian as she can herself. It’s… a little awkward.
4. The Talk
I don’t mean the sex talk. I have been alive for more than two decades now, thanks, I think I’ve familiarized myself with the reproductive system well enough. I mean the Talk. The one that every convert still on good terms with their non-Jewish family dreads. The “I know I said I was fine with it but actually there are some issues.” Talk. This talk sucks for many reasons, but the foremost for me is that it confirms all the suspicions I have in my anxiety-riddled brain that everyone is secretly judging me and only pretending to be okay with my life decisions and secretly hopes I will be eaten by wolves. I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, people seem to bust out this conversation a lot more often as Christmas gets closer and closer. Every family interaction has kind of become an emotional minefield, and it’s getting kind of stressful. All of these conversations are riddled with “I just want you to be happy, but..”s and “Of course I support your decisions, but…”s. To be honest, I’d kind of like a break from it.
So… yeah. N=4, I guess. I was trying to think of a fifth thing for the sake of a nice round list, but I couldn’t really think of anything to follow up how obnoxious I find that last one there. So on that note, I’m off to wrap Christmas gifts and teach myself how to make latkes without skinning my knuckles on the shredder.