This is the tenth and final post in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
The other day my fiancé said to me, likely in response to something ridiculous that I’d just blurted out, “Marriage is whoever you marry.” I was silent for a moment — a rare moment that I hope he appreciated to its max — and then breathed out, “That was really deep.” For once, I wasn’t saying it sarcastically.
My fiancé didn’t quite understand why I found what he’d said to be so profound, but that short sentence really summed up something that I’d been trying to understand.
We’ve all heard the phrase “marriage is an institution.” And while it’s usually applied by a right-wing homophobe to an anti-gay marriage argument, the expression has meaning beyond that. What they’re saying, essentially, is that marriage is something that has set rules and boundaries defined by centuries of tradition and expectations of how marriage should go. That idea certainly rang true with me, as someone who grew up thinking of marriage as an “of course.” Of course I’ll get married. Of course I’ll have kids. The only variable was when I’d arrive at both of those life stages.
This post is the ninth in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
The number one lesson I’ve learned from planning my wedding is: This is not my wedding. Sure, I get to wear the ivory gown and the invitations have my name on it, but the wedding is only a fraction about me and what I want. I’m not even sure how the Bridezilla creature was invented; whatever bride actually forced the wedding party to bend to her own personal will must surely only exist in the fantasies of frustrated brides everywhere.
It’s common to read (and receive, from well-intentioned or simply thoughtless friends) articles on why and how weddings should be limited in both expense and size. Every few months, it seems, newspapers regurgitate the topic with a selection of new words and ingenious ideas for cutting costs. But I don’t see the average cost of weddings — not to mention Jewish weddings, outsized only by Indian fares — getting glower, in spite of the plethora of brilliant suggestions published by every news-source ever. As a bride, I get it.
I spent half of my wedding-planning months scheming how my fiancé and I could elope. Not only would it be easier, we argued, but it would be so much cheaper. A quick trip to Atlantic City, a cute hotel on a beach, no fuss. When we presented the idea to our parents, half (but only half) jokingly, they played along. Sure, they said, why not? You’ll save us money and headaches! Inevitably one of the siblings would jump in: “But you’ll bring us along, too, of course.” They couldn’t imagine not being present at our wedding. And if they had to come, then our closest friends had to come, and if we were inviting our friends, then relatives would be hurt … and so it was just a case of giving a mouse a cookie — they’ll want milk and, eventually, a wedding invitation.
This post is the eighth in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
I got a text the other day from a friend: “Try not to become one of those mundane married people like everyone else.” He and I had been talking about marriage, vaguely, so it wasn’t necessarily out of the blue, but it really hit home.
I wasn’t so much offended by the implications of the message as I was worried about the potential accuracy of the prediction. Will I become one of those boring married people? The type of woman who never leaves the house and whose only Facebook posts consist of pictures of the food she made that night for her husband? I have too many Facebook friends blocked from my newsfeed for doing just that to think it’s just a stereotype. This happens. And I’m dangerously close to becoming That Woman.
I could already see it happening, and I wanted to take future married Simi and shake her by the shoulders and shout, “Go out! See your friends! Do something immature and stupid that you’ll regret in the morning, and for God’s sake don’t come home before midnight!”
Many of my friends are college students, and from their perspective even the most boring night includes visiting friends all over the dorm, so married life probably seems the height of dullness. Where was the adventure, the carpe diem that couples had before they got married? Why do married people all talk about cooking and new dishes and work? How could they be satisfied just curling up at the end of the day and watching TV when there was so much to do outside? (And then, eventually, the horror of becoming the couples who only talk about their kids!)
Not all married couples are like this, and even when they are, who’s to say they’re boring and not happy with the simple pleasures in life?
This post is the seventh in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
When my fiancé, Jeremy, and I were studying in yeshivot in Israel — at the same time, but completely unaware of one another’s existence — we each came to the conclusion that we wanted to marry someone we could learn with. In our extremely text-focused programs, floating on spiritual, religious highs engendered by months spent immersed in ancient and modern Jewish texts, we separately concluded that the ideal marriage would be one where our life partners doubled as learning partners.
By the time we met, years of college and life had changed both of us, and we no longer placed learning together as a major priority; in fact, we hardly thought about it at all. Much more important to us were similar life courses, respect for one another, a shared sophomoric sense of humor — the usuals.
But as the time of the new Daf Yomi cycle rolled around, amid all the controversy and hype surrounding the Siyum Hashas, I realized I wanted to pick up learning a daf (double-sided page) of Gemara a day. I had started this in my second year in seminary, and I missed the regular insertion of Jewish study in my day. I had always loved Gemara and its circular, extreme form of logic. When I mentioned my decision to join the latest Daf cycle to Jeremy, he immediately suggested that we learn it together.
And so began a completely new aspect of our relationship. We had been together for nine months already, and we felt like we knew each other as much as any two people could. (Anyone reading this article who’s been with his or her significant other for years, feel free to smile condescendingly at us.) Going through Gemara together — or, really, learning in any way — was something we hadn’t experienced, and it opened us up to an entirely new side of ourselves as a couple.
Before I came to Yeshiva University’s Stern College, for Women, my mother told me about what the college was like back when she was an undergraduate there. One thing that stood out as something truly mockable was the marriage stats she gave me about her graduating class: “One third of the class was engaged and another third was married when we graduated. And that was more or less the same for every class at Stern when I was there.” Two-thirds engaged or married? While still in college? In my independence-loving, feminism-embracing mind, that was flat-out nuts — and certainly impractical.
The Orthodox Jewish community seems to encourage early marriage — with 18 being an acceptable age for weddings, 26 being considered old and 30, quite frankly, over the hill. Never mind that in the secular world, 30 is when many people start considering marriage as an option. (Inidentally, Israel is now weighing whether or not its citizens should be allowed to marry if they are under 18.)
For a long time, I thought the secular world got it right. I have never been against marriage, per se. It just felt like something to be done once I’d traveled the world and gotten a job that would actually lead to a career. Once I’d gone skydiving and snorkeling. Once I’d tried pot. Not until I used my 20s to my fullest would I be ready to settle down and have a family. Or so I thought.
And then I fell in love. At the unripe age of 22, I met the man I knew I wanted to spend my life with, and it only took me a few months into our relationship for me to realize that.
When one of my editors at the YU Beacon sent me an essay she had received from a friend, I responded to the submission with two words: “Love ittt.” The nonfiction piece, submitted anonymously to the Beacon’s creative writing section, was written by a Stern College student about her first sexual experience, in a hotel room with a Yeshiva College student — an experience that ended with the writer feeling confused and ashamed.
Since that essay, titled “How Do I Even Begin to Explain This,” was published on December 5, it has caused quite a stir. The upshot: The Beacon and Yeshiva University parted ways, and we will no longer be receiving funding from the school.
I founded the Beacon 11 months ago with two other Stern students. The Beacon’s mission: to foster a platform for students at Yeshiva University to talk about what’s on their minds. We felt, at the time, that there was no place for writing on topics that are considered “taboo” — sex, drinking and drugs, among them — and we believed having a forum to discuss these types of issues was important. And so the Beacon was born. The first issue went online in January 2011.
UPDATE: December 8, 12 p.m.: Following a meeting with school administrators, YU Beacon has restored the column to its site. A Beacon editor is telling New Voices that the publication will no longer be subsidized by the university.
Sure, sex columns are staples in college newspapers — spaces where student scribes describe, often in lascivious detail, the bedroom (or dorm room) propensities of their peers.
A recent column published in Yeshiva University’s co-ed newspaper, YU Beacon, was relatively tame by comparison: The anonymous piece matter-of-factly describes a sexual encounter between two students, after which the writer comes to the conclusion that she “made a stupid mistake.”
But as of Wednesday afternoon, the Beacon’s editors-in chief, Simi Lampert and Toviah Moldwin, had pulled the piece at the request of university administrators, with whom they are planning to meet. Apparently some on campus, and in the wider Orthodox community, found the piece too racy for a publication that receives money from Modern Orthodoxy’s flagship institution.