Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.
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Can I really date a guy who doesn’t wear a yarmulke? Not exactly.
You might be wondering why I’ve been so quiet about (ex)boyfriend and me. I’ve always been a bit protective of our relationship, not wanting to put every detail out there for the world. But I felt like some readers really took a genuine interest, so I thought I should share the basics.
Religion was definitely the main factor all along. It was never a secret that my belief and practice, and his lack thereof, would always be our biggest challenge. Perhaps the second challenge was to actually communicate about it. But when you love someone and love spending time with that person, you tend to push it off. How do you say, “Honey, you’re an atheist. How would you envision our future together?” Or, “Baby, I don’t think I can ever adopt your lifestyle with its rigid rules. I think we should seriously talk about this.” But we were happy in the moment, and when I wanted more from the relationship I never felt comfortable to ask.
I think eventually it was our lack of communication that killed the relationship. Religion was always the elephant in the room that we couldn’t acknowledge. Sure, there were other things. For me, in the end, the little things overshadowed the bigger issues. I was less concerned with what my Friday nights would look like and more focused on how I wanted my partner to make me feel. I just wish I could have said something; I always wished I said something.
The past month has been incredibly difficult – how can it not? I spent almost a year with this person who became my best friend – my go-to for everything – and now I have to work harder than ever to fill that void. But luckily I have great friends (who hopefully know how much I appreciate them), who are so selfless that they’ll make the time to be there for me when I need them.
My roommates have been particularly wonderful, making themselves available to discover even more of what New York has to offer in the ever-dwindling summer. While Annie was catching up with a friend Monday night after her adventures in Madrid, Monica and I decided to go on a little date. We got dressed up, made up, and I even put on perfume. We packed heels to change into before we got to our destination – a Moroccan restaurant that serves hookah. We were so excited – until we got there and found out it wasn’t open to the public because there was a private party. A Jewish celebration, we were told. A henna to be exact – it’s like a Middle Eastern engagement party where the bride and groom and their families dress in traditional garb from their countries of origin. Cousins of the bride, who were visiting from France, invited us to sit with them at a table outside and join the party. After a few glances exchanged between Monica and I, and weighing our options for the night, we decided to take them up on their offer. We sat at their table and were soon offered drinks and engaged in conversation.
We wound up staying for hours, drinking wine, congratulating the family, enjoying the music, observing this long-practiced custom, accepting henna on our palms, and even wondering aloud how we could join this wonderful family. We fell in love with aunts, uncles and the mother of the bride, who we found out is an artist who once had a studio in Williamsburg. An eighty year-old relative visiting from France insisted we take home flowers from the evening.
The whole night I observed the boys we were sitting with, saw how they would always offer women seats and go off to other tables to bring more. I kept telling Monica ,“You see? This is a mentsch.” So much serendipity where maybe it was the alcohol talking, but I couldn’t help repeating, “G-d is good.” It was a perfect evening where some of my deepest desires were opened up in my heart and revealed to me. So much clarity came from one evening.
We were escorted very close to home, arriving at our apartment around 2am laughing and amazed by the night that unfolded before us. Did it really happen? It seemed like a dream, much like the one I had later that night where in it I understood French. When I woke up, I looked at my palm and the faded brown henna absorbed by skin was proof enough that it was reality; it was a dream come true.
This is the beauty of Brooklyn. This is the beauty of life, where plans can only go so far, can be overturned, but sometimes what happens in the end is even better than what you hoped for.