By Jesse Weiner
“Are you a lesbian?”
I choke on my wine. “Pardon?”
“Do you like women?” My aunt raises her eyebrow.
“No.” My face heats under her dubious stare. “Why do you ask?”
“Why else would you swear off men to live with a bunch of women?”
My eyes go wide. “Seriously? That’s what you think?”
Wonders of Religion As I’ve Seen It
I should’ve seen it coming. When I first converted to Catholicism, most people thought I was crazy. Questions like, “You know how they view women, right?” or, “You believe in the whole ‘Christ in a cracker’ thing?” were all too common. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that many people, family members included, held similar misconceptions regarding religious life.
So there I was, trying to convince loved ones that I hadn’t joined a cult, I wasn’t questioning my sexuality, and I didn’t have a terminal disease. I was simply drawn to the beauty and selflessness in living such a radical, counter cultural lifestyle.
At that time I was working as a campus missionary. Not only was I fundraising my entire salary but I’d also agreed to a year-long “dating fast.” As I’d had a string of bad luck with relationships, taking a step back was a welcome change. It didn’t seem like that much of a leap to “discern my vocation,” or in other words, actively explore the possibility of becoming a nun.
I went on retreat with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver … and left feeling like an awful person because I couldn’t see myself caring for the sick and elderly. I spent a weekend with Benedictine cattle ranchers near Wyoming … and left knowing that silent contemplation is not my thing. It didn’t work out with the Sisters of Life or the Dominicans, either. I loved spending time with such strong, inspiring women, but I never felt that “call on my soul” they described.
During my morning prayers on Easter Saturday I wondered if I was being too picky or if I just wasn’t meant to be a nun. My “fast” had expired, but unlike several of my fellow missionaries, I hadn’t met anyone I was interested in dating. Nor had I found a convent to call home. I left the church, questions and uncertainty buzzing in my head.
But God has a sense of humor.
True Love Prevails…
While taking out the trash later that afternoon, a dog ran up to me. An adorable lab mix with an even cuter owner. Of course my hair was a mess and my shirt was stained. And of course he was a foot taller than me with dark hair and gorgeous eyes. My mouth opened and I found myself asking if he wanted to go to mass with me. He actually said yes.
And there began the story of us. That night, we went to our first and last vigil mass. I kept apologizing because the service was three hours long. He insisted it was okay — after turning to me and saying, “Umm … I’m Jewish.”
So we laughed, blushed at our butterflies and the awkward nature of new beginnings, and drove over to a Rocky Horror Picture Show party. “Janet” answered the door and “Frank N. Furter” poured my new friend a drink. He loosened his tie and rolled with it.
When we became engaged, people thought I was a new kind of crazy. “So are you … converting to Judaism?” they’d ask, or, “How will that work?” I’d simply smile and say, “We’ll figure it out.”
And we are. We were married twice: a Catholic Mass, followed by a Jewish ceremony, chuppah and all. He goes to mass with me every Sunday and I cook Shabbat dinner on Fridays. Now we’ve welcomed our first child. She’ll be baptized, but she’ll also have a naming ceremony. We’ll raise her as a “Cashew”, a Catholic and a Jew.
God gave me the life of a Shiksa over that of a Sister, and I couldn’t be happier.