"I’m bruised and battered," says Jeri*.
"I need to have a talk with that young man," I say.
Jeri goes to bed. She was out partying until late.
"When I was here last," I whisper to Jezebel* and Rachel*, "she had a topless man in her room."
"He’s gay," says Rachel.
I want my friends to go to therapy. "You might get a three-in-one deal."
"I don’t think Jane* is going to convert," says Jez. "She’ll have too much anger at the rabbis for saying she’s not Jewish. Her father is Jewish. She was raised Jewish. She always thought of herself as Jewish. Her Reform temples always considered her Jewish. I consider her Jewish."
"All that anger coiled up in that tight little package," I smile.
"Shut up Levi, she’s my best friend," says Jez.
"I said it with the utmost respect."
"At the last party, Joe* said to me, ‘More people would date you if you had an Orthodox conversion.’ I was born Orthodox. I was raised Hasidic. I know ten times as much about religion as he ever will. I was embedded in religion."
"It’s where you make your best moves."
"My dad hates psychology," says Rachel.* "He’s always saying how religion and psychology compete and you have to choose one or the other. He uses it to put me down. He just can’t relate to people. He’s not emotionally available. I tell my kids how lucky they are to be in therapy. I wish my parents had sent me to therapy."
"Do you think that’s why you’re attracted to emotionally unavailable men?" asks Jez.
We all agree that you can’t help who you are attracted to. It’s hard-wired in you early. Dr. Stephen Marmer says we are attracted to people who can recreate our early childhood drama. We want them so we can then change them and heal ourselves. "We’re only attracted to people who hurt us," says the psychiatrist.
It’s 10:15 pm and we’re trying to put on our armor for the Jewish thing.
"Feelings aren’t always the most important thing," I think. "Sometimes you have to do things you don’t like, such as convert to Judaism through an Orthodox beit din to make your life easier in the long run, and to make things easier on your children who otherwise won’t be considered Jewish."
Jez and Rachel drink a few mouthfuls of straight liquor. They sputter, cough and lose their inhibitions.
"Rachel and I hung out in the bathroom at the JCafe party," says Jez. "We sat in their drinking. It was so much. We got so buzzed."
"Don’t say that!" protests Rachel. "Levi already thinks I’m an alcoholic."
"Did I say that?" I ask.
"But only once."
"It’s the type of thing that you don’t forget."
Rachel has feelings for her doctor but fears expressing them.
I’m labeling this post fiction so I don’t get anyone into trouble.
"Maybe your doctor has feelings for you and is afraid to express them?" I ask.
Jez and Rachel take another shot of liquid courage.
"Is he particularly attentive?"
"He’s great. He gives me a lot of time. He goes to a lot of trouble for me."
"Levi," says Jez, "I want to be just like you when I grow up, only not on lithium. But your friend is bipolar. She was hitting on everyone in sight. Male, female, it didn’t matter to her. And then she pretends to be so religious. Why do you pretend to be so religious? What’s your deal?"
"I don’t pretend," I protest. "I’ve been at the same level of observance for a decade. The only thing that is new is the beard. It’s a journey and I don’t want to end it. I like not shaving. I like how the beard makes me feel. It touches something in me that I can’t explain. I don’t use Grecian Formula anymore. I’m just who I am. No pretense."
"Levi," says Jez, "I love you. Platonically."
Rachel is buzzed and has lost her inhibitions. "Levi had hopes of sleeping with you early on," she says. "He wanted to sleep with me too until I told him I wanted to keep things platonic. He almost slept with Molly. He would’ve woken up the next morning and she would’ve cried rape. Be glad, Levi."
"It might’ve healed her."
"You need to discuss this with your therapist. This is why you’re still not married. You’re 42 and you think that sex cures everything. It doesn’t. You want to date the 20 year old girls. Twenty year old girls want to go out and have fun. You don’t want to go out and have fun. It’d never work."
"Why don’t you go to therapy?" I ask.
She explains that only a therapist with a lofty amount of education could fruitfully work with her.
We’re walking up Cashio. Jez keeps yelling out the F-word. As we pass religious Jews, we try to bring her under control.
I put them on my arm as we walk into the party.
I feel nervous and pull on my beard.
"You shouldn’t play with your beard on Shabbat," I’m told.
Of course. He’s right. Every time I run my fingers through my beard, bits falls out. You’re not allowed to pull out hairs on Shabbat.
Jez and Rachel are drunk and are cutting guys down left and right. Women have this sixth sense for male weakness and it nauseates them. They immediately know if a guy is too interested and this bores them.
Jonah* from Aish Ha Torah is all into Rachel but when she offers to shake hands goodbye, he recoils. He’s a baal teshuva and he doesn’t touch women. Not in public anyway.
"He probably masturbates to porn every night," says Jez.
"I should’ve said, ‘Your roommate tried to f— me,’" says Rachel.
"He might’ve been happy to touch you if no one was around," I console.