BY: ROBIN ESROCK
In 2007, Mark Penn published a book called Microtrends. The foremost pollster in the USA (and the guy who defined the term “soccer mom”) recognized 70 different emerging sub-cultures that could, in theory, support a hit book, movie or magazine. Snipers, Impressionable Elites, Unisexuals, Caffeine Crazies – and Pro Semites.
Based on research undertaken at J-Date and other Jewish online dating sites, Penn and his team determined that non-Jewish women were actively seeking Jewish men. The reason (besides the fact that we’re fantastically well endowed and look like models): Jewish men tend to be hardworking, successful, family orientated, and treat their partners like princesses.
I breezed through the chapter, had a decent chuckle, and promptly forgot how in demand I was. A couple months later, I began moving in new circles, and noticed a strikingly beautiful young girl, we’ll call her Stephanie, who was quite a proponent of the slam poetry art scene. With a shaven head and piercing green eyes, she walked like a queen amongst her subjects. Smart, funny, and Jewish too. Now I’d never dated a Jewish girl before, and was reaching a certain age where it wouldn’t be a bad idea. As a proud cultural Jew, I’d always fall in love with beautiful goyim, but not with the idea of a mixed marriage.
Stephanie introduced herself as a yid, presented herself as a yid, and hung out with another cute yid girl who I actually tried to date first. Somehow , I blundered forth in my pursuit of Stephanie, and through persistence and being at the right naked pool party at the right time (don’t ask) I finally won her over.
It turned out that Judaism and family were as important to her as it was to me. She performed poems about her Jewish background, and was unashamedly proud of her background. We started dating, it escalated quickly, and pretty soon, she was coming over for shabbos with the family every Friday night. She may have looked and behaved a little unorthodox, but my mother was thrilled, my father was pushing wedding bells, and we decided to move in together after a couple of months.
I was in the midst of filming my TV show, which required months of full time travel. Stephanie’s brother was getting married back in the UK, and I decided to use a break to fly over and meet the parents. Born and raised in England, I was looking forward to seeing her in her natural element. My flight landed on a Friday afternoon, and Stephanie and her mom excitedly greeted me. It was a long drive into the countryside, where I met her Dad, who grew up in the small town where I went to college.
There was immediate rapport, and everything was going splendidly. Her Dad pulled a roast out the oven, we sat at the dining room table, opened a bottle of wine or two. There was no kiddish, but hey, not every Jewish family lights the candles and makes the brocha. Eventually, I asked about their background, a bit of family history. Stephanie had told me, and my family, that her grandparents on both sides were German Jews, who had immigrated to the UK shortly before the war. Her most powerful slam poetry was about the anti-Semitism her grandmother had faced growing up in Germany. I brought up the subject, and below is how the conversation progressed, word for word, as I choose to remember it:
Me: So your parents were lucky to escape the war, did they lose any relatives?
Mom: Lose any relatives?
Me: In the Holocaust?
Dad: Why would we have lost family in the Holocaust?
Me: Well….being Jewish and all…
Mom: Us? Jewish? Oh we’re not Jewish ha ha!
Dad: No no, where would you get a silly idea like that?
Stephanie: Eyes looking down at roast beef, mash and peas.
By this stage, the wine had mixed with jet lag and all round general confusion. After dinner, I suggested that Stephanie and I go for a drive. We took the Beemer onto the highway, and drove as far as Wales.
Me: What the hell?
Stephanie: Well, I just always wanted to be Jewish, and when I moved to Canada, I thought I’d just become one.
Me: You lied to my parents, lied to me, lied to your friends, and well, you can’t just become Jewish because you think you are.
Stephanie: Well, I didn’t think anyone would mind…
On further investigation, it turned out Stephanie had made up quite a bit about herself. Her education, her work experience. Stephanie was, as Dave Matthews put it, a “Psycho Betty.” I flew back home, moved my shit out of the house, and that was that. I had just had a close encounter with one of Mark Penn’s more determined Pro-Semites.
It’s not the fact that she wasn’t Jewish. It’s the fact that she felt the need to lie about her history, create a fantasy about her faith, and falsely represent our community within the public eye. Conversion for her was ridiculous. A pathological recreation of your past isn’t a great start to a meaningful relationship.
I bumped into her a couple times on the street. There was always a sadness in her eyes. I think she missed Friday night at my parents, missed her inclusion in a world she wasn’t part of. Not that it stopped her. A year later, there was a profile about this dynamic and proud young Jewess in the local Jewish newspaper. Oy vey.
Robin Esrock is a Vancouver-based travel writer and TV host. He’s getting married this year to a beautiful Brazilian. She converted. You can find him at www.robinesrock.com