It’s a Mitzvah
All my life I have wanted to be loved. I was demeaned and diminished by my parents for as long as I could remember.
Although my parents weren’t religious, they knew a few Hebrew words and used them to underscore a point. In response to someone’s good fortune, but especially if a friend’s daughter were getting married, they’d exclaim, “It’s a mitzvah! They’re going to give Beatrice and Ralph grandchildren.” I heard this often and wondered if I would ever hear the words, “It’s a mitzvah” for an accomplishment of mine, particularly if it meant I was going to marry (and marry a Jewish man).
But I had a problem (or two) standing in my way when it came to the opposite sex. I was attracted only to non-Jews, but way down deep, I knew I had to marry a Jew. That’s what my parents wanted, and no matter how hard I fought to free my thinking about what they wanted and think about what I wanted, I knew my fate.
Nevertheless, I fell in love. With Steve. Steve was sexy and fun, and the weekends we spent together were never long enough. But Steve was Catholic … or Protestant — but he definitely wasn’t Jewish.
Why did I always fall for a gentile? I realize now it was an unconscious intention to avoid marriage altogether. My parents’ suffocating relationship terrified me. It may have worked for them, but it would never work for me. And I seemed determined not to do what my parents wanted me to do. Their words, messages and judgments were crippling me. And although I didn’t see it then, part of me was angry as hell at everything they had put me through. Would I really give them the satisfaction of marrying a Jew?
By the time I was 36, I started to wonder if I would ever get married. Almost all of my girlfriends had said their “I do’s.” Like many young women of my generation, I dreamed of a beautiful wedding, a dazzling gown, and me, glowing and radiant like never before. Was I going to be alone for the rest of my life?
One night I went to the restaurant at the Marina City Club in Marina del Rey to meet some friends. I had to make my way around a crowded bar to reach them. An attractive man caught my eye. Tall, dark hair, chiseled cheekbones. I made some memorable remark like, “Hi,” and we started talking. Within the first few minutes, I found out his last name was Rosenberg.
I could have run. But he had a beautiful smile, a great personality and seemed to like me. I went over to my friends and tipped them off that my evening was booked. I returned to Mr. Rosenberg and we chatted and flirted and, after a while, decided it was time to leave. I knew my friends wouldn’t miss me; after all, they’d invited me for the purpose of meeting someone. When we got to my car, he asked if he could stay on my sofa that night because it was too far to drive back to his place. What?
What a lame pass. I would have liked him better if he’d said he’d wanted to have sex with me. Not that I would necessarily have agreed to it but I figured at least it would have been honest.
Then he asked for my number. I gave it to him but hoped he wouldn’t call. And he didn’t.
I told my parents I had met a real jerk.
And that was that.
A week passed and a close girlfriend flying back from New York asked me to pick her up at the airport.
Would I really give my parents the satisfaction of marrying a Jew?
I decided to stop at Donkin’s for a drink before picking her up. Donkin’s had been a popular singles hangout in its day. In fact, two of my girlfriends had met their future husbands there. I figured, what the heck. Maybe it’ll work for me, too.
I entered the bar and found the place empty except for two men at a high table. Not wanting to sit alone, I walked over and asked if I could join them. They were very gracious, and invited me to sit down, and we all started chatting right away. One of them looked vaguely familiar. He was good looking and very nicely dressed. I wondered if I had met him before and, if so, where. Then it dawned on me. The Marina City Club. It couldn’t be. That guy I remembered as a creep was now a perfect gentleman. Only a week before, I couldn’t wait to get away from him. Now I was really enjoying talking with this man.
They said they were going in to have dinner and invited me along. I didn’t have dinner but stayed for a drink.
Jerry Rosenberg called me the next morning asking to take me to breakfast. I found him charming and funny and he liked that I laughed at his jokes. And I loved that he came from a large family because I was an only child. Rosenberg. A Jew.
We dated for about six months, fell in love, then he moved in with me. He bought me a pair of roller skates. My father complained, “I’d rather it was a diamond ring.” Rosenberg and I skated on the Venice Boardwalk and got to know each other better. It was clear to me that he loved me. I had become deeply attached to him, his light spirit and his lovable, affectionate ways.
A few months passed. And then one night at home, while snuggling on the sofa, he asked me to marry him. I made him repeat it.
I had the wedding I had dreamed of, and married a man who adored me. I found my home with Jerry Rosenberg, in no small part because he was Jewish. We had that bond. That history. That innate understanding.
And although I had waited decades for it, and my relationship with my mother and father was still rocky at best, I finally heard the words I had so longed to hear from my parents. But I already knew it. It was a mitzvah.
Lynn Brown Rosenberg’s memoir is “My Sexual Awakening at 70,” and is available on Amazon.