Ten point nine on the Shiksa Scale
A story about a lady who has a problem.
(This another re-post and has also appeared in an anthology and is published in my book Voices but I thought I would give people a giggle.)
So, I’ve become what I have always tried not to be. Twenty-five years I’ve resisted and suddenly, he says one thing and I am mutated, transformed, overnight, like turning into a cockroach. I’m amazed. It isn’t like he hasn’t given me the opportunity in the last twenty-five years.
I can safely say, the best time I had with my son was the nine months from when he was conceived to when he was born and even then he was a pain in the…
Right from when he was tiny he was a whinger. At his Bris you would have thought the Mohel was cutting all his bits off instead of circumcising him he made such a fuss. And his first hair cut! His father, rest him, was so embarrassed he left him in the shop for almost an hour.
At school, academically he was always excellent. You could be proud of a boy like him but when he became bar mitzvah, that was something else. He was a bit of a Jack Rosenthall — you remember Bar Mitzvah Boy? — that was my son only maybe not quite that bad. He did his standing up for himself, let everyone know that he knew the law but then he went through it all faultlessly. He gave us a scare though. Imagine the simkhe afterwards.
I’ve always tried to be laid back about everything, not to put pressure on him. I remember the way my brother suffered and I swore that I would never be like that with my children, were I blessed with a son. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mother, she was a good mother she went through a lot to bring us up the right way but she was a Jewish mother, a typical Jewish mother and I didn’t want to be like that.
Perhaps that’s why he’s always thought he could go his own way, perhaps he thinks I don’t care. I do.
There was a time towards the end of senior school when I thought he might be you know feygele — gay but he wasn’t, he just wasn’t at all interested in girls then. Some boys are, some boys aren’t.
I think the worst thing — well I know the worst thing — until this was his career choice. Being so gifted and intelligent I thought maybe the law, medicine, even a rabbi at one point. What does he choose? He’s a veterinary surgeon. Please don’t misunderstand me, I have a great respect for animals. Their welfare and wellbeing is as important to me as to anyone else but I’ve never kept pets. It’s a hair thing, a fur thing. I’m allergic. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs I can’t… They make me itch. That is what my son chooses to do. I don’t mind with the small animals, little kittens, puppies but he’s also done the farm animals which I can’t approve of. In maybe a sow’s rear end is not the place for a good Jewish boy’s hand to be.
And he is a good Jewish boy or he was. That’s why I can’t understand this … this woman. It isn’t as if he doesn’t know any Jewish girls, he does. We don’t live out. We have a community, small, I grant you, we aren’t that many but there are girls around and good girls, pretty girls, Jewish girls.
So why does he suddenly tell me that he’s seeing this woman? She’s forty-four, nearly my age, divorced with grown up children. If his father was alive, this would kill him.
I keep thinking, what would my mother do? I know the answer to that. She would take the sharpest kitchen knife she could find, place it in his hand and say; ‘Here, cut out my heart, why don’t you?’ Oy! She was a real drama queen but she cared, she really cared.
Now I’ve become her and that’s someone I didn’t want to be.
I suppose it’s hard wired into the Jewish brain, the grandchildren thing, the need to continue. That’s why we desperately try to keep our children from marrying out. Of course I want him to be happy but I want to be happy too. Is that so wrong, to want the pride and not the pity. I don’t want people saying; ‘Poor Mrs Shumann. She’s so brave with her only son marrying out. The shame would have killed me.’
We used to say that my mother had a scale of unacceptability. We called it the Shiksa scale with my brother. It would start with an observant girl of child bearing age who had one or two Reformed or preserve us lapsed parents and that would be a one and it would go on up through the realms of unacceptability. Oh mame, this one your grandson brings to my Shabbat table is at least a ten point nine.
But on the positive side, he is bringing her, he is letting me at least meet her. Which I suppose shows some respect.
Maybe she can still have children? Maybe she’s willing to convert?