Me, Myself, and My Selfie: My Week Flirting With Pink Hair and Orthodox Judaism
Today’s generation of 20- and 30-somethings are what we’d like to call the aging millennial set: people whose parents met through arranged marriages or happenstance meet-cutes at coffee shops, yet they themselves are now flung in the oft-dramatic throes of internet dating or, worse, dating apps. Here, our intrepid columnist Jilly Hendrix shares her notes as she comes of age in NYC, maneuvering through the perils of work, friendship, and love in the digital age.
While sitting at the hair salon a few months ago, I decided to dye my hair pink. It was unexpected and not well thought-out, but I was heading to an Orthodox Jewish wedding and wanted to distract from my poor Hebrew skills and emotional detachment to love.
The wedding was held in an early-1900s estate surrounded by Italian gardens and a large body of water. The venue looked like it was plucked from the set of Great Expectations, and the party had a Gatsby-esque vibe. It felt exotic, romantic, and foreign. After downing a tequila and gliding through the greenery and shadows of familiar faces, I quickly grabbed my seat in the dining area as I was in no mood for small talk. I looked at the name tag next to me, trying to figure out how to pronounce the letters on it, and braced myself for another round of “What do you do for a living?”
An attractive single man slipped next to me as the waiter began serving the first course. His hair was shaved on the sides and longer on the top, and at times, it fell from behind his ears when he laughed. I was intrigued by his thick Brooklyn accent and how he spoke with such mindfulness. We quickly became lost in conversation, missing most of the wedding highlights.
Was he flirting with me or just being nice? It’s a question I ask myself too often.
As the night progressed, we danced and snuck into corners of the venue to make out. He said he was intimidated to have been seated next to me, and I was flattered. We bonded over vulnerability and a strong sense of self, and we watched the sun rise at our hotel pool. Even though we didn’t have sex, I broke my rule of spending the night with a man after just meeting him—a rule I made because I’m looking for someone to be there during the bright reality of the day, not just the passion of the night. (Cue John Legend.)
But sometimes you meet someone who changes your perspective, and you owe it to yourself to be vulnerable and break the rules, even the ones that are self-made.
We met up later that week in New York before my return to L.A. And again, we spent too much time together and felt that same passion and connectivity; it was like I had swallowed a bunch of Valium. My fake smile disappeared and was replaced with a real smile that I’d almost forgotten I had. I didn’t feel ugly being naked with him, and I didn’t feel alone in his arms (the two feelings that always cross my mind when I’m with a man).
He spoke passionately about his beliefs and dedication to God and tradition. There’s something to be said about the character of a person who devotes so much of their time and life to something that gives nothing tangible in return. As someone who’s constantly in self-discovery mode, I respect a man with strong passions and desire to explore himself spiritually, whatever that may mean.
We were planning on seeing each other the following weekend, and I was comforted in the thought of what this relationship could become. My heart had been closed for so long, and I was excited at the idea of opening it.
On Sunday, I received a text that he wanted to speak about one “quick” thing. He began to explain his heritage and culture, ultimately stating, “I can’t marry anyone who has been with non-Jewish men.”
It’s not the conversation you think you’re going to have after a week of knowing somebody. I wasn’t ready to decide if I wanted to marry him after just one week. I would need at least two to know this.
But I knew what my options were: continue hanging out with a guy who would never be serious about me just because it felt good, or be honest with myself about what I want.
And what I want is real love.
I’m looking for someone to be open to the possibility of forever with me. I’m looking for someone to look at me the way my friends looked at each other when they made a commitment in front of 300 people. Why would I start something that would ultimately fail?
Without a response, I hung up before my tears could reach the other end of the phone. I was angry. Angry at my past sexual encounters with men. Angry to have felt not good enough for someone who hardly knew me. And then angry that I was blaming myself for someone else’s beliefs. Was it possible to replace my vagina for a new vagina? It’s 2016, and I have pretty great health insurance, so the thought crossed my mind… But once the tears stopped, I remembered how much I liked my current vagina and where it’s been. It’s made me who I am today. It’s given me emotional depth and enlightenment and helped shape the woman I’ve become.
I wasn’t even sure if I was upset at losing the person I fell for, or if I was just upset that I lost the possibility of love when I finally felt like I was in a place where I respected myself enough to receive it. I won’t ever know the answer to this.
What I do know is that I kept my personal boundaries by refraining from casual sex and was honest with myself about wanting to fall in love. And for a week, I had such hope in my ability to connect with another human.
By Monday, the pink had washed out of my hair and left behind my original shade of blond. I returned to my normal routine with a new week ahead of me and a new sense of self-worth.
Of course, the story doesn’t end here…
Tune in next week to find out what happens, and tell me: Have you ever been in a situation where religion was a factor in your relationship?