You know what they say: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Except when it DOESN’T….
It was a Saturday afternoon in the summer, and I was lounging at the Bellagio pool, Bloody Mary in one hand, an Erik Larson nerdy nonfiction laminated library book in the other. Mid-chapter on the tragic sinking of the Lusitania, I looked up to spot an adorable alabaster guy seeking shelter from the sun under a tiki hut, confidently sipping away on an umbrella-topped neon pink cocktail. I eventually joined him, and one drink soon turned into two (or five). We were actually both based in NYC and shared a number of mutual friends in the same Jewish circle. Before he and his friends had to head to the hotel spa for massages, we made plans to meet up back home.
Our first date in NYC was as good as it gets, and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about it. Their reaction caught me totally off-guard: “Wait, he took you to a non-kosher restaurant? You know he’s Orthodox, right?” But… we had met over cocktails at a pool in Vegas on a Saturday afternoon, and he had even booked a massage that day. He’d been texting me during Shabbat and had gotten us a cab on a Friday night. My friends must’ve had him confused with someone else.
**Side note: While Judaism has always been very important to me on a personal level, I do not observe Shabbat and never have. I grew up in Johns Creek, Georgia, on a steady Southern diet of chili cheese dogs, popcorn shrimp, and BBQ pork. (I have since refined my palate and also lost 60 pounds, but I’ll never say no to a royal seafood tower.) I also work out my arms on a daily basis and will never cover the shoulders I have worked tirelessly on the TRX to create. Even in the winter. In other words, I couldn’t and shouldn’t date an Orthodox guy as it would be unfair to the both of us (and our Nanas!).**
Fast-forward to our third date: he told me he wanted me to meet someone very important to him. That night, I showed up to find myself in a room of Orthodox men, sitting in a circle discussing the Talmud with a Chabad rabbi. Black hats, beards, and peyot filled the room while I stood there in my halter tank top and neon green skirt, my belly ring seeming to catch every possible ray of light in the dimly lit room. I felt embarrassed and out of place, to say the least. To top it off, literally, I learned he wore a yarmulke every day, all day, just not around me. Standing there, hiking down my skirt while simultaneously trying to cover my belly ring, I realized I had been… YAMA-BOMBED.
ya•ma•bomb: yämə-bäm (verb): when one hides his yarmulke only to later bust it out full-time in hopes he’s developed enough of a relationship with a less religious person that she might compromise her own observance.
Many of us have either been the victim of a yama-bombing and/or the perpetrator. It’s not always a yarmulke, of course. I have a dog AND a cat, for example, and at times found myself omitting the fact I owned either or both of them in order to lure an animal-fearing Adonis or a highly-allergic hunk. Whether it’s a pet, a phobia, a dietary restriction, a child, a divorce, or who you voted for in the last election — hiding something that is an incredibly important part of your daily lifestyle rarely has a positive result for either side. One person will likely feel shame and guilt, while the other will feel duped and confused. An element of the trust you were building will be lost.
So whether your kippah is in your closet, your cat is in the crate, your divorce ain’t done, or your age on JSwipe is still the same as it was in 2012, let’s put an end to the omission and be true to ourselves and others. Starting NOW!