Monday, May 2, 2011

Arguments in the Borscht Household

A couple days ago, Stephanie over at the always engaging Like the Vodka wrote about how difficult a multi-cultural marriage/relationship can be. I wanted to answer in the comments section, but figured it would make a great post that dives into my own relationship with my Russian Spy Wife.  So I'm bumping the possibly ten or twenty billion other great ideas I had for a post today, and discussing my relationship.

When I proposed to my wife - her family was slightly put off.  How could a gentile possibly love one of God's chosen people?  They were convinced I would turn around one day, slap her and call her a kike before going off to get drunk and steal everything from their family.

This is the stigma that Jews from the old country have.  I don't blame them - especially when they've been branded from birth as "different" - their nationality marked in their passports as Jewish, not Russian.  My wife was ridiculed constantly in school for being Jewish, and her dad received death threats for starting his own business and succeeding.

But when you enter a new environment, you assimilate to the culture.  It is a trait of all species - something that enhances survival.  And finally, while assimilating, you realize that for the majority of people in America, at least, differences drive relationships.  Homogeneous populations quickly become tedious.   Of course, there are those that hold on to homogeneity for fear of the unknown, but they're rare.

We had an acquaintance who came to the States from Ukraine when he was five or six.  So by no means did he have any right to continue to call himself an outsider to this country.  But for some reason, he plagued our lives with constant commentary about how our relationship was putrid, and how I was never going to be good enough for my wife because when I was a baby, I had some water ceremoniously splashed on my head.  He sent my wife an e-mail with a link to a story where a Jewish woman married a Christian man, and he never respected her and cheated on her constantly.  I never saw him after that, but if I do - his face will be putrid.

The dude is an ass.  But I know there are people like this out there - so I'm not naive.

So why did we work?  What was it about her that made an immature 19 year old kid decide within three months that he wanted to marry a girl from a place he'd never heard of? 

Values.  It's the mortar that holds up our wall.  I might sometimes miss having a girl who knows about the Ghost Busters, or who gets references to anything after Malachi (I think that's the last's been a while).  Just the same as she might miss having a guy that can dance the Trepak, or sing Malinka, or go into a deep depression regularly remembering the atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people (that's something they do, right?)

But these are just niceties. They're learned traits.  I've picked up a good amount of Russian culture, just the same as she's picked up a lot of American.

What holds us together and binds us are values.  Absolute devotion to each other, to family, and education.  The desire to have a large family.  Agreements in household fiscal policy.  Alignments in worldview.  And probably the thing that makes us work the most is a desire for the other person to have as much as they want of their own culture and traditions brought into our family as possible.

Things are difficult when it comes to the kid.  What holidays to celebrate, whether he will be raised Jewish or Christian.  Bris or Baptism?  Confirmation or Bar Mitzvah?  What if he grows up and wants to wear a cross necklace?  or a star of david necklace?  How are we going to deal with that as a couple, and as parents?

We finally decided that these disagreements we're having are secondary to his happiness.  Will he care either way?  Likely not, just as long as he's happy and loved, and as long as his parents love each other. 

This has mostly brought our arguments born out of cultural differences to a standstill. 

But it also helps that she is super-model hot.


  1. I had a few witty comments. But you know what, this is a lovely post. Well and truly sweet.

  2. Amazing how children bring a whole new perspective to arguments. Very nice post!

  3. Wonderful post. If it makes you feel better, in many households a child is taught what bother parents believe and they still decide on what's best for them no matter what you do or say. Fill them with everything and let them decide, they will weather you do or not. (Yes, I have and 18 year old).

    I agree whole-heartedly about values. I always like to say my husband and I are polar opposites in personality but the same in character and that is what stands against life and hold you together. I'm so confused by people of ill-will and have to assume it is because of their own issues. It's so odd to get so involved in another person's life without intentions of building them up.

    I loved this post and am encouraged by it.

  4. Thanks for the shout-out but I'm kind of cranky now because you just wrote rings around my lazy ass on this incredibly complex, challenging topic. I assume it's because you're younger than I and have more blogging stamina.
    P.S. Beautifully said.
    P.P.S. I'm not actually cranky at you, not much.

  5. You know you're raising a Buddhist right?


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