For the first time since I was not “C”, I let someone peek over the mechitza. I’ve cultivated a very different persona, we’ll call her Jennifer, for my alter ego; she’s smart, successful, and has it together. She and I share a lot of similarities, of course. We both talk too much, can be loud, and love bringing people together.
With a rising tide of unsettled coffee in my stomach, Jennifer brought a colleague to hang out with us and another OTDer a few weeks ago. For a while, it was ok. The colleague knew C was our shared name but for business purposes my alter ego goes by a more mainstream name. Jennifer had, while walking down the road the day before, said something about the difficulty faced by some parents who weren’t in the Hasidic world. Our colleague’s interest was piqued, but she respectfully and kindly stopped when she saw we were a bit uncomfortable.
All of a sudden, in a small restaurant the next night, Jennifer cracked the steel and concrete mechitza and spoke about the boys. Fleeting, a glass of wine in, but the damage was done. I was exposed, vulnerable, damaged. And I feel like Jennifer, who had been standing in front of me casting an impressive shadow for years, had moved abruptly to the side to show this person half of who I was.
This colleague, who is really quite lovely, hasn’t brought it up again. I feel like explaining to her would be making myself look too weird, too vulnerable. But part of me just wants to spill the rest of the beans to get it over with and have at least someone, other than my partner and two OTD friends, that knows both Jennifer and C. I still haven’t told my lone Frum friend, which seems odd given her understanding of the velt and possibility of some empathy.
Jennifer will always, always exist. She has brought me through the darkest of times with a solid career and friend set I couldn’t imagine living without. But I don’t know if I’m ready to be C more openly. I’m now in a position of either ignoring the hole in the mechitza in the hopes it’ll rebuild itself – the viewer developing amnesia to that specific revelation – or sharing more because it’s already out there.
Of all the problems I could have imagined being both C and Jennifer simultaneously, this wasn’t one. Vulnerability isn’t an outfit either one of us wears well – I guess we’re a bit more similar than I thought.