Some of my friends who've never met her are already in love with her. They grew up knowing all about her, and they can't wait to meet her.
Here's the catch: To meet her, you have to go to her. She's not coming to you. And to go where she is, well, it's very expensive, what the Germans call "scheisse teuer".
Plus, it can be dangerous; there's that volatile split personality thing and it's impossible to know when she won't fly off the handle. If you catch her on a really bad day you could get your head knocked off your neck, seriously.
Still, my friends tell me, she's worth it. She's all that. Really.
What's funny is that even my friends who haven't met her yet already love her.
And this is where I get hung up. Because I didn't know much about her growing up (except the split personality part, because she seems to have had that going on since the earth cooled). I didn't really start to hear a whole lot about her until I came into this community as an adult. And then, the messages were more than mixed. They were slanted, or purposefully blind to some of the facts. A fascinating, smart, funny and beautiful woman with split personality (or bipolar disorder, or something) and a hair-trigger temper that I'm supposed to fall in love with before I've met her? And the cost of meeting her is so high as to be completely out of reach.
Flashback: during my bicycle industry days, I traveled to Interbike, the large industry-only bicycle trade show that takes place every year in Las Vegas. Between meetings with suppliers and manufacturers, placing orders and involuntarily huffing the off-gases from the rubber and plastic in the exhibit hall booths, there were outings each evening that one could partake of -- if one was invited. I was never invited, even though by then I knew a LOT of higher-up folks in the industry and knew that I was greatly respected by them. I showed up at one event where I paid my regular admission, then stood outside the VIP area where live music, beer and snacks flowed freely. All the "cool" kids were in the VIP area, and none had invited me to join them. There was also an after-party, to which my co-worker was invited but I was not. So I spent two hours at this event talking to almost no one. Finally, when it was clear that things would not change, I caught the shuttle bus back to my hotel and went to bed. Later, my co-worker staggered in tipsy at around 3 am. She informed me that the after-party was mostly a beer fest with pretty serving girls and lots of men. In fact, she and one other woman had been the only two women there not wearing bikinis and pouring beer. Rumor had it that a few of the serving girls disappeared into other rooms with individual trade show attendees (all men), but that rumor could not be confirmed or denied.
It has been difficult for me not to recall that particular memory when I think about this beautiful woman, also known as the State of Israel.
On some level, I feel like Israel is sort of like a very high-priced escort. A beautiful woman in a bikini, pouring drinks -- or freaking out and throwing shot glasses at the wall, depending on which personality is on display on a given night.
(I get it. I know some people are very attracted to the combination of pretty and pretty messed up. It's exciting, right?)
And worse, I feel like my inability to fall in love with her -- much less meet her -- is shutting me out from some very particular part of belonging in this otherwise really beautiful, amazing community. Like I'm not fully authentic because I just don't know her.
But this woman, gorgeous as she might be, is SO messed up that I'm not sure I CAN ever fall in love with her, even if we ever meet someday (which, on my budget seems unlikely anyway).
Worst of all, I am expected to have strong opinions about a woman I've never met, and do not know how to love.
Sorry, folks, but I just can't be that disingenuous. I've never met her. I can't love -- or even form an opinion -- about someone I've never met. It's an impossibility. And it's maddening when things are so crazy and so many of my friends are waiting for me to get on the bus already and wave my flag and march in the streets and whatever else passes for a membership card in this weird scene. I don't know how to pretend. And I don't know what to make of it all. I wish I did, because identifying with -- no, actually falling in love with this beautiful woman -- seems to matter a whole lot to questions of identity and belonging. While I want to belong and feel like in some ways I already do, this issue hangs over me like a sword some days, and it just gets to be too much to live with the stress and worry from within as well as without.