Moving out of my parents’ home was a long process. Frum people often ask OTDers what “the moment” was. There rarely is a single moment. It’s a build up over years.
2006, age 18: I thought about the “older singles” I knew who still lived with their parents at age 27 or 35. I mentioned in an offhand comment to my mother that if I’m not married at a certain age, I will move out, though I was unsure what that age would be and what my limits were.
My mother said “let’s cross that bridge when we get there, there’s no reason to think you won’t be married soon.”
I didn’t start shidduch-dating right after seminary because my older sister was still single and I was “waiting” for her, as is common.
2009, age 21: My sister was still single, but I wanted to start dating. My parents spoke to my sister, who was okay with it.
Before my first date, I reminded my parents that I planned to move out if I wasn’t married soon, and gave a tentative age limit of 27. “Let’s cross that bridge when we get there. Right now, just go out with the guy.”
2012, age 24: I graduated college. I had gone on one date each with five guys (except the first one, who I’d been pressured into a second date with). I found out that my parents didn’t tell me about the many shidduchim that never got past the investigation stage.
I told them that I wanted to move out and get my own place, that I couldn’t afford it just now but that I was saving up for it and scouting out potential living situations.
“Please don’t go,” my father said quietly and took my hands in his. “Please stay here with us. Please don’t move out.”
I applied to PhD programs. I limited my choices to schools within travel distance of Brooklyn.
My top choice was Yale, and I realized that half its appeal was that my parents would be okay with me spending four days a week in an apartment there, coming home only for the weekends.
They were a little concerned that if I started a five-year program at Yale, I would limit my shidduch options even more. After all, who would go out with me if the decision about where to live after marriage was so complicated, when I couldn’t just pick up and move to wherever he was working (or learning – they were still holding on to that hope)?
I spoke to a frum friend who strongly advised that I should make my decision based on what’s right for me now, because no one knows the future.
I knew what I didn’t want in my future. Kind of. But I was scared of admitting it.
2013, age 25: I didn’t get into Yale. I was accepted to University of Connecticut. After a few email conversations with some people there, I knew the program was not right for me.
I went on a campus tour anyway, if only to pretend and imagine for a moment that I could live away from home.
The students who took me to lunch didn’t know I was Jewish. They joked about putting bacon on everything because it tastes so good. I pored over the menu, heart pounding, and ordered a salad with no non-kosher ingredients.
A Jewish professor who worked on topics slightly related to my interests met with me and told me about the Jewish community not too far from campus. I felt my insides shrivel up and die.
In the fall, I started classes at the CUNY Graduate Center.
I had slowly been dropping religious practices one by one but still considered myself frum.
During my first semester of grad school, I went on a shidduch-date for the first time in two years and admitted to myself once and for all that I had no interest in shidduchim, or in the Jewish life I had gotten used to describing to shadchanim.
Shortly after, I experienced my first Saturday as a regular day of the week and not as shabbos. I stepped up my efforts to find a place I could afford.
In mid-December I found a sublet in an Upper West Side apartment with two modern-Orthodox roommates. I was set to move in on New Years Day 2014.
In the last week of 2013, I told my parents.
“Okay,” my mother said, and I watched the tip of her nose turn red and knew she was holding back tears.
“Please stay,” my father said. “What can we do to make you stay?”
Nothing, I said. I already signed the sublease.
2014, age 26: I had financial difficulties and asked my parents for a loan.
“I’ll give you the money,” my father said, “it’s not a loan. You can always ask if you need. And you know, you can always move back home. You belong here, with your family, anyway.”
I’m not moving back, Tatty, I said.
He continued asking me to move back for a while. He stopped asking around the time I dyed my hair a noticeable red and cut it short and stopped covering up my tattoos.