Having a mother-in-law is a stark reality I have come to accept. On bad days, it’s like a terminal reality, but on good days I am almost able to see the bigger picture. Difficult as she may be, she ties me to the billions of other women who, after muttering the words “I Do”, involuntarily witnessed a similar ball of flames volleyed onto to their courts.
One of the women to whom this dubious honor links me is the actress Isla Fisher, Sacha Baron Cohen’s betrothed. In case you have been living under a rug in the Sahara Desert, Cohen is the comic (?) behind the hilariously horrifying movie Borat and The Ali G Show. All seven-foot-eight-inches of him can be found carting around the USA and Europe, making asses out of unsuspecting victims. Cohen recently fathered a child with Fisher, and they are engaged to be married – but only AFTER she converts to his religion.
Apparently, Cohen comes from an Orthodox Jewish family. (I am not sure where the Torah prescribes staging homo-erotic cage matches, but whatever. I’ve also been trying to figure out where Orthodox philosophy condones not only dating a non-Jew, but knocking her up out of wedlock. That’s three no-no’s in one short sentence!)
Don’t get me wrong, being religious is fine; what frightens me about this story are the accounts of Cohen’s MOTHER. She seems to be dissatisfied that Fisher has returned to work making movies “so soon” after having her grandchild, when she had expected Fisher to stay home and spend her time making borscht with the extended family. She is also very upset that Fisher seems to be taking longer than desired to convert to Judaism – which means that the summer wedding she was planning on throwing her precious son and his hussy bride must be delayed. (Oh, this is bringing back my own memories!) The atmosphere between Fisher and Cohen’s mother has evidently become so hostile that Cohen himself is mediating relations.
My, what a good little boy he is! Throwing the mother of his child into the controlling clutches of his family. What a guy.
Since reading about this drama, I have actually developed a shred of gratitude for my own in-laws. While they have insisted, like children, that I call more/look pretty/obey/quit ruining their son’s life, they would never demand that I convert. They aren’t Jewish enough for that. They are what you call Deli Jews: Jewish enough to faint over good Rugulah and drink Diet Coke with everything, but not enough to go to temple. Jewish enough to dub a shiksa anyone not wearing Cartier, but not enough to light a menorah. Jewish enough to Oy with gusto, but not enough to demand that I Oy along with them (although this is admittedly my favorite part).
And thank the great pagan gods for that. It has been a point of brief contention with my husband, but it isn’t a big deal. He mentions converting every several months, and I promptly shoot it down. Other than not subscribing to the concept of organized religion, my reason for not doing so is simple: If reciting a few words and going through hand motions can magically “make me into” something else, I’d much rather spend that energy becoming tall, blonde and independently wealthy.
Perhaps, though, Isla really feels it. Perhaps she has been so moved by her love of Cohen, and by the history and ritual she’s witnessed thus far, that she is willing to walk into her mother-in-law’s den and risk suffocation and identity-snatching for love. Maybe there really is a part of her that seeks the mothering presence of manipulation and control in order to make sense of the universe.
Me? I’d tell her to run, Isla, RUN. Just as far as your unholy shoes will take you.