I was 14 when I fell for my first Jewish boy. Granted, he was over twice my age and I’d never actually met him, but what liberal, politically aware teenager hasn’t had a crush on Jon Stewart? And it wasn’t just a passing fancy — oh no, it was a trend. For years I would find myself attracted to actors who just so happened to be Jewish.
As Mindy Kaling so astutely put it, “I, like the rest of the North American world, have a fondness for witty, East Coast-y, over-educated, well-dressed Jewish guys.” I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly — there was just something about the dark curls, intellectualism and knowledge of the Old Testament that spoke to me. I was not sure if this was a reality or a result of watching far too much Aaron Sorkin-produced television. It certainly didn’t help that I went to an all-girls high school and didn’t know how to interact with boys — Jewish or otherwise. When I was asked for my type, I would chuckle awkwardly before sheepishly responding, “Um…Jewish?”
I am very clearly Indian. I am also Catholic. People were confused.
It made sense to me, though. Indians and Jews have a lot in common: We come from cultures that are highly community-oriented, we prioritize education and the highest achievement in either of our societies will probably forever be becoming a doctor. I still remember my Jewish friend telling me a joke about how, at a hypothetical Jewish president’s inauguration, his mother turned to the senator next to her and proudly said, “You should see my other son. He’s a doctor.”
I understood. The happiest day in my mother’s life was when I told her I was taking college calculus, and she’s still hoping I’ll come to my senses and abandon Norton Anthologies for medical journals. And then there’s the fact that I used to read the Old Testament for fun as a kid, back when I had a comic book Bible. Esther was my favorite character, and when I learned that there was an entire Jewish holiday dedicated to her, it seemed like just one more reason to become Hasidic-ally enamored. And while people keep telling me that the best way to meeting a nice Jewish boy is to go to Hillel, I can’t help but feel that the ones in attendance there are more concerned with meeting nice Jewish girls than trying to figure out if the Indian girl in the corner is attempting to be a shiksa.
After coming to Ann Arbor and actually interacting with Jewish boys, I’ve reconsidered my position somewhat. I have yet to meet any boys with curly hair and soulful eyes who have made me want to willingly abandon the freedom to eat cheese and meat in tandem. Just as I’m not Aishwarya Rai, not every Jewish boy is going to look like Adam Brody and have the wit of Aaron Sorkin. Stereotypes, shockingly, are not always an accurate portrayal of an entire group of people. Who knew? Maybe the specific Jewish guys that Kaling describes are like unicorns or manic-pixie-dream girls — ideals created by the media and our own imaginations.
Or maybe I’m just in love with Jon Stewart after all.