Thursday, October 8, 2015

800 Words: How I Spent My Yom Kippur - Shul 4 - Bolton Street Synagogue Part 4 (Part 2)

There was one key way in which Kelly differed from the Hillary Clintons of the world - Kelly was, by the standards of eighth grade, or even most high schools, gorgeous - gor-Jewess perhaps, but gorgeous nonetheless. By the time we graduated Schechter, Kelly Liebe was coveted by most of the boys in our class, and why not? She had dark brown hair with just enough of a nose bump to give her face more character, with swarthy olive skin and an older figure than most high school girls, let alone the girls of our class whose figures had yet to grow into anything at all. She looked like a college freshman and had not an ounce of fat on her hourglass figure, and who even knows what a girl even that age has to do to keep a figure so trim? Two years later, when Zaydie died, she came to the Shiva at my Uncle's house and for some reason was dressed up in gorgeous formal wear that clearly was a half-size too small. I remember watching as the jaw of my twenty-five year old cousin Jonathan fell to the floor.

The girls of our class couldn't fail to notice either. A girl as innocent as Kelly can't help taking advantage in the innocent but only slightly guilty way that teenage girls do of showing her figure off with tight shirts and skirts and stretch pants. But as in every school in America, a few of the more aggressive and plain girls decided to do something about the beauty in their midst. Most dangerous among them was Ofra Rosenfeld.

Ofra was the flat-chested bitch of our grade whom I announced to the teacher and my classmates was my 'worst enemy' when I was nine. I never knew Ofra well enough to know much about her background, but she was the child of Israeli parents, and from an early age, she had the kind of abrasive personality that only a true Israeli would have, and for a nine-year-old, she had a lethal wit that made other kids cower in fear. I'm sure she became the kind of wicked adult that is delightful company, but I feel sorry for her children...

Even so, it's not like she was entirely guilty in her deviousness, because nobody at that age can't help but react to the environment in which they live. Sam Roschberger, the class bully, who, cruelly, was also the handsomest and most athletic guy in our class, charmingly began to refer to her as 'Crater,' because, according to him, she was so flat that her tits went in where they should go out.

Nobody could stand up to Sam, so in our immature way we all took it out on each other, and when a girl called 'Crater' sees a beautiful girl walking the halls and boys staring at her open mouthed in class, she begins, in medieval logic all too often employed in the modern era, to think that this girl is bringing it upon herself - as though she has a responsibility to the Craters of the class to be modest. Seven hundred years ago, she would have accused Kelly of being a witch. But in 1996, she began circulating rumors that Kelly was a 'slut,' and when Kelly confronted her about it, she called Kelly a slut outright to her face.

In the sheltered though hardly innocent environs that were Krieger Schechter Day School, who the fuck knew what a 'slut' actually was? All they knew was that it was something so horrible that to be called one was the ultimate censure. I doubt Kelly had even kissed a boy at this point in her life. But something in those years tipped Kelly over into a different kind of human being. I have no idea what ultimately did it, or perhaps I misunderstood the sort of person Kelly was from the very beginning. But let's just say that this was the moment that could stand in for a hundred other similar moments in those years that turned Kelly from a sweet, beautiful soul to one with something desperate to prove.

The good girl wants nothing more than to make people happy; for everybody just to get along and be proud of each other and bathe one another in nothing but love and respect and support. And being the apple of so many people's eyes, she has no reason to believe that such a world isn't attainable. But it's inevitable along the way that some people don't offer love and respect and support, and when that happens, something in her snaps. The effort to make people love one another becomes a pathology that if not assuaged becomes more desperate, more driven, harder, pushier. The world is not as it should be, but if she just tries hard enough and does her damndest, maybe everybody will be happy again.

I have not mentioned Kelly's father until now, Charles Liebe. Charles was as laid back, unassuming, relaxed, as his wife was a balleboos (not quite translatable term for a pushy mother/housewife). He worked for the City of Baltimore as a parole officer, and between him and Helen, who was a social worker, they probably made a decent Middle Class living with good benefits. Helen made the rules, and Charles, a quiet, mousey sort of man with a combover, would pretty much go along with whatever Helen wanted.

Whereas Helen's father, a man already in his mid-nineties who looked twenty years younger, was a regular fixture in my childhood who would occasionally drive us home from school, Charles's parents lived in Florida. Around 1991, Charles's mother and a few fellow cute old Jewish ladies kibbitzed about politics as so many Jews in Florida do who have little else to while away the time. When the Clintons became a force to be reckoned with and Hillary stood by for all the bimbo eruptions, the rest of the country was erupting in its first rash of Hillary-hatred. But Mrs. Liebe and her fellow Mrs. Liebes decided that Hilary had gotten a bum rap, so Mrs. Liebe became the founder and first president of the "Hillary Clinton Fan Club," a club which quickly grew to 20,000 members.

Even for those in the farthest reaches of Clintonland, a Clinton always remembers loyalty or dissent.

Now I have no way of knowing this, but I can't imagine that Helen Liebe didn't sit up immediately and start making plans for her 9-year-old daughter. "If you do your extra credit, you can be First Lady." "If you do just one more extracurricular, you can be a New York Senator." "If you get a Master's Degree, you could even be President!"

Who knows how a Jewish woman could mould her daughter with the potential for world domination as both the carrot and the stick? But by the time Kelly had to leave Schechter for High School, something changed.

I have no idea if Kelly needed a scholarship to go to a private high school, but there's no doubt that Kelly and Helen could have procured one at any school in America. And in the years since, everybody, including Kelly, always said the same thing: Kelly should have gone to McDonogh - a recently co-ed goyish private school in Owings Mills for rich kids that specialized in nothing so much as excellence. Kelly would have had a new start at life after leaving a place that was not particularly kind to her. She would have become a well-adjusted girl again, associated with girls of the same temperament as her, dated nice boys, and been just another excellent honors student free to discover what made her happy. I have no doubt that Helen wanted her to go to McDonogh. It may not have had many Jews, but if Kelly proved a big academic success at McDonogh, the rewards in College Acceptance would be truly enormous. But for reasons that were probably related to rebellion against her mother, Kelly chose The Park School - the traditional private school of choice for rich Jewish kids known throughout Baltimore to be the ideal place for two types of students: artsy kids and Jewish American Princesses. Many of the kids who went from Schechter to Park were both, but Kelly was neither.

Every other Schechter student of our grade who came with Kelly to Park commented upon the change in Kelly and how they didn't like what she'd become. Of course, that was completely unfair, those girls weren't all that close to Kelly to begin with, and knowing Schechter, they probably were never all that nice to her beforehand. But at Park, Kelly had clearly become something every girl hates: the double threat - a popular girl who always did well in school. The girl who can go out weekends and some weeknights still get all the work done at an A-level, the girl who can chatter away in class and the person she was talking to would inevitably be blamed.

The boys loved her, and they absolutely should have: not only was she beautiful but she was probably the nicest girl in her class. As her high school boyfriend she nabbed an alpha male who was also the most gifted student in the school. These other girls from Schechter were clearly jealous: they were more creative than she was, from more prosperous families than her, and much more accustomed to getting what they wanted, and yet she was clearly their academic and social superior. And yet, like all popular girls, there was something about Kelly that clearly seemed more miserable than ever.

Meanwhile, as high school went on, our friendship became as volatile as an off-track train carrying nitroglycerine. Kelly was miserable, but outwardly she seemed like she was blossoming, not just into a young Hillary Clinton, but into a young Bill. After she and her high school boo broke up, she seemed to be with a new boy during every break from Hyde. She was much too busy for little old me, who was floundering as much as ever, and found himself without the support of a saint who no longer wanted to be a saint. To her credit, she sometimes tried, but more than one attempt we made at rekindling our old platonic romance ended with horrible names and shouting matches.

When it came time for college admissions, she was of course the Golden Child. Other kids from our grade were legacies at Columbia or got in through the Barnard back door, but she was the only kid from our class worthy of acceptance to a school that good completely of her own merit. I wasn't even going to college that year, and all of Pikesville commented upon my absence when Schechter printed their annual boast in the Jewish Times of their graduates and where they would go to college.

Two years later, after 9/11 when George W. Bush was a popular President, she interned for a summer for no less than Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary to the President to a President who badly needed to be handled by the most competent people in the world. Again, stories made their way to me from jealous peers about social climbing - trying to sidle up to Anna Paquin and Julia Stiles, becoming good friends with nothing less than Rider Strong - her teen idol crush who was now her classmate. Rather than try to be an intellectual giant, she became president of all Greek Life on campus. She might not have been brilliant, but she was brilliant at organizing people, and she organized the world in a circle around her. Where could someone brilliant the way Kelly was brilliant go next but Washington?

And yet, in her last year at Columbia, the bottom fell out again. She broke up with her long-term college beau, and I never heard whether he broke up or she did, but after it happened, she went off the deep end.

Let me rephrase that. She only went off the deep end by the standards of a great student at Columbia who doesn't know what her future holds but knows, as every Columbia student does, that the world was her orange to squeeze. But by the standards of the perfect Jewish girl who graduated from Columbia and always did what she was told, I heard through the grapevine that she did something truly shocking: She briefly..... wait for it....................

dated a Muslim. The horror.

There's not a single sane person in the world who would have cared about this. But from the way her peers talked about this, you'd think she'd converted and was following Sharia. Can you imagine anything more salacious and scandalous to Pikesville, a town which would have nothing to do occupy its time were it not busy making mountains from molehills? I doubt Helen thought this was anything but a small temporary blip, but I can only imagine how she must have dreaded that other people would freak out. Can you imagine a bigger or better fuck you to the secretly bigoted values which we all grew up with? Can you imagine the jealousy with which her classmates and friends must have bristled: not only does she get better grades and have better sex and become friends with famous people, she even rebels better than we do!

Kelly was the perfect Jewish girl, but I often wondered if she'd have rather been anything else. 

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