In class with my favourite professor, a dapper, intelligent, and sometimes hilarious professor of Jewish history (I would go straight for him if only he weren’t gay), we are covering medieval Jewry under the Islamic empire. For all intents and purposes my focus is on early modern England during the Reformation and seventeenth century, even though my actual long term interest is queer identity and family structure during the eighteenth century. There aren’t many (maybe any) eighteenth century classes offered at my school. So I’ll have to figure that one out later. For right now my focus is Early Modern England, and I love it. My EME seminar is one of the highlights of my week, along with Friday nights at the club and any time spent with a quad soy latte and my dog.
But this guy is my favourite professor, his class on the shtetl last year was the highlight of a very rough winter. And I can’t stop my interest from roving. So here I am in Jewish history, Jews in Europe from about the Medieval period on. Because it’s a survey course I was afraid people would say a lot of stupid things (in the next post where I bother to talk about school I’ll tell you about stupid shit undergraduates say) but this is truly up there with my EME seminar on all-time high class interest and participation.
So we’re on the Islamic period, talking about the Karaites, Saadia Gaon, his Book of the Eloquence of the Language of the Hebrews, and the influence of intellectual Islam on the Jewish thinkers, the spread of this idea that you can have Reason and Revelation united: Revelation as the short cut, the word of God, and philosophy as the incredibly long and tedious way of arriving at the same conclusion for yourself. Thrilling stuff. Especially when you compare the belief system of Antique Israelites to the other denomination I spend the most time with, CoE and Calvinists. The emphasis on faith and works could not be more different. Sort of.
He spreads his arms wide. “It’s legit!” He picks up his coffee mug. “I’ll see you next class. Don’t forget the readings.”
The day goes by, I do whatever it is I do when I’m not at school or work (more coffee, extensive time at the bookstore or library, yoga, maybe a pedicure) and head in to work. It starts off slow but I get a few dances, which is nice. There’s a tall dark and handsome guy at the bar who I walk up to.
“How’s it going?”
He shrugs. “Good, good. How are you?”
I don’t know, bored, hungry, chilly, not really in the mood for small talk. Want a dance? “I’m great! A little chilly, but warming up.”
“Fell, look fat you are fearing.”
“Bikinis in January are an occupational hazard. Where are you from?”
“Oh really? Have you been here long?”
“A few weeks.”
“And is this your first time at [club name redacted! duh!]?”
“Then you haven’t had a [club] lap dance before! are you ready?”
“I don’t belief in that.” He hesitates, asks, “Can I speak honestly fith you?”
If you were wondering, this is always a bad sign and you should always say no to this question, at least in a club, but in the spirit of honest intellectual inquiry I say valiantly, “Of course!”
“I think this is very degrading. I don’t like it.”
I can’t even engage with this. “Okay, well, I hope you have a great night!” I pat his shoulder.
The next time I see him it’s three hours later and he’s sitting at my rack with some annoying female customers. One of them throws a dollar at me and shrieks, “Isn’t he so cute? He’s from Islam!”
The man from Israel and I share a glance; probably the only thing we will ever share. Because hanging out in a strip club with girls who are A) not working and B) don’t know the difference between Islam and Israel is inherently less degrading than talking to strippers.
“Islam?” I ask her. “Really?”
She bristles at me. “Yes, why.”
“Because Islam is a faith and Israel is a state? A place one can be from and, incidentally, where he is actually from?” Then, because it will make me laugh even if it makes no one else laugh, I add, “I learned all about it in class today!”
Practical applications for the degree I’m going into debt for: lecturing strip club customers in the difference between a religion and a country.