National Commentary

Johnny’s World: The Horah

jworldAs I stood at a New York City courthouse on a winter day in 2011, I knew I was making a good decision. I was marrying my then fiancé, now husband.

It was two days before our actual ceremony, and we had trudged way downtown to collect our marriage license. I knew that when the day would come, I would wear ivory and he would wear black. I knew that it would be too early in the morning for hair and makeup people to get me ready, so I’d have to do it myself. I knew that we were picking my best friend up, our witness and best lady, on our way. I knew that my parents and future in-laws had used guilt and tears to shoulder their way into a day that was supposed to happen without ceremony, and without fuss.

I knew many things, but there was very little preparation and life experience I could rely on to help me with the unknown scenarios that arose in and around the wedding.

It all sort of started with the ring situation. I wanted a large canary diamond; my husband said, “you’re a boy, and you will get a gold band.” I didn’t know what was customary for two dudes taking a trip down the aisle. There is no gay protocol. There is no tradition. I settled on a gold band so that he could surprise me later on with diamond bands to stack on.

When we were applying for a marriage license, the idea of name-changing presented itself for the first time. What is standard for men? I thought publicly I would remain Johnny Weir and officially become Johnny Voronov – since I’m more of the bride than the groom. My husband told me I was crazy to change my name, and he wasn’t exactly interested in changing his. But we settled on taking one another’s family name so we cold honor both sides, Weir-Voronov.

This man-on-man marriage presented a multitude of other minor dramas for which we couldn’t rely on tradition to guide us. How do we spend the night before the wedding? What do we do after the wedding? Florists? Cake?  The only thing we understood was that we would be married – and afterward we would drink, a lot.

This non-traditional family still has its dilemmas. My most recent drama has been the idea of conversion. When we got married, I thought I would absolutely convert to Judaism for my husband, even though it wasn’t a big deal to him or his family. I didn’t feel pressure, but I did know that every goy that had come into their clan before me had converted.

Through my years of fascination and study of the second Great War, a theme that is both horrifying and mystifying to me has always been the Holocaust. While I don’t need to recount all the horrors that period brought the modern world, I felt that it was my duty in marrying a Jewish man to become Jewish and raise Jewish babies and do my part to rebuild their people. I don’t know if that is a common feeling among possible converts, but it is definitely a big part of it.

Cut to my husband, asking me, “when are we putting the Christmas Tree up?”

I was raised Catholic and as an adult have enjoyed a spiritual sluttiness that has helped me appreciate the good in most religions. Oddly enough, the only church I pray in is Russian Orthodox. I wear a Star of David and a Hamsa as well as crosses every day. My husband asks constantly when and if I will convert, but then asks about the Christmas tree because his eyes sparkle when the decorations are out. My personal feeling is that I should convert, but the question is if I want to and if it will change anything about my life.

As I light the candles for Hanukkah this week, I do it with thousands of years of tradition and family racing through my mind. I do it wondering if gays are supposed to convert the same as straights, and I light the candles wondering if my babies should be raised in the faith of their grandparents – and from which side? The idea of religion is a long and traditional highway in this life, but how do you know which exit to take when there isn’t a precedent?