The Case For Spilling Your Secrets & Showing Your Warts

The Case For Spilling Your Secrets & Showing Your Warts

Recently, I’ve entered a zone where I’m just D-O-N-E done with feeling guilt or shame about who I am. I don’t just mean publicly admitting that I’m “a nerd at heart” or whatever. I’m talking about sharing who I really am, at my core. Because think about it: If everybody disclosed their secrets, insecurities and fears, we could rise up together and create a world filled with more honesty and openness. And emotional wounds would fade away like scars slathered in Mederma ointment.

That’s why I’m about to share a long personal story that doesn’t culminate in a neatly tied up lesson, but is instead a real moment of truth-telling, and of catharsis—a much-needed break from glossy, perfect versions of ourselves we normally share on social media.

Perhaps in revealing my own personal darkness, I can offer light to someone else. That’s how I felt when writing my first book, Weddiculous: An Unfiltered Guide To Being A Bride. I wanted to write something that made brides feel less alone during the wedding planning process, because it was a time when everyone was asking me, “Aren’t you excited?!” and I wanted to reply, “If by ‘excited’ you mean full of stress and doubts and there are tears hiding behind my eyes at all times ready to flow down my cheeks like wild salmon in the Yukon river, then yeah I’m friggin’ stoked!” Now I’m past bridehood, back to being just a human girl person again, but I’m not ready to retire the unfiltered approach to life just yet. I want to apply this real talk to other areas of my life—both past and present.

In the spirit of closet-skeleton-purging, here are a few of my never-discussed “quirks.”

Allow me to expand on that last one.

In fifth grade, my buck-toothed boyfriend, Wayne Brock (who is now a white gangster rapper/full-time hookah-smoker living in North Dallas—shout out to Wayne!) bought me a cross choker at the State Fair of Texas. It was from a booth that sold crappy cheap jewelry and offered crappy cheap engraving on top of every purchase. He had “Jamie” semi-professionally carved into the back by the ex-felon-turned-fairground worker. It was so romantic. Crosses were deeply fashion-forward in 1994. You didn’t have to love Jesus to wear a cross, you just had to love Contempo Casuals.

Flash forward to Thanksgiving that year: I went to visit my grandparents, Elaine and Terrance, at their classic Tudor-style home in Teaneck, New Jersey—the second most Orthodox Jewish-populated town in the United States. I always felt especially cool in Teaneck because I was a vibrant, alt-rock youth in a sea of black skirts and conspicuous wigs. The contrast was validating.

On Thanksgiving Day, late morning, I sat on my grandma’s Italian white leather couch watching The People’s Court in my oversized Weezer shirt, Mossimo jeans and a flannel covering my newly Nair’d, and therefore raw and red, arms. And of course this ensemble was tied together by a key accessory: my cross choker. Sitting around my grandparents’ house watching People’s Court was so inherently mundane that having a “hip” outfit on felt like an activity.

Just as the TV judge was about to rule against the woman who ripped out a CVS cashier’s earring for selling her a half-eaten Cadbury crème egg, my grandmother entered the room and nudged, “Jamie, want to take a walk with me?” Nowadays all I want to do is walk because it’s exercise without exercising and podcasts exist, but when you’re eleven years old, walking without destination is an activity exclusively reserved for the elderly. Nevertheless, I complied.

Quick sidebar on my grandmother: I’ve never met anyone else who got as excited to see me as she did. When I was little, she encouraged me to paint and draw and taught me how to make ice cream using just bananas and made me feel warm and gooey with the way she called me “honey baby.” It was high-pitched, but not in a grating way. Her uncontainable love for me just made her voice go up.

However, there was a real underbelly to her personality. This is the same woman who called me on three-way with my aunt when I was in high school to tell me, “Enough is enough. You have to lose the weight.” The same woman who said, while I was eating a hamburger when I was 22 and slammin’, “You’re not as thin as you used to be.” A year later when I asked, “Do you think I need a nose job?” she rubbed her index finger under her nose and said, “I mean it’s a little… long,” referring to where my septum hit my upper lip. The woman was appearance-obsessed. If you weren’t thin, you weren’t worthy. And if you were thin, she would tirelessly search for something else to criticize, with a flashy grin.

Two minutes into the walk, she launched right into her issue.

“Jamie, why do you wear a cross?”

“Um… because my boyfriend gave it to me,” I answered defensively.

Saying “my boyfriend” felt dope even if I was saying it to a married woman in her mid-70s. Sure, she had a loving and faithful husband in my grandpa, but she didn’t have a boyfriend named Wayne who could make convincing fart sounds with his mouth at the lunch table. You wish you had a man this talented, grandma!

“You shouldn’t wear a cross, Jamie. You’re Jewish.”

“WHAT-ISH?!” I thought.

Only my Uncle Bob , my mom’s brother, was Jewish and that’s because he married my Aunt Dana and she’s Jewish. What did that have to do with me? What was “Jewish” anyway? Growing up in Texas, the only Jew in my class was Jonah Stern. His father was a rabbi (pBob ably the only one in Texas) and came to talk to Lakehill Preparatory School about Hanukkah every year. He would open up his go-to picture book of sand dunes and concerned bearded men on camelback, and launch into his annual recitation involving oil lamps, chocolate coins and dreidels.

Anyway, back to the walk. Grandma pushed on. “Please don’t wear that around Bob  and Dana when they come over later. It’s offensive.”

The only thing I understood as offensive in that moment was having a senior citizen try to curb my impeccable style. She didn’t explain why the cross symbol was offensive to her. She failed to even touch on the Holocaust or racism or oppression. Instead, I was left to my own devices to deduce why my seemingly rad necklace was now a bad necklace.

This is a common theme from my childhood: Nobody explained anything to me. I was constantly in the dark, trying to take scraps of information and stitch them together into a “makes sense” quilt.


To say I wasn’t raised religious would be an understatement. I wasn’t raised understanding of religion—why people adhered to it or needed it, the history behind it, bible stories. I knew nothing, and therefore I didn’t respect it. Not in a malicious way, but my lack of knowledge defensively turned into… “fuck that shit.” I knew a lot of super Christian kids, and always felt pretty punk rock compared to them. My parents let me swear and watch Beavis & Butthead; their parents did not.

But, two years after my eye-opening romp in Kosher Kountry, I received my first-ever invite to my first-ever Jewish event: a joint Bar and Bat Mitzvah in North Dallas, for brother and sister private school power duo Sara and John Greirwitz.

Sara Greirwtiz was and still is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met in my life. I hated being near her because I wanted to be her. Dark chocolate brown eyes, I’m talking 70% cacao near-blackness. Perfect skin with a herd of adorable freckles scattered across her nose like sweet baby sheep in a Scottish pasture. Her dark brown hair was so shiny in the light it looked blue. And her family knew she was beautiful. The one time I went to her house I located a giant binder of professionally-taken black and white photos of just her face on the coffee table in the living room. Just front and center, like that one outdated issue of Redbook at the gyno’s office. “Look at what we created,” her parents must have thought.

These days, Sara is barely on Facebook and, frankly, it’s not okay. When she ever-so-sparingly posts a photo of herself, I cling to it like I’ve been alone in the desert and this is the first drop of water the sky has given me in months. And it’s never even a good pic, never satisfying. She’s always in the background with red eyes while her friends are in the foreground because she “doesn’t need to be the center of attention” because she’s a “good person” and not a “spoiled only child.” It’s sickening…

Okay, where were we?

I attended the Bar/Bat with my seventh-grade boyfriend Joel. That’s right, sorry to say that after months of watching Wayne take the Snackwell brownies his mom packed him and mush them into balls and then throw them at people, our relationship went to live on a farm. Anyway, Joel went to school with Sara’s brother John and, TBH, I dreaded going to this thing.

You see, a month before Joel had announced to me and a table of friends at Bennigan’s, “I think Sara Greirwitz has the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen.” Those were the exact words. A pit formed in my stomach as I nibbled at my mozz stick like a defeated cartoon mouse. I knew I needed to cry it out, but couldn’t do it at the table because I was a thirteen-year-old girl, and if we weren’t chill and easygoing around boys, then what was the point of us? So, I saved it for a full-on three day bawl-a-thon in my bedroom. You know how when someone says what you’ve been thinking, it makes it real? That’s what had happened. I knew Sara was a knockout, but I didn’t know Joel knew it. And now we were there supporting this life-ruiner on her big day? Ugh.

So there we sat, in a tiny dismal temple in North Dallas. Joel was looking sexy-greasy, because at that age when you were asked to “dress up,” you thought, “go fuck yourself” and pulled an Ethan Hawke from Reality Bites, encasing your unshowered body in a thrift store polyester suit, causing girls to somehow swoon. I wore plastic barrettes in my hair and Doc Marten Mary Janes on my feet, my skirt way too short, sparkly, and vinyl for a religious gathering. I was Courtney Love meets Jem—with braces.

John “kicked off” the ceremony by sing-reading the Torah and it was… rough. His voice didn’t crack, but there was no heft to it—it sounded like a cling-clangy wind chime on a hippie’s porch in Santa Fe. I kept looking around the room at the other guests, trying to gauge how I was supposed to respond and just generally WTF was I even watching? What’s a Torah? What’s John singing about? Why does this feel like a funeral when it’s supposed to be a joyous occasion? Jews are just not joyous, I flippantly assessed.

The only thing giving me any sense of comfort was that Sara was dressed like a straight-up asexual librarian from the ‘80s. She was wearing a giant houndstooth blazer, a long black skirt, orthopedic shoes, and there was even a piece of lace dangling from her forehead and onto her face. Not her best look. Thank HASHEM. I’m in the clear today as far as feeling insecure and inferior goes, I thought to myself. “Phew

Not so fast, Lil’ J.

John finished his portion, and Sara approached the podium, looked down at the Torah and, well, all hell broke loose. What came out of her mouth was criminal. An effortlessly fluid, angelic vocal modulation filled the room with light and hope. Pigeons outside turned into doves. Dead crops in West Texas suddenly started to sprout. Joel leaned over to me and said, “She can really sing.” Jesus, Joel, can you stop telling the truth?! “Yeah, she’s good,” I minimized, hoping to sway our mutual instincts. I knew I needed to get out of there and be by myself to tearfully deal with my jealousy in private, but I also knew from the timetable on the invite that I would be tortured by The Gorgeous Gifted Jew for at least another hour.

Suddenly, I heard a loud thud, followed by a soundscape of gasps. I turned around to find that the kid sitting behind me, one of Joel’s classmates, Todd, had fallen back in his chair and was on the floor writhing and convulsing. Everybody stood up. Sara stopped showing off. I mean “getting Bat Mitzvahed.” The entire room slipped into a frenzied panic. Joel seemed unfazed. A minute later, Todd stood up, dusted off the front of his pants and his back and waved his hand in the air to signal, “I’m okay.”

I had no idea what I had just witnessed until Joel later mumbled, “Todd has epilepsy.” After that, the singing portion of the programming was discontinued and I was spared, as the Greirwitz family moved on to the basement for “refreshments.” Which is hilarious because there’s nothing refreshing about mayonnaise-based salads. Or basements.

And that was my first attempt at understanding my Jewish roots, post-grandma talk. There isn’t a big lesson here, but I guess you could say my Jewishness was a secret that was kept from me. In turn, I just vomited up all of my feelings on the matter, and it feels pretty great. I feel lighter. Brighter. Bouncier. I implore all women to share their secrets: The less embarrassed we are by the depths of our own minds, by our mistakes, by the things that make us complicated, the less isolated and more connected—and powerful—we will be.