What will Chelsea do?
This weekend Chelsea Clinton gave birth to a baby girl. I was so ecstatic when I heard the news this morning because growing up, Chelsea was a girl I always felt like I was friends with even though we never met. You know that question people often ask at dinner parties — if you could have dinner with any celebrity who would it be? Chelsea would be in my Top Five (the others, in case you were interested, are Mindy Kaling, Malcolm Gladwell, Aziz Ansari and Ryan Gosling).
I’ve felt a connection to Chelsea since 1992 when I was 12 years old and her dad, Bill Clinton, was running for president. My eyes were glued to the TV as I watched a girl who was my age entering the White House. We were awkward tweens at the same time, we were studying for the SATs and applying to college at the same time, and then later on, we married our best friend (who happened to be a Jewish dude raised in the Philadelphia area) a year apart. Reading about Chelsea’s interfaith wedding in the New York Times gave me hope that it was possible to do something like that the following year for my own wedding. We even had the same number of guests (about 400, which is large for an average American wedding, but small for a political family). Similarly, my mom would say that 400 is large for an American wedding, but “intimate” for a desi wedding. I imagined Chelsea and Hillary arguing about the guest list just like my mom and I did. Chelsea was just so relatable! When she visited South Asia with Bill and Hillary as a teenager in the 90’s she wore a plaid skirt and the desi fashion designers and tailors went nuts over her that they renamed plaid to “Chelsea Check” (say it in an Indian accent). Did you hear me people? They renamed a pattern after her! They were so happy that the first daughter of the free world visited their country.
I respected Chelsea a lot because she always put on a brave face and seemed so even-keeled no matter what people said about her or her family. And people were mean to her family. Sure, I was teased here and there and my classmates said their fair share of Yo Momma jokes to me . . . but Chelsea was teased on Saturday Night Live! Her parents were harshly criticized in the media dozens of times a day, everyday for years! And nothing ever seemed to bother her. I continue to be inspired by her gracefulness.
So now that she has given birth to a baby girl I wonder what will she do? She is Methodist and her husband is Jewish and neither of them converted. Will they have a Jewish baby naming ceremony or will they have a Baptism? Neither? Both? Will her husband Marc’s Jewish family be disappointed that the couple gave their grandchild a Southern-Bellish choice of name instead of a Jewish one?
If the opportunity ever came up where I could reciprocate, I would call Chelsea up and tell her to get Bill and Hillary to babysit and then I would take her out to dinner. I would find the hottest spot where we could share sushi, wine, and soft delicious unpasteurized cheeses (the pregnant lady forbidden foods). I would tell her to watch The Happiest Baby on the Block, make other mama friends in her neighborhood, to keep granola bars and water by her bed, and lastly, to not let other people pressure her in how to raise her child. I would tell her to figure out what values and traditions are most important to her and Marc and pass those down to little Charlotte. I’d tell her to expose her daughter to a little bit of every culture, not just her own. I’d tell her to teach her daughter to have faith in herself and in the end, she will choose her own religious and cultural identity.