1

On Forgiveness, Frustration, and Other Elephants

Normally, I like to keep things positive and fun here, especially in light of the craziness that’s happening all around us at every level, but I’ve been sitting on this series of rants for a while and I just have to let some things out from my brain onto the Internet. Maybe you’ll call me a hypocrite, but maybe you’ll agree with me. Begin word vomit.

Forgiveness

Before Yom Kippur, I genuinely asked some people for forgiveness of anything that I may have done wrong to them. It sounds kind of trite, but it’s the thought the counts. Everyone said yes, some more seriously than others, but I want to believe that everyone who said “yes” will actually come through and make good on that. With certain people in my life, I feel that there is some sort of layer of something between us, but by saying that you forgive me, I am hoping that you mean that you will ease up, and at least let that layer settle if not even completely evaporate and start fresh. That would make my day, no; my year. There are different levels of friendship, and not everyone has to be best friends, but there is value in being civil and polite to everyone, speaking to his/her face and treating him/her like a human being and not like a reptile or a gnat or a piece of lint. That is the least that I wish to ask from you. What do you gain from being actively mean? “Be the bigger person…”goes only so far, but I guess the important thing is to treat others the way you wish to be treated and hope that they’ll get the point through their haze of ignorance.

Frustration

I have to say, I have spent a lot of time recently, including Yom Kippur, being angry. Anger is not healthy, nor is it productive, yet it still exists within me. I feel anger at people who treat me poorly, secretly plotting comeuppance but never daring to speak it, and attempting to erase my mind of these thoughts. It takes a LOT of energy to be angry! It manifests itself physically within me, making me sweat, blush, shake, grit my teeth and twitches my eyelids, because I do not understand! Why must you go out of your way to be unkind to me? Why are you like this? What did I ever do to deserve this treatment from you, or anyone? The worst part: why can’t I let these feelings go? I want to tell you how I really feel, I really do, and I don’t want to care what you think but I probably will. If you respond, great. If you choose to let it sit in the void, so be it. If you reject me, I can safely say that you were not worth my time to begin with. There is no reason for feeling this way. It takes a lot of energy to be angry, and nothing angers me more than those who treat me poorly or reject me outright. Be a gentleman, be a lady, be a person. I’m having a hard time not issuing “if you” judgments, but seriously, if you are that incapable of behaving in a civil manner, maybe – just maybe – there is something seriously wrong with you.

Other Elephants

It’s all about being grateful and not hateful, but I just have to say that I recently had an encounter with someone whose behavior really, really upset me. Showing up for Shabbat dinner at Chabad with a tin of sardines, which he proceeded to open and eat in front of everyone, even going so far as to put pieces of sardines on other peoples’ plates, urging them to eat it because it’s one of the five only truly healthy foods left, all the while talking nonstop about how awesome anarcho-capitalism is, how much he has learned in the school of life, and laughing loudly and vigorously about how college is a complete waste of time and money and that students are all “sucking on the government’s teat.”

This upset me so much.

Self-awareness, people…you’re in someone’s home, in a college town, possibly one of the largest college towns in the nation, and this is how you choose to act? Judging the behavior of others is never healthy, but when someone dominates the entire room by completely undermining everyone in it, with nowhere to go, what am I supposed to do? Fortunately, I busied myself by helping clean and put away dishes. I did feel bad though, for the poor girl who stood there listening to him spew garbage about everything from the meaninglessness of scholarships to how CPR is pointless, not even allowing a second of silence to go by in the amount of time it took to wash, dry, and put away 75 place settings.

I went to an art exhibit in Milwaukee today with five friends, including one whom I’d never met before. We spent five hours together, touring a museum and enjoying dinner, talking, laughing, and bonding. If I could repeat that experience every day of my life, I would consider myself lucky.

2

All You Nosy People

Yeah, it’s that kind of day; I had to go to J. J. Fad to get a title idea.

Anyway.

So, now, here’s something I don’t understand: what is up with nosy people? I mean, I just don’t understand it…who are you serving? Because if it’s yourself, then clearly you’re ready for the check because…ohmygod, stop.

Okay, context.

A few days ago, my dad was complaining of blurred vision, and wouldn’t you know it, apparently he had a detached retina. Or something like that. I mean, that’s what the optometrist thought initially, but it actually was something similar but a lot less severe. He can still see out of both eyes, but he’s wearing a little clear pirate-shield-thing over the affected eye. He’s been having tests and seeing doctors for the past few days, and today he had surgery, but he’s still doing almost all the normal things that he does, except driving and discovering cures for cancer. Well, not so much the second thing, because he doesn’t have a degree in the sciences. Even though he and my mom canceled their flights to Madison next week (not mine though, thank God) after yesterday’s appointment, he had a surgical procedure done today and he’s cleared to fly; that means he’s doing better than most expectant mothers in their third trimesters.

He’s going to make it.

So, yay for my dad!

After his successful surgery this morning (though it seems like forever ago, with what I’m about to tell you), it was taking a while for my dad to get checked out of the hospital. My mother had driven him there and waited. She was watching the clock because she had to get him home so she could get to her book club meeting at the library, and when she asked the desk how much longer it would be, they said “fifteen minutes.” Fifteen minutes later, they said the same thing to her. Normally, not so much of a problem, but a) my dad was fine, and b) she had somewhere to be, so she called me to pick him up so she could get to the library on time. I get in the car, pick him up, and bring him home; he and my mom have been awake since pretty early this morning, and even though it’s only about 1 PM, he’s just had surgery, so he goes to take a nap.

Maybe a half hour or hour later, the phone rings.

It’s not my mom, obviously, because she’s at her book club; it’s probably not my sister, who’s working; and I wouldn’t call the house phone just to talk to myself, but I pick it up anyway to stop it from ringing. It’s not a doctor or someone from the hospital, so guess who it is. Actually, don’t, because you’ll be wrong, but you could probably guess what he/she said after the greeting.

“So, how’s the patient?”

Uuugggghhh, really?

I wasn’t really in the mood to expound at great length on my father’s condition to one of my mother’s nosy friends, so I gritted my teeth and said something like, “he’s fine, he’s had a really rough morning though and he’s trying to rest.”

The response? “I was just asking, you don’t need to be so touchy.”

My response? “I’m not, I’m just telling you that we just got home from the hospital, he’s been up for a while and he’s trying to get some sleep, is there anything that you need?”

“No, I was just asking how he was.”

“He’s fine. He’s asleep. Can you call back later?”

“Sure, okay.”

::hang up::

If you couldn’t already sense it, my face and my palm got very chummy at that moment.

Let’s back up for a minute.

Part of the problem is my mother, telling every person she knows every detail of our lives, because that’s what she does, but that notwithstanding, I get the fact that you’re trying to show that you care, you mean well, you’re trying to be nice…but obviously, you know that my dad was in the hospital this morning. That’s the whole reason you called, isn’t it?

But think about it for a second.

You’re calling the house of someone who has just had surgery done this morning. Unless you are an immediate family member or a doctor, there is no reason that you should be calling at this juncture, even if it’s just to “check in.” Because chances are, you’re disturbing someone, either the person who had the surgery or their family member. Surgery is tiring. Hospitals are exhausting places, whether you’re undergoing surgery, sitting in a waiting room, or, you know, working. No one ever leaves a hospital bouncing up and down like Tigger, eager to share every intimate detail of their hysterectomy. Especially with someone who does not fall in the category of close family or primary care provider. This might not be true in the case of someone like Kate Middleton, but most of us are not her, and you are not the editor of Star.

So, give it a rest. Give it some thought before picking up the phone that very same day of the surgery. In fact, give it twenty-four hours worth of thought, and call then, if something else hasn’t taken your attention. There should be some sort of grace period for these things. Leave people alone for a day to recover, and then continue to barrage them with questions and ask for every excruciating detail. I mean, isn’t that why they don’t allow cell phones in maternity wards? I may or may not have made that last fact up, but seriously, my mother has some nosy friends, because I had the above conversation no fewer than three times today, and my parents fielded a few as well, although probably with more patience than I did.

But honestly…who needs to know, that badly? Do you have that little of a life that you must know everyone’s business, every minute of every hour of every day, and if you’re not the very first person to get all the details, you will explode in a mushroom cloud of nuclear anticipation?

If we wanted you to know, we would call you and tell you ourselves, and just because we did not report to you within the hour doesn’t mean we’re having a secret “let’s-tell-all-the-gruesome-details-of-the-eye-procedure” party that we’re not inviting you to, although that would be fun. Or, on second thought, I could look up the name of the procedure and do a dramatic reading of the Wikipedia entry on how it’s done. “Well, since you asked, after sedation, the doctor took a tiny chainsaw and made an incision into the eyelid, and after wiping away the excess blood, inserted a small device behind the eyeball, and…” Bet that venti soy latte tastes super right about now, doesn’t it?

Oh, and one final thing. That line, “so, how’s the patient?” Wow, original. You are so clever! I can’t believe it, it’s like you’re pretending to be a doctor, but you’re not! Kind of like they did in that movie that one time! Classic medical humor. This is not 1862, we’re not in a tent at Antietam, and we’re also not characters on Scrubs, so act normal or you’re looking at a pretty big malpractice suit.

I don’t care if you do have a clipboard at the other end of the line.

10

A Modest Proposal

With the way people are dressing these days, they could use a little tzniut.

No, tzniut (if you’re in a more Yiddishized circle, tznius)is not the latest Swiss fashion accessory, but the Jewish concept of modesty for men and women that dates back to the Talmudic era. It literally translates to “modesty” or “privacy” and refers mostly to clothing, but also the way people lead their lives.

Is it worth it? Let me work it.

Just about every Orthodox Jewish girl (and definitely every Hassidic Jewish girl) covers themselves up with long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, and closed toed shoes. When she gets married, she might cover her hair with a hat, a scarf, or a full-on wig. It doesn’t end there, though. Included in the umbrella is negiah, or rules of touching, which are followed by avoiding physical contact with unrelated members of the opposite sex, and kol isha, or female voice, which mandates that hearing a woman’s singing can distract a man and lead him to impure thoughts. This rule does not apply for prayer, singing z’mirot at a dinner table, or a choir of mixed voices. Some even say that even a recorded female singer violates these laws.

Men do not have as many restrictions; just refrain from touching women and wear clothes that cover your body.

Growing up in Orthodox-Jew-Land, I was well aware of all of this. At my school, girls and women had freedom of choice to wear long pants if they wanted to; some did, but most stayed within the guidelines above. Touching was not explicitly forbidden, but it was generally frowned upon, and I don’t really think we ever had any huge singing issues; if you didn’t want to hear a girl sing, you wouldn’t come to any school musicals, or if you did, you went elsewhere whenever a woman was singing alone. Kind of hard, given that we were a high school and did musicals with plenty of parts for girls, no 1776 here.

I started noticing it more as I went to college and started seeing the stark differences between how people dressed in such mixed environments. As a male, it’s pretty easy for 99% of what you wear to be acceptable every day, and if you make the choice to become more religious, you probably won’t have to go to much trouble to buy new clothes. Girls have it a bit rougher; making the tznius choice means goodbye to bare shoulders, t-shirts, short skirts, and any type of pants, so usually a significant wardrobe overhaul is necessary.

Today, I feel that modesty is something our society is definitely lacking, promoted by corporate trends and celebrity couture. Sometimes a strapless or mini version of an outfit is tasteful, and then you have Miley Cyrus (sorry Miley, but I needed an extreme comparison). This might sound a little pander-y, but I think that women should be able to choose what they wear, and while most women pull off this look effortlessly, maybe tznius should be reexamined in our times. For example, long sleeves and long skirts are probably quite uncomfortable, even thin/airy fabrics, in hot summers and for Jewish women in tropical countries or Houston. While yes, it’s argued in the Talmud, a lot is based off of what women wore in the shtetls of wintry Russia or Poland where the wind chill made these outfits practical. Furthermore, I don’t see a huge problem with pants, either. Not all pants are skinny jeans, and many tznius girls have a tight denim skirt or two. A pair of slacks or trousers can even make an outfit look sleeker and more elegant, and it would make riding a bike or climbing a ladder a lot easier. I don’t see tznius clothes as being restrictive in any way or out of fashion, but give girls a break. As long as they’re dressed appropriately for the weather, occasion, and activity, you’re good to go right there.

This leads me to talk about my own personal tzniut appearance and behavior. I made the decision awhile back to stop wearing shorts of any kind; not just because I don’t like my legs, but I just don’t see any reason why they need to be exposed – and also a bit of solidarity with my Orthodox Jewish sistas. With tank tops/wife beaters/muscle shirts, I didn’t grow up wearing them, and they certainly weren’t allowed in my school, so they never really joined my wardrobe. I love t-shirts, but since I live in Wisconsin now, I’ve been layering them over long sleeve shirts, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. The only time you’ll probably ever see me in shorts is when I am in going swimming, and even then, I’m underwater, so ha ha you can’t see me.

Probably the most surprising thing about my personal style is that this applies even at the gym. I’m always the guy in the long pants (the stretchy kind, not sweatpants, who does that?) and a shirt that covers most of the top half of me.

Orthodox Jewish girls know what’s up…and I stand with them (but not in a skirt) when I call on all my menfolk to display some tznius and look like a gentleman.

I mean, do you see what most guys wear to the gym these days?

Also – if anyone knows why my stats are skyrocketing, (1000 views today, thank you very much!), please tell me, because I’ve spent most of the past forty-eight hours bewilderingly watching people (mostly across America) click on my site, yet I only have about 120 followers, and 67 comments, most of which are my own. This blog is kinda lame most days, so either I’m doing something right or the Internet is going bonkers. So, if you’re reading, please leave a comment about what you think and how you got here (so I can get a sense of what’s going on, did someone put me on BuzzFeed or something? – I’m not that amazing of a writer), or a like, or an idea of something you want me to write about. Oh, and keep visiting, Americans. You too, other countries.