Frumgirl1: Monetary Misconceptions

Yes, they think we’re all rich.

I’ve been trying to figure out why, despite all evidence to the contrary. I’ve also been sort-of trying to fix the misconceptions, in a polite, non-confrontation sort of don’t-expect-to-contribute-towards-anything kind of way. It’s not really working.

First of all, it’s true. Orthodox Jews do tend to make much larger incomes than the average American. Try arguing with with the truth. I managed, but I had to pull out debating tricks I generally save for more worthwhile issues.

I was not helped by the fact our engagement diamond ring standards are significantly larger. The presence of my ring automatically meant I must be rolling in it. It is not even particularly large, mind, just average (unfortunately).
I explained that the larger-diamond thing is due to the fact that our in-laws pay for the thing as opposed to their younger-and-poorer future spouses, in combination with the show-offness of the so-called standards we perpetuate as a community. Short of never wearing my ring or using my dubious mindcontrol superpowers to affect the standards of millions, I couldn’t really do anything except explain this one.

Secondly, we dress better. As in, we don’t wear jeans and grungy T-shirts or sweats. I thought I’d have to introduce them to an average grungy yeshiva bochur to disabuse them of this notion, seeing as the only other alternative is to wear a grungy T-shirt myself. Which, unfortunately, carried the risk of a maternal heart attack should she ever find out. In the end, my fellow program frumgirls began appearing in full length pilling “slinky-skirts” and old denim. I must remember to thank them one day.

We also give the overarching impression of being upper class. A lack or reduction of profanity, a value of intelligence, a systematic business sense…they usually go with middle to upper class financials on Earth. We are aliens, remember? We run on a different class system entirely.

Lastly, we have baseline resources built into the structure of our community. It is easier to go from nothing to wealthy (not necessarily rich,) in our community that on Earth proper. I suppose it’s a cycle with the class-confusion. When you treat yourself like middle-to-upper-class, other people catch on eventually. Business is all about getting investor confidence, after all.

Beyond the expectations to personally contribute to things, I’m still not even sure whether it’s a good or bad thing they think we’re all rich. On the one hand, it makes it easier to actually be so in the long run. On the other, we have to deal with jealousy and assistance refusal due to money that may or may not actually exist.


Published in: on March 31, 2008 at 1:44 PM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think it’s best to play down any of the notions that feed the stereotype. Keep in mind that it was only a few generations ago when we were truly aliens, and our ancestors did not dream of our current prosperity.

    Also, it is not the humanoid perspective that makes us aliens “rich”, whether in the long run, or the short.

  2. OK, I’m not proposing that we start dressing in Early Grunge style. Never mind that some pre-shredded jeans can probably cost more than your Shabbos outfit. But I definitely see where their stereotypes come from. I spent a few years commuting by NY subway, and the people whom you’d notice as Jewish were all chaseedish people from Boro Park, always dressed up, wearing makeup and jewelry, a nicely done sheitel, and carrying bags from all the major department stores.

    Now, I dress with dignity, and I wear makeup as needed, but these people look pampered. The people looking at them don’t realize that there are another zillion people back in Boro Park who didn’t go shopping on any given day… and are currently shlepping around in models coats and tichels.

    Anyway, show them the latest yeshiva and camp tuition statistics and watch understanding dawn…

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