Frumgirl 1: Change of Public Name

I think we need to submit the word “frum” for inclusion into standard English dictionaries. There is no other practical standard English alternative.

Calling myself a “religious Jew” puts my practice standards on the same level of perception as the barely practicing: the folk who may wear pants, pat coworkers on the back, and don’t make a big fuss about things like being asked to go for a coffee run at a non-kosher restaurant.

“Orthodox Jew,” is often misunderstood, though. Unless someone has had considerable contact with frum Jews in the past, calling myself an Orthodox Jew not ring any bells in terms of practice and possible accommodation I may need. It’s also unwieldy, being two words and not complying with easy grammatical conversion (Orthodox Jews or Jewish People do not do “x” sounds either lumpy or truncated, and unnecessarily accusatory or overly PC).

I’ve noticed a tendency to shorten one’s description to simply “Orthodox.” This is not a good idea. Why? I fell into this habit for a little while as well, until I was permanently cured of it in the course of a single conversation. I described myself as Orthodox to a non-Jewish underclassman, to be told “Me too, I’m also Orthodox! Coptic Orthodox!”

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Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 11:27 PM  Comments (13)  

Frumgirl 1: Another Chanukah Miracle

“I moved here from Colombia,” began my young Catholic boss-for-ten-weeks, “and got a job right away here in Manhattan.”

It was an abysmal, rainy Thursday with few patients. The end of the week was close enough that everyone had begun to slack off, but still far enough off to engender an aura of expectant listlessness. Perfect for story time.

“At first I lived with some cousins in the Bronx, but I couldn’t stay there. I was looking for an apartment in the yeshiva area…”

“Yeshiva area?” I interrupted. You never know which yeshiva people are talking about sometimes.

“You know, yeshiva university.”

I hadn’t. “Oh, okay.”

“Apartments are really scarce there,” she continued, “So the way to do it is make friends with the doormen, who tell you when someone moves out so you can grab the apartment. So one day I went thrifting here in the city, and I bought some nice decorating pieces. One of which is a multi-candle holder. I just thought it looked nice. And I’m carrying my thrifting finds in my bag, and I decide to walk down my favorite block and ask the doormen if any new apartments were available. Sure enough, I’m super-lucky and somebody had just moved out the day before. The doorman let me look at the apartment, and I put my deposit down right then and there. As I’m finalizing everything, the doorman says, ‘The neighbors will be so happy to hear that a Latina Jewish woman moved in here. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Columbian Jewish woman.’

‘I’m not Jewish,’ I told him,

‘Then why are you carrying a Menorah in your bag?’ And he points to my candle-holder that I picked up thrifting that day! I had no idea! The candle holder (what do you call it again- a Yora?) got me my dream apartment!”

Published in: on December 13, 2009 at 2:34 PM  Comments (2)  

Frumgirl 1: Learning Curve

I may have gotten better at relating with the non-frum by being in grad school for more than two years, but my classmates have similarly improved their frummie-relating skills. Okay, some more than others, but certain ones are pretty close to fully frummie-literate now.

My LDS (Mormon) classmate is one of the best ones. She and I both had good news on the same day (her sister got engaged and I have a new niece,) she immediately wished me mazal tov and I automatically responded with congratulations. Today, upon hearing that a first-year grad student was engaged, my classmate gushed with the standard frummie vocabulary, inquiries, and request to see her bracelet.

One of my Muslim classmates was asked by a Frumguy what an Islamic head-cloth was officially called.  “You mean a shmatta?” he replied with a wink.

Even a relatively clueless classmate, when asked why he didn’t attend an Orthodox wedding when invited responded with,  “Me? Go to a party where all the women are a hundred feet away and on the other side of a wall? No thanks!”

Are there still misconceptions floating around? Sure, and plenty. Will there be enough humorous and sticky situational fodder for me to write about on in this blog? Undoubtably. Is there still a long way to go? You betcha. But it has become most apparent that in meeting the world with as open a mind as I could muster, the world that I’ve met has reciprocated.

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 1:18 AM  Comments (2)  

Frumgirl 1: Exercise in Anthropology, Anyone?

Has anyone heard the superstition that if you put your handbag/purse on the floor, your money will “go away”?

When I was first told it, I thought it was on par with knocking on wood, (fairly common, even if I don’t know the origin,) and not walking under ladders (common sense,) but then I mentioned it to a classmate who asked me if it was an Orthodox thing. Yup, all my weird foibles and indecipherable comments must be Orthodox things, obviously. Clearly, financial repercussions for putting one’s purse on the floor was not a run of the mill superstition.

Personally, I find the random little superstitions embedded into standard American culture or fragments thereof to be infinitely amusing. They make me feel better about not stepping over people and only ever placing cups right side up for most of my life. Every time I come across a new little irrationality, I like to find out who will look at me like I’m an alien if I reference it around them and who will know exactly what I’m talking about. Chalk it up to learning the role.

So far, the people I have met who heard the purse-on-the-floor superstition from a parent or elderly relative are: Southern Baptist, Syrian (Sephardic) Jewish, and Colombian Catholic.

My first step to puzzling this one out was to contact my Portland friend, who will heretofore be known as Miss Priss (yes, she approved this nickname,) and who is my go-to for questions on Southern Baptism due to a plethora of Southern relatives and a flair for explaining things well. All credit for putting this puzzle together goes to her. After some thought, it seems that all three locations have heavy West African cultural influences. I will assume that if you put your handbag on floor in most West African locales, there is a good chance that your money will “go away.” mystery solved. Since I’m not about to conduct an in-depth study as to where else in the world there are heavy West African influences, I will simply shelve this knowledge until someone gasps when I put my bag down.

I’m pretty sure that other people have come across random and humorous superstitions, too. I find it gratifying that most are just as silly as the ones I grew up with, just different. If you’ve encountered any interesting ones, or grew up with any uncommon ones, please share!

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 12:24 AM  Comments (18)  

Frumgirl 1: Generalized Closet Size

Eventually, everyone has to deal with the obnoxiously curious. From the relatively harmless guy who’s not too embarrassed to ask the hole in the sheet question to the utterly odious dude who researched “Orthodox Judaism” on wikipedia and comes in with a written list of overly specific questions about niddah the following day (true stories!). Still, I was unprepared to be asked the size of my closet by a guy I hadn’t seen in three months.

Usually it’s not that hard to differentiate the valid questions or genuinely curious (if overly so,)  from the simply annoying. This question didn’t hit a single validity marker, so I told him to get lost. Little did I know.

“But,” he interjected, “my friend’s father designs closets for Orthodox Jews’ houses and he says they’re all like, room-sized. Like the size of this classroom,” (roughly 30 by 15).

And suddenly, the idiocy of such stereotypes struck me. I said, “Dude, you know I live in a tiny apartment. Do you think I have a room-sized closet?”

He is surprisingly silent for a few second. “Uh, no…”

“And do you think that all Orthodox Jews have room-sized closets? The ones living in poverty? The ones living with a whole big family in a city that fits two children and a dog on a good day?”

“Uh, no, but…”

I didn’t let him finish. “Do you want me to tell you that there are wealthy Orthodox Jews out there? Sure, I’ll tell you. There are wealthy Orthodox Jews out there. Are all of us wealthy? Think, Dude, think.”

And I walked away in disgust. Oops?

Published in: on December 5, 2009 at 8:00 PM  Comments (1)  

Frumgirl 1: Chary, Wary, Crunch and Trust

It started with a fairly basic question: “What happens if you eat something that isn’t kosher?”

Which may sound incredibly simple and you’d think it’s the sort of question people are asked all the time. But this was the first I’d ever heard it, and it was about to become the preamble to a doozy of an encounter. I’ve fielded “Do you believe in hell,” danced around the definition of Judaism, and been subject to a broken record of common phrases and preconceptions that wind up within the first ten questions the average non-Orthodox individual feels comfortable asking me. Never had I been asked so directly and so practically such a basic tenet of Jewish thought. Certainly not while contending with a patient chart containing no discernible evidence of having ever approached the English language despite being written by, of all things, an actual Englishwoman.

Which is why I stared stupidly at my Colombian temporary ten-week-boss for a full thirty seconds of silence while trying to sift two illegible anti-hypertensives and a mood stabilizer out of the cogent response I knew was lurking somewhere in the back of my head.

“I mean, do you go to hell?” she clarified helpfully.

“That depends,” I started, since almost all things religious depend in some way and it gave me a few more safe milliseconds in which to think, “on what my intentions were and what else I did in my life.”

“So if you eat pork once without knowing it, you don’t go to hell?”

“Uh, no.”

My boss took a deep breath, as if she was greatly relieved. “I’m so glad to know! I’ve been feeling horribly guilty ever since my wedding.”

Of course I was not about to let that rest unquestioned, despite the infinitely alluring call of a stubbornly indiscernible patient chart. Besides, this was the boss herself I was wasting time with and I had no patients waiting for me. Gradually, I teased out the full story:

“I have this friend Ron. Who’s Jewish and sort of religious, but not religious like you.” She waved a hand at my wardrobe choice for the day, continuing with “he doesn’t keep kosher, but he won’t eat pork. When I made the menu for my wedding, I chose a pork dish. And I knew that he wouldn’t eat anything at my wedding if he knew there was pork in it, and I felt so bad about that so I put him on the vegan table and told the chef to give him the vegan menu. Well, the chef tells me the day before my wedding that the vegan menu also has a little bit of pork in it, but you can’t taste it. And I knew that if I told Ron, he would go hungry at my wedding so I told the waiter to tell the whole table that the food had no pork in it if they were asked. Ever since then I’ve been feeling terribly guilty that Ron might go to hell because of me for something that’s my fault.”

The first thing I couldn’t help thinking about were those urban legends about trusted domestic help putting butter in peoples’ chicken and similarly trusted daycare assistance feeding people’s toddlers ham sandwiches at the corner deli and then lying about it for years. Then there was also the “darn, I had just worked myself into something that did not quite involve so much wariness and now this.” Then I think I became even more disgusted that she’d feed a table full of vegans pork, lie about it, and then feeling more guilty about endangering her “sort of” religious Jewish friends’ afterlife.

So I flubbed a platitude as a response and went back to my chart decoding, but I was shaken and the boss could tell. Needless to say, dietary trust is one area in which no absolute point of view is ever always right.

Published in: on December 3, 2009 at 12:46 AM  Comments (7)  

Frumgirl 1: Reaffirmation of Presence and Purpose

Yes, I am aware that my already meager readership (or whatever there was of one,) has long since given up on new content. Still, I’m at loathe to discontinue this blog since the reason for its conception is not only alive and kicking, but downright flourishing from neglect under its dark and slimy rock.

Why’d I go AWOL this time? You can imagine my expression when I walked into my parents’ place one rushed Friday afternoon to spot a certain familiar blog header open on my youngest brother’s laptop. My family has a variety of opinions on the contents, (they recognized my voice instantly,) ranging from “you sound so subversive” to “it’s fairly well written.”

If you can’t imagine my expression then, how about when a non-Orthodox classmate asks me who I was referring to by one of my little ruthless classmate-descriptors here? No? Well, I’m sure both times it was a mix of shock, disbelief, and a tiny little traitorous slice of pride. A slice which has convinced me to keep writing, even though parents and classmates are reading now and anonymity has revealed itself to be transparent false security blanket in a very small world. I have never been the sort to pull punches or allow the opinions of people I do not respect affect the way I do or say things, and I’m not about to start now.

A lot has changed in the months since last post, including myself. I can pass for non-frummie far more effectively than ever before. I’m not quite sure how and why this occurred, but it doesn’t bother me as long as I can turn it on and off at will. It has lowered my patience for those willfully close-minded frum-bubble-dwellers who form opinions based on third hand and highly suspect visions of reality, but my patience for such has never been ideal to begin with. That was always at least a portion of the point of this blog: to gently, circuitously, and humorously cause at least a few people to think about whether bubble-dwelling is truly beneficial in the long run. For both ourselves microcosmically and as a group member of a larger global community that has the power to afford and deny us needs. Ignorance on both sides of the frum-bubble has not helped me or anyone I know one bit. There has got to be a better way to preserve who we are and what we believe in without isolating ourselves with a blanket war on media.

So I will keep on writing, regardless of who is reading (or not reading,) and if necessary I will be equally forthright in person to all confronters. Expect more.

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 4:05 PM  Comments (9)  

Frumgirl 1: Easily Teased, Me?

Warning: this entry is not as clean as would be desired due to necessity of content. It is hardly explicit, either.

In the infinite wisdom of my most infinitely illogical professor, two from a collection of symposiums, panels, and lectures that fell under the heading of “Sex in Medicine Week,” were mandatory to all students in my program.

No, discomfort was not a valid reason for failing to show up. Attendance was taken, after all. To give you an idea how unnecessary these lectures were to begin with, the “in Medicine” portion of the title “Sex in Medicine Week” was really, really small in comparison to the other two title words on all the signs promoting the event. The more apt nomenclature of “Sex Week,” was used by everyone, and as that accurately predicted, the symposium was little more than a social lets-all-get-together-and-talk-about-sex-in-public event and not a sort of informative session on medical issues. The consequence for not sitting through the entirety of both sordid lectures was severe enough to make anyone think several times before braving hooky, to boot.

So off went this poor Frumgirl, scrunching down in a back seat and pretending she was anywhere but there, listening to 300 students and faculty members loudly yell “orgasm,” at the top of their lungs on the behest of a rather famous 80 year old accented “sex therapist” radio personality.

Said former Hagana-sniping, WW2-surviving sex therapist was signing books after her well disguised sell-job of a lecture, and I could think of nothing I wanted to do more than magically procure a rivaling public-personality sex therapist’s book for her to sign. Sort of a silent protest for being forced through one of the more uncomfortable hours of my life. Sadly, I did not come prepared for this.

The other discomforting lecture was billed as a talk about the issues of men and women with developmental disabilities; men and women who may ask certain questions of their favorite health professionals. Sounds not all that objectionable, right? In reality, it was merely another opportunity for people to talk about private matters before all and sundry. Except this time it was people with developmental disabilities airing their dirty laundry. With one redeeming factor: it discussed the prevalence of abuse in residential homes, which is staggering and quite frankly appalling.

Around halfway through this lecture, the speaker asks the audience to form small groups, answer a page of questions, and choose a leader to represent their answers when asked.

Now guess who was immediately nominated?

Bingbingbing! Yup, you guessed it.

“C’mon, Frumgirl, step out of your comfort zone for once!” (Um, why?)

“Yeah, Frumgirl, we’re just trying to get you to say the word sex out loud for once!” (I totally do in reference to matters of clinical relevance!)

“Besides, Frumgirl, I bet you know the answers to all the questions!” (That would be such a great compliment in any other situation.)

I managed to worm my way out of that particular responsibility, but never let it be said that grad school is all about the future profession or that one can possibly walk away with an advanced degree in one subject area without receiving a certain amount of education in many other areas, as well.

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 7:08 PM  Comments (7)  

Frumgirl 1: Reconstructionist Fashion Advice

Here’s a question of the day: why would anyone ask a frumguy fashion advice?

You’d think that one look at the lack of deviation and stylistic flair the typical frumguy sports on an informal daily basis would be enough to warn people off. Maybe, if it were a frumgirl doing the asking, one may optimistically believe the average frumguy knows something of clothes actually worth hearing through exposure. Otherwise, in my experience, you may as well ask an Innuit about swimsuit design for all the decent fashion expertise you’re likely to receive.

Perhaps it was the belief that frummies know every single minutaie about Judaism that prompted the Long Island classmate to ask the class Hassidic Dude whether a particular dress of hers was appropriate for a Bat Mitzvah in a Reconstructionist temple. He looked a little lost, so I helped him out.

What I should have said was to wear whatever she’d feel comfortable wearing to a church.

Instead, I provided my standard non-frummie propriety standards; of hemline, sleeves, and neckline, only one may be skimped upon.

It was the wrong thing to say. The dress she intended to wear was extremely low cut, had no sleeves, and fell on the shorter side of mid-thigh. Frumgirl 1: 0  Social awkwardness: 50

On the other hand, the Hassidic Dude has been inside a Reconstructionist temple the same number of times as I have: zero. Given that the Long Island girl didn’t know this, I’m going to assume she fell prey to the Hassidim-know-everything stereotype rather than wonder on her perception of my fashion acuity, having gone to him instead of me.

Published in: on March 18, 2009 at 1:19 PM  Comments (2)  

Frumgirl 1: Scallions

“You’re Sephardic?” asked the southern baptist black woman of the patient in the next chair over thumbing a Parenting magazine. She’s had prolonged exposure to all sorts of frummies, and can even tell the differences, apparently.

“Yes, I am,” replied the woman politely, social smile gracing her face, “I’m Persian.”

“So that means that you beat the groom with a scallion at the wedding?”

W-wait a second there. Where’d she get that one from? Sure, I’m all for beating grooms with things at weddings, but scallions strike me as not particularly effective weapons. And who wants a scallion-smelling groom, anyway?

Published in: on March 5, 2009 at 6:52 PM  Comments (7)  

Frumgirl 1: Back in Kansas

Our apologies for the recent dearth of posts. Events such as finals, school breaks, and real life felt the need to intrude upon our posting habits quite rudely.

I, for one, have not been posting about my forays into the real world because I am temporarily back in the bubble. Back where witnessing someone use a swear word is tantamount to seeing them without a shirt on, where noone compliments you on your haircut when you switch wigs, and where I don’t have to think to substitute “wig” for “shaitel” because everyone understands liberally frum-peppered English.

Which was odd for the first few days. I’d gotten used to automatically speaking real-world English, so people assume me less “frum” than they used to.  It’s never particularly thrilling to go back the environment you identify with to find that you no longer quite fit so well. An alien in both worlds, how absolutely wonderfull. But old rhythms die harder than new ones, and I found myself donning my old alien skin quite as comfortably as ever.

My regular classes resume soon, and regular posting is beginning again. As ever, if you’d like to write something for this blog,  know that  new voices are always appreciated and  graduation comes soon enough.

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 12:50 PM  Leave a Comment  

Frumgirl 1: Reverse Assimilation

I personally can not stand the holiday season when in a secular environment. Chanukah is nice and all that, but we don’t celebrate it with paper decorations, so when people try to be PC and hang dreidels on the lobby xmas evergreen, the gesture just falls flat. Additionally, it’s annoying that a one day holiday somehow manages to dominate an entire season. I understand the the US is dominated by christian leanings, but I am nothing short of resentful that I have to endure their holidays taking over my non-religiously-affiliated school every December.

Finally, I found someone who understands this.

She’s LDS, (Mormon for the less informed,) and from a state out to the west that doesn’t go quite far enough to actually hit the other coast. She comes into school one day and says, “What’s a dreideldreideldreidel?”

“A what?”

“A dreideldreideldreidel,” she responds, “my son came home from daycare, where they sing all the carols, and he was singing this song, too. It went “oh, dreideldreideldreidel,’ and I was wondering if maybe it was a Jewish thing.”

So I laughed. And explained it to her.

But she was so miffed that her kid was taught this song amongst all the traditional carols like it belonged in her home.

I felt like saying “welcome to my world.”

Published in: on December 6, 2008 at 10:45 PM  Comments (7)  

Frumgirl 1: Listen to Your Wife

Posting Divrei Torah on a blog is not really my thing. I don’t profess to be any great authority on matters Judaic (high school lemudei kodesh grades can attest to that,) and I find all but the most well-written or mind-twisting little essays on the parsha to be deathly boring.

I will make an exception, however, for one of my favorite statements from G-d. It’s in this week’s parsha. I won’t turn it into a D’var Torah, though (really,) so just bear with me for a paragraph.

Sarah (imeinu, I’m not on a first name basis with her,) tells Avraham (avenu, not on a first name basis with him, either,) to throw out the wife she told him to marry in the first place. He balks. And G-d, in all His G-dly big-and-important splendor, gets involved in the domestic. Summarily tells Avraham to listen to his wife; no ifs, ands, or buts, listen to your wife, mister. He could have just said, in active form, to keep the other wife and kid. He didn’t. He put in that little note of admonishment: you gotta listen to your wife!

It is understandable why this is one of my favorite bits of Book, me with my feminist leanings. I like all the little expressions of value for women that litter our conglomerate of beliefs. I like how they affect our modern culture and unique attitudes towards the feminine. There are also very few so explicitly stated admonishments to men in their attitude to women in the Orginal Five, so I carry around this likable bit of Book in an accessible piece of my mind in case I ever need it. And somehow my textual favoritism came to light in the presence of some classmates.

“Oh, that part of the story isn’t in the Koran,” said the Muslim dude I’ve talked about before, by way of argument.

And I was shocked for a moment. But then I realized how telling the omission is in the Muslim attitude towards women, and began wondering who took it out, when, and for what reason.

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 8:26 PM  Comments (4)  

Frumgirl 1: Jewish Women

(Frumgirl 1 lowers her binoculars)

The Jewish Woman (Mulier  Jewess) can be easily spotted in the Brooklyn area at all times of the year. She is both indigenous and aggressive so sightings are frequent and binoculars are rarely necessary. She is most distinguishable from afar by her coat of black and distinctive vocal pattern. Her behavior is unique, as well. Two common characteristics of the Jewish Woman are the ability to accomplish more in a given time than is deemed possible by general human standards and the propensity she has to spend her life feeding everyone she meets.

I have drafted this entry for an Audobon-esque guide to humans. Photographic quality prints are in progress. Given such commonly known information about Jewish Women, such exchanges should be fairly common:

Classmate: What’s in that bag you’re holding?

Me: More cake. An immediate family member of mine has gotten married, so I have a seven parties’ worth of leftover food to distribute.

Classmate, unimpressed: Is it good cake?

Me: I believe so, but I expect you to eat it even if it isn’t.

Classmate: You are so Jewish.

The cake was good, in case anyone was wondering. It was decimated (in the literal sense) in less than a second.

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 11:46 PM  Leave a Comment  

Frumgirl 1: Why All Our Two Year Olds Are Girls

Scenario the first:

“Oh, is that a picture of you with your sister?” asked the the girl a deeply scoop-necked sweater next to me. The picture in question features my seven or eight year old self posing, entirely unselfconscious, with a toddler brother sporting waist long blond bottle curls. I had killer maternal instincts as a kid, and they show through in that photo.

“That’s actually my brother,” I returned to my seat neighbor. I can’t remember why that old picture was in my notebook. Detritus of life, I suppose. It all ends up in my notebook eventually. “We don’t cut our boys’ hair until their third birthday,” I offered by way of explanation.

“You don’t mind that all your little boys look like girls?”

“Not really.”

And I am graced with the standard ‘you are a bunch weirdos’ look. You get used to that after a little while.

Scenario the second:

“You made a huge party for your three-year-old?” exclaimed a rude middle eastern guy the size of an ox. This was beyond rude, when you consider who he was talking to. The Chassidish dude was nice enough to bring large bowls of salad and pasta and fancy baked goods leftover from his son’s Upsherin. Ox-guy could have shown a little gratitude, but I suppose that was beyond him.

“It’s a big thing by us,” the Chassidish dude explains, “the third birthday is when we cut their hair for the first time and…”

“Yeah, whatever,” Ox-guy interrupted, and proceeded to dig in, stopping to flash the above-mentioned ‘you are a weirdo’ look.

To be fair, the Upsherin is a concept that strikes non-frummies strange when they first hear about it. And when they ask you to explain why you do it, the explanation is not a simple, easy textual one you can rattle off, either.

One area for which weirdo looks are inevitable.

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 10:47 PM  Comments (15)  

Frumgirl 1: How do YOU React?

Now that Succos is over, school is back in full force, with a full force of situations that just make you blink several times and wonder what, exactly, just happened.

“Hey, take a look at this,” I told an amicable Muslim classmate. He and I are on pretty good terms these days. Once you get past a few glaring differences, he’s actually more alike us than non-religious folk.

I was referring to that new article in the New York magazine. This one, to be exact. The one where it oh-so-flatteringly accepts for granted that New York Jews control the economy. The one where we are urged to happily return to our corner Delis, neighborhood bagel shops, and impecunious origins since our power has been Vanquished. I wanted his opinion on it. I wanted to see if he picked up on the same subtle threads reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Turns out he does. Homes in on it like a heat-seeking missile.

“The glass towers of midtown Manhattan are filled with Jewish magicians who manipulate abstract symbols that shape the contents of people’s characters and opinions as well as the contents of their wallets and can seemingly be transformed at will into other markers of value in a dizzying progression that destroys the certainties of blood and soil on which life is founded for ordinary villagers…” he reads aloud, pausing in the middle so it doesn’t sound quite so much like an endless run-on, until he stops and laughs, “this is so true!”

And then he looks at me with camaraderie, with an I’d-nudge-you-with-my-elbow-here-if-I-could look he was so quick to develop to accommodate me, like he expects me agree with him.

I don’t. “Shush!” I tell him, for lack of anything better surfacing in the gobble-de-gook soup that used to be a functioning mind. “Jews do not control the economy. Think logically!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Except it was obvious that he didn’t, and was just trying to placate me.

And by the time I figured out what I could say to him on the topic, it was time to go back to class.

So how do you react to flippant, friendly antisemitism?

Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 11:43 AM  Comments (17)  

Frumgirl 1: Tactile Hardwiring

Some people are just hardwired to be touchy-feely. Some people, no matter how long you’ve been around them and how many times you’ve expounded upon how you are a voluntary untouchable, these people will touch you, anyway.

Not through any malicious intent, of course. They apologize profusely afterward and firmly interlock their hands behind their backs to prevent recurrences. It never helps.

They are just touchy-feely people. They relate through touch. Nothing wrong with that, per se, it just makes relating with them in person without looking like you have ants in your pants a decidedly Herculean feat.

“How are you doing today?”  they say, as they touch your shoulder in concern.

You edge backward, replying, “I’m a little under the weather,”

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” they enthuse sympathetically, while attempting to pat your back. You take another step backward, and they finally catch on. They dig their hand into their pockets or hook them onto their belt and look sorry. They produce that little half-smile that you know is a sincere recognition of their regret.

And yet you know, with perfect certainty, that come next interaction they will simply do it again. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

So you can decide to avoid them, prematurely pruning a potentially advantageous association.  Or you can  decide to maintain the minimum portable x-ray exposure distance at all times (six feet). You might even decide to continuously to admonish them for every individual frummie-relations faux pas.

Doesn’t matter which you prefer; you always lose.

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 3:51 PM  Comments (1)  

Frumgirl 1: Going With the Flow

“Hey Frumgirl1!” calls the long island girl in her halter top and yoga pants, “come take a look at this!” On her Mac, she points to a fairly sedate dress available at a well-known retailer’s website. “What do you think of this for Yom Kippur?” she asks.

“It’s nice,” I tell her.

What I don’t tell her is monumental. I don’t tell that even though she considers herself Jewish and does more traditionally Jewish things than your standard non-Orthodox Jew, according to Orthodoxy she isn’t Jewish at all. Yes, her father is. Means less than the stacker and scraper shidduch inquiries, since her mother isn’t.

But I’d never tell her that. I keep mum and it bothers me. I suppose that if she wants to be considered Jewish by the resident frummie contingent, I’m happy to oblige.

She’s so proud of her identity as a Jew.

Published in: on October 6, 2008 at 2:36 PM  Comments (18)  

Frumgirl 1: Unconscious Innuendo

I don’t like posting about things that frummies do in non-orthodox environments to make themselves look incredibly silly and perpetuate stereotypes. Regardless of how much they may make me wish we were not affiliated with each other, I generally don’t make a big deal about it. This particular issue, however, I feel is worth writing about.

Frummies are sheltered. I get that. Frummies have different standards of normalcy. Non-frummies get that. There are, however, limits to what can be considered venial offenses. Some things just go too far.

Now, I publicly call myself a frummie, but one that grew up with movies, (sometimes a TV,) and a voracious appetite for all types of books. Despite my film-like “exposure,” to public media, I have yet to develop into what’s called a guttermind. That’s the word I use for people who think about intimate matters with such regularity so as search through completely innocent comments for hints of innuendo. Despite the darkroom effect of grad school, I have gone no further towards becoming one. Either I mysteriously upgraded from analog to digital image capturing somewhere along the line or Bais Yaakov highly eggagerated matters on yet another aspect of the “outside world.”

Bais Yaakovs would have their girls think that all males, and especially non-orthodox males, are gutterminds of the worst sort. This, folks, is not true. Yes, I am sure. Some guys are, I’m not denying that, but some are definitely not. And guttermindedness is not restricted to the males half of the specie, some females are even worse.

Growing up sheltered and being placed into the company of gutterminds for the first time might excuse the occaisional mildly gutterable comment. It is NOT a condonation to use unwittingly blatant innuendo, or for what actually goes on.

Which happens. It happens so often and to such a degree that I am forced to wonder if some of it might not be intentional. No, I guess it can’t be. People really are that clueless.

It is best demonstrated by example. I am cringing and turning red merely typing this, but if I don’t is impossible to understand what I mean. And the severity and prevalence of its occurrence.

A frum classmate of mine has a sore throat. She changed her facebook status to read that she wishes for something hot in her throat. Except she used more adjectives, and worded it slightly differently. It was not pretty.

She was wishing for a tea, or chicken soup if she could get it. I know she meant it completely innocently. Her phrasing was…unfortunate. There was, in fact, no way to avoid the innuendo. No guttermindedness needed.

It gets worse.

I see and hear an appalling amount of…dare I say it? Not entirely straight intimations.

Every single day.

Completely innocent, and yet so, so…

Here’s an example: “slept with” is a standard Americans euphemism for “had relations with.” Frummie girls do usually know this (thankfully,) and are carefull not to use it in reference to separate-room-literal-sleep with males. Still, I hear that particular combination of words all the time in reference to literal comatose shuteye in the vicinity of other females.

Combine it with the Frummie girl tendency to stand too close to one another and have more physical contact than the usual straight American friendly population. And then they say things like “I slept with her for a year, but we fought a lot so I moved out,” about seminary roommates while resting on another frummie girl’s lap.

Yes, it gets even worse.

I don’t care how sheltered you might be. Some things just don’t fly in public.

If Bais Yaakov girls are going out into the world so socially clueless, I hope the Frum educational administration knows it. I hope they know that there are non-gutterminded people out there who assume all frumgirls are lesbian because of it.

It bothers me exceedingly.

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 10:15 PM  Comments (13)  

Frumgirl 1: Half-Holiday

One of the more difficult topics to dance around in a non-Jewish setting is Chol Hamoed.

It’s an eight day holiday, you tell them, so they ask how you’re going to manage missing eight days of school.

Oh, we’re only missing four, you reply, merely the first two and last two.

But they thought all Jewish holidays needed school-missing?

No, you explain, the eight day holidays like Passover and Succos have a break in the middle where you can do things, but it’s still a holiday.

And they look at you like you, personally, decided to instigate religious holidays deliberately to annoy them.

I’m not so happy about going to school on Chol Hamoed, in general, but I can’t miss a week’s worth of lecture, either. So I’ll avoid writing and feel guilty

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 11:01 AM  Comments (8)  

Frumgirl 1: Surviving in the Wild

Walmart tends to be portrayed as some sort of big bad evil, rearing its huge box-like ugly head everywhere like a hydra with the sole purpose of sucking local economies dry. While provididng low-paying, cult-like employment to people who then do their shopping at Walmart, sending all local money spiralling back to the vacuum-like corporation.

One definite big plus about the super-giant store: I have learned, over my vacation that one can subsist on only the kosher offerings of Walmart indefinitely, if they need to. If they eat Chalav Stam, anyway.

Kosher canned foods, milk, eggs, and condiments are always available, not to mention Lender’s bagels.

And coffee is kosher, too. Because living without coffee is hardly considered surviving.

Walmart has effectively made America kosher, accessible to any frummie with a car and GPS willing to brave current gas prices. No food schlepping necessary. Anywhere that a Walmart stands, a frummie can survive if need be.

Published in: on August 29, 2008 at 2:00 PM  Comments (3)  

Frumgirl 1: Counting

Number of patients who have tried to convert me to one religion or another: 4

Number of conversion attempts, in total: 9

Snippet from the funniest:

Patient with big hair and ankle fracture: “So you’re Hassidic, right?”

Me, going about my job: “Nah, I’m just plain Orthodox.”

Patient, tilting her head: “Hassidic people don’t believe in jesus, right?”

Me, preoccupied: “That’s right.”

Patient, head tilting slowly in the opposite direction:”So the rest of you all do believe in jesus, right?”

Me, perking up: “Oh, no, you can’t be Jewish if you do.”

Patient, aghast: “What? None o’ you? You sure? I never heard of that!”

Me, cue reassuring but firm smile: “I’m sure.”

Patient, getting excited: “But you gotta believe in jesus, girl!”

Me: “Huh?”

Patient: “He’s the lord and savior!”

Then she looks at me expectantly, like she’s waiting for an agreement. Or a spontaneous shout of GloryBeHallelujah! and an on the spot conversion.

Persuasivity rating: -6,000/10

Published in: on August 20, 2008 at 5:43 PM  Comments (8)  

Frumgirl 1: So Much For Individuality

This is the sad truth that I’ve come to realize: after spending majority of my teenage-hood trying to break free of the boxes the frum world was so fond of sticking me into, I had a larger chance of being viewed as an individual there than in the “real” world.

The only time I will ever be viewed as an individual and not the “token super-religious woman” is when I’m back in an environment with other frum people for comparison.

It’s comical, really. I defied a frum three-word summation of myself, convinced that the cookie-cutter obsession was a mere frum-foible only to find out that it is entirely impossible to escape a two-word definition in the outside world.

I must laugh.

Published in: on August 17, 2008 at 1:14 PM  Comments (9)  

Frumgirl 1: Frummie Voice

“Are you Jewish?” asked my blind patient in his Morgan Freeman voice.

“Uh…yeah.” I tentatively responded.

“Religious, right?”

“Yeah.” He laughed. It sounded like a small earthquake.

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“Your English.”

I’m so frummie even a blind man can pin me in an instant. Heaven help.

Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 9:09 PM  Comments (7)  

Frumgirl 1: The Kosher Collusion

When you ask the rank and file what kosher means, they’ll tell you, in exactly these words, that a “Rabbi comes down and blesses the food.”

What I have always wondered is where people get this from. Not so much the concept, but the words. Exactly the same words come out of all sorts mouths; I’ve heard it from 80 year old black geezers and Asian Wellesley students alike.

Is there a movie someplace responsible for it?

The concept is rather strange, as well. Is there something in other religions that simply requires a clergyman to bless it before it is considered to be fit for consumption?

Oh, wait. I suppose that if wine and bread can be considered blood and flesh (I have never understood the desire to eat one’s object of worship/salvation,) based on a clergyman’s words, anything is possible.

Where do the non-religious people get the concept from? More importantly, where are they all getting it from in conjunction with one another that they all use exactly the same wording?

Now, I have done my part to correct this gross misinformation by explaining to those that ask what kosher means. Namely, that we have a Rabbi go down to the plant, factory, or kitchen to make sure that no non-kosher ingredients, processes, or machinery are used for the production of our food. But I’d really like to know who the culprit for this one is.

Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 9:05 PM  Comments (5)