My Story, Yours Too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Keeping Yiddish Alive Post-Shredded Wheat

This is a re-post from Biblical times, when our beloved Ian was my only Jewish friend in the blogosphere. It's dedicated to Yiddish, and to everyone -Jews and Gentiles alike- who is or was single for any moment in time. Please enjoy.

Second Title: Doing it with Yiddish Flair

The ladies on Sex and the City do it in every episode. Catholic school girls vow not to do it. Nice Jewish women console the relatives who set shiva[1] once they learned we’re doing it. “Not to worry, Bubbe[2], I won’t do it anymore. Not for long, anyway. I mean, I don’t want to. I’m not trying to do it. It just kind of happens. But I’m careful. And, oy[3], it’s the best. You remember, nu[4]? This it should bother you?”

So we do it. We do it because, though we won’t admit it aloud, it’s exciting and freeing. We do it because we won’t settle for kibbitzing[5]. Enough with the mishegosh[6]! We do it and keep doing it despite what they’re all saying about us. We do it because we’re fed up with the shlemiels[7], shlemazels[8], shmendricks[9], and shmegegees[10]. We do it with sanity intact. We do it with integrity. We do it with subtle confidence. We stay single!

Every so often, we think it may be time to stop doing it. This one might be the one, I tell you: the beshert[11] sent by the Almighty to redeem this life of tsores[12]. Sometimes years, sometimes seconds into the relationship, we detect, shall we say, a few minor imperfections. “Don’t fret, Bubbe, he will move out of his sister’s house when we get engaged. This I am sure of. He will try to find work too, once we have kids. He doesn’t want me to be sole provider. Such a mensch[13], I tell you.” Yet, before the next Shabbat, it explodes in a farshtinkena[14] mess. After the waterfalls of tears, the last crumb consumed of a sinfully trafe[15] chocolate cheesecake, robotically hugging the family members who returned to mourning our bleak existence: oy gevalt[16], such relief! One deep breath later, and we’re back to doing it.

Not to worry, Bubbe, we do it selectively. He’s gotta be at least one quarter Jewish. If not, does he watch Seinfeld in syndication? We should be so lucky!

We do it with stamina. We schmooze[17] for hours at all of the important gatherings: the Matzo and Latke Balls, the Kung Pao comedy night, Israel in the Park, Summer Sizzle, and the list goes on and on I tell you. We stay home on weekends but once in a while. Occasionally, there’s a more appealing option, like clipping our toenails with focus and precision. The next day, though, we get out there again with a chutzpah[18] that would send Miriam[19] kvelling[20] through the deepest of waters. This is true it is.

We do it with variety. There’s to find a partner within 10 miles, or there’s to find a partner within 525 miles. After a while, let me tell you, we increase the range to anywhere in the known universe. Then, there’s speed dating at Starbucks or fast dating at the Jewish Community Center. There’s the incomparably expensive community Yenta[21] or the free but ever intrusive Auntie Rita. Such options they are endless.

We do it safely. We stay in one spot, keep it brief, and leave. No phone call the next day, even. A casual e-mail in 5-7, perhaps. Very rudimentary and protected, you see. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Not to worry.

We do it for stress relief. Oy, no more dirty socks on the kitchen table, no more toilet seats to put back down, no more schedules to coordinate, dietary idiosyncrasies to appease. We do it on our own time, our own terms, with concern only for our own needs. This it is the best, nu?

So I say to you my tribal sisters who are doing it, those of you who perhaps have been doing it for decades, or perhaps find yourselves redoing it, or perhaps wishing to undo it: let it be time to unleash the stigma and just do it with pride! That every moment is a simcha[22] whether we’re alone or taking care of some nudnik[23], I mean loving person. That when and if we decide to abstain from doing it, that this one should be truly worth the abstinence. In the meantime, let us do it with the the perseverance and optimism of our ancestry. Let’s do it with chutzpah. L’chaiyim![24]

[1] Mourning rituals that last for 7 days (or, in this case, possibly a lifetime) following the death of a loved one.
[2] Grandma.
[3] Oy. {There really is no other word for “oy” that says “oy” like “oy”.}
[4] “Yes” or “Yes?” or “I really do mean it.”
[5] Joking around, intruding, teasing. See mishegash.
[6] Craziness, messiness. See kibbitzing.
[7] A fool.
[8] A born loser. Nothing goes right for the shemazel.
[9] A wimp.
[10] A nobody, a jerk.
[11] The love of one’s life, destiny.
[12] Misery, stress.
[13] A true gentleman.
[14] Yucky, smelly. Derived from farshtinkerner (smelly person).
[15] Food that is not kosher. Note: This particular cheesecake was made with lard.
[16] “Oh my” to the extreme.
[17] Talk it up, charm others.
[18] Nerve, fervor – in a good way.
[19] Moses’ sister, a great female leader of the Jewish people in days of very old.
[20] Beaming with pride, boasting.
[21] Matchmaker.
[22] Celebration, blessing.
[23] Annoying person, nuisance.
[24] To life!


  1. Damn there was like 5 or 6 of em I couldn't figure out what they meant LOL

  2. NU!!!! I say kvelling about this post!!!!! You are a simcha to the bloggosphere and L'chaiyim!!


  3. I consider myself a wanna-be Jew and I know oodles of yiddish having dated a Jewish boy for four years. I attended Seder dinners and all that :)

    Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing

  4. Very entertaining and you're teaching me yiddish! x

  5. ...and all this time I thought I was learning Gaelic. I bet that he wasn't really a priest, either.

  6. I must come back and print this out. Yiddish is quiet interesting.

  7. Farshtinkena I recognised. It's the almost same word in the Congo.

  8. Ten kinds of awesome. Now if I can only remember them for future use.

  9. This is awesome! I'm learning a new language!

    Laverne and Shirley makes so much more sense to me now....

  10. All I can say is... wow. I wish I could remember your words so I could confuse my co-workers!

  11. Your comments have me k'velling they do. I used a Yiddish reference book for this one. Oh, and having dated lots of nudniks helped with my Yiddish too.
    Smothering Yiddisha Hugs,

  12. Now that's a Yiddush post. Love the glossary footnote touch. You're truly doing God's work. Mazel Tov!
    Only 8 of the words tripped me up.
    FYI...Some might say I'm #9, but I'd prefer to be #13.

  13. Now.. Do you understand Yiddish was the secret code, therefore I don't farshtaist...
    My bobeh spoke it beautifully; but me, I am tsemisht.
    So och un vai as I should say, or even oy vai iz mir. LOL

    Es gefelt mir Robyn :D


  14. Totally love this. Mir gefelt Yidish. You certainly have a flair for writing great posts.

  15. are you doing what i think you're doing? oy, the naughty!

  16. What about gaycockenoffenyam?

  17. Wow...the only one I knew was 'Oy'..! I think I'm going to start using it once in awhile, just slipping it in a conversation. Yeah, I'm going to say that it's Yiddish and feel all smug when they'll look at me like I'm a GENIUS!!! (I got carried away again)