Wednesday, May 4, 2011

critics, sycophants, and jujubes

I was talking to my dad this morning about writing and being misunderstood. It's one of the things about putting your thoughts down on the page, and letting the world read them. I believe it's both an act of courage, folly, and takes at least a smidge of narcissism (otherwise you're John Kennedy Toole). It's like many other artistic endeavors. You can't do it in a vacuum. I mean you can, but then you're a crazed shut-in (I'm borderline).

My friend Jason wrote a blog post this week about the "why you write" issue. The many ways we seek approval, don't want approval, wonder if the things we are writing about are worthy, interesting, make sense to our audience, alienate those closest to us. I've had MANY thoughts like this in the last year "if everyone I knew was dead I could write and INSANE memoir". That can't be healthy. I've also had the slightly saner thought "If I wrote a book under a psuedonym, I could write an INSANE memoir." But where's the fun in that? It wouldn't even be scandalous because who would there be to be scandalized. If it's anonymous it might as well be fiction.

Sometimes I don't know if this is a mom blog, or a craft blog, or just a place for me to mentally vomit every so often. I know that I enjoy the writing process. I'm often compelled to write, waking up in the middle of the night with whole posts in my head. I like when people respond to it in a positive way, and I'm driven to distraction when someone clearly doesn't get it. My least favorite response is a the "aaawww, you're great! Don't be blue!" response to a post where I'm clearly trying to tell a story about what a Larry David style socially awkward freak I can be. I mean you have to know that if I'm telling an embarrassing story, it's because

A) I think it's funny
B) I think I'm awesome
C) I want you to laugh AT me AND with me
D) In my family we laugh at ourselves a lot, and DO NOT under any circumstances want pity or pathos from strangers much less each other. That would be a sign that you are weak, and the other family member will promptly kill and eat you

When I get the pity response, it makes me feel
A) Dirty
B) Misunderstood
C) Like one of those moms who makes her kid sick to get attention. What's that called? Munchausens? I swear all neurosis contained within these pages is real.
D) Angry that irony is not something that everyone is born with

I hope this post didn't feel like a scolding. I don't want to be one of those people that tells you how to view their work. You're gonna read this and take what you will from it. How you perceive my little life will be based more on, wether you were bullied in school, have parents who love you, and are the kind of person who decoupages to mask the suffering that is the human existence, than anything I say. Just know I'm out here in the sun, typing away because I enjoy it, and I love it when you love it, and when you don't...I think you're stupid.

Without further ado, here is the jujube story:

I should start this by saying that I was raised by a woman who, though she is now some sort of Methodist/Buddhist amalgamation, I always had the impression she was trying to raise us like nice Jewish kids. So much so that in college, I once lied on a date and told a boy (who I thought was totally not worth the lip gloss I had just applied, but you know first date, trying to make a good impression) that my mother's side of the family was Jewish. Ok, well I didn't out and out say it, I just didn't correct him when he said something about how I understood because I was Jewish. Sue me. I now realize that this was just my sheltered midwestern response to all the hummus and fake yiddish accent aphorisms she used to throw around. We couldn't be bigger honky's. But I grew up thinking I had some silent connection to Woody Allen and a pushcart on Orchard street. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE!

Ok that was all disclaimer for those of you who don't have my ironic Jewish fatalism and comic sensibilities, and are going to to think the following story is about me being a closeted bigot. Kind of like my niece's old nanny who thought Borat was anti-semetic. Sigh... No irony. The amount of explaining contained in this paragraph kind of ruins the rest of it for me, and I'm vowing not have any more paragraphs like this on the blog again. But I'm 9 months pregnant, and if one more person says something stupid to me this week, there will be blood...

When Nipper and I were first married, we lived in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. There is an enormous concentration of Hassidic Jews in this part of town. I always marveled at their ability to get their teenage sons to wear giant hats and payos in the middle of our giant media metropolis. And don't even get me started on the wives wigs. Kudos to you. Living in this neighborhood shattered all of my illusions that I could "pass" for a jew. A revelation I verbalized in an audition with John Landis when he asked about my ankle tattoo. One of my finer professional moments. I am SO awesome.

The men in the neighborhood would avert their gaze when we passed on the street. The women, paid me no mind. After a few years, I took to saying in a too loud, and too friendly tone "GOOD AFTERNOON!" like a crazy person, because it pained me so to be shunned by MY people. The chosen people.

One day I was walking home from the art supply store. I saw a dad and his three small children stopped on the sidewalk half a block ahead of me. The littlest one was in a stroller, and the other two were crowded around. They were sharing some kind of candy out of a box, and as I got closer the kids looked up at me, smiling, mouths filled with sweets. When I got about 10 feet away, I exclaimed loudly "JUJUBES!!!!!!!!". The dad who would normally just turn his head so as not to have to look at the wicked shiksa, looked directly at me, his face incredulous and sour. In the time it took for his direct gaze and disapproval to register, I had halved the distance between us. Looking down I could see clearly the writing on the candy box. They were gummy bears. The girls were eating gummy bears out of a box. But gummy bears don't come in a box. EVERYONE knows they come in a bag! The dad clearly thought I was making some crass racial slur at the expense of his children. He must have thought I was MESHUGANA. 

I've since learned to live with the banality and non being of my jewish existence. 

Mazel Tov!

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