Monday, August 21, 2006


From DAG:
I was the pizza shop the other night. A mother was on cell phone in front of the register flanked by her aunt and a 7 year old daughter. On the cell phone, mother dearest was yelling at what appeared to be another daughter.
Mother dearest, don't worry about your daughter embarrassing you. You did a FINE job of doing that yourself.
Amen, DAG. Furthermore, these types of things have always bothered me. I can count about 5 different things the mother did wrong:
  • When you're at the register, you should not be on the phone, but paying your bill and getting out of the way to let other people pay theirs.
  • You should never be yelling on a cellphone in a restaurant, even a pizza shop - it's annoying to everyone around you.
  • What embarrasses "you" should not be the issue.
  • What's the problem with the clothes? *elaboration underneath
  • Why should someone feel embarrassed in front of their own aunt by their daughter's clothes?
  • What's the point she's making anyway, if the aunt is standing right there?
  • Yelling at one child in front of another like that doesn't seem wise, though this one is often unavoidable [except the yelling part].
  • Wonderful lesson to teach your children: It is far more important to dress a certain way than to act a certain way.
* If they're immodest, so say [nicely, quietly] that they're immodest and she shouldn't wear them.

But I'm more worried that they weren't immodest. If not, then what's the issue? They're not "fancy" enough? They're not "nice" enough? That they're a little too funky or not "frum" enough? Why is it that people are so obsessed with not only forcing extra "frumkeit" on people, especially their own children, but they're even more obsessed with showing off said frumkeit or money to everybody else - even their own family.

I'm honestly not sure what about this story bothers me the most: The mother acting irresponsibly, the mother teaching her children that dress is more important than anything else, that anyone can be so engrossed in their own little world, completely oblivious to everyone else... or worse, that the mother truly felt pressured to have her daughter dress a certain way to meet the mother's aunt. I'm curious if the aunt would ever bother to correct her niece, saying "Look - I love your children, I don't care if they wear fancy outfits or even if their clothes aren't the most modest. They are family, I love them anyway." Would she? Would you?

What kind of mentality are parents forcing on their children? How shallow can we be? Why does this mother get so embarrassed by her daughter not being 'just right', not fitting into a specific mold or expectation? Why is it that people send out information about themselves or their sons and daughters for shidduchim and feel compelled to include every single detail about the person's parents and siblings? Are they dating the parents or siblings? Does it matter what school the sister went to 6 years ago, or who the brother married, or that the younger kids are in a different school than the older ones went to?

Grow up, people. Stop trying to be who everyone wants you to be. Be yourselves. The people who care... don't matter. And the people who matter... don't care.


  1. Treat the cell like a cigarette and take it outside.

  2. ...and set it on fire. :-)

    On the topic, it was my experience that a great number of Orthodox parents were chiefly concerned with how their children's looks and behavior reflected on them. I'm sure it's not limited to the Orthodox community, but perhaps the way everybody knows everybody exacerbates the problem.

  3. You said that you counted five things wrong yet you enumerated eight.
    And you call yourself an accountant? :)

    It seems to me that there are issues in her relationship between her and her aunt.
    Perhaps her aunt has been extremely critical to her all her life and she feels insecure.

    Then again, I find this purely speculative since we do not know what the motives are here, only the end actions.

  4. Rebecca - The respect idea I understand and... respect. I think that makes more sense. For example, our cousin decided at one point to be a vegetarian out of respect for animals; however, if a host served chicken/meat, he'd eat that out of a higher respect/sensitivity to the host's feelings.

    CE - Amen.

    JA - It's common everywhere, but as you said the 'everybody knows eac other' idea compounds it. You'd hope that people would approach it in reverse (I wouldn't want them judging me constantly so why should I do it), but apparently that's not the case.

    Avrom - Yeah, I noticed that too. I added three as I went. :)

    Granted - I'm merely noting something I've seen and heard on way too many occasions in different contexts; DAG's example just fit perfectly.

  5. One of the two or three times I've been in Walmart, I witnessed a woman chewing out her (presumed) child over her cell phone. Evidently he was under no circumstances allowed to ride his bike, and the whole store was informed of this. She did not skip a beat of her tirade as she checked out and left the store. I imagine the whole time the mother was berating him, he was riding around the neighborhood on his bike. It was grounds-for-calling-CPS awful.

  6. Chana - Ugh.

    Jack - Lost you this time... huh?

  7. Ezzie,

    The lack of manners, it is even worse in cleveland.

  8. I'm sure your motives for posting this were l'shem shamayim, but maybe she deserves to be judged more favorably. You have no idea to what she was referring.

  9. Jack - Not usually.

    SIL - To be clear, the post isn't about the one case. You're right, her motives could be... but for many, that is not the case. We know way too many people who are pressured by parents to dress a certain way, act a certain way, or go to certain schools for the way in which the parents are perceived or for "shidduch" purposes. It's sickening, and it needs to stop.

  10. -->The lack of manners, it is even worse in cleveland.

    Compared to where?

  11. FWIW, when I moved from the East coast (central Mass., presumably kinder and gentler than Boston) to Ohio in 1982, I noticed that people were friendlier, by far.

    So quit dissing Cleveland!

  12. The focus on image and appearances is driving some kids away from Judaism--I know, because I know a few. They are disillusioned and cynical, convinced that everything is all just for show, that so few people are truly sincere that it's not worth trying. They see the hypocricy in people's actions at home and in public, in town and on vacation, and they think that if this is what Judaism is, it's all one big farce, and they may as well not waste their time.

    This is one of the things that makes me the most thankful that I didn't grow up in a large Jewish community. It wasn't easy growing up religious in the community that I did, but it made me much stronger, because I actually had to TRY. And the focus wasn't on appearances, but on reality.

  13. One thing ya gotta learn as a parent: Your kids will embarrass you. You will embarrass them. It happens in every family and you just have to learn to let it go. However, you have to deal with WHY the behavior is embarrassing, and if it's because it's wrong, as in the case of immodest clothing, that's the real problem. (If it's because of pride, the pride is what's wrong, and the embarrassed party is the one who has the problem.)

  14. Chana, G - Don't worry, it's just Jack. He likes to poke fun at Cleveland, but he's not serious about it.

    Scraps - I know way too many myself. I was almost one of them.

    As to the second half of your comment... that's why I have the header I do, and that's why the end of this post is what it is. :)

    Kiwi - Amen, amen, amen. Great comment.

  15. Chana,

    The beauty of cleveland is...Well, I am not sure that there is any beauty.


  16. Very true, Ezzie. It (somehow) reminds me of the assumptions/judgements made by other people based on one's choice of kippah. Then again, like Serach says...

    The brilliance of that quote never ceases to amaze me.

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