Thursday, September 08, 2005

Snobs: The Sequel

Blogroll Me!

This is a book cover; it's the name of a piece of fiction.

This is a post; it's the name of a piece of non-fiction.

When I finished my high school studies in public school that had a 95% Jewish population, I encountered A LOT of snobs, or as we preferred to say, JAPS. (no Canadian version of that term)

The irony about these girls is that so many of them kept mirrors in their lockers so that they could look at themselves, at their hair, at their makeup throughout the day. Yes, they looked...but they did not see. They did not truly see themselves beyond their masks of artificiality. Or if they did see themselves, it wasn't evident that they cared how they were perceived.

A good indicator of this was when it came time to the graduation yearbook, and filling in grad forms. Many of these girls wrote under the caption "Pet Peeves/Dislikes": JAPS.

It is many years since I graduated high school. Snobs are still clearly evident around me. And it is not just women, but men, as well, who suffer from this very ugly disease.

The "snob syndrome" runs rampant in our synagogue; it runs rampant in our children's school. My husband and I are friendly, unassuming types. Just as he came to this city and said that he'd go out with any blind date he was offered (it's only a couple of hours, a cup of coffee, he claimed) because he had nothing to lose and much to gain, he is equally friendly to all. He nods hello or shakes everyone's hand at shul, and some of these men just pass him by or grudgingly give a limp handshake in return, often without even looking in my husband's direction. Is a simple gesture so difficult to undertake? Or he can see the same men weekly when he takes my son to his shul sports teams and although he's friendly and tries to have a conversation, he's generally excluded by many who just don't bother with him.

And women? Equally if not more nasty. You're lucky if you get a response to a hello. A limp handshake to your firm one. You're lucky if you get into a conversation, however brief, however superficial. But many times the other person is looking around to find someone "better" to talk to, and G-d forbid I should be in the middle of the conversation with one and someone else comes along; often I'm just ignored, hung out like clothing on a line and forgotten for a while.

A hello in return to mine might constitute a woman looking me not in the eye, but starting at the toes of my shoes, slowly working her glance up my body, over my outfit to the top of my head where my hat sits. Is she looking at me like I'm a Claiborne model on the runway and she's contemplating buying the outfit I'm modeling? I don't think so...

Is it that money walks and money talks? Is it a holier-than-thou persona speaking loudly in actions rather than words? Is it just that common decency is lacking, as in giving someone the time of day?

I like to twist Shakespeare's famous words, "Get thee to a nunnery" and make them my own by saying, "Get thee to a snobbery."

It is really unpleasant to be amidst men and women of this lowly caliber. My husband and I and our equally unassuming, decent and pleasant friends often discuss this issue. It isn't that we need to be "accepted" by these types, it's just that we'd like to be on the receiving end of common decency when we ourselves display it wholeheartedly.

What kind of examples are these people setting for their children? Perhaps it's an inherent characteristic, something learned from their own parents, which continued to rear its ugly head throughout their lifetime. Where is the derech eretz? You send your children to shul to learn to daven and "treat your fellow man as you'd like to be treated"; you send your children to expensive Jewish day schools and camps to learn derech eretz and positive behaviors and nice manners. Yet in the home and publically you display negative qualities, which your children learn and carry with them into the public arena, as well.

I guess that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and if you'd ask, a snob would probably qualify this statement and say that their apple is a fabulous quality, the tree it fell from is thriving, the yard it fell into is beautifully landscaped. And even if you didn't ask, the snob would make sure that you heard their story.

But in fact, you don't have to stick around to hear it. You can each get out there and tell your own.


A (morning after) thought: You know that famous slogan "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"? Well, I think I will adopt it, with modifications, and print up some snobby designer T-shirts that announce: An Ego Is A Terrible Thing To Waste


A Simple Jew said...

Pearl: You wrote, "He nods hello or shakes everyone's hand at shul, and some of these men just pass him by or grudgingly give a limp handshake in return, often without even looking in my husband's direction."

Welcome to my world... These words sound like they could be written about me.

torontopearl said...

ASJ, I used to think it was just my POV about people -- guys and gals, but gals being worse. But to see that my husband has to encounter this too saddens me.
I feel rather sorry for my husband who, being such a menschlich guy -- with such a lovely reputation -- gets met by such ungracious behavior. People don't know what they're missing when they don't blink an eye in his direction.

I sometimes try to make excuses about people, grasping at straws looking for why they behave the way they do. Maybe they're really shy? Maybe they don't know what to say to us? And then I say, "Nah...they're just snooty, haughty people who think they're better than us."

It's sad, isn't it, that we live amidst such people. And so, we must take to heart the song lyrics by Crosby, Stills, Nash that say "Teach your children well..." and try our best to show and teach model social ACCEPTABLE behaviors to the next generation who help represent us.

BrooklynWolf said...

I understand your comments, Pearl. I've actually been on both sides of the fence.

For a long time, I was looked at as not being "frum enough" by neighbors and others.

Then, this past Pesach, I got a rude awakening when I found myself doing the same thing to someone else. I've been working very hard since then to change my attitudes.

I blogged about it here and here.

The Wolf

Neil said...

This is such a loaded topic for me, that I find myself with little to say other than I'm glad you brought it up. I try very hard not to never let myself feel "inferior" to anyone. I do this by reminding myself that this snobbishness in others is actually hard work for them. It is usually their insecurity that makes them need to feel better about themself. It's not really about money or status, but insecurity. I find that if you don't let it bother you, the snobbishness usually disappears against you, since the "power" the person feels isn't there anymore. It's sad that this is part of human nature, particularly in a place like a shul.

A Simple Jew said...

Neil: Well put.

MC Aryeh said...

Ah..this is one of my pet peeves. I remember people acting like snobs in my parents' shul growing up. I think it's a combination of insecurity, wealth (which does corrupt), status, and a glaring lack of derech eretz. As an adult, I have chosen the shuls I attend very carefully. I always make a point to say hello to people, and if they respond with indifference, they are the ones who come off badly. I can feel good about my role, and not let their rudeness ruin my day.

Unfortunately, it is in our nature to judge others, and it takes work and effort to get past that. A life-long project for each of us.

cruisin-mom said...

Pearl, I have found myself on the other side of this issue. When my kids were in elementary school, I was very involved in PTA. After several years of involvement, I had a mother tell me, she never wanted to join, because she thought we were a snooty clique of moms (maybe one dad). I was stunned...I have never thought of myself that way, but apparently, because we all stayed together and worked hard for our school and our children...some people saw us as snobby. I had always done my best to extend myself to the others who came to meetings, but a few could not get beyond what they saw as a clique. I do not understand how people make judgements sometimes. I cannot imagine that someone who belongs to the same shul, would just pass your husband by. By the time you reach adulthood, it seems so strange to me, that people still make judgements based on what?..if you dress differently, aren't as pretty, don't drive as nice a car...I don't have time for people like that...maybe that's reverse snobbery!

tuesdaywishes said...

Okay, I admit it, I'm a snob. I won't associate with people whom I don't think are up to my standards of decency and behavior. If you can't return a civilized greeting, even from a stanger, with a smile , them I'm probably not going to talk to you.

Money is like your toothbrush. Certainly a neccessity, but nothing you'd want to display, and you defintely don't want to hear about anyone else's.

Mirty said...

Great post. Hope you don't mind me using it as a jumping off spot for my own musings.... ;)

Stacey said...

I grew up in a large Conservative shul in Cleveland, one of the largest in the country. It was laden with snobs.

My congregation here in Texas is amazing. We are small -- 250 families, but the feeling is so warm, welcoming and heimish. No snobbiness! It's like nothing I've ever experienced in a shul. I love it. It is home.

Rahel said...

We have snobbery in my neighborhood in Jerusalem, too, unfortunately. Maybe I'll write a post about it.

PsychoToddler said...

You need to get out of the big city.

When I moved to Milwaukee, I was proud of the fact that this was a town where no new face went ungreeted and uninvited.

Every Jew counts around here.

Whereas in Queens, I was just one more person for you to wait in line behind in the bakery.

Anonymous said...

the problem is , all kikes like that should die of cancer. And I myself am jewish. ...