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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Innocent Until Proven Jewish

As we attempted to dig my wife's Honda Fit out from 18 inches of snow on Sunday, our neighbor, Thomas, was just arriving, sailing his Chevy Trailblazer into his pristinely-trailblazered parking spot. He exited the car with a couple of white plastic bags and made some genial, unhelpful comments about shoveling and snow and winter in general.

"How was your holiday?" he asked.

And I answered, "Fine. Thanks. It was quiet, which is just how we like it." As opposed, I guess, to a particularly loud Hanukkah, though I don't exactly know what that would sound like-- a load of tanked-up, kinky-haired frat boys shouting the dreidel song in a slurry, discordant cacophany while pounding Manichewitz wine out of red plastic cups and peeing in our bushes.

I turned away from Thomas and drove my shovel deep into the snow, sending, I hoped, the unmistakable signal that I was finished talking to him, and done being P.J.

Presumed Jewish.

Though I don't want to be perceived as a whiny Jew, being a minority isn't easy. As I looked at the Asian guy waddling down our alley, offering to share his bag of Halite with anybody who needed it, I thought, would Thomas approach him and say, "Hey, did you enjoy yourself some Chop Suey last night?" Why is it that some people think it's okay to make assumptions about a person's religious affiliation?

And, by that same token-- why does it bother me so much?

I know I've blogged about this before-- I'm too lazy to sift through the archives to be absolutely sure, though (if you want to, go right ahead) and I don't really know what it is about the fact that people who don't know me just assume that I'm Jewish. It's not as if I'm particularly ashamed of being Jewish. I'm much more ashamed of the fact that I have toenail fungus and that, when I was in middle school I used to get hard looking at the models in the Wintersilks catalogue.

I guess it's just the presumptuous, ballsy attitude one takes when making assumptions about someone else that pisses me off. I would never wish someone a Happy Ripened Ovary Day unless I was sure they were ardent tomato worshippers.

Even if you're right-- don't assume. Because it's embarrassing if you're wrong, and it's offensive if you're right. Or wrong.

A few days ago, there was a thread on that asked the question, "Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays--Which Do You Say?" Well, I don't see really how you can in good faith go up to somebody you really don't know and wish them a "Merry Christmas" or a "Happy Hanukkah" for that matter, if you don't know that's what they celebrate-- that this is their faith. How are you acting in any sort of benevolent holiday spirit by making a judgment about someone else's beliefs? Maybe if they're wearing a green and red goddamn snowflake sweater with Blitzen's ass on the back and a red flickering light where his hemmhroids are, and they've got a crucifix around their neck the size of a windshield wiper and Jesus Air sneakers, fine, maybe you're safe wishing that person a "Merry Christmas." But, you know what-- maybe they just have eccentric taste in clothing and personal adornment items.

This holiday season-- play it safe. Wear a condom. And sunscreen. And shoulder pads. And don't make assumptions.


  1. I never assume anything. It doesn't go that far into the thought process. Typically, the electrons in my brain start firing and without that sensor that most people are just born with, I just say whatever occurs. Almost like I have turrets or something.

    Here's what I've always thought, and maybe its insensitive to other people's beliefs, but here it goes....

    If you're Jewish, you should wish everyone a "Happy Hanukkah", if you're of Christian faith, "Merry Christmas", if you're ambiguous, "I'm not sure what freakin' holiday we're supposed to be celebrating, but Happy Holiday" and if you're an atheist, "This if stupid, but I want to thank people such as yourself, because I get the day off of work, so have a good one." And so on and so forth with all the different religions out there.

    See there? Equal opportunity to piss everyone off....

  2. Damn. I'm really sorry, but I had always just presumed that you worshipped His Satanic Majesty like the rest of us. I don't know, you looked like a Satan worshipper...

  3. Jay--

    "worshipped His Satanic Majesty..."

    That's a euphemism for "Jewish," right?

  4. I don't understand why you were offended? I don't know your neighbor so you may dislike him for other reasons but from what I have read he doesn't come off as incredibly offensive by inquiring how your holidays were? Didn't he already know you were Jewish so he was not assuming?

  5. Hi, B--

    No, he didn't already know I was Jewish-- that's what the problem was.

    I think sometimes people see glasses, slouchy posture, and a big honker and make certain assumptions.

    Which isn't very nice, even if it's trying to be.

  6. I do what Laurie does. Except I say Merry Christmas Motherfucker! and if they are offended I just think it was because of the last word said. If someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah I would be yay! Happy Hannukkah to you too! I live in a Neighbourhood where it is 99.99% Muslim so when Eid rolled around I wished a man in my neighbourhood Eid Mubbarak. He looked so happy that I said that! Then that made me happy!
    Cheers fella!

  7. You know what they say about assuming - you just make an ASS out of U and Me.

    Man I love sayings. I feel like they give my life purpose.

  8. I usually agree with your opinions, but I have to dissent here. I am actually extremely offended when strangers (particularly store clerks and postal workers) wish me a "Happy Holiday." It suggests that the person really doesn't give a damn what holiday I celebrate. I celebrate Christmas. Even so, I'd much rather someone mistakenly wish me a Happy Hanukkah (to which I'd reply, "Thank you, you too") than for someone to wish me a Happy Holiday. It absolutely makes my skin crawl. So badly, in fact, that I vented in a recent blog post:

  9. But, Colleen-- isn't some random store clerk or US Postal Official casually saying "Happy Hanukkah" to you tantamount to them saying to themselves,

    "Eh, she looks Jewish." Or, the opposite for "Merry Christmas." Why must we subject people to what our hastily-drawn conclusions of their religious beliefs are, rather than just being courteous and, admittedly, innocuous?

    By the way, thanks for disagreeing with me, and I look forward to reading your post.

    And Merry Christmas.

  10. people always assume I'm gay. They are always like, "hey how was your blow job last night?" and I'm always like "just give me my mail".

  11. Sorry but I don't have so much sympathy for you! I am always being presumed non-Jewish and it's really offensive. I don't even mean that the least bit sarcastically, either! :(

  12. Next time, go into great detail about exactly how you spent your holiday. And by holiday, I of course mean BJukkah where in you are given a blow job a day for 8 days by 8 different vestal virgins that are subsequently sacrificed by your wife. Obviously, a good time was had by all.

    Deities aside, I just want presents so wish me whatever the hell you want as long as it's accompanied with gifts.

  13. Mmm, I don't know.
    It depends on where he placed the emphasis in his question. If it was "How was YOUR holiday?” then there may be something to get bothered over.
    Truthfully, I’d be most pissed about how he didn’t offer to help with the shoveling.

    And to Colleen,
    It seems that your problem is more of a commodification of the Holidays (and Religion in general), not so much what the store clerk says; which is a separate problem from the one which prompted this post. To solve your Holiday dilemma would mean doing exactly what this post argues is wrong (and I agree is wrong); that is, demand that a clerk attempts to guess which holiday a person celebrates from preconceived stereotypes, then offer the appropriate greeting.

  14. I don't really mind being wished a "merry christmas" because it's the only time I'm actually included in this thing which takes over our entire country for two months a year.
    I guess I don't get "PJ"ed too often because I don't "look jewish" in people's stereotyping little minds. If there's someone whose religion I don't know I tend to presume they're Christian just by default


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