When my mother died, my father instructed the cemetery to put the phrase “Loved By All Who Knew Her” on the headstone of her grave. It was either that, or, “Rather Be in Vegas,” which would have been just as appropriate, but we did go for the sentimental option. I was just thinking, though, that my survivors would never put such an expression on my tombstone. There are constant reminders that I’m not as “nice” as my mom. I am prone to getting, as we say in Yiddish, “broiges.”
I’ve been a leader and/or aspired to leadership throughout my life, and good listening skills are considered a requirement for such positions. Yet people sometimes think I’m not listening. I am working on fixing both that perception and admitted occasional reality. But I really do listen; I just like to get started with rebuttals a tad early in a conversation. Like many in my intellectual arena, I am impatient with plodding explanations, and I like to figure stuff out on my own. I also dislike suffering disingenuousness, and get bothered when I detect it in others. I try to hold myself to a code of honesty, fairness and supportiveness – not that I’m perfect at it – and when I catch others in lies, partiality and selfishness, it gets me angry.
On the upside, I am considered powerful, effective, decisive, and known for my willingness to take a stand. I pride myself on figuring out creative solutions to problems. People will agree that I am THE “go-to” person extraordinaire, personally and professionally. So many become too mired in inactivity, playing imaginary whack-a-mole with the problems in their lives, or drowning themselves in mind-altering alternatives to good old list-making, prioritizing, and…thinking. I am thinking, 24-7. These days I spend lots of free time shaping those thoughts into my Ruth’s Truths.
I’ve been writing this column for over two years now, and there’s no way I could have done it – no way I could have spun so many words into so many paragraphs of verbiage, without classifying the thoughts swimming in my head into somewhat intelligible opinions, and then backing those opinions up with chutzpah. I refuse to call it “blogging;” sometimes informative, more often argumentative, these are narrative essays. I present my viewpoints for argument’s sake, and occasionally check the “comment” invitation space at the end of my column to see if somebody has taken issue with any of my assertions, and I love it when they do. People don’t usually write in much, but I know hundreds are reading. I appreciate it when somebody disagrees with me; I’d rather be read, and disagreed with, than not read at all. Some say I jump around and talk of too many things at once, which happens to be how I think. Restricting myself to 1000 words helps me self-edit.
So I’m admitting that I’m impatient, argumentative, and not the best listener. In a recent group text exchange, my sister asserted that I was “bitchy.” So I looked up the term in my handy online (www.urbandictionary.com). The closest meaning I could identify with was the word’s second definition, “being in a foul-assed mood, prone to take it out on someone unsuspecting.” I do get angry, but I’m not “moody.” My mom sometimes said that when I was a teenager, I was “even-tempered:” mean all the time. In the early 90’s, a friend accused me of having “resting bitch face” before the term had been coined as such. But I am not a “farbisoner” (Yiddish: a person, usually female, that is sour, and never happy). I am generally good-humored and funny. I am a dedicated worker, a generous person, and always willing to do for others.
I do see red, however, when I feel I’ve been betrayed. I go ballistic when I find out people have been hiding information from me. I get crazy when I feel people are being unfair. Writer that I’ve turned out to be, I prefer to address disagreements via the written word, rather than by face-to-face confrontation. Mediators are often advocates for “sitting down and talking” or “picking up the telephone,” but, at the risk of having the written word sometimes misconstrued, I still feel it easier to address an issue thoughtfully in writing. It is harder to resolve conflict when the very sight of the person causes emotions to flare, and having to hear a person’s whiny-ass voice over the phone is just a recipe for disaster. It is said that we are to “forgive and forget.” It’s relatively easy to forgive, the real work is forgetting – learning to put stuff behind you. Luckily, as we get older, the forgetting becomes inevitably easier. Or at least it should get easier…
If there were an app called “shitlist,” the names I’d have on there might outnumber the friends I have on Facebook. Back to “broiges” (Yiddish for “angry” or “upset”) – I do, inevitably, become “broiges” now and then. According to Rabbi Julian Sinclair of the Jewish Chronicle, www.thejc.com/judaism/jewish-words/broiges) “‘Broiges’ is Jewish for ‘angry’ or ‘upset.’ Most Jewish families have broiges. Broiges defines your relationship with cousins you haven’t spoken to for 20 years because they seated you at the table next to the kitchen at their son’s bar mitzvah. It often denotes a pent-up, inexpressible, unresolvable rage or frustration, which may have originally arisen from some innocent misunderstanding.” We’ve had broiges in our family, broiges among friends, and the level of broiges within my Israeli-dance community is as dense as a pumpernickel rye from the old country. Dance leaders are broiges with each other for competitive practices, women are broiges with women for partner stealing, and inter-gender broiges happens too, due to disloyalty and other miscommunication. I think to myself, why is there so much broiges amongst Jews; you’d think we invented the term “broiges;” oh yeah, then I remember, we did.
Author’s Note: Interestingly enough, I saw the play “Bad Jews” (currently playing at The Geffen playhouse in Westwood) AFTER I wrote this. If you see it, you’ll see what I’m talking about in fictional/dramatic form.