Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stupid Things People Say

I struggled with the title a little... should it be Stupid People Say Stupid Things? Or, People Are Stupid? Or maybe Stupid people Are Insensitive? And Stupid?

Okay. Anyway...

I'm talking about when people don't think-- stop, and think-- about the possible impact their words might have. That they might not be talking to whom they think they're talking to. What am I talking about?

My business is in a frum area, and I have many occasions to deal with frum (Orthodox) clients. When I'm with clients, they often are engaged doing something by themselves for a few minutes, while I work nearby attending to other things. They often strike up conversations with me in the "Jewish Geography" vein. You'll see what I mean; a typical conversation recently went like this:

Client: So, where do you live?

Me: I live in [nearby town].

Client: Oh, very nice. I know Rabbi [Young Israel Rabbi] very well. Do you know the Goldbergs?

Me: I don't think so, no.. . it's a big town, gotten really big.

Client: Ah hah. So, do you have any kids?

Me: I have two daughters.

Client: Oh, kenayna hara! How old?

Me: 6 and 9.

Client: Very nice. Where do they go to school?

Me: [local Hebrew Day School].

Client: Very nice.... and what does your wife do?


It was just easier to answer the question the way I would have had I still been married- "She's an accountant". Even though I really wanted to say something like, "She's dead." Maybe next time, I'll just reply, " I don't have a wife."

But I'm trying to be the professional, nonchalant and in charge of the encounter. So I kept my mouth shut. After all, it's what they expected to hear. They'll never know otherwise.

The next example was much more irritating.

I was talking with a regular client. She's a good, client, uses my services regularly. But she's very opinionated, in that local Jewish way, and to make matters worse, she never shuts up. I often have to do the whole thing where I'm inching to the door, hand on the knob, trying desperately to give visual clues that our business is concluded.. but she never picks up on it, just powers right on along.

So, we were talking-- well, I was just trying to make small talk-- about her daughter who was studying in Israel. I asked if she'd be returning for a second year. "No, it's not happening, we just can't aford it," She said. "And besides, she wants to go to college, so she has to start getting that going." I inquired what she wanted to do.

"She wants to be a therapist," she said. Not physical or occupational or speech-- that would be typical-- but psychology. "Because that's a good career for someone who wants to have kids, and be a mommy. My kids know that I raised them to put family first, and not have nine-to-five jobs where they'll have to go off to work and leave their kids with a stranger for 8 hours a day. I think that if you're gonna do that, better you shouldn't have kids."

My kids' pictures are right on my desk, not two feet from her. They were both in full time day care from age 3 months. We had no choice- my ex had only three months paid maternity leave, and we couldn't afford to have her not work, and provide the income and the health insurance that kept the kids healthy. It wasn't an option. And never mind that there's not a shred of evidence that proves that kids in day care most of the day are any worse off, by any measure, than those raised by a parent or relative. Would it have been better if my kids hadn't been born?

Idiot. And she thinks that I'll probably agree with her because I wear a kippah. Kids are born every day to welfare mothers, born sick, addicted, poor. Thank God some parents are lucky enough to have a job to go to, and that gives them the means to enroll the child in a day care. Day care isn't a dumping ground for kids to languish while parents go laugh around the water cooler-- it's a structured environment that's chock full of stimulation for kids' growing brains. The caregivers are supervised, and most even have degrees in child development. This isn't some tichel-lady's basement with a bunch of Little Tykes toys and some pizza bagels.

Idiot. I used to like her, but now she's really pissing me off. But I'll continue to be professional, because she's a client, and she pays her bills.

But sometimes you just wish you could tell people what you really think.


abandoning eden said...

ugh, can i just repeat the most ignorant statement about kids I have ever heard- from a stay at home mom when discussing vaccines: "I'd send my kids to daycare before giving them vaccines!". I couldn't even respond to that because there was just too much wrongness for me to even start.

But yeah, as a family sociologist I can tell you that kids in day care are no different than kids with stay at home moms in terms of behavioral problems and academic achievement. And they are probably a little better off when it comes to social skills, since they are playing with their peers from a young age. The only proven downside is that kids in day care tend to get sick more often because they have a higher exposure to colds and such (which helps build up their immunity system, so that's not necessarily a downside in the long run either).

WebGirl said...

My favorite exchange is this one, from when I was married the first time. "II" stands for "Insensitive Idiot:"

II: So how many years are you and your husband married?

Me: Five.

II: And how many kids do you have?

Me: We don't have kids.

II: Uh huh. Oh. I see. Well.

Stone cold silence.

Would she like me to explain the reasons for our childlessness to her? Reassure her about my husband's sperm count or the age of my ovaries? Maybe she'd like to tour our bedroom?

Even a simple question like this can cause hurt. Why does everyone need to yente? If I'm not forthcoming about my kids or any other details of my life, don't ask me about them.

And wouldn't it be lovely if all mommies could afford to stay home and be with their kids. Perhaps that woman would like to pay their Yeshiva tuition so that can happen?

Yentering rarely leads to a good place. Why can't people just keep their mouths shut? If you feel you must talk, ask me what I think about President Obama's programs or about Arlen Specter's party change, or whether I think the new Star Trek movie will be any good. That's a much more interesting convo anyway.

mistermaggoo said...

I laugh inside every time. "So what does your husband do?" "I'm divorced." etc They turn red, blue, green, turn away, don't know what to do with themselves. I work in the health field, often with frummies, so this happens about once a week! I don't know why I can't give them that damn injection without playing 20 questions....

smoo said...

I call those people Clocksuckers.

Nice Jewish Guy said...


Yeah, what is it about the health field that causes people to yenter? Is it the nervousness? The touching? The nudity? ;) (Let's just say I know exactly what you mean.)

I don't reply that I'm divorced because it will cause the very awkwardness you describe. Not that I care about their discomfort so much, but it will affect the encounter.

I'm thinking up some new, somewhat diplomatic responses to the yentering questions. Like, if asked if I'm married: "Why, do you want to set me up?" Or, "Why, are you interested?"

Of course, I could also say something like, "There's an additional $25 fee for answering interview questions." Maybe they'll get the hint.

WebGirl said...

There was one time (at a Shabbos table) that after about 20 rounds of questions I responded "Is the interview over? Did I get the job?"

And then there was the time that I told the yenta that The Ex and I were married for three years and that we had five adorable children. Ya know. It happens. I also told her that I was a occupational therapist and that I graduated from Touro, neither of which was remotely true. I just sensed that she really, really wanted to hear it.

Smoo, is there something you can take to help you with that punning issue you have?

smoo said...

Ah, Webgirl, PUNtificating again?
Don't PUNish me for that which I am...a shameless PUNk!

WebGirl said...

Smoo, you ARE aware that women hate puns, yes? When we laugh at puns made by men, it's because we are politely forcing ourselves to. Inside we are rolling our eyes and groaning in pain. Trust me on this. And later on, after an encounter with a punster, we complain about it to our girlfriends, who inevitably agree with us. It's a universal female thing.

smoo said...

Guys may not like when women get all emotional but we accept that it is part of who women are.

Making puns is a part of who I am. Either she will be accepting of that or not. Her choice. Sometimes (often) it's lame but sometimes I hit a spot that tickles the brain. I live for that.

Obviously there is much more to who I am than that. If that is the worst she can find, I'll consider myself lucky.

WebGirl said...

Yeah, my husband thinks he's an incredibly clever punster, and when I give him The Look, he basically says "Iyam who Iyam. Deal with it." Men.