Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If I Hear That Phrase One More Time...

It happened again. That phrase! It's always that phrase. It irks me every time. It really does bother me.

And here, I'm going to dissect it

But first, the most recent example:
"Are you Jewish?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well are you?"
"What's it about"
"No nothing. You just look Jewish?"
"I don't mean anything by it. I mean, I guess you could be Italian. [I've heard Italian, Greek, 'Middle Eastern,' Turkish (yes, John, Turkish), Argentinian, Egyptian, and others. I'm none of these. Does that matter?]"
"Yeah, I've gotten that before"
"But you're Jewish right? You just seem like a nice Jewish boy."

Something about the whole phrase "nice Jewish boy" really bugs me. Maybe it's because someone is telling me to my face that they are judging me based on my looks.

It's an identity thing too. I don't walk around thinking of myself as a Jew. I'm just me, with my personality, and my interests and my friends. Yes, knowing I'm Jewish will tell you something about my background and my cultural upbringing, but it certainly doesn't define me. Judaism is different than many religions because unlike Christianity for instance, I believe that even if you don't practice the religion, you are still Jewish - it's a cultural/ethnic thing, and I understand that. But that really won't tell you who I am, I hope.

And I'm sorry, yeah I guess it's a relatively good stereotype to carry so maybe I shouldn't complain (ha) but what the hell is a "nice jewish boy" anyway? What about being a young Jewish male makes me nice? I don't get it.

On the other hand, I can't really argue the label.
Am I nice? Usually.
Am I Jewish? Unavoidably.
Am I male? Can't argue with that one. Just look: CLICK HERE. (no? don't want to click? Are you sure?? I wouldn't show something naughty would I? would I? click it. CLICK IT. CLICK IT!)

So what's the problem? I think my gripe comes from the fact that I don't want to be liked, or not liked for that matter, based on my religion. I certainly don't want to be judged negatively by being Jewish, and so that goes both ways.

It's been suggested I'm a self-hating Jew, and I rarely deny it. I think that's irrelevant though. Of course, maybe I'll learn the hard way that I'm not that likable in the first place, and I should rely on that -- that phrase. I hope not.


Ozkirbas said...

You should be so honored! Honored, I tell you!

David Pratt said...

Every time someone writes a post about how Jewish they look I always think it's by Jason at first.

Jason Heat said...

I was unaware that I looked so obviously Jewish. Huh.

Damo said...

This post is interesting to be because I think I straddle the line here. I've been mistaken for "nice Jewish boy" countless times. My biological father actually IS Jewish, but that apparently doesn't mean dick for me (and it won't stop me from taking a birthright trip this summer). I've been fascinated by the history of the Jewish people (and encounters with real live Jews!) ever since I was brainwashed in Christian grade school.

So, seeing as how I'm not quite accepted in either world but have some experience with both, perhaps I can clarify something.

Nothing about being young and Jewish makes you nice. I know a lot of nice Jewish boys, but I also know plenty of self-righteous arrogant young Jewish douchebags. You'll be happy to know that you fit equally in both categories.

Hope that helps! :)

p.s. I gotta go with Pratt on this one, my internal monologue through this whole post was Jason's voice.

AZWiner said...

haha no Damo, that does not help

Jason Heat said...

I guess my writing style has rubbed off on you?

ali d said...

Yup, I also thought this was Jason. I swear I've had an eerily similar conversation with Jason.

Jason Heat said...

Well Adam, if it makes you feel better, I'm apparently even more known for dealing with this than you are.

Max Nova said...

Y'know I generally get "Yo Rabbi!" more than "nice Jewish boy" these days. Not quite sure why that is . . .

B.Graham said...

Consider it this way: Christians are often paired with the following words: "ignorant" and "terrifying." "Nice" is not one that often comes up. Count your blessings.

ali d said...

"I think my gripe comes from the fact that I don't want to be liked, or not liked for that matter, based on my religion."

Well of course not. Hardly anyone (I'd say nobody, but there are always those strange few) likes to be judged, especially not on appearance alone, but it's a fact of life. My sister once decided that she wanted to be friends with a girl she had previously disliked purely because said girl had gorgeous hair.

Does it make sense? No. Do I have an explanation? Nope, I leave that to the kids who majored in psychology, except to say this:

I think that we, as people, have a warring double-standard about "knowing people." Humans like comfort. Upon meeting someone, we immediately want to know what we're up against so we feel secure (I am of the opinion that the person with more knowledge has the upper hand), and the best way for us to do that quickly is to make judgments and jump to conclusions. You just happen to be unfortunate enough (in your case) to have a cultural/religious identity that physically makes it easier for a person to do so.

That being said, we abhor it when a person does the same to us. We want people to really know us, man. But wait, first I have to decide if I like your hair enough to feel comfortable letting you get to know me!

But I think Britt makes an excellent point. At least people typically see "Jewish boy" and think something good. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to explain my Miraculous Medal and had people look at me like I'm a crazed backwoods yokel. And don't forget, we're also closed-minded and hateful!

I think all stereotypes are negative, but as far as 'nice' goes? Nice I could live with.

Alex said...

I love that this phrase apparently bothers you so much. I think I use it as a joke more than anything- like when I tell my mom that I might start going to services just to meet a nice Jewish boy. Clearly not likely to happen, since I think I've been inside a synagogue maybe a dozen times in my life. I guess that means I'm not really qualified to be a nice Jewish girl. Well, that, plus a tendency towards sarcasm and an inability to make matzo balls. As usual, guys have it easier. You should be happy you just have to be 'nice.'

darby said...

if it helps i don't think you're a nice jewish boy...

Jason Heat said...

I always try really hard to be a "Nice Guy" so being a a "Nice Jewish Boy" doesn't really bother me at all.

But on a similar note, after my breakup my parent's said "Maybe you should try dating Jewish girls now," as if THAT explained and would solve all previous and further relationship problems.

I'm thinking girls are girls, Jewish, Christian, or what have you. And in that vein, guys are guys. The nice ones are nice, the not nice ones are not so nice, and the religion don't enter the equation.

Ozkirbas said...

I get where he's coming from, though. Being "othered" and shoved into a category is never a good feeling. Yeah, sure, we want to have the upper-hand, so at times when we have no previous knowledge about a person we stick to something somewhat incidental about their tastes, or whatever.

But, when you're making that leap based on an express external characteristics, benevolent stereotyping or not, you're not choosing the best method to do so - you're just choosing the fastest and that's the easiest way to make (fairly gross) errors in judgment. And, yeah, you can't be expected to sit down with every person you've ever made a judgment against and have a true heart to heart. But, you can step back and recognize when your split-second (or longer) judgment may be based on assumption without much backing. And, certainly, you can recognize the opportunities to supplement your judgment with actual knowledge of a given person.

How would we feel if Adam was Asian and, therefore, felt pressure to be good at math because it was expected of him? Or a woman and, therefore, felt it was expected that she'd be good at baking or caretaking? Or blue-collar and expected to be really good at fixing things in fields he has no expertise in? Is it really all that different from being caught in a negative stereotype? The effect is the same, isn't it?

Marti said...

You think you have it least you being judged by your own merits as a "nice Jewish boy." Other women and I are judged by our ability to snag a "nice Jewish boy." Our own merits, and whether we are nice, smart, funny, successful, etc. are practically irrelevant.

I'm starting to sound bitter, aren't I?