Despite a New York Giants Super Bowl victory, the election of Barack Obama and some nice personal victories, 2008 seems to be hobbling toward a less-than ecstatic ending. The economy officially sucks, some guy coincidentally named "Made-off" pulled the greatest disappearing act since Houdini, pirates are terrorizing East Africa, Proposition 8 passed in California and violence has once again consumed Israel and Palestine.
Around this time last year, I did a pretty good retrospective post on 2007. If you're so inclined, you can reread it here and then shame me for failing to live up to my own resolutions and expectations for 2008. If you're in the mood for something completely different, read on.
Have you ever noticed that many Jewish women are preternaturally disposed to give out advice, solicited or not? In the newspaper, Dear Abby (aka Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips) and Ann Landers (aka Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer) dominated the advice columns. These identical twin sisters who had a joint Jewish wedding in 1939, had no problem telling the people of America exactly how to solve all their personal problems.
Meanwhile on television, Judge Judy Sheindlin has been delivering no-nonsense verdicts for more than 12 years... but I'm sure she still humbles herself on Yom Kippur each year.
Jewish women taking the liberty of dispensing advice has certainly not been restricted to the breakfast table and the living room. In the bedroom, few have given more advice than the diminutive Dr. Ruth Westheimer. A German Holocaust survivor who was injured while serving as a sharpshooter in the Israeli War of Independence, Dr. Ruth's radio and television shows have dramatically changed the sexual awareness and attitudes of the American public.
Then there's the whole subgenre of Jewish advice-givers with a romantic agenda - the shadchan (matchmaker). These gals have so permeated popular culture that Shoshanna's Matches advertises everywhere and Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker, is about to start her second season on Bravo.
As another Jewish woman frequently called upon to offer advice to friends, I wonder what it is that makes some people predisposed to counsel others. In the past several months I've dished out sex tips to Orthodox Jewish girlfriends, helped a few folks network and chatted through many relationship dramas. More often than not, these discussions help me work out my own challenges as much as they (hopefully) enlighten my friends.
Still, that doesn't quite touch of whatever je nais se quois exists in the yenta gene. That breezy conversation about a taboo topic or off-hand remark about a better way to get the job done is not easy for everyone.
I would assert (appropriately enough), that Jewish women are more often raised to be direct and outspoken. We often have strong mothers and grandmothers who would much prefer honest confrontation to demure submission. Plus, how would we have survived 40 years in the desert, myriad pogroms, subtler persecution and the Barney's sample sale if we didn't have a strong bitch telling us what to do?!
Maybe it's my birthright to be bossy. After all, I'm an oldest child born to a mother who's also an oldest. Plotting out plans of action for others gives me good practice for future world domination and there is something about breaking down barriers that I find intensely exhilirating. Besides, what is a blog but a gigantic advice column? Who knows, 2009 could even bring a new feature here on Shtetl Fabulous (I'll take your suggestions for a title).
Happy New Year to everyone!