The Jewish Backhanded Compliments (for my future therapist’s reference)

When I say I’m Jewish, I don’t mean Jewish in the way most people mean Jewish. I’m Jewish in the sense that a good portion of my relatives are Jewish, I like corned beef specials and I have certain physical features that are often associated with God’s chosen people. Why God chose to endow his special people with schnozes I will never know.


My adorable women on adventures in Hawaii.

In any case, I don’t practice. I’m from New Hampshire, where being any minority is distinguishing, so I often boast anyway. My family adopted the phrase faux-Jew in explaining ourselves when friends come over for Christmas dinner. My mom is a born again Christian, but like me prefers Jewish culture. Who doesn’t, honestly? My mother will put up a menorah on Christmas to honor our heritage and general preference for Jewish people. I guess it’s our equivalent of a love candle, summoning nice Jewish doctors for me to marry someday. But she hangs a cross on it, just to be confusing. Religion. Tricky stuff.

In any case, there have been occasions wherein my faux-Jewishness has been challenged. It’s a religion not an ethnicity, etc. A fair point. But I feel I’ve earned my matzo ball soup. I’ve been raised by Jewish women. And any woman who’s been raised by Jewish women knows all about it. For those of you who don’t, let me explain.

The backhanded compliment. Ahhh, fond memories of insecurity and frustration. A backhanded compliment is one wherein an older woman, usually with a New York accent, will hide an insult in what appears to be a compliment. Mostly, they start with an innocuous question that builds to the commentary. It’s like taking a bite into a valentines day chocolate filled with vinegar.

I’ve gotten a lot of these. I mean, a lot. So, I feel entitled to my Jewishness. I earned it, biting my tongue for years and years and accepting the insults as professions of love. They don’t criticize to hurt. They criticize because they don’t have censors. You come to accept it and laugh it off. And then post it on the internet. These are some of my favorites from my awkward adolescence. Enjoy my pain:

Did you do something to your hair? It looks better.

That’s a nice new outfit. I’m so happy for you. You found a store with stuff that fits.

Have you lost weight? You look more like a woman these day.

That top is for women who are fat and insecure. And you are not insecure.

I read your short story. It was a very good effort. You put a lot of work into that.

You gonna wear that? That’s brave.

Here eat some more food. I’ll be insulted if you don’t. I slaved away all day. (five minutes later…) My goodness you have an appetite. You can really eat a lot for a woman.

You stop going to the gym? You look… richer.

He’s a nice boy, your boyfriend. A great experiment for you. Have you seen Donna’s boy lately? He’s a very nice boy.

 Oh, you’re doing it that way? I mean, that’s not the way I would do it, but you’ll learn from your mistakes on your own.



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