Monday, April 09, 2007

A Suggestion for the Majority

It's funny how people that are of the majority--any majority-- take for granted that everybody they meet are of the same group. Being Jewish, I don't celebrate Easter. Obviously. Easter is so *not* a holiday f0r Jews that it's hard to describe how much of a non-holiday it is. Christmas is not a holiday for us, but I know a lot of Jewish folks that celebrate elements of it anyways-- a string of lights here, a Christmas tree there. Even in my family, my mom fills our stockings every year, a remnant from her own upbringing. Christmas has become so secularized that it is almost like a December Thanksgiving, divorced from its religious foundations. But I don't know any Jewish families that celebrate Easter, even in the most secular terms.

Last week, Don and I were watching an endless History Channel show on the Plagues of Egypt (How they really could have happened! Really!) that was being aired as an homage to Passover. Apropos of nothing he turned to me and asked, "So is Easter a holiday for you people?"

I thought he was asking, "a holiday for Jewish people", which as I said earlier is *so not a holiday* that I just stare at him as though he's a two-headed idiot-- he knows that. Also, he doesn't generally refer to my people as 'you people' if that makes any sense. But what he was actually asking was if Easter was a Bank holiday. "You people" as in, "You people that get paid holidays for Memorial Day and President's Day and Columbus Day and gosh knows what else while I can hardly take a regular weekend once a month and then I finally get a day off and the damn bank is closed." So we sort of stared at each other in confusion for awhile. It was fun.

I don't wear an "I'm Jewish" sign. I don't really "look Jewish", except to the most observant of observers: those people that are fascinated by origin and are prompted by my unusual coloring to ask, "Where are you from?"-- or to make their own guesses; I've heard everything from Brazilian to Romanian.

So all of last week, I hear the usual "Happy Easter"s, the "What are your plans for Easter"s, etc etc etc. It's just this sort of blatant assumption that we all belong to the same good ol' country club that I don't understand. I don't assume that other people celebrate the same things that I do. I didn't wish any strangers a happy Passover last week. When the release date for Harry Potter was announced, I didn't demand of my customers what their plans for reading the Last Book are. When the Democrats swept the elections last fall, I didn't assume that everyone I know would be thrilled just because I was. Why assume that anyone is like you or unlike you until you have some reason to believe that they are?

Really, it has nothing at all to do with being Jewish. I have friends that are atheists, friends that are Pagan, and friends that seem to celebrate every religion indiscriminately (yes, I'm talking about you, Ben) There are lots of folks that don't fit the mainstream mold, especially when it comes to religious, non-secular holidays.

If you ask me about my Easter, I either have to lie--"Oh, very nice, how was yours?"--or politely offer a correction--"Oh, well actually, I don't celebrate Easter..."-- depending on how much information I feel like sharing with you at the moment. Mainstream Majority People, don't make me choose between lying, which I hate, and disclosing personal matters, which I also hate. It's a no win situation for me, an awkward one. And I know that you're just trying to be polite, trying to make light conversation while I process your transaction. I understand that. So how about we talk about the weather, instead? The weather is an all-out equalizer; rain falls on Jew and Gentile and atheist alike. We all feel the cold or rejoice in the sunshine. Is talking about the weather cliche? Of course it is, because it serves a purpose in casual conversation that religion never could. So how about you just ask me how my weekend was, or how I'm liking this nice spring day? Then we can chit-chat wholeheartedly.


Aunt Sally said...

When someone asks you if you "had a nice Easter" just reply, "Thank you, I had (am having) a lovely Passover. Should take care of the situation, no?

Benjamin said...

That was a great entry. At work they asked us to put up a discretionary religious endcap, so I put up one I called "Beliefs", and tried to represent books from every creed. I came back a few days later to see that they had all been replaced with Chritian books. Ah, Texas.

Mara said...

Yes, Texas. I remember it well...And I will try that suggestion next time!