Butt yourself out of my life, woman!

Ok so I was stupid enough to go to the local kosher store in my skants. My skirt was black, almost ankle length, very kosher, but the pink sweatpants underneath couldn’t help but peek through. Had a bandanna on my head – all my hair was covered. Apparently because I am dressed so modern it’s obvious I don’t understand Yiddish. (like Duh!!)

Ok let me breathe for a second here. I bumped into a friend at the cash and we were catching up. There was this woman there who I have seen around but I don’t know who she is, just that she seems to know everyone. So I am chatting with my friend as the cashier is ringing up her stuff. We talk about Pesach, and I happened to say “there is no way I am making Pesach in two places”. If you know my life story at this point, you understand what I mean.

This yenta woman butts in to a private conversation and asks why would you need to make Pesach in two places? Lady, it ain’t none of your business – I wanted to say that but instead I just said a dismissive but polite “it’s complicated”. She doesn’t need to know my business. She wasn’t happy with my answer because she had an apparent need to know. Was in desperate need of some new gossip to spread. So she talks to the cashier in Yiddish and asks him about MY life. What’s her name she says, and what’s her story? Then HE has the chutzpah, the cashier, to tell her (in Yiddish because of course there is no way I could possibly understand what with being modern and all) that my husband lives in NY and I live here. You could see her antenna rising faster by the second. Oh yes, here’s a juicy story. She asks him again what my name is. He tells her in Yiddish that he has no clue what my new name is – it was a second marriage. Flippin’ Nora people – do I have no right to privacy? The cashier knows me – same community etc….can he not keep his mouth shut?

She starts peppering me with questions, I try to ignore her and talk to my friend, who is quite horrified herself, and eventually she asks if I am new in town. I tell her, no, I have been here for 16 years. Oh, she says, I never saw you before. Big frigging whoop – there are 90 000 Jews here in Montreal. One of them you didn’t meet, and one of them you don’t have the gossip on. Deal with it!!

She turns to the cashier again, and asks him, again in Yiddish (and she has paid for her stuff before this, she is just hanging round to socialize) if he knew me, or my family – our yichus (pedigree). By now my friend has left and on her way out she shot me a look of disbelief that I was actually keeping my temper, and the cashier is ringing up my purchases. Still motor mouth is going strong. Where do you live, where do your kids go to school, what does your husband do…..I work hard at ignoring her.

As I picked up my purchases and walked by her, I said to her in my imperfect but understandable Yiddish with a very cutting tone – when it comes to Yom Kippur and you klop al cheit (strike your chest as remorse for sins committed), remember me and how you tried so hard to stick your big nose into my business, how you had no respect for another Jew, how you made another person uncomfortable just so that you could have more rechilus and loshon hora (gossip) to go tell your friends.

I stalked off with my head held high and did not look back. I shouldn’t have said anything but it was so galling. How do people have the chutzpah to blatantly dig into someone’s life just for the heck of it? The cashier – I had respect for him. I did. No longer. I feel like he paid no heed to my feelings at all. And the whole Yiddish thing?? ARGH!!

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  1. frumchika says:

    u rock…amazingly perfectly rock
    and so sorry u had to deal with that!!!

  2. Mark says:

    יענטע מית לעשען הערע וועט פירן איר גלייך צו גענעם

    • Mark says:

      This is supposed to mean – Yenta with the loshon hora, you will go straight to hell.

      If there are any Yiddish speakers out there, please correct it as necessary.

      • sheldan says:

        Mark, I think that Yiddish is fine. I suspect that the Yiddish experts among us will find other versions…

        My wife’s cousin sent us “If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Say it in Yiddish” recently. I also have some of the old Fred Kogos dictionaries. I suppose “Gey in drerd” (go to hell) may not be elegant enough for this yenta. (I don’t know how to type the Hebrew characters here!) You and Hadassah came up with better lines.

  3. Erin says:

    As always, I am impressed with how you held yourself with integrity. You inspire me to be a better person…and…since I have nothing nice to say about the sitch, I will say nothing more. *hugs*

  4. AshleyRoz says:

    I can’t believe you still bought something from them. I would have said what you said and then put the groceries I picked out on the counter and left!!

    You’re a better behaved woman than I.

    • sheldan says:

      I suppose that finding another store may be a solution in some areas (Montreal is probably one of them), but if that is the only kosher store in the area, you may be out of luck.

      Maybe boycott the cashier or speak to his manager.

  5. rubyv says:

    what ashley said.

  6. Rebecca says:

    I think that is one of the problems with some “frum” women. They think they are entitled, hence can ask whatever they like, especially if they think u don’t understand. I wonder if this was an “old world woman” and older woman, maybe 96 or so. If not, does it surprise you that a contemporary or yours would be so blatent?

    • HSaboMilner says:

      I would say she was a woman in her early 60s.

      • Nah, it’s not just old ladies. I get it from all kinds of Jews. And even non-Jews. When a Hispanic woman saw me (also Hispanic) walking with my husband (and his kippah), she asked me what I was doing with him. I tried to be respectful but she went on to tell me I was terrible for converting for him (I didn’t) and I was going to hell. This was at the airport as I was coming out of the bathroom!

        • Mark says:

          And even non-Jews.

          What do you mean by “even”, are you implying that Jews are predisposed somehow to be busybodies/gossips?

        • sheldan says:

          Aliza: It is amazing that religious Jews, who should know better, seem to be the biggest culprits regarding loshon hora. (Needless to say, not all of them, but too many for my taste.)

          I would think that if it becomes known that someone cannot keep a confidence (and Hadassah’s example would not even be that–it was someone who injected herself into the conversation she was not part of) I would give them a wide berth.

          Mark: No, I don’t believe she was implying that. But it just means we may have a special responsibiltiy to avoid that behavior (since that is a Biblical commandment not to do that) if we are to be successful as Jews.

    • sheldan says:

      Sorry, Rebecca, she gets no pass from me…

  7. Lady Lock and Load says:

    My sister (who is not religious and does not look Jewish with her long blonde hair, blue eyes, and jeans) gets a kick when women around her speak in Yiddish or Hebrew and she understands what they are saying.
    I am sorry this happened to you, Hadassah. She should have been ignored by the very first question, as she was rude to interupt a private conversation. If you forgive them in your heart it will be a huge zechus for you.
    What is it with the ladies in Montreal, they never saw skants before? Nobody goes to the gym and wears a skirt on top of their pants?
    When you move to Monsey you can “skant” as much as you please and you will have good company!

  8. WOW! Good for you for not letting this one pass. Hopefully this woman will think twice.

    Your story reminds me of another one my sister aunt once told me. A friend of hers (they were both in the Canadian diplomatic corps), was selling her house. A Japanese couple came in to look at the place. Before they left the started talking in Japanese about how they could undercut her price.

    My aunts friend replied back, in perfect Japanese, that her price was firm and that she would not consider going any lower – guess where her last posting was?

    The looks on the couple’s faces was supposedly priceless.

  9. Lion of Zion says:

    my mother-in-law lives in boro park but isn’t religious. she is fluent in yiddish (was in the yiddish theater in russia) and she goes through this all the time with people in the stores trying to take advantage of her or talk about her because they think she doesn’t understand.

  10. Y Kohn says:

    I can’t imagine this happening only in ‘downtown’ Outremont.

    As a Hasidic man I must tell you this kind of behavior permeates our entire culture. It happened to me today! Some people shrug it off others are annoyed to no end and I’m of the latter kind.

    I long ago realized that there is a silver lining and a flip side to this nosiness. Those are the same people who will come to your aid in an instant and mobilize through the same methods of LH and rechilus an entire campaign to come to the aid of a family.

    Those who organize their society to be kind of standoffish, have issues with not seeing distress or other unpleasantness and turn their face away, in false sense of “minding their own business”.

    It is a trade off, still this behavior drives me nuts especially when I confront and refuse to answer I am looked at, as the rude one.

  11. shorty says:

    i am so glad you said something.

  12. Pearl says:

    BRAVA, Hadassah. You “shtupped” it to her but good. Thank goodness for that mama loshen and your knowledge of it.

  13. Jonathan says:

    Mark: I think you got it right.

    Anyway, it’s sad to say that I’ve seen & heard this same kind of stuff go on over the years in several different kehillot across the country. It’s amazing how clueless some people can be, and without any sense of boundaries. They just live for the newest bit of gossip; they seek it out in a vain attempt to make up for their otherwise boring & empty lives.

  14. Oy, some people!!!!

    But some of us have the opposite problem. Over at my former yeshiva, it is well-known that there are undercover Shabak (Shin Bet or GSS, Israel’s internal security service) agents on the watch for any suspicious or dangerous political talk.

    Just recently, a student of Machon Meir was deported from Israel for his political talk at Machon Meir. (See the news here.)

    However, when I myself learned at Machon Meir, I made not the slightest effort to hide my “radical” political views – I would speak my mind to anyone who’d listen – and yet the Israeli government never picked up on me. Heck, I once sent a detailed, several page-long letter to figures in all branches of the Israeli government, detailing my plans of civil disobedience against the Israeli government. Nothing ever happened to me.

    When I first became religious, none of my friends at my public high school ever asked me what I was doing. I’d put on tefillin every morning in class, and I’d wear knee-length tznitzit, and no one asked me!! Finally, one day, I went out of my way to mention my tznitzit to my best friend, and he said, “Oh, I just thought your drawstring was broken.” Another time, this same best friend said to me, “Can you believe some idiots out there actually believe the Biblical story of the Flood?”. And his tone of voice was clearly that of someone speaking about the absent “other”; he was not euphemistically referring to me. Hell??!! I’m wearing a kippah over here!!! At least once, wouldn’t someone please acknowledge that I’m a frum Jew in a public high school, just so I know I’m not going insane!!!

  15. Oops, that should be “Hello??!!”, not “Hell??!!”. Oops.

  16. Rebecca says:

    mid sixties, does not fit in my thought. Do u think certain frum women feel entitled, especially those who don’t work outside of the home, who’s husbands study all day and they are helped… more so supported by their families. I have seen in in Boro Park and that was 40 years ago. Do you have a “circle of friends established in Monsey”? Do people take sides when it comes to Kod and his ex.wife?

    • Lady Lock and Load says:

      Rebecca…I think you are off the mark totally on this one. What I think is that this woman overheard a conversation and was nosy and curious about her co-religionist and was not asking questions because she felt entitled, but just to satisfy her own curiosity. If two women are speaking out loud in a public place, maybe she assumed this was not so private of a conversation and she felt she could get in the act.
      I don’t think she meant any harm, actually she may be a very caring kind of person and that is why she got involved (although what she did wasn’t right in my book).
      Just this morning I was on the treadmill at the local gym and I was talking to someone next to me about kids having toy guns and then this woman who was working out way across the room pipes in to voice her opinion and for a moment there I thought it was a little rude for we hadn’t asked her opinion, but then I thought that hey, we were talking pretty loud, in a public place, and maybe next time if I am talking to someone in public I will watch what I say!

      • Lady Lock and Load says:

        Rebecca, you asked “Do you have a “circle of friends established in Monsey”? Do people take sides when it comes to Kod and his ex.wife?” Why are you asking this, what does this have to do with what hadassah is writing? Don’t you think she may not particularly like these kind of questions?
        Do you really need to know or are you just curious? or feeling a little entitled ;)

        • Mark says:

          LLL – Why are you asking this, what does this have to do with what hadassah is writing?

          I think she is just illustrating how to be a gossip :-)

          • Lady Lock and Load says:

            Hadassah is in the midst of writing a biography (pink cover of course) of her very interesting and fascinating life so she won’t have to answer the questions of any more of us yentas! aren’t you hadassah dear? ;) and I want you to please sign my copy! Think of all the $$$ she will make from all us yentas :) LOL

      • Mark says:

        LLL – I don’t think she meant any harm, actually she may be a very caring kind of person and that is why she got involved (although what she did wasn’t right in my book).

        The initial butting in could be excusable, some people are nosy, some think they can help, and some actually can and do help. Hevay dan lekaf zechut*.

        But once dismissed politely, even a nosy person should know that it’s time to butt out. But some people take a little more than a polite dismissal to get the point. Again, hevay dan lekaf zechut.

        Then to speak in another language to a third-party right in front of the person being discussed is INEXCUSABLE no matter what convoluted justification anyone can come up with. At this point we know her zechut. Same for the shopkeeper who couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

        * Hevay dan lekaf zechut, Hadassah, might be a good addition to your twictionary of Jewish terms. Essentially means “benefit of the doubt”, but really means much more than that.

  17. tesyaa says:

    Yeyasher kochech for answering her back!!! And I wonder how much business that store will be getting from you.

    (Not long ago the frum owner of a frummy girls’ clothing store laughed in my face when I didn’t recognize the Hard Tails label – let me tell you, if you own a business, don’t laugh in your customers’ face. I have 3 teenage girls but I will not be patronizing that store again, let me tell you).

  18. Aubrey says:

    This happens with lots of different cultures. My husbands family are from Mexico. Most of them speak spanish around me. The funny thing is that after nearly 13 years of knowing me, they still haven’t figured out that I understand every word. :) They like the white girl in english, but not in spanish. Hehe.

  19. I think you handled it completely appropriately! In fact, I think it was textbook.

  20. swiss says:

    This is an interesting sociological phenomenon. Ever thought about it?

    On the one hand you resent this woman spreading her news to her dozen of friends, but you do not mind publishing the wee details of your life to millions of potential readers on the internet (including your full name, city where you live, etc)

    • It probably is because she can choose which details are being revealed. And in any case, she’s the one doing the revealing. If this woman at the store had asked her to her face who she is and where’s she from, she probably would have been somewhat more willing to share.

      My mother tells me a story her father (my grandfather) told her: one day, my grandfather was out with his friends, and one of his friends said something about his “stupid sister”. My grandfather yelled at him to not dare ever speak of his sister that way again. The friend protested, “but you call her your ‘stupid sister’ all the time!”. My grandfather shot back, “Because she’s my sister!!”.

    • And my brother is like my grandfather. My brother makes fun of me all the time, but I remember I once happened to walk into a room where my brother was in the middle of tearing someone a new one for speaking ill of me. My brother said to me, “Michael, you know I make fun of you all the time, but you know I love you and that I’d never let anyone else do the same, right?”.

  21. swiss says:

    Well, but the blog-Readers can also pass the information along, in a benevolent or malevolent manner, as they please. They can chat about her with friends, critisize her for everything she does.

    What’s the difference?

  22. swiss says:

    so she just should have told this lady to catch up on this blog…

    Here she would have found all the juicy details she was looking for…

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