The XX Factor

Is It Abnormal Not To Kvetch?

Nadja Spiegelman at the Forward women’s page says that this non-complaining project Jessica and I have launched this week is not really normal, or healthy. She knows because she tried it herself. Spiegelman got herself a job at a camp for disabled kids, where infrequent smoke breaks involved gossiping and bitching about fellow counselors and campers. Only she didn’t participate. She just smoked silently. Consequently, everyone thought she was totally weird and unfriendly. I would say the problem there is obvious: Jews are not supposed to camp. Cold nights and plastic mattresses are a recipe for semitic disaster.

Otherwise, I know what she means. Just after we got married, my husband’s family set up a hiking and walking trip. I got through it-I would say I even loved it-but only because I complained endlessly, rudely. During this month of non-complaining, my hardest moments so far have been when friends come over, especially friends I haven’t seen in a while. Normally, I would reconnect by doing a kind of complaint performance, where I annotate the updates with sardonic asides. Without it, I’m kind of stuck. What are we supposed to talk about? The unseasonably warm weather?

That said, I know this is a problem Jews are supposed to solve, only because I have sat through many a Yom Kippur service and said the “Ashamnu” prayer many times. If you’ll notice, half of the sins we confess to are synonyms for gossip.

We have become guilty, we have betrayed, we have robbed, we have spoken slander.

We have caused perversion, we have caused wickedness, we have sinned willfully, we have extorted, we have accused falsely.

We have given evil counsel, we have been deceitful, we have scorned, we have rebelled, we have provoked, we have turned away, we have been perverse, we have acted wantonly, we have persecuted, we have been obstinate.

We have been wicked, we have corrupted, we have been abominable, you have let us go astray.