When the Writer Is the Character

I recently read that 10% of all U.S. women who are online also have a blog. With that huge number of blogs it’s only a matter of time before we start cannibalizing each other’s experiences. I’ll write about Mary Tyler Mom’s day at work while the Frugalista discusses my hatred of bargain shopping.

I got a taste of that this week when I found myself mentioned by name in someone else’s personal essay in the Forward, a Jewish magazine. Apparently, this girl attended my bat mitzvah back in 1980 and the event was an important part of her road to becoming Jewish.

The fact that my bat mitzvah was part of anyone’s road toward Judaism in matched in irony and absurdity only by the fact that because of this article I found myself in active discussion on a Forward comment board.

I’m strangely disturbed by this woman’s description of my bat mitzvah. At first I thought my annoyance was because of the girl’s inaccurate description of the event. She describes the people at my bat mitzvah as characters straight out of a movie. In her memory, a congregation of Louisvillians spout Yiddishisms, talk too loudly and too quickly and eat too much and too fast.

She, stands alone at the bat mitzvah, the lone blonde gentile. Also, she thinks we served her lox. Neither of these things are true.

I’ve been writing personal essays for a very long time. I know that descriptions in such things aren’t meant literally, they’re meant to evoke a feeling or a mood, or make a point. It is not what literally happened at my bat mitzvah that she’s recounting, it’s her idea of what it must have seemed like to her, at 13, to attend such a thing.

What I’ve come to realize over the past 48 hours, since first reading the article, is that this is what bothers me the most. Like most adolescents, I tried very hard in middle school to fit in, to be cool, not to stand out as different. But despite all that work, when this girl saw me, when she thinks of me now, she doesn’t see me, she doesn’t see someone who fits in, she sees someone different. She sees a loud mouthed Jew who eats too much.

I think I like writing my own story better.

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One Response to When the Writer Is the Character

  1. Pingback: How Much Is Being Jewish Worth? | Advice from Marta

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