Friday, January 04, 2013

Mind Your Own Business? No Thanks

It's not simple to live in Israel. The political and security climate can be...well...daunting. The financial opportunities are..well...more limited than many olim, especially olim from Western countries, would find in their home countries.

On the social level as well, there are different norms and modes of accepted behavior that take a while to get used to. One of those particular Israeli quirks is the inability of Israelis, no matter whether they're Sepharadi, Ashkanazi, old, young, more-educated or less-educated to mind their own business.

Israelis, especially the women, feel no hesitation to let you know that your new hair color isn't as fitting as your old hair color or that  you've thinned/thickened/look better/look tired. And they will continue on to give you advice for whatever they've diagnosed.

I've had cashiers at the supermarket giggle because I was buying a "couscousairia" -- special pot for making the Moroccan couscous. (Evidently Ashkanazi women are viewed as incapable in this area -- my experience actually enhanced that perception and now, I just buy the "add hot water and stir" ready-made bags of couscous). Perfect strangers have, on more than one occasion, looked into my shopping basket and asked me what I planned to do with a specific vegetable that they'd never seen before.

Nowhere, however, does this phenomena display itself as clearly as when children are involved. Throughout the years that I was raising my children I would get stopped on the street because my sling was, according to these ladies, placed incorrectly, making it impossible for the baby to breath. My policy of no candy (at least not the teeth-destroying chewy stuff, and at least not in the supermarket) was challenged over and over by well-meaning shoppers who felt that I was practically committing child abuse by not indulging my offspring in whatever junk they happened to see.

I can't count the number of times that I was questioned about why the screaming baby didn't have a pacifier (NONE of my kids would take a pacifier, even though I would have paid a king's ransom if they would have agreed to take one -- starting with child #2 and for every subsequent birth I would take a pacifier with me to the hospital so that after the birth, the child would have the "motzetz" and would get used to dice, as soon as they figured out that there was something else that they could suck that brought more satisfaction -- about a day after they were born -- the pacifiers were discarded).

Today, while coming home from town, I saw a young mother, a daughter of a friend, walking up the street with her baby in a carriage. I stopped to admire the baby and the mother removed the blanket that was shielding the child's face -- she had felt that it was too windy. "Oh, you should take it off now" I said before I caught myself. "It's nice and sunny now".

And then I realized. I had actually become one of the old busy-bodys that I used to make fun of. After almost 30 years in Israel I'm almost a native! All I need is a huge overdraft and I'll be right there. 

1 comment:

mikimi said...

I so understand you but it's okay nowadays toabusive of those busy-body women as long as you do it gently and to people you know already. Think of me and what/how I say things and you'll be just fine!
And mo one needs the overdraft!