On Tradition

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Yet again, I start the long weekend eating a stuffed turkey and end it feeling like one. I’ll just rely on two of my all-time favorite mottos: “Whatever” and “The diet starts tomorrow.” Though it would be easy to write about Thanksgiving food, I also find that somewhat nauseating. So instead, I’m going to write about tradition.

Tradition is something that we, as humans, admittedly celebrate but underratedly infatuate ourselves with. When I hear the word, I think of family. For the majority of my life, my family has prided itself in tradition, as I’m sure everyone else’s has, too. I always felt like the nature of our traditions was better than everyone else’s. In the most obnoxious way, I’ve always assumed that our traditions were more, well, traditional.

Once upon a time, I wrote a piece for @JewBoyProblem’s blog, Found at Bubbe’s, about the importance of a nicely set table to my family. In it, I spoke of my grandma’s need to use her fine china as often as possible. It shaped me into a dining snob. If I go elsewhere for a holiday/special meal, and we’re eating on plastic… forget about it. This example of FYD-fam tradition, along with dozens of others, gave me a feeling that my family was special. We have other traditions that weren’t as fancy, don’t get me wrong. But, then again, we really love our china.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to take notice of little ways tradition intertwines itself into our lives that aren’t as obvious as those displayed at a Thanksgiving meal. I finally understand that different traditions—like the generations-old one in my family where you must put butter on your nose on your birthday—do not have to be annoying and/or acne inducing. They don’t have to be weird or embarrassing, either. Tradition has become a feeling that we subconsciously cling to.

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about the Greek life scene at different schools. “You know,” she said to me, “it’s for people who like that whole tradition-y atmosphere.” For some reason, that struck me as incredibly interesting. I had never before thought about a sorority or a fraternity as being “tradition-y.” If anything, it seems like more mupload-y. You know, like who can mupload the most amount of photos from the most unique and flattering angles of all the food your big got you? Or who can capture us dancing on eleven different elevated surfaces? To be fair, I thought of Greek life as “campy” because your sorority sisters are the closest to your camp friends you’ll ever get. I went to sleepaway camp for seven summers and basked in its traditions. My camp was all-girls, uniform, and incredibly strict. Because of these traditions, I became a better person. Camp was something my mom had done (we actually went to the same camp) and my grandma had done. My family had camp in its traditions, and my camp was traditional. Therefore, camp = tradition of all sorts.

So if Greek life is campy, and campy is tradition-y, then I guess Greek life is tradition-y. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I suppose I am because traditions evolve. Whether sisterhood blossoms by wearing bathing caps and one-pieces in a freezing lake (like it did for me) or by dedicating yourself to a group of girls for four years of your life, it sticks. This is the magic of tradition.

My only hesitancy to modern tradition—tradition that leaks out of decorated paddles and camp songs—is that it doesn’t seem as special as china set on the dining room table. It also seems to lack the individualism that I usually seek. The hardest part about tradition is deciding when it’s time to change… when it’s time to start having Thursday dinner at a Mexican restaurant rather than an Italian one or when you’ve gotta choose between having your Thanksgiving meal with Mom’s side of the fam or with Dad’s. I think we have to realize that ending a tradition to do your own thing isn’t bad. It’s just, well, different.


On Visiting Day

Between hype over “The Running of the Jews,” a concept my parents made sure I understood before I knew how to say “Shabbat shalom,” and the annual event that took place all along the northeast last weekend, I thought it fitting to make this week’s flavor d-day v-day. According to the Christian faith, v-day is an abbrev for Valentine’s Day. According to the Jewish faith, v-day is short for Visiting Day–an annual holiday filled with more love, blood, sweat, tears, and romance than any other.

I spent last weekend visiting my two younger brothers at sleepaway camp in Maine. I decided that I would make it a social experiment. I promised myself that I would, however tedious it may be, take copious notes of the ridiculous things I heard people say while I was up here. I knew that surrounding myself with ironic, lobster-craving Jews for a full four days would provide the perfect opportunity to compose a beautiful quote book.

This is my 15-year-old brother when I made him put on a fashion show for me including all of the equipment he needs to wear on his week-long canoe trip. He’s obviously psyched.

Before I delve deep into the realm of #ShitPeopleSayOnVDay, I thought I could share a story that will perfectly set the tone for the type of weekend I had. During my brother’s intramural basketball game in a field house hot enough to be the burning embers of body odor in an all-boys camp hell, I really really really had to pee. Whenever I visit my brothers at camp, I have a few fears that are ever-lingering as scars from various experiences of my own at summer camp (i.e., the time I was ten and shit my pants during the age group play… yes, that is one of the most underrated and best kept secrets from my time at camp). Unbeknownst to me, this would become one of those deep cuts in the side of my female dignity.

“Where’s the girls’ bathroom?” I asked my mom.

“The bathrooms are unisex here,” my mom replied in a voice much too nonchalant, implying that for one, it should have been obvious that there were no girls’ bathrooms, and two, that she was trying to sound “mad chill.” As in, every girl uses urinals here.

Thus, I entered the so-called unisex bathroom in the field house. It wasn’t a bathroom that locked–it had two urinals and one private stall. Unisex enough. I went into the stall to pee and spent the entire time praying that no one would walk in. Just as I was about to leave the stall, the bathroom door opened. Of course.

I cannot express enough how this easily could have been a scene from Bridesmaids or The Heat or some other woman-powered comedy flick that macho men refuse to admit is one of the funniest movies they have ever seen. The following ensued: I peeked under the stall and saw that the intruder was a male. How did I know this? He was using the urinal. Fabulous.

Then, so he wouldn’t see me, I put my feet on the toilet seat and crouched there, hugging my legs so he wouldn’t know I was there, until I was in the clear and it was safe to go. For more reasons than one, I was holding my breath. I crouched on the toilet for a good five or six minutes. Might I add, I was drenched in sweat in the most ungraceful way possible.

Finally, he left. I came out of the stall. Just as I opened the door to exit the bathroom, nervous about the strange looks I was guaranteed to get from everyone who realized that I was alone… in a bathroom… with this man… ugh… a GRANDPA walked in. That was an awkward encounter for sure. Especially when I waved and said “Hi!” to him, as if I normally used the boys’ bathroom. How progressive of me.

Enjoy the quotes!

After the first day, I was an accessory to my parents at a dinner of six couples, all with sons in the same group of camp friends. Word for word, here are the best quotes of the night (from the mothers):

“You’re only as happy as your most unhappy child.”

“I’m so proud of myself for friending you on Facebook!!!!!”

“I think that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has gotten much more respectable.”

“Every kid was asking for candy, and my kid’s asking for the Boston Globe!!!”

“Let’s face it. Jews love to overdo.” (This could be almost be considered a mantra.)

After dinner, I walked around the quaint, colonial town with my parents.

“Everything says ‘Kennebec’ up here,” said my father.

“I think that’s the name of the river,” I told him from my experience as a seven-year Maine camper.

“No,” he shook his head. “I think that’s just a big word up here,” OK, Dad.

The next day:

“These boys look malnourished.” –My mother in response to the “skins” team during basketball

“What’s civilization?” –My11-year-old cousin’s totally serious and non-sarcastic response to my brother’s claim that he misses civilization

“It’s like the Hunger Games.” –My youngest brother in line to get ice cream

“Rate me on a scale of 1 to 10 of how skinny or fat you think I got since I’ve seen you last and especially pay attention to how I look in these jean shorts.” –Someone who may or may not have been me to my 11-year-old brother

I hope your visiting days were lovely and included both lots of fun and a three-pound max weight gain!

I blog about my time as a camper for the Maine Camp Experience. You can read some of my posts by clicking here.

This post is dedicated to 1AB 2011.