We don’t say the H-word in our house.
I am going to start with the disclaimer that I absolutely love Mayim. Like, I fantasize about sitting next to her at La Leche League and nonchalantly asking her to be my new best friend. I was a fan of Big Bang Theory long before I was a writer for Kveller, and the professional and theological perspectives that Mayim has shared through this blog have made me view the show (and many aspects of my family and faith journey) in a more critical way.
For example, when the BBT girls were trying on bridesmaids dresses, I immediately noticed that they all included long-sleeved dust jackets, something far from “runway current,” and I wondered if it was done in part to satisfy Mayim’s standards of tznius. That got me wondering if a Rabbi would agree to marry Howard and Bernedette because she is a shiksa. Or perhaps she will go through the conversion process and Amy will accompany her to the mikveh and live out her life-long dream of watching women bathe naked.
I enjoyed Mayim’s most recent piece about the artistic process she works through as an actor and writes about so eloquently, and I appreciate her willingness to share with us. But perhaps the thing that struck me most about the article was that the word “hate“ was used excessively, nine times in a single paragraph to be exact. I view her as a very introspective woman and I wonder if she has ever thought about that word in relation to Judaism and its flippant use in the English vernacular.
My son is 20-months old and my weekly Babycenter.com email told me this:
Your toddler won’t be able to carry on a conversation just yet, but don’t be surprised if he starts mimicking your telephone style with his toy phone. You may also catch him imitating the way you act behind the wheel of the car, preparing meals, or cleaning the house. This copycat behavior can be charming or potentially embarrassing. Now’s a good time to pay extra attention to your own language and behavior.
It’s lovely when your email account judges your driving (and assumes you cook and clean). But in all seriousness, as a parent and a Jew I have been forced to examine my own conduct so not to be surprised (or mortified) when it is mimicked by my toddler. It occurred to me lately that I don’t want my incredibly verbal son to use the word hate. As I dig deeper into the connotation and history of the word, I feel it is more synonymous with suffering, persecution, racism, anti-Semitism, and religious and social intolerance than a way to describe one’s disdain for broccoli. I don’t want my son to say that he hates a particular color, a friend from school or God forbid, me.
In college, before my conversion when I was mildly Lutheran, I had a fish symbol on the back of my car. I didn’t have it there to proselytize to others, but rather to hold myself to a certain standard. My rationale was that if I were advertising on my bumper that I practice a churchly duty to loving kindness, cutting people off or flashing them the finger would be downright hypocritical. So by having that fish there, I was holding myself to a better standard of driving.
Likewise, I want to hold myself to a higher standard of parenting through example. I believe “Do as I say, not as I do” is lazy and hypocritical. Can I prevent my son from using the word “hate” simply by not saying it myself? Of course not, but I can set a precedence that we don’t use that word in our home because it is hurtful to people, our people. And don’t get me wrong, I am a work in process. I’ve only just started to be cognizant of my own use of the word, and really struggle to find accurate ways of expressing “severe loathing” without sounding ridiculous. I’ve decided I can deal with it if my son “really dislikes broccoli” because he will be expressing himself in a way that is respectful to both his food preferences and his people.