Sunday, March 23, 2008

Reading Tea Leaves Pesach-Style

Around this time of year women don't speak in regular English. There is a special type of short hand to our language usage that is not clearly intelligible to men but is instantly understood by other women.

Example #1: "Pesach? Who's worried about Pesach?" This is not, as some would surmise, an announcement that the speaker is going to a hotel for Pesach. Instead, one of the following is the case: "My child is getting married in 10 days and you think I have time to worry about Pesach yet?"; My daughter is due, probably with twins, in a week. I'm still in possible bris mode. And she's coming to me to recuperate"; "The contractor who swore up and down that he would be out of my house by Chanukah is still not finished and there are no toilets in the bathrooms and you want me to think about Pesach too?" There is also this possibility, brought out with a little skillful questioning: "We bought a house with a brand new, never before used kitchen and I refused to close until the week before Pesach so all I have to do is move in and cook."


Example #2: "What's the big deal about making Pesach? People make too much of it." This identifies for women that the speaker is a young married woman who has never before made Pesach in her own home and isn't doing so this year either as she is going to her parents and planning on arriving erev yom tov in the morning.

Example #3: When said three weeks before Pesach: "I'm finished with the shopping now." Clearly identifies the speaker as someone who is going away for Pesach, probably to her parents. When said one to two weeks before Pesach this phrase identifies someone who is going to a hotel and has been clothes shopping for the past 4 weeks. When said two days before Pesach this indicates a seasoned balabusta. When said two hours before Pesach starts this indicates a new balabusta who refused to listen when told just how many eggs can get used on Pesach.



Example #4: "Where are you up to?" does not denote any desire on the speaker's part to actually know at what point the listener is in making Pesach. It is, instead, a plea for reassurance that everything will get done. The speaker is having some insecurity about getting done on time and needs some TLC.

Example #5: "My mother in law tells me that she is already up to the baking and I haven't turned the kitchen yet." Anyone with a mother in law, good, bad or indifferent, will understand that when a mother in law says this she is actually saying "Get away from the computer and put some steam on!" You need to understand that you will never, ever get ahead of her in her preparations, so don't even try.

Example #6: "If I peel one more potato I'll scream!" This can be variably interpreted. If a woman's children are older then it means "How could the college/office keep them so busy right now when I need them!" If the children are slightly younger the interpretation is different: "How dare my son's rebbe take the boys for a chesed to help a poor family clean up for Pesach. Charity begins at home! What am I--chopped liver?!"

Example #7: Said the afternoon of erev yom tov--"I'm sitting here having a cup of coffee. Surely I must have forgotten to do something?!" This, children and husbands, is not a time for you to run through a list of what the balabusta had to prepare--she is not actually missing anything. What she is missing, perhaps, is a "Wow does everything look good/smell good!" Perhaps what is in order is a "I don't know how you did all this mom but you are terrific."

7 comments:

Bas~Melech said...

Then there's, "Oh, Pesach -- isn't that sometime soon?" (famous last words by working/colleging/etc daughter who, though too harried to keep up with current events, is soon to be pressed into Pesach service)

the opinion said...

you peel greens

Abbi said...

I think you mean reading the subtext, not really tea leaves.

concernedjewgirl said...

This is my(our)MY first year making Pesach. I thank you for spanking me into reality. I would fall into the "what's the big deal, I like to clean" category.
I like many others are now in full out panic mode...THANKS!
How many eggs do I need???

ProfK said...

Abbi,
Yes, for women this is reading the subtext. Men, however, believe that we must be reading tea leaves or using some other strange means of establishing what is true or not.

Concernedjewgirl,
How many eggs? The formula is something like 2x(1/3y+/-3n)-3/5q+Tsquared, divided by 7/26 the coefficient of 13x(p+n squared)equals the number of eggs needed. Do you eat gebrokts or non gebrokts? Are you baking yourself or buying ready made? Will you be having company for the sedorim? Will you be having company for other meals? Do you make your own lokshen? Are you using jumbo, large, medium or small eggs? Are you also using egg substitute? No hard and fast rule that works for everyone. I use twelve dozen large eggs and about 6 dozen equivalent in egg substitute.

mlevin said...

"I haven't started preparing for Pesach" translation I'm not in a panick mode yet.

As far as eggs are concerned I still can't figure it out. 12 dozen is too much, 8 is too little.

We have an additional problem. My husband's cousin and his family. He runs into the house and demands food. He refuses to participate in the seder (ceremony) interrupts, makes unappropriate jokes, speaks on a cell and etc. We tried not inviting him, one year, and yelled and screamed and attached that we want to disown him. Our only consolation that he may cancel, which he does on regular basis. But at the moment I'm in a panick of antisipating his arrival. In addition I heard his daughter (5) has a mouth of a sailor.

Anonymous said...

What is the last thing you do before Pesach begins? I mean the absolutely last thing.

In our house, the last thing we do is to peel the horseradish and grate it, then quickly cover it with saran wrap to reduce the loss of potency.