People see me as your “typical Jewish woman,” and maybe it’s true: I’ve got curly hair, opinions on every subject, and I do not go backpacking. Plus, even after years of speech classes, I still have an identifiable Bronxiness in my voice. When I walk into a room, someone always greets me in a Yiddish accent. “Velkom, dollink hev a seat, enjoy! (The last person who did that was a Chinese friend, who ought to know better!)
My ethnicity has often been an obstacle in my professional life. My agent submits me for a movie, but the director - Harold Shlomansky – won’t see me because he feels I’m too Jewish. I hear that all the time, but this is for the part of a Rabbi. Shlomansky is only seeing Gentile actresses because – as he puts it - he wants to be sure that the character is likeable.
A while back, I read for a commercial which I knew I would book. I had worked with the director, Stu Lefkowitz, before and my agent told me he was looking for an “Annie Korzen type!” I did not get the job. Stu Lefkowitz hired a perky little blonde. I am too Jewish to play MYSELF!
So I guess I’m a living stereotype, and the worst thing about it is suffering through the never-ending barrage of jokes about me and my kind. Jokes about ugly, abrasive, obnoxious Jewish women – told by ugly, abrasive, obnoxious Jewish men.
These guys dream of a blonde goddess who will make them seem less ethnic. Which, by the way, doesn’t work. It’s like the old joke about about Hymie Greenblatt, who changes his name to Standish Merriweather III to get into the country club, but on the application, when asked his religion, he fills in “Goy!”
So I decide to write a book defending Jewish women, which I’m going to call YENTA. And I write to The Oprah Winfrey Show and suggest that they do a program about “Ethnic Men Who Reject Their Own Women.” They like the idea, and I am invited as an expert witness, and I go into all kinds of “I’m gonna be rich and famous fantasies.”
Now let me explain why this is the fantasy of a brain-damaged person. I don’t have a book. I don’t have a publisher. All I have is an idea for a book that hasn’t been written yet. I AM THE ONLY WRITER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD WHO WENT ON OPRAH WITH NOTHING TO SELL! And it gets worse. Oprah flies me to Chicago, first-class. Big mistake.
You see, as a compulsive bargainista, I’ve .got this problem with food: if someone else is paying, and I can have whatever I want, I just lose all control. It’s like there’s this tape in my brain that keeps playing over and over from my childhood: “Finish your plate! Little children in Europe are starving!” My friend Sandra’s mother used to say, “Eat whatever you want - and the rest put in your mouth!” What chance did I have?
So I’m on the plane, and the chirpy stewardess says, “Hi there! For your hors d’oeuvre, would you care for smoked salmon, artichoke dip, or paté?” I say “YES!” and take all three. I follow that with a stuffed Cornish Game Hen and a Hot Fudge Sundae. I wobble off the plane and a limo whisks me to my luxurious hotel - just in time for dinner! Oprah Winfrey is trying to kill me.
I don’t feel so good. All my body really wants is a nice cup of chamomile tea, but I tell my body to mind its own business and I sit down to a five-course meal with Beef Stroganoff. (I don’t usually eat red meat, but it’s the most expensive thing on the menu.) My body is very angry with me. I just hope those little children in Europe are happy!
I am seriously unwell. I can’t sleep. I’m up all night. What am I going to say on the show tomorrow? How can I convince people that Jewish women deserve some respect? At 5:30 I get a wake-up call. I am sicker than ever.
Breakfast arrives! I force down eggs Benedict and a stack of buttermilk pancakes. What choice do I have? It’s paid for! At 6:30, the limo arrives to take me, green and nauseous, to the studio. It’s showtime!
The first speaker is a single Jewish professional man, and he spouts the usual garbage: “I never date Jewish women. They look alike, they think alike, the only thing they’re interested in is the size of your wallet!”
It’s my turn to reply and I want to bury this asswipe with my cutting wit and irresistible charm. But by now there are clumps of Stroganoff in Benedict sauce floating around in my esophagus, and I am about to represent Jewish women by vomiting in front of twenty-two million people. I am so sick that my witty and charming response is “Same to you and double!” And then I gag.
The next day, at home, my husband makes a lame attempt to console me. “Don’t make such a big deal about this. Who watches Oprah anyway?” Then I hear my son talking on the phone. “No way, that wasn’t my mother. I mean, not my real mother. You didn’t know I was adopted?”
You know that expression, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” I guess it’s true.