You ever have one of those moments where the situation is so very awkward, that even thinking about it makes you want to laugh and cringe simultaneously? I tried to think of what the most awkward moment of my life was tonight while in the bathtub, and I remembered one particularly vivid example from my childhood: Watching a film about the Holocaust with a gentile woman.
Now, that situation itself doesn’t have to be awkward, it can even be interesting. But it lends itself to awkwardness when people react a certain way, and that was definitely the case here. The woman wasn’t reacting to the movie, she was reacting to the fact that she was trying to show off to me, a Jew, just how horrified she was by the actions portrayed in the movie, which are two entirely different things. The film in question was The Pianist* and throughout the whole film, the woman I watched it with kept gasping, clucking her tongue, wringing her hands, and looking over at me anxiously, saying things like “It was just horrible, wasn’t it?” and “Oh my goodness, people can be so cruel!” I didn’t know what she wanted me to say in response to that. “Why yes it was, my relatives and kin must have felt that as well while it was happening to them”? Or perhaps, “Oh definitely, thankfully we live in an era in which antisemitism is no longer a problem now”? Or maybe even, “It certainly was! I’m so glad that I’m not surrounded by Nazis but instead have nice, tolerant people like you around”? So I just nodded and pretended to be stricken by the goings-on in the film, even though I was just thinking “Chopin is pretty great as a composer.”
Now, about 10 years later, I finally have a response for her: Lady, please don’t make movies/literature/whatever other media there is surrounding my people’s historical tragedies about you by asking me to pat you on the back and reassure you that I don’t put you in the same category as Nazis. I have no use for your Goyishe Guilt (Is that a thing? It totally should be if not) when it comes to these stories. You can pat yourself on the back and assure yourself that you’re a good decent person for sitting down and watching a film about the Holocaust with a Jewish person, rather than trying to exterminate her, but you don’t get special accolades for having the decency to not persecute me or my people.
And that, ladies, gentlemen, and gender rebels, is how the most awkward situation in my life played out. Remember: Only you can prevent awkward situations, by keeping your anxious seeking of approval from your token minority acquaintances to yourself!
* Put me into cinematic time-out if you must, but I’ve never been a big fan of Roman Polanski, even before I found out he was a child-raping piece of garbage. This film elicited a very “meh” reaction in me.