Columns - 1997

    Honorable Menschen

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Shofar Columnist

    As part of Jewish Book Month, we proudly introduce a new self-help guide for single Jewish women, unhappily married Jewish women, and non-Jewish women who like aggravating Jewish mothers. "Winning Honorable Menschen" is the ultimate guide for women trying to find that special Jewish someone, or at least his kid brother.

    Want a preview of my sage insight into finding a mensch, ladies? Just for you, and don't think that I'd do this for my other four readers, I'll reprint the guide in its entirety:

    "Get over it. There aren't any."

    Don't wait for the paperback edition. Buy it while the ink is still wet (on the check from my publisher).

    For single women who haven't heard from your mother in the past two days, I'll remind you that "mensch" has two definitions: 1) something it's about time you had already, 2) Yiddish for "man who puts the cap back on the toothpaste."

    Why do I say there are no mensches out there? After all, studies show that almost five percent of men actually use toothpaste. And, of these, several use it for purposes other than patching holes in drywall. You have to believe that some of them absent-mindedly put the cap back on. But that's not the point.

    The point is it's not so simple to be a mensch. It's hard enough just to spell "mensch."

    To make a long story short (too late), I have no idea how to be a mensch. I know. It's hard to believe, the way my grandmother talks. But just ask my exes.

    However, nobody knows. Why? Because you can't please everyone. Therefore for every mensch candidate, there's some person who will think he's not a mensch. Even someone as misguided as a Florida Marlins fan is entitled to their wrong opinion. If you want to be sure someone thinks you're a mensch, call your grandmother.

    If you can't find her number, you can stop reading now and go back to watching WWF on TNT.

    In other words, the harder you try to be a mensch, the less of one you are. If you are yourself and happen to do menschy things, you're ahead of the game. If you don't know the difference between a mensch and a wrench, you can stop having someone read this to you and go back to watching WWF on TNT.

    Since wrestling is over, I'm available to present a collection of non-mensch things to do. These are carefully screened and tested examples of what to avoid in your everyday life. Taken from our own secret blend of perturbs and vices, nobody we know has ever been stupid enough to do the following:

    • When you have tickets to a Broadway touring show that your girlfriend really wants to see but can't go to, don't bring your ex instead. Especially if your girlfriend sweetly said, "bring whoever you want."
    • When you meet a woman who you think you'll like a lot, don't accidentally close a car door on her hand.
    • Don't do it on purpose, either.
    • When going to a nice restaurant with a woman you like, don't comment on the irony that you were there three weeks earlier with another woman, at the same table, in the same seats.
    • When you're with, talking to, or writing to a woman you like, don't do anything that isn't exactly what she wants.
    • When talking to a woman you like, don't tell her to not be jealous of a friend of yours who happens to be a member of any non-male gender. She'll carry that jealousy through three marriages straight to the grave.
    • When dealing with a woman whom you like, don't assume anything about her attitude toward you other than the worst.
    • Don't do anything really, really, really stupid.
    • When a woman you were once interested in asks if you're uncomfortable hearing about her newest boyfriend, try not to laugh too hard.
    • When visiting a woman you like, have something in mind to do. She'll leave it up to you even though she's known the city for 25 years and you've known it for 25 minutes. But you better choose exactly what she wants to do...
    • When a woman you like is visiting, have something in mind to do. She'll leave it up to you since she doesn't want to be a demanding guest. But leave enough time in your plans so you can do the 23 things she "heard would be good, if there's time to do them all in two days."
    • When you're not sure how you're supposed to know what a woman wants from you (since she'll sooner drop dead than actually tell you), accept the futility and remind yourself that it's not as bad as being a fan of the Chicago Cubs.
    • When talking to a woman you like, no matter how close you are to her, don't voice any of your little doubts, hesitations, or concerns. You're a big boy now, you can get over it without making her wonder why she'd want such a spineless weasel. Shouldn't be that way, but it can be.
    • When talking to a woman you like, no matter how close you are to her, don't hide any of your major doubts, hesitations, or concerns. This is the origin of the oft-forgotten Aramaic term "communication."
    • When someone you're dating meets someone else you've recently dated, bring a grenade to throw yourself onto.
    • Don't forget these important words: "Nice shoes."
    • When unfortunate incidents occur between you and women you like, don't humorously recount them in a widely circulated variety column.

    So, while we can't say how to be a mensch, one important trick is: Don't deal with a woman who sees you for the perfect mensch you're not instead of accepting you for the reasonably-close-to-a-mensch-except-during-the-Iron-Bowl that you really are.

    If you have better sense than that, your grandmother will think you're a mensch. And she would know.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley who used his ex's toothbrush to apply toothpaste to a hole in some drywall. Just don't tell his grandmother.

    For more non-mensch things to do, write to The Beholder's Eye, c/o The Southern Shofar, P.O. Box 130052, Birmingham, AL 35213. Allow 8 to 12 weeks for him to have another relationship, shipping, and handling.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.