Jews and neuroticism go together like gefilte fish and horseradish. Personally, I wear my neuroticism like a badge of honor, kind of like having an exclusive membership to a Woody Allen club. To be honest with you, normal people tend to bore me to death. If I had to be stuck in an elevator for any length of time – this being of course, a phobia of mine – then I’d want to have the company of a real psycho. Not the sort of psycho that you would read about in the papers – I don’t particularly relish the idea of sharing a tiny space with a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy type; just someone crazy enough to keep the conversation lively.
Even at the tender age of eight, I knew I was crazy. During a game of hide-and-seek at my grandparents’ house, my cousin Dikla slid a closet door shut, enveloping us into immediate darkness.
“Umm…Dikla?” I whispered.
“I think you better open the door.”
“Air,” I said.”There isn’t any.”
“Of course, there’s air,” Dikla said.”Now let’s be quiet or else they’ll find us.”
“Right,” I said. But the very next moment, my body catapulted itself from the closet, greedily gasping for air and kissing the ground as though I had just exited Apollo 13.
Sadly, my claustrophobia did not improve with age. At twenty-six and pregnant with my second child, my husband, son, and I took a trip to Chicago, where we visited the Museum of Science and Industry (I married an engineer, what do you expect?). There was a mock coal mine exhibit inside, and my husband wanted to see it. We walked onto some kind of platform/elevator thingy where we waited for the tour to begin. Unfortunately, about fifty other people had the exact same plan, and suddenly I’m surrounded on all sides. I turned to face my husband.
“There’s not enough oxygen in here,” I said.
“There’s plenty,” he replied.
I nodded and did my best to remain calm. Then the tour guide spoke.
“Are we ready, folks?”
“OUT OF MY WAY!” I shouted, maneuvering my huge belly around the swarm of people. I needed to get out of there fast. “There’s not enough oxygen for my fetus,” I murmured apologetically to the strangers I passed. They stared at me like they had never seen a pregnant psycho before, which I supposed they hadn’t.
My neuroses don’t end there. I can’t touch anything velvet without doing a squirm dance. Wearing turtlenecks or dental exam bibs are out of the question because they’re too ticklish for my neck. If the blanket on my bed is tucked into the mattress, my feet will get claustrophobic and positively freak out. My feet also refuse to step on body hair left in the bathtub. Every morning, an intense and thorough investigation of the bathtub floor and sides occur before it is deemed acceptable. My feet and neck are real troublemakers.
The truth is that Jewish people are inherently neurotic, and that is a wonderful thing. Our very existence is a miracle given all the times throughout history that people have tried to kill us. It’s only natural that we’ve developed some oddities and quirks along the way. As a nation, we are intelligent, strong, and compassionate. The word quit is omitted in our dictionary.
Plus, we’re never boring!