Symptoms: Desire to try St. Louis- style BBQ stand at farmer’s market. Sending male relatives bacon-wrapped matzoh balls on birthdays. Ordering Manischewitz-braised pork loin at celebrity chef’s new restaurant.
Risk factors: Self-described “assimilated” boomer parents who made a point not to bring you up kosher but projected inordinate amounts of guilt for eating “dirty” concession hot dogs at Yankee games in front of Auschwitz-surviving grandmothers. Weekly Sizzler dinners, replete with unlimited bacon bits at the salad bar, courtesy of soccer buddy’s policeman dad. Semesters abroad in Bologna. Attendance at Michael Pollan-style “tail-to-snout” feasts at farm-to-table eatery.
Disease: Self-Deprecation Is Funny Syndrome [S-DIFS]
Symptoms: Inability to speak a phrase without remarking that you’re “less than [BLANK]” and expecting big laughs. Everyone is better than you at sports, better looking than you, stronger, cooler, smoother with women, healthier, more accomplished, less neurotic, luckier, and much more likeable in general.
Risk factors: Well stocked Woody Allen section at local Blockbuster Video. Years of watching older brother get dumped by hot blonde chicks and trying not to seem pathetic. Late nights spent repeatedly reading Portnoy’s Complaint. Seeing other men’s genitalia in YMCA locker rooms.
Symptoms: Laughing at Catholic mother-in-law when she cries “Dios mio” because someone hit her car. Checking Blackberry at the Vatican. Enjoying the tunes at temple on the High Holy Days but not singing along for fear of feeling something “deeper.” Refusal to wear a yarmulke at newly religious 60-year-old father’s Shabbat dinners.
Risk factors: Attending reform Hebrew school in upper-class suburban neighborhoods. Watching more than three members of family die in three-year span. Seeing rabbis move to the Hamptons after selling synagogue-purchased homes for 40% more than their initial appraisal. Getting a little case of the cancer.
Symptoms: Feeling that Shiksappeal went out with parents’ generation. Onset of sexual arousal upon coming into contact with a Middle Eastern woman that speaks with an Arab accent and/or wears a burqa. Sudden urge to open a shawarma take-out joint. New clothes by Ed Hardy.
Risk factors: Birthright trips to Israel. Matriculation at certain colleges (Brown, Johns Hopkins, Yale, U.C. Berkeley) in the 1990s. History of violence against neo-conservatives. Tinted car windows.
Disease: Seinfeld Quotemia
Self-explanatory; also referred to as Whatsthedealwiththat-oma.
Symptoms: Needing to take Marquis jet to private island in French Polynesia, rather than “just” flying first class to “boring” Italy for vacation. Trading in 2010 Lexus hybrid for a 1981 Mercedes 300D with 180,000 miles, then converting it to biodiesel. Shopping for all groceries, including salt, in Whole Foods. Pursuing a career in the arts. Letting parents worry about lack of health insurance long enough that they put you on the payroll at their company.
Risk factors: First-generation American parents who grew up poor, built profitable cash businesses, and then bought 40-foot boats. Summers at sleepaway camps advertised in the back of the New York Times Magazine. No parental pressure to attend law, business, or medical school. “Family” friends with surnames like Gambino and Bonanno.
Symptoms: Only having friends “of color.” Owning vintage ‘80s Nike high-tops, not those $200 “limited edition” re-releases hand-painted by “top” graffiti “artists.” Desire to start vintage denim line.
Risk factors: Excessive exposure to Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” at bar mitzvahs. Repeated rejection from Jewish girls invited on dates. Inability to make high school basketball team. Parental restrictions from spending weekend evenings at “coffeehouses” in “the city.” Strict orders to attend state schools.
Symptoms: Drunken nights whining that if you’d been allowed to apply to Harvard you’d now be writing for The Simpsons. Repeated attempts to make friends with bit players in Judd Apatow films. Contentions that if only your dad had made friends with Spielberg when they both contributed to that Montauk fishing charity, you’d have a development deal with DreamWorks.
Risk factors: Being told “you’re just as funny as him” after family viewings of Billy Crystal movies. Discussions about “what we worked for all these years” with Garment District mogul grandfather now tired of making your father feel inadequate. Identifying with Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm despite being younger than 35. Moving to L.A. because the East Coast’s “just keeping you down.”
The full version of this piece appears in issue #4.5 of Whim. Click here to order a copy.