Monday, February 27, 2006

It Was The Best Of Weddings, It Was The Worst Of Weddings



I recently attended a wedding of a daughter of someone who lives and works in our neighborhood. Over the last year or so, we've seen them quite often (they run a business that we frequent in the neighborhood) and have become friendly with them. Even so, we certainly didn't expect an invitation to their daughter's wedding, and was pleasantly surprised when it appeared in our mailbox.


The wedding itself was a lovely affair. The music was good, the food was fine, and the dancing was energetic and spirited. In the spirit of having fun, I had begun wearing offbeat ties to weddings. The one in the picture was the one I wore last night.

So, how was it the worst of weddings?

Well, did you ever go to a wedding where you know *no one* except for the groom or bride? Well, that was the situation last night. Aside from my wife (whom I couldn't sit with because of separate seating), I knew no one at the wedding last night. But, I figured, that's OK. Maybe I'll sit with someone interesting. Sometimes my tie itself acts as an icebreaker.

So, I arrive at my table after the chuppah, the first one there. I grab a seat, sit down and wait.

Within a few minutes, an older gentleman comes to the table and sits down about two seats away from me. He's a chossid, complete with beard, hat, black garb, white shirt, no tie and long peyos. He starts greeting me (or at least I suppose so) in Yiddish. I tell him that I don't speak Yiddish. "Ivrit? (Hebrew)" he asks. "Ketzat (a little)," is my reply. He begins speaking in rapid-fire Hebrew, but it's clear within three sentences that he's lost me.

Soon a few more people show up at the table - some older, some younger - all chassidim - with beards, black hats, black garb, white shirt, no tie and long peyos. Eventually the table was filled (except for the seats on either side of me) with chassidim animatedly chattering in Yiddish - and me - with no hat, blue suit, clean shaven, funny tie and peyos neatly trimmed and barely able to speak a word of the language. The whole thing was so sad (from my perspective) that it was funny. I called my wife and told her "Come over and take a look at my table. You're not going to believe this." When she spotted my table, she started laughing at how comical and sad the situation was.

So, there I sat, passing on the fish, eating the soup and watching the others at my table. Aside from the gentleman who tried to address me and one (who arrived later in the meal and said "hello" in English, no one acknowledged my presence). Truth be told, however, I'm not all that much of a socializer, so it wasn't *that* bad.

That is, until I got a look at the table manners that some of them had. Oy vey!

There were some there that had impeccable table manners. But there were some...

  • Two of them ate their salads with their hands.
  • During the main course, one of them started picking apart his green beans with his hands. If he had been trying to remove the peas, I might have excused it. But then he ate the whole thing anyway!
  • One person put a knife in his mouth to clean it off (N.B. I'll sometimes do this too - but only in private. I'd never do it in public!)
  • Another fellow picked up a wine bottle and, upon finding that the bottle was empty, started biting on and sucking on the cork!
  • One "gentleman" apparently didn't know how to use a knife since he picked up his chicken cutlet whole and just bit chunks off of it.
  • Two fellows at the table took an extra main portion and split it between themselves (and this was before they even started the "first" portion that they had).
  • One fellow asked another to pass him the Diet Coke. The second fellow then picked up the Diet Coke, poured most of it into his own glass and then passed the rest (maybe half a cup's worth) to the first guy.

Now, it's certainly possible that I'm obsessed and compulsive about table manners. My kids know not to do these things - most of these things are things that we've pounded into our kids at the dinner table since day one (well, except for the wine bottle...). And if it was just one lapse or two, I could also overlook it. But it was a group of people displaying the most atrocious table manners that I have seen adults display in a long, long time. I certainly don't expect perfection from anyone, but the display I saw at the wedding was just too much for me.

So, as for the ceremony, smorgasbord, hosts, dancing and even the food, it was the best of weddings.

As for the people at my table, it was the worst.

9 comments:

Ger Tzadik said...

Yeah I was gonna say...you may be obsessive about table manners, but that has nothing to do with what you're talking about here! That's just gross and uncooth in public. I have my own quirks when eating alone or with some close friends in a casual setting, but at a wedding!

I've had a Chassid try and explain to me why this was actually sanctifying the table and the food, by wanting to dive right in and experience it or some such...but it was just apologetics for coarse behavior in public, I think.

Jewboy said...

Just another reason mixed seating should be allowed at weddings. Check out my recent post on this topic.

Anonymous said...

You should have told them that you were the mashgiach. That would have cut their meal short!

Anonymous said...

What do you expect from a group in which a major cultic act is eating someone's leftovers?

BrooklynWolf said...

Anonymous (first),

That's hysterical. I wish I had thought of that!

Anonymous (second),

I really didn't mean to turn this into a chassid-bashing post. The point that they were chassidim was to illustrate the isolation I felt at the table.

The table manners might just as easily have happened with non-Chassidim. Some of them at the table displayed very fine table manners.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

"The point that they were chassidim was to illustrate the isolation I felt at the table.
The table manners might just as easily have happened with non-Chassidim."

Who do you think you're kidding? It's no secret that the culture of chassidim today is very uncouth.

Ezzie said...

I've seen plenty of non-Chassidim do the same type of things. Another problem with seperate seating: This post. What's the point in having someone to come to a wedding where they don't know anyone, and not even allow them to sit with their spouse?

daat y said...

WHERE ARE THE PICTURES.
Did you at least bring your ipod?

PsychoToddler said...

I know many chassidim who have good table manners.

Although, to be fair, they are mostly baale tshuva.

But I'm sure their kids will have atrocious manners.

BTW, I hear you on the separate seating. I usually sit with people I have nothing in common with.

My wife, on the other hand, rarely seems to miss me.