Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Heaven vs. Hell

I have never liked situations where I am the center of attention. After butchering the Yiddish version of the Mah Neshtana in front of a tableful of guests when I was four (the hysterical laughter haunts me to this day), I have avoided the limelight. I had one major birthday party when I was six, but it was mostly a get-together for my aunts, uncles, and cousins rather than being in my honor (all the kids were seated in the kitchen, including me). I opted out of a bas mitzvah shindig.

It was around my 20th birthday, I think; I was out with my siblings in a restaurant for an unrelated occasion. But at dessert a troupe of waiters filed out, bearing a cupcake with a sparkling candle; all the servers gathered 'round and belted out "Happy Birthday."


My beloved sister twirled to face me, awaiting my gushing appreciation, greeted with a face as red as Ruby Woo. Teeth gritted in a false grin, I hissed, "I am going to kill you."

She didn't seem to comprehend my furious embarrassment; my sis is the type who enjoys such things. I am not. 

It is interesting, no?, how what is heaven to one is hell to another.

My idea of a vindictive universe would be any sort of situation where more than two people are watching me intently; presentations in college were, to me, a trial from Above.
Classmates sailed through their public speaking without batting a lash; their delivery was natural and conversational while I sweatily clung to my typed sheets and robotically rattled off that which I had spent hours memorizing. I wonder what their idea of torture is.

At my nephew's shalom zachor, his other Zeidy sat quietly at the other end of the room with one of his sons, eschewing the chatty social scene. An onlooker professed her disbelief. "Well, if he wants to be a miserable human being . . ." she snorted. 

He's not miserable. He's just not you. His idea of fun is to potter about an empty house and fix loose doorknobs. He can put together a kitchen from a box, then take it apart again if it is off by a few millimeters without considering it a "job." 

It probably did not occur to the other person that maybe he considers her "miserable" for needing others to enjoy herself. Different strokes and all that.   

Reference The King's Speech; Bertie (George VI) loathed the spotlight, and that tension threw his stammer into high gear. His therapist Lionel Logue, however, once an aspiring actor, craved that which his client hated, wistfully looking on as the King reluctantly waves to his adoring people.
If I was presented with a sparkling cupcake accompanied by serenading waiters, I would think God is sending me a rebuke. If another was sent the same, she may believe God is granting her a gift. 

He's got a lot of personal quirks to keep track of.  

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