Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Spiritual Mother of the Year?

Britain is not like Canada and the USA when it comes to multiculturalism. It is not embarrassed to have egregious stereotypes of Italians, complete with accents, in television ads, for example. A quick rule of thumb is that if "they" are white, you can say almost anything about "other people" on telly. This is why people who are distressed that the population of the UK (meaning London, Glasgow, Yorkshire and television) doesn't look as homogenous as it did in 1946 openly blame "Eastern Europeans." "Eastern Europe" is their PC code for Pakistan.

Britain is also not like Canada in that it is obsessed with American culture. For Canadians, American culture is just there, something to be used and abused and resisted insofar as it might completely wipe out Canadian culture. But British people, at least British people in television, cannot get enough American stuff. Some even celebrate American Thanksgiving, and I am not making that up.

Uniquely British attitudes towards multiculturalism and American culture are why, I think, there exists a television show called "Jewish Mother of the Year."

Jewish people make up a very tiny percentage of the British population, they or their ancestors emigrated before 1950, and they are not noticeably prominent in the British entertainment world. There does not exist in the UK the same obsession with "Who is Jewish?" as there is in Canada and the USA. I think the celebrity chef Nigella Lawson might be Jewish, but without looking it up, I can tell you at once she is much better known for her Italian ancestry.

Thus, something as potentially offensive as a show called "Jewish Mother of the Year" seems rather American to me, even as its naiveté seems very British.

Anyway, from what I have seen of this show so far, it appears to be a contest between at least six Englishwomen who are also Jews. Their challenge last night was to set up a pretty English Jewish girl with English Jewish bachelors she didn't already know. This was a very tricky challenge, we were told, because most English Jews know each other already. One bachelor joked that to set him up with a Jewish girl he didn't already know, the show would have to fly in a girl from a shtetl in Russia.

The Jewish mothers, working in teams of two, found three Jewish bachelors and convinced them to go on a date with the pretty Jewish girl. One was pale and handsome, one was dark and handsome, and one was bearded, ginger and--in my humble opinion--weedy. There is such a person as a handsome red-headed man, and speaking as a red-headed woman, this guy wasn't him.

One of his adopted Jewish mothers absolutely adored him, however, and later on the show, her teammate said she was surprised that she, as a religious woman, flirted with him so much. But I am ahead of myself.

The date scheme worked like this: The Jewish mothers got to prepare their Jewish bachelor for the date and spy on him and the pretty Jewish girl while they had dinner. They also could talk to him on a wire while he was on the date and tell him what to do.

What amazed me was that the dark and handsome one completely went along with all this. His adopted Jewish mothers had him down on a beautician's couch, plucking his eyebrows and dying his eyelashes. They snipped his chest hair. Their idea was to make him, already handsome, look just like a Handsome Prince. They told him to lie still, and he did.

On his date, he obediently put in his earpiece and listened as his spying adopted mothers told him what to say and to mirror the gestures the girl made, so as to make her feel closer to him. All that Tony Robbins stuff.

Meanwhile, it all worked. The girl thought he was really very attractive, except for being 24 when she is 29. Frankly, I could look beyond that for the sake of a guy who looks like that and does whatever he's told. If I were Single, I mean.

The bearded guy refused to wear his earpiece and thought he could just carry the day with his arrogant personality. He was wrong.

This is a very incomplete report because actually I was flipping between "Jewish Mother of the Year" (which, as a non-Jewish twenty-year resident of Bathurst-and-Finch, I found embarrassing) and the Scotland v Belgium World Cup qualifier (which, as a football fan and resident of Scotland, I also found embarrassing). But it is enough to inspire my own daydream of competing for Catholic Mother of Year, for which I would be currently disqualified for not being, you know, a mother.

The whole idea of being a Mother of the Year is rife with potential stereotyping. Unless you're St Gemma Giana Molla, what on earth would make one Catholic Mother better than another? You could measure on quantity--in which case any woman with fewer than five children--shouldn't bother trying to qualify, but how on earth would you measure quality? Urgh. Don't send me suggestions!

Still, the idea of spying on my son, either real or adopted, for a reality show, when he is on a date is simply comic gold.

Seraphique: And now, my son, you must wear this earpiece.

Fils de Seraphique: Mother, as much as I love and respect you, I will not.

Seraphique: My son, I will speak plainly. Due to some miraculous convergence of DNA, you are far more beautiful than either your father or myself. You have one aunt's beautiful nose. You have another aunt's beautiful eyes. You have your grandfather's stature. You have your father's waist--well, the one he had when he was your age--and yet you have your uncle's shoulders. All this will take you far. But, my son, you do not know how to speak to women.

Fils de Seraphique: Of course I know how to speak to women. I'm speaking to you right now.

Seraphique: That remark, my son, reveals how little you know. Tell me, my child, whom do you consult about that frightening automobile you insist upon driving despite my fragile nerves?

Fils de Seraphique: Hans down at the garage.

Seraphique: Yes, and whom do you consult about the state of your immortal soul?

Fils de Seraphique: Father MacDonald at St Columba's.

Seraphique: Yes, and whom do you consult about the state of the lungs I woefully suspect you pollute with the occasional cigar?

Fils de Seraphique: Doctor Whatist at the NHS, but I fail to see...

Seraphique (interrupting): And why? Because you respect their authority, their years of study and experience. And I am, my son, an expert on the feminine psyche of the Single Catholic Woman Today. I have spoken to her, read her thoughts, written to her, prayed for her, laughed with her, wept with her, occasionally fought with her. Indeed, I have have been her again and again as I have put myself in her place or reflected upon that long stretch of time in which I occupied that place myself. Although I have neither the technical skill of a Hans, nor the spiritual authority of a Father MacDonald, nor the long years of training of a Doctor Whatsit---

Fils de Seraphique (interrupting): All right! All right! I'll wear the stupid earpiece.

Seraphique: Oh, hurrah!

Fils de Seraphique: But I draw the line at dying my eyelashes.

Seraphique (deeply disappointed): Hmm....

By the way, I thought there would be a terrible rumpus when one of the Jewish mothers was accused of flirting too much with her adopted Jewish bachelor "son." If you want to make a respectable married religious woman hit the roof, get other respectable married religious women to start tsk-tsking at her about some mostly imaginary, very mild sexual misdeed. I cannot imagine why there were not shrieks, gasps and tears, unless its because the other Jewish mothers didn't seem that traddie and/or religious.


Domestic Diva said...

Seraphique is inserting some MUCH needed humor into my challenging week. Thank you!!

Alisha said...

Indeed it is comic gold...though what if the girl on the date knew??

Seraphic said...

Well, I am not sure if it would be comic gold for her, but it would certainly be comic gold for her friends once she told them.

Of course, if it was all part of a reality TV competition, she shouldn't be told, and she and all her friends could laugh when they find out afterwards.

MaryJane said...

I think you mean St. Gianna Molla, not Gemma? I think St. Gemma was not a mother, but a pretty girl who got over her vanity, or so the pious story goes.

Jewish Mother of the Year sounds like it belongs on TLC or Bravo, depending on the vulgarity level. Typically (bad) American reality TV.

Seraphic said...

You are probably right. I fix, I fix!