You Hate Me, You Really Hate Me!
Here are some excerpts from my first real hate letter. It’s a doozy:
Re: Saint Teresa?
As 20-something female readers of The Jewish Journal, we would like to adamantly object to the inclusion of Teresa Strasser… Her ignorant, chamelon (sic) stance on feminism is a throwback to a darker age… Is this shtick supposed to be funny? Does an editor assign her topics, or does she just think of this neurotic pap the night before?
Could whomever (sic) hired Teresa Strasser please fire her and replace her with a JEWISH columnist?… We’ve come a long way baby, and we don’t need whiny, spoiled, princesses-in-waiting like Strasser to hold us back.
Pick up your own check, Teresa, your last check, and find another outlet for your pathetic insecurities.
Alana Doppelt and Nadine Jordan
Pol Pot, Attila the Hun, David Duke and now me. Someone stop the bleeding! Kudos, Alana and Nadine, for taking a stand against the latest scourge on humanity.
OK, you got me. I hate to admit it, but you did. I actually cried — clutching your carefully typewritten little missive in my editor’s office — not because my first hate letter was such a sentimental moment, but because I haven’t had such vitriol directed toward me from other women since Heather Satterwhite didn’t invite me to her birthday party in seventh grade.
You made me feel pretty bad, calling me everything from a “self-hating” Jew to a “laughable” writer. You made me sad, and then you made me want to ruin your lives through a series of diabolical crank phone calls and unexpected pizza deliveries. And then, you made me think.
I thought about how unfortunate it is when women attack each other, how that is more of a threat to feminism than I’ll ever be. I thought about how Jews, like all minority groups, so often berate each other, how we internalize society’s ideas about ourselves so deeply that we turn on ourselves.
Whiny, spoiled, princess? Aren’t those the words others use to make us, as Jewish women, feel small and not entitled to speak?
I’ve heard those names before, and it’s always bothered me. In truth, like many cultural stereotypes, it’s simply inaccurate. I’ve held a job since I was legally able to do so. The daughter of an auto mechanic, my life has been relentlessly working class. If I ever had a tiara it was made from bolts and covered in grease. But the facts aren’t really important, it’s the assumptions that are.
As young women and Jews, we are constantly being judged against a stereotype we hate. Alana and Nadine, you two can probably relate, and maybe that’s why you’re lashing out at me, someone you don’t even know, someone whose work you could so easily ignore. Instead, you took the time to sit down at the old Smith-Corona and demand that I be fired. You’re angry, and I guess I don’t blame you.
Oh, who am I kidding? I do blame you a little, but I also understand. The criticisms you’ve leveled at me are likely the ones you’ve had to put up with your whole lives. Tell you what, you don’t listen and neither will I.
Your letter has also given me an opportunity to reflect on what a horrible feeling it is to be judged, and to wonder, as I always have, how to sustain the rejections that are an inevitable part of any endeavor, no matter what your gender or religion.
Remember that barbaric gym class practice known as “picking teams”? That moment when it seemed your entire being, your popularity, your physical prowess, your very worth was being called into question by your peers? I hated that. I cut gym class whenever I could.
I dreaded being judged so much I forgot what was true, that I really wanted to play. Sometimes life feels like one drawn-out extension of that pubescent hell. Still, I’d rather open myself up to criticism than sit on the sidelines and watch. Nadine and Alana, you probably feel the same, and I encourage you to write what you’d like to read. Please stop wasting your time on a such a careful study of my “neurotic pap” and create some work of your own. Your ideas matter, and if slamming me is the only arena you have to express yourselves, it’s a start.
As for me, there’s only one first hate letter, like there’s only one first heartbreak. It gets easier. It had better.
Teresa Strasser is a 20-something who writes for the Jewish Journal.