Here’s What’s Wrong with the World!

Here’s What’s Wrong with the World!


Chana Shapiro
Chana Shapiro

A lot of you ask what I do all day. I assure you that I don’t sit on the porch, eating bonbons while reading trendy magazines (although I’d like to). Nor do I have time to find the missing button for my jacket, or organize my sock drawer.

No, friends; I’m too busy worrying. For instance:

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I worry about tattoos. If you already have a full-body tattoo, don’t bother reading this point. But everybody else, listen up!

I just met an 87-year-old man whose free time in the Navy was spent getting inked. Not only did his tats wrinkle along with the rest of him – turning the slogans on his upper arms into shaky, illegible facsimiles of Arabic – but the unicorn-striding female figure on his chest now resembles Medusa astride a starving rhinoceros.

If you absolutely must acquire body art, consider food coloring. Recently, my grandchildren and I accidentally discovered its amazingly long-lasting skin-adherence quality; our grandson was blue for days!

I worry about handwriting. I’ve been informed that many schools don’t bother teaching script because nobody actually writes anything longhand anymore. Still, a few young people have left messages in my mailbox, and I’ve seen quite a few youthful signatures – they are either illegible or quasi-printed in a medley of lower- and upper-case letters.

Understand, my parents and I used to write weekly letters to one another. I wanted my epistles to be legible but also as pleasant to look at as those of my parents. And more to the point, people today pay thousands of dollars for signed copies of various historical letters and documents.

I wonder if anybody will be able to read the signatures on the ketubot, world-changing decrees and love letters of the future? That’s presuming, of course, that pens still exist. As for spelling, don’t get me started.

I worry about the “F” word. Since it’s become as ubiquitous as sushi (something I also worry about), I acknowledge that there are no more really “bad” words left. Our last hold-out in the arena of linguistic shock or separation of lazy, messy slang from careful, articulate language is gone.

If you can locate a book or film of the last five years devoid of the “F” word, please call me immediately, because I haven’t read it or seen it. Where are the days when TV people got “bleeped” for curse words? I miss those bleeps!

I miss people’s character being recognizable by their conversation, don’t you?  Remember when there were identifiably low-class words?

I worry about sartorial matters. Everyone has a right to interesting clothing; in fact, I consider this to be the best part of getting out of bed in the morning.

You want to wear all your costume jewelry at one time? Fabulous! You think stripes, plaids and polka dots look great together? So do I. You want purple hair, Rasta braids, a spiked and gelled Mohawk, cornrows, a luminous Jello-dyed buzz cut? Go for it.

But I beg you to cover your navel, your buttocks and your bosom. I’ve been wondering why young women insist upon looking like strumpets. I suppose I should blame movie and singing personalities, but I don’t – sex is now their job.

I prefer to hold parents’ feet to the fire. Do you see the kids necking in public? If you have a daughter, is it OK for her to look like a streetwalker?

And if you have a son, I’m even more worried. How can he possibly concentrate on algebra?

I’m worried about manners. Actually, I’m beyond worried; I’m angry.

There’s no need to belabor the demise of “please” and “thank you.” I think we’re in agreement on that. I’ll just mention two of my present gripes: thank-you notes and leaving personal trash around.

In the last year, my husband and I’ve happily given five wedding gifts and two bar/bat-mitzvah presents. So far, we’ve received one acknowledgement of a nuptial check and one phone message from a bar-mitzvah boy.

When I bumped into two of the newlyweds, I asked if they’d received our gifts; one told me that it was received, but they were too busy to write thank-you notes, and the other told me that she doesn’t remember. Perhaps the paucity of written gratitude is due to modern kids’ inability to write (see above)

And as for the garbage I find all over the place, I know I should be worried about pollution and infestation, but it’s not that. What truly gets me is selfish people who prefer to live in a messy habitat.

Why does someone cavalierly toss an empty soda can or chip bag in the general direction of a trash can, missing by half a foot, and fail to walk over and finish the job? Why do people drop detritus wherever they happen to be (sidewalk, movie aisle, out car window into street, playground)?

When our grandchildren and their buddies started acting like real Americans by leaving wrappers, used plates and banana peels in situ, I had to focus. I’m still working on it, but I’m not giving up.

Most of all, I’m worried about Jews no longer being the more interesting people in the room. We used to be the most exciting and inventive scientists, writers, entrepreneurs and artists.

Of course, I acknowledge and applaud all of the many persisting Semitic out-of-the-box thinkers; studious, inquisitive kids; diligent, relentless tinkerers; “Words with Friends” players; chess and debate team champs; energetic sportsmen and women; world travelers; and compulsive, voracious readers.

But parents, I must ask you to watch your kids and their friends. What do they wear when they go to the mall? Do they express gratitude properly? Are they humble, or do they feel privileged? Are they nice?

Moreover: Are they curious? Do they ask questions in class? Do they work hard? Are they able to carry on a conversation? Are they adventurous?

We like to talk about Jews being “the light unto the nations.”  Really?

Chana Shapiro realizes that this is not a politically correct column, but she’s only scratched the surface of what keeps her up at night. She welcomes rebuttals, but in written form only (again, see above). Please do not stop to debate her at the supermarket or dentist’s office – and do resist all urges to punch her lights out. That’s rude.


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