When I told my kids that my editor asked me to write a humor column, my eldest said, “Honestly, Abba could do a better job.” The next one down told me his own joke. (It will not appear in this article.)
Kid Number Three just giggled – apparently the idea someone would hire me to write a humor column is amusing in and of itself. Kid Number Four simply rolled her eyes.
Given my family members’ doubts, you might wonder why I was offered this job. Here’s my best guess: I have a lot of experience handling hate mail.
When I wrote about being a Jewish feminist who never wears tefillin, I got hate mail. Some complained that I was too Orthodox to be a feminist, and others complained I was too feminist to be Orthodox. (I figured they cancelled each other out.)
When I wrote a story about humans colonizing space, someone accused me of copying a recent Hollywood blockbuster. (Obviously, they didn’t know that I’d submitted my manuscript long before Interstellar came out or that I don’t go to the movies.)
After years of receiving these kinds of complaints, appeasing my readers has become almost second nature to me. (I’m still a bit vague on how to appease those I’ve offended but who have never bothered to let me know.) I’m sure this will be useful in my new role as a humor columnist, as it’s almost impossible to be funny without outraging someone.
If I joke about politics, someone will complain. If I make light of various aspects of Jewish practice, someone will complain. If I joke about aardvarks, someone will complain.
If I write about my kids, they will slip hate mail under the door of my bedroom.
Probably the only person I can make fun of without receiving hate mail is myself – although my mother might phone if I do that. (“Now, Sweetie, don’t talk about yourself that way. It’s still loshon hara to say negative things about yourself.”)
Generally speaking, I try to apologize to people as close to the moment in which I wronged them as possible. As my husband likes to say, “Do teshuvah early – avoid the holiday rush.” (He’s a pretty funny guy. Hey, maybe he should be the one writing this column!) That leaves me more time during the tail end of Elul and the Aseres Yamei Teshuvah to cook. After all, it’s hard to bake and cook for all the holidays in Tishrei while dialing up one friend/relative/sender of hate mail after another to apologize.
“Sorry, you’re still mad about my comments on using disposable dishes on a yom tov table…but I’ve gotta go before my glazed carrots burn.”
“Yeah, I know I shouldn’t have said that about the president. Shall I call you back later so you can yell at me some more? I think the dough for my raisin challos is about to overflow the bowl.”
Now that I’m writing a humor column, it’s likely I’ll be apologizing right up to the last minute. Just do me a favor: If you want a personal apology before Yom Kippur, send me your hate mail right away.