Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What, me Brooklyny?

I've mentioned that my friends and I are often told that we aren't "Brooklyny," or that we arent "Typical [insert school name here]." This statement is taken to mean that we do not fit the mold or the stereotype associated with the place we live or institution that we've attended.

So, there I was at a wedding, when this young woman takes a seat next me. "Where are you from?" She asks, "Brooklyn, but I'm not Brooklyny," I responded.

"What does Brooklyny mean?" She asked. You've got to be freakin kidding me. Everyone has their own opinion about what Brooklyn is about. The same way almost every school, camp, and shul have a reputation for being a certain way. Are they accurate? Who knows. Besides, there are always just a few people who completely do not meet the stereotype--about 1/4 of the girls in my grade, for example.

After a little prodding, she confessed. "Okay, you know what I think of when I think of Brooklyn?" I see huge fancy houses, with gorgeous downstairs, living dining room, and everything, and the upstairs is plain, and run-down. Because not everyone has money, and they want everyone to think they do, so they make a really fancy downstairs, and then have nothing left for the upstairs." I'm sure some of you have a really confused look on your face. Probably how I looked when she shared her analysis.

Keep in mind, however, a frum Brooklynite's opinion about Brooklyn people differs from that of out-of-towners'.

I met another woman the other day, who asked the same question. I told her as well that I'm not "typical Brooklyn," and "You wouldn't believe I actually go to [another thing].." She responded, "Yeah, but what does that MEAN? What does Brooklyny mean??" I don't have to spell it out for you. I won't. So I decided she was Brooklyny herself.

It's like in high school, when girls in the "in crowd" denied the fact there were cliques, and there was politics. Or the fact that my school has quite the reputation for being a certain way. Puh-leez. (Although the reputation has changed since I left).

My conclusion: Those who deny the existence of the stereotype FIT the stereotype.


At 2/21/2007 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I understand your conclusion but I would like to make one point.It is extremly obnoxious to make fun of where someone lives or the people who come from there.It was a nightmare for me in sem as I was almost the only girl from Boro Park and some out of towners in a display of their 'exemplry out of town middos' were always making fun of Boro Park/Brooklyn or me for being from there.IT HURT!!!

At 2/21/2007 10:54 AM, Blogger Lost said...

New post!!
Brooklyn-y is quite the descriptive term. It covers everything from hair styles, to social economic status, to religiousity and attitude. I would say in certain regards, you are brooklyn-y Michelle, and in some of the above criteria I would also be labeled Brooklyn-y. (gasp!)

It's all relative. It's an inclusive stereotype and therefore sometimes really off.

"I hate Brookln-y pp..." :)
PS... My bro said he would never date/marry any Brooklyn girls... guess who's he's married to. And if you mention it with him, he'll tell you she's not Brooklyny. SUUUURE

At 2/21/2007 11:36 AM, Blogger Kaila said...

michelle, are you stereotyping oblivious people?

When people ask what "brooklyn-y" means, they're not necessarily denying the sterotype, they're asking for a definition. If Brooklyn-y was in a dictionary, it would take up a page by itself listing all the definitions. And the only common factor of all the definitions would be "person with origin or current dwelling in Brooklyn, NY." It's not so clear cut. So how do you define Brooklyn-y?

At 2/21/2007 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It bothers me so much when people make comments to me like, "You're from Flatbush?!" or "How'd you go to a High School like that without being so into designer clothes and handbags--[ok, handbags are my weak spot...]) But anyway, when my husband's friends tease him for ending up with a "girl from Brooklyn" I begin to think about the way that I was raised in the heart of Flatbush--how I feel that my friends and neighbors are NOT as you put it, under the "Brooklyn-y" stereotype...and how I am therefore able to fit in comfortably in the community in which I live now--one that is said to be a "plain and simple form of lifestyle where the people are just 'normal' and can therefore do things like dress as they please when they run to get the laundry or the mail...and best of all, EVERYONE here uses shopping carts!"

At 2/22/2007 3:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a second......what kind of introduction is that, Michelle? Unless someone asks you where you are from, why do you feel this urge to dissociate yourself from either place? People normally think I don't fit any mold, but I don't spend time thinking about it, and I certainly wouldn't say, "Hi, my name is ****, and I'm not ****y". Daily introductions should not sound like they are being made in an AA meeting. Besides for which, your point is really off the mark. Why don't you think about other things?

At 2/22/2007 6:16 AM, Blogger Lord Drayakir said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2/22/2007 8:01 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Anon-good point. That's why I said that there ARE people that don't fit the mold. I already know you don't, since you recognize the concept of "Brooklyny"

Lost- I know I'm Brooklyny-I don't deny it. I fit certain criteria of "Brooklyny"

Anon 3:10--I thought it was clear that they asked where I was from. They did. And what I think about it what I write about it. Don't like it? Recommend another topic.

At 2/22/2007 10:22 AM, Blogger Dofan Akuma said...

I believe that many folks (especially in the frum blogosphere) feel that somehow they don't fit the mold. Look, there are nice things about being in a communal society, but the downside is that there is pressure to be exactly like everyone else. You've got to squelch your individuality in order to make sure you are liked by the neighbors so you can get a shidduch, your kids can go to the good school, etc.
Those that chaff at this imposition of fitting often find an easy anonomous outlet in blogging.
So, in a general way, I totally relate to your sentiment.

At 2/22/2007 12:30 PM, Blogger Kaila said...


come on- handbags aren't your weakness, manicures are :P

just kidding.

do they really tease hubby?
i'm shocked.

At 2/22/2007 9:27 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

dofan-yes. well said.
I doubt ANY blogger really fits the mold. Obviously the quality of frum blogs varies widely, but I think every blogger is a thinking person. Which already proves they don't fit the mold. Most molds are stupid and thoughtless.

At 2/27/2007 9:52 AM, Blogger Notsofrummie said...

Did the person give you look when you began telling her where your from. They have this preconceive notion of what type of people are from Brooklyn, so before she can start thinking of what kind of person you are, you had to give her a heads up. Im all for that. i dont want people thinking i fit this kind of person when im totally not, ill risk the ackwardnedd of being blunt with the person right off the bat that im not brooklyny rather than let them think of what you are not. does that make any sense lol.


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