Thursday, April 02, 2009

All the single dames

This week is all about the French-Jewish press... of 2009, and of the 19th century. Although the titles tend to blend together, the main difference is that where a 19th century paper would have "Israelite," a 21st-century one will have "Jew." (It's a cycle.)

While I am ostensibly looking in the recent newspapers for politics and identity issues and in the old ones for social history, seems I got distracted...

In case anyone was concerned, it looks like French Jews are also experiencing something of a singles crisis.* What struck me most about this article by Paula Haddad, about how tough it is for single, 30-something Jewish women, was the amount of English used, as though West 96th Street hovers over even Paris. First off, the title, "Feujs and The City," suggests, upsettingly, that France - elegant, sophisticated France - is also packed with women thinking to themselves, 'OMG I'm such a Carrie.' (That would explain the popularity of SoHo with French tourists.) Leaving aside English words that are not unusual in French ("job" or "week-end", say), the article contains such Academie Francaise-offending terms as: "jewish mamas"; "fast-dating"; "brunchs [sic]"; "working girl"; "timing"... and perhaps more, but at any rate, a whole lot for such a short article.

The point is, there's obviously something very American, very Jewish-women-left-behind-by-Jewish-men-inspired-by-the-Roth-Allen-two-headed-monster, about the issue at hand. It's so much in the culture to associate the single Jewish woman with New York that, thanks to globalization/American cultural hegemony, even a French Jewish woman with no ties other than Judaism in the broadest sense to that particular Ashkenazi subculture will find herself identifying with Rhoda, Grace Adler, and every other single-and-desperate icon of New York womanhood either explicitly written as Jewish or implicitly cast as such (ahem, Elaine Benes). Cue the line from "Sex and the City" dryly uttered by voice-over Carrie, when uber-WASP Charlotte, after converting to Judaism for Harry, finds herself without a man for about five minutes: "Just what New York needs, another single Jewish woman." Cue a large-sized Tasti-d-lite. We're not in Paris anymore.

Although of course, for French singles, there is an acronym involved: "CDI : célibat à durée indéterminée." At least some things can't be blamed on New York Jews.

*"J’ai l’impression que beaucoup de choses sont faites pour les célibataires juifs, séparés ou divorcés," says Agnès Abécassis, author of "Chouette, une ride !". If things in France are anything like here, that would be the understatement of the century. Anyhow, I am now set on reading her book, as well as Aldo Naouri's "Les Mères juives n’existent pas," once things on the 19th-century front quiet down a bit.

6 comments:

Paul Gowder said...

They should all come to Silicon Valley and be willing to date gentiles. Problem solved via the magic of male/female ratios.

Phoebe said...

Are you suggesting that Jewish women date non-Jewish men with superior math skills? I've never heard of such a thing.

PG said...

Does France not have a random hookup culture, or is célibat à durée indéterminée a bit of a misnomer?

Andrew Stevens said...

The original Latin for celibate simply means unmarried, not chaste. This is also true of its original English definition though the dictionaries have given up and now define it as chaste. Phoebe could tell you whether French has followed English in this regard.

Phoebe said...

Yes, it's true, celibataire means single, not celibate.

Matt said...

Does France not have a random hookup culture, or is célibat à durée indéterminée a bit of a misnomer?

Well, even if it wasn't a bit of a false cognate, I'd guess that the duration between random hook-ups would still be an indeterminate one, would it not?