Friday, December 28, 2007

Flo and Santa Claus

92 year old Flo, a Jewish woman living in the old folks' home I work at, wore in the week before Christmas several Santa Claus earrings. On Christmas, as I shuffled feebly about the dining room, I noticed she had on a bright sweater decorated with a dozen Santas. I wish I had had my camera.

"People ask me, why do you like Santa Claus," she said to me. "Well, he's a great guy. He gives you presents, and you don't have to sleep with him!"

Oh Lordy. Her humorous, and refreshing, lack of prudery says something about a difference between Jewish and mainstream attitudes toward the body. Also, her embrace of Santa as a (secular) symbol of mainstream society, even as she proudly asserts her minority identity, is a powerful act. At the same time she is asserting membership in a particular ethnic identity and refusing to let it be defined solely in opposition to the mainstream. Part of her Judaism is the generous and hearty embrace of a good guy among the Goyim -- Santa. Flo is an example of identity that does not devolve into walls of exclusivism. Oh Flo!

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