Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Mother Tongue, a short story I wrote for Lilith Magazine when I was still in college, was originally published in their magazine in the early 1990s.  A few months ago, I received an email from Lilith asking for permission to include the story in their electronic archives.  I agreed and, in return, they sent me a subscription to the magazine.

In their latest issue, there are several articles on the subject of psychotherapy, and whether it's a Jewish art and science.  The question is an interesting one, but it's not the one that struck me as I read the piece, The Therapeutic Dyad is Totally Jewish by Lori Hope Lefkovitz.

Instead, the passage that jumped out at me was:

The whole, Jewish, suburban, kitchen-table culture is informally therapeutic; it was therapy before America became a therapized culture.... You puzzle out your world by telling each other about your lives and making sense of it around a table.....

When people want to mock or demean soaps, what do they say?  They say that it's just a bunch of women sitting around a table, talking about their problems.

Irna Phillips, the woman who, to all intents and purposes invented soap operas, has been quoted by Don Hastings (Bob; ATWT) as saying, "(W)hat Irna had in mind which was, if something happens to a person in a family, it affects everybody.  It not only affects that family, but it affects the neighbors.  You put a drop in a swimming pool, and you see how the ripple effects everyone."

And then everyone would talk about it.

Irna Phillips was a Jewish woman (at least by birth, she later found solace in a Unitarian church, but that didn't change the rhythms she'd been raised with).  She was also a deeply unhappy woman. (More on Irna in Lynn Licardo's book, here.)

So if psychotherapy is, at its core, a result of the Jewish culture that recommends two people studying an issue in depth - and not necessarily coming to the same conclusion in the end - are soap operas a product of the same?

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