Oberservation: Dressing the part in the Land of Duddy Kravitz


Duddy Kravitz and the unfortunate Yvette. He stood for the money-grubbing Sec Jews, she for the anti-Semitic but victimized French Canadians. Missing only in this picture of Laurentian life is the Orthodox icon, who in Duddy's time and by Richler's reckoning was not a young mom or dad with a dozen kids filling the playground by Lac des Sables, but the old man whose time was almost up. In the book, the country house Jews were made up of "the short husbands with their outrageously patterned sports shirts arm in arm with purring wives too obviously full for slacks, the bawling kids with tripledecker icecream cones, the squealing teenagers, and the grandfather with his beard and black hat."

Bullet-proof stockings, silk shmatas on their heads or pared-down-for-the-summer shtreimels, clothes that are long, loose, and often quite lux, the Chasidisshe Jews here wear many layers, despite the hot, humid summer air.

Cool J and a Chabad camp

LL among the 'lidges

Mini putting with a maxi family: our boys wait patiently behind a family of 11

Not so the Sec Jews. These are the ones that got to camp with LL and Cool J. Some are Shomer Shabbos, some strictly Kosher (some less so. Says one camp mom to another: “I was going to join the kids hiking today, but I’m fasting, so it’s probably not a good idea.” Replies the other: “Oh, for Tu Be’shvat?” The first: “Not quite.”). But all are Sec, surely, beside the Bobovers and Satmars, for whom they appear not even as Jews but rather a bunch of shiksas and sheygatzes. This group is made up, primarily, of ladies polished and groomed (their men, for the most part, back in the city, earning the money for that polishing and grooming). In their athletic apparel, they appear poised, at all moments, for a jog along Lac des Sables or yoga sur la plage.

Meanwhile, the French Canadians, with cigarettes dangling from their lips and peroxided hair, hold court by the lakeside casse-croute in their string bikinis and heels, calling to their one or two children (such measly families–such a switch from Duddy’s time–now the Bobover kids dominate with their 12 or 15 or 18 children, and the Secs don’t do badly with their 3 or 5 or 6). “Loic! Aurélie!” The children, boys and girls, wear their hair long, and these same children, boys and girls, are often only clothed below the waist.

And so, in the land where people are supposed to be divided into linguistic groups–Anglophone, Francophone, Allophone–they are instead separated by their apparel: the Chasids wear a lot, the Sec Jews wear Lulus, the French wear little.



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  1. Pingback: Bedtime Battle Royale « The Poor Princess Diaries

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