Male, Jewish, depressed: Woody Allen got it right

June 02, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

A recent medical study has shown what many fans of Woody Allen movies have long taken for granted: Jewish men tend to be more depressed than the rest of us.

The question is why.

The researchers at Brown University say it might be because Jewish men are less inclined toward the use of booze. Thus, they don't drown their depression and replace it with a hangover.

But there are other theories. We put the question of Jewish male depression to three Jewish men and three Jewish women. Here's what they said:

Evelyn, 50: "One theory I have is their expectations of being taken care of are high because of the Jewish Mother Syndrome.

"They expect to be pampered. Their mothers have treated men in a princely fashion. They're cushioned from life. And if they wind up marrying Jewish women, they continue getting this treatment.

"But then come the children or the wife finds a career. So he's left out. The man is depressed because he feels this is not the woman he married. Meanwhile, he hasn't learned to take care of himself, and that is depressing. He has lost his mother-wife."

Jeff, 23: "Everybody gets depressed, but other guys have ways to combat it. Alcohol is not a viable alternative because we have weak stomachs. It's been proven scientifically.

"But you want to know why we're depressed? Jewish women. They are demanding. Clearly they're smarter than us, they're more together, they know what they want, and it is YOU.

"Do you know what it's like to have a smart, ambitious Jewish woman coming at you? Give me a repressed Catholic girl any time.

"You also don't appreciate the incredible pressures one is under as a man to provide the lifestyle for your princess. Even though chances are that she has a cooler job than you do.

"And another thing. You'd be depressed, too, if you had to spend the eighth day of your life at a party thrown specifically for the purpose of hacking off . . . you know what. Now that is depressing."

Sarah, 57: "What is it about me that would depress a Jewish man? It's not me, honey, it's his mother. Whatever's wrong with them, blame it on the mother. Everybody does.

"These guys have to live up to their mother's wildly high expectations. I know because I have a son. Of course, he's perfect, mind you, but he knows every success comes from my encouragement. In business, in life, Jewish men are always under a lot of pressure. Everyone expects them to succeed. Socially, sexually, they're under a lot of pressure. Who wouldn't be depressed?"

Tom, 39: "Depression? We learn it early. It's taught right in the home. When did I first become depressed? Before my bar mitzvah, before Hebrew school. When I was potty-trained -- that's when I learned I was depressed. My reaction to my Jewish mother? I married a shiksa, that's what.

"I can't tell you why Jewish men are sad because I avoid most of my Jewish male friends. They're so depressing to be around."

Fran, 30: "I don't think of it as depression. It's a poet's tortured soul. These guys are deep, they care, they're sensitive.

"I won't speak for all Jewish women, but we tend to be very critical, even a bit controlling. We give out a lot of mixed messages. We want independence, but they had better make enough money so we can stay home with the kids. We love their kindness, but we talk about how sexy cold-hearted men are.

"Then there is the whole Woody Allen thing. That's the guy everyone looks at and says: 'Oh, that's what Jewish guys are like.' What about Paul Newman or Hank Greenberg or Sid Luckman? Nobody ever brings them up, and that's got to be depressing."

Jack, 47: "Oh, no. Don't write about this. Don't tell the goyim about this. They'll use it against us, and that's more depression.

"I've always resented being happy or the pressure to be happy. I like a dark, cloudy day. Dostoevski didn't write musicals, did he?

"My first memory of being depressed? I was about 8 days old and we had a party. There was some drinking. We had a big platter of corned beef and potato salad.

"And out of nowhere this guy comes at me with a knife. I remember thinking: 'What did I do?' "

Then there is the theory I have developed as an outside observer.

It's the Jewish soul food served in the typical deli. The chicken soup, potato pancakes and pastrami sandwiches are delicious but greasy. The pickles and lox have too much salt.

You can't go through life suffering from heartburn and thinking about a future triple bypass and not be depressed.

That's where WASPs have an edge. You don't get heartburn from skim milk and oatmeal.

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