Dos leben iz vi kinderhemdel—kurts un bash.
Like many Yiddish proverbs and expressions, this one walks the fine line between gloriously inspiring and soul-crushingly-”what’s-the-point-of-it-all?-I-may-as-well-throw-in-the-towel” bleak. As with most things, it all comes down to perspective: Who is on the receiving end of this adage? Who’s delivering it and with what tone? Are they a glass-half-empty or half-full kind of person? (OK, I realize that the chances of a Jew [myself included] falling into the latter category is as dismal as the way most of us would interpret this adage, but just humor me.) So, yes, while at first this adage may appear to be a harsh and unsavory look at life, let’s endeavor to put on our ill-fitting rosy glasses (I know they pinch at the nose, but it’s only for a minute), do our shrinks proud, and look at it another way.
If we replace the unfortunate translation of “soiled” with “messy” and ignore the uncomfortable invocation of a child’s undershirt, we’re left with this: Life is short and messy. Is this not inspirational, in that it motivates us to live now and not be afraid to get our hands dirty doing it?! Isn’t this actually a wonderfully positive and encouraging proverb after all?? Nu? OK, fine, you can take your glasses off now.
Franny is having Sunday breakfast with her dad, Joe, and, over lox and schmear, venting about her college application process. ...
Franny: “Tatteh, I’m totally stressing! If I don’t get into my first-choice school, I, like, don’t know what I’m going to do! I don’t really want to go to any of my safety schools, that’s why they’re my safety schools! Plus, it would totally ruin my 5-year plan! If I don’t get in, maybe I should take a semester off so I can retake my SATs and do a ton of community service and learn the cello or something? G-d, why didn’t you and Mummy make me learn an instrument??!?! Trudy Lawrence plays the harp! Not to mention her parents adopted like five kids from China or somewhere! She’s a shoo-in for sure! That’s it. I can’t stray from my five-year plan. It’s the only thing that makes sense. I don’t care how long it takes. ... Wait! Isn’t cousin Robbie adopted? That could wor—”
Joe: “Bubbeleh, relax. Eat. You’re being meshugga. You want my advice? Plan shpan! Life is like a child’s undershirt—short and soiled! Now shut up and eat. Do you want your bagel heated?”
Shop for this Yiddish proverb!
Shop for all gifts that celebrate this quote in our store!