REJECTION -- where would our world be without it?
Rejection fuels drama like nothing else. In Gone With the Wind, if Scarlett hadn’t been shunted aside by Ashley and hadn’t then played it overly cool with Rhett, the story would largely have hinged on the destruction of real estate. Millions of movies, books and TV shows have been churned out since, with rejection at their core.
These stories work because everybody knows what it’s like to be turned down. And yet we still get a kick out of being, or watching, the person who doles out the ego beating.
Even American TV’s famous, cuddly Modern Orthodox rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, is currently getting in on the action. He’s an author of 20 books and father of nine who has appeared regularly on Oprah, has a TLC show called Shalom in the Home, and is known continent-wide for being a mensch.
Boteach made the news this week when he protested plans by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to stay in a Bedouin tent on Libyan embassy land adjacent to Boteach’s home in Englewood, N.J.
Unlike your average North American, Boteach wasn’t averse to Gadhafi’s rumpled, warty presence just because he’d ruin the view. According to the Globe and Mail, New Jersey is home to the families of more than 30 of 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Gadhafi officially accepted responsibility for those bombings years ago, after accusations suggested they were the work of Libyan agents. Recently, however, he was seen embracing a released Lockerbie bombing terrorist. As Boteach told CNN, he doubts Gadhafi’s claim to be on the straight and narrow.
“He loves terrorists and welcomes them as heroes and speaks with a forked tongue,” said the rabbi.
Most of us snarl when the next-door neighbour brings home his first Harley Davidson, but this is a whole ’nuther level. Gadhafi is a PLO supporter who’s been linked to international terrorism on numerous occasions. He’ll be in New York this month on his first “visit,” and if I were Boteach, I’d want to make it Gadhafi’s last, too. New York is an intoxicating place, even for a non-drinking Muslim, and before you know it, Gadhafi could be hangin’ with his homies in Central Park -- his first choice for the site of the Bedouin tent.
Luckily, these are modern times, and there are ways of getting rid of even the most persistent suitors. I’d like to introduce the rabbi to the Rejection Hotline, intended for use by those who wish to blow off an unwanted admirer. Here’s where I see it coming in handy.
Say Gadhafi sidles over to Boteach’s back gate while the rabbi is stretched out alone on a deck chair, eating. “As-salamu àlaykum,” Gadhafi says.
Being polite, the rabbi replies, “Peace be with you, too. Nice day.”
“Yes,” says Gadhafi. “I was wondering, can you spare some gas for my power mower?” “Sure,” Boteach says. “I’ll bring it over after I finish my lunch.” He feels this is the Libyan dictator’s cue to leave, immediately.
“What are you having?” Gadhafi says conversationally. “It looks tasty.”
“Chicken soup. It’s good for the soul,” Boteach responds.
“Yes, I read the book,” Gadhafi says. He has opened the gate and has been inching closer, so now he’s standing in front of Boteach, watching him eat. “You eat skillfully,” Gadhafi points out. “You don’t spill the soup, even though you’re stretched out in the sun.”
“Thanks,” Boteach says. “The mug helps. And I do love my soup. It’s homemade.”
Gadhafi continues to engage Boteach in meaningless conversation as the rabbi becomes visibly irritated. Suddenly, Boteach claims to hear his wife inside, calling his name. He has finished his soup, so he picks up his mug and says, “I’ll leave the gas for you inside your gate in a little while.”
“How about I call you when I’m ready for it,” says Gadhafi, with a wink. “I’ve got a few other interesting ideas I’d like to discuss. I’d really like to get on Oprah -- I was thinking you could hook me up.”
Some problems are too trivial to bother God with. This is where Rejection Hotline comes in. Before Gadhafi moves in next door, Rabbi Boteach needs to look up and memorize the Rejection Hotline number at www.humorhotlines.com. That’s the number he’ll give his unwanted suitor when Gadhafi asks for it.
When Gadhafi calls, hoping to pursue an intimate relationship with Boteach, he’ll reach a snarky recorded voice. It will tell him that he hasn’t reached the person he thought he was calling, but instead, the Rejection Hotline. Among the reasons his intended didn’t want to give him the right number, the voice will suggest, might be that Gadhafi is “boring, dumb, annoying, arrogant or just a general weirdo,” has bad breath or body odour, or gives off “that creepy, overbearing psycho stalker vibe.” The voice will advise Gadhafi to forget the object of his affections, as Boteach has already forgotten him. Even ruthless dictators should get that hint.
(Incidentally, the funniest thing about the Rejection Hotline is the first time I called it myself, another recording kicked in at the end, urging me to press “star” to find out how I could join the United States Navy for “adventure, opportunity and a secure future.” It’s good to know that bad breath and overbearing psycho stalker vibes are considered a plus somewhere. With any luck, Gadhafi will be offered the same option to toil at sea for Uncle Sam.)
I see this Rejection Hotline move as the entrée to a brand new bestseller for Rabbi Boteach. He’s already written The Kosher Sutra and Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments. With this new experience under his belt, it’ll be time for him to branch out beyond advice on family and dating.
I, for one, will eagerly look forward to G’day, Gadhafi: How to Banish Social Cling-Ons, or Gadhouttahere: How to Rid Your Neighbourhood of Unwanted Pests. Expertise on how to reject others without denting your self-image always comes in handy.