Want a romantic date on Valentine's Day?
The Yiddish language has colorful ways to describe different types of men -- and how a man should or should not act if he wants to woo a woman. Brought to America by Jews from Eastern Europe in the first half of the 20th century, many Yiddish words have become part of the English language and many people know at least a few spirited Yiddish expressions.
If a Yiddish-speaking grandfather had advice for today's man looking to woo a woman on Valentine's Day, this is what he'd probably say.
"Don't be a schlemiel or a schlimazel." A schlemiel is a bungler who can't do anything right. A schlimazel is a person who has no luck. To adapt an old Yiddish saying, when bringing his date a glass of wine at a romantic dinner, a schlemiel trips and spills it. A schlimazel is the person he spills it on.
"Don't be a nebbish." A nebbish is meek and ineffective and timid in making decisions. When he asks a woman out for Valentine's Day, he hasn't planned a place to go and says, "You decide, whatever you want." When they get to a place, he won't choose a table either. He shares a lot in common with men today who won't make a decision because they want to be "nice guys." But don't confuse a nebbish with a nerd. A nerd may also lack social skills, but unlike a nebbish, he's smart and often ends up being successful.
"Don't be a schmendrick or a schmuck." A schmendrick is a stupid person who is an insignificant pipsqueak. A schmuck is a stupid person who is obnoxious. When a woman offers to split the bill for the romantic dinner, a schmendrick accepts her offer. A schmuck expects her to pay the whole bill because she earns more than he does.
"Don't be a pisk malocheh or a pitshetsh." A pisk malocheh talks big and then makes excuses for doing little. He says he has plans for a romantic dinner in a nice restaurant. Then he says the restaurant cancelled the reservation because last Valentine's Day someone with his name -- he insists he wasn't him -- was having dinner there with his wife and in front of everyone served her divorce papers. A pitshetsh takes a woman to a nice restaurant but spends all the time complaining that he's a victim of his ex-wife and his ex-girlfriends as if the woman he's dating should solve his problems. She may escape this date by faking a cell phone call that she needs to go home.
What should a man do? The grandfather would say: "Be a mensch." The first thing many women say when asked what kind of man they're looking for is, "A mensch." A mensch has integrity, is honest, moral, has self-confidence, is honorable, considerate and respectful of others. On Valentine's Day, a mensch is a man with a plan and makes his date feel special.
Be a mensch and have a romantic Valentine's Day.
Elliott Katz is the author of "Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man," advice on being a man who is a mensch that women love and respect. It has been translated into 24 languages by publishers in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa