When I was in sixth grade, we put on a play for our parents. It was not an especially educational play; it was about all the characters in Mother Goose poems complaining about how they were represented. They bring their grievances up, but then find out that children love them for their flaws, so they decide to leave their poems as they are.
I got to play the Old Woman in the Shoe. I have no idea how this got assigned. I had no clue how to play a grandmother, at least according to the standards of my classmates and teacher. They believed that all women over the age of 70 have thick, Hungarian accents. This was not obvious to me, as both my grandmothers have New York accents. I just did not understand that an old woman with more children than she could handle in a tiny house was necessarily a native Yiddish speaker.
But my (lack of) acting abilities wasn’t the point. This is actually about white out.
Most of what we read in literature class came from grainy photocopies. The quality was always quite bad, to the point where I never questioned it when some words were whited-out and rewritten. Probably, they just weren’t clear.
When I got older, I realized that usually, those words were words like “damn” and “hell” which were inappropriate for a bais Yaakov girl to read. The teacher was helping us, by replacing the words with something we could actually quote aloud in class. True, sometimes there were entire sentences missing, but presumably this was more of the same.
It wasn’t like when a teacher skipped a chapter in Chumash or Navi. Whenever that happened, we ran straight to the library and pulled out the big Stone Edition Tanach, and read up on it. The teacher may have protected herself from teaching the rape of Tamar, but she didn’t protect us from reading about it. To the contrary, she made it impossible for us to miss. Naturally, we discussed it at length among ourselves, but not with a competent adult. Adults were obviously too squeamish.
Usually, the white-outs in our literature texts were innocuous and didn’t detract from our understanding of the story. But in the case of sixth grade, it caused me to spend the next decade of my life quoting Mother Goose wrong.
You see, the words to Georgie Porgie were changed in our play. When George appeared before the court to protest his representation, he recited the following rhyme:
“Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Tickled the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away.”
Somehow – and not because my parents were too frum for Mother Goose – I went through life with no exposure to the Georgie Porgie poem other than this sixth grade play. I did wonder what was so bad about tickling girls that he had to bring it to court. But it was just a dumb 6th grade play. I wasn’t going to think too hard about it.
So you can imagine my consternation as an adult when I found out I’d been lied to.
“Wait, he kisses them?!”
“Um, yeah, what did you think?”
“He doesn’t tickle them?”
“What? No, of course not. That’s ridiculous.”
The irony is, even with the change of terms, Georgie was obviously not shomer negiya. Couldn’t the teacher have found another one-syllable action for Georgie that would have been 100% kosher?
I dunno, maybe “chased the girls and made them cry”?
Got a story? Email it to us at BaisYaakovTales@gmail(dot)com