by Robin Munson


To borch (Yiddish origins) is to bitch. To bitch is to moan. To moan is to complain. But to complain is not the same as to borch. Borching is usually relentless, always vocal, and never intellectual.  It has a visceral connotation.  Its value is cathartic.  A sure-fire guilt-inducer. Usually a source of irritation to the listener.

There are two schools of thought on borching.  The first is that we should all be stoic, bear up with stalwart determination.  It is the British school of borching, which goes with the British stiff-upper-lip credo.  The belief is that if we ignore pain, anger, annoyance, grief, fear, or indignation, it will disappear.

The second school of thought on borching is that we should vent.  This is more the American school by way of Vienna.  The theory goes that borching builds up like steam in a kettle, and that if we don’t somehow expel the energy in a slow, measured, controlled way, the energy will inevitably explode, shatter the tea kettle, and cause irretrievable harm to all.

There are some people who are gifted at listening to people borch.  I like to think that I am one of those gifted people.  That’s why I used to be a marriage and family therapist.  I am an experienced receiver of all kinds of borching, both one-on-one and in groups.  I think you have to be a really good borcher yourself in order to be a good borch listener.  I have given up being a professional listener in order to listen more attentively on a private basis.  This seems to work well for me. But let’s face it, the whole idea of talk therapy is based on borchers and borchees. And it works exceedingly well.

This morning at breakfast I asked my husband how he was.  Art barely answered, except to say, “Okay, for an old guy”.  “What” I asked “does that mean?”.  He said, “Oh, I have my usual aches and pains.  They may go away and they may not.”.  This is a curious blend of both schools.  On the one hand, there is the British stoicism apparent, since he did not go on to list the specific aches and pains, as in “My lower back is in a spasm.  My right baby toe is numb.  I have the beginnings of a sinus headache.  My stomach is a little rocky.”  On the other hand, he made vague allusions to “aches and pains”, which stirred a bit of guilt in me.  This makes sense.  My husband is half-British. But he’s been married to me for fifteen years.

I, on the other hand, am unambiguously Jewish.  I start out the morning by listing my complaints:  “My allergies are back.  I couldn’t breathe last night and now my nose is running.  And now I’m tired because I didn’t get any sleep. I think I’m fighting off a cold.”  This gets my tea kettle emptied out right away and has the added bonus of eliciting Art’s sympathy before he’s even had his first bite of breakfast.  Do you wonder that we have such a great marriage?

Of course this morning as I went through my morning litany, I began to think – Maybe the Brits are right.  I mean, suddenly it’s just no fun to vent anymore.  And getting Art’s sympathy is like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, he’s such a nice guy that there’s just no point in it.

Besides, I have the Blog.  Blogging is a lot like borching.  Every morning I get to pick out a new subject to borch about.  You, dear reader, get to “listen”.  Of course, there are some mornings that I have nothing to borch about, and I am forced to choose some other topic.  Like today, for instance.  I feel fine, so I just decided to talk about borching. 

© Robin Munson

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