How to Kvell in Public

There are lots of words that have made their way from Yiddish into the English vernacular that regardless of your denomination, you know what they mean: maven, chutzpah, shtick, nosh, schlep, schmuck — to name a few.

But there’s one word that you might not know, but I can say with 100% certainty, you probably (hopefully) do on a regular basis: kvell.

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines kvell as “to be extraordinarily proud; rejoice,” and while that’s a good start, it goes a lot deeper than that.

Kvelling, much like its kissing cousins, bragging and boasting, is something that ranges from casual to a high art form. In this age of social media, we all know how that goes. From the people who document every wondrous move their children make starting with breathing, to the humble-braggers that moan about their shin splints from running their third marathon this year, and to the people that over-use the phrase “This happened” or plain old, “This,” to accompany photos they take (i.e., views from a mountain top they just biked/hiked up, fancy meals they’ve “effortlessly” whipped up, shots of themselves or their kids with celebs, etc.) and everyone in between, the ability to publicly tell your stories of all-time highs is at an all-time high.

And this is the time of year to do it, too — what with the end of school year/grades/awards, commencements, recitals, youth sports play-offs, launching of summer travel teams, and grown-up challenges as well (so many marathons/triathlons/other endurance tests, so little time), achievements abound, and there is much to kvell about.

That said, I have to admit that kvelling in public makes me uncomfortable. This is probably in part due the Yiddish corollary – “pu, pu, pu.” This is not a platter full of delicious deep-fried appetizers, but literally, “spit, spit, spit” — the last part of a superstitious utterance that wards off the evil eye that would swoop in and steal your good fortune if you are blabbing about it all over the place.

And of course the other part is that when you kvell in public, you walk a very fine line between being proud and being an insufferable braggart.

With all of this swirling in my brain, I had a moment this past weekend where all my concerns about kvelling in public coalesced around a video my friend sent me of my daughter smacking the shit out of a softball. He shot it in slow-mo, so the ball looked like it travelled for a mile. (Note: In a meta moment, even writing this make me feel simultaneously excited to tell y’all about it AND like a douche for doing so, especially with such hyperbolic prose. Pu, pu, PU!)

Did I have to post this video on Facebook? No… but yes. I mean, how could I not? Isn’t it a parent’s right to brag?

The answer is yes, of course, but there are definitely a few ways to go about kvelling so it tells the story while toeing the line between proud and obnoxious….

1) Share, don’t showboat: When you post something to Facebook, Tweet, snap an Instagram photo, Periscope, etc., the act is called sharing. So how you describe what’s going on in your picture, video, or even just thoughts rolling around your keppie (head in Yiddish) should be tempered by the idea that you are asking others to participate in your experience — so check your intentions at the door. If what you’re sharing is exciting enough to be solidly kvell-worthy, rock on. If it’s something small and mundane that only you or your closest inner circle can truly appreciate, then consider keeping the sharing to an email or text with your significant others.

2) Mind the hashtag: Technically speaking, hashtagging is a way that people can easily aggregate content, not a way to overly enthusiastically describe every single emotion you’ve ever had. So while it’s totally fine to be #blessed or #proud, try to steer clear of #omgcanyoubelievethisicant, #smartestchildever, #allstar4evah, #idontmeantobragbutisodo, and any other super-sized combo platter of bravado. If you need to # (pound) it in, then you know it’s overkill.

3) Pick your pics: Think back to ye olde days when we used to print out pictures and put them in photo albums and scrapbooks. (Maybe you still do this but I am officially out of this loop!) Now think about how likely it was that a casual friend or acquaintance would want to spend hours perusing your photos (not so much). So when you post entire albums with 4,000 shots in them on your Facebook page, or put together 20 Pinterest boards on the same topic (i.e., my frame-by-frame Grand Canyon hike, baby’s first day at the beach, etc.), just know that nobody, save your own mother (and even she doesn’t click through!), wants all that. Or if you think they do, throw it all on an online photo service like Shutterfly, and share that with your inner circle.

4) Be gracious: Once you share your joy with the world, the good people who are your friends or followers will flock to like or favorite your status update and even go that extra mile to comment, retweet, and even share it. Saying thank you or otherwise interacting with those who take the time to kvell along with you is not just the right thing to do, but also the best way to amplify the joy.

5) It’s all about YOU: A lot of times, I like to remind myself and all my bitches that it’s not about you… it’s about your kid/your significant other/your pet/etc. But when it comes to kvelling, it is about sharing your pride and pleasure. So don’t go on about how other people should think or feel, including the person you are kvelling over and/or the audience you are kvelling to, just let the people know how YOU feel. Also, even though it is about you, it doesn’t hurt to ask the person you’re kvelling about if they are down with you doing it for all the world to see.

6) A quick kvell is all you need: Social media usually comes down to 140 characters… which is a good thing. If you can’t cut to the kvell point and tell the world what you’re so damn proud about clearly and concisely, then log off your social media accounts immediately, and call your mom or your BBF. Those are the peeps that want the deets; the rest of the world can private message you if they need to know more.

So if you see me blogging about kvelling, just know that I’m just publicly rejoicing over the fact that there’s so much to be proud of. Keep calm and kvell on!

Thanks to for the awesome image for this post!