Inside NYC's Oldest Mortuary School
November 4, 2018 12:59 PM   Subscribe

“I like this job, and my friends are now used to it. But when it comes to dating, it can get a little weird,” Raymond says. “Until they downplay it, saying that one day they’ll need me.”

Morticians must get a lot of "Someday—and that day may never come—I will call upon you to do a service for me" jokes.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:13 PM on November 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

I considered becoming a funeral director when I was young, but, like most of the things I wanted to do, my family convinced me I didn't have what it took. Since then, I've had a few friends who had been in the profession and left, and in this case I think my family was right. I have made respect for anyone with the emotional strength for the work.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:45 PM on November 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

There was a guy a few years ahead of me in school. He was hilarious and a big dude. He was popular for being funny but it wasn't as if the jocks were extra nice to him or anything.
Anyway, his junior year or so he proclaimed that he wanted to be a mortician. Most people thought it was a joke, but no, he went to mortuary school.

So I just Googled him and he is a director at a regional large funeral home and is very thin. I hope he is still funny.
posted by k8t at 5:50 PM on November 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Back in the 80s I was at a bar, guy starts a conversation (desultory on my part). Eventually got around to the what do you do part. He leaned over and whispered portentously in my ear "I make faces." I said, "oh really? whose?" Turned out he was a cosmetician at a funeral home. End of conversation. Bye guy.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:07 PM on November 4, 2018

For nearly ten years I lived within walking distance of the National Museum of Funeral History. Never went in once. It made a great threat to the kids though. "Clean your room or it's the museum for us on Saturday!"
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:45 PM on November 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I thought about going to school to be a mortician. Unfortunately, the school with the program at the time (early 90s) had a horrible reputation.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:36 PM on November 4, 2018

Having just lost my mother I have nothing but respect for undertakers, as we call them in these parts.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:29 PM on November 4, 2018

Remember, always go to the funeral.
posted by Harald74 at 11:08 PM on November 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

This was really interesting, thanks.

I went and did some research about funeral director training here, because I was curious if there was some sort of equivalent institution. It seems that there isn't, and it's a slow process of apprenticeship, with people saying you progress into positions as others pass or retire.

I did find one dubious site that said 100.1% of funeral directors are over 35, and 4.7% under. Odd. It also said it's an industry with very strong growth rate, which seems also seems weird, because surely the growth rate has some limiting factors.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:48 AM on November 5, 2018

I can't remember where I read it now, but I once came across an account of a medical school where the students were paired off in a buddy system when they were given corpses to dissect and study. One would cut while the other looked on for a while, then they'd swap.

One couple particularly caught the writer's eye. As the active student's knife dug in, his watching partner unconsciously started stroking the corpse's arm and making soft conciliatory noises. Her instinct was to try and offer it some comfort, and I think that may be the sweetest thing I've ever heard in my life.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:54 AM on November 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

SUNY Farmingdale offered Mortuary Science when I was still living on Long Island but a quick check of their web page doesn't show it. I only know this because there was a kid on my street who was taking it there and everyone thought that was kind of weird. Of course, he also dressed in black, played in a band and drove a retired Cadillac hearse so perhaps there was a theme going on there.
posted by tommasz at 6:59 AM on November 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

“A few months ago a funeral home director, a friend of ours, asked me if there were any promising funeral directors coming out of AAMI with me. I mentioned a colleague, a female, and he immediately cut me off and said no, he was looking for a male director.” It is, in Booker’s words “disheartening to see how hard it is for these young ladies to get a fair chance.”

Sounds like an opportunity to me! The colleague should apply and then file a complaint if she isn't hired. He explicitly expressed his intent to discriminate on the basis of gender. Discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal, even in the U.S., right?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:26 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

For more reading, there's the blog Confessions of a Funeral Director.
posted by Lexica at 12:48 PM on November 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Order of the Good Death is an eye opening, honest, and thought provoking site with podcasts, videos, and events. I have found it fascinating.

Also seconding Lexica's above suggestion for Confessions of a Funeral Director. Great guy; great book. It's very interesting to hear about the other side of the funeral industry.
posted by annieb at 4:35 PM on November 5, 2018

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