Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review March 20, 2003 / 16 Adar II, 5763


Lost connection; in search of a model; daughters-in-law are the root of all evil


By Wendy Belzberg


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: I have an old friend from high school who calls periodically to get together. Over the past twenty years we have drifted apart and have nothing left in common but our past. I don't have enough time in my life to spend with the people who are important to me, but since I don't want to hurt her feelings I agree to meet. When we are together I resent the time I am giving up.

A: Other than your parents, whose view of your past does not necessarily conform to your own, how many people are there in your life who knew you when? Is there anyone left who appreciates the child, adolescent and struggling adult you once were? You underestimate the profound value of a common past--someone who remembers the bad eye-makeup and sequined hot pants, callow boyfriends, stolen cigarettes and parental battles. One or two dinners a year with this friend does not seem like a huge sacrifice. If you don't want to go, just say no. There is a polite way to do so without hurting your friend's feelings. Otherwise, the next time she calls, have a stiff drink and head off to revisit a part of your life that may otherwise remain buried.

Q: What do you think is the best way to promote unity among Jews? What could we do to promote the kind of respect between all Jews that would, by example, make us a model for all nations?

A: The best way to promote unity among any group is one person at a time. Respect among individuals appears to be in short supply, and Jewish individuals are no exception. Set your sights on a modest and attainable goal such as harmony between yourself, your children and your loved ones. Once you've attained that goal, talk to your Rabbi, the principal of your local high school and your fellow congregants. Come up with a philosophy and a concrete plan that you can implement in your community. Show success in your own community and maybe you can be a role model for Jews everywhere. Throw prayer into the mix-it may not help, but it couldn't hurt.

Q: My sons are both in their 30's, married, and make more money than we do. When the 6 of us go out together for dinner, my husband and sons take turns picking up the check or agree to split it. But after a recent meal together, one of my daughters-in-law called to say she was incensed by my cheapness and my attitude. She says parents should foot the bill. She has enlisted my other daughter-in-law in her cause and is wreaking havoc in the family.

A: I am beginning to believe that daughters-in-law are the root of all evil -- at the very least, all family evils. A smart man never wants to side with his mother over his wife, and a smart mother would never put her son in the position of having to choose. Win-win for the canny daughter-in-law who quickly figures out that she enjoys double immunity and feels free to act badly.

Some parents I know do still pick up the tab at family dinners, but there is no reason to consider this a foregone conclusion. Not only are you not obligated to buy your grown children dinner, but I would think it a matter of pride for your sons to flaunt their own billfolds. Invite the kids to dinner at your home so there is no check to battle over. With both sons and daughters-in-law present, tackle the topic and any bad feelings that may be there. Your sons may have more to do with this simmering subject than you originally thought. This is a family matter, and should be dealt with as a family. Don't decide how to proceed until you've heard from everyone.


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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg