Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review July 25, 2002/ 16 Menachem-Av 5762

A love for the ages?; learning the steps; off the wall

By Wendy Belzberg | Q: I am in my late 20s, and the man I am dating is 52. We are deliriously happy and becoming serious. When I talk about marrying him, my friends think I'm nuts. What do you think?

A: Initially I thought that your greatest obstacle would be people mistaking your lover for your father. After speculating briefly about your connection to your real daddy, I suppose I'd take a live and let-live approach. But I have seen enough May-December romances to hazard a guess of what lies ahead. When you are 48 and still game for life, your husband will be over 70. And even if he is spry and in excellent physical health - two big ifs - he probably will not want to go trekking in the Himalayas or helicopter skiing in the Bugaboos. Not to mention what this rather off-balance dynamic will do to any children you might have. I'd enjoy the delirium while it lasts. When your husband begins to slow down, your life may feel like it's on idle. Sit on a park bench and take a long look at those 80-year-olds. You'll be living with one when you're still in your 50s.

Q: I have been living in the United States for more than 20 years, but my family lives in Israel. I belong to a synagogue and attend Israeli folk-dancing classes every week. Not once since the current tensions in Israel erupted have fellow dancers or synagogue members asked me about my family - even after I returned from a trip to Israel. Whenever I raise the subject, people start talking about something else. I mentioned my disappointment to a few friends, and they reacted defensively. How do you approach this subject of indifference?

A: To someone with no relatives in Israel, it is possible that your conversation could be misconstrued: You are expressing deep concern for your family and their safety, but the listener may think you are warming up for a political debate. And we all know that politics and polite company do not mix. For many American Jews, Israel is a symbol more than anything else. While close to everyone's heart, it appears an abstraction, and one about which opinions are not only varied, but explosive. There is one thing that every Jew can agree on when it comes to the Middle East: The situation is dire with no resolution in sight. Beyond that, even I find that I prefer to stay away from the subject since it can be inflammatory and people seldom agree on an approach. That said, skirting a political issue, with which so many of us fumble, is one thing. Failing to inquire about a friend's heartaches is quite another.

Q: I recently visited a woman with two young children who is in the process of getting a divorce. I was surprised to see several wedding pictures and other shots of her soon-to-be-ex. When, if ever, is it appropriate to change the photos?

A: Certainly by the time your friend is ready to date seriously or to remarry, previous wedding and happy couple pictures should no longer be on display. As for banishing the ex altogether, he is and will always be the father of your friend's children. I think it may be traumatic for them to discover that all evidence of their father's existence has been erased; I might even go so far as to say I applaud the mother's efforts to remind her children they are still part of a family. Depending on the financial settlement and the mood between mother and father when the divorce is finalized, however, she may choose to limit such photos to her children's rooms. To be perfectly clear, let me also add that when - or if - your friend does choose to replace the family photos is no business of yours.

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07/17/02: I don't mean to sound anti-Semitic but ; Doesn't etiquette dictate that a good host make his guests feel comfortable?
06/21/02: Doing business with an Arab; driving down the road of life with my mother-in-law tailgating me; sentimental gulf clubs
06/12/02: Anti-Semites everywhere!; no need for marriage
06/06/02: Sacrifice my happiness or my family's?; bad call on 'friend'
05/30/02: Attending my ex-mother-in-law's funeral; in search of forgiveness
05/21/02: Danger and duty; host of issues; desperately seeking surgery
03/20/02: Multiples for mom; partners and martyrs; I'm a gentile --- should I explore Judaism's spiritual side?
03/07/02: Disabled child taught family love, patience and compassion
02/15/02: Sisterhood on the line; Time to cross Ts on ex?
02/04/02: Clueless convert-in-training; loyal to a wife who walked out?
01/25/02: The new 'Jewish question'; unfaithful oldsters; gambling on our family's future
01/18/02: Should son invite mom to bar mitzvah - against dad's wishes?; pay-off time?; 'my son is blackmailing me'
01/10/02: Hard to move on; separation anxiety
01/04/02: Salvaging a sister; mother knows best?
12/27/01: Paying for somebody else's charity; Down(s) and out?
12/21/01: 'Brownie points' for the Creator; I love my husband, but not his family; open-door policy needs to be closed sometimes
12/05/01: 'I celebrate Chanukah you insensitive anti-Semite!'; idealism v. responsibility; stolen gifts
11/27/01: Doubts or reservations one may have about reaching out to friends and strangers alike who are in need: From the mail bag
11/16/01: Tripping out; tactics for tactlessness; Am I a hypocrite?
11/01/01: My co-religionists are proselytizing me; tragedy intruder?; meddling mama?
10/19/01: Outside world hits home; money and mommies
10/12/01: Vacation separation; Risk present for past?
09/20/01: Secular servants; Time to tie purse strings?; dog breath --- literally!
09/07/01: Too much Torah?; Name-dropping rabbi turns off worshippers
08/30/01: Jewish 'godparents'?; summer homework
08/02/01: Have wife, won't travel; 'dis' --- as in 'distant'
07/26/01: Grandparents not invited to bar mitzvah; what to do about older sister's foul mouth; nuptial narcissism
07/19/01: Bad mannered, uncouth ethnics; lookin' for love
07/05/01: Faithless Rabbi; my wife won't let me retire; I'm in relationship limbo
06/21/01: New customs for assimilated Jews?; the business of friendship; aunty is a bad role model
06/13/01: Our friends have become political traitors; Is it love?
06/06/01: Teaching kids about the Creator, when parents aren't observant; 'wonderful woman' 'fesses up about her broken engagement; How do I find a matchmaker for my 'beautiful daughter?'
05/31/01: Couple he fixed-up is in a nasty breakup; overwrought over ring
05/16/01: The gift was counterfeit; settling for the daughter; the lush and the ostrich
05/02/01: 'Jew questions' and falsifying faith; magic marker mayhem; I want kids
04/25/01: Anti-Semites everywhere?; shilling for gifts; my kid is the 'weakest link'
04/05/01: Celebrating when Passover is inconvenient; What's wrong with the name 'Melvyn,'?; Difference dilemma: Husbands and wives and Passover observance levels
03/19/01: 7-4=insensitivity?; baby showers and tempting fate; Splitsville before or after marriage?
03/12/01: Passover party-pooper; slapped by a moral dilemma
02/14/01: Human 'mutts,' getting over it, same-sex kesubas
02/08/01: Bar/bat mitzvah blues, homework he-l, from potty to potty-mouth
01/24/01: Naughty neighbor, unprofessional colleague is dead, I'm a Jew, now what?
01/15/01: Rabbis who won't; when the rules of the 'game' change; ungracious grannies
01/08/01: My kid hates Hebrew school; Stay single or abandon heritage?
01/02/01: A Jewish Grinch? Baby bigots and when grandparents call it quits
12/18/00: Babes in Chanukah Land; my husband the kvetch; bad hair marriage?
12/04/00: My niece is a no-goodnik, when lifecycle events become dangerous, Orthodox v. Reform education
11/28/00: My ex is ruining my kids' souls; the mouth that won't stop
11/21/00: Battling brothers; how to keep a nanny
11/08/00: OY VEY! my son wants to become Orthodox; kiddies should avoid family therapy
11/08/00: Rabbi v. therapist, grandparents bearing gifts, I want my son's teacher for a sister-in-law
10/24/00: Let him enlist?, 'My son the actor'? Eating with the 'help'
10/10/00:Tipsy teens, protective spouses, kosher common-sense
10/03/00: I'm not Jewish --- not that there's anything wrong with it; mezuza machlokes; when granddad has cancer
09/25/00: I can't take Rosh Hashanah! Something for nothing? My husband needs a dinner mate
09/18/00: 'My kids' Jewish education stinks', boyfriend bandit, and single mother not by choice
09/11/00: Bris brouhaha breaks my heart, LET ME SLEEP! --- and Why can't I hold a job?
09/05/00: Righteous anger, 'dissed' daughter --- and how not to make a match
08/21/00: When one spouse becomes more religious than the other; "But the cleaning lady is part of the family!"; Why He invented 9-month gestation periods
08/21/00: 'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2002, Wendy Belzberg