Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review August 28, 2002/ 20 Elul 5762

'Good friends' who take but don't give; a wife's right to know; he wants to be rude about Jews

By Wendy Belzberg | Q: My best friend has confided in me that his marriage is in trouble, and has asked me not to tell my wife. My wife and I have no secrets, and I am uncomfortable holding back this one. My question concerns the principle of the matter. I assume that whatever I tell my friends, they tell their husbands or wives, that a married couple is considered one unit, not two separate people. Am I obligated to keep his confidence from my other half?

A: Husbands and wives are not only entitled but expected to share confidences. (Though I admit that your "one unit, not two separate people" image makes marriage sound uncomfortable and unwieldy.) That said, when someone begins by telling you that he is about to reveal news of such magnitude that you can tell no one, immediate clarification regarding your spouse's status is in order. If you don't like what you hear, there would be nothing wrong with asking your friend to keep his secrets to himself. If you did tell your friend that you would keep his confidence, you are obligated to do so. Why not go back to your friend and, assuming you can promise your wife's discretion, ask permission to share the information with her. A female perspective may be just what is needed to help two males navigate these difficult shoals.

Q: My wife and I have invited a couple to our home for dinner on numerous occasions. They claim to be good friends, yet they have never once reciprocated. Now, as we plan our son's bar mitzvah, I really don't want them to come. However, they are sure to take this as a snub and be hurt. Is there a tactful way to handle this, or should I swallow my pride and send them the invite?

A: You could always drive your SUV across their front lawn and mow down their dog to make your point. (Of course, then your neighbors would say on television that you had seemed like such a nice man who had many friends and did a lot of entertaining.) Or you could ask yourself how you let your feelings get this out of hand and why you cooked so many dinners without mentioning to your "good friends" what struck you as unacceptable behavior. Humor would seem the best approach to such a situation: "Do you ever plan on reciprocating, or would you like to move in so we could prepare all three of your daily meals?"

Now is not the time to say what should have been said many salads ago. If you see the rift as irreparable then call the friendship quits after the bar mitzvah. But failing to invite your friends now just to make a point is to defeat your purpose. Not only will your friends legitimately feel snubbed and hurt, but it will be you and your wife who will garner the reputation for bad manners.

Q: I've been writing jokes that are Jackie Masonish with a touch of Andrew Dice Clay — pretty racy stuff. I go after feminists, leftists and Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist — especially female — rabbis. I'd go after the Arabs, but it's no chidush. Do you think I am safe from the Anti-Defamation League, the World Zionist Organization, Shimon Peres and my mom? What other enemies are foreseeable?

A: You should remain on the lookout for the ghosts of Sammy Davis Jr., Dr. Laura, Madonna and her posse of kabbalists, and Big Bird. (No one talks about it, but Big Bird is in the one token Jew living on Sesame Street.) Don't even think about performing within spitting distance of the Western Wall, the West Bank or the White House. But don't kid yourself; mom presents the greatest threat.

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09/01/02: Family peace, but at what price?
08/28/02: Revealing sworn secret will impact many lives; misplaced friendship?
08/22/02: Seeking help for hubby's High Holy Days hi-jinks; perplexed by parents' request; take 'em or leave 'em?
08/16/02: Trial makes friendship trying; experiencing one loss, facing another; wives and brides
08/09/02: Wedding woes are a commercial for elopement; miss the bris (circumcision)?
07/25/02: A love for the ages?; learning the steps; off the wall
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