December 14, 2000
Advice on life and relationships
Halting Taboo Tales
I am a 34 year-old single woman. My parents divorced when I was 22 and my younger brother was 19. At the time my mother and father explained that they had been unhappy for some time, but since my brother and I were on our own, they saw no point in staying together.
My brother and I were devastated, and everything we had counted on in our lives was turned upside down. Coming home for holidays, family functions, everything became an ordeal. All in all, we handled it pretty well and have remained close, although with the obvious changes in groupings. My mom and I have grown particularly close these past years.
My father recently got married. My brother and I are happy for him and glad that he found love in his life. The problem has become my mother. Ever since my father got engaged, she has been increasingly agitated and upset about their marriage, which has been over now for 12 years. She has begun to confide things to me about my father and his former affairs and their sexual problems. I am very uncomfortable hearing these things, yet I am concerned about my mother and want to be there for her. Last week I asked my mother to please stop telling me intimate details about my dad's and her marriage. She cried and accused me of being immature and unsympathetic. I feel bad and have begun to avoid her phone calls at work and home. Please advise.
Dear Distressed Daughter,
Your mother sounds very upset indeed to have forgotten that despite your age and the number of years since your parents' divorce, you still are the daughter -- not the parent.
It's boundary time, DD. Let your mother know you want very much to be supportive, but that you draw the line at hearing the intimate details of your parents' marriage. If she feels a need to share those, suggest she do so with a friend, rabbi or a therapist.
It is equally important to consider that if, as you say, your mother has grown "increasingly agitated and upset" since your father found a new mate, some old feelings of being hurt or cheated have been reanimated by your father's marriage. She may feel that your father has finally moved on and that perhaps she has not.
In any case, stick to your boundaries. You will be better able to support your mother through this painful time if you do so, because at the very least, you won't be avoiding her calls.
Parents, remember that divulging intimate secrets to one's children (of any age) is not usually a good idea. When in doubt about whether or not to spill certain beans, stop and check out your motive for telling. If it is to relieve yourself of a burden, don't. Unload elsewhere. If sharing the information is meant to instruct, such as discussing the family's history of alcoholism, then it's usually OK.
Sidestep Self Serving Singles
I am sick and tired of my wife's single male friends who think they ought to be invited to married people's homes and never have to reciprocate. We have one guy (age 52) who doesn't take a hint. He continues to call after not being invited here in over two years and has the chutzpah to ask for an invitation to our home, saying things like, "I won't eat much." Give me a break. I think that too often Jewish parents raise spoiled, overly entitled boys who think that every home that has at least one adult female in it ought to feed them forever because they are so precious. Come on, Jewish parents! Teach your sons that single does not mean exempt!
Why not start in your own backyard by phoning your "overly entitled boy" and being the Jewish parent he never had? Give the poor guy a chance to step up to the plate by telling him why you no longer invite him to your home. If he whimpers about not knowing how to cook, remind him about restaurants, take-out food and bagel-and-lox Sunday mornings.
After reading your Oct. 13 column, I had to write and tell you that one year ago I answered an online ad posted in the Jewish section of an Internet server's personal ads. There wasn't even a photo, but the words felt as if they'd been written just for me. As it turns out, they had been.
After one phone conversation, which lasted 2 1/2 hours, my Internet friend and I made a date, and we've been together ever since. We just got engaged. We are extremely compatible, with many similar interests, and our paths had nearly crossed many times. But it took the Internet to introduce us, two people who live less than one mile apart, work in the same business, were on the same "singles circuit" and had more than one mutual acquaintance.
I am writing to say two things:
1. The Internet is just a way to meet, not good or bad. Whether you have a good experience or not depends on all the other usual factors, such as ability to communicate well, honesty, reliability, mutual interests and goals. Are you being honest with each other? Is the other person reliable over time? Do you want the same things?
2. Mostly I am writing to say to all the single people out there who are searching for a mate: Don't give up hope! It took me a long time, but I've met a very special and compatible guy (and I had to answer a lot of personal ads and attend a lot of singles events to do so).
And by the way, you may like to know that I just turned 40 this year.
Lucky in Love at Last
Thank you for writing to share your experience, your advice and the good news. Mazal Tov!
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