Jewish Journal


November 27, 1997

Dear Deborah


From "Teenage Confidential," Chronicle Books, 1998.

Bat Mitzvah Advice

Dear Deborah,

This Dec. 6, our daughter, Melanie, will celebrateher bat mitzvah. In the Jewish tradition, this event marks a comingof age and an acceptance of responsibility to obey the commandmentsand laws given many centuries ago.

We would appreciate your ideas (sent to ourdaughter's attention) on the important role women should play in oursociety. We believe that the ideas you express will provideencouragement and inspiration for Melanie to strive to achieve hervery best.

Deborah and RobertBillow

Wilmette, Illinois

Dear Deborah and Robert,

Mazel tov on yourdaughter's passage into womanhood. I am moved by your request and amhonored to write to Melanie:

Dear Melanie,

There is an old Chinese curse that goes like this:"May you live in interesting times." Just as you are becoming a womanat the end of the millennium, the roles of men and women have beenscattered hither and yon by the winds of change, and your challengeis to make sense of it all as you spread your wings and take flightinto womanhood. So if you are not yet stricken with terror at thevery thought -- read on.

Your grandmother, great-grandmother and the womenwho preceded them had far fewer choices than do you. They married(often arranged by their parents) young. Their husbands brought homethe, uh, brisket, and they cooked it. They were homemakers andmothers, grandmothers, keepers of Yiddishkayt, and so forth. TheIndustrial Revolution, the movement of Jews from Europe to America,suffragism, mandatory education for women and the Sexual Revolutionfrom 1961 to 1981 are some of the changes that have both blessed and"cursed" us with interesting times.

Melanie, the deal is this: All bets are offregarding genders. Be prepared for a career. Be prepared formotherhood. Be prepared for a marriage in which the two of youcontinuously define and refine the rules for yourselves and yourfuture family. Pursue joy and knowledge all your life. Challenge theknown and embrace the unknown. Learn to like yourself. Don't getmarried too soon or work too hard. When very old, people never regretnot having worked harder -- they usually regret not having lovedmore, learned more or contributed more to their world.

Most important, pay close attention to how yourparents have raised you. With the strength of more than 3,000 yearsof Jewish values and traditions, yet with an eye focused keenly onthe future, your parents have set the stage for you to become amodern ashet chayil (woman of valor). Mazel tov.

Addled by Ads

Dear Deborah,

I have answered ads for several years, have met afew men who became friends, but most of them are so disappointing,mainly because they package themselves in a sloppy, yes, even dirtyappearance, or they interview me in such detail over the phone that Iam turned off.

I finally met a gentleman by answering an ad inthis paper about four weeks ago. This was the first time that I metsomeone who was truly what he said he was -- terrific. He had placedhis home phone number in the ad and probably got hundreds of calls.We did have a lovely date, and he said that he would call again...buthe hasn't.

This week, there was another ad with a home phonenumber. Another lovely man called and said that he had received about20 calls, and that the first women he went out with "knocked hissocks off." I asked him to keep my number and wished him luck. It wasso nice of him to be so honest with me. He is the kind of honestgentleman I want.

What's a lady to do?

Tired of Dating Game

Dear Tired,

One of the downsides of ads is the surprise factor-- things one cannot divine from a phone call or letter, such asoccasional dried bits of sardine in the beard or a goat-scentedcravat. On the other hand, since you have met some friends and founda few men interesting, you might wish to continue with the occasionalpersonal ad because it is an acceptable adjunct to meeting men -- butit must not be your sole method.

Last in Line

Dear Deborah,

My boyfriend of two years is wonderful in so manyways. The one problem is that I feel neglected. He has a businessthat keeps him so busy traveling and on the phone and out that it isnormal for me to not see him for weeks at a time. I also travel alittle for my job and constantly try to arrange my travel schedule sothat we'll be in town at the same time. My problem is that he doesn'tseem to return the favor. He is constantly juggling plates, and minealways seems to be the one he drops and breaks. He says that I shouldunderstand that his work must come first; that in a couple years,when the business grows, he will delegate more of the work to others;that I should be more patient; and that he loves me and wants to getengaged soon.

I've had on my calendar a family wedding that heagreed to go to months ago. I have purchased the plane tickets, beentalking about it, offering to have his tux cleaned, reminding him,and so forth. It is in two weeks, and he just announced that heabsolutely must go to China for business and cannot attend thewedding. I am disappointed and furious. This is not fair, and I feellike I have no say in the matter. What can I say or do for him tounderstand the unfairness of his ways?

Lonely and Grounded

Dear Lonely,

Fairness is not the issue here. Focus instead onwhether or not there is enough in this relationship to sustain you asit is. Ask yourself in what way you benefit from this relationshipaside from having a less-than-half-time boyfriend who has made hispriorities abundantly clear. Instead of trying to make him change,decide whether or not you can live with his priorities rightnow.

In any case, don't stay home from that wedding.Go, dance with other men and have a ball. Perhaps you will meetsomeone who reminds you of how it feels to be No. 1.

Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist. All letters to Dear Deborah require a name, address and telephone number for purposes ofverification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Ourreaders should know that when names are used in a letter, they arefictitious.

Dear Deborah welcomes your letters. Responses canbe given only in the newspaper. Send letters to Deborah Berger-Reiss,1800 S. Robertson Blvd., Ste. 927, Los Angeles, CA 90035. You canalso send E-mail: deborahb@primenet.com

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