Jewish Journal


February 15, 2001

Dear Deborah


Harem Dropout

Dear Deborah,

I'm recently divorced (after more than 30 years of marriage), an educated and, I thought, pretty savvy woman. I have been dating a charming man now for almost two months. Recently we became intimate, and of course I expected our relationship to change.

The problem is that the "gentleman" did not feel that way. In fact, I was shocked when he informed me that I was not the only woman in his life.

Now I am thoroughly confused. He continues to call and ask me out, but I make excuses because I am hurt and disappointed. I admit I've been out of the dating loop for many years, but sex used to mean a serious relationship was in the making. I am trying to make sense of what it means so I won't get burned a second time.


Dear M,

In this case the only salient point is that sex means something quite different to you than it does to your "gentleman" or, for all intents and purposes, to anyone else. All you need to learn here is to discuss your expectations beforehand next time.

In the meantime stop avoiding the man's calls and let him know that you are interested in a monogamous relationship only. Then chalk this one up as the first of many lessons you are about to learn about being single.

Thirty years is a long time to be out of the loop, M. There have been just a couple of changes in the dating world since your last visit -- among them all manner of gender-bending role shifts, to wit, "Sex and the City." It's enough to make a newly single person beat a hasty retreat to her lair, kick off her red pumps, eat bonbons and watch "That Girl" reruns.

Ultimately, the most important big-picture lesson to learn about dating is resilience. If you are brave enough to seek love, acceptance of the inevitable wounds and ensuing learning curve is key.

Now, back to it, Ms. M. Here's to love and grit.

Family: Blended, Not Stirred

Dear Deborah,

My son has recently married for the second time. He was married for 25 years to "Suzie," single for two and remarried for one. Suzie and I have always been extremely close. Because Suzie's parents passed away several years ago, and because I have been widowed for 17 years and Suzie was a stay-at-home mom, we have been more than family. We are very dear friends. Since we both are alone, we spend a great deal of time together, sharing the joy of a new family member (grandchild for her, great-grandchild for me), attending theater and other functions, etc.

The problem is with my new, very young daughter-in-law. She feels very insecure about my relationship with Suzie and has let my son know that she resents Suzie's presence at family functions and holiday dinners. My son had never minded Suzie's presence before because their break-up had been amicable and they continue to be great parents together. I do not want to abandon Suzie by excluding her from enjoying family simchas, and I do not want to offend my new daughter-in-law either.

My son insists on remaining neutral here and says it's my call. He says if he intervenes, someone will be hurt. Any suggestions?


Dear X,

So while you are recruited into the conflict, your son remains Switzerland, eh? Ah, well. Although he may not always be able to stay out of the fray, for the moment there is nothing to do here but roll up your sleeves and attempt to pull an Albright.

You claim your "new, very young daughter-in-law" is a little insecure around Suzie, and it's no wonder, because Mom (mother-in-law in this case) appears to have a favorite. Try inviting her to lunch to properly welcome her into the family. She will be far more capable of understanding and accepting your relationship to Suzie once she feels her position with you has a prayer. Let her know that since Suzie is the mother of your grandchildren and without parents herself, the two of you have grown close over the course of 30 years. Explain that while the comfort and continuity of four generations are involved, her own comfort is of utmost importance to you. Ask what can be done to make her feel more comfortable and welcome in the family and listen. Listen well.

As for you, consider checking those "very young daughter-in-law" references. Might it be that your own (Freudian) slip is showing? You may be inadvertently contributing to her insecurity with such subtle condescension. How about shifting from "very young" to "charming young?" Know what I mean?

Slow Learners Both

Dear Deborah,

My 12-year-old (and only) granddaughter has never sent me a thank-you note in her entire life. I have mentioned it to my son, but he just says to take it up with her. I have, subtly, but with no results.

The problem is the approaching Bat Mitzvah. My daughter-in-law has asked me for my "list" for the invitations, but I am reluctant to invite my people and then risk offending them as the result of her abominable manners.

Any insight?


Dear Bubbe,

Your granddaughter's inability to have learned thank-you note etiquette is far more understandable than your own inability to have responded in kind. She's had 12 childhood years of lack of training. You, on the other hand, have had 12 adult years to figure out an appropriate consequence to this behavior, and it's high time, don't you think?

Try this. Tell her directly: "No thank-you notes, no gifts." Period. Be sure to explain thoroughly why it is important. Then stick to your guns, Granny.

As for offending your friends, well, it's your call. Either do not invite them, or do so and allow the natural consequences of the child's actions to unfold. If friends call you wondering about whether or not their gifts were received, offer your grandchild's phone number.

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