Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 2001/ 1 Kislev 5762

Tripping out; tactics for tactlessness; Am I a hypocrite?

By Wendy Belzberg -- My cousin called from Israel to say that she is canceling her scheduled trip to New York for our daughter's bat mitzvah. She is nervous about flying and about more terrorist attacks. When I tried to persuade her to come, she reminded me that my wife and I have not been to Israel in the last year and that we cited the ubiquitous military presence and heightened sense of security as reasons for not visiting. Are the two situations really parallel? The attack of September 11 is a first for Americans; my Israeli relatives are accustomed to living with terrorism.

A: I too would rather be on Israeli soil - under the protection of the Israeli military - were there another bold terrorist strike like the attacks on the World Trade Center. I don't blame your cousin for wanting to stay put. New York has every reason to be proud of its finest and bravest, but its experience with matters of security and counter-terrorism is no match for the Israeli army. (When was the last time you heard about an El Al plane being attacked?) Perhaps you should consider moving the locale of your daughter's bat mitzvah to the Holy Land?

You may believe that your cousin is used to living with terrorism, but no one becomes accustomed to a life of daily threats and deadly disruptions. The Israeli people carry on with their lives in spite of the violence surrounding them because they must. Your cousin - and the rest of the Israeli population - has managed for the last year without your support or the broader support of American tourists. You will have to make do without her at your daughter's bat mitzvah.

At a recent black-tie event, an old friend whom I hadn't seen for a few years asked me if I was pregnant. I was mortified. Even if I have gained a few pounds, you would think another woman would know better than to make such a careless remark. I was frozen in my tracks, but if it ever happens again I would like to have a snappy comeback. Any suggestions?

A: Take comfort in knowing that no matter how mortified you were, your friend felt even worse. And in knowing that -- while you may have expected more tact from a woman -- the remark would doubtless have stung more had it come from a man. The comment is in bad taste no matter who makes it. You don't need a snappy comeback, which would only make you look defensive. Rather than spend your free time planning the next verbal volley, you should probably spend some time lobbing around a tennis or squash ball.

My sister and I had an ugly falling out several years ago and we have not spoken since. I have no regrets about the way our relationship has turned out, but I am having a hard time explaining this to my daughters without feeling like a hypocrite in insisting that they get along. They know I do not speak to my sister and throw that back in my face each time I get in the middle of one of their spats.

A: Any number of clichés spring to mind including "When you're in my house you live by my rules," and "The old chestnuts are old chestnuts for a reason."

You may not want to repair the rift with your sister but I imagine that there are days you do wish things had turned out differently. There is nothing wrong with telling your children that. But the two situations-yours and your daughters'--are not comparable. Perhaps if you were clear on this point there would be no feelings of hypocrisy or hesitation when you speak to your children.

For the record, you are the grown up and they are the children. You should not be allowing them to play on whatever conflicted or unresolved feelings you may have toward your sister. When all else fails you must never forget that you are the mother and have the final salvo: "Because I said so." Another fine old chestnut.

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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!
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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'


© 2001, Wendy Belzberg