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Family First Inbox: Issue 899

“Some of my other single friends are doing things so differently. They’re having the most amazing years of their life”

Let’s Not Lose the Friendship [Words Unspoken / Issue 898]

Dear Single Friend,

I understand that you’re struggling with our relationship now that I’m married and you’re still single. Of course, you’d love it if we were at the same stage of life. But life doesn’t give you choices, and we’re both trying to do our best. I can only try to imagine how hard it must be for you.

I don’t want to hurt you; I say all this only to help you. I’m sure it’s painful to speak to me. But in the long run, it’ll hurt you more than it’ll hurt me.

I’ve seen how my friends who genuinely work on themselves to be happy for their friends who’ve “moved on” are the ones who stick. The ones who find it too painful to speak to their married friends are the ones who get lost, even after they get married.

You write, “Friendships go through ups and downs. The ones that weather the storms are the strongest.” But if you avoid speaking to me because of your pain, we aren’t weathering any storms together. And our friendship will be lost, or at least very superficial. If you speak to me about your pain, we'll come out stronger.

Otherwise, believe me, our friendship will fizzle out. Not because I want it to, but because you aren’t allowing anything else.

You write that, “Shidduchim is something you can’t understand unless you go through it,” so you can’t share with your married friends. But isn’t that what a deep friendship is about? When I share my struggles with a close friend, even if she didn’t go through them herself, it deepens our relationship. Imagine if we could only discuss our financial troubles, fertility struggles, chinuch issues, or relationship problems with people who've experienced the same exact thing. Wouldn’t that make for a lonely life?

You write that, “It’s so hard for me to understand how my friends can watch me in pain and not try to do anything about it.” Can I tell you a secret? We’ve been trying to set you up. We’ve been redting you shidduchim, but either we’ve been getting lots of nos (not your fault, but the shidduch system of today), or our husbands’ friends are just not right for you.

We’ve been trying to help you in other ways. You don’t know about every hafrashas challah, hadlakas neiros, Shemoneh Esreh, and Tehillim that we’ve cried over, whispering your full name. You don’t know about the tzedakah we’ve given in your zechus. You don’t know about the kabbalos we took on for you.

And we don’t want to tell you because of how sensitive you seem around us. We’d rather not say anything than cause you extra pain. But know we’re trying everything.

You’re my friend, and I need you to know that I’m not judging you. But I see that some of my other single friends are doing things so differently. They’re having the most amazing years of their life, doing fun things, making new friends, going on trips, and keeping up with old friends. They’re enjoying life, growing, and living it to its fullest.

Some of my other single friends are having a much harder time doing this, seeming to be wallowing in their own pain. They say no to all the fun trips. They resist filling the empty hours in their days. They constantly think about how much older they’re getting, and don’t keep up with old friends. And, of course, they’re depressed.

Please know this is all coming from love. I’m not judging you, and I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes. But I see how much happier that first category of my friends is — and, more than anything, I want you to be happy.

Your Married Friend

You Were There for Me [Words Unspoken / Issue 898]

Dear Single Friend,

Just a few weeks ago, we were in it together. I was dating, you were dating. We cried and laughed about our horror stories.

And then, suddenly, Hashem decided it was time for my chassan to show up. Somehow, you knew before me that it would work out. It did and I was flying high. But even as I was excited, I was sad with you. Why couldn’t we get engaged at the same time? It’s so unfair!

But you didn’t react like that. You put your feelings to the side and focused on being there for me. You told me how excited you were that I finally found the right one. You gave me all the attention that every kallah wants, decorated my room, got me presents, and gave me hours of your time while I was dating, and even afterward.

I wonder if I would have been able to be so selfless and mature had it been the other way around. Thank you for not dropping me even though I’m probably dead annoying sometimes. I love that we can still talk about normal things, and I love giggling with you about your dating horror stories because they’re still so funny.

I know it’s really hard for you that I’m getting married first. I know it’s even worse if I bring it up, so that’s why I don’t. I just want to say I love you, I’m davening for you, and thank you. You being such an amazing friend for an airheaded kallah like me should be a huge zechus for you — and may we both dance at your wedding very, very soon.

Your Engaged Friend

Radio Silence [War Diaries / Issue 897]

I related to Aidel Loeb’s article, “Where Are You, Julie?” about silence from her non-Jewish friend after October 7.

I grew up in Canada, in a Reform family.

I’ve maintained a relationship with my cousins who still live their Reform lifestyle, whereas I became frum 20 years ago.

After an initial response to October 7, I’ve heard little from my relatives. Some of their opinions about the war are ambiguous, or more ominously, encoded. That is very painful to me.

However, unlike Aidel Loeb, I have received steadfast support from a childhood non-Jewish friend. She even asked what she could do about anti-Semitism.

My old non-Jewish friend understands the matzav, and my born Jewish relatives do not.  Although very good people, they’re subject to their chosen influences.

Name Withheld, Jerusalem

Friendlies [Friendship Quest / Issue 897]

Thanks for the article about a mom on a quest for a chevreh. I loved her concept of “friendlies” — it’s good to have a word to label those acquaintances whom interacting with is a positive experience, but you’re not exactly friends.

We are a young family, and my husband and I didn’t grow up in the town where we live. Without a lot of family in town, it’s been a journey to grow our network of both friends and “friendlies.” Moving to a new place means really starting over with all of that.

Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to make quite a few “mom friends” through my kids that have turned into meaningful relationships. But a whole chevreh I definitely don’t have.

I wanted to share two important points about making new friends as adults:

  1. Go for reciprocity. Although someone may look just like your type, if she’s not interested in and open to a new friendship, leave it and try to strike up a conversation with someone else. At any given time, there will be others in the same boat as you, and others who just aren’t interested.
  2. Leave the self-doubt at the door. Self-doubt is normal, but thankfully, we aren’t teenagers anymore and are no longer victims to that crippling socially anxious thought of, What does she think of me? Acknowledge that you’re an interesting, kind, beautiful, cool, fun-to-be-with person who many people would want to be friends with. If someone isn’t responsive to your efforts at connecting, it’s probably more about them than you, and it’s just not a match for you right now. She may be quite satisfied with the friends she has and isn’t open to more, or she may have a lot going on in her personal life, and doesn’t have bandwidth for a new friendship. Do yourself a favor and look for a person that’s a match.

Name Withheld

Punch in the Gut [Friendship Quest / Issue 897]

I absolutely loved the article by the brave “Yehudis” who defies (annoying) social conventions to build a social circle for herself. Yehudis, you rock. And yes, though they might have registered “off-ness” for a millisecond, every single woman in your group was thrilled and touched to be given this opportunity.

Which is why one offhand line describing your planning process felt like a punch in the gut. Baylie, a girl you say you really like, gets crossed off the list because she doesn’t text.

I get it. You’re going to be using texting to coordinate this whole thing, for convenience’s sake. Busy working moms need to factor convenience into basically everything. But — ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Just because Baylie is sticking hard to a ruchniyus principle that must be a constant challenge, she doesn’t get the chance to join your chevreh?

I remember this playing out in high school (I’m 25). I think it was in 11th grade that most of my friends got smartphones, or at least phones with texting. I remember waking up a few months later realizing that because I didn’t text, I was automatically being left out of countless get-togethers, parties, and other social opportunities that literally form the lifeblood of a high-school girl.

You’re probably thinking: So your parents shoulda let you text. Emotional health and all. What’s wrong with them, anyway?

Honestly, nothing. They raised a daughter who, even at 16, cared enough to stay away from technology on her own. I didn’t want to text. And call me behind the times and ridiculous, but I don’t want to text now either. From the short intervals that my husband and I did have texting, I can viscerally sense the beautiful difference no-text phones make to a marriage. A qualifier — I live in Yerushalayim, where it’s much easier to feel normal with a kosher phone. But every so often a reminder of the exclusion that comes without texting or WhatsApp slaps me in the face.

I know spiritual growth requires mesirus nefesh. I get that, and I take responsibility for my choices. But I think those of us without texting or WhatsApp or even Wi-Fi at home would so appreciate a little consideration from our friends living with those conveniences.

Yehudis, please give Baylie a call right now, and invite her to join your group. Be honest with her that she might have to deal with some annoyances because she won’t be on the group chat. But if you can take a few extra minutes each to call or email her with updates, and allow her to be in the loop, you will be doing her a priceless chesed.

An Awesome Potential Friend

We Skip the In-Between Stage [The First Year / Issue 897]

I read your recent roundtable discussion regarding newlywed couples and going to parents for Shabbos/dinners during the week with interest.

Newlyweds is a stage that is often discussed. Becoming in-laws/grandparents is also a stage that is often discussed. The stage that gets skipped, and I truly believe needs the spotlight, is the in-between stage — those of us who have been married for ten-plus years, our children are older (eight-plus) and also younger, and we’re at the stage where you struggle where your obligations lie.

Should you be establishing a home for your children and staying home for Shabbosim and Yamim Tovim, or is it still ‘’required’’ that you’ll go to your parents for the Yamim Tovim, traveling at the expense of your children?

This is a topic that is so often discussed between friends, and I think it would be really fascinating to open the discussion further, with both sides of the table — parents and their married children — giving their thoughts and opinions on the matter.

It’s a real struggle. Of course, we all want to be mechabed our parents. But  how do we find the balance?

Ahuva Fierstein

What About Mothers-In-Law? [The First Year / Issue 897]

I, a mother-in-law of kein ayin hara five daughters-in-law, have decided to take a stand for the mothers-in-law of the world. I see you recently had an article about newlyweds and the mother-of-the-kallah’s role after she has a home of her own.

I’m sorry, where is the mother-in-law in the conversation? We’re just as important! Just because we’re not biologically related doesn’t mean I’m not this young woman’s mother.

A mother-in-law should always be there for her daughter-in-law, just like in a regular mother-and-daughter relationship. If the young couple want to come over, let them! They’re figuring out a huge change in their young lives. What’s the big deal if they come to you or your mechuteneste for Shabbos during shanah rishonah? That being said, if they choose to eat alone, that’s also fine.

Name Withheld

Every Child Is a Top Child [To Be Honest / Issue 897]

I’m responding to the article where a mother spoke out against encouraging our children to be metzuyanim, “the top,” or to marry a metzuyan. I think every parent, whether their child excelled in academics, sports, learning, or any hobby, should and does view their child as a metzuyan.

A child may grow up, marry, and live the most normal, ordinary life, but to their parents they’re a metzuyan just by being them. By building a home and raising a family they’re doing extraordinary things. Just by the fact that a parent views their child as a metzuyan no matter what implies they hold that same regard for whoever their child marries.

Everyone has their own view of what the “top boy” looks like, but it’s clear that every child is the top child in their parents’ eyes. When it comes to shidduchim, parents should vouch for their child in the highest regard, and they should ask for a son- or daughter-in-law who is a metzuyan as well. Not being the “top boy” in yeshivah doesn’t make them any less of a “top boy” at home. Zeh hakatan gadol yihiyeh. We raise our children to be great, to be metzuyanim, to lead lives of gadlus, and although not every child will be a gadol, every child that is even a fraction of a gadol is more than metzuyan in their parents’ eyes. If you only want the best for your child, isn’t it a metzuyan who you’re going to be looking for them to marry?

I know I wouldn’t want my parents to view my husband as anything less than a metzuyan. I want them to think they won the lottery in the son-in-law department. If I heard my parents consider me any less than a “top girl” I would feel pretty bad, too, no matter where I fall on the spectrum.

A “Nice, Normal Girl” in Shidduchim

A Good Start [Artistic License / Issue 894]

I was surprised that the article about plagiarism in the world of frum Jewish art didn’t include interviews with prominent Jewish art historians. Although there aren’t many, they’re invaluable resources on the topic of Jewish art. Figures such as Jennifer Roth, a proudly Jewish executive at Sotheby’s, Sharon Mintz, Oren from Matsart, or any of the curators at the Israel Museum’s fine art department would have offered significant insights.

Additionally, I wish the article had better explored the idea of plagiarism beyond the art world. This trend permeates our cultural landscape, manifesting in knock-off handbags and shoes, literary imitations, musical “inspirations,” and more.

Sometimes our community is so insular that we fail to look beyond our immediate surroundings and recognize broader cultural issues. I left the art world because of numerous disturbing practices on the business side. One such issue is the tendency of art dealers to produce high-quality replicas and use fancy French terms to make them seem less gauche, instead of creatively sourcing appropriately priced work for collectors.

This article was a good start in addressing the cultural phenomenon of naive aspiration leading to a cultural faux pas. There is great, inexpensive art out there; you don’t need to steal it. I highly recommend The Oremont Collection, Anshie Kagen, RosenbachGallery, and if that doesn’t fit the price point, then go to Target or Wayfair, who have legally licensed artists’ works for reproduction.

A Former Curator


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 899)

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