| Two Cents |

Navigating Your First Yom Tov at the In-Laws

Unsolicited advice from people with no qualifications but many opinions

Well, we’re back, didja miss us? Don’t worry, in our downtime we’ve been out here keeping our observations and gripes to ourselves like adults, and honestly, it’s been a real avodah. Only one thing could have taken us out of (very) early retirement, and it was the opportunity to crack a good mother-in-law joke. Or even better, a whole Two Cents about navigating your first Yom Tov at the in-laws. Oh, wait, not a newlywed? You can still read this. You might be a mother-in-law, or, like us, neither of those, but just someone who enjoys judging others.

It’s my first year married, and we’re at my in-laws for the Sedarim. I’m in the kitchen helping my mother-in-law serve Shulchan Oreich when she takes out her special “kartoffel shisl” — a ceramic bowl decorated with a woodland forest scene, complete with Bambi. I’m not trying to be mean, but I’m used to malchus — crystal and silver only at the Seder! What does this mean for my marriage? Will I be doomed to a life of enamel?

There’s never a better time than the present to learn a lifelong skill that will serve you well: faking it. Dish not your style? No one says you can’t smile wide and say, “Wow, Ma, I’ve never seen a dish like this before!” This can also be applied to many other areas of your life, like when your husband comes home with dyed purple daisies because you once mentioned you liked purple when you were a kid. And remember, “fake it till you make it” refers to making Pesach, because once you’re setting your own table, you decide exactly what goes on it.

I spent the first half of Nissan helping my mother-in-law make Yom Tov, and when we finally sat down to the Seder, wow, was I tired. So maybe it was through a sleepy haze that I heard my brand-new husband remark with surprise, “Hey, Malky, this mousse isn’t half bad. I’m shocked!” Do I immediately defend myself or just hope I disappear forever?

Don’t wince, don’t smile self-deprecatingly. Instead, turn to your husband and innocently inquire what he could possibly mean by that. Then when he scrambles to explain what he really meant, inform your husband that to make it up to you, he may stand up on his chair like a Mah Nishtanah boy and sing four verses about how incredible your cooking is. Nothing about dips or matzah, those stanzas were already covered.

My husband poured my first kos of grape juice and then sort of winked at me. I’m totally convinced that now everyone knows why I’m not drinking wine this year. I’m totally freaking out! I’m only seven weeks along, should we just tell everyone before they start asking?

Yes! And there is literally the perfect opportunity: Tisha yarchei leida is coming up (not just for you, but in the Haggadah) so make sure you and your husband stand up and announce the good news then. It’s totally the best time!

It’s Erev Yom Tov, and my husband hasn’t presented me with any diamonds yet. I don’t want him to be over, chas v’shalom, on the most important mitzvah of my year (Kiddushin 34b, Pesachim 109a).

You’re married now; learn to be direct! Also, the afikomen isn’t really utilized like the bargaining chip it is. Forget the kids at the Seder, find the afikomen, hide it, and refuse to return it unless you get something sparkly in return.

I know I’m meant to follow my husband’s minhagim now that I’m married, but I really feel weird eating meat made with bottled sauces and broccoli with garlic. It barely even feels like Pesach! Do you think it would be ok if I secretly peel my tomatoes and peppers in the kitchen before the salad is brought out? I won’t eat the lettuce, don’t worry.

If you need to go through your own personal shibud to feel the Geulah, that’s something you should discuss with a seminary teacher of your choosing. Don’t be a martyr! Embrace the new you, and try not to think ahead to the years when your parents won’t feel comfortable eating in your house on Pesach. Don’t worry, they’ll be here eventually.

I didn’t know that there was a dress code for the Seder at my in-laws. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is in long dresses and heels! I planned on wearing a robe and a snood! Should I just stay in my room the whole night?

We have the best news for you: Robes are, in essence, long dresses! You fit right in. Skip the heels and the snood (sorry but we all know you have a freshly washed sheitel with you), and pretend you were in on it all along.

I was so excited to go on a Chol Hamoed day date with my husband (we’ve been looking forward to going bowling for months!) but I know that my mother-in-law is going to text me that punkt that morning my husband’s father’s business partner is coming, and we must be available and attentive during our designated visit window. How do we navigate this?

The bad news is, you’re going to have to cancel your bowling reservation. The good news is that you will be booking a helicopter ride instead, because no one will force you to cancel a helicopter ride to visit anyone besides a grandparent or a gadol.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 890)

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