I don’t mind that Shani and I will end up in different seminaries. That’ll stop all the comparison
HI,my name is Simcha and I’m in 12th grade. I go to the same school as my cousin Shani and we get along great — most of the time. I admit there’s some competitiveness between us. Our mothers are twin sisters and they’re very close, the type that speak on the phone at least once a day and do everything together. They were even expecting Shani and I at the same time and we were born a week apart. In a way, Shani and I are like twins, too, and are expected to always be up to par with each other. If Shani got an A on a report when I only got a B+, you can be sure I’d hear about it. It doesn’t usually bother me, but now Shani got into a better seminary than I did, and I haven’t heard the end of it.
“Simcha, what did you say at your interview? Are you sure you translated the Rashi correctly? I can’t understand why you got wait-listed. Maybe I can call the menaheles and explain that you and Shani are first cousins — that should help your chances.” And on and on and on.
I can’t stand it. My mother’s driving me crazy. To be honest, I don’t mind that Shani and I will end up in different seminaries. That’ll stop all the comparison, the competition to make friends, everything. But my mother is set on getting me into that seminary. She will stop at nothing.
I really want to explain to her that it doesn’t matter to me. The seminary I got into is known to be a good one. But because it’s not the one Shani’s going to, my mother won’t hear of it. She even tried convincing my Aunt Tziporah to send Shani with me to my seminary, but my aunt wouldn’t dream of it. She’s happy Shani’s accepted to the more reputable seminary and keeps telling my mother that a spot will open up and Shani and I will go together. She’s sure of it. But it’s pretty late in the year. It doesn’t seem like anyone’s backing out. I think my mother called every day for a month straight. It really does seem possible that I’ll end up in one place and Shani in another. On one hand I can’t even imagine being somewhere without Shani, but I have to admit this prospect is actually a bit exciting, if I even dare to allow myself to anticipate it.
Should I even try to fight a losing battle, even try to explain to my mother that I’d like to go somewhere without Shani for a change? I know she’ll wave her hand dismissively and think I’m silly for even suggesting it, but a part of me wants to fight her on it. Is it worth a shot? And if it is, how do I go about telling her?
HI, my name is Shani. I’m 17 years old and in 12th grade.
I go to school with my cousin Simcha. Honestly, I should literally just modify that sentence to: I live my life with Simcha’s presence hovering over me every single day. We have as pleasant a relationship as we can have under the constant, and I mean CONSTANT, pressure from our twin mothers to always be equally smart, equally presentable, EQUALLY EVERYTHING. It’s almost like they want us to be them, reincarnated. But why should we have to? We aren’t twins! We’re cousins! We wouldn’t even necessarily be friends if we weren’t related.
You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I’ll give you some examples. Every grade is compared. Every project is mentioned. Every friend is scrutinized. If Simcha has a friend I don’t, it somehow becomes priority that I become friends with that girl, too. Any extracurricular activity is the same for both of us. Like if I want to join a sewing club, Simcha has to join, too.
I’m getting worked up from writing all this and it’s making me realize just how annoying it really is. I want to do my own thing, have my own friends. Above all, I want to go to seminary without Simcha.
I feel bad to admit it, but I was SO relieved when Simcha didn’t get in and I did. Finally, maybe, maybe, maybe, I can go somewhere on my own and not have Simcha there. But you can bet my Aunt Dina will get Simcha in. I’m dreading the day when I find out that Simcha got in and once again, we’ll be doing the same thing. I haven’t even tried mentioning it to my mother that I’d rather go alone, because I know she’ll think I’m insane. How could I not want Simcha in seminary with me? Did I not understand how valuable it would be to go to seminary with a relative instead of on my own?
Both Simcha and I are embarrassed to admit to each other that we’d rather be on our own, but I know she feels the same way. I saw her face when her mother mentioned that she didn’t get in. I was there. She tried to hide her relief, but I saw it. It’s just so frustrating to know we both want something and can’t get it because our mothers are basically the same person who think the same way and have their minds made up about this. I’d be surprised if they didn’t look for twin husbands when we both come back and start shidduchim.
The point is, we need intervention. Our fathers think that whatever our mothers think is best, so going to them for help won’t do any good. Should we tell a teacher to call them? Should we call for a family meeting and tell our mothers straight to their faces? I really don’t think anything will work.
So, I guess the real question is, if and when I find out that Simcha and I will be in seminary together, how should I prepare myself for accepting that?
What a gift to have a cousin that is your age and is such a close friend. Cousins have all the benefits of sisters without the negatives! Although in your case, the extreme closeness of your parents seems to have interfered with the cousin relationship and created more of a sibling relationship.
The question you are asking is not if you should be together — it seems you both clearly agree that separation in this case is the best goal. I totally agree. Healthy separation and boundaries are what enable relationships to flourish.
The real question is, how do we go about it? You both hinted to the solution but automatically nixed it due to perceived difficulties. At the end of the day, your mothers love you and care about your welfare, more than anyone else does.
It might not be an easy or pleasant conversation but the dividends are well worth it. What are the positive benefits of this possibly unpleasant and difficult conversation?
- This is the first “big issue” that you have and therefore if you open up lines of communication you will establish a trend that you can fall back on for the rest of your life. When you start dating you need to be able to have an open and respectful dialogue with your parents. You will face many challenges and dilemmas in life. Your biggest asset and support are your parents, but they can only be there for you if you let them in. Open dialogue and honest conversation brings closeness, and a close relationship with parents is a plus.
- You will get to go to the seminary that is right for you, without your cousin.
Now you are motivated, how do we go about it?
- Make it official. Set up a time to speak with both parents together. Example: “Ma, there is something important I want to discuss, don’t worry, everything is good, when can I speak with you and Tatty?“
- Once you have a set time, you already dealt with the hardest part! Now prepare talking points. It is often helpful to write down specific points and refer back to them as needed. Start with positive and then state your needs as clearly and respectfully as possible. When parents see that you invested so much time and thought into your conversation they will automatically take what you have to say with greater seriousness. Example: “I love that we are such a close-knit family and that I have a cousin who is more like a sister. I thought about this for a long time and it’s important to me that we go to different seminaries next year. I need to be able to grow and develop as an individual without my super close cousin. I’m asking that you respect my decision and trust my judgment even if you don’t agree.”
This difficulty can become the greatest gift if it paves the way for respectful dialogue with your parents.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 947)
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