Editor’s Note: Welcome to Red Thread’s new advice columnist, Debra Darvick, a longtime Detroiter with…
Dear Debra: A Chilly Reception
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Our rabbi recently invited my wife and me to dinner with another couple she wanted us to meet. The plan was for us and the other couple to co-chair a committee. The committee’s purpose is of great interest to us, but we did not hit it off with the other couple in any way. We are different in values, interests and attitudes. We don’t want to disappoint our rabbi, but we really don’t see being able to work together successfully with this other couple. What should we do?
Sometimes those whom we don’t warm to at first meeting become more engaging upon second meeting. (Think back to your dating days.) But if you and your wife feel as strongly as you seem to, let your rabbi know immediately. Be diplomatic. Without badmouthing the other couple, be up front with your rabbi. Is there is another committee you might co-chair with others s/he might have in mind? Be prompt so that time isn’t wasted moving forward. For all you know, the other couple might have felt as you and your wife do, and they have already voiced similar misgivings.
Our daughter, who lives out of state, recently met a young man on JDate. She is smitten. I can’t seem to get past his lack of manners to see what she sees in him. They have visited three times now. Not once has he brought a house gift, offered to clear dishes after a meal or written a thank-you note after his stay. It’s like he grew up under a rock. I mentioned this to my daughter once or twice, but I don’t want to harp on this. He seems like a nice enough guy, but his lack of social graces really grates on me.
Alas, adherence to social graces has too often gone the way of white gloves and sterling silver calling card trays. Your daughter’s young man might have grown up under a rock, or he may have grown up in a home where these things weren’t taught for any number of reasons.
But now, it’s time to focus on the present and the future. If you’ve already mentioned this to your daughter (was it really once or twice and not thrice or more?), it’s going to be up to her to teach her young man by example, not by harping or denigrating.
Next time, if it is crucial to you that you receive a house gift, maybe your daughter can pick something up on their way over as a gift from them both. Instead of fuming and waiting for him to help clear the table, hand him a plate or two and say, “Hey there, Boyfriend, would you take these into the kitchen for me?” Or hand him a dish towel and say cheerfully, “I’ll wash; you dry.” That would give you both an opportunity to begin to get to know one another.
Be welcoming and try to see beyond these shortcomings. Social graces can be learned. Instead of focusing on what he doesn’t have, stay attuned for good qualities your daughter sees in him. What he lacks may be more than made up for by what he brings to the table, cleared or not.
Last month, I invited readers to help advise a young wife how to handle attending baby namings and britot (plural of bris) when she and her husband haven’t been able to conceive. I received two responses along the same theme and have combined their perspectives below.
When I read the young woman’s letter to you, I thought back to the seven long years my husband and I tried to conceive. Our friends, like hers, were having their first, second and even third children.
As you might imagine, there were plenty of britot and showers we were invited to and I felt like your letter writer — ambivalent about going to a celebration that pointed up so painfully our ongoing losses.
Ultimately, we decided that sharing our friends’ joy took precedence because one day we would be the ones having a bris or a baby naming. It was hard but grew a bit easier over time. My husband and I had one another’s backs — helping each other to focus on our friends’ joy and not our sadness. This approach didn’t help us conceive any sooner, but it did force us to look outward instead of inward at a time when continually focusing on our losses made joy that much harder to grasp.
I wish them well.
Debra Darvick shares her unique take on life, books and more at debradarvick.com.