July 17, 2024
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Can a Dater Reject ‘Modern Choices’ Without Insulting Her Parents?

Editor’s Note: Please enjoy this new addition to The Jewish Link. We hope the Dear Gabby column will enable people to share things that are on their minds that may be difficult for them to communicate with family and friends. All letters will remain anonymous. Rest assured that submissions that are inappropriate will not be printed. Feel free to send your letters to deargabby@jewishlinknj.com.

Dear Gabby:

I would appreciate your trying to set me straight on the many conflicted thoughts that I find myself having now that I am in the “parsha” (dating scene).

I grew up in a Modern Orthodox home—my parents are wonderful. However, I find myself in conflict between who I am and who they are. Certainly it affects the way that I consider who to go out with. On the one hand, my father puts on tefillin every day, occasionally goes to shul during the week and, of course, goes on Shabbat and holidays. He has a yeshiva background and, together with my mother, has given myself and my siblings many wonderful things. At this moment, after returning from my gap year in Israel, I find myself taking a slightly different path from my parents. I no longer would feel comfortable going with them for Pesach to a resort where they have no qualms about sitting at the pool. I no longer wish to buy skirts, dresses and blouses that are a drop too short. I absolutely want to bentsch after each meal and say every bracha appropriately. Frequently, my mom will leave the table without even taking the time to bentsch.

Getting to the point—I want the boys who are suggested to me to be in the same mindframe as me. I am no longer looking for the “modern” type of prospect. How do I explain this to my parents without hurting them? They are very content with who they are and I do not want this to be an affront to them.

Sincerely,

I Love My Parents

Dear I Love My Parents:

I very much appreciate your writing to me prior to discussing this with your parents, because they sound like amazing people and, of course, you would not want to hurt them unnecessarily.

It is important for you to realize that as a young woman about to move on to a new stage in your life, you have earned the right to begin to make decisions for yourself. At the same time, you have to always keep in mind that the mitzvah of kibud av v’em (honoring one’s parents) is of the utmost importance. Your goals are, perhaps, one step beyond what they are accustomed to. What you might not even realize is that when they began their life together they may have also aspired to other intentions and then found themselves caught in a bind between their friends and family. I’m certain they are very proud of you. In no way are you ever to insinuate that you do not agree with anything that they have done.

What you are concerned about is that they may disagree or, perhaps, strongly disagree with the way you want to live your life. How can you let them know about the road in life that you want to follow without insulting them, getting them angry or making them feel that you are saying that they are wrong. You are not, of course, saying anything about their choices, you are simply letting them know about the paths that you will be choosing going forward. Although I understand your feelings, you can’t control your parents’ or, in fact, anyone else’s reactions to you and your choices. You can and must, however, be careful about how you present it so that it is done with a great deal of respect, perhaps something like the following, “Abba and Imma, I am very grateful for your support and encouragement throughout my life. My gap year in Israel was a wonderful experience that I have learned tremendously from. It has awakened in me a yearning to come closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and to do things somewhat differently than I have in the past. Some of these things may be different from things that I have done with you before.”

For example, you might say that you are not comfortable going mixed swimming or sitting around a pool and would prefer to choose a style of clothing that is more in line with your thinking and deeply held beliefs. Accentuate that you understand that some of these changes may be difficult for them, but that they are very much in line with the person who you have chosen to be and you very much desire to move toward becoming. Finally, it is most important to acknowledge, once again, their love for you, by saying, “I believe and hope that we can get through these changes with the love and understanding that have always been a part of our relationship, and that I will make you proud of me.”

I sincerely hope that this advice has been helpful. Please do not hesitate to get back to me if I can help you further.

Gabby

Gabby is a pseudonym for a PhD psychologist who we have asked to answer several questions for Jewish Link readers. Based on interest, Gabby is open to continuing the column. Questions can be asked anonymously to [email protected]
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