Friday, April 11, 2008

P.S. on yesterday's post

I've mentioned before how my parent's are totally in denial about me being an atheist/not religious, and will constantly ask me what I'm doing for holidays.

Well in yesterday's conversation that awkward moment happened again! My mom asked what seder I was going to, as if she assumes I will be going to a seder. I vaguely answered something about being invited to a few seders (true) but haven't made specific plans (also true). Of course this is a lie by misdirection- the reason I have no specific plans is that I have no intention on going to any seder (although a friend is having a seder for family and friends that I would love to go to, if he didn't live 3 states away). Actually, a few days back my office mate practically begged me to go to a grad student seder with her so that she wouldn't have to go alone, and I turned her down. I just can't stand those awkward social gatherings full of desperate single people who are only at this community seder becuase they are looking to meet their future spouse.

My mom then started going on about how she knows someone from my school who is driving up to her town before pesach, and that I could get a ride with him, etc, and I had to come up with something about how busy I am at work (also true). But seriously mom. Seriously. Why must we play this game of lies? I don't want to hurt her feelings by flat out saying I'm not going to any seder, but I feel like I'm totally leading her on here. Is it better to flat out tell her the truth so she stops asking, and gives up hope, or to just lead her on so that she doesn't feel bad, but keeps asking these questions for which I have no good answer?

It's the same dilemna over and over again. I feel like our roles are reversed now..when I was a kid she was protecting me from the 'evils' of the world, but now that I'm an adult, I'm protecting her from the knowledge of how things really are. I'm like that Mom who keeps saying "Daddy is on vacation" when really he just left and doesn't want to see his kids, or died or something.


  1. Very well put. This comes up so often in our (ex-frummies) lives. I go through this all the time with relatives.

  2. Terrific post.

    My parents still ask about yom tovs as well, and, of course there are endless other situations. They're in an interesting type of denial, since on one level, they completely know that I'm not religious.

    As hedyot said, it's harder with reletives that I don't see as often. It seems that with each of them we have to have the same awkward conversation two or three times before it sinks in. (Q:"Hey great to see you... when did you fly in?" A:"umm, saturday afternoon...")

    I'm a big proponent of telling people the truth and not protecting them from reality. But it's difficult.

  3. To the degree that you can adopt the policy of "the responsibility for the answer lies with the person who asked the question", your life gets simpler.

    It is unfortunate that the policy is often easier to consider in the abstract than it is to actually live.

  4. I agree with DBS. Truth is the way. For an example of what happens when people tell lies, half-truths, read the Kite Runner.

  5. Interesting. I've taken a slihtly different route to you and tend to reject religious things I don't want to do politely but firmly. Like, my mum asked me if I'd be going to shul for a bar mitzvah recently (I no longer pray) and I flat-out rejected. She tried to persuade half-heartedly, but was just fishing, really... Maybe that's how it is with your mum too, although the big fesitvals are arguably more "important" socially in some ways than shabbat davening.

    I've just read DBS's post and I see I'm in good company.

  6. Yeah, I just tell the truth. I'm going to a seder this year, but I'm flying to it on shabbos and flying back on yom tov. And I never do Yom Kippur. And I'm always clear about that with people who ask.

    Just responded to your previous post, too, btw.

  7. my dad and/or stepmother ask, "what are you doing for pesach?" my answer is "going to seders." My stepmother asked where. I told her at my grandmother's. That's true. And when the zoo seder that lasts from 6-9 and will be lucky to remember benching is over, I'll clean up and go to Teaneck to my friends' house and have the second half of the seder, and it'll run until 1 or 2 am, and I'll pass out on their floor.

    They know not to ask if I'm going to shul. I'm not telling them I'm going to Teaneck, too. It would hurt their feelings for no good reason to know I'm driving on yom tov (even though where I'm heading is more of an actual seder than the one with my mom's side).

    I'd've had to take Friday and Monday off in order to join my dad, et al, up that hotel where he'll be doing his thing for pesach. Maybe next year. It would be awesome if the first seder were Friday night -- this way, I'd only have to take Friday off.

    While I agree with the notion that people's hurt feelings are their responsibility, especially after what they've been through recently, I tend to be protective of their illogical sensitivity toward me not living exactly as they do. For example, if I were in dbs's shoes, I wouldn't say Saturday afternoon, I'd just say over the weekend. They know not to ask which day. It's really an incredibly dysfunctional excuse for communication, but it seems to work.

    -sarah b.

  8. Sarah b., I think that's really important too, and I don't go out of my way to make my parent's live a misery. I don't chronicle the list of aveiros I've done that week, but if they ask me if I had something that wasn't kosher, I'll tell them.

  9. Sarah b.,

    I'm not trying to be insensitive. But the problem is that one evasion just leads to another. Pretty soon, you're either all out lying or you're not communicating at all.

    Also, I'm not trying to embaraess anyone, but I'm also not about to act as if I'm ashamed of my life. I mourn the hurt that it has caused my family, but I feel great pride in having been able to leave orthodoxy.

  10. dbs, I don't think you're trying to be insensitive. I don't share your liberated feeling, for which I thank my lucky stars, 'cause obviously I haven't suffered what you have.

    skeptic, my dad's side knows not to ask (which is silly, at this point, since I pretty much do eat kosher, nowadays).

    sarah b.

  11. wow. I am so excited to have discovered your blog. I've only read this one post- but can relate completely to your post, and everyones comments,having had come from an orthodox/conservative family.

    I stopped believing in god when I was 16, and used to try to explain it to my parents, who never wanted to acknowledge my views. I realized something was wrong when I spent Friday night telling them how I didn't believe in god or religion, and the next morning, my mom would ask if I planned to attend shul with her.

    I struggle with this immensely. every day. as I have matured, I have since stopped putting my views in their face, out of realization that they would never hear me and I was only hurting them.

    it hurts me that they won't accept me for who I am. and I struggle with the compromise I continually make around them to appease them.

    it makes me so sad that they won't accept me for me, and it makes me sadder to see how disappointed and hurt they become when I am just trying to live my life in a way which I believe is right.

    it angers me that they can be so controlling as to have to try to control every aspect of my feelings and beliefs.

    my parents never grasped the concept of allowing their children to become their own person.

    I don't know if I will ever find peace.


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