Someone once asked me how exactly to avoid getting sick when certain subjects are destined to come up that will make you sick, and the answer, of course, is Steer clear. Or as the kids say these days, Don't go there.
Meaning if you know it's toxic, as Boris or Natasha or someone used to say on that cartoon, Spy versus Spy, on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, Exit; stage right. Or at least have a stage door in mind.
Conflict avoiders among us relate. Fight or Flight? No contest.
A person doesn't always have the option to fly, however, and sometimes assertiveness feels too hard. So there are other alternatives. Like dropping the gefilte fish on the floor, which makes a huge mess, but distracts nicely. Or spilling some sort of liquid,like water or wine. The more creative among us might pull off the tablecloth altogether.
There are family reunions that are just for fun, but sometimes there are reunions that are more purposeful. I know of people who rent cottages in Colorado once a year and everyone gets together just to hang out for a week. They float in and out and don't necessarily talk about their issues with one another.
Therapy tends to be about how to handle it when there are issues that should be ironed out, and who should do/say what. It's very complicated. In therapy we entertain the options, sometimes include the siblings or a sibling, parents or a parent, just to prepare for the extended time together.
Then there are the shorter reunions, the kinds that are played out over a dinner on a holiday or a birthday or anniversary. These tends not to be a good times to work on relationship problems.
But there's often a person at an affair trying to corner another person to do just that, which is why sometimes plates drop and drinks spill.
Pehaps more respectful variants of dropping the fish (respectful to one's host)include noticing what one's nemesis is wearing (people often buy new clothes for parties and holidays) and going crazy over it.
OMG, your tie! It's so beautiful! Italian? Where did you get it? I just love the design, and how the tones bring out your coloring.Or you can try to change the subject, as in:
How's ____ ?(pick someone) I heard he/she is:If this doesn't feel right to you and you think this is a good time to resolve differences, think again. You're at dinner. This is not the time for conflict resolution that should take place at lunch with just the two of you and a few well-designed therapeutic interventions in your head.
(a) thinking of leaving his job,
(c) just came into a ton of money,
(d) is running for village council.
(make something up)
Eventually, you know, we're going to have to get together and resolve our differences.Put this meeting off for as long as you wish, but do your best to get through the party.
Family reunions are supposed to be happy.
Can you tell we're getting to the Passover seder? Well, it is that time of year, and the first of the two sedarim starts on Saturday night. It's a hugely labor intensive holiday for the observant, but even many non-observant Jewish people have a family dinner.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the seder is an ordered meal with traditions to remind us that we were slaves in Egypt (1500 B.C.E. about). It can take awhile to get through this dinnertime service, too long for some of us who want to get on with the meal.
Eventually you do get to dinner. So it is to this end that FD and the kids put together a list of things to avoid talking about at the seder, especially at dinner, after the telling of that story starring the late Charlton Heston.
They even started a list of things we should talk about.
I'm going to hand them off to you since there's still time to inform your guests, but surely these are ours, so make up ones of your own that make sense:
We don't talk about:
baseball (there's this Cubs versus Cards problem)
any politics, any politics, even Valley Village politics, we'll try not to, but we will
credit cards, mortgages, or tuitions
We do talk about:
religionNow, some people like to really get deep and understand the true meaning of everything, why we celebrate Passover, what the symbolic foods mean, etc.
the Masters (golf)
why Saba is throwing toys (frogs, insects, ping pong balls) at the table
Star Wars jokes
past performances of the Four Questions
that story about the grandfathers who were switched at Cedar Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and sent home with the wrong families!
If you're one of those, even if you're not, I'm going to take the liberty of recommending one particular author's lovely and serious piece, but not too serious, if you know what i mean. Stewart Weiss writes, Top 10 Pessah talking points, and for some crazy reason, they're different than the ones my family put on our list!
Friends, I need of a little rest and plan to take a few days off. Not just work, but this, too. Slavery's not for everyone, and we Jewish women strongly feel that way by the time we get to the holiday (the cleaning, the cooking, the shopping, the juggling of menus, guests, the self-correction, another day on that). I'll do my best to post your comments over the holiday, but probably won't have a chance to reply to them until it's over and the last child is on an airplane home, assuming the airlines remain solvent, that is.
Have a great week, and I'll see you next year in Jerusalem. That's what we say when the seder finally ends, the last song is sung, and most of us are already asleep on, or off our feet.