On being respectful, patient, and thankful

Dear Coquette,

So, what am I supposed to do when my Jewish grandmother asks me what I think about the situation in Gaza? Do you have any recommendations for any particular substance that might make this holiday season easier?

When your Jewish grandmother asks you about the situation in Gaza, all you have to do is say, “I don’t know, Bubbe. What do you think?” After that, no matter what comes out of her mouth, just smile and nod.

This goes for all ethnic grandparents and all discussions about Old Country politics. Let the elders say whatever they want, and then just smile and nod. It doesn’t matter if their opinions are ignorant or inflammatory. You don’t have anything to prove to them, and it’s not your job to show them that they’re wrong. 

Never argue with a septuagenarian on an issue regarding their cultural identity. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

I’m 23, halfway through grad school, and not dating anyone seriously. My mom is starting to freak out that I’ll be alone forever (she was married at 21 right out of college) and feels the need to ask me every time she sees me “Are you dating anyone?” Knowing the rest of my family, they will start in with the “So when are you going to find a guy and get married” stuff soon. What’s the polite way to tell them all to chill out and let me live my life on my own time table?

I feel you, sister. This was my go-to line when my family members started asking questions: “Marriage isn’t a high priority for me right now, but I’m enjoying my life, and I’m very happy with the way things are going.”

Five years ago I spent a month in Goma, Congo, teaching art camp at a hospital. Today in the news I saw a photo of that same hospital flanked by soldiers and looking much worse for the wear. The invasion of the city has left me terrified for the safety of the people living there that I have come to know as friends. They are not safe staying, but leaving would bring even more danger as men are systematically slaughtered and women are raped almost without exception. I feel helpless and guilty about the stark contrast between my peaceful life in the states and the terror that my friends are experiencing in Goma.

I ask one thing of the people who may read this (even if it is just you): Please, find something to be thankful for in your life. It could almost always be worse. It is an amazing stroke of luck to have even been born in our peaceful little corner of the world. I would hope that everybody can recognize that and do what they can to preserve that which is so easy to take for granted. 

And for those who truly have had devastation in their lives… My heart goes out to you.

I don’t have anything to add, except for thanks to everyone for writing in to me. Thanks to everyone for reading, and happy Thanksgiving weekend!


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