This article deals with a sensitive subject. I feel it is necessary to include this letter and topic because Orthodox Jews do not live in a bubble. Whatever happens in the secular world, can and does happen in the frum world, only it isn’t spoken about as much as it should be. Topics are seen as taboo when what really needs to be done is to have a discussion with preteens and teenagers about all of this before they end up learning on their own and you have no control over what source their child used or what he or she knows and understands. The more taboo you make the subject, the more teens may want to find out about it. That is why I am giving parents the opportunity to judge for themselves if they want their young children (young is subjective in terms of age) reading my column this week. Personally, I don’t know why it’s acceptable to have a “young” child read a column about dating at all, and if I write about something that is actually happening in the frum dating world, I am told the article was too crass because the Queens Jewish Link is a “family paper.” But I am told that ten-year-olds read my column. It’s not for me to say what another person’s child should or shouldn’t read. I don’t write for entertainment or for laughs. People have genuine questions and there are important topics to discuss.
I usually do not edit/change anything in an email that I receive, but I made the exception here, with the consent of the writer. I edited some words and phrases to make them more general and “family friendly.” Do I think an 11- or 12-year-old should read this article? No, but a 16- or 17-year-old can handle the subject.
You never know if you may run into the same issue as the author’s son did. And if you do, how would you address it? My response won’t be accepted by all, and that’s fine. But this is a chance to open the door to such discussions.
Judge for yourselves.
I’m writing on behalf of my son. He became a chasan not long ago. After meeting some of his kallah’s relatives, my son asked me and my husband for advice. His kallah has a female cousin who is married to her wife and has two adopted children. My children were taught in yeshivah that this lifestyle is wrong. It goes against the Torah. This is no way influences the engagement, but it does make my son very uncomfortable.
When we asked him if this is a relative whom he may be seeing often or just once or twice a year, he said that she’s close with his kallah and family. He said he spoke about it with his kallah – the shock of it all. She said she understood why he was shocked, but she and her family learned to accept her cousin and her family. His kallah has known and loved her cousin since they were young girls. She explained that she can see her cousin and separate it from the rest. Yes, there are kids, but the kallah just thinks of them and the partner as “cousins,” because that’s the way she can handle the situation.
My son will be seeing this cousin and family often, because everyone is close with his in-laws, and they are invited to every simchah and get-togethers. He just has a very hard time setting aside what had been drilled into him for years with the reality of the relative standing before him. He doesn’t want to not like her or get to know her, but the fact that she chose this lifestyle is extremely upsetting to him.
I’m not sure if this qualifies as a dating question, but I welcome any advice or suggestions.
A Yiddishe Mother
Thank you for your letter, YM.
This topic isn’t one I am usually asked about or that I write about, but I will do my very best in responding. And keep in mind, these are my thoughts, not law. Your son doesn’t have to follow my advice at all.
I was very relieved when you said that the cousins’ lifestyle will not affect the engagement. It’s sad to say that sometimes it does. People think of it as a “Shanda!” They wonder if the entire family condones this lifestyle and, if so, then they are not the type of family I want my child to be a part of. You wouldn’t believe the stories I have heard of something similar to this.
Your son’s kallah (who I will refer to as Kelly) grew up with her cousin. You wrote that Kelly told you that she’s close with her cousin. She also said that she understood that your son was shocked. She may have been, as well, when she learned this of her cousins’ lifestyle. It appears Kelly is compartmentalizing the cousin and her lifestyle. That may be her only way to cope or accept the cousin. In Kelly’s eyes, this is the same girl she grew up with and loved through the years. Kelly may just keep her cousin in that mental file while putting the cousin’s life and family in a different mental file in the back of the drawer of her mind. It appears on the surface that Kelly cares more about her cousin as a person to not want to cut her out of her life because of the lifestyle she is leading. That may or may not be true, but that’s how I interpreted what you wrote.
I can’t say for certain, but I’m sure that while Kelly was in yeshivah/day school, this topic was touched upon – never spoken about outright, chas v’shalom, only mentioned once or twice but always followed with a lecture of how wrong it is and how it goes against the Torah. That’s how I was “introduced” to this topic by my high school teachers. It was mentioned and then as quickly as it came, it was gone, but not before my classmates and I were warned against it.
I think that your son should discuss this more with Kelly, because she has already had the chance to come to terms with this. Kelly may be very helpful, and she knows what your son is feeling. She may even suggest that your son have an open conversation with her cousin to get to know her and sincerely ask how it felt to grow up being taught that what you felt was wrong, and how others accepted or didn’t accept her lifestyle, and what she has had to deal with because this is her life. I’m not saying that your son should do anything until he has a chance to find out more, because it sounds like all he knows is the general topic of the cousin’s lifestyle and hasn’t really gotten to know the cousin. It is conceivable that your son can compartmentalize things as Kelly has, or he may think the opposite and wonder how Kelly can still be close with her. But your son will never find out unless he asks the question to open the door to a conversation, after which he can decide whatever he wants.
The lifestyle is not contagious. And no matter what your son decides, he should always behave as a mentch around Kelly’s cousin and family. It doesn’t mean he approves of it, but it will help his shalom bayis in the long run. Yes, he was taught that this is wrong, but now that it’s in your life, he must deal with it head on.
The subject is right here. Take the time to discuss it.
Hatzlachah to you all.