I read your blog nightly. I’m not the type to email a question about my personal life, but I figured this was completely anonymous and maybe other people are in my shoes and this could help more people than just myself. Here is my situation. Please shed light.
I could not be more different than my family. Growing up I was always very aware of how little my parents cared about style, fashion or even keeping the house up to date. Things would break left and right and they never got fixed. It wasn’t a money issue, it was almost like they were comfortable in broken.
The cabinets were falling off the hinges. My mother’s sheitel always was and remains crooked on her head. It’s synthetic and she is just a plain old mess. My father slurps his soup and I have had to watch the challah crumbs fall into his beard since I’m a kid. My siblings aren’t bothered by it at all. A few of them are just like my parents, but a few of them are more modern and fresh looking like myself.
Now that I am 21 and dating I feel like a little kid again, embarrassed to bring friends home. My family gives me so much anxiety that I have asked guys to pick me up from the curb, or I will make up excuses to be be picked up from my school library. I have lied to guys that my parents are out of town or away at a wedding. I hate the lying, but I am mortified for guys to meet my parents.
I would imagine G-d willing there will come a time when I will be serious with someone, and getting engaged and this guy will have to get to know my parents. I cringe at the thought of him sitting at the table with us. How can I handle this without all the anxiety? It will never be possible for me not to be embarrassed by them. How do I let someone know that I am not like my parents, nor do I want to live like my parents, or keep a house the way my parents do? In this case, the apple does fall far (very far) from the tree! Do you think guys will not go out with me once they meet my family?
I am sorry you are experiencing this anxiety. This is a real struggle for you, as it is for so many others in your shoes. And you are right that by writing in you will be helping so many people. Good for you and on behalf of the readers, thank you! Upon receiving your email I wrote you back and asked about your particular dating rules and regulations. You let me know that it is truly unheard of in your circle to be picked up from a location other than your house. People find it strange and it could be a reason why someone would turn down a second date. With that in mind, I respond.
Your trepidation in bringing dates home to meet your family is understandable. After all, you are “fresh and modern” as you stated, while your family is not. Please correct me if I am wrong in another correspondence, but it almost sounds as though they are not very conscious of hygiene. Challah crumbs in the beard and the sloppy sheitel and broken cabinets begin to paint a picture of a place that you find embarrassing and intolerable to the point that you are making up excuse after excuse in an effort to avoid home.
If we dated differently as in secular society you wouldn’t have to deal with the issue of “meeting the parents” so early on in a relationship, but we live in a different reality in which you need to deal with this presently. Making up excuses and lying can’t be comfortable for you. I’m sure you would love nothing more than to have young men pick you up from your home; a home that you were proud of.
I understand and honor your truth which is that it will never be possible for you not to be embarrassed by your family and the house. But could we make it a little more tolerable? In other words, you don’t have to like it, you don’t have to approve of it, but can you work on accepting it? You expend so much energy trying to hide your parents and your home. This brokenness thing they have going on is their thing, not yours. I think you need to invest in the idea that you are not responsible for their behavior nor are you a reflection of them. Stop assuming responsibility for their behavior.
Some practical suggestions:
1. Play it by ear: When a guy comes to the door, check out his reaction. Is he completely at ease in your home? Does he look unfazed? Then leave it alone! You are assuming that everyone is as sensitive about broken and messy as you are. That is simply not the case. Does he look horrified? Then you will have to acknowledge the horrified look on his face and ask him about it. You may have to talk about your house on the first date. You will take your cues from your date. The message you want to give over is that you are different from your family and do not plan on your future home looking like your parents’.
2. Have you tried sharing your feelings with your parents? It is important not to disrespect them or show judgment but in a very unassuming way, perhaps you could request that one room in the house, like the living room or kitchen be fixed. You might want to try telling your parents that you are sensitive to broken things and request that one room be in working order so that you can feel comfortable bringing dates home. Do you have a few dollars saved up? Perhaps you can offer to pay for it yourself.
3. I know, I know, this is too cliche for words but that’s because it’s true. If a guy cannot see past your parents’ appearance and their home, then he is not the guy for you. If your home is shockingly chaotic or dirty then you can expect this to concern someone, as it concerns you. But it’s all about how he handles the situation. As you get more serious with someone, make sure he is not AOK with your parents’ home because he is just as messy and comfortable in broken. You don’t want to wind up married to someone just like your parents in this regard.
4. Once you begin allowing young men into your home you will get feedback from your shadchan. Hopefully the young men will share their concern about the house with her. If you are honest with your shadchan, she can explain the situation to your date. She can let him know how different you are from your family in this regard.
5. Hashem has given all of us unique challenges. No ones goes through life untouched or without their own shame; real or imagined. When dating or in a relationship, it can be confusing as to when to share our secret(s) with the other person.
6. Speak to a trusted shadchan and/or Rav for advice as to how to proceed. What have other singles done in similar situations?
All the best!