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Step Bubbiehood

May 8, 2009 | by Melanie Chartoff

As a middle aged girlfriend, I'd like to skip Step Motherhood and go straight to Step Bubbiehood.

Ah. She has at last found the fountain of Jewth. She's girlishly aglow, gazing at his pictures totally ga ga. She's gallivanting around the neighborhood and gossiping to anyone who will listen, making a big geshrie about his smallest gesture. She's giddy and giggling and other words that don't even start with a "G." She's kvelling -- yelling down the hallway to her friends, "My daughter's got a boyfriend!"

Yes, my mother is an ingenue renewed at 84 because I am the established girlfriend of a nice Jewish boyfriend. Of course, to refer to Ben as a "boyfriend" seems a major misnomer. He's distinguished, in his mid fifties, a man of letters. What hair he has is silvering at the temple, and at the temple in my neighborhood, he's considered one of the elders.

And at this stage and age, after my many years of singularity, after mentoring young women a third my age making their very first forays into dating, I feel like an anachronistic fraud being designated a "girlfriend." Vay is Mere. My mother's friends' grandkids have "girlfriends!" "Girlfriends" are juggling engagement parties and best friends' baby showers on their Iphones. "Girlfriends" aspire to be diamond-studded fiancees, June brides, wives with good silver and fine china monogrammed for Passover, and, most of all, young mothers. "Girlfriends" and my mother have different dreams than I do.

You see, it is my biggest wish in life to become a Trophy Step Bubbie. It would be the ideal life path for my impending maturity, my incipient seniority, a role I can grow into. Bubbie would look so good on me.

Being simply a step mother has always had a negative connotation. There are too many fairy tales and fictional horror stories about the ugly step mother, mixing up potions and poisons, plotting to alienate a child from her/his real mother. There's always resentment, competition, comparison by the children of the original mother, even if the ex marriage is decades gone.

Who needs the tsoris? I'd like to just skip that whole mishagos and go right for Step Bubbiehood. Bubbies are so unthreatening. Everyone could use an extra grandmother when raising young kids, an extra set of hands to set the table, to wash a face, to read a story. For goodness sakes, I wish I had one!


I'd like to skip the tsoris of Step Motherhood and go straight for Step Bubbiehood.


Yes, I long to be the fourth lap after the mother, the husband, or their father, my mate, have blotted and fed and quieted the kindelach's crying. I crave the little darling's day shift, after the wee s/he has been soothed from the three in the morning screaming wake up calls. I long to be the stand in sitter, the pinch hitter for my man's child's children. I want to be the one who understands and cuddles and comforts the young parents, too, tattelah. Hey! I've got the clothes, I‘ve got the lap, the language, the leftover love, the wisdom, the extra money for eight days of Chanukah tschotkes, and alas, I'm starting to have the face. I'd be perfect for this role! "Girlfriend?" Feh. I have a far higher calling.

My plot thickens too soon for my five month relationship. Ben's own, lone daughter Ellen, a smart and lovely student in her twenties has mere starter aspirations to become a "girlfriend" as she finishes up her degree. Poor child has no idea she is the key to my own current dream. Of course, I am watching her womb like a hungry hawk, much like my mother watches my relationship's progress. I want to make sure Ellen eats well, sleeps early. I suggest vitamins, health foods, JDate. After all, this lovely young woman could be the gateway to my grandmahood -- such a responsibility for this young woman to be the unknowing key to the future of her father's companion.

As a consequence of my interest in her progeny, I find myself talking to suitable Young Jewish men often. They probably find my appraising them, grilling them about their incomes, their plans for the future, rather disturbing. (Oy. I remind myself of my mother forty years ago.) They now cross the street to avoid me. They simply don't understand! I'm not some weird stalker. Honest! Can I tell you a little bit about "my" Ellen? Wanna see a picture? No?! Ah…alas such is the fate of the over 50 "girlfriend" -- making up for lost time.

Because of the blissful wisdom of our ages, Ben and I look ahead a little further than the carefree young hand holders strolling through the malls. While I'm opening his many gifts, finding vases for his flowers, and talking of a future we hope to share, I know that being a "girlfriend" is an awkward, adolescent, in between phase. I am simply in training for bubbiehood.



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