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Don’t Ask the In-Laws This

May 16, 2013 | by Marnie Winston-Macauley

Five questions you should never ask your child’s prospective in-laws.

Goyish: “No. Really. I don’t want to talk about it, okay?

Jewish: “You wouldn’t believe what the doctor said! (SILENCE) WELL?! Don’t you care if I’ll make it till next Shavuot! Ask, already!”

1 - “How about we bring all the food for our next Shabbos together?”

Face it. Asking is the Great Divide between We Jews and everybody else. It’s also one of our greatest ironies. When an MOT (Member of the Tribe) says “Don’t Ask!” what we really mean is: “Not only should you ask, better set aside a morning while I tell. Bring lunch.”

While We Jews understand this upside-down backward meaning, sometimes “Don’t ask!” should also mean we shouldn’t ask, ever! Obviously we need a little guidance here. Not to worry, I’m here, mamalas.

Your David or Lisa, after 10 years of Jewish single cruises, $5,000 to, and 20 audition tapes for The Bachelor, has finally found a reasonably capable bashert! Ai Ai Ai! All of Borough Park, Brooklyn, and now Riverdale, New York are saying joyful prayers!

You’ve heard the old expression, “You aren’t only marrying the person, your marrying the parents?” For We Jews, you’re not only marrying the parents, you’re marrying 150 tantes, zaydes, bubbes, friends from Borough Park, and 200 people the family met on their trip to Israel.

Therefore, it’s important that you get along with your child’s future machatanim (in-laws) – even though they could put a blot on your lineage. True, we’re all Jews, but according to Jewish geometry (one Jewish opinion times Chai), four prospective parents equal 72 opinions! So, we need to be cautious, sensitive, generous, and agreeable – even though we know we’re right.

So in my vigilant effort to perform a Jewish public service, I now present you with five questions you should never ask your Child’s Prospective Machatunim.

Don’t Ask! Questions You Should Never Ask Your Child’s Prospective Machatunim

1- “How about we bring all the food for our next Shabbos together?”

A nice offering? Feh! You know, I know, and more importantly the future machatanista knows you think her food is chaloshes. While I don’t usually approve, sometimes a little white lie is necessary. Sigh, and say: “Darling, your aluminum appliances? Gorgeous! But pssst … I have a little problem I’ll share since we’re almost ‘family.’ My Irv is violently allergic to aluminum! The last time he ate from an aluminum fridge, he went into such anaphylactic shock, we had to call the paramedics from Mt. Sinai, which is why I’m stuck with cheesy ceramic while you can freeze like a person!” Perfect! Not only can you bring your brisket, but you’ve complimented the machatanim, which no doubt God (and your child) will consider a mitzvah!

2- “Darlings, since we’re paying for the wedding, how about you limit your list to say 47?”

Mamalas, I know you belong to Mount Macher which charges for a plate what you paid for your first attached house and your guest list rivals the number of Smartphones in Scarsdale. Should, God forbid, they invite more than 50, you’ll be forced to say blessings over leftover Pesach matzo. But, a question like this will cause a distance between you and your child’s future machatanim greater than the Dead Sea. Much wiser to come up with some fair suggestions. Use the basic: “We’re only inviting ‘close friends and family,’ darling.” The test? “If you can’t pick them out of an Israeli IDF line-up, there off the list.” Once they weed down, generously suggest they invite all their cousins in Yekaternburg, Budapest, and Be’er Sheva. Another 100 invites for their side! You know and I know a Russian Jewish farmer isn’t booking a flight. Is it your fault yours could make it and theirs couldn’t? Of course not!

3- “You want to bring our David, a lawyer, into your button business?! Are you meshugge?!”

They probably mean well. After all, they made a good living from buttons. But … who saw your David through his “circus” period, fought with the Law School to get him in with his farshtinkener entrance scores, then paid the entire audience at Comedy Is Us a fortune to yell “GET OFF ALREADY!” All this because you knew he was destined to use his comedy as a lawyer! And now these meshugge machatanim want to undo your life’s work?! Calm down, darlings. I suggest you assume the basic look and say: “What generosity, making him a partner!” Believe me, an associate, maybe. But partner?! They have two other sons, never mind cousins who’ve eagerly awaited “partner” for 10 years. But … you can suggest he contribute his legal skills for a small retainer, say, 20 percent of their gross. Is this a family bargain, or what?

“We insist you make … Tu B'Shevat!

4- “For the future, how about we split the holidays, for example, our side will take Pesach, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and you do maybe Tisha B’Av?”

You know, everyone knows you do the holidays with such flair, all of Brooklyn doesn’t mind starving on Yom Kipper, because they know they’ll do the Break Fast … by you. And your Pesach roast duck with cherry wine sauce they couldn’t duplicate on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown. But when it comes to planning all the holidays through say, 5786 (2025), better you should just lay the groundwork. Say to your child’s future machatanim: “Oy, do you have gorgeous … trees.” What does this have to do with holidays? Listen and learn mamalas: “We insist you make … Tu B'Shevat! What a Jewish Arbor Day we’ll celebrate together! And don’t worry, in return, OK, we’ll do Pesach.” Now, through the years should they notice you’re also doing Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur … throw in Sukkot. What? You need to build an outdoor booth when they have such a Garden of Eden?

5 - “So tell me confidentially, what did your David look like before?”

When you met your daughter’s machatanim you noticed they all have ears that could signal NASA for lift-off, so it’s possible your darling grandchild may – Poo! – resemble Dumbo. But to ask such a question that implies they might have pinned back a little something or two on David? Tasteless mamalas. And be honest. Didn’t you pay $20,000 in braces so your Lisa could shut her mouth? You must handle this with greatest of sensitivity! Suggest that after (halevai!) a grandchild is born, you and the machatanim fill out those kinder insurance forms (poo poo!) you’ve been throwing out to start saving for his future, for example, education, an office in a good location – and even … maybe a little “cosmetic” work. I ask you, is this not Tikkun Olam?


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