E-Guilt: Jewish Moms on Facebook

I woke up the other morning to a Facebook notification announcing that my Mother is now on Facebook. E GUILT

I realize that this is not big news. Most of us Gen X-ers (ew) have embraced the fact that our parents have joined the E-parade, if only to keep up with our speedy lives and to feel like they’re in touch, rather than having to nudge us with a long voicemail message, group texts that include a random aunt, or blank ones  with a mysterious letter “H.”

My mother was on Facebook briefly, about three years ago, before her account got hacked, rendering her profile forever frozen in time. So now Ema (Mom, in Hebrew) actually has two Facebook profiles, which is kind of amazing, even if she doesn’t know how she did it.

When she was on Facebook the first time, the Good Jewish (Divorced) Girl in me didn’t like it. Before posting a picture (nine out of ten were at a bar) I’d have to go home, send the files to my laptop, and crop out the martini in my hand, resulting in an array of posts where I look suspiciously joyous, a bright spark in my eyes and a becoming flush in my cheeks, the evidence amputated. If you’re thinking, “Why should an adult woman care what her mother thinks?” it means you’re not Jewish (or Catholic). Guilt does not need to be delivered in person to have its intended effect.

[For those of you who are just meeting Ema for the first time, there is proof of Mom as “The Alcohol Police” in this post, where you can also see the Jewish Mother’s breathalyzer test in full effect].

I knew Mom just wanted to “keep in touch” but to me it was synonymous with “keeping tabs.” There is an ironic generational reversal here that is worth mentioning. Mom’s today who are my peers; my friends, sisters, and the thousands of “Mommy Bloggers” who are savvy digital pros unlike our Mom’s were, are “keeping tabs” on their own children’s online activities with apps called Mama Bear which advertise “worry-free parenting.” If only there had been a “worry-free partying” app for single divorcees back when I was one.

But this time when Mom joined Facebook, her loving face made me smile and I friended her happily, even though I was the eighteenth person she invited in, trailing behind cousins as far away as Israel and my two sisters (the neglected middle child syndrome never goes away). And when Mom emailed me shortly after with a question: “U were tagged in u picture ?” it didn’t bother me that I did not know what picture she was referring to. And when Facebook asked me to help my mother find her friends, I knew she’d be fine on her own. After all, she’d managed to create two profiles.

I’m glad to see my Mom on Facebook, not because I’ve suddenly grown up and grown out of the Jewish guilt garb, but because I have nothing to hide. I don’t drink that much anymore (I promise, Ema!) and when I do, it doesn’t matter. Somehow, being married, happy, and settled is like a magical guilt slayer. Also, Mom has read my entire blog from its inception (when she didn’t know what a Cougar  – or a blog- was), up until my most recent post about going to Church. If she’s okay with that, I’m okay with her commenting on my wall in Momlish.

But Instagram and Twitter? I might need to find an Ema-Bear app for that.

A Jewish mother's advice on dating.

What a day. It started out (as all Monday’s do), sluggish, yicky, and overwhelmed by the plans I had lined up every night but this one.  And I had all sorts of heady and heavy blogs to write such as: what break ups are like (as if you don’t know), and the kinds of things we do to distract ourselves from heartache and loneliness. And from sending dumb ass texts to our exes like “I miss you,” or “Hi,” or “Twitter says you’re bored, can I help?”
But why bother when mom is back full force?
I had a date last night with a very nice man. A bear. He is about (gasp!) 19 years older than my ex-cub was. With a good job and a large…physique and lots of interesting things to say. He even had a few book suggestions for me to write down. It was positive. I came home and out of habit, I emailed my sisters and my mother a quick low down. This is to spare me from two things: 1) Having to rehash the same story three separate times, and 2) So that the next day I don’t have to talk about it again. Because as experience dictates, I really have no idea if I will ever hear from said dude again (for no particular reason except this is New York and guys are weird), and I don’t want to talk or think about it (because friends and mom get more worked up than I do) til there is a second or third date on the books.
So sisters write back the cute and expected: “Great! Sounds fun.” Two minutes pass. And then almost identical emails from both sisters come in: “Wait. He’s 46. Why isn’t he married?” My response: “I know! When I asked him that very question, he asked for the check (he paid) and said, ‘I’m bored-let’s-walk empire is starting in a few minutes.’”
This was mom’s response (Note: the following program might contain explicit language. The kind you need a Jewish mother glossary for. Brackets not included):
My Cougel. I like the date! But…5 things a lady should know (that’s assuming I am a lady…)
1. Be mysterious [hard to get…don’t divulge all your info].
2. Be flirtatious. Look straight in his eyes in a sexy way.
3. Show you are a ballbusty * [keep neat, like to cook basic things, home maker] (*Note: Mom wrote “ballbusty,” and at first I thought she meant “ball-buster” but now I realize she means “Ballabustah,” a yiddish term for “Jewish girl who’s a go-getter.”)
4. A lady in your manners [from not using words like bull, what the f… eat with your mouth closed! Use YOUR KNIFE IN THE RIGHT HAND, don’t make your little sandwiches using your fingers…]
5. Be your beautiful funny self. WATCH YOUR DRINKS. Real man hate women drinking. 
6. Don’t blog this.
Woops.

My mother, the alcohol police.

My mother doesn’t drink. And she doesn’t understand why anybody would. Especially her own daughter.

Whenever I go out for dinner with my parents, I keep it to a two-drink minimum. Sometimes my father will order a bottle and embolden me. But most of the time, I figure it’s not worth the wrath. Or her sticking her nose in my mouth after dinner to smell how much I’ve actually drank. She almost always gets it right on the nose (pun intended).

So what better place for her to enforce her authority than at a wedding, where I’m locked in a banquet hall with her for six hours, and where the alcohol is free?
 
I knew what was coming. The last time I was at my cousin’s wedding in Israel, where everyone was drinking tequila, my mother kept appearing next to me, no matter who I was talking to, pretending to be interested in the conversation. But really she was interested in what I was holding in my hand. Sometimes she takes the glass from me and takes a sip, as if she enjoys the taste. She then holds the glass awkwardly for a moment and nods her head at who ever happens to be speaking, like she’s listening. And then in a flash, she’s gone. With my glass of wine.

So here we were yesterday, on our way to a wedding. My parents picked me up from the train station. They talked about what kind of food there would be and how hungry they were. But not me. I was thirsty.  My mom knew it. It was the elephant in the car we didn’t speak of. Instead she said, “Maybe you’ll meet someone at the wedding.”

Do you know anyone who’s met their spouse at a wedding? It’s been known to happen, although not to anyone I know. Or to me.

Especially not at a Jewish wedding. In New Jersey. Mom didn’t appreciate that comment. But I deemed it safer than saying I’d be more likely to have the energy to meet someone slightly inebriated, rather than cranky and hungover (I was both).

I wasn’t thinking clearly though. This wedding wasn’t a Jewish wedding. In fact, it was a unique mix of many rituals. It was lovely. The bride was Jewish and the groom Irish Catholic. In a sense, it was Jew-ish. Which meant plenty of interesting foods, eclectic music (ever danced a Jewish jig? It’s like the Horah with bagpipes), but more so, for this Cougel, it meant a vast buffet of attractive goys. Just the way I like em. And instead of a brisket and chopped liver station, we get a vodka station!

My mother was on my heels (should’ve worn my flats). She knows how to find me, no matter my attempts for evasion. This time it was under the guise of meeting her friends, all with Israeli names that blend together. “You remember Chava! From Josh and Rachel’s wedding ten years ago, right?” (The part she left out: “Or were you drunk?”)

No matter that my sister was drinking too, and that we were all having a blast. My sister is married with children. So unlike me, she’s “allowed.” The moral of the story is that once you’re the anointed F-up in your family, there is no getting out of it. So you might as well live up to it. I could have stuck to one glass of wine, and she still would have thought I was overdoing it. Because according to my parents, that’s my thing. Besides, what would they have to worry about otherwise? I’m doing a good deed. At least I’m giving them something to fix, and to bond over on the drive home down the turnpike.

Five hours into the wedding I met some interesting people, guys included. Some Jewish, some not. My parents and sisters were happy though. I wasn’t seated at their table, but rather at the “singles” table right beside them, where they got to watch the show with challah rolls in hand instead of popcorn. And mom got to keep her eye on me and my wine glass. This is akin to trying to make out in your basement when you’re 16 and your parents are upstairs. You can never relax because you’re waiting to get caught.

Mom – if you’re reading this – I am not a drunk. I’m over 21 and single, and that is what people do. I know we’ve had this conversation before, but I figured I’d disclaim it again here, in case your friends are reading this and will think your daughter has a problem. I have many, yes, but drinking is the least of them.

I got a ride home from the wedding with a very nice fellow, and the second I walked through the door, my mother called.
“How was it?”
“The wedding? I was there with you.”
“No, the ride with the guy.”
“It was nice mom. It beats the train.”
“Were you still drunk?”
( You’d think she’d be more concerned whether he was, since he was the one driving).
“No mom. Just tired.”
“You had six glasses, maybe seven. Didn’t you?”

Of course, she was right. As usual.

The upside? At least, with all this talk about drinking, she forgot to ask if I ate.

Embracing the Kugel

I hated kugel growing up. It confused me. Slimy noodles, raisins, eggs, ambiguous looking slop (cheese? potatoes?) disguising themselves as a casserole. I didn’t get the concept of using ingredients for foods normally eaten for breakfast and lunch, for dessert. I like sweet things, but after my meal, not alongside it. Besides, what about kugel makes it Jewish? Is it its blend of conflicting tastes, a metaphor for the love-hate relationship people (oh, admit it) have towards Jews and the weird foods we eat? I just couldn’t get into it.

My picky eating habits used to drive my mother crazy. I didn’t know what was good for me. Was this a harbinger of what my habits would be like when I grew up? Including my selectivity (and bad judgment) choosing a mate? Is there even a connection?

My mother stopped pressuring me to eat kugel long ago, and so I had forgotten the word even existed (I avoid it at all temple kiddishes and Yom Kippur break-fasts)…

Until recently. A twenty-four-year old co-worker (not Jewish or familiar with our particular cuisine), started calling me Cougar. And then, the more comfortable he got around me, the name evolved. First to “Cougs,” and then finally, to “Cougel.”

He meant it as modified term of endearment, uttered casually and fondly. But little did he know what questions he had unleashed. Am I really a cougar? But worse, am I a pain in the ass, picky, conservatively raised, worried about what my parents think, Jewish Cougar?

Maybe the time has come for me to embrace my inner Cougel.