by Sara Marshall
We’ve all been there. The family function. The simcha of a close friend. We know them – the people you run into. They’re the people you haven’t seen in ages which, in most cases, is welcome. We know that moment too – ‘the approach’. We know the super-slow-motion feel, the mental preparation, before the questioning – ‘the interrogation’. The eye contact only confirms that you now cannot escape. How to deal with it?
Let me help.
First, know thy enemy. These people will normally fit one of the following four criteria:
1) The relative who has very few boundaries, and whose husband is notorious for getting rather tipsy and offending everyone within the vicinity by making outlandish, politically incorrect or sexist remarks.
2) The family friend who you only see once a year or, more accurately, only have to put up with once a year (smile and wave girls, smile and wave.)
3) That person you went to school with and were doing everything in your power to avoid but now have to smile-that big-totally-not-fake-smile-kiss-them-on-the-cheek (oh, both cheeks? Greedy!) and talk to them as if they’re your best friend in the entire world.
4) The person who you know you know, you just don’t know exactly how you know them so you have to smile and nod and ask vague questions so as to not give your cluelessness away. Meanwhile they seem to know an awful lot about your life (thanks Mum) which just makes your unawareness even more awkward.
First comes the small talk – how beautiful the bride looks, how wonderfully the bar mitzvah boy leined. You smile, you nod, as you wait for ‘the question’. You know it’s coming. They know it’s coming. It is the only thing on their mind. It’s all they want to ask. As they ask you where you got your dress from, or how you can possibly walk in those heels, it’s there, simmering. You can see it in their eyes. It’s inevitable.
Finally, it comes. Real talk. “So, when are you going to get married, settle down, have kids, become a good Jewish mother?” “When, in effect, will you be able to respect yourself, justify your existence or be able to look at yourself in the mirror without crying?”
Then it comes again. And again. By the fourth or fifth time, your cheeks hurting from fake-smiling. You’re becoming tired, which is interpreted as a lack of self-confidence. Still, you have some fending-off to do, politely declining the no-doubt, perfectly-eligible-good-Jewish-boy they know from some obscure Jewish-geography connection, who has no idea the offer is being made on his behalf. You now have that endless list of hypothetical potential husbands.
Woah! Hold up!
Ladies, we need to bring some streamlined, 21st century thinking to this nightmare. Here is what I propose (no pun intended) to do about it.
First, turn up prepared, with a stack of ‘business-cards’ which hold the answers. During ‘the approach,’ reach for one and have it to-hand. Then, during talk of heels, ready your reply, that being: “I think this will answer everything.” In case it doesn’t, be ready to respond via live twitter feed, under #AskSara.
What would these cards answer? Obviously, tailor them to your own situation, but if you want to use mine as a template, the following is offered gratis.
- No I’m not currently seeing anyone
- No, not even secretly
- I am aware my mother wants grandchildren
- My grandma is well, thank you
- Yes, I’ve eaten
- No, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. (Tweet suggestions to #SuggestionsForSara)
- I promise I’ve eaten. Yes, the caterer is wonderful
- Yes, I do look like my mother
- Your son sounds lovely. I decline.
- Yes, even though he’s a Cambridge lawyer
- Seriously, no
- Ditto your brother’s best friend’s nephew
- See above
- Please stop waving at him
- Exhibit A: my empty plate
Crucially, you must maintain that winning, sparkling smile, otherwise it could all be taken the wrong way. If it’s difficult by this point, just think of the time you’re saving yourself, and of the questions you’ve answered they hadn’t even thought of yet. It’s efficiency personified.
So in the meantime you may even be able to speak to that person you went to school with that you did want to run into. Hit up the sushi table, maybe get a drink.
And who knows, you may even meet someone…..