Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m dating this new guy, and it’s getting serious. I’d really like him to meet my family. Since everyone is usually around for Shabbat dinner, I thought this would be the best time to bring him over to meet my parents and siblings. However, he’s not Jewish, and he’s not very religious in general. My family is welcoming (we’re Jews, so naturally!), but I’m worried he may feel uncomfortable and pull away from me. I really love being Jewish, it’s a big part of who I am in the world. And I love my family’s weekly Shabbats. It’s actually something I want to do with my own family, when I get there. What should I do? Should I bring him to Shabbat dinner? B.G., Berkeley
Jessica: I immediately wonder why you think he would pull away from you. If your family is as loving and welcoming as you say, I would think the experience should make him like you even more. A great girl from a nice, warm family is a good thing. I understand that not being Jewish may make him feel a little out of place, but hold his hand at dinner! Or give him some way to participate in your rituals (an English reading, perhaps). I think it’s really fantastic that you want your new beau to meet your family. Your new man must be pretty great for you to want to share your Shabbat dinner with him.
Alexis: If you already think he’ll feel uncomfortable sharing in a celebration that is important and meaningful to you, then this may be the wrong guy for you. And better to figure this out sooner rather than later. You should talk to him about your concerns — express your worry about the upcoming dinner, how important it is for you to make him feel comfortable, and also how much it would mean for him to meet your family. If he knows how much you care about his feelings, he’ll likely feel less awkward. I’d also suggest prepping him about what to expect — teach him a prayer if he’s up for it; it could be fun. Bottom line: If you’re both open and honest with each other, everything will work out.
Sharon: It is not easy to show up at a new girlfriend’s home to meet the parents, even without the added pressure of participating in unfamiliar family rituals. I would definitely help your new boyfriend ahead of time by letting him know exactly what to expect at Shabbat dinner. Who knows? His last girlfriend or best friend may be Jewish, and he may be more comfortable than you antici-pate. I completely support bringing anyone who feels important to you into the family circle early and often. You said yourself that family and your Jewishness is important to you, so don’t hide it. If he is uncomfortable with your cultural differences, it is past time to open up about your family and your traditions. Even if you don’t feel particularly religious, you clearly care about keeping connected to your roots.
Saul: It is nerve-wracking meeting any girl’s family for the first time. I never know what they already know about me or what their expectation is of this “meet and greet” moment. My advice is to find an opportunity to swing by after dinner so the new guy has to be grilled for only an hour rather than an entire evening. If all goes well, there are plenty of other Friday nights to hang with the family. There is nothing more awkward than trying to make conversation with her dad while your girl has disappeared and you are left trying to be entertaining.
Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.