Chanukah Parties

There wasn’t a chance to publish this on Chanukah, so it went into the drafts and I forgot about it until now. So, here you are.

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There’s nothing like a family Chanukah party to remind you about how single you are.

It always starts the same way. Hug and kiss the grandmother while being asked when you will be arriving late due to husband and kids. Smile and say you hope sometime soon.

Then the cousins with the husbands and kids arrive. There are the usual greetings. “Hello, I haven’t seen you in so long, what are you up to these days?”

Don’t be fooled. They are not under the impression that you change your life every year. They just can’t remember what you were doing from last Chanukah party. If you’re feeling merciful, you give them the full rundown, “Still teaching pig-latin to orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.” If you’re feeling cruel, you just say, “Oh, same as last year.” Then wait for their smile to go forced as they ask “And that is what?”

You meet about 18 different cousins and have the identical conversation with each of them. You coo at their babies. You call them cute. You comment on how much or how little hair they have and how smiley they are/aren’t. This is the easy part. The hard part is when you sit down with your latkes and try to find yourself someone your age and single to talk to.

You look around.

You look around some more.

And then you realize that you are the last remaining grandchild within your decade to be unpaired.

So you resign yourself to finding a favorite cousin who happens to be married. But alas. It’s like the bodysnatchers got them. Your favorite cousin is no longer there.

Conversation is about getting children into preschool in Lakewood. It’s about where the cheapest, best-quality diapers are. If it’s a Lakewood table, they’ll cover who is receiving what benefits from the government and how they  deal with all the full-fat milk that food stamps requires them to buy. If it’s a Five Towns table, they’re most likely covering children’s clothing sales.

The most you can really contribute to these conversations is “I heard that…” or “My friend says…” You have conversation via proxy experience. If you really make an effort, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. You are not you: you are the sum total of the related experiences of others that you have accumulated in your grey matter.  Thank God you have married friends on food stamps.

Well, sort of. I mean, obviously it would be better if they weren’t. But since the government is so generous, your friend benefits, and you benefit, and your table at the Chanukah party benefits because they don’t have that awkward single sitting there quietly swirling the sour cream on her plate. It’s like a great ripple of joy emanating from Washington D.C.

Uncle Sam’s Chanukah gelt.

Happy Holiday, all.

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9 thoughts on “Chanukah Parties

  1. That was the story of my life for quite some time – except my Lakewood and 5T cousins are on opposite sides of the family – so at Channukah parties i dealt with my Lakewood/mostly BP couins. Same situation. It was me and my HS cousins when i was in my 20s…and watching my much-younger cousins dote on their hubbies….
    Those things were hell. I showed up for about 20 min one year.
    The next year, i was finally married. And that was the year they decided the family was too large to make the party. Yup.

  2. Ah, but what happens when one’s cousin has already married off her daughter?

    I remember babysitting that kid.

    Now, Chanuka gets really awkward. Not only am I the last single cousin (except for the 17 year old, but wait for it) but the next generation after me is tying the knot.

    So I grab a niece and clutch her for dear life. “I’m with her.”

  3. I’m single, but I find the “Hi, what are you up to nowadays?” question to be asked to all of my relatives by all of my relatives. Thank God I have many relatives, so none of us excluding the grandparents, can remember what each other does with their lives.

    I guess I should be thankful that not all of my relatives are in kollel.

  4. Bad4:
    Its a tough situation, but sometimes you just have to go through with these events, difficult though they certainly are. Perhaps its a little easier for the guys than the gals – grandparents are more tolerant of their grandsons’ singleness.
    Keep your chin up!!!!

  5. I think the guys have it easier- they all sit together just like they always did- whether married or not- its the women with the babies that are in their own little bubbles

  6. I can so relate. Worst thing is they always ask me if I’m “still” involved with the business I created. Um, yeah. I’m glad you’re rooting for my failure / don’t realize it’s a viable business.

    I guess I should ask you if you’re “still” milking that fast-track degree in some quasi-professional role…

  7. Is this satire? Do frum women openly admit to being “welfare queens” in front of family? Are they so crass as to brag about it and dispense advice? Are they that ungrateful about the milk our taxes bought them? Have they no shame? Do the rabbis tolerate this?

  8. wow. sad. but have you ever tried to begin a topic of general interest that doesn’t involve babies or husbands? like, do they vote? even in local lakewood elections? can you talk about Israel? books? if not, then that’s the real problem, sadly. your female relatives don’t have your interests and vitality, your wit and intelligence. I bet when they were single the conversation wasn’t very exciting, either. talk to the men. the intelligent ones. perhaps their conversation will be more stimulating

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