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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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You Don’t Like It?


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Dear Mordechai,

Someone gave me a gift that I don’t like.  But I don’t want to hurt his feelings.  What should I do? 

You Shouldn’t Have

 

Dear You,

I don’t know.  What did our forefathers do when they had this problem?

I would say you should give it to tzeddakah, but nothing offends a person like taking what he gave you and giving it to poor people.  So if someone gives you something you don’t like, my advice is to use it. A lot.  It used to be that when people got me things I didn’t like, and I’d put them (the things) in back of a closet, or on top of a bookshelf, and the things I did like would come and go, but every Pesach I’d clean my house and take out the thing I didn’t like and say, “This again?  Why is it still here?”  And then I put it right back on top of the bookshelf.  Of course it’s still here.  It’s not going to leave in middle of the night.  It’s not going to break itself.  I’m going to die with these things in my possession.  My kids are going to root through my house and say, “There’s nothing here but the things he didn’t want.”  Those are the things I’m taking with me.

I used to have the same problem with arts and crafts projects.  My kids come home from school with projects every single day, and even if it’s a good, useful project, I’m probably still using the one the last kid made.  What am I going to do with four havdallah mats?  I only make one havdallah.  And what about the projects they make that aren’t as useful around the house, like milk-carton wells and paper harps and a little tent with four doors?

So now I just let the kid play with them.  He’ll break them himself before you know it, and then you can throw them out.  Guilt-free.

I’m not saying that if someone gives you something you don’t like, you should let them borrow it and hope they break it, although depending on the person, that might be exactly why they gave it to you.  (Maybe you should ask.)  What I’m saying is that you should use it yourself, all the time.  Don’t just pull it out when the person comes to visit.  If you do that, at some point the person will be like, “I got him this sweater 30 years ago.  How is it still in good condition?”  Best case scenario, she’ll decide it’s a great-quality sweater, and start buying it for everyone.

So the idea is to use it even when he’s not around.  Wear it to the gym, to bed, in the shower – so in six months when he comes and says, “Where is it?”  You can say, “Oh.  It wore out.”

You also have to know the person who gave it, and whether he even remembers that he gave it to you, or whether he dug it out of his presents-people-gave-me-that-I-don’t-want drawer.  You could be wearing that tie in front of him for years, and he’s just silently wondering why.

 

 

Dear Mordechai,

            I’m a middle-aged guy who should probably diet.  How do I break this to my wife?

Secretly Overweight

 

Dear Secretly,

Um, good luck with that.  You could mention that you want to be healthy, and that you’re going to start eating differently, and she’ll be all agreeable at first, but all that will change when you start declining her suppers.

“What, you won’t eat my food?”

“No, I’m just saying your food isn’t healthy.”

“My food isn’t healthy?”

No, saying her food isn’t healthy isn’t healthy.  The supper might not be healthy, but if you eat it, you’ll live a lot longer than if you don’t.

Your other option, if you don’t want to offend her, is to just suggest that you both go on a diet.

“No, come back!  I said I was fat too!”

So most men just live in denial until their wife suggests they diet.  Don’t worry.  She’ll get there.

 

 

Dear Mordechai,

I have serious fleishophobia.  Is that normal?

When Did We Finish?

 

Dear When,

Boy, I get a lot of questions that our ancestors never got.

Fleishophobia is one of those things that Jews are afraid of that non-Jews are not, like friendly dogs.  You’re not going to eat a steak now, because maybe, in 5 ½ hours, you’re going to want a slice of American cheese.  This is why some people just become vegetarians.  I’m not sure why non-Jews become vegetarians, though.  What are they so afraid of?

This fear really comes from your childhood, though, because if you think about it, as an adult, what are you really scared that you won’t be able to eat?  If I come into the kitchen two hours after supper, looking for ice cream, and I’m like, “No I can’t have ice cream, I have to have fruit,” how am I messing myself over, exactly?

I understand why kids have this phobia.  Kids love ice cream, and they’re not in charge of their own food – it’s all handouts – and they never know what food is around the corner.  But if it’s something good, they want to be able to eat it.

But as an adult with money and a car, there is nothing to stop you from buying chocolate ever, except being fleishig.  Fleishigism is your parent who says, “No, you can’t have chocolate now.  You just had dinner.  You should have had your chocolate before dinner.”

There is still a place for fleishophobia, though, if you’re a husband.  A husband doesn’t want to eat fleishigs for lunch, because he doesn’t know what his wife is making for supper.  And if he’s fleishig, his wife will get seriously insulted that he’s not eating.  He’s going to have to excuse himself to make an emergency bathroom phone call to his rabbi about whether he’s allowed to break his fleishigs for sholom bayis.

(And by the way, I’m not saying it’s the wife’s job to cook dinner.  But if the husband made dinner and his wife came home and announced that she was fleishig, he’d be all for it.  And if he wasn’t, the wife can say, “Well 6 hours is your minhag.”)

That’s if you wait 6 hours.  I love these people who wait 3 hours and have fleishophobia anyway.  What are you eating in 3 hours?  Another meal?  You just ate!  Do you really need 8 meals a day?  Or are you saying, “I’m not going to eat a real meal now in case nosh comes along later”?

The worst is when you accidentally eat the milchig nosh and then realize afterwards.  Maybe that’s the fear.  You know how many fast days I almost eat?  I’ve actually made myself meals.  Because if I’m hungry, I make food.  I don’t ask myself why I’m hungry.  (This is why fruit is a better choice for me than chocolate.)

So maybe we should have little reminders.  My kindergartener came home with these red and blue signs that you’re supposed to hang on the cabinet and say “meat” and “dairy” on them.  And I don’t know what to do with them, because we already have plenty from our other kids.  I’m not expanding my kitchen for this.  So maybe we should just hang those on ourselves, so if we’re eating chocolate, people can say, “Um, you’re getting chocolate on your fleishig sign.”  It’s definitely the best way to wear those out before the next kid comes home with one.

 

Have a question for “You’re Asking Me?”  Send it in.  I’ll make sure to wear it out in a future article.

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One Response to “You Don’t Like It?”

  1. In the first question, the answer should be a lot different if the person giving the gift is a male who is attracted to the receiver of the gift. Accepting the gift may be a signal to him that she likes him back, and that could lead to more than just hurt feelings….some guys have boundary issues and have much different views on gifts and may believe the acceptance of the gift means the receiver is obligated to them in some way. Some gifts are chains, and are not given freely. I like how Mordechai gets rid of unwanted gifts though,and why do people buy people crap anyways? Objects that take a lot of space or ones that need batteries to operate…that's usually not a gift; it's a burden.

    On the last question, I would really hate to give up meat lasagna with lots of cheese, but a good vegetarian lasagna isn't bad.

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Dear Mordechai,

Someone gave me a gift that I don’t like. But I don’t want to hurt his feelings. What should I do?

You Shouldn’t Have

This week we deal with questions from people who, one way or another, are on their own. And as usual, we don’t really help them.

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