Dear Dating Coach,
I am not going home for Sukkos this year. Most of my married siblings will be by my parents or by their in-laws. As a single, I really don’t want to join them. I would rather stay in my apartment and share meals with my other single friends. All I get at home are (non)helpful suggestions pertaining to my dating life or the assumption that I am excited to be an unpaid babysitter to my nieces and nephews. My parents are very hurt that I don’t plan to come home and I am now fending off calls from my siblings for my “selfishness.” How do I make them understand?
Single Staying Put
Dear Staying Put,
I always loved that game we played when we were little that encouraged you to pretend that you were stranded on an island. The game asked that you pick one item that you would take with you in order to survive and potentially thrive on your fictional island. (Yes, this is a real game. Play it now.) Sometimes it was an ax, sometimes a fire-starter, and sometimes a fishing rod. My favorites were always the ever-impractical fluffy mattress, reading material, or tissues. Today of course, a satellite phone might be everyone’s first choice, essentially ending the game. Phone in hand, you would call for help, because as Donne said it best, “No man is an island.”
We May Not Have It…
I hear you. It’s can be hard to join big family Yom Tov gatherings when you are single. Often, the well-meaning suggestions offered at home by siblings and parents on whom you should be dating, and how you should be dating, only cause the single sibling pain and anxiety. Additionally, married siblings so grateful for a reprieve from childcare can also (unwittingly or wittingly) take advantage of single siblings over those long Yom Tov days. A single Sukkos can sound like a balm in comparison, where you are free to arrange your schedule as you see fit and invite like-minded friends for meals prepared together.
You are an adult and are free to make your own decisions. You also present valid points that you are welcome to share with your family as they may be saddened to hear that they have made you feel uncomfortable in your childhood home. You may also simply not feel compelled to join your family after being on your own for so long, knowing that you are self-sufficient and able to prepare and carry the Yom Tov without them.
One thing to contemplate however is that your intention of course is still to meet and marry your zivug. You want to be attached to another person, where you will make decisions as a unit and in consideration of one another. Taking the time now to develop this skill is certainly worthwhile and your family is the perfect place to start. They love you and value the time that they spend with you. Not to offer you unsolicited advice or to use you as unpaid help. They simply like being with you and feel comforted when you are with them and worry when you are “alone.” Your lack of presence will certainly be noticed no matter how many siblings and grandchildren fill beds at home, and your being there enhances the Yom Tov of your entire family.
We Have it All.
I would encourage you to consider a compromise. Perhaps joining them for the first part of Sukkos and then spending the second half with your friends. Or perhaps you could invite a single friend to inspire a change in the dynamic in your family’s sukkah. The ability to consider their feelings and their emotional response to your absence on a deeper level will only make you a better person – and one even more prepared to be a supportive and considerate spouse. No man is an island, every child is of value, and every parent wants you to be your first call on that satellite phone.