I am sitting next to my mother-in-law at a family Bar-Mitzvah. As you may know, Bar-Mitzvahs are fraught with tensions and underlying currents of frustration.
I get up to go sit next to my cousin, Daphna, and my mother-in-law has a melt-down. She starts muttering to no one in particular: "What! See! Look what she did! I don't know why she doesn't like us!"
She starts talking louder: "Look what I have to endure! What I have to go through!"
She's shouting: "All my life I suffer! Why do I have to go through this?"
"Ssh, Ma. Be quiet! It's a Bar-Mitzvah!," everyone is telling her. "Not now, not now!"
Then my husband gets into the act. He comes over to me.
"Joy—come here right now! I have to talk to you!"
Everyone is looking at us. He's standing up, leaning over me, and I'm sitting down.
"Not now, Ralph," I say, trying to keep my calm.
"Yes, right now."
"No.... Not now."
"You have to go outside with me, right now," he says, really angry.
"No, Ralph, I'm not going outside with you."
Everyone is looking at us. "Sha! Ssh! It's a Bar-Mitzvah! Be nice! Ssh!"
"I have to talk to you about something very important," he says.
"No.... No, I'm not going outside."
"Well, then," he says.... "Well, then.... YOU'RE NOT A GOOD WIFE!!!"
After spending the rest of the party in silence with my husband and mother-in-law, I apologize to her.
"Ma, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"No! I don't want to talk to you!" she says tearfully, with a wave of her hands.
"Ma, I'm sorry I moved my seat. I didn't mean to hurt you. Come, we'll sit next to each other right now."
"What good would that do? No.... It doesn't matter anymore."
So I pull her up with me onto the dance floor, and we dance together. She begins smiling, and soon she's telling people, "Look—I'm dancing with my daughter-in-law! I'm so happy! I'm so lucky to have a daughter-in-law!"
Joy Farha is the mother of five, and lives in Queens, New York.