Valentine’s Day is nothing short of a mishegas for shmereldiks (excuse me while I sell that one to Hallmark and make my millions). I don’t really know anyone who enjoys this marketing ploy of a Yom Tov, even those in smugly contented relationships.
Of course no singleton gets kicks out of a day designed to underscore exactly how single they are. Although it arguably has less of a potent effect on our tribe. Technically, as Jews we shouldn’t be making too much of a fuss celebrating a Christian saint, but then if we start getting technical over what Jews are supposed to be doing we’d be here for a while and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the kind of article you were after — if you were tempted to read on after my opening line.
The real reason Valentine’s Day is a touch null and void for Jewish singletons is because they do not need a national holiday to scrutinise the cracks in their love lives.
That’s what Jewish mothers are for.
I always assumed my own Jewish mother was pretty atypical when it came to these things. She seemed to exude a detached calmness on all matters related to my relationships, possibly because such matters often erred on the side of the ridiculous. That was until her friend’s daughter got engaged and suddenly, she flipped.
On putting down the phone after showering her friend with the mandatory mazel tovs she turned to me and said somewhat aggressively: “That third date better go well.” (It didn’t.) Now that I am in a relationship she has taken to texting me pictures of baby clothes. To which I reply: “Get a job.”
Jewish 20-somethings (and 30-somethings, who have it worse) can entertain themselves for hours swapping war stories of interfering Jewish mothers, fathers, grandparents (when I remarked to my Grandma that I couldn’t believe I was turning 28 last May, her reply “and what are you going to do about it?” stumped me. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t enquiring as to my party plans that involved Jager bombs and dancing on tables because we just don’t have those kinds of chats.)
But recently I have had something of a revelation. At my work Christmas do, sandwiched between two non-Jewish colleagues and pretending to handle my alcohol, I realised they were bemoaning the exact same afflictions as my Jewish friends — relatives driving them mad about their love lives.
One of their mothers has essentially given up all hope for her (she’s 32) and another detailed how every February 15 her grandmother would call her with one question… “Well?” There was another friend whose mother insisted on taking her new boyfriend on a tour of the house when he first came to meet the family and as they reached the end of the landing gestured: “And this is where the nursery will be.”
This was marvellous, I thought. I felt like running through the streets waving an interfaith flag proclaiming: “It’s not just the Jews, it’s not just the Jews!”
And the more I investigated the domestic Gentile world (hard-hitting journalism that often involved me asking my friends “so does your mum drive you mental too?”) the more harassment was revealed.
One mentioned her friend, Alice, 32, who made a birthday cake for her niece and said to her mum: “I hope someone will do this for me one day,” to which her mother replied: “What are you talking about? You’re nearly 40, you’re clearly never giving me grandchildren!”
Another, who has been with her boyfriend for five years, only just 27, complains of being constantly asked when they will settle down. A celebrity journalist, she says: “Even bloody Anna Friel ticked me off when I interviewed her — ‘How long have you been together? Five years? Well, it’s about time he proposed’. I mean...pot, kettle!” (I’ll leave you to Google the ins and outs of Anna Friel’s love life in your own time.)
So dear Semitic singletons, as you may feel the urge to punch anyone carrying flowers, anything heart-shaped or vaguely cuddly in the face this weekend, cheer yourself with the thought that you are not alone. There are interfering mothers everywhere.
PS love you Mum x