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A College Grad: Dependent on Dad, Consumed by Guilt

Dear Bintel Brief:

As a recent college graduate, I feel very lucky — particularly in this economic environment — to have landed a job in a creative and very competitive field. I find my work fulfilling in all respects but one: It simply doesn’t pay enough for me to live even a no-frills existence in New York, where my job is.

Since my workweeks regularly exceed 60 hours, and my job requires me to be “on call” most evening and weekends, seeking out a second job to supplement my meager paycheck does not seem like a realistic option.

My parents are currently giving me around $200 a month to help pay my bills and rent. However, the check inevitably comes with both a nudge from my dad about the importance of self-sufficiency and with a whole lot of self-imposed guilt and frustration that I can’t stand on my own two feet.

I’m embarrassed asking for and accepting handouts from my parents, who paid in full for my education with the reasonable expectation that I’d be paying my own bills after graduation. But I don’t see another way to make ends meet if I am going to stay on what I think is a very promising career path.

What should I do?

DEPENDENT ON DAD

Mayim Bialik replies:

Dear Dependent:

Oy. Gelt with guilt — the saddest kind there is.

As I see it, you can stop taking the money because you cannot deal with the nudges he delivers. But this most likely means stopping the path you are on or drastically shifting your lifestyle to a much more meager living situation and possibly resolving to wearing shmattes, since there will be no money for new clothes. Doesn’t sound good, right?

I would say you ought to humbly and gratefully continue accepting the money, and find a way to deal with the nudges on your own or with the help of a licensed psychotherapist. You can’t change your dad any more than you can change the pull of the tides. It’s his shtick to give grief, and he has been doing it longer than you’ve been aware of it. I promise. Learn how to cope with it by replying with something like: “I know Dad, I’m a freeloader. But at least I’m your loving, adoring, cute freeloader. Got any rugelach in the fridge?” Alternately, a very reasonable “You’re right, Dad. It’s a tough situation and I can’t wait until I am not dependent on you. I love you. Thank you!” might make him back off. Agreeing with your parents really freaks them out. Try it.

As for the “self-imposed” guilt and frustration that you speak of: It’s not yet Yom Kippur; give yourself a break! You are young, you are just starting out, and the financial and geographical circumstances of your life (and a lot of others’) means it is hard to get by. That’s okay. It won’t always be like this and you will have time to thank your parents and repay them. They love you and they really do want you to be happy. I promise.


*Mayim Bialik, who starred in 1990s sitcom “Blossom,” is an actress and a neuroscientist. *


If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, email [email protected]. Selected letters will be published anonymously. New installments of the Bintel Brief, featuring Mayim Bialik, will be published Mondays in September at www.forward.com.

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