Drawing of a family arguing over dinner. by the Forward

Advice on plumbers, prophets and pet peeves

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From its start in 1906, A Bintel Brief was a pillar of the Forward, helping generations of Jewish immigrants learn how to be American. Now our columnists are helping people navigate the complexities of being Jewish in 2020. Send questions to dearabbys@forward.com.

What if I hate my friends?

Dear Abbys,

What is the best way to deal with my petty thoughts right now? I know everyone is dealing with a lot, but some friends and family are really driving me bonkers, asking me simple things they should be able to find otherwise, or complaining about things I don’t think are worth complaining about. It is mean and seems like a very wrong time to tell someone off, but how do I deal with my frustrations?

Frustrated Friend, Los Angeles

Dear Frustrated,

So glad you wrote. Because this is the pettiest letter we’ve ever had to deal with and we are totally rolling our eyes and feeling immensely superior because this pandemic has made us into soulful, enlightened new beings.

Ahem, yeah, not so much, You know what one of the best parts of the day is right now? Charging into the husband’s study (formerly known as “our bedroom”) and yelling, “OMG, you won’t believe what X said!” Then reporting to said husband, verbatim, whatever petty/ridiculous/stupid things some friend just said over text. And then we laugh and roll our eyes and feel momentarily superior.

No, the pandemic has not made us into better people — and it probably hasn’t done that for you, either, Frustrated Friend. Don’t worry about it. Honestly. There are bigger problems to ponder than whether you’re having petty thoughts about your friends and family. We all are having petty thoughts about everyone and everything. We Abbys aren’t psychologists, but it must be a coping mechanism. We are all seeking some sense of normalcy in this new very-much-not-normal — and what is more normal than bitching about the people you love?

So give yourself a break. If you drift closer to some friends and farther away from others, maybe that’s O.K. This is a time to rethink everything. On the other side of all this, who will you want in your corner? Who would you be sad to lose? Who takes up your time and energy without giving you enough back?

Where to draw the line on D.I.Y.?

Dear Abbys,

Help! Leaky sink! My husband wants the plumber in and I say this is non-essential. Thoughts?

Anxious Nelly

Dear Nelly,

How great would it be right now to see a different man’s butt crack?

Look, one of our bathroom sinks has been clogged for two months. It takes approximately 30 minutes for it to fully drain. When you’re washing your hands as much as we all are, this is problematic (and yes, gross). During the first week of the pandemic, the husband suggested someone come fix it. Are we going to unlatch our family-unit socially-distanced seal for some plumber?! No way. We do not have enough Clorox wipes for that.

If your husband is so concerned about the leaky sink, he can figure out how to fix it himself. Isn’t it time, anyway? Can he spell Y-O-U-T-U-B-E?

Would the prophets have worn P.J.s?

Dear Abbys,

Any thoughts on what Moses would say about now? Better yet: Miriam?
(And another thing — Pajamas all day? When does that rule end?)


Dear XYZ,

Feels like right about now, Moses would be on the hunt for another Burning Bush full of instructions. Miriam, on the other hand, would figure out a way to be a first responder. Miriam was all about sizing up the situation (i.e., hail, locusts, darkness, slaying of the firstborn) and gearing up for the fight. Miriam was the one who got Moses safely back to their mom. She was also the one who led the Israelite women in song and dance when they made it to freedom.

Miriam was a badass, and it’s natural to seek guidance or at least inspiration from strong figures right now.

One of us Abbys finds herself grieving her mom all over again even though she died almost 16 years ago. Mom always knew what to do, whether it was reheating some kugel for lunch, organizing a fundraiser for nurses, or putting on more blush. But guess what? She wouldn’t actually know how to handle this pandemic. Neither would Moses or Miriam. Ay, there’s the rub (and the heartbreak). Because nobody has confronted a situation quite like this before, and it’s really, really hard and complicated.

Listen XYZ, we don’t want to rain on your parade — but if you’re in a parade, WE HOPE YOU’RE WEARING A MASK! The truth is, we think Miriam and Moses would be lost, too. They’d be wandering together, just putting one foot in front of the other, and maybe debating whether to have a plumber come over or take a stab at that sink themselves.

(And in terms of the pajamas - Yes and never. But switch up the undies please.)

Bintel Brief: plumbers, prophets and pet peeves

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