The Jewish Chronicle

Feel the fear and take a raincoat


WHILE THE Husband and I do occasional­ly agree on certain key topics (politics, religion, books, films, the need for almond croissants on a regular basis), we are in essence two different species. I am an introvert (though I don’t usually like to shout about it…) while Ben is an extrovert. Actually, make that an EXTROVERT. He once took the Myers-Briggs psychologi­cal tests as part of a management training exercise and, on the introversi­on – extroversi­on scale, he was at the end of the chart at 100 per cent extrovert. The facilitato­r said she’d never seen that before and didn’t know it was even possible.

If they’d had a test for optimism, I’m pretty sure he’d have scored 100 per cent on that, too. By contrast, I come from a long line of people on both sides who nurture their pessimism like a muchloved pet: on my mother’s side, gloomy Celts (all that rain, all those midges, nothing to eat but herring); on my father’s, gloomy Russians (all that snow, all those pogroms, nothing to eat but herring).

Recently, prior to heading off to Sussex for the weekend, I look at a weather app to see if I should take a rainjacket.

“No need,” says The Husband. “I checked the weather — it’s not going to rain.”

“But I checked it, too, and it said it was quite likely. Are you using some weird Pollyannaw­eather app?”

We open the apps and compare. “See!” He is triumphant. “An 11 per cent chance of rain – it’s not going to rain!”

“See!” I counter. “It says 11 per cent — more than 10 per cent. Therefore, really quite likely to rain.”

It rained. Of course. But I had my rain jacket (you think I’d leave it at home? Am I some kind of crazy daredevil?), so I won. Yes, I know marriage isn’t supposed to be some kind of competitio­n, but it is. It is!

We are similarly different (if that’s possible) about the issue of clubs and groups, where our respective introvert/extrovert natures come to the fore.

The Husband is completely at ease in social situations or gatherings of any kind. I am reasonably sociable — I love family dinners or going out for supper with one or two friends. But I’m not at my best at parties or in large groups —I veer between feeling shy and awkward like a gauche teenager, only with wrinkles, or being manic and babbling

because I haven’t been out enough and am trying to shoehorn a month’s worth of conversati­on into two hours.

The Teen has lots of friends and is clearly nothing like as shy as I once was, but he is not naturally inclined towards group activities either.

When he was little, the few attempts we made at off-loading him at a kids’ club on holiday were hopeless failures. At one (in the Canaries), the helpers were all German for some reason and so, when the other kids at the club also happened to be German, they all spoke in their native tongue, leaving our poor boy feeling left out and confused.

At another, we had 20 minutes to ourselves before we were called to retrieve him as he was crying. The only time it was ok was when I sat next to him on one of those teeny-tiny plastic chairs that make you feel as if you’re perched on a potty, and we each made a house out of Lego (I really should have been an architect — I was awarded a star sticker).

When the Husband was the same age as The Teen is now, he was an ardent enthusiast of BBYO and he still often sings its praises. Apparently, it stands for B’nei Brith Youth Organisati­on and not, as would be likely if it were a non-Jewish club expecting youths in search of alcohol: Bloody Bring Your Own.

I foolishly ask Ben about what sort of things he did there, wondering if The Teen might like it, too, but this unleashes what sounds like a brainstorm­ing session for its PR team: “— work for Soviet Jewry — social work for old people — charity fund-raising — helping refugees — talks from Holocaust survivors — seminars about Israel — discos — matzah rambles — weekends away —’”

Matzah rambles? Ooh, is that like fungi foraging? Only you go and look for matzahs in their native habitat? Do you hunt for the rare wholewheat matzah, now apparently on the verge of extinction?

I wander down this course for a minute before The Husband explains that it’s just going for a walk during Pesach then having a picnic with matzahs. Oh.

Yesterday, I got an email from our synagogue letting us know about the various clubs on offer during the summer holidays.

“Hey!” I say to The Teen, “Would you like to sign up for two ‘crafternoo­ns’ of fun with other teens at shul?” He gives me a withering look and says, “I’m all right, thanks.” My DNA is alive and well. I’m so proud.

Zelda Leon is half-Jewish by birth then did half a conversion course as an adult (half-measures in all things….) to affirm her Jewish status before a Rabbinical Board. She is a member of a Reform synagogue. Zelda Leon is a pseudonym.

At parties I’m either shy as a gauche teenager or I’m manic and babbling

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