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Ask Anyone

sons and lovers

My mother, a devout Catholic, has been upset for the past year because I’m not married but living with my girlfriend. Then, Governor Cuomo makes headlines by attending Mass with his girlfriend, Food Network TV personality Sandra Lee. On top of it, they are both divorced. A Vatican advisor came out and said the Albany Bishop should not have given communion to Cuomo—that it was a grave sin. That’s all Mom needed to hear. She’s practically in hysterics.

I don’t share her religious devotion, but I love her. I also love my girlfriend, and would like nothing better than to settle down with her. My Mom seems to like my girlfriend well enough, although she doesn’t agree with our living arrangement. She’s asked me when we plan on getting married. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I’m wondering how I’m going to tell her that my girlfriend is, in fact, Jewish.

Any advice?

—Half a Boy and Half a Man

The Sales Guy says: All due respect to your Mom’s belief system, it’s you and your girlfriend’s decision to make, not hers. If you two are indeed in love, things should work out anyway, one way or another, and the leverage you’ll have about seeing the future grandchildren should keep your Mom’s Rose Kennedy-like devotion in check.

There of course is one wild card. That is if your Mom’s loaded, and can threaten to cut you off.

She may hold the winning hand if your love can be influenced by the potential loss of piles of cash.

The Straight Skinny: You poor befuddled fool: What you perceive as a problem is in fact your redemption. Next time you stop by your mother’s place for a nip of the sacramental wine, let her know how you feel about your girlfriend: that you love her, that you’d like to settle down with her, maybe raise a family.

“Just one problem, Ma,” you’ll say, then lean toward her conspiratorially. “She’s Jewish.”

If she’s the old-school Catholic you describe her to be, she’ll understand at once that your girlfriend is not someone she wants bearing and raising her son’s children. She may continue to despair of your living arrangement, and your choice in women, but at least she’ll take solace in that fact that you haven’t married out of the faith.

Conversely, you may find that her worries are less related to redemption and religion than you assume. She may react by saying, “I don’t care if she’s Jewish or Zoroastrian. I just want you to be happy. I’m afraid that you’ll go through your whole life floating from one thing to the next, and call me old-fashioned, but I won’t believe this arrangement of yours is permanent until there’s a wedding before God and a piece of paper from the state.”

People often put a name on their feelings that spares their loved ones criticism. Perhaps your mother doesn’t want to say, “I don’t trust you to be a responsible adult,” so she says instead that she’s worried the Church will condemn you for a sinner—in effect, she’s laying her criticism of your choices on an external source. Maybe you can demonstrate to her the seriousness of your commitment to each other in some other way that will register with her. A mortgage, perhaps, or a kid.

Snap Judgement says: Look, you’ve already broken your poor Catholic mother’s heart by shacking up, so what are you stressing about? Get on with your life secure in the knowledge that she’ll draw her last breath filled with dread because you have strayed from the family faith and will never be reunited with her again in heaven, or whatever.

Your life is not hers to live. It’s probably time you made that clear to her. Be prepared for the guilt she will provoke in you when she reminds you of your difficult childbirth, and how she struggled to put you on the right path and so on.

On the other hand, what if she sits back quietly, smiles, and quotes from scriptures? “Well, Matthew says, ‘Judge not that ye be not judged.’ She seems like a very nice girl for you. Have you discussed having children? I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

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