By Hannah Reich Berman
It’s always a comfort to know that some of my life experiences are not mine alone. It’s something similar to the feeling of “misery loves company.” And while some experiences, such as the one I am about to describe here, may not actually qualify as misery for me, they also don’t make me happy.
I can’t think of many things that strike fear into my heart as much as when one of my children tells me something of interest and then calls me back a day later and says, “Ma, don’t tell anyone what I told you because I don’t want anyone to know.” Hearing this brings on a queasy feeling while simultaneously causing me to hyperventilate. This is because, by that time, I have already told some of my friends and now I have to call each one back and tell her not to repeat what I told her! And since a full 24 hours have passed, and assuming I remember whom I told, I also have to wonder how many people each one of them has told. GULP!
This may not be a universal experience, so I will put it in its proper perspective by saying that as we age, most women depend more and more upon our friends. Not all women do this, but I do, and my close friends do as well. If they didn’t, chances are they wouldn’t be my friends. We share experiences—happy ones, sad ones, and unusual ones. We share our hopes and we share our fears. That’s just the way it is.
The other day, my friend Bryna shared with me a piece of information about something hilarious that her grandson had done. I eventually learned that she had repeated the tale to several others. What her grandson did was not bad, mean-spirited, or foolish, and it would not cause embarrassment to anyone. But a few hours after the telling, Bryna’s daughter called her back and told her, in no uncertain terms, that she was not to repeat the story.
Bryna nearly choked. She had to quickly make calls to those she had told (the ones that she could remember telling) and she began to shvitz. What if one of those friends, including me, happened to meet her daughter while shopping? Bryna knew that the possibility existed and also knew that any one of us might very well mention the incident to her daughter. Oy vey!
As told to me later by Bryna, her heart stood still. And I knew exactly how she felt, as I have had the same experience more times than I care to remember. I haven’t spoken to Bryna in two days, so as of this writing, I have no idea how it panned out. I don’t know if she reached everyone she had told. I don’t know if any of them had already passed the story on to others. And I also don’t know if it was too late. Did anyone bump into the daughter and mention something about her son’s escapade? Eventually Bryna will let me know how it turned out. In the meantime, my prayers are with her!
When something like that happens to me, I panic. But I have solutions in place. If I have told only one friend, and if not too much time has passed since I did, I figure I’m in the clear. That scenario leaves me with two choices: Either I level with my daughter, admit that I told one person, and assure her that I will call that person right away to tell her to keep the tale under her hat. Or I will not level with my daughter, simply tell her that I won’t tell a soul, and then quickly hang up the phone and call back the one person I told. Now and then, however, things get away from me, and when that happens I get into hot water. Make that boiling hot water!
The following words reverberate in my ears. “Ma, why do you need to tell your friends everything I tell you? That’s it, Ma! I’m never telling you anything ever again!” I have solutions in place for that eventuality, too. My first is to apologize profusely and explain that I didn’t think it was something that couldn’t be repeated. I can tell my daughter that she never said it was a secret. I also try to soften the blow to my ego by telling her that I didn’t immediately call anyone in order to tell the story but that this person just happened to call me when it was fresh in my mind.
The other option that I sometimes employ is “the best defense is a good offense.” I use it when I’m not in the mood to deal with a daughter’s annoyance. It’s not perfect, but I like it because it brings a hasty conclusion to the discussion. I say, “Okay, so don’t tell me anything anymore.” I don’t mean that, of course, but I say it. And the usual response from my daughter is, “Don’t worry. I won’t.” The good news is that she doesn’t mean what she says any more than I do.
But, getting back to my friend Bryna, while I’m sorry for her trouble because I love her, I am comforted by the fact that I am not unique. Sometimes, that’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.