I grappled between publishing this letter along with my response, or not. I decided to publish it, because I will not shy away from topics that are affecting our frum community because the topics are not rated G and therefore appropriate for pre-teens to hear and be exposed to. I will not only answer questions such as, “The boy said he wears a black hat all the time, but my aunt saw him in the pizza shop without wearing it!” If you read the letter and my response carefully, you will see that I answered the questioned asked – nothing more, nothing less. This may be the type of article that can help families start the conversation that I think all families should have. Out of all the letters on this topic that I received, this was the tamest and most general that I thought would be appropriate for this type of newspaper.
Please see my comments at the very end of the article, as well.
I met the man whom I’m dating through mutual friends. We had seen each other a couple of times at one of our friends’ homes, one thing led to another… and now we have been dating for a while. I’m happy and he seems happy. What’s the issue? I know once or twice a week or when Dave (not his real name) is very stressed out that he will enjoy some hallucinogenics to take the edge off of things. In fact, the first time I met him at our friends’ house, he was coming in from the yard with another friend after they had just “puffed.” That’s how he refers to it, as “puffing.”
Other than that, he is everything I’m looking for and we get along very well. He has a stressful job. He owns his own business and all the pressure is on him. So, a couple of times a week he takes a puff. He says it calms him down, relaxes him so he can forget about work. Dave has said that if he didn’t take a little time to relax, he would be anxious and stressed all the time. I know for a fact that Dave does not engage in this habit every night, like I said, only a couple of times a week. He only does it at home or at friends’ houses; he doesn’t drive when he’s “relaxed.” It may sound as if I am asking for permission to continue dating him, but I’m not. I’m just terrified when my family finds out about it and I am sure they eventually will. My parents will freak out and they may say I can’t date him anymore because he is a “pothead” or will “influence me.” My parents are very straight. I don’t want to make them out to be very strict, and that everything is their way or the highway; it’s not like that. But they’re old-school and they will judge the puffing a couple of times a week as a huge negative. They’ve met Dave and like him. I just know that this will change their opinion about him, and even though I’m in my 20s and not living with them anymore, they are going to probably pressure me into breaking up with him, because: “How do you know he doesn’t engage in any other type of relaxing activities?”
I spoke with my best friend who knows Dave. She said that Dave is one of the most responsible people she knows, and she does not consider him a “pothead” or someone addicted to the plant. She agreed with me that Dave is running a business and has a lot of balls in the air, and he needs to take a break from it all sometimes. She said that she is surprised he didn’t use it more often. I know Dave is a responsible and mature person. I know about marijuana and its effect on people. I know how Dave is when he is “relaxed.” Eventually, I am sure that he will stop “using the puff,” but I can’t force him to, because he may end up resenting me. I’m fine with Dave occasionally puffing. I have never ever wanted to try it and he hasn’t asked me or tried to influence me at all.
I’m so worried about my parents. I can see a future with Dave. I can also see them sitting me down in their living room to have a talk with me about Dave and breaking up with him.
What do you think?
Leah, thank you for your email.
Let me begin by saying that I am not someone who is an expert or even half an expert on recreational or pharmaceutical drugs. I read about them, see news stories about them, TV shows involving them, etc. I didn’t do any research on them. I didn’t study them or take a workshop on the effects of drugs on the human body or on drug prevention. What I am going to say is advice from someone who is living in society and understands what your fear is.
First off, you said that your parents will find out about Dave’s habit. And that is what it is, a habit. Google defines the word habit as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” You wrote, “I am sure they eventually will.” How are you so “sure”? Do you think one of your friends will let the cat out of the bag to your parents? My guess is they won’t. I also don’t think Dave would “puff,” as you put it, in front of your parents or someone who would “narc” on him. But even if he did, or if someone told your parents, or one of your parents saw Dave in the midst of his habit, what do you really think would happen? Is his habit something that you are ashamed or embarrassed of? I can understand why some may not care if friends or associates find out about certain habits, but parents fall into a different category. If it embarrasses you, then that’s a whole different situation altogether.
Many think of their parents as “old-school,” or people who can’t understand how the world has changed since they were younger. With some states legalizing marijuana, have you personally heard your parents talk about how “society is going down the drain” or “the evils of weed”? For all you know, your parents may not have a strong opinion about it. Yes, they may not want their child to take any drugs that are for recreational purposes. But you are in your 20s and making adult decisions. You really are the only one who counts, in my opinion. If you are “fine” with what Dave is doing, then continue dating him, and, if need be, defend him and his habit when your family finds out, if they have an issue with it.
Leah, I want you to be fully informed when you make the decision to definitely stay in the relationship with Dave. You wrote that you’ve been around Dave when he is “relaxed” and you are aware of when he “puffs.” Leah, make sure you know everything. Go into this with your eyes wide open. You met him when he was coming in from outside with someone else who was engaged in the same habit. Do your friends engage in other habits that may influence Dave? It’s wonderful that Dave hasn’t tried to influence you and respects your decision not to share his habit, but think long-term and of others. What if you marry him? You said that eventually you are sure that he will stop, but did you speak about that? What if you get pregnant and have a baby? Then he will be juggling more balls in the air: his business PLUS a family and all (the stress) that comes with a family. I don’t know many who think all that is calming; if anything, it makes them worry about things even more. If this was me, I would discuss it all with Dave.
Being in your 20s is great. Those in their 20s say that they don’t take “stuff” seriously, and that’s what their 30s and 40s are meant for. You are still free to do things you would never do if you were older (wiser) and married. But ask Dave about this. Have an open conversation. If he tells you that he isn’t sure when or if he will stop his habit, forget your parents’ reaction and what they will say; what will you do and say? If you want to stay in a relationship and eventually marry and have children with someone who, now, puffs “once or twice a week,” then go ahead. Research the long-term effects of Dave’s habit on the human brain and body. If you are okay with it, then “stand by your man.” But if you have any doubts about it, talk about it and talk about it now. Don’t put it off until he proposes.
But I like your forward thinking of “what do I do when my parents find out?” I like how you are planning ahead. But you must let that play out as it will. In the meantime, you should think a little more about Dave and his habit and how you truly feel about it. Would Dave give up his habit for you? Will he resent you for it, as you put it? Will he replace this habit with another? There is a lot to think about.
Please note that I am not condoning or condemning anything in this article. Leah wrote to me, asking a question, and I addressed the question. If and when someone asks me for my personal opinion on the matter, I will provide it. But Leah did not want it. So please do not write to me that “This is a family paper and you wrote….” This particular article was discussed with Rabbi Schonfeld before it was published. All agreed that this was the safest way to publish an article such as this. I am not one to pretend that issues of the (secular) world do not affect and creep into the frum world. They do. It’s a fact. Better to print an article like this and begin a conversation than for your child to find out the answers to their questions from friends.
Hatzlachah to you all.