The Debrief: A Satire


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This piece originally appeared on The Debrief, a sex, dating, and relationships column by Mimi Arbeit that appears every Wednesday on

Rated PG

In which I rant about the pressure to reproduce.
It all started when I got this email from my dad:

———- Forwarded message ———-
Dear Parents,
I am in search of email addresses of your young adults ages 22-35 who have been affiliated with our temple in the past. We are trying to reach out to this age group to create events geared toward this age group in the future.

If you have children that fit this category and they live in the Boston area, please send me their names and email addresses so we can begin organizing this group and planning our first event.
Thank you in advance for your help with this effort.

Hi Mimi,

Obviously, the proper way to do this would be to ask us to forward this notice, thereby letting you (the young adult, no longer a child to be “signed up”) decide if you want to be included in this—that is, letting you “opt in” rather than have to “opt out” later.

Not sure with all the discussion debate about privacy why that proves to be such a hard concept for people.

Anyway, here you go.

Why the blatant request for breach of privacy, as my dad wondered? Why appeal to parents to access their grown-up children? I replied:

Dear Father,

Ah, you are operating under the assumption that privacy would be a leading priority in this situation.

No, privacy is not a factor in this process. This email is founded in one assumption and one assumption only—that you, as a Jewish parent of a 22- to 35-year-old young adult, have one singular priority at all times: the production of Jewish babies. In order to produce said Jewish babies, your wayward 22- to 35-year-old child will need to locate someone else’s wayward 22- to 35-year-old child. Often there is also pressure that this other person have complementary reproductive organs, supposedly to aid in the speed and propriety with which said babies can be produced. The corollary of this assumption is thus that you, as the Jewish parent of a young adult, will go to any lengths necessary to prompt your young adult to meet other Jewish young adults. The Jewish-ness of these other young adults is also a key factor in this equation, to ostensibly strengthen the Jewish-ness of the resulting offspring. Given the strength of the urgency to complete the task of the production of Jewish babies, you will thus go to any lengths to make progress toward this goal. The violation of your child’s privacy and the neglect of your child’s personal agency is but a small, almost negligible, sacrifice for any small step toward the potential of babies-to-come.

Now, you may ask, what if my Jewish young adult has already located another Jewish young adult, and together they already have what they need to commence with baby production? Extensive research connects peer norms to individual reproductive behaviors. If your Jewish couple meets other Jewish couples, some of whom may be even further along in the procedures of reproduction, then the likelihood of your Jewish young adult proceeding even further along the steps toward said reproduction will increase significantly. Therefore, the promise of progress toward the production of Jewish babies remains the same, and the importance of the privacy and personal agency of your Jewish young adult offspring remains negligible.

You, my father, seem to not have responded to this email in accordance with the assumption that your top priority for your offspring is furthering progress in the task of the production of Jewish babies. I hypothesize that it is knowledge of the following constraint of the particular situation of this particular Jewish offspring that makes this case an outlier:

Your current priority for me, as a parent, happens to be the successful and timely completion of my dissertation, for which actively avoiding the production of infants (of any variety) is necessary, however unfortunate that may be.

This constraint nullifies your obviously-initial-Jewish-parent-instinct to support (at all costs) the progress toward the production of Jewish babies. In the absence of the drive toward prompting your offspring to produce more offspring, you had the benefit of an opportunity in which to consider other values (of obviously lesser importance), such as the aforementioned right to privacy and exercise of personal agency of your beloved Jewish young adult offspring. But you, as far as Jewish parents go, are clearly an exception.

Or so the temple is hoping.


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