Wedding Music

“…and I give you the brocha that you should find someone who is right for you bikarov in the right time,” she finished off.

I’ve gotten very good at smiling mechanically at these, but this was my friend. She reads my blog. She listens to me kvetch. She should know better.

“Seriously? That’s the best brocha you can give me?”

“Why, what could be better?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe that I should be happy with whatever my life is however it turns out.”

“Of course I want you to be happy! Happily married! I want you to settle down and start a life!”

“Well now you’ve busted my bubble. Here I am, 27 years old, and I thought I started a life when I started paying my own bills. I have a life.”

“It’s not the same, and you know it.”

“No it’s not the same, and I do know it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a life.”

In retrospect, I might have been PMSing.

Driving home, I twirled the dial to WQXR for some classical music. The familiar beat of Pomp and Circumstance floats out of my speakers. I laughed. Some songs just always make me smile, and Pomp and Circumstance is one of them. It is just so thoroughly reminiscent of solemn collegiates in ridiculous gowns marching down the aisle, proud to be finished with their degrees and about to start life.

To start life.

My mind took the leap.

Wouldn’t it be perfect? Walking down the aisle to P & C, the song that goes with moving on, with graduating to the next stage in life.

Really, the mind wonders. Why isn’t this a more popular wedding tune?

Mazal Tov NMF#18

For finally tying the knot, even if it took an ultimatum.

We are sorry to lose you, but glad you’re hitched, and hope you have a lovely rest of your life, which is not to say we don’t plan to be involved in it (sorry if you thought this was escape).

Are Weddings for Kids?

Why I want to elope (or at least have a backyard barbecue wedding).

Is it just me, or do older singles look more bored at their weddings? It’s like they’ve realized that the wedding is empty pageantry, paying homage to social norms, and they want to finish this minor step and move on to the important business of being married.

Or maybe they just have boring weddings because all their friends are sitting on the side, highly pregnant, or have already left because their babysitters were waiting and their husbands were bored, and the only people dancing are the uninvited 19-year-old girls who came because they heard it was a chesed wedding for nebach an older single who didn’t have anyone to dance with her.

Sigh. It is just a tad nebach

Myself: I never liked dancing. And I don’t like crowds. And being stared at. In fact, I can’t think of any particular aspect of the traditional Jewish wedding that sounds appealing.

Here’s my idea of a great wedding:

Buy a kesuba. Walk into a random OOT shul after Mincha one day and perform a quick ceremony. Then call home to let your parents know. (Or you could let them know before you elope. It’s kind of antithetical to the idea of eloping, but your parents would probably appreciate it. They can be in cahoots, and feign dismay at not having a wedding to plan. Nobody has to know.)

Then you can organize sheva brochos with all the people you want to celebrate with: the friends, the family, the parents’ friends, whatever.  It’s just supper, so nobody has to dash out early, and there’s no dancing to get pathetic, and no do-gooders waving pagan symbols of fertility at you. (Seriously. What’s up with that?!)  You get to spend time with the people you like, instead of just 30 seconds swapping brochos at the reception and another 30 seconds dancing.  Plus, even if you sponsor every sheva brochos meal yourself, you still can put a healthy remainder toward your mortgage.

NMF#19 said she always wanted a block party wedding. Some hot dogs in the back yard, everyone milling around licking mustard off their fingers. The mesader kedushin with sauerkraut in his beard. Bride in a white shirtwaist dress. A happy, relaxed event to the sound of laughter and the clang of barbecue tongs on grill. I was really looking forward to it. But then her mother-in-law happened.

It’s always the mother-in-law, isn’t it?

That is the thing about marriage. It involves other people. Getting along with them and compromising and so on. And somehow, everyone winds up compromising in favor of the jello-mold wedding, not the barbecue. Go figger.

Does anyone want to elope with me? Or, better yet, does anyone have a mother who wants them to elope with me?

Thursday Link: Things Not to Say to a Single Woman

I enjoy it whenever someone reminds the world that being single and female is honestly not the worst thing that can happen, because it’s really not.

Of course you don’t have to say things to insinuate it. I was recently at a classmate’s wedding. You know, the one who officially makes me the 10-percent forever single. I met a truckload of long-lost classmates, all wearing black, all busy working in some sort of therapy (occupation, speech, physical, mental). Somehow a few of us wound up in conversation with an even older (married) woman in black who spoke about her single days, crammed in an attic with other singles, living on leftovers from their dates.

“We had such good food every night, and we didn’t appreciate it,” she sighed. “When you’re single you just don’t appreciate these things.”

I was immediately jealous that her dates were so generous with the food. Mine, although usually employed, rarely spring for dinner. (And I, with the unfeminine ability to devour an entire entree and then peek at the dessert menu, rarely have leftovers to bring home.)

“I appreciate it!” I protested. “Sometimes the food is the best part of the date!

I immediately felt an uncomfortable shift, and when I glanced at my classmates they were gaping, rather. Had I taken the conversation into awkward territory? Had I done the  equivalent of declaring that “I love chemo! You lose so much weight!”?

The conversation broke up after that, although I suppose it would have broken up faster if I’d just nodded and smiled: “Yes, singles don’t appreciate the goodness they have.” 

For the record: We do! At least, I do. I appreciate everything about being single – my parents would say too much. And when a fellow takes me out to eat, I definitely appreciate that too.

It’s always nice to hear someone make singlehood sound like the good old days. It sure beat when they make it sound like a terminal illness. Which brings me to the link: Things you really shouldn’t say to single women. (Link goes to Huffington Post.)

 

Monday Revisit: Segulos

We were sitting around the table at NMF #16′s wedding when the inevitable segula lady came around with the challah. “Who wants some?” She asked. “Whatever you need, it’s good for it.”

“Like… carbs?” I muttered under my breath. Being somewhat stuffed at the time, I politely turned down the challah. “I’m not hungry.”

“Oh you don’t need to eat the whole slice!” she laughed. “Just take a bite.”

“No thank you.”

My co-table-ists looked impressed, like I’d just made some kind of statement. Truthfully, I just wasn’t hungry.

After she bustled onward, my neighbor turned to me (after finishing a bite of the challah) and asked: “Relative to other religions, do you think Jews are more or less supersititous?”

If we just look at just the segulos related to shidduchim, I’d have to say “Yes.”

In fact, there were enough of them to fill three posts on the subject:

Segulos part 1

Segulos part 2

Segulos part 3

Quote of the Week and Reason for Getting Married (Unnumbered)

Overheard by Relarela: “I want to get married so that my friends will make me shtick.”
Well, granted, shtick is when you find out exactly how interesting you are, or how interesting your friends think you are. Don’t you ever wonder what they’ll come up with for your wedding? Sometimes I’m terrified that I’ll get married and people will show up with some lame maypole and arches and that’ll be it, and then and there, on my wedding night, I will learn how truly boring I am.

Wedding-night suicides happen outside of The Princess Bride too, you know.
It’s a depressing possibility. Almost makes me want the opposite: not get married so that I don’t see whether my friends make shtick or not.

Friday Repost: More Shadchanim

Personally, I think trying to discuss your ideals in marriage at a wedding is a recipe for disaster. (See this item about sign language.)

But sometimes, it’s just the people you’re talking to who are a disaster… Like this poor friend of mine, who I’m glad to say, has since married a guy who matched her description exactly, and the Women in Black’s not at all.

The Truth is They’re Out There

I’m talking about the Women in Black.

They warned me about them when I returned from seminary. These women would be watching me at weddings, on the street, at casual events… they’d be taking notes, and if they liked me, they would marry me off. My fate was in their hands.

I didn’t believe in them.

My argument was rudimentary: I didn’t see them, ergo they didn’t exist. None of them ever asked my name from me or any of my friends. I went to weddings, marched the streets, and attended events without once feeling their gaze penetrating the back of my Little Black Suit. So I discounted their existence.

Well I was wrong. They do exist. But I don’t merit their attention. That’s the sad fact.

I know they exist because a younger friend of mine recently entered shidduchim at a belated age. And she can’t seem to get away from the Women in Black. They’re the neighbor in her friend’s living room. They’re the woman who gives her a ride home from a wedding. They split a piece of seven-layer-cake with her at the kiddush.

She tells me with a startled delight about how she just asked this woman for a ride home from a wedding and in the car it turned out the woman was a shadchan and had asked for her information and thought she had a boy for her. She tells me about the woman she met in a living room who makes shidduchim and will certainly be on the lookout for her. She recites a veritable litany of “accidental” meetings with Women in Black. But oh – I know it’s not accident. No: when the Women in Black want to find you, they find you.

It’s depressing.

The only time I ever met a Woman in Black at a wedding was when one asked me the name of one of my friends. I thought it was a fluke. But no, it’s not them. They exist. It’s me. I don’t exist. Not on their radar, anyway. The Women in Black have seen me and they did not care to dwell on what they saw.

Yeah, that’s depressing.

And liberating. The Women in Black aren’t keeping tabs on me! Wahoo! No need for obsequious kowtowing to their standards! Let’s go running down Avenue J with pajama pants sticking out from under our denim skirts!

Thinking About the Couple

So, I’m at a wedding, sitting at the chupah. There are these tehillim cards on the seats so you can engage your mouth in a productive way during the ceremonies. The first three folds are tehillim, and after that are a string of personal prayers: for successful children, for a spouse, for health, for long life, for sustenance…

Don’t get me wrong. On an ordinary day I would go straight through all of those from beginning to end without compunction. But not at a chupah. When I’m at a chupah I want to be davening for the couple. They’re about to set out on a perilous journey (etc etc), and a new marriage is, in many ways, scarier than eternal spinsterhood. At their own chupah, would it be too much to ask for a few prayers?

And yet, at their own chupah even the couple aren’t davening for themselves. They prepare these long lists of friends to daven for, for all the items listed above. I’m sure it’s wonderful for them to be so selfless at this pivotal moment in their life, but is it really the best use of their time?

But what the bride and groom do is their own business. As a perennial member of the audience, though, I’d like to request a Prayer for a Couple Getting Married to be written and published in these pamphlets. Is anyone up for the job?

To Each Their Own

Visited a museum this weekend. One item that piqued my interest was the mention of a courtship dance performed by northwestern American Indian men. It involved wooden wands decorated with buckskin fringes; beyond that no details were provided. Alas, YouTube has none either, but you can guess what it may look like from related footage. I think it would be fun if our guys had to dress up in fringes and eagle-feather bustles to court us, don’t you?

Of course, in the next room over it discussed the Wedding Trade. And you thought we had it down to an irritating science, what with who gets the sheitel and who gets the bechar and who pays for the band and who gets the couple for the first Pesach. Well, among the Wasco, Walla Walla, and Paiute, it’s something like this:

The boy’s family gives the horses. The girl’s family gives food. The boy’s family provides skins, the girl’s family, baskets. And there are gifts of clothing and jewelry and wampum and goodness knows what else, each required by one of the sides. The description, given by soundbyte, went on for about 5 minutes.

Just in case you thought we were unique and particularly obsessive.

There was a section with period actors and actresses, so I strolled into a woman’s kitchen as she was doing her dishes. “Goodness!” she exclaimed to her neighbor who was keeping her company. “Why she’s the first woman I’ve seen all day who’s dressed appropriately!”  I agreed that it was scandalous how some of these other visitors dressed, but perhaps it was understandable considering the difficulty of obtaining or making fabric out on the frontier. Well, naturally we got to talking, and she asked me, point blank, without any of that smothering sensitivity one expects in frummer areas, if I was a spinster.

I guess it’s obvious enough, if not exactly written on my forehead.

I admitted  that I was indeed a spinster.

Seeing my somewhat abashed expression, she hastened to assure me that being a spinster was nothing bad – it was being a productive member of society, earning your own keep, so you didn’t need a husband. And heaven knew they could use a spinster out there – she pulled her Montgomery Ward catalog off the shelf to show me how much yarn costs, and we agreed that I could certainly undercut the company by using local sheep and alpacas.

She thought if there were more independent women around, why, women might just get the vote! Not that her husband would let her vote – he thinks women are feebleminded -

Seeing the expression on my face (mostly embarrassment for her husband, actually), she hastened to assure me that he was a good, law-abiding man – obeys the rule of thumb, and never switches her with anything thicker than that digit.

I said I thought I was going to look into that spinster gig very seriously after all.

Why Single People Should Learn Sign Language

Ah, weddings. Don’t we all love weddings? I love friends’ weddings, anyway. Relatives weddings are another story. Not that I’m not happy for the couple and all that, but there’s always that double check on your appearance to make sure you’re not going to embarrass the nuclear family in the presence of the extended family. “Oh no you’re not wearing that little black suit. Wear the other little black suit.”

As a single person, it gets worse. Because not only do you have to worry about offending the family eyes, but there are also those other people who you must see, and while you’re at it, must impress. In other words:“Before you walk out the door let me see if you’re presentable because I hear there’s a shadchan at table 29, and table 32 is going to have the mother of someone who was mentioned as a potential match, and why aren’t you wearing a necklace?”

Because I never remember a blasted necklace. Last time I wore a necklace to a wedding, a friend fainted from the shock and they had to bring her around with water. Her makeup smeared, and I decided I wasn’t going to do that again—too much fallout. But seriously, I’m not trying to antagonize anyone. I forgot.

Anyway, I shrugged off the “shadchan at table 29 business” this wedding, because the shadchanim who were supposed to be at Blushing Bride’s vort never materialized. I went confidently and benecklaced.

I guess I underestimated how much my parents had cranked up the Marry Off Bad4 project. Or else it was the fact that my aunt, finally disposed of her own young old maid, decided to do something on behalf of my mother’s. So she actually briefed the shadchan on table 29 and told the mother on 32 to look out for me.

Luckily, we arrived just in time for the chupah, so the only embarrassment I had to suffer was failing to recognize a great aunt I’d only met twice in my life 3 years ago. Question: when someone asks “Do you know who I am?” and you suspect you do but aren’t sure, is it better to hazard a guess and risk being wrong, or should you just say “no clue”?

Anyway, after the chupah I chatted up all my cousins for a polite amount of time, and then we went off to find the sinks. Naturally, it was on my way back in after washing that my mother caught my eye and started beckoning. I’m sure I made an incredible impression on the Woman in Black by just shaking my head and continuing to my table. But I came back a couple of minutes later, being a good and obedient daughter. They were positioned directly behind the band, which was playing at decibels to match the ritzyness of the wedding, which was considerable.

YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN A WORSE PLACE FOR THIS CONVERSATION,” I howled. “LIKE MAYBE IN FRONTOF THE BAND.

My mother didn’t even notice that I was trying to communicate with her. But being used to raising her voice to command the attention of rioting children, she was better able to convey to me, “THIS IS MRS. MADEASHIDDUCH! SHE MADE SOMEONE OR ANOTHER’S SHIDDUCH! I WANT YOU TO MEET HER!”

I smile politely at Mrs. Madeashidduch, being otherwise struck dumb. Not because I was awed by the fact that she’d successfully matched two people up, or even that I wasn’t sure what to say next, but simply because when you know a person is only going to catch every third word that you say, you have to choose your words carefully. In the end, I said nothing, letting my mother shriek about how astoundingly wantable I was. (Which is why, naturally, she’s so eager to get rid of me.)

I finally escaped back to my table, but my mother finds me there; she hasn’t forgotten the shadchan at table 29. I sigh and follow her to table 29.

“SO WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?” asks the table 29 shadchan.

“SOMEPLACE QUIET ENOUGH TO TALK!” I respond, lungs beginning to ache. She seems to agree, though, and we move off to the corner farthest from the band where we can talk at only 2/3 capacity.

So what are you looking for?” she asks again.

These bands have got to get quieter. I’m willing to bet that most Orthodox Jews lose more hearing between the ages of 18 and 25 and 45 and 55 then at any other point in their lives, just from attending weddings. I was rather disturbed to find that I couldn’t hear myself bentch unless I shouted. I kept waiting, as I bellowed through Nodeh Lichah, for the music to stop abruptly and me to be left shouting into the silence like in that practical joke 5th graders adore so much. I was also horrified by the ringing audible in my ears every time I stepped more than fifty feet away from the dance floor. But most awful is the way the music disrupts the brisk matchmaking business going on along the sidelines, as Women in Black discuss and talk to Girls in Black. Some consideration, please! We’re trying to get married—do you mind?

All this would be less of a problem if singles and shadchanim all knew Sign Language. We could all go deaf without knowing it, and still be able to ask and answer, “So, what are you looking for?”

If anyone knows how to sign “What are you looking for?” please let me know. And if there are signs for “earner, learner, learner-earner, earner-learner,” please let me know too. I’d like to collaborate on a YouTube video for the edification of the frum populace. With all the shidduch initiatives going on, I think this is one worth pursuing. Girls are there, shadchanim are there, why not bring them together in productive communication, instead of this screaming inefficiency? Post below if you would like to participate.