Do Bais Yaakov girls fall for the bad boys? Find out with Schnitzel Boy.
Did this story happen? Yes.
Did you change any details? Minimally.
“Can I get your number?”
“Can I get your number? You’re leaving for your trip this week and I want to be able to call you.”
“Ummm, the reception is probably going to be spotty, but ok.”
I gave him my number. I didn’t care much for him and I was leaving for a 3-week trip in two days. He looked delighted after I wrote it down and I felt a faint sense of dread. 5 foot 11. Black hair, nice darkish skin. Lean. With a slight hunchback that annoyed me. It was our first date. A coffee shop or something like that. I should’ve known something was off when he asked for my number. But then again, the shadchan had surmised that I needed someone “out-of-the-box”. Sigh. Not that type of out-of-the-box.
His name was Shmuly and he was a rebound date from someone I actually liked, Tzvi. Tzvi was learning in Lakewood but taking college classes at Rutgers secretly on the side. Unlike most of the boys that milled into our living room, he was actually smart and intellectually curious. He and my brother shared a good friend who I secretly had a crush on as a teenager. Said friend was a few years older and long married with children. Tzvi was also kind and easygoing. The entire combination made for some decent chemistry and good conversations. I wasn’t thrilled about his 5’7″ frame and short beard, but these chisronos faded into the background the more we spoke. Plus, I understood that he needed the beard to cover up for Rutgers. Why and how we broke up deserves its own story, but I was upset for many days after. So when the same shadchan brought up Shmuly, I eagerly said yes, hopeful that seeing someone new would take my mind off Tzvi. But I found myself increasingly irritated during the 3 times he called me on my trip. We chatted about nothing and he sounded like a terribly bored bein-hazmanim bachur.
My mother heard good “information” about him, but by the second time she saw him, shortly after I returned from my trip, she decided she didn’t like him. A terrible liar and completely incapable of hiding her feelings, she had a scrunched up look on her face when she came to give me my cue to come down the stairs.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said, the way women say “nothing” when a man asks them what’s wrong.
I walked into the living room and there was Shmuly telling my father an ultra-boring dvar torah in the loudest voice I ever heard while my father nodded politely. My father was always the diplomat, always being dan l’chaf zechus, always giving people another chance. My mother has the intuition of a bloodhound and would unapologetically slap labels onto people that turned out to be embarrassingly accurate. The next day she spent a furious hour on the phone with his former mashgiach from Fallsburg.
“What were you talking to his mashgiach about?” I huffed. The second date wasn’t too special, but it also wasn’t awful and I learned that he had dreams of becoming a dayan. I could also tell that he really liked me and there were 4 more weeks of summer to kill. So why not go out again?
“Hu lo adin” she said. [He’s not gentle.] “And his mashgiach confirmed it.”
“Adin? What does that have to do with anything?” I mean, I understood why one abrasive personality was able to recognize another, but why was this so important to her?
“Do you want a man to ask you *permission* before he comes into your bed, or do you want him to just *show up*? He’s too rough.”
Ah. I understood. She was talking about sex. There was nothing in the world I wanted to do less than have a conversation with my mother about sex, failed euphemisms and all. So I told her that things weren’t so serious, and it was just a second date, and that I have to go do laundry. As I stuffed my collarbone-covering t-shirts into the machine, I started to wonder if there was some halacha about sex happening in the wife’s bed. I had read the kitzur, Ohel Rachel, and every single other sefer I could get my hands on and none of them ever mentioned that! Then my mind wandered to whether or not sex was allowed to happen in other places. Did it *have* to be in the bedroom? What if we were sitting on the couch and things started happening? Were we mechuyav to stop in the middle and go to the bedroom? Then it struck me that I wasn’t interested in Shmuly that way anyway, so why did I need to ponder this now.
Our third date started out in Lakewood, far away from my mother’s prying eyes. We drove to a hotel in Long Branch and ambled around the lobby and courtyard. The conversation turned to the Chazon Ish and Shmuly asked me, “You know why he never had kids, right?”
I shrugged. “Some people just don’t have kids.”
“Nah,” he said with that look like he’s about to tell me something juicy. “His wife was crazy. He wanted to divorce her. She said if you divorce me I’ll jump. So he stayed married. No kids ever. You get it, right?”
Well, that was a lot to chew on; he was referring to a couple not being allowed to sleep together if they decided to divorce. My high school teacher told us a mashal about a father who took his coat and cut it into small pieces to cover his cold children. “So too, the Gedolei Hador sometimes take suffering away from the generation and that’s why the Chazon Ish had no children.” The nimshal made no sense, but I never thought much about it. From there the conversation meandered to something about frum people having many children and at one point Shmuly bellowed “I was just telling my chavrusa that I’m only buying my wife maternity clothes. Why would she need regular clothes? One after the next!” He slapped his thigh and let out a hyena laugh that made a passerby look over his shoulder. I felt my cheeks burn angrily and told him it wasn’t funny. He caught himself and cleared his throat, pretending to be remorseful.
“Want to go down to the beach?” He said. I could tell what he was trying to distract me from his oopsie.
It was 7 pm, a safe time to avoid most of the bikini-clad women. The boardwalk was rather empty, save for a few old men with sagging bellies and an innocuous woman in shorts walking her dog. The sky was pink, the air was clean, and for once I wasn’t sweating in my Linda Leal and tights. The conversation became a little more pleasant and then Shmuly asked if I wanted to go down to the beach. I said yes.
We started down the beach and then before I knew what was happening, Shmuly took off his shoes and socks and rolled his pants up to his knees. “Let’s go into the water!” It was getting more exciting by the moment. This sure beat a sip-setlzer-till-you-need-to-pee hotel lobby date. I slipped off my patent-leather sling-back mini-platforms [cringe, I have a picture somewhere if anyone really wants], kept my tights on of course, and we ran toward the water. The water was deliciously warm and it took every ounce of self-control not to sink right in. Given the knit sweater I was wearing, that was not an option, so I lifted my skirt a little and let the water reach mid-calf. Shmuly was knee-deep in the water laughing hysterically and splashing his face. “The shadchan told me you were out-of-the-box!” I didn’t really care how he interpreted what was happening. There was a sprinkle of pheromones in the air; he was desperate to escape his smelly dorm and I was sick of spending my life immersed in a sea of estrogen. We were just a boy and girl starving for company with the other sex, and all I noticed in that moment was his 5’11” frame and olive skin. He started to splash me and I laughed and splashed him back and maybe my sweater got wet and probably a nipple poked out and I’m sure he noticed and I didn’t care. We stayed in the water talking, laughing, and splashing each other until the sky went dark at which point we headed back to the car. We laughed the whole way there, ignoring the weird looks we got. He drove me home and I decided I would go out with him again. Before I got out of the car he said, “Hey, can you bring food next time?” I looked at him funny.
“You want me to bring food on our next date?”
“Yeah! It’ll be fun! We’ll have a picnic. I’m always starving.”
“Umm, ok. Bye”
I didn’t think much of it, headed out, and went to sleep that night feeling very guilty about the nipple.
We set a date for 3 days later. That afternoon, I made a stop at Shloime’s Bakery in Boro Park and bought some apple turnovers, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. I packed them up neatly in ziplocs and put them in a cute bag. I then made fresh strawberry smoothies, poured them into two giant coffee cups, and added them to the cute bag. Shmuly rang the doorbell and since it was the fourth date, I didn’t need to wait for my cue. After the perfunctory two minutes of schmoozing, on my own cue, I sauntered into the living room with my goodie bag. My parents didn’t notice it until we both got up to leave. My father smiled, thinking that things were going well between me and Shmuly, and my mother just stared at the bag impolitely and shrugged her shoulders.
“Let’s go to Prospect Park for our picnic,” Shmuly said. I said ok and we were off. We found a quiet spot with a nice bench and I proceeded to unpack my picnic bag. I handed Shmuly a smoothie and then motioned to the rest of the bag, “help yourself.”
It was a beautiful summer day and I just sat there for a few moments sipping my smoothie and staring ahead at nothing. I suddenly noticed that there was silence. I glanced at Shmuly. He was holding a cinnamon roll in his hand, staring ahead at nothing like I was a moment ago. But he looked upset.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I thought you were going to bring real food.”
“What do you mean real food?” I asked.
“You know, like schnitzel.”
I started to laugh. “You wanted me to bring schnitzel?”
I kept laughing and Shmuly started to turn legit red.
“I could have picked up stuff from the bakery myself,” he huffed, “I don’t need you for that.”
He was angry. At this point I was no longer laughing. I just looked at him, trying hard to process what was happening.
“You know, between the shopping, making the smoothies, and packing everything up, I spent at least an hour on the food. Preparing schnitzel takes longer than that and requires lots of babysitting over the stove. But also, you never specified anything about which type of food you wanted.”
As the last sentence came out of my mouth, I realized I had stooped too low. This was a guy who had not even taken me out to eat once. I felt my insides clench and I asked Shmuly if he could take me home.
He sulked the whole way home and I was fine with that since I had nothing to say to him. As we pulled up close to my house he looked at me, then at the tree right outside my house, and said, “You’re going to hang my heart out on that tree like all the other ones, eh? Heartbreaker.”
I didn’t know what he was saying. I was not a serial “rejector”, and I gave a fair chance to every boy who was not a sociopath. Why was he insulting me like that, calling me this goyishe term “heartbreaker”? The whole point of shidduch-dating was to avoid getting your heart in so it doesn’t break. Why did he think I was breaking hearts? I was just an intellectually curious aidel Bais Yaakov girl being fed a defective crop of boys who were deemed “brilliant” and “a baal middos” because their butt touched a kollel bench.
“Are we going to go out again?” Shmuly asked, still with an angry undertone.
“I’ll think about it,” I said, despite knowing the answer was no. My mother was right. And all my subconscious reasons for dating him started creeping to my forebrain. I missed Tzvi and I was desperate for some male company. But I would never consider marrying this man. Ever.
“Happy jerking off to the nipple,” I wished him in my head as I left the car.
Two weeks later Shmuly met my brother in shul. How did their conversation go, you might ask? My brother earnestly mentioned that I was “a special girl” to which Shumly responded, “I know a special place for special people…” and he then attempted to convince my brother to convince me to go out with him again. My brother and I laughed about the conversation over cholent the next Shabboss. Three months later Shmuly was engaged to my friend’s friend.
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