I used to snort whenever I heard of parents interviewing a perspective daughter-in-law before permitting her to see their son. Pre-date dating, anyone? After all, why drag Moishelah away from his Gemara to meet a potential wife when you can meet and decide for him?
And what’s next—internships? I imagine we’ll all have to spend a week at their house washing dishes and doing laundry while dressed up nicely to prove that we’d make a worthy wife for their dear son.
But I’m slowly changing my mind on that matter. You see, I have a mother stalking me.
Ordinarily, hearing from my references that someone has been calling them is a good thing. It’s like being in a thriller novel – “Someone is after me!” – but in a good way.
Except this time, my references have been calling me nearly in tears. The mother has been asking questions that even I couldn’t answer without some thought. And sometimes, she demands answers that don’t exist. My friends weren’t sure what to say and how to say it. One generous reference offered to call me, ask me the difficult questions, and call the mother back.
“She wants to know who your rav is.”
“R’ Yosef Cairo and the Chofetz Chaim.”
“Very funny. She wants someone contemporary that you go to with questions.”
“I don’t have too many questions. How many daily dilemmas of the ‘pasken halacha’ type do you have? If it’s permitted, I do it. If it’s not, I don’t. And if I’m not sure, I avoid it or find out. ”
“R’Cairo and company. They’re not personally accessible, but they’ve written good books. So have lots of other people. And I have good notes from high school.”
“Can I just say you ask your father?”
“She wants to know if you’d be happy to settle down to a kollel life.”
“If her son is worth it.”
“What does that mean?”
“Meaning, I’ll support a serious learner who has made a conscious decision that learning is his best route for serving Hashem. Not someone who’s doing it because it’s done.”
“Is that a yes?”
“It’s a conditional.”
“OK, let’s start again. Do you want to marry a kollel guy?”
“I want to marry a serious eved Hashem. How he goes about it is his business.”
“Do you know how unhelpful you’re being?”
“Sorry. I really wish I could just tell her this myself.”
“Well you can’t, so just give me something easy to say.”
“I would seriously consider a kollel guy. Is that better?”
>“Then say it.”
“Next: What’s your mehalech in life?”
“I think she wants to know what type of girl you are.”
“First of all, I’m no type of girl. I’m a woman.”
“I’m not telling her that.”
“Have it your way. Look, I have no idea what “type” I am. I attended a bais yaakov, went to a bais yaakov seminary in Israel, and am studying in Touro. I sound like a pretty typical ‘type’ to me.”
“But she’s heard that you sometimes do your own thing.”
“No point in doing everybody else’s thing – it’s already been done.”
“Just tell me what I should tell her!”
“Tell her to call me and I’ll let her know exactly what kind of person I am.”
“I told her that, but she says ‘it isn’t done that way’.”
“I don’t particularly care how things are done—especially when doing them that way is utterly inane.”
“Yes, she’s heard that you don’t really care how things are done. That’s why she’s nervous.”
“Doesn’t she think this is inane?”
“I think it’s inane, but I’m doing you a favor here, so don’t make my life difficult.”
“Tell her that I do what is sensible within the limits of halacha and often social restrictions.”
“Hold on while I get a pen—can you repeat that?”
Oy. Bring on the interview.