We’re at a vort from the Lakewood side. My mother drifts my way and asks, “So have you said hello to Tante Malka yet?”
“To who?” I ask. I mean, yeah my parents have oodles of siblings, and yes I confess (with a blush) to losing track of my cousins, but I’m pretty sure I know all my aunts and uncles.
Just to double check, I pull out my trusty fingers and start ticking them off.
“Aunt Miri, Uncle Mordechai, Tante Mindy, Uncle Mendy, Aunt Menucha, Uncle Moishe, Aunt Mirel, Uncle Menachem…” Nope, no Tante Malkas.
“Tante Malka. She’s your great-aunt’s grandson’s aunt.”
“Does that make her related to me?”
“Sure! And she lives right near The Yeshiva and has boys over for Shobbos meals all the time.”
Oho. I see where this is heading.
“Mom, forget about it.”
“You’re not going to say mazal tov to your aunt? I can’t believe I raised you.”
“I’ve survived this long without saying hello to her; I can survive a little longer without saying anything else to her either.”
OK, fast forward the debate. Suffice it to say I find myself in front of Tante Malka. She’s a plump woman dressed up to her chin in a black suit.
“Malka, have you met my daughter, Bad4?”
“Oh how nice!” Tante Malka bubbles. “And what school are you in?”
School? I guess I don’t look very grown up today. “Uh… Touro College?”
“Touro College?” Tante Malka’s eyebrows reach for her hairline. Comprehension dawns. She scrutinizes me from the toes of my new Payless pumps to the top of my hastily done hair.
Oh merciful God… when I’m dying and my life is flashing before my eyes—can you please, please, please leave this part out?
“So how old are you?” Tante Malka asks, with a smile.
“Twenty one! We have to find someone for you already! What are you looking for?”
Who am I looking for, I think darkly, but don’t say that. The conversation proceeds as all such conversations proceed. You don’t need me to fill in the rest.
Contrast that to the events at a wedding from the Manhattan side of the family. My grandmother steers me toward her second cousin’s granddaughter, a middle-aged woman with that pinched look characteristic of the serious dieter, whose skirt will not cover her knees when she sits. “Have you met my wonderful granddaughter Bad4?” my grandmother asks.
The second cousin’s granddaughter smiles. “I’ve heard all about you from your grandmother,” she tells me.
“Don’t believe half of it,” I say hastily. Everyone laughs, though I wasn’t joking.
“Now Bad4 needs a really wonderful fellow,” my grandmother begins.
“How old are you?” the second cousin’s granddaughter asks.
“Twenty one,” I answer.
“Only twenty one? What’s your rush? You’ve got plenty of time!”
“D’ya think so?” I ask rhetorically, thinking of Tante Malka.
“Yes of course!” she says, not knowing about Tante Malka. “You’re young – enjoy yourself a little. Don’t feel pressured to settle down.”
Maybe she does know about Tante Malka.
“Don’t worry,” I smile. “I’m not feeling any more pressure than I want to.”
“But if you know of any bright young men…” my grandmother persists. The cousin nods and begins a half-hearted grilling. I grin and bear it. Heck – who doesn’t need a bit of kapara now and then?
So am I old, or am I young? Should I be long-married or is that premature? Or does it go according to whichever side of the family you’re currently with?
As they say: it’s all relative.