One of my favorite memories from seminary (don’t judge the contents of my year by this; I have weird priorities) happened at a high school reunion in BJJ.
It was Succos time, and someone decided that we must all be so miserably friendless in our respective seminaries and so sad to have been physically separated from our high school friends for a whole three weeks (not verbally, thanks to cell phones) that nothing would cheer us up so much as a reunion.
Well, there we were standing around catching up, “So, how’s your seminary?” “Oh fine. The teachers are great and I’m sure the girls would be great too if they’d get enough sleep to hold an intelligent conversation. And yours?” “Pretty much the same.” “Sooo… um…”
…When suddenly my cousin walks through the room. This is a bit strange, because why would my cousin be in Israel, let alone BJJ? But naturally I go over and say hello and we have a catch-up chat right then and there. Said cousin was newly married and honeymooning in Israel and of course I was welcome to come for Shobbos except they didn’t have a spare inch so I’d have to sleep elsewhere, and was I in BJJ? Then where was I? And so on.
As we progress through the backlog, I notice that we’re getting very strange looks. In fact, there’s a blurred ring of wide-eyed faces in my periphery vision. As soon as we finish and go our separate ways, the faces look away, except one who is kind enough to come over to me and ask, quietly, “What was that about?”
I scrunch up my forehead. “Whattaya mean? Just catching up with my cousin.”
Kind One explains, “He’s our handyman. We’re not allowed to talk to him.”
There are too many things wrong with this scenario, so I won’t go into them. But the subject of how awful it would be for shidduchim if this happened on Avenue J came up in a conversation. The Married Friend grinned and recalled the time she actually met her brother in front of Touro. They walked and talked while her friends wrung their hands behind. (“If I’d have known…” joked her husband.)
It’s odd how confused people get when they see an otherwise aidel maidel yakking with a male in public. (1) – if she’s not the sort to talk to random guys, then she probably isn’t and (2) – if she was dead set on wrongdoing she wouldn’t be dumb enough to do it in public.
Remember the now-engaged Friend #6? Her brother wasn’t going to be around for the vort, so she and her chosson took him out for dinner one night. As she sat at the table with two males she observed aloud, “If I wasn’t engaged, this would look sooo bad.” Then, just because nothing could touch her now (yes! She’d escaped!), she slapped her brother high five right there in public. The middle aged couple at the next table hurriedly paid and left.
Reminds me of a conversation I had after returning home from a summer as a day camp counselor in a bungalow colony. For those who don’t know, teens employed in the Catskills without parental supervision are suspect of doing all sorts of terrible things.
“So how’d you spend your summer?” asked Mother’s Friend politely, while waiting for Mother to join her.
“I was up in the mountains,” I answered politely, while waiting for Mother to join her.
“What did you do?” asked MF without the faintest bit of interest.
“Chased boys, mostly,” I answered, wondering where Mother was.
“You what?” MF was paying attention now.
“Chased little boys around. I was a preschool counselor,” I said, practically dancing with impatience to be gone.
“Oh! Ha ha,” said MF, with an even tighter smile. “Bad4 was just telling me about her summer,” she said to Mother, who had finally arrived. “Really,” said Mother. And then I was gone.