Yes, I Talk to… Those Things. The Other Type of Human – Not Female

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.


16 thoughts on “Yes, I Talk to… Those Things. The Other Type of Human – Not Female

  1. it reminds me of something that happened once in highschool, but perhaps it takes a little explaining:

    I started in jewish school, and was for first grade pushed in to publicschool for financial reasons. The summer I was in either grade I moved litteraly right next to shul, and that summer I met the camp councilors who had come to town, who encouraged me to chase my dream of going back to yeshiva and even told me how to do it, and where to go. So, anyway, I ended up being somewhat friendly with them (1 was like 13 or 14, they something like 16 or 17) so whatever, and like three years later I’m at yeshiva, and we’re doing the regular fundraising thing collecting pledges, and who should I meet but the camp counselor who opens the door when I go to collect a pledge. So, she says hi, and commments that I look like such a good bochur, and stops to talk to me to express her immense pleasure at seeing me finaly realizing my dream. She asks how I’ve been doing, how school is going, the whole shebang, and so as the conversation comes to a close, I’m turning around to go back down the the street, and the bochur who came with me (in and of him self an interesting kid, although at risk for more reasons that I “was” (which at the time was mostly for educational reasons)) was wide eyed with amazement looking at me, the kid who didn’t seem so social at all, having spent a good 15, 20 minutes in engaging conversation with a woman who, as far as he had known, I’d never met before. (I was the one getting regularly beaten up in school, and getting teased, harassed, and my hat ruined by not very nice classmates.)

  2. My daughters attended high school in Brooklyn. Their school had an honor society. The rumor came back to me that there were all kinds of questions that were being asked that had nothing to do with academics in order to make the honor society. I met with the Limudei Kodesh principal and asked point blank: “Is one of the questions you ask “Would you talk to a boy on the street?” She hemmed and hawed then, but finally did admit that they were asking this question. “So a girl, should she meet her brother on the street, is not allowed to say hello?” The answer was finally, “But others would not know that he was her brother.” “And so first cousins are forbidden to be spoken to?” After a lot less squirming she said “Yes, they shouldn’t be talking on the street.” So then I asked “Do you teach the inyan of l’chav zchus?” To which she replied, “Of course we do. But what has that got to do with talking to boys on the street?” After some haggling, my daughter was admitted to the honor society–straight A average–without having to answer the question–could be that I dropped the name of my uincle who was treasurer of the school into the conversation and how much he adored my daughter.

    What’s the difference from when my girls were in high school and now? The principals no longer squirm about the talking question. They have “right” and “might” on their side now.

  3. Oh, I got stopped by the tznius police in geulah for speaking to my bro. But they actually listened to my bro when he said we were siblings and left us alone.

    and can you imagine going out to eat with your brother?!? horror of horrors! When I once went out to eat with mine, there were two other brother-sister couples in the same restaurant…

  4. Funny that you bring this up. I’m very close to my younger single brothers and we used to go places together. I would take them shopping, like when my Mom didn’t have time to. I was supposed to supervise and make sure they don’t buy anything wacky. We enjoyed each other’s company, and liked doing things together.(still do, except they’re not 15-16 and go shopping on their own…to this day, we remain very close). But yes, we certainly got looks…

  5. It was somewhat funny; as a bochur in Bayit V’gan for two years, you could watch all the girls slowly getting ‘frummer’ until they would rather stare at the floor than look around, lest there be boys in the vicinity, which (sadly enough?) there usually were. Ahhh, separate bus stops by Michlalah, how I miss thee…

  6. I once stopped to say hello to my cousin on the street in a very frum ny community, (me boy ,she girl) and I got the feeling that she was a bit uncomfortable so I said goodbye quickly and left. It really bothered me at first for all of the above reasons however, after thinking about it (a few years later) I realized she has her rights the same way I have mine. Therefore I should respect her wishes. I could speak to her at a family get together or a place where it is not in front of public scrutiny. I could wave and say hello in the street and move on. Most people nowadays are NOT daan likav zchus, it is in all cases this way.So if we can be more private like move into an alley in Mea Shiarim, why not. I’ll state again I am in the same boat as you So let us not rock it more than we have to. Obviously there are instances that we cannot do anything about but if, if we could, let us respect the public.

  7. I don’t have any brothers or male cousins, and pretty much any male acquaintance I could possibly run into would not be in Shidduchville, so I’m safe. But even if I did see someone I knew where I’d be “seen”, I wouldn’t particularly care. It’s no one’s business who I talk to.

  8. Could not bring myself to put this story under my blogger id. I was in Michlalah, where it was not such a big deal to meet boys (at least from the girls’ point of view) and I met two boys visiting from my town at the Central Bus Station. One of them tried to kiss me hello. I managed to prevent it but I can only imagine the reaction if someone had seen me. I guess you never know what will happen when you meet boys.

  9. A little bit of both, from his point of view at least. Perhaps he thought, or was hoping, that our relationship had changed? It was not a way that my friends were in the habit of greeting each other. By the way, I’ve never kissed anyone except for my husband, unless you count “spin the bottle” in 8th grade. (Not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed to admit this.)

    He actually did ask me out a couple of years later and we went out only once. One reason was his mother. In 11th grade she approached my mother and said, “You must be so proud of your daughter. She did better than my ____ on the PSAT.” (The second reason was that he wasn’t smart enough.)

  10. Pingback: Friday Repost: My Summers Chasing Boys | Bad for Shidduchim

  11. This was great! I really love your stuff and enjoyed this in particular. When my brother and I had both barely started dating stuff like this went on ALL THE TIME. One particular Shabbos we spent together prompted a phone call to my brother’s cell around when three stars appeared from a concerned friend wanting to know who the girl was and was it serious (mind you, this wasn’t even someone who had seen us but someone who had been called by someone else). My brother must have said, “She’s my sister” half a dozen times (I guess siblings voluntarily spending time together is so much less likely than a guy who has just started dating showing off a girl to all of Far Rockaway) until finally he just said, “Here, talk to her,” and tossed me the phone. Of course I said, “Our lechaim is tonight, are you coming?” so there went that. His response was, “Either he’s dating you because you’re just like him or you actually are his sister.” Ah, good times. Anyway, your post is yet another delightful example of how rare common sense truly is.

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