I was in another town for family Shobbos sheva brachos. What could be better: no food to prepare, no dishes to wash… just travel time and socializing with cousins. And, of course, being seen.
It didn’t start off that way. But Friday afternoon when my mother said, offhandedly, “I hear there’s a shadchan down the block – interested in going to see her?” I looked at my mother’s hopeful face and sighed. “OK, I guess one can’t hurt.”
Ever hear the saying, “Give a finger, lose a hand?” Sometimes it just pays to stand firm about these things.
Friday night my mother gestures me over to a table where she’s talking to a woman I’ve never seen before, and I bet she hasn’t either. “I’d like to introduce you to my daughter, Bad4,” she says. I try my best to look like amiable and not disgruntled. My younger sister is fond of telling me that when I’m even mildly annoyed I look like I want to kill someone. Not a great way to greet strangers. So I smooth out the crease between my eyebrows and give my best Duchenne smile. We go through the blah-de-blah about what am I doing now and that’s so nice and what are my plans? She didn’t ask what I’m looking for. Big relief on my part, but also irritating—she had no intention of setting me up, so why was I standing there making small talk? This happened once more, instigated by my father this time. And it would have happened a third time if I hadn’t left shortly after bentching. “I was singing your praises and wanted to point you out but you’d left,” complained the parent. “Sorry,” I lied.
The next morning after davening I was sprawled on my sister’s bed factoring polynomials in my head (That’s what happens when you pack in a rush and have only a precalculus book as entertainment) when my sister rushes in. “What are you doing here? Get moving! There’s a shadchan in shul! Aunt Tzivya is talking to her but she might leave soon!” I groan and roll over, close the book, and look around the room for my shoes. I locate them and propel myself off the bed in their general direction. I slip my feet in and then fumble with the clasps. My sister is dancing with impatience. “Hurry-hurry-hurry!” I look around for my coat. Where is the blasted thing? Maybe I left it in the other room. I head in that direction when my sister yanks me back. “Your coat’s over there! Hurry up!” I turn toward it while my mother walks in. “Maaa! Bad4’s just walking around in circles doing nothing!” my sister complains. I finish yanking on my coat and march over to her, fist raised. “Would you mind very much if I punched you in the nose right now?”
She looks at me blandly. “Of course I would! Why would you want to do that to me?”
I brush past her and head to shul, mother at my side. As we approach, a cousin stationed in front of the shul jumps and waves, “This way! They’re in there!”
“Ma,” I growl, “This is not what I signed up for. I refuse to do this again.” No answer. “And I mean it. Are you listening?”
“I’m listening, but I don’t understand what you object to.”
“The fuss! This is practically a military operation. If it wasn’t Shobbos there would be relays with walkie-talkies!”
My mother rolls her eyes, but as we enter the doors another relay of cousin directs us to where my aunt is gesturing at me to come-come-come.
“Is there a cliff nearby?” I ask quietly. “I’d like to jump off.” My mother smiles indulgently.
The shadchan, it turned out, had married off a perennially-dating second cousin of mine. She hadn’t known him at all; had bumped into him going into a shul and figured he was about the right age for this other girl she knew so why not set them up?—turned out she was wrong about the age, but they didn’t find that out until after the first date, and now they’re happily married, which goes to show that this woman is so good she can make shidduchim with her eyes closed, which is supposed to fill me with confidence that she’ll get me married off even though our meeting mostly consisted of me listening to her “war stories.”
“You need to talk about yourself more,” disapproved my mother afterwards.
“I don’t like talking about myself,” I muttered from within my coat. It’s not a matter of modesty, per se. I think I’m better than about 50% of humankind. I just don’t know what to say about it. It’s a terrible handicap in our modern times, but so is being a white non-minority. You live with it.
By the time lunch was over I’d been introduced to two more strangers. Seuda shlishis added another to the list. Where did my parents find these people? Nor did the travails end with Shobbos, because apparently none of the shadchanim I’d yet met were “the shadchan down the block.” So motzai Shobbos had me hauled around to two more women (one down the block, one not) who at some point in their lives had successfully made a shidduch and thereby became instant celebrities in the singles world.
“You make a good presentation,” one said, after giving me the elevator eyes.
“Why thank you,” I said graciously. “It was a group effort; I’ll distribute the compliment accordingly.”
OK, I didn’t.