“He’s here,” announces my sister. I don’t know exactly why she’s in my room—not her stated reason anyway. Her actual reason is because my room has the best view overlooking the street, and she’s date-watching.
“He’s early!” I frown, checking my watch. I tend to have these things timed down to the minute, and I hadn’t put on my jacket or switched my wallet and keys into my Shobbos coat yet. I join her at the window. I manage to spot a beat up blue sedan parking in front of the neighbor’s house before my sister yanks me down. “He might see you!” she hisses. “Go turn off the light.”
“I’m getting dressed—d’you mind?” I ask.
“You don’t need the light to put on your blazer,” she points out. I obediently turn off the light.
“He’s just going to sit there for the next seven minutes anyway,” I say. When she asks why, I explain that there’s still two minutes until 7pm, and guys are supposed to come 5 minutes late.
“Why?” she asks, all naïve youth.
“Because they know girls need extra time to futz in the mirror because nothing is ever quite right,” I explain.
“But you know he’s coming late…” she ponders, “So you can schedule in five extra minutes of futzing.”
“Basically. But then there’s a need for an extra five minutes because once you plan in the extra five minutes it’s not extra any more.” That is the ostensible excuse for the girl coming down five minutes after the guy walks through the door.
She turns back to the window and is startled to see that indeed, Mr. Date is making a call on his cell phone. “That’s crazy, Bad4!” She declares. “These rules are crazy.” I just smile.
At exactly four minutes after 7, Mr. Date strolls out of his car and meanders up the walk to our house. I scoop up my coat and shoes and head down the first flight of stairs to the second floor. It’s hard to walk quietly on wood stairs in high heels, so I prefer to be positioned where I can make my grand entrance with the least prelude of clatter.
And now begins the silent struggle. Not completely silent. More like a hissed or whispered struggle between me and my sister over when I go down.
Earlier that day my father put in a request that I not do my “foot tapping” thing when I come down. Meaning, coming down and leaning quietly against the dining room entranceway waiting for them to finish torturing themselves and the poor guy so we can go on our date. I stand because I can’t sit when I’m impatient, but I never realized that my body language was screaming “Can we get out of here please?!”
“I’m just trying to spare you extra moments of agony,” I explain. “I’m the one going on the date. No reason you should spend more time sitting around with nothing to say.”
“I have plenty to say!” my father protests.
“Are you changing your shirt?” my mother calls from her room, where she’s applying a smidgeon of makeup.
“Why can’t I go on a date without the entire house going on a date too?” I complain.
A Persian friend of mine once asked me, “Did you ever have a guy meet your family?”
“Besides the usual first date stuff?”
“What? I mean ask to meet your parents.”
“They do when they come to pick me up.”
“No, I mean come in to talk to them.”
We continued talking past each other for another 5 lines or so before I realized that her dates never went through this “mini-date the parents” business. I explained that my parents small-talk the guy before we even get a chance to dislike each other. She thought that was weird. “You Ashkenazim,” she said in that superior way Sephardim have when talking about their strange Northern European brethren.
Part 2: View from the Top of the Stairs