Reason #24 for Getting Married

I found another white hair!

I’ve always had one white hair for as long as I can recall. In seventh grade a friend found it, announced it, and yanked it.

“Hey!” I protested. “That’s my hair.”

“If you pull one out three more grow back,” another friend protested.

“That’s scientifically improbable,” I paused from my indignation to point out.

It grew back. Only one hair. And it’s been there, smack in the middle of the front of my head ever since.

Well, yesterday, while gooping mousse into my hair, I found another one. It’s underneath, in a bottom layer of hair, so not easily seen. But it’s there.

Dear God. One hair, then two, then next thing you know they’re springing up all over and it’s the hairdresser’s every two weeks so you can maintain that illusion of youth while dating increasingly salt-and-peppered men. Oh for a ageless wig to pop over it all!

 

Deadline Approacheth

There’s a bit of a double standard in the yeshivish/ultra-orthodox community. It is perfectly acceptable for a boy to leave home at the tender age of 13 and never truly return for the perpetuity of his life. Yes, he visits for the occasional holiday or weekend, where he wallows pleasantly in the adoring ministrations of a family that rarely has to put up with him. This lasts  until they bore, he becomes the fish-like guest, his special privileges evaporate, and he begins to chafe under the parental regime. At this point, he toddles back to his dorm or apartment with a sigh of relief: family, like prune juice, is best taken in small doses.

Girls, on the other hand, are expected to happily marinate in the home juices until Prince Charming carries them across a threshold of their very own. And if that doesn’t occur before their locks become dusted with snow and their posture stroked by osteoporosis, well, there’s no finer place for a girl to be than in the bosom of her loving family.

When I was in high school I had an exceptionally dedicated and brilliant teacher who happened to be single at the age of 28. A friend once mentioned knowing where she lived because this friend’s father was friendly with the teacher’s father.

“Yes, but that’s where her family lives, not where she lives,” I pointed out. The friend gave me a “Duh” look and said, “She lives there too. Where else would she live?”

I was appalled. Here I thought of this teacher as a mature, independent adult, and she was probably still sleeping in a pink bedroom, eating her mother’s dinner, and shouting “Wha-at!” down the stairs when her father called her. Just like me. I went home and informed my parents that if I was still single at 28 I was moving out.

“Yes dear,” they said. “Wash the dishes after dinner and clean your room tonight. It’s a pigsty and if I can’t see the floor I’m not letting the cleaning lady in to vacuum it. How did you do on that chumash test you hardly studied for? And you only think I don’t see you sneaking a cookie out of the kitchen. Bring it back right now.”

“Maybe I’ll move out at 27,” I sulked, nibbling the cookie.

“Eat over the table or sweep the floor – your choice.”

“Twenty-six.”

When I turned 21 I lowered the age to 25. My parents, now somewhat touchier about the topic since I had failed to be swept away by my first suitor (or second or fifth), told me not to say things like that; they were irrelevant.

“If it’s irrelevant, than what’s the big deal?”

“You’re right, what’s the big deal?”

“So I can move out at 25, right?”

“Let’s not discuss it.”

The truth is, not all women are expected to live at home forever. Women from OOT are allowed to move to NYC and cram themselves into attics and apartments. This is considered a necessary evil for the sake of shidduchim. However, if you have had the dubious fortune of being born and bred in the tri-state conurbation, moving out of your parents’ house is Something Strange that will provide your neighbors with conversation during the 23 hours when they are not observing their machsom lefi.

Why? I don’t know. But I imagine I’ll find out. After all, I’m already 24.5 years old.

Today I am a (Wo)Man

Everyone chuckles at the bar mitzvah boy’s announcement. Not just because he’s so short that he has to stand on tip-toes to see out of his hat. But because we all know that, bar mitzvah or not, there’s no big black line that you step across to become a mature adult. It happens gradually, and not always at a regular pace.

That was what I was thinking about while reading some of the comments to last Monday’s post (“Are People Pitying Me?“). Far be it from me to say that people who get married at 19 are miserable and stuck in foreclosed identities (though I know there are some). The post was about me, and how I believe the extra time has made me more than ever ready for marriage. However, I know there are many women who didn’t need that extra time, and I don’t begrudge them their marriages.

Some of us are just late bloomers.

I’ve always known I was slow.

In 5th grade we learned about Helen Keller and our teacher asked us to write a composition about what we’d do if we had three days left to see. I didn’t have to think too hard about that one. I was in 5th grade, and had hardly seen a world that I’d read about extensively. I picked some of the sights I thought I shouldn’t die without seeing and wrote a little itinerary for my three days (allowing that my parents would have to  escort me).

The teacher asked who wanted to read theirs aloud, and of course the class goody-two-shoes (G2S) raised her hand. Then she recited an essay all about how she would spend the three days memorizing the facial features of her family. As she read, a smattering of students around the classroom surreptitiously picked their pens back up and oh-so-nonchalantly added another paragraph to their paper.

I was among them.

It would be fair to say that I resented her and her dumb composition (and who needs three days to remember what their parents look like anyway?). She had the right answer – always had the right answer. A right answer that showed me up – not for having the wrong answer, but for lacking… lacking something, some instinct that led her to the right answer. What exactly, I couldn’t say. But it wasn’t something you could learn from a book, or look up in an encyclopedia, or even understand by being told about it. Either you got it or you didn’t. And I didn’t. And that bothered me.

My best friend (BF), on the other hand, didn’t understand why I was so bothered. She’d written about going skiing and hadn’t felt the slightest compulsion to amend her story.

G2S was about a decade ahead of me in emotional development. I should mention that she was in the first wave of engagements and marriages. BF also got married, but a few years later. I wonder when she finally understood G2S’s composition, and if it had been sudden or gradual, early or late, if she’d even noticed at all. I wonder about all the other surreptitious paragraph-adders in the class.

But most of all, I wonder about what else there is that I might be missing. And when I’ll finally learn what they are.