There’s a personality of folk who have very narrow definitions of acceptability. I’m not talking about any particular religious subset, as you can find people with narrow definitions of “us” almost everywhere. But life gets really fun when you step outside their line in the sand… and they’re playing at your shadchan.
Take the aidel knaidel Friend who decided to attend Brooklyn College instead of, say, Touro, Stern, or one of the various fake options. She knew it was a controversial step, but she didn’t realize how much until a former high school classmate called up with a shidduch idea. It was for a cousin of hers who was finishing a degree in the University of Southern Mississippi.
“I was like, does he have a chavrusa down there?” Friend related. “And she was like, ‘I don’t know, does it matter?’ So I go online and do some googling and I can’t even turn up any Reform shuls down there, let alone an orthodox one. There isn’t even a Chabad in Mississippi. So I’m like, ‘Why is he down there?’ and she’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ So I’m like, ‘Well find out and get back to me, okay?’ And she never did.”
‘Course it works the other way. Like the guy from Lawrence who decided to go to YU and whose aunt decided he had flipped out and kept trying to set him up with girls from Borough Park. Talk about confused.
Oh, it’s always fun when people try to set you up with the wrong sort of guy (“is he wearing torn cut-offs in that photo or is it my imagination?”) but it can get downright scary when such people are in your reference list. Thus found out the Friend who kept hearing that people were looking into her but never getting a date.
“Oh well, I guess it was never meant to be,” she assured herself while going on with her dateless life.
Until she received a worried phone call from Reference #4. “Friend,” Ref#4 said urgently, “What have you been up to?!”
“Oh the usual,” Friend answered. “Shopping, working, studying… why?”
“Not that,” Ref#4 dismissed, “I mean why do people think you’re modern?”
“I keep getting shidduch calls from women who all say that they’ve heard that you’re very modern and they’re worried that you’re not right for their boys.”
Friend mulled that over in a shocked silence for a few moments. Granted, there had been the day she’d worn pink paisley rain boots, and one of her new skirts didn’t have a pleat it in anywhere, and she worked in downtown Manhattan and she’d been seen walking out of the Avenue J library with a DVD but… Seriously?
She passed a sleepless night performing a cheshbon hanefesh. Maybe her high school teachers wouldn’t cite her as a role model, but she wasn’t modern. (Whatever that meant: she knew she didn’t fit her own definition of it.) Morning found her quite decided: it wasn’t her fault. Someone was spreading rumors.
It was like living inside a serialized Jewish novel. Her shidduch chances were being destroyed by a malignant gossip-mongerer. Someone was out to get her. Her life would be ruined by vicious slander and she’d be an old spinster one day visiting the nursing home for companionship when an ancient crone would come beg her for forgiveness before she died, admitting that she (the old crone) had been the one to tell everyone that she (Friend) was modern.
The most obvious place to start looking was her references list. So she started at the top, making friendly phone calls, discussing oh, life, the universe, and everything, and also all the mothers who had been calling about her recently…
It was Ref#3 who said, “Yes, and they were all planning to learn. I told them you weren’t interested.”
Whoa. Culprit identified!
“Um, what gave you that idea?”
“You did. Remember that conversation we had two months ago when you said that you weren’t interested in kollel learners?”
“Yeah, but I meant long-term learners. Not guys keeping regular sedarim and maybe learning a year or two after marriage.”
They worked out the little misunderstanding to the best that they could and Friend moved Ref#3 to the bottom of the list. So much for the malignant gossiper. Why does melodrama only happen in novels?