The View from the Top of the Hill

When I was a young lass, I wasn’t ready to settle down. But my elders cautioned me: “Marry young. By the time you’re ready to settle down all the good ones will be taken.”

Obedient as I was, I dated from the tender age of 20. I went out with all sorts: normal, humdrum, typical, boring. I went out with the clueless and the obnoxious. I came home with questions like, “Is it okay for him to mock other people if he’s motivated by showing off to me?” and “Is it bad that I’m bothered when a guy has apparently not thought about our date before he arrived?” I dated infrequently, maybe 3-4 times a year, usually during finals, when the last thing I wanted to do was saddle myself with additional responsibilities.

Twenty-five, they warned me, was the top of the hill. From twenty-six on, it was a downward spiral to old maidhood at 35, pitying glances from bais Yaakov girls, and chesed Shabbos invitations because, nebach, I have nowhere to go.

Well, I’ve been 26 for months now, and I have to say, it’s been fantastic. Four guys in five months, most of them truly wonderful people who I respect and enjoyed dating. If this is what the other side of the hill looks like, it’s the best kept secret of dating. Bring it on!

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Daydream

“You know that awkward feeling you get when a woman is going on about the shidduch travails of her 21-year-old daughter, and you realize that you probably shouldn’t mention that you’re 25?”

Thus questioned a friend, caught in  a waiting room with a distressed mother.

“Yes,” I agreed. And immediately my mind drifted into snarky mode, and I started imagining what I might say in that situation, if I had been there, and if I wasn’t a sweet, mild-mannered aidel maidel.

I would lean forward, nodding gravely. I would agree that it’s very difficult for a girl to get a date. “And it only gets worse,” I’d assure her. “When I was 22, they started setting me up with all rejects–the guys who’d already been rejected by every girl in the tri-state area, and for good reason. It’s a boy’s world and a young girl’s world. Unless an older girl has connections, she can’t get a date with anyone less than neurotic.”

Or maybe I could take a more comforting tack. “It’s not so bad,” I could tell her. “I’m friends with many normal, beautiful, successful, well-adjusted women who are–” [lower my voice] “Thirty or even older who have great lives, even without husbands. They live together in crowded apartments and talk about dating at least once a day, but I don’t think too many of them cry themselves to sleep at night. Not too many. And they have such great careers. They go on exciting vacations. They bike and run for tzedakah organizations to get out their frustration. Sometimes, I think my married friends are secretly jealous. Who wants to be pregnant anyway? It looks so uncomfortable.”

Or I could be holy: “Maybe it’s just not meant to be. Not everyone has the same tafkid in life, you know. Maybe Hashem is saving her for something grander than marriage.”

Or I could…

My mind wanders, imagining the most obnoxious ways to comfort a woman who thinks single and 21 is a tragedy. But of course I could never say it. After all, she really believes it.

So, what do you tell someone who thinks her daughter is suffering at 21? What can you tell someone to convince them that life is not over if you’re still single at 23?

 

 

Conversation of the Week: Older and Older

Person: “…it’s a good way to get shadchanim interested in the older population [like you*].”

Me: “I’m not older! Older is how you describe people who aren’t senior citizens yet. It goes ‘child, teenager, young adult, adult, middle aged, older, senior citizen, and Whoa-that’s-old.’ I am not older.”

*Implied by context

 

Okay, I know “older” is a relative term, but if you consider it that way, pretty much everyone is older. And okay, so if 25 if the peak of the hill, then at 26 I am definitely older… but still slightly.

Oh jeepers. I’m 26. Did I mention I had a birthday yesterday? Twenty-six. 20+6. 13×2. More than a quarter of a century. I’ve lived longer than a generation. What a weird age to be! It’s been 9 years since high school, 8 since seminary… it’s amazing how large those two things loom in my life, considering how long ago they were.

But I maunder.

Happy birthday to me!

 

The Cringing Shadchan and the Indignant Single

“I have an idea for you. If you’re not interested I understand, but I thought it was worth a try. Let me know if he’s not your type. It wasn’t actually my idea—it was someone else’s—but they weren’t sure how you’d take it—you don’t mind, do you?”

Does anyone else face the cringing shadchan on a regular basis? I find myself soothing middle-aged women, assuring them that no, I’m not offended that they thought of me, I’m not upset that they’re redting me a guy, and I won’t hate them forever if he turns out to be a dud.

Why so hesitant? I and my single friends are waiting for their calls. Yes, we want to hear about the single guys they know. Frequently, we wonder why they haven’t called.

“My cousin has boys over every Shabbos. How can she not have found anyone for me?” is a typical grouse from a friend.  Or, “Not even a suggestion in six months. What is it about me that’s so hard to envision with any man?” Then there’s, “Her husband is the biggest macher in yeshiva.” Or “She’s a shadchan! She knows boys! Just never any for me!”

Trust me—there’s no need to apologize. We’re dying to hear from you. Just to know that you’re thinking about us.

And so I find myself soothing middle-aged women in black, reassuring them that I’d love to hear about this guy and look into him and no, honestly, I’m not offended—should I be?

Ay, there’s the rub.

While I rarely turn a guy down, and never trash a shadchan, these high standards of behavior are not universally upheld across the singles community.

“Can you believe it? My own cousin tried to set me up with a 60-year-old divorced Chabakuk father of 12 from the Shomron. What was she thinking?”

“Why do I subscribe to SYAS? So I can get set up with another Australian telephone repairman who has a criminal record? Should I really be  that desperate at 26?”

“If I get set up with one more off-again/on-again (the derech) chossid, I will scream.”

“I have a PhD in physics. How dare he try to set me up with a florist. A florist!”

Oh the horrors. Oh the offense of it. To be set up with someone so below one’s social standing, one’s intellectual bracket, one’s religious identification. It would be better not to be set up at all. But why must we choose between these horrifying extremes? Is it too much to ask to be set up with someone normal—that is, of our social standing, intellectual bracket, and religious identification? Aren’t there any of those around? Do we not merit to hear of them in our hoary years? Thus complains the unhappy single.

As for me, you can still call me with criminal Aussie telephone repairmen. I’ve never met one before, and I imagine it’ll be an intriguing experience. For my friends—well, do as you see fit. But don’t bother being apologetic about it. Your apology won’t show up in the retelling of the tale later that week, so don’t waste your dignity on it.