This one is for my mother, who reads every post and is smart enough to never, ever comment.
This one is for my mother, who reads every post and is smart enough to never, ever comment.
For the father who can’t quite bring himself to read this blog, but loves me anyway.
Last week’s repost was about family exerting “pressure” on you to get married. Following that post, someone sent in a real live example of pressure from her dear old grandmother.
…Well, no surprise there. Grandmothers are the main source of marriage-directed pressure in my life. Possibly the only one. I don’t understand why. They already have grandchildren. Do they also need great-grandchildren? Isn’t that just a little bit greedy?
Or is it something different? Maybe it’s like the difference between how you treat children and grandchildren. Grandparents can tell you the stuff your parents really want to say, because they’re not your parents.
If that’s the case, I don’t want to know about it…
I mean, so I’m single.
Said the kollel-man: “So Yisro’s daughters are chased away from the well, but Moshe rescues them. They go home. Yisro says, “How’d you get here so fast?” They say, “A man rescued us.” Yisro says, “There was a man at the well and you didn’t bring him home?!”
Said the single girl at the table: “Sounds just like my parents.”
“When I saw the coffin I was like, ‘Really? They fit him into that? They didn’t even need to widen it around the middle?’ I mean, this is a guy who never went anywhere without his iPod, iPad, cell phone, pager, Hatzolah walkie-talkie, and Chaverim toolkit, just in case he needs to break into a car in a hurry. He jangled so much when he walked, you thought a robot was coming down the block. His belt added about a foot to his waistline. He never went anywhere without all that stuff, there’s no way he’s going to heaven without them either.”
“Or wherever he’s going.”
“I mean, you never know. God’s car might break down, and we know there aren’t too many mechanics in heaven.”
“So, here we are folks, mourning the passing of our esteemed friend, relative, and colleague, Yosef Schwartz. I’d like to invite his rabbi and mentor to give the next eulogy. Rabbi Cohen was in charge of Yossi’s spirituality. The guy who was supposed to make sure our friend here went to the good place. I don’t see any smoke coming from the coffin yet, so that’s a good sign. Ladies and gentlemen: Rabbi Dovid Cohen.”
“Thank you, thank you. You know, I really don’t think we have to worry about Yossi. I knew he was a good boy from the very start. We first met about a year after he joined our yeshiva. He had taken a hot slice of pizza—with the cheese just browning and bubbling—out of the toaster, and dropped it, right on the floor in front of the stove. Cheese side down, of course. Yossi was always meticulous about following rules, and Murphy’s law was no exception.
“Anyway, Yossi knew that many bits and scraps of food—both milchigs and fleishigs—had fallen in front of the stove over time, and in fact, most of them were still there. He really wanted to brush off and eat his perfectly baked pizza, but wasn’t sure if it was kosher.
“R’ Katz, who he usually went to for sheilos, was in LA at the time and Shabbos hadn’t ended yet. In desperation he called me. I immediately took a liking to the sincere, sweet boy, and we’ve been in touch ever since. He never hesitated to ask me even his most sensitive questions. I’ll miss him, but I know he’s happier now. He has access to much greater rabbanim than me now, and for his really tough questions, he can even go to the Ultimate Rebbe himself. In fact, right now the Ultimate Rebbe is probably pinning a medal on him for throwing out that pizza, and having blueberry pie for melaveh malka instead.”
“Thank you R’ Cohen for your kind words. You know, I bet they’re making up for that pizza right now with an entire pie that tastes… just… heavenly. Although I think they have to order in, since I hear most of the ovens are kept elsewhere.
“Our next speaker is someone who may have a different perspective on where Yosef wound up. We’re talking about someone who still remembers the time he colored on the walls and wouldn’t let him forget why they had to paint the living room mauve. She used to be upset because he didn’t call often enough. Well, he definitely won’t be calling now, Mrs. Schwartz. But you can send him a message anyway, while his neshama is still lingering. Everyone: Yossi’s mother, Mrs. Eve Schwartz.”
* * *
Okay. Now imagine the subject of these speeches is still alive and sitting there, listening.
Now swap out the jokes about God, heaven, and hell for jokes about mother-in-laws, wives, and jewelry shopping.
What do we have? Yep: sheva brochos.
Quote of the week:
“Your parents should make three weddings this year!”
~ My Grandmother
“Do you want to bankrupt them?”
But now I’m also wondering what the parents will do without any kids around to help out with the chores. What do parents do when their kids are all upped and moved out? I know there are fewer dishes to wash and fewer clothes to wash (assuming the kids don’t bring theirs over) and fewer plates to set out and so on, but the table still needs setting and the laundry still needs washing. There’s still the same amount of floor to vacuum and windows to wash.
In the old days, farmers would have truckloads of children specifically to help out with the chores. And by the time the youngest was married off, they were retired – one way or another. But how does it work nowadays? Do they stop vacuuming? Move to a teeny little apartment near the grandkids? Anyone here know? How will they manage without us?
My sister has given me a deadline. I have two months to get engaged.
I’ve pointed out that she’s being a tad unreasonable. Two months might be enough time for me, but that assumes I go out tomorrow and don’t lose any time for the yomim tovim. So she grudgingly gave me a bit of an extension: as long as I get engaged before she does I’m okay.
Yep, that’s what this is about. Good4 plans to start dating in two months (and since she’s the youngest, the parents are not protesting) and she wants my dating parsha wrapped up with a satin bow before hers is. Because she plans to marry the first guy she goes out with. (I hope someone lets him know about this beforehand…) And she plans to do it with the minimum amount of time dating. So I have maybe three months.
I’ve told Good4 that I really wouldn’t mind if she got engaged and married first. I’d be very happy for her and wouldn’t dampen my pillow at night in the slightest. We are two very different people, and I’d be a fool to measure my life against hers. She certainly doesn’t measure hers against mine. But she says that’s not what it’s about at all. I’m 24 and that’s really old enough. I ought to be married by now, so would I please get a move on?
I can’t argue with her. I remember being in high school and thinking that a 23-year-old was pitifully old. And I’m a little freaked about being 24 myself. I mean, it’s almost a quarter century since I was born, and what do I have to show for it? Marriage, at least, is a quick fix for the doldrums.
The truth is, though, that I have no trouble believing that Good4 will marry the first guy she decides to marry (and he won’t know what hit him), and that does leave us in a tight race – but not the race she’s thinking. You see, it isn’t that the person who gets married first is the winner so much as that the person who’s left at home is the loser. It’s like this:
Right now there are a definite amount of chores that need doing and two of us at home to do them. When one person leaves, the quantity of chores that need doing does not reduce (though the amount of each may decrease); only the hands available to do them does.
Whoever gets married first takes on an entire household of chores, so that’s not exactly winning. (But those chores are tempered by the excitement of keeping one’s own home, so it’s not exactly losing either.)
Whoever gets left behind is going to get stuck with double the chores to do in boring old home. That’s twice the table setting and clearing, twice the dishwashing, twice the garbage-taking-outting… Seriously – can you think of a worse fate?
Now I feel driven to get married!
Bring on the gentlemen callers!
A bar mitzvah in the paternal side of the family this weekend means traveling to the city most occupied by the paternal end of the family. Perhaps the paternal end of the family looked upon this as ripe opportunity to set me up with an eligible local bachelor. Or perhaps sending me an invitation merely reminded them that they’d been meaning to set me up with said bachelor for a while now.
At any rate, they did the shadchan-thing, and I was bcc’d on the email sent to the bachelor-in-question’s father.
The first half of the email was occupied with descriptions of my parents so laudatory that even a teenager would have been proud to be related. For a brief moment I basked in the glow of such wonderful forebears. Then I eagerly rushed to the paragraphs at the bottom covering myself. Hey, I can always use an ego boost.
After a glowing introduction, which I thoroughly enjoyed (though it sounded vaguely familiar), the paragraph got down to the essentials. For starters, I was 21 years old.
I’m going to be 23 in August.
I continued reading, and a sneaking suspicion snuck up behind me and started reading over my shoulder. Height as 5 feet 4.5 inches? That decimal point… The list of things I enjoy, that turn of phrase describing my goals in life… Yep, there was no doubt about it: this had all come straight off my shidduch dossier.
Not that I minded. I hadn’t seen this branch of the paternal end in years, so what else would they have to work with? But clearly, if people were going to be using my crib sheet as, well, a crib sheet, I was going to have to do some maintenance.
It’s not that I don’t update the thing. I’ve changed the references as more friends have gotten married and others have drifted away. I’ve updated my education as I acquire it and my employment as it changes. I guess it never occurred to me to scroll to the top and change my stats. I mean, my name hasn’t changed, my height hasn’t changed, and, um, what else is up there again? I guess my age. It changes. But not that often – only every 12 months. Why would I remember to change it?
I resolve to update my dossier next time I’m near it (I conveniently keep it on the family computer hard drive, which is now about 100 miles away). But then I think about the ramifications. I scroll back down the email to the list of my accomplishments. To do it all by the age of 23 – meh. No biggie. But by 21? Now that is impressive.
Hm. Maybe I’ll leave it for now.
Part 1: Whose Date is this Anyway?
Anyway, we left me standing at the top of the stairs slipping into my heels, eavesdropping as my parents lead my date to the dining room, where they’ve put out some food he won’t touch and offer him a drink he won’t drink. I strain my ears, but can’t hear anything.
Apparently guys know that the girls are hanging over the railing listening in, because when I mentioned something on our date related to something I didn’t know he had discussed with my parents, he cracked a follow-up joke. I remained utterly confused until he said, “Didn’t you hear what I told your parents?”
So there I am, not quite hanging over the railing but good enough, and hearing only distant murmurs. I count to ten twice and move to go down.
“Where are you going?” my sister hisses.
“Down,” I whisper back.
“Not yet!!!” she replies fiercely, putting out a hand to detain me. A real bully, this one. I could scuffle with her, but that would send some exceedingly interesting noises floating down into the dining room. I didn’t want his first question on our date to be, “So what was that scream I heard right before you came down?”
“It was pretty short – cut off in a little gurgle.”
“Are you feeling OK? Maybe we should go back.”
“Ha ha. Just kidding. So, where should we go?”
(Just a PS: guys, if you’re going to make me choose a destination, let me know before we leave the house, so I can ask my parents; they eat out a lot more than I do.)
So I stand quietly at the top of the stairs straining my ears, still not hearing much. After a few more minutes, I’m beyond impatient. What’s the point of all this nonsense and pretend? I’m ready; I’m going down.
“If they’re talking, I want to hear,” I tell my sister, and head downstairs. After all, it’s my date. I should be at it.
Does anyone else find it all a drop weird to wait before making a fashionably late entrance? Or is nobody else ready to roll until five minutes after he shows up anyway?
It turns out the mini-date does have some use. After the date, I mentioned something the guy told me to my parents. My father raised an eyebrow—it didn’t quite jive with the story he got during his five minute grill. A word to the wise guy—keep your story consistent. Liars, distorters of the truth, and tale-tellers fail to impress. For Bob’s sake—don’t get caught at it on the first date.Give the same information on both first dates, because you bet there’s going to be some comparison of notes.
“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