Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chapter 6: Brachy's First Date

Meet Brachy. She wasn't going to exist. She was going to be a secret side of Shulamit, or another facet to Karen. Then I realised Brachy is a person in her own right, a complex one, and she deserves a character, all her own. Be patient with her, she'll suprise you.

"My first boy…" Their voices went husky and soft. Sometimes they'd giggle, sweet secrets hidden between the decibels.

The other girls remembered their first Shidduch dates tenderly. Their introduction to the world of Shidduch dating, their first socially sanctioned meeting with a boy. It wasn't just a meeting of eyes across a Shul hall, or a stammered hello in the elevator. This was a real rendezvous; conversing with a member of the opposite sex, a young single man, not a relative, not an elderly rabbi. It was exciting. They saved a place in their heart, for their first Shidduch dates.

Brachy didn't understand. What was so special about the first boys they'd met? They weren't first boyfriends, first loves. They weren't even first dates. She remembered the first boy she'd been introduced to. He hadn't been a date. He hadn't asked her out, hadn't flirted with her. He hadn't even liked her.

Brachy didn't remember what his name was. She never remembered their names. Shmuel teased her, said that one day she'd call him from the taxi, on the way to her engagement party, and ask "what was his name again?" about the boy she was engaged too.

The boy had been extremely eligible, that much Brachy did remember. Brachy's "first boy" was perfect; very religious, serious about learning Torah, from a wonderful family, wealthy, and even intelligent. He was the "top boy", in a "top yeshiva". Shmuel expected no less for her. After all, Shmuel had spent three months investigating the boy, doing a full background check, assuring himself that all was well, before Brachy was allowed to meet him.

Brach felt sick, the day of her first Shidduch date. Her stomach was sending confused messages, or was that her heart? She said Tehillim in the recesses between classes.

Maybe she was about to meet the man she'd marry. Maybe this was the beginning of their life together. Maybe she'd have a family again.

She concentrated while she said the afternoon prayers. She stood with her feet together and head bowed, and tried to envision herself standing before God. From between the Siddur's pages, she pulled out the little laminated card, a present from Shuli, and recited the Prayer for a Soulmate.

They were meeting in Bnai Brak, close to the boy's Yeshiva. It was a two hour journey for her, but this way his learning schedule wouldn’t be disrupted. Torah learning was precious, Yeshiva students' time shouldn't be wasted, squandered on travelling and girls. So Brachy sat on the bus, and used the time to say more Tehillim. She prayed that soon she'd be building a home, a Torah home. She begged God, for this boy to be her destined mate. A part of her was worried too, what if she did marry him? How would she know he was the right one, when she had never met anyone else?

Brachy's first date wasn't in a movie theatre or a bar, the places secular couples went. Nor was she to go to a café, or a hotel lobby; the chosen venues for Shidduch dates. Brachy's first date was in an apartment building, in a stranger's home. Shmuel had arranged it.

The door was covered in crayon drawings, Brachy could just make out the family name on the engraved sign, hidden under the cardboard and glitter. They must have small kids. She sure hoped the kids were safely asleep by now.

She stood on the doorstep, didn't move, wondered how long she could push off what came next. Eventually she lifted up her hand to ring the doorbell. In a couple of hours this would be behind her, she'd be safely back on the bus home. How bad could it be? Really it should be fun, to finally be dating, like everyone else.

But it only lasted an hour. An hour for the carefully selected suitor to decide she wasn't right for him. An hour for him to learn all here was to know about her. A barrage of questions, thrown at her one after the other, so she hardly had time to breath in between stammering out replies. Her throat grew dry, she longed for a drink, but he didn't pause from the interrogation.

After an hour he stood up, brushed off his jacket, and strode towards the exit. He paused for a moment, spun round back to her, "well, good bye then", and with that he was gone. Brachy's first date over. Brachy's first boy had exited the scene, never to return.

Now, years later, Brachy did still remember him, her first date. But she didn't remember him fondly. Her introduction to Shidduch dating had been rather brutal, thanks to him.


  1. Why so sad? Is it real story? Very deep though - you always write very well!!

  2. Don't remember the name of my first date either. He was a walking skeleton and looking at him made me feel ill.

  3. My goodness! I hope it isn't like this in real life! Brachy was put in a situation very undignifying, making it seem like she had to pursue him. I hope this was an exaggeration of what shidduch dating is acutally like.....

  4. Wow - good sad post - I thought she was going to be raped from my skimming - see how the mind works.

  5. @FS - actually ending sounds very similar to if that has happened to her. I.e. if you read from end to beginning it would take a while to figure that she wasn't raped.

  6. Why does it sound like she was raped? Just because I used the word "brutal"?
    But you're right, the last two paragraphs could sound that way. I guess brutal has too many connotations.

  7. I find it odd how a boy's learning somehow trumps dating. A girl is supposed to be treated with respect, and I think the rabbanim of yore would have been horrified that a girl has to make a trip nowadays to see a boy as he can't take time away from his learning. That's a complete contradiction. Who's doing who the favor, anyway?

  8. It doesn't sound like she was sexually assulted, but it does seem like she was brutally attacked. (Calling it a rape is a bit extreme, but I can see it.)

  9. I realize this is fiction, but I'm finding this too unrealistic to make the character development seem real. Come on, even a really bad date is not an hour-long rapid-fire interview after which the guy walks off and says "Well, good bye then." I think you should make it more realistic, but still show (show, not tell) how that negative experienced shaped her.

  10. This novel may be fiction, but this episode happens to be an accurate description of my first date. So Michael, some first dates are rapid fire interviews.

    And because I was new at dating, I was even stupid enough to agree to go out with him again.