Monday, December 14, 2009

Chapter 2: A Game Plan

Karen was always in control. That's the way she was, the way she'd been all her life.
She was the one who organized the hikes in summer. She was the one who passed round a sandwich bag to collect money for teachers' presents at the end of the year. (Then she'd gone out and bought the presents, that same day. And written the poems to go with them.)

Karen had a mantra. "If you want a thing done properly, do it yourself." Every time she tried to let go, tried to leave things for someone else to take care of, it went wrong. Other people forgot, and delayed, and got mixed up. Not Karen. She learned it was quicker and easier not to rely on anyone else, if she wanted something done right.

First she worked out what to do, and then she did it. And then she dispensed advice, How-Tos for every step of the way. From organizing a hike in the Golan, to winning a treasured Madricha position in sleep-away camp. From picking the best Seminary to finding colleges that would give credits for their near worthless Seminary diplomas two years later.

Once it was time to join the grown up world, she was the first in her graduating class to prepare a resume. Her details were already sitting in the inboxes of all the prospective employers on JobNet, together with a customized cover letter, when one by one her friends traipsed over, and she helped them prepare resumes too.

She knew it all, because she'd done it all first. She had her life worked out.

Karen knew how she'd go about finding a husband, if it was up to her. The same way she went about everything else. She'd research current dating trends. She'd go to the right places, dress the right way, say the right things. She knew she'd find a guy. The right guy. And quickly.

But for the first time in her life, Karen had to let go. Her hands were tied. Bound behind her back by the rules society had invented half a century before.

There was no such thing as speaking to a man directly. She couldn't even hope to catch the eye of a potential mate. Someone else had to be in the middle. Someone else had to arrange it. So she needed help. Had to ask for help. Because that was the system. And there was nothing she could do about it.

In the beginning it wasn't too bad. She thought she could handle it. First she went to the local Jewish bookstore. She came home with all the books her teacher in the Shalom Bayit class in Seminary had recommended; "How to find your Zivug", "The Shadchan Speaks", "Dating made easy", "Splitting the sea". She read them all. She soaked up the advice of rabbis and matchmakers and "dating mentors". She prepared for what lay ahead. Knowledge was power.

Then she prepared a list. Lists were the key. She carefully wrote down every family friend and relative who moved in the right circles, who could know of a suitable boy. She added her teachers from high school through Seminary, because teachers were good at making matches.

Chanukkah was the best time of year to start dating, that was common wisdom. Winter meant Shabbos went out early, with the stars in the sky by five, and so Motzai Shabbos could be used for dates. Also, she'd settled into a comfortable routine in the new job. She was ready for the next stage.

On the first night of Chanukkah, after candle lighting, Karen presented her parents with the list. It was time to train them.


  1. "NOT autobiographical"? Oh, come on now. And also, you've gotta' give us the rest of this story - you have us hooked. Great writing.

  2. I think in real life I would hate her.

    :-) Good job!

  3. Fantastic buildup - really sets some dramatic tension. In this game, we all rely upon the kindnesses of others. It's an interesting system, one of the times in life where performance depends more on your reputation than your actions.

  4. Waiting for more!!!! And like SD said- I'd hate her too. I was always more of a spontaneous, last minute, smile and get away with murder type of gal.