Sunday, September 12, 2010

God's Hands

Dating is misleading. It can give me a feeling of being in control. Phoning people, finding out about boys, scheduling dates; I've learned the rules already, I know what I'm doing. There are the rules of the game, there are moves you make, the responses you foresee. I can handle it.

There are those moments when the world seems to gang up around you in order to thwart you, there are days when the world seems to disregard you, and ignore your existence, not care about the ticking time and you remaining single. But even then I'm usually caught up in trying to set things to rights. I use logic, and thought. I "try different types", and "mix in a new crowd", and "speak to so and so who I met in Shul and should know the right people"

I forget to pray. I'm so busy running the show I forget how helpless I really am.

Until I'm sitting on the bus, silent after 2 hours of talking, thinking, thinking about him.

I really liked him. We kept finding things we have in common. Small things, like family football teams, big things, like our relationship with our older siblings.

I like him. I want to go out with him again.

So many things can go wrong. He can not like me (chas vechalila! my heart is crying) I wasn't lookig pretty tonight, I went straight from work, I'm not feeling pretty, that's not a good sign. I feel over dressed in this suit, messy in hair that was only washed last night.

And even if I like him and he likes me, so many things can go wrong. I know them all, they've all happened to me before. Or it can be something new, that I never even worried about before now, that's suddenly disrupting it all, breaking it all, ruining it. I'm so scared. My dream is within reach, let it not be snatched away.

I'm hopeless. It's in God's hands. All I can do is pray.

I've been waiting for a long time, for the moment to be right to share some news with you. And then when the moment came I delayed it, writing a few lines and not completing them, starting posts and deleting them. Because where to start? What to say? How to virtually jump up and down?

But what better way than by with the very beginning? So here goes:

Ladies and gentleman, I wrote the above post a few months ago, on my way home from my first date with my most wonderful and amazing FIANCE!!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hello World

The good news is, I've not been abducted by aliens.

Yes, I know that you've been getting worried. It's been almost a whole month without posting. I hear your fear.

And all I can say is – Sorry. I've just been rather busy lately.

Mishpacha asked me to write a story for them for their Sukkos issue, and that's taken up all my free time, the time I usually use for blogging, or working on my novel. Even when I wasn't writing it, I was thinking about it, and thinking that I should be writing it if I could only get myself to stop reading/resting/randomly wasting time. I've never written a story with a deadline before, and I'm not used to the pressure. Inspiration goes out of the window, and forcing myself to clang away at the keyboard arrives instead. But I think the end result was OK, I'll let you know when it appears.

My other update is that I won't be coming to New York this August. It sounded like a ton of fun, and I was really looking forward to meeting a lot of you(!!!), but some logistical details in Israel mean I'm going to be stuck indoors in my boring office job instead. Oh well, hopefully some other time.

Also, I may have an exotic variation of writer's block disease. There is some stuff I want to blog about, but for various reasons now isn't the time.

So all I can say in the meantime is- please don't give up on me! I love blogging, and I love you reading my blog. I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Connection over Kiruv

I asked a girl for directions today, and we ended up chatting through the rest of our shared ten minute walk from the train station.

I felt happy. Not because I saved a soul, not because I helped a secular Jew see the light, but because I made a friend.

Just like Yeshivish Harry says perfectly in his post on being friends with secular Jews, relating to other Jews shouldn't be all about Kiruv, it should be about conection, and caring.

Hopefully, the next time that my ten-minute-friend thinks of Chareidim, she won't think of the men throwing stones in the Meah Shearim, but of a girl who's a lot like her inside, even if she is dressed a bit differently.

And you know what, even if that doesn't happen, even if our conversation changes nothing about the way she views religious Jews, it doesn't matter. Because for a few minutes, two Jewish girls were friends. And I bet that when we were smiling, God was too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chapter 30: A Bottle, a Boy, and a Phone Call

She felt at home here. The polished mahogany tables, the stiff brocade sofas, the gold velvet curtains falling to the floor, nothing had changed in the years since her first visit. The same pictures still hung on the walls in their gilt frames, obtuse splotches of dark paint; she was beginning to find them almost attractive.

The boy was pulling back his jacket sleeve, looking at his watch. He did it openly. He didn't seem to care that on Shidduch dates it was rude to check the time; that it showed he didn't want to be there, with her.

Brachy could have saved him the bother. She was quite aware of the amount of minutes that had passed, and the amount that were still left to be gotten through. An hour and a half was the standard duration of a first date.

His face creased, as he examined the watch's hands. He looked back at Brachy, and at the half full Coca-Cola bottle and nearly untouched glass, on her side of the table. Both his bottle and glass were empty.

"What do your siblings do?" He asked her.

"I'm the oldest" Brachy said. "They are all in school still." Had he not taken the trouble to find out even that basic information beforehand? Or had he not made the effort to remember it?

She saw his gaze travel down again, to the unconsumed beverage. They couldn't leave, until her Coca-Cola was finished.

Brachy picked up the glass, and tried to gulp down the drink as fast as she could.
The hotel no longer seemed welcoming. She could sense when her company wasn't wanted.

He continued to ask the routine questions. She refilled the glass from the bottle, and answered as best as she could, between swallows.

Finally the glass was empty. She rested it on the table, and looked back at him.

He stood up.

The bill was paid, the taxi cab found, the ride passed with polite small talk, and soon Brachy was alone again, standing on the pavement. She could walk down the gravel path, between the trimmed hedges, and unlock the metal door, and press the elevator button, and travel up to home and sleep.

It wasn't late. The date had been short, shorter than usual. The other boys had pretended to be interested in her, at least. Brachy felt tears well up in her eyes. She never cried. She wouldn't cry.

Would she never find a boy who liked her? What was wrong with her? Was she too quiet, too shy? Didn't she smile enough?

Some boys liked her. Avner liked her. He'd said she should call sometime, and they could do something fun. She didn't have to go in straight away, Ima wouldn't be expecting her home yet. She could meet up with Avner first. She pulled out her cell phone to call him.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chapter 29: Email Ultimatum

Hi Karen,

How was Shavuos? Did you manage to go to the Shiurim you were planning to? I ate a very good cheesecake, but I'm ashamed to say that I still have no idea how to make one myself.

I have a request for you, Karen. I know you don't want us to meet. I understand why you feel we are not suitable for marriage. I hear your fears about certain details which I mentioned.

But let me explain my reasoning please.

We are still corresponding. Despite the so called irreconcilable differences you speak of. If there is really no chance of this working, perhaps we should say goodbye and wish each other good luck in life?

I hope your heart trembles at the thought, as much as mine does.

I enjoy writing to you; I enjoy reading your emails. I feel that we have somehow "clicked", is that not so? There is a meeting of the minds. We understand each other.

Perhaps I'm enjoying it too much. Your words, your lines and phrases, burst into my thoughts at the most inopportune moments- while I'm learning, Shmoozing, while I'm meeting some other young lady. I think of you too much, that's the long and short of it.

Rav Kumperneil says a Talmid must focus entirely on his learning if he is to hope to accomplish anything in Torah. The specific Tafkid of finding an Eishet Chayil, an Ezer Kenegdo, must of course be deserving of time, however this must be carefully monitored. The act of meeting must be focused, to the point, without distractions.

I feel our correspondence is a Zchut, a privilege. I thank you for the time you spend, the honor you bestow upon me.

I do not wish to suggest we cease corresponding. You are obviously a young lady with many worthy qualities. Ok, I'll be honest, I think we understand each other, Karen. I would really like to meet you. Please give this a chance. Perhaps my background, which you so object to, will not prove to be an insurmountable hurdle?

This is a turning point, Karen. We cannot carry on ignoring what we are doing any longer. Rehashing the same conflicts in writing will not bring us any closer, or break us any further apart. The only way is for us to actually meet, and talk about it, and see where this is going.

Awaiting your response eagerly,
Yishai


The phone rang. Karen grabbed it and pressed the green button, before the pealing tune could wake up the rest of the household. "Shulamit " the display was flashing. Could Karen ignore her, wait till tommorrow, when she'd had time to think? But tomorrow she'd be at work all day, it was difficult to find a private corner there. She answered.

"Shulamit. Hey"

"Yeah, the date was ok."

"You're right, we do have a lot in common"

"Yes, it was a good idea of yours. I'm very impressed at your matchmaking abilities."

"Oh, he wants to go out again?"

"That was quick, usually we only give an answer the next day."

"Right, I do see that if you've spoken to him already there's no reason to wait around."

"So do I want to?"

Karen ran her fingers over the mouse on the desk, dragging the cursor backwards and forwards across the screen, highlighting Yishai's name in blue.

"Sure, I'll go out with Daniel again."

There was no reason not to.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coming out of the Blogging Closet

When to tell him? When to share the scandalous news? Will it scare him off, make him run away?

But I'm going to have to share it with him, at some point. 'Him' being whoever I one day am destined to marry. Marriage is about trust, and has no room for secrets.

The question is- when?

The answers I got on Twitter ranged from:

A. After 4 dates - "I would get a Kosher phone, just I need the Internet for Facebook, and for the anonymous account I have on Twitter, and for this blog I write. But aside for that I barely use the internet."

To:

B. After five years of marriage, or three kids. (Whichever comes first?) -"By the way dear, you should check out my site, I've been sharing there a lot of juicy details about our marriage. But don't worry, it's anonymous. Oh is that the baby crying?"

Why am I even worried? Any guy who's right for me will be cool with the idea of me writing a blog. Right?

Not quite.

The real issue isn't with the fact itself, of the blog's existence. Because I stand behind that decision, the same way I have no problem saying that I'm online on Facebook, and Gmail. And someone who can't handle that, not even the basic concept, I guess he's not for me.

No, what makes me tremble me is all the stuff I've written in my blog. Basically, despite y'all reading it, my blog is my diary.

And would you want the guy you are dating to read your diary? Would you want your husband to be reading your diary, for that matter?

There is the personal, the private. There is the sad, the shocking, and the sarcastic. There are the hidden thoughts that burst out at times, surprising even myself. There are the meanings that come across in a different way than I intended. Lines that are misunderstood, intentions that get blurred.

And the same way there are many facets to my character, there are many facets to my writing. So depending on whichever posts he stumbles on first, he can end up getting a pretty slanted impression of me.

It's dangerous ground.

I'm just hoping there comes a point in my future, where I'll be dating a 'him', and I'll be able to tell him about my blog. And whatever he reads first, and whatever impression it may give, he won't doubt me. He'll know me better than that.

So back to the eternal question: When should an anonymous blogger tell the person they are dating about their blog?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tasting another World

We spoke about sheifos a lot, in seminary. Ideals, religious ambitions, spiritual goals. We said man is defined by his sheifos. We spoke of homes of Torah, saintly husbands, pious children, worlds of Chesed, revolutions of inner character work. We had big dreams.

I spin the glass around, between my fingers. I look up and out, at the sea and sand beyond us. There are two Israeli Air Force officers, flanking my right and left. Another couple of guys have joined us too, but they are less glamorous in their civilian shirts, so I don't pay them quite as much attention.

We speak about trips to Europe and past conferences. They follow me, as I walk from drinks table to the railing. They've been smiling at me all day, looking to see if I laugh at the jokes the lecturer makes, catching my eye in the silent pauses. I can barely believe that these good looking, polished, sophisticated army officers are interested in me, but even clueless me can read the signs.

I always wondered what my place in the social ladder would have been in a secular mixed school. Would I have been the quiet one, the girl that no guy asks to dance, the wallflower?

I don't feel like one now, with four guys vying for my attention. I savor the thrill, treasure it; it's new to me.

I'm not doing anything wrong. Networking is a good thing, it's one of the reasons we are here. This is perfectly respectable. This isn't cheap, or shady. I'm not being hit on, I'm not flirting. But it's fun, a lot of fun. It would be so easy to continue the relationships. It would take only a few words to exchange numbers, to meet up again.

They are all extremely intelligent, much smarter than the average guys I meet. They are the elite, the result of careful selection, done by the army, and not by my family's amateur 'finding out' phone calls. They are mature and responsible. I feel like an equal with them. I don't need to dumb down my words, I don't need to explain anything. I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with guys like this, learn in the same academic institutions as them, be automatically and naturally surrounded by eligible young men.

If only they were Frum. Two of them do have Kippot. Small Kippot, so small it took me a while to notice them. One mentions taking it off, travelling bareheaded when he was abroad. I'm disappointed, but not surprised.

"Think about what you really want", someone advised me recently, when I was making a past decision. "Think about the type of home you want, and what's going to get you there."

I can see cafes on the coast, amusement, fun, with these guys. I can see company, excitement, romance.

But I can't see a Shabbos table, I can't see Torah, I can't see truth. Where can it end? Will it bring me closer to where I want to be?

So we say goodbye, at the end of the day. We say a lot more, in the last smiles we exchange, the words we leave unspoken. And I let them go. I go back to my borderline spinsterhood, and my Shidduchim.

I'm alone at home again, missing the guys and the taste I had of another life. I hope that God is valuing these choices. My sheifos are a lot simpler these days. To stay as Frum as I used to be, to cling onto what once was so natural. The goals may sound simpler, but the battle is much more difficult.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer in the Heights?

I'm coming to New York!!!

Well to be more accurate, I found a place to stay in Washington Heights, and the unbelievable happened and my boss gave me three weeks off in August, without blinking. (I don't think he realizes that I'm already in a vacation day overdraft, but I'm sure not going to be the one to remind him.) So…all that's left is to book a ticket.

But before I do that- I want to ask you, my dear American readers- is it a good idea?
Because some folk here are telling me that August in New York is horribly hot and humid, and smelly, and worst of all - dead- with everyone clearing out of the city.

Fact or Fiction? I'm collecting votes.

And if you're of the "Do it!" camp, then have any advice and tips?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Girl's Guide to Fashion Bargains

My Guide to Tznius shopping is more for those "I desperately need a new outfit for wedding/date/trip and don't care how much it costs" occasions. Or in other words, a lot of the places mentioned are pretty expensive.

But how can a girl look stylish without breaking the bank?

Nothing compares with the satisfaction of finding a bargain. A female returning home with bags filled with clothes bought at half price is the modern equivalent of a triumphant Amazon huntress.

So where are the best deals?

Bargain Stores

Heavenly- (I think that's what it's called, I'll check next time I'm there) have a big selection of pretty skirts. All you need is the patience to carefully go through the racks. I've spotted some really good French labels there, which I remember from my last trip to Paris (doesn't that sound posh?) and even some Old Navy's.
(Prices:50-100 NIS for a skirt.
Location: In the Tachana Mercazit, enter and turn right, carry on till you spot a store on your left, on the corner, crammed full of skirts on racks.)

Shibolet is a store which imports suits and dresses from Europe. They often adjust the clothes before they sell them to make them more modest (lowering hems, adding sleeves etc) They definitely don't fit into the bargain category, but what I discovered this year is that they also have an annual sale around Elul time- Elul is not only a time for introspection and repentance, it's also a time for shopping for the Chagim- at Binyanei HaUma.
Even if you don't need clothes, go for the anthropological experience. Hundreds of Chareidi women browsing though endless racks of clothing at a frenzied pace. Tip: If you find an item there that you want to buy, hold onto it tight! If you put it down for a second, someone else will be sure to grab it.
(Prices:500 - 1500 NIS during the the year, 100-200 NIS at the Pre-Chagim sale.
Location: Rechov HaTurim, but wait for the annual sale in Binyanei HaUmah)

Outlet stores ("Odafim")

I love chains' outlet stores, because they usually have more of a selection than their regular stores. Instead of just this season's trends, they collect everything left over from the last few years. Unless you still care what the color of the season is, outlets win hand down.

The downside is that it's difficult to get to them...

My all time favorites are Mango Outlet stores (In Beer Sheva, Netanya, Haifa) – All their leftover skirts from across the world seem to make their way here. It's a Frum girl's paradise
.
Also there's the Outlet Mall in Hertzliya which has Honigman and Castro Outlets, and loads of other Outlets in random locations across the country.

So if there's an Israeli brand that you're into – Google where it's Outlet store is located, it could be worth a trip.

End of Season Sales ("Sof Onah")

An ironclad rule: Don't buy at the beginning of the season. Ever.

Ok, ok, if you fall absolutely in love with it, and you simply won’t survive the suspense, and the praying that it's still around in a few weeks time, then maybe you can get a special dispensation from the pope. But in general – Wait!

Winter stock hits the stores in September. It's still 30 degrees Celcius outside, and the malls are filled with coats and scarves. Do you really need this now? No!

By the time the first rains fall, and a chill hits the air, we're in November, the winter stock is old news, and is going on sale- Perfect timing!

Summer is tougher. You'll need to make do with last year's clothes for a few months. I know it's tough. Hold in there. Salvation will arrive by August at the latest, I guarantee.

So when exactly are the Sales? That's a tough question. There's no particular date (we aren't as organized as the French) but it does come in waves. So if you see "Sale" signs in one store window, odds are the others will be following soon. The good news is that sales are starting earlier and earlier each year. Soon the end of season sales will be before the season begins.

Of course, the problem with Israeli stores (e.g Castro, Renuar, Golf, Honigman etc.) is that they don't have real sales. They plaster their store windows with "Half Price!"- and only if you look very, very, carefully, you'll see underneath, in tiny letters - "off the second item".

Other popular ones are "buy 2, get 1 free"- like I'm going to find three things to buy there, davka during a sale when not much is left.

Worst of all is"10 % off the first item, 20% off the second, 30% off the third, etc." I mean, do the math, that works out to only a 20% discount if you buy three items all at the same price.

Basically, Israeli sales leave anyone who remembers percentages from elementary school entirely unimpressed.

International stores are a different matter. They actually do sometimes reduce prices by fifty percent. There the trick is going the very beginning of the sale, when there's still hope of finding stuff in your size. You're best off being a size 34-36, or 42-44. Sizes 38-40 are usually sold out even before the sale begins.

Basically. shopping for bargains is all about being in the right place at the right time. Good luck!

And now comes the best part- hearing what your favorite places for finding bargains are..?

A Girl's Guide to Tznius Shopping in Jerusalem

Warning: Men should stop reading this right about now.

So you're in Jerusalem, the holy city. And you want to be holy, and dress modestly. But you don't want to look holy. You want to look good.

Never fear. I'm a secret Shopaholic. And arriving home loaded with shopping bags tonight, I suddenly felt like sharing my accrued wisdom with the world. This is going to be an exceedingly shallow post. 100% Chitzoniyus and Gashmiyut. My only defence is that a girl in Shidduchim has got to be well dressed!

Frum stores
I'm not so into shopping at Frum stores. Something about the idea of being dressed exactly the same as every girl in Bnai Brak and Sanhedria Murchevet gives me the shivers.

But if you're aiming for a Frum-yet-classy look for a Simcha, where you want Tante Baila to approve of you and suggest a fine Bochur for a Shidduch, then check out One-of-a-Kind (Location: Go down Rechov Haturim, which is off Malchei Yisroel, and then turn either left or right, I don't remember. It's on a small street that runs parallel to Malchei Yisroel)

And for an – I-may-be-an-old-maid-but-I-can-still-be-the-best-dressed-girl-at-this-wedding, look, there's a Frum designer called Shoshi Yogodayov. She's a bit-over-the-top, but much more original and glamorous than anything else you'll find in the Meah Shearim. The prices are crazy, wait for the end-of-season sales.
(Location: Go up the stairs of a building next to Noam Hafakot on Malchei Yisroel)

International Brands
Zara is the basic staple of most 'Yerushalmi' girl's wardbrobes. (Yerushalmi doesn't mean Chasidic from the Meah Shearim, but rather Boro-Park wannabes.) To go with the head bump comes the Zara pencil Skirt. Arab women also love Zara, so shoppers are guaranteed to have their heads covered one way or another.
(Location: Malcha Mall. There's one scheduled to open in Mamilla soon, and then 'there won't be a reason to go to the mall anymore.')

Mango also has a good skirt selection, their short ones are usually too short, but they have some long ones too. And I like their sweaters and tops.
(Location: Mamilla.)

Hold on a second, what about the Gap? Gap is a huge disappointment to all of us Israelis who were counting the days till it opened. American fashion simply does not work in Israel. Take the 'boyfriend shirt' – no secular Israeli is going to wear a huge baggy plaid button down shirt- that's what religious people wear! And no religious girl is going to wear it, because it's too baggy even for her, and besides, it only looks good over jeans, with half the buttons undone. The store is usually half empty, people flick through the racks and leave empty handed, the cash registers are desolate.
(Location: Mamilla, in the indoor building.)

Israeli Brands-
I popped into Mekimi once when I was waiting in Center1, and emerged an hour later with three skirts. They are specially for the religious public, but manage to stay fun and colorful.
(Location: Center1, Mamilla.)

Most Israeli chains cater for the non religious public, which let's just say is a lot less conservative than your average Frum girl. Also their prices are almost as high as Zara/Mango, but the quality usually isn't as good. But some places worth trying are:

Lord Kitch – they used to sell just T-shirts, then got so popular with the religious crowd who flocked there for their high necked 3/4 sleeved ones, that they branched into a whole range of clothing.
(Location: Malcha, Mamilla, two stores in town.)

Golf- Not that much to say about it. It's pretty Blah, but sometimes has pretty stuff.(Location: Tachana Mercazit, town (top of Ben Yehuda), Malcha)

Fox – Itsy bitsy handfuls of fabric in summer, but they stock cute sweaters in winter.
 
Designers
Local designer stores are Jerusalem's best kept secret. Start off at Betzalel street, and walk down towards King George street, you'll pass a couple of rows of them. Some are more expensive than others. I love the fact that their stuff is pretty unique, yet avoids the typical Israeli-Designer style of vast gray sacks with colored patches randomly sewn on, and asymmetrical hems.

My favorite store is Chumi, on Betzalel 10. They have a collection of Tznius clothes from a bunch of Israeli designers, and have an impressive selection. What sucks is they almost never have sales.

Also I recently discovered Naama Betzalel. Her style is the classic 40s-50s look. There's a store on King George, near Hamashbir, and a "Odafim" store opposite, where they stock leftovers from the last seasons at half the price. That's where the skirt I bought tonight is from :-)

So that's it for tonight. Any questions? Any tips? Places to add?

And yeah I realise this blog post totally ignores the fact that 90% of my readers are located in the States, and not in Jerusalem. Save this list for when you make Aliyah.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chapter 28: Perfect on Paper

Sometimes a boy and a girl meet, on a Shidduch date, and they know right away that they are perfect for each other. They have the same Hashkafa, outlook on life, the same ideals. They have the same hobbies, and CDs, and favorite books. The character traits they were looking for, their "list", is sitting right across from them, in flesh and blood. They should be thrilled, because perhaps they've found their soul mate.

There's only one problem. They aren't very happy about it.

"There are classical music concerts for free, on Monday afternoons" Daniel said. "I go to them with my sister, she's also in Jerusalem this year"

"That's so interesting" says Karen. "I love classical music. I never heard of those free concerts."

So he's a fan of classical music, the same way she is. Another point in his favor. Why is she wishing this date was over?

"I think balance is very important", Karen is saying. "I believe in a blend of Torah and secular studies"

Daniel finds himself nodding. He agrees entirely. He resists the urge to look at his watch.

They talk for two hours. They have a lot in common. They would make a good match. Daniel sees why Shulamit put them together.

But when Daniel does finally glance at his watch, and say "Shall we?", Karen is relieved.

Daniel walks her to the parking lot in silence. They both have no more energy for conversation.

When Daniel gets back to the Yeshiva dorms, he finds Ari in bed already, reading a biography of the Brisker Rav.

"Here's your tie back. Thanks, Ari."

Ari sits up, keeps a finger in the book, saving his place, and closes it.

"Nu, so how was?"

Daniel pauses for a moment, hesitates, finding the words.

"She's a very nice girl." He says. "We have a lot in common. I'll go out with her again, if she wants to."

And when Karen gets home, she says the same thing.

"He's a very nice boy. I'll go out with him again, if he wants to. I'll call Shulamit in the morning"

Then she turns on her computer. Maybe Yishai sent an email while she was out.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chapter 27: Army Appeal

Sunshine, grass, trees, wind catching at her hair, shadows falling in patterns on the ground, the gentle sounds the world made, when it was left alone. And Avner, always Avner.

He crouched beside her as she bent close to a wild flower, perched on a boulder as she climbed up to where there was a better view. Brachy grew to know the steady click of his camera's shutter, as he snapped frame after frame, always staying within breathing distance.

Brachy giggled, as she watched the group gathering around one lone blossoming tree, surrounding it on all sides with their cameras and eager gazes. She flipped the lid off the lens.

"Makes you feel sorry for the tree, doesn't it?" Avner whispered into her ear.

Brachy jumped. She smiled up at him, but moved away, putting some distance between them.

He continued, ignoring her reaction. "So much pressure. I sure hope that poor tree is photogenic."

"Rather it than me." Brachy said.

"Oh I'd way prefer to take a picture of you any day Brachy. You're much prettier than the flower blossoms."

Brachy's face froze. Shock, embarrassment, dismay. She opened her mouth, then closed it again, without speaking. Her eyes were two admonishing guardians, gazing at Avner with disapproval.

"I was joking! Don't worry Brachy, I know you're a Dosit. Forget it, OK? Look, there's a squirrel, think we'll catch it in time?"

Brachy felt stupid, she knew her reaction to his compliment was extreme. She forced her mouth into a more normal expression, and shrugged, nodded, kneeled beside Avner to snap shots of the squirrel now disappearing behind a rock.

"If you hold a stalk of grass, or something, close to the lens, it will blur, create a halo for the picture. Try it, it makes an interesting frame." Avner passed over a twig

"How do you know so much, anyway?" Brachy asked Avner. "I thought this class was for beginners?"

"They taught me photography in the Army." Avner said.

As if that explained it all. "The army?" Brachy pictured a row of soldiers in formation, all taking artistic portraits of the sunset, or perhaps chasing butterflies? Photography didn't fit in with Brachy's image of basic training.

"For reconnaissance. I was in intelligence. " Avner didn't say more.

She'd forgotten that Avner had been a soldier, forgotten that he had done so much already in life. She'd begun thinking of him of another friend, doing the same things that she did.

Nobody in Brachy's family had ever served in the army. Not her father, not her brothers, or cousins. She had never seen a man come home in uniform, was never taught the army slang. Soldiers were heroic, powerful, beings. They'd endured basic training, they'd trekked across deserts bearing loaded packs, they'd risked their lives for the country.

True, lately the soldiers she saw on the bus and the street were looking smaller, younger, more vulnerable. Brachy began to realize that she was older than most of them, that they were just boys really.

But it was still exciting, thinking of Avner as a soldier. He suddenly seemed older than he had before. Brachy saw, as if for the first time, the shadow of stubble on his chin; she heard the thick huskiness of his voice.

She wondered if it was true what he'd said before; did he really think that she was pretty?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What is YOUR favorite Shidduch post?

You know those Shidduch posts you read, somewhere, anywhere, and really love? The ones where your reaction is "That's exactly how I feel", the ones that leave you thinking, or get you grinning. Tell us about them!

We are collecting the best of the Shidduch Blogosphere, over here.

Our goal- Publication. Don't you feel sorry for those poor souls who don't have Internet access, or who haven't yet discovered the blogosphere? And wouldn't it be great, to have the very best posts collected in one book?

Our motivation- Making a real difference in how singles are being viewed in the Frum Community, and providing a genuine, uncensored, well written narrative about Shidduchim

Bad4Shidduchim launched the project today. Here are some FAQs we are being asked:

Who can nominate a blog post? Anyone! You don't even have to register on the site (although it would be cool if you did!)

Can I nominate my own blog posts? Yes! Who knows your best posts better than yourself? We are trying to find all the great stuff out there, that we might not know about - or might have read, and loved, but forgotten about.

So what do I do now? Go to the Shidduch Anthology Forum, and post the links to your favorite posts. And spread the word!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Other Species

They fascinated me. They lived beside us, but in a system entirely apart. Talking to them would cast me into a state of mortal sin, but I badly wanted to hear how yeshiva boys lived, and talked, and thought. I wanted to hear what went in within the hallowed halls where my feet could never tread. I gathered up crumbs of information, snippets of conversations. And I wondered.

Fast forward ten years, out of high school and into Shidduchim. Yeshiva boys are coming out of my ears. Can this be God's repayment for my once secret interest? "You want to hear what it's like in Yeshiva, do you? You'll hear what it's like in a hundred Yeshivas!"

For I am now an expert on Yeshivas.

A Chareidi colleague discusses where to send his son to Yeshiva. I inundate him with a wealth of information; I tell him the pros and cons of each institution, the type of boys who go there, the families they come from, the staff's approach to Chinuch, and the comfort level of the food and dorms. I even share some of the below the surface politics with him.

"Oh they've changed" I say, "The new Rosh Yeshiva want to make it more Chareidi."

He blinks at me. Why should a girl know all this? What business is it of hers?

I wish I could pull out my credentials, and flourish them in his face. I have endless reliable sources; an infinite list of conversations and discussions, on all facets of Yeshiva life- the good, the bad, and the excruciatingly boring.

For what does a Yeshiva boy talk about on a date, if not his Yeshiva?

So if you need advice on where to Shteig in Eretz Yisroel, or where to send your son, contact: 1-800-Frum N' Flipping – for all your Chinuch needs.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who's the most eligible of them all?

I have good news. In fact, I have fabulous news. You know how we are always venting about the Shidduch scene?

Well, I misjudged it. The cloud does have a silver lining. The Shidduch world is not that bad after all!

We can start counting our blessings.

Blessing #1: There is no list of top eligible singles published every year in Hamodia.

Let's all take a moment to say a little prayer of gratitude. (Something along the lines of"Thank you O Lord, for sparing us")

For our less fortunate brethren, those abiding in the 'Swamp' of Kattamon, have this to deal with every year.

When Nati on Srugim made it to an online list of eligible Religious singles, I wasn't sure if it was a joke. Turns out it's for real. Every year NRG publishes a list of the top Dati folk who are on the market for a spouse.

I'm so glad I'm Chareidi!

Or should we be starting our own version of "The List"?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chapter 26: Enough is Enough

"There are no words for this perfection. No mortal expression can capture the sublimity of your creation." Dovid took another bite of cheesecake, and rolled his hand around his stomach, to show how much he was enjoying it.

"Thank you, thank you." Shulamit grinned. "So your big sis' is good for something, eh?"

"Shulamit, you outdid yourself this year." Ima said. Shulamit's annual Shavuos cheesecake was a family tradition.

"At least she's making the most of all the free time on her hands." Abba said. "Better a gourmet cheese cake than another hare brained scheme."

Ima turned and frowned at him. At least on Yom Tov let there be no disagreements.

"Actually, I have some amazing news!" Shulamit said, turning to her father. "Just wait till you hear this!"

"Well go on then." He said, cutting himself another slice of cake.

"I met this girl at the wedding last week, and I realized she is exactly the type of girl that Daniel is looking for! - Remember Daniel? He came to sell flowers that time when there was a mix up – Anyway I called them both and they agreed to go out!"

Shulamit beamed, as her eyes darted back and forth between Abba and Ima and Dovid, to capture the excitement she knew would be reflected back at her. She waited, but none of them smiled, or said a word. There was silence.

"Aren't you pleased?" Shulamit said slowly.

Ima spoke. "We were hoping you would have better news for us."

"What's better than making a Shidduch? Do you know what a Mitzvah it is?!"

"Matchmaking is indeed a great thing." Abba said. "But 'Aniyei Ircha Kodmin', the poor of your own city come first. What about you Shulamit? When will you stop with this game and focus on your own life?"

"Abba's just worried about you." Ima said. "I also am. We all are."

"But you promised! We agreed on this! You said it was O.K!"

Dovid poured out some of the fancy white wine Abba had brought home. Nobody was looking his way. He tried to pretend he wasn’t there. Girls, and their endless melodrama! Thank God he only had one sister. Although she was a jolly good cook.

"Shulamit, we agreed that you could take a year off to focus on your studies." Abba said, glancing between words at his wife for confirmation. "We weren't expecting you to launch a neighborhood campaign to marry off every girl aside for yourself!"

Now Shulamit was the silent one.

"If marriage is so on your mind, why don't you try to get married yourself? Isn't it time? Haven't you waited long enough?"

"I can't believe you're speaking to me like this. How can you forget what I went through? I need a break. I can’t deal with it anymore. And besides, I need to focus on my career. The religious fashion world needs me."

Dovid picked up a Bencher, and launched into a loud, if off tune, "Shir HaMaalot." He figured the meal had gone on long enough. Why couldn't his family be normal, like Yitzy's family ?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ambitions

"What are your plans for this year?" That would be my boss talking. He looks at me expectantly.

The answer is obvious. The words flash in my mind, as if spelled out in neon light bulbs on the top of a store front window.

"Finish my novel."

Wrong answer. There's no way I can say that. He doesn't even know I'm writing a novel.

"My plans?" Stalling for time is always an option.

"How do you want to develop this year?" He doesn't shift his gaze from my face.

I take it "Finally get a driving license" is also out? How about "Work on my Middos"? Does that count as development?

I spend a hefty chunk of my day here, between four office walls. I shouldn't just be killing time, waiting to leave, to date, to write.

"I'd like more responsibility." I mumble. "And more opportunities for creativity."

Yeah that sounds passably professional.

Last year the answer I bit back was "Get married." I really should start preparing for these meetings.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just One Date

"'Just one date', they'd tell me. 'A couple of hours, why not? Isn't it worth a try?'

"And they were right in a way. I couldn’t rule out guys before I'd met them. Because I'm a mix, and I needed a mix. I couldn't know ahead what was the exact combination of Israeli and Chutznik, of Yeshivish and open, that I needed. Because it depended on the guy really, it's not an exact science. So I kept trying.

"But one date was never one date. There's the 'before', the whole getting ready business. But what's worse is the 'after', the deliberations, the 'should I try again?'. The hoping he'll say no, because you don't have the courage to be the one to end it. Second dates are almost autmoatic, because how can you know him properly after only one date? Eventually it ends, two or three dates later, one or two weeks later, after endless phone calls and debates. And it always ends for the reason that you saw on the first date."

I nod, I agree. It's often the same for me too. (Those times when I'm not the one being dumped)

"Finally I decided I'm going to start listening to myself. I'm going to trust my instincts. I'll go out for 'just one date', and it really will be for one date only. If I don't see it going anywhere I'll end it, cut it right away, not let it drag on."

"And it worked", I say.

She smiles. She's now happily married to a guy who is totally unlike her 'on paper', who she agreed to the 'just one date' with (because she knew it really only had to be one date, and not more), and who she liked, a lot, and clicked with. And actually wanted spend a second date, and a third, and eventually a lifetime with.

"It saved me so much heartache" she tells me. "I went out with all types of guys that year, I tried everything, but as soon as I didn't think it was going to work, I ended it, and moved on."

"It's scary" I say. "What if I'm meant to marry someone who I don't like straight away? How can I know who my Besherte is, and how much of a chance I need to give the relationship?"

Her dating strategy does sound appealing though. Listening to myself, and to my feelings, which never really change, however much I keep trying. No more forcing relationships that aren't going anywhere. No more praying to be dumped. Should I try it?

Scrawling for a Shidduch

"We don't know each other. But maybe we'll get married one day. I like your name. I'm sure we'll fall madly in love"

I grin. I wonder what he'll make of that! It serves him right for insisting on this crazy method for winnowing out the unsuitables.

Then I crumple up the paper; I've got to try to take this seriously. I lay out a new blank white sheet on the desk. What should I write in a letter to someone I've never met, never even spoken to?

It doesn't matter really. He just wants to see my handwriting. He doesn't care what I say.

I can't believe I agreed to this; giving a guy a sample of my handwriting, so that he can analyze it, before we even go out. I bet he's not even my type. I don't go for this sort of stuff.

My writing looks messy on the paper. I always joke that my handwriting is encrypted, because I'm the only one who can decipher it. I wonder what the scrawled letters and lines will teach him about me.

I told them that they could forget it, a year ago. I didn't care that he was a 'great guy'. I wasn't going to let my handwriting be analyzed, by anyone. I thought it was insane, I still do. But now I'm in my "what the heck" mood. Compared to posing a Shidduch profile online, is this any crazier?

The situation is ironic. Usually I worry what guys will think of my writing. But this time I wait to see what he thinks of my handwriting. I can't win.

This all happened a while ago. To my great surprise, my messy handwriting passed the test. We were soul mates. Until the actual date proved that premise wrong (it was face to face, not handwriting to handwriting). I'm curious, what's your take on Graphology and Shidduchim? What would you have done in my place?

Did you know that I'm a fanatic?

I'd love to see your comments on my guest post about being a fanatic in Jerusalem.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

For Appearances Sake: A Story

She tells me there's another way. She tells me it can be different. I try to keep my disbelief from showing; I try to keep the skepticism out of my eyes. I humor her. I nod along as she speaks. The poor girl can't be quite all there, if you know what I mean

Her eyes are steady, as she looks back at me. She seems normal enough. Perhaps she merely doesn't realize the implications of her words, and no one has taken the trouble to teach her, to show her the way things need to be. Her statements tumble out in a stream of perplexities, until I break in, interrupting. I can't keep quiet any longer.

"You go to the shows that sound the most 'fun'? You only go to Shiurim that you 'find interesting'?"

She nods. She doesn't deny it.

"What about weddings?" I ask her. "Which weddings do you attend?"

"Weddings that I want to go to."

"But what if there's nobody there?!"

"There's always somebody there" she laughs. She looks at me like I'm the crazy one, would you believe it.

"But what if there's nobody there who matters?"

"Nobody who matters?"

"Who knows people. You need to go to places where you'll be seen, where you'll meet people." I explain with great patience. Really I'm proud of myself, managing to show such understanding.

As a single girl, she has duties. She needs to go to the right places, in order to meet the right sort of people, so that they will introduce her to the right sort of boy. She can't just saunter around like she's on vacation, without a thought to the future. How will she ever be set up with anyone, if she's not even trying?

The girl seems oblivious to the dim fate that lies ahead for her. She carries on speaking, smiling, telling now of the curious friendships she strikes up with people of no social significance. She doesn't even seem embarrassed.

I try to picture the world she describes. Faint pictures rustle in my mind, they are faded and brittle, scenes of days gone by. Is she from another time, another place? Do they ignore the whispers, in her world?

"What about the whispers?" I ask her.

She stops her chatter. She stares at me, as if she's not sure what to say.

"The little voices that whisper in your head, that ask 'Does she know anyone?', whenever you're with someone. Don't you hear them?"

Still she stares at me, unspeaking.

"'Who will be there?', 'Who will I meet?', 'Should I go?'" I continue. "The whispers. They are a continuous echo in the background. They tell you what to do, where to go, who to speak with, who to make an effort to socialize with. "

She turns around and walks away from me.

I remember now. I remember that I used to be like her. I used to live life without the whispers. Then things changed. They'll change for her too, when she starts Shidduchim.

I hope it won’t always be like this. I have friends on the other side. I have friends who are married. They tell me things are different, in that place. They tell me the whispers go away. They tell me the ulterior motives vanish, disappear. They live life for its own sake again, and not for appearances sake. That's what they say, at least. I don’t know if to believe them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chapter 25: Before Shavuos

There was a kit for sale. Cheese, cookie crumbs, topping, all wrapped up neatly in a plastic tub, instructions included. It was tempting.

She already had a cheesecake recipe, waiting at home, torn out from this week's Mishpacha. The ingredients she needed were listed on the back of the envelope, tucked in the purse somewhere, if only she could find it.

The recipe had looked good, when she'd read it. But the half-the-work -done-for-you kit would be less work, less of a bother. It was double the price the ingredients would cost stand alone though. And it wouldn't come out as good. Besides, she made a cheesecake every year for Shavuos, she loved baking. What had gotten into her?

She wondered what would happen if she went home, without the ingredients? What would happen if she didn't make a cheesecake? What would happen if she stayed home, and didn't go to Shul? Could she pretend it wasn't Yom Tov? Could she ignore the date, and wait for it to be over?

Shavuos was the spiritual start of the year. Shavuos was the day when Hashem decided how much help with Torah he'd give you the next year, the same way that on Rosh Hashana he decided on the material stuff. But Brachy still wished it was over. How had she ever had the energy, for the Shiurim and the Mussar books, the praying and the learning?

Brachy used to worry that she wasn't really religious. Did she really believe in God? How could she know if she did? She read books, written specially for teenagers, about faith, and belief. She read books about the truth of the Torah, and proofs of the existence of God. She wanted to believe. But she didn't know how she felt deep inside. She couldn't tell. What would happen, if she was tested?

So it had been a relief, in a way. Going through the worst, and seeing that she did believe in him.

God had been there with her then, with them all. One week, spent by a hospital bed. One week, in the hospital's Intensive care. Brachy had felt him then. If she shut her eyes and blocked out the world, she could still remember. It was the hardest week of her life, but God had been there, he'd wrapped himself around her, and comforted her, and made her strong.

Now it was over, and she was on her own again. Daddy was gone, God was gone, she was left to cope. Year after year, Shavuos following Pesach. Would the cycle of festivities never end? She tried to bring back the feelings of faith, of assurance, that she'd had in the year of mourning, but the emptiness, hollowness, stayed.

Trust Sara Leah to call for a chat when Brachy was surrounded on all sides by impatient shoppers. She managed to hold the phone with one hand, and push the cart with the other.

"Where will you be for Yom Tov?"

"At home."

They always asked her that question. It started when Daddy died. They expected her to go away for Yom Tov, go somewhere where there was a man at the head of the table. As if now her family was no longer a family, her home no longer a home.
She was creating a traffic jam in the drinks aisle. "I'll talk to you later Sara Leah, OK?"

The Yahrzeit candles, she mustn't forget them. What aisle were they in?

This time the phone gave only a short beep; it was a text message, not a phone call. Avner had started texting her in between classes. He wanted her to see a new movie with him tomorrow night, when Yom Tov was out. Didn't he realize that she didn't watch movies? She couldn't do a thing like that of course.

Brachy dropped a handful of Yahrzheit candles into the cart. Enough for them all to light tonight.

In front of the fridges, Brachy reached out and took a cheesecake kit. It would be easier.

Disclaimer: I have a messy room. It took me two hours to tidy it today. While I was hanging up clothes I thought about this scene, and tried to bring it to life. Why am I telling you all this? Because, flattering as it is when my story sounds real, this is NOT a true story, and Brachy is NOT me. Glad we cleared that up..
Happy Shavuos everyone!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chapter 24: When Dreams Come True

It wasn't coming out right. Was it the lines that were wrong, the shading? Shulamit wanted the dress to be simple, fresh, but instead it looked flowery and naïve on paper. She ran a thick x through the center of the charcoal figure, and folded over the sheet.

The blank whiteness of the new page reflected back at her, as if it were the enemy, mocking her. She'd never found it so difficult to work before. In school she'd always been drawing. While the teachers drawled on, while the girls giggled and gossiped, Shulamit had drawn out her fantasies, working her way back from the ends of notebooks to their centers, only stopping when she reached class notes and homework, encroaching from the beginning.

The pictures she'd produced had been admired, praised. "You're so talented", they told her. 'You have a gift." "Don't forget us when you're famous."

And she'd believed them. She'd always known what she wanted to be when she grew up. She enjoyed drawing and designing dresses, she was good at it, she was meant for it.

So really everything should be perfect now. Finally she could spend all day studying and practicing fashion, art, and design.

The table was spread with charcoal pencils of varying thicknesses. Dovid was in school, Abba was at work, Ima was out shopping; the house was quiet. It was too quiet. Shulamit found her portable microphones in Dovid's room, plugged them in to her IPod. All artists needed background music to work to, why hadn't she thought of that before?

Being an artist was a lot of pressure. She couldn't sit around and wait to be inspired. She couldn't work when she felt like it. There were deadlines, and assignments to hand it. It was positively draining, sucking out every ounce of creativity she'd ever possessed. No wonder her pictures were falling flat. What did they expect from her?

How did the other students do it? How did they turn up week after week with original masterpieces? Were they better than her? Was she good enough? Maybe she'd made a mistake? Shulamit couldn't bear to be mediocre, when she'd always thought she was the best. Should she give up, and go back to the Seminary where she belonged, and study teaching, together with all the others?

She needed a break. Shulamit remembered the girl from Sara Leah's wedding; Karen, that was her name. She'd told Karen she had a Shidduch for her. Daniel would be perfect; he was sophisticated and worldly, just like Karen was. Had Karen tried dating Baal Teshuvas before? It really was the ideal solution for her. Anyway, she'd call him. Sometimes being a matchmaker was much more relaxing than being an artist.

"Hi Daniel, it's Shulamit, can you talk now? How are you?" Shulamit cradled the cordless phone in the nook of her neck, even though the school nurse had told them how bad that was for posture. She needed her hands free to fish for the scrap of paper where she'd written down Karen's details. When she'd emptied out her evening bag, where had the contents landed?

"I'm doing well. I'm enjoying this Zman at Yeshiva. Still fitting in the basketball I told you about. The dorms are emptying out, with all the boys getting engaged, but the truth is I'm enjoying the space."

"Right. That's great." Shulamit had been expecting a grunt and a swallowed "Baruch Hashem", not a whole conversation.

"And how are you, Shulamit?" Daniel prompted.

Now Shulamit felt obliged to give a genuine response. "Well I'm also studying..."

Her voice trailed off.

"I remember. Fashion design. Your dream! Is it going well?"

Shulamit didn't know how it happened. But Daniel was the first person to ask the question, and sound like he wanted to know the answer. The words tumbled out in a torrent, flowing smoother than the sketches she'd been agonizing over. She told him everything. He was patient, on the other side of the line. He asked more questions, encouraging her to talk. Shulamit realized that she'd been lonely, working at home all day. And classes weren't much better, she felt an alien there, among the students in their T- Shirts and Jeans. It felt good, to be finally talking to someone.

But suddenly, she was embarrassed. She had no business mixing her personal life in with making Shidduchim.

Shulamit lowered her voice, making it sound more businesslike and mature. "Listen Daniel, it's been great talking to you, but I actually called to ask you something. I have an idea for you."

"An idea?"

"You know. A Shidduch idea. Are you free now?"

"Of couse. A Shidduch..."

"She's an amazing girl! I met her last night. Remember how you said you're looking for someone intellectual? Well she's really into all that stuff."

Shulamit didn't understand why Daniel sounded so reserved all of a sudden. He really was the most perplexing boy. But as long as he'd agree to go out with Karen, it didn't matter.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So What's Up?

To stop you thinking I've been slacking off, to dispel the impression that I've been spending my free time lounging around in a hammock on the shores of the Caribbean, instead of typing away like a dutiful blogger should be, I figured it's time to post some links.

I've been blogging for Midnight East at the International Writer's Festival in Jerusalem. (But don't get your hopes up- I'm not shedding the cloak of anonymity. It's a pseudonym.)

I was worried I'd be discovered for a fraud beforehand. I couldn't believe that despite usually teetering around in heels, on the one day I meet the President of Israel(well I didn't actually meet him, but let's not get nitty gritty here) I'm wearing sneakers and looking a mess. Guess that's life. And I did enjoy the Invitation Only press conference and opening ceremony.

What do single girls like? Or more precisely, what do Frum single girls who are in Shidduchim like? And what do they NOT like?

Frum Satire also reposted my Marrying-a-Gay-Guy question. The feedback was interesting. (Although some is R-rated, so be warned)

The other breaking news item is that, from across the Atlantic, BOSD came to Jerusalem, and we got to meet up. This historic event took place on Ben Yehudah. Luckily, we managed to keep away the Paparazzi. (And don't worry Bad4, despite it being a chapter meeting of the BadForShidduchim club, I knew better than to order an ice cream this time. The fruit shake wasn't very good though, BOSD, was it?) And guess what? I discovered I'm not the only blogger to write all my posts on my IPod!

Ps. Since I know you're all waiting in suspense, let me make the official announcement that my career in double dating is over.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mamma's Lil' Boy

Do you ever feel like you're living in a surreal Kafkaesque universe, too weird to be true? Do you ever wonder when the shutters will open, and sense will seep back into the world? If you open up your eyes will it be over? Can you go to sleep and wake up from this dream? You cry, from the sheer frustration; the absurdity overwhelms you, you look around frantically for the clarity that once was. How did you get here, what step along the way brought you to this society of madness? Why don't they see it too; why do they let this happen; where is this leading to?

I've been on dates with men. I've been on dates with women. I've never been on a double date before. A double date which is also a first date. A double date where both our moms get to tag along with us, and join in all the fun.

I'm confused as to the coupling. Do I pair up with him, while his mom pairs up with mine? Do we trade, me dating his mom and vice versa?

"Fine. Wednesday. 9 PM. At the café. Oh...there's there's one small thing. His mother wants to come along."

"His mother is coming on the date with us?! On a first date?!"

"Only for the first few minutes . That's the way they do things."

I'm too tired to put up a fight.

Then he calls back.

"They say the way they always do things is that both mothers meet beforehand. They want your mother to come too."

You know when you're too shocked for your mind to respond?

Later I take it in, the implications; I'm going on a chaperoned blind date.

Despite my ripe old age, I'm taking part in an act choreographed for children, too immature to know their own mind.

Because what can be their motives?

Is this to get a picture of my family religiosity, level of Frumness, Heimishness?

Perhaps it's all a matter of establishing my class, a not so subtle socio-economic background check?

Or do they want to see my mother's figure, to decipher the genetics of what dress size I'll be when I'm a grandmother?

I am going to refuse point blank. Delete the little box in Outlook with the place and time, and move onto the next guy. Because how can any guy who needs to bring along his mom on a first date; who relies on her approval not only of a girl, but also of a girl's family; who can't make the decision whether to go out a second time on his own; how can a guy who behaves like that be suitable for me, mature enough for me? I want to marry a grown up man, not a little boy.

I make the decision. Hashem makes a different once. There's a miscommunication along the chain of telephones and arrangers. It's all set. We are going out tomorrow, all four of us.

Let's look on the bright side. My grandmother lives abroad. So at least it won't be a triple date.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm an INTP

We ask about hats, and colors of Kippahs. We ask which stream of society he belongs too.

"Which Yeshivas did he go to?"
"What do his parents do?"
"What do his siblings do?"
"Where do they live?"
"How many years does he want to learn for?"


That's how we match up couples. Surprisingly, despite two people being perfect for each other on paper, despite them both agreeing that the husband should be in Kollel for exactly 5.5 years, until the birth of their third child; despite them both having brothers who learn in the Mir, and sisters who are working in special Ed; despite all of that, they meet and don't click.

The infamous click. The adults around them tear their hair out in frustration.
"What do you mean you don't like him?!"
"He's a very good boy, what's there not to like?"


The dater is ashamed. Indeed the boy is wonderfully suitable for her. She too will only eat Rubin and Eidah Chareidit chicken. But nonetheless, she doesn't enjoy being with him.
She's scared that she really is picky, like they all are saying.

There's one facet we often skip in Shidduch dating. Indeed, it's a minor detail. It may be the topic of one or two questions, asked and answered generically.
"Is he outgoing?"
"Oh yes. He's a very friendly boy."

All boys are friendly. Perhaps he nods and says Good Shabbos to the men he meets in Shul. Perhaps he's friendly with his dog, or his pet lizard. But he's friendly for sure. So what's the point in even asking? A boy's personality is hard to describe, hard to measure. It's not black and white like his suits and shirts.

So we don't even try to assess it beforehand. Personality we leave for the date. That's the point where we can see if there's a click. The main thing is we know what his Hashkafas are. All of married life will be smooth sailing, as long as we can agree where to send our kids to school.

It turns out that outside the religious world, people are search for mates in a different fashion. Zodiac "love matches" have been around since who-knows-when. Then there's graphology (more on that another day). And EHarmony has come along with a 250+ question Personality Profiles. Should this be a new section for our Shidduch DVDs?

Meanwhile, I took a free Myer Briggs test. Turns out that I'm an INTP. Now, I don't usually go for this sort of stuff, but 90 percent of what they wrote was totally accurate. It was like they could see inside my mind. It's pretty cool.

I don't think I want to rely on Myer Briggs for determining who I marry though. That's all I need.

"He won't go out with you because your Myer- Briggs personality types don't match".
"But we have the same Hashkafas! We are perfect for each other!"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shidduch Experiment

Is the internet filled with weirdos? Crazy, creepy, stalkers, who lurk in cyber shadows, afraid to venture out into the real world?

I don't think so. I think the internet has become pretty main stream. Regular people use it; nice normal people surf this site, people like me, and like you.

Yes, you.

And now the question is, Are you a guy? Are you single? Are you smart? Are you a balance of seriously Frum and open minded? Do you want to live in Israel?

And if you don't fit the above criteria, maybe you know somebody who does?

Frum Satire's been trying to convince me for months to post a Shidduch profile on his site. I remained skeptical. Why look for trouble? It’s not like I don't have boys to go out with.

But I'm trying to break out of the mold. I've been dating for four years, from ever since I turned nineteen. And I don't think I've been meeting the right type of guy. I could carry on with the way I've been doing things. Hear the same Shidduch suggestions from family friends, and siblings' friends, and Seminary friends' husbands'. But instead I turn to you, the world-wide-web. Frumster and SYAS work for some people, is this any different?

So here goes. And I know I can rely on all my wonderful friends in the JBlogosphere to link to this post, and spread the word. (Yup, that's a hint! Admit it's a fun way to test the power of blogging.)

"So tell me about yourself"

Well I fall between two worlds

Boys who are raised in Israel, and go through the Chareidi system, tend to become very Chareidi themselves. While we girls keep our home's Hashkafa, and still look for openness.

And so I turn my eyes to the States. But it's hard to find a YU-style guy, who wants to live in Israel. It's hard to find ANY YU-Style guys, while I'm in Israel.

Of course, maybe the real reason I'm still single is that Clever Girls are Ugly

Or that I'm Frum N' Feminist

And oh no, have they been speaking to my neighbors?

Did they hear about my lack of housekeeping skills?

Anyway, I shall continue my search for True Love

Maybe my next date will be a GOOD Shidduch Date?


And maybe I'll meet him online?

My email address is chutznikit@gmail.com . Consider this an experiment.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Skipping to Motherhood

I could buy a Sheitel and a ring, and move to a place where no one knows me. I could say my husband is a Masmid, and learns in Kollel night and day, and thus explain away his absence. I could have a baby, and raise him on my own. I could stop waiting for the right man, and skip to the next stage. I could be a mother, before I'm a wife.

I won't, of course. But sometimes I want to.

I told my theory to the guy I was dating, when we sat on the grass one night.

"First you think marriage is about having a permanent boy friend, and it's not."


Teenagers also want to get married. They want a boy to give them red roses and heart shaped candies. They want a boy to tell them he loves them. They want the romance, and the relationship. But marriage should be about giving, not taking. They aren't there yet. If they do get married their relationship will have to mature, after the Chuppah, for it to last.

"Then you think marriage is about giving to each other, building a relationship. That's closer, but still not enough."


When I started dating, I was nineteen. I wanted to get married, but secretly also hoped I could push off having kids for a couple of years.

"When you actually want to have children, that's when you know for sure that you're ready for marriage, ready to build a home"

I can't put my finger on the exact moment when it all changed. It happened gradually, I suppose.

You may say that it's peer pressure, being surrounded on all sides by strollers and pacifiers.

You may say it's my biological clock beginning to tick louder.

I think that it's age, maturity. Reaching that stage where you want to love without limits, where you want to be a parent, and raise a child.

You're scared, it's a big responsibility, but you feel ready for it, ready to be a mother.

And now I'm past the stage of readiness, I've reached the stage of impatience, of longing.

I hold out my finger, and a baby grasps it and wraps his little hand around it. I read a story about a stuffed elephant to a chubby toddler, she smiles and repeats the words. "Kick" I tell the six year old, showing her how to swing all by herself.

The right guy hasn't showed up yet. But I want to be a mother. I wonder what would happen if I could buy a Shaitel and a ring, and move to a place where no one knows me...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chapter 23: Brachy's Pictures

They sat cross legged, in a circle on the grass. As she leaned over, to take the photos from her bag, Brachy's skirt brushed against Avner's jeans. Brachy shifted a little, away from Avner. She did it carefully, for him not to notice and be offended. It felt strange for a boy to be so close.

Avner was nice; her one friend in the class. He always saved a place for her, and filled her in on what Ilana had taught, when Brachy arrived late after work. The others mainly ignored her. They were busy with their cameras and equipment. Unscrewing lenses, playing with the settings, using foreign terms like "aperture priority" and "white balance".

The two men on her left were having a heated debate on the merits of Canon vs. Nikon. "Canon's autofocus is useless!" the one man was practically shouting.

Brachy had a Canon. It lay on her lap now, an even rectangle of metal and plastic. It was dwarfed by the cameras around her. They were big and bulky, jutting out in awkward angles; they were cameras for professionals.

"Can I see?"

Avner pointed at the pile of pictures she was holding. He could only make out the brick wall, on the top one.

"They're the photos Ilana told us to bring, our best ones from before the course."

"Yes, I guessed. I'd like to see them, can I?"

Brachy passed them over to him. She was careful to hold only the one edge, so that Avner could take them by the other side, without their fingers touching.

She watched him, as he placed the photos one by one on the top of the stack. She watched his eyes, his face, the creases around his mouth, trying to guess what he thought of her work. She felt as if she were letting him see inside her. She never showed her photos to anyone. They were taken in random moments, and then forgotten.

Avner was surprised. He'd expected panoramic views, of rivers and the sea shore. He'd expected close ups of flowers and butterflies. He'd expected smiling babies, and toddlers in beribboned dresses. Those were the type of pictures that girls took, that his old girl friends used to coo over.

Instead he saw people; adults, old men, teenagers. They kept their backs to the camera, their faces turned away. Their backgrounds were walls, and wires, and odd patches of shadows.

"I like the composition" Avner said finally.

His eyes met Brachy's.

Ultra orthodox girls weren't new to Avner. He saw them every day, as they streamed past him in flocks, between schools and stores and apartment buildings. They looked away from him, ignored him. They were primly dressed, staidly dressed, in pleated skirts and baggy blouses, buttoned to the collarbone. They sent out a forbidding aura, carefully bred into them by mothers and matrons and teachers. "Stay away", their every gesture told him.

Brachy was dressed the same. But Brachy was different.

He wanted to know her.

"How about we go grab a coffee, afterwards? I know a fun place in town. It's Mehadrin, you only eat Mehadrin, right?" Avner said it casually, as if it wasn't a big deal.

Brachy should have known this would happen. It was what she had been warned about, her whole life. Boys were dangerous, if you got too close to them.

"I can't" she said. "I don't do that."

Avner shrugged. "No problem."

He picked up Brachy's phone from where it nestled by her side, in the grass, and tapped on a few buttons. It only took a minute.

"Here's my number, call me if you ever change your mind. Maybe one evening you'll be free, and bored." Avner smiled at her, and gave Brachy back her phone, and her pictures.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Yom Ha'Atzmaut

The annual Underground Independence Day celebrations continue in the Chareidi world.

A funny twist is that my Kollel-wife friends are also joining in the fun and making Seminary/School reunion parties, since they are on vacation, while their husbands don't have off.

Chapter 22: The Women's Side

Shulamit wished she had a notepad with her, or even a scrap of paper. She loved the line, simple and flowing. She loved the fabric, matte silver lace. She itched to draw it.

The girl wore it well; her blonde hair was cut in one clean line, and lay on her shoulders, in bright contrast to the muted lace. The girl had poise, a certain sophistication in her stance, as if she knew it all already, and there was nothing new you could tell her.

Shulamit hesitated. Something about the girl looked too perfect, intimidating. Confident people scared her. But she had to know where that dress was from. She picked up a last cookie from the buffet table, and moved purposely towards where the blonde girl in the beautiful dress was standing, by the Mechitza.
__________

Karen wanted to cry, from the sheer disappointment. She had spent weeks, getting ready for Sara Leah's wedding. First the dress, which she'd spotted in a window on Betzalel street, spent a solid chunk of salary on. Then finding the right shoes, a matching bag. Then the hour applying makeup, the rushed trip to the hairdresser after work.

She really thought she was at her best. And all for what? It was wasted, effort down the drain. Separate by a wooden partition, ignored entirely by all men.
The most she could hope for was to find favor in a woman's eyes. A mother of a boy, an aunt of a boy; if one of the matriarchal women here approved of Karen, there was hope they'd later try to set her up
.
Then Karen felt a tap on her shoulder. She spun around.

"Hi," a girl she didn't know was saying, "Can I ask you a question?"
__________
Two girls sit next to each other on the playground's monkey bars.

"What's your name?"
"How old are you?"
"What's your favorite color?"

Two girls stand next to each other at a wedding.
The questions change. So do the answers.

"Where is your dress from?"
"Where did you go to Seminary?"
"What do you do now?"

The dialogue is more subtle. The dynamics remain the same. Two girls, strangers before, become friends.

Except the end result is no longer "Do you want to come to my house to play?"

These days the conversation can only have one conclusion. "What are you looking for?"

Pieces slot into place. It was meant to be, that Shulamit meet Karen tonight.

Shulamit saw that now. Because Daniel would be perfect for Karen. And Karen would be perfect for him. Shulamit could make another match.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Motzai Shabbos in Jerusalem


Brachy paused, halfway down the steps, and looked up at the mirror, suspended above her head, like a modern day moon. It was placed there so that the bus driver would be able to see the back door, but now it served her well, allowing her to check that her hair was still in place, her lip gloss hadn't smudged. She felt the passengers behind her shuffle impatiently, willing her to move, and so she gave a last glance as the shining orbit, and jumped off, onto the pavement below. She was in Jerusalem.

They'd told her she could catch the 6, they'd said that would be quicker. She hesitated, when she came to the number 1 bus stop, unsure what to do. The 1 may be a longer route, but it was familiar.

There was a man standing there, leaning on the metal wall. He had a short beard, he reminded her of Avner, although he wasn’t as tall as Avner, and was wearing the Chareidi uniform of black pants and white shirts. Avner had always been wearing T-Shirts and jeans, whenever she'd seen him. She knew this man wasn't Avner, but still she looked at him. He looked back at her. Neither of them smiled. She wondered what would happen if she did. She carried on walking.

It was almost at the end of the row; she saw a 6 on the yellow sign, and stopped. A boy stood by the sign. He was tall, and blonde, and gangly. He reminded her of the students bicycling at Oxford, of a character out of an F.Scott Fitzerald book. She knew he couldn't be from here.

"Does the 6 go close to the Kotel?" Brachy asked him, in Hebrew.

"I don't know" he said.

She'd known, even before he replied, that he would speak with a thick accent, that Hebrew was not his first language. She always started the conversation in Hebrew though, just in case. Because they were in Israel, after all.

"Where do you need to get to?" His friend stepped in, beside him.

His friend used English, straight away. He was dark, against the other's fairness. He had brown eyes. Brachy never noticed boys' eyes. Shulamit always asked her, "what color are his eyes?", when she came back from dates, as if that was the most important detail. Brachy never remembered. She couldn't remember what color Avner's eyes were either. She thought a pale color. But this boy's eyes were big and brown, and warm.

"To the Kotel. To the old city" she said to him. "Does the 6 go there? Someone told me it did?"

"It's a walk" he said, "ten minutes or so. The 21 stops closer. You'll need to walk through Yaffo gate"

She bit her lip, she twisted a loose brown curl of hair around her finger. She was scared to walk alone through the old city. She always got lost, on her own.

The number 6 bus came. The doors opened, people streamed through.

"Do you reach the old city?" Brachy asked the driver. She had one foot on the step, so he couldn't drive off. Her other foot she kept on the ground, so he couldn't close the door, and entrap her inside, take her to a place she didn't want to go to.

"Shlomtzion." He called to her, between the passengers crowding on, and handing over change.

Shlomtzion street was too far. It was a 20 minute walk from there, past Mamilla and through Yaffa gate, past King David's tower and through narrow alley ways.
She put both feet back on the street, and let the bus drive off. The boys had gotten off the bus too. They were back beside her.

"The 6 takes too long" The dark boy told the blonde one. "We're better off waiting for the 21."

The blonde one only nodded, looking at Brachy out of the corner of his eye.

"So, what are you going to do now?" The dark boy turned to Brachy with a smile.

She shrugged.

She recognized his accent, the pattern of his speech. Now was the time to ask him where he was from, play "Jewish Geography", find friends in common.

She saw a bus, come up behind them, and come to a standstill. She saw a line stretch out, in front of the doors. She saw the numeral 1, in red lights, above the front window.

She turned and ran.

Afterwards, sitting on the bus, beside a bulging woman wrapped up in scarves and shawls, Brachy wondered what the dark boy's name was. But it was too late to ask.
________

The Kotel was beautiful at night. An Israeli flag waved in front of it. The sky was a perfect midnight blue. Brachy felt peace here. She tried to breathe it in, to soak it up. She tried to let go, of the thoughts crowding her mind. She tried to hold on to just one thought, the one wish she'd come here to pray about.

Praying was hard work. Brachy understood why, out of the three pillars the world rested on, prayer was the 'Avoda', the labor. The women around her seemed to find it easy to pray, easy to turn to God, and feel his presence, and cry. For her it was more difficult.

She had too much cold Litvak blood running through her veins. Around her the women cried aloud, and shook backwards and forwards, faces buried deep in their Siddurs. They pressed her close to the wall, they surrounded her, with their sobs. Brachy ran her fingers along the stones, worn away by centuries, they were cold, and yet warm to her touch, soothing. She leaned forward and laid her lips against the crevices.

She opened her Siddur to pray. She would try her best.
________

Eventually you arrive back at the same place. It was almost midnight. Only one boy was sitting on the metal bench, inside the bus shelter. There was enough space to join him there. Brachy sat, leaving a large gap between them. There was no risk of an accidental touch.

The boy stood up. He was a Yeshiva boy. He probably didn't want to sit on the same bench as a girl.

Then he sat down again. He turned around, and looked at her. Brachy ignored him.
She felt a strange power here tonight. As if she could interest men, merely by glancing their way. As if she was in control. Was this what secular girls felt, all the time?

The Yeshiva boy worked up the courage to speak.

"How old are you?"

It was a good first question. Brachy was impressed. She didn't have much experience, at this sort of thing.

"How old do I look?" She smiled at him. Was this what they called flirting?

"Um. I don't know." He looked shy. "Over twenty."

"I'm a lot older than twenty" Brachy said. She smiled again. She was enjoying this.
"How old are you?"

"I'm almost twenty" he said proudly.

"Almost". She wanted to laugh. It was a long time since she'd used "almost" before her age, and tried to sound older.

"I'm twenty three." She said.

"Oh. Whoa."

Then Brachy remembered that she was twenty four. Tonight was her birthday. That's why she'd come here, to go to the Kotel, to pray on her birthday. She couldn't be bothered to correct him though.

There was silence.

"So…want to talk?" He wasn't giving up.

Brachy did want to talk. She wanted to ask him what it felt like to be nineteen still, what the world was like, before you started Shidduch dating. What it felt like to be a boy, and not a girl. Maybe he would tell her the truth.

But he was nineteen. Too young for her. And the bus arrived.

She examined herself in the window's reflection, as she stood on the step holding a bus ticket outstretched, waiting for the driver to punch a little star through it. She was no prettier than she'd been at nineteen. No boys had talked to her then. Maybe her body language had changed, the years of dating had paid off, and given her a patina of experience. She no longer looked away, no longer blushed. What was talking to one more man, following the hundreds? Maybe that's why now the bus stops, lining Binyanei HaUmah, suddenly seemed full of potential, more than she'd ever found in a hotel lobby.
________

At home Ima was waiting up for Brachy.

"Mrs. Sheiner is upset. She's still waiting for your answer."

"Why is she upset?"

"She's been waiting to hear from us. The boy is waiting to hear from us."

"Can't he wait some more?"

Brachy closed her eyes. She saw a dark face with warm brown eyes. She saw a Yeshiva boy, with shy eyes. She saw Avner's eyes. She remembered now, they were a greenish grey.

Then she saw a figure, in a black suit. He was sitting opposite her, in a lounge chair, in a hotel lobby. She couldn't picture his face, she hadn't met him yet.

But she would have to. She wanted to get married. This was the only way to do it, through blind dates, Shidduch dates, arranged by others. She couldn’t marry somebody she met directly, they would never be suitable.

She opened her eyes.

"I'll go out with him." Brachy said.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chapter 21: The Photography Course

Brachy stood in the doorway. The sun beams slatted through the bars on the opposite windows, and fell on her dark hair, turning it a coppery red. Her eyes were large in her pale face, as she looked around the classroom, at the seats already occupied, at the desks covered with books and equipment. She stood still, not knowing what to do, where to go. There were many faces, looking back at her, some wearing scarves, hats, kippahs, some bare.

Avner thought she was quite beautiful. He'd been with so many girls, they were brash and obvious these days. The girl in the entrance looked young, fresh, naive almost. She appealed to him.

He picked up a rucksack from the chair beside him, and smiled at Brachy, gestured towards it.

Brachy would have preferred to sit next to a girl. It was bad enough to be attending a mixed course, she should try and stick with women as much as possible. That was the only free space though, beside that boy. Besides, it would be rude to refuse, when he was only being friendly.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mythical Creatures: The Guys I Should be Dating

"What you need is a more modern guy. Someone open minded."

I'll scream if I hear that one more time. And not because it's not true.

"You need a more modern guy; not a standard Israeli Chareidi yeshiva boy; someone on the same wave length as you; someone who's seriously Frum, but still knows the world."

You all tell me that; my family, my friends, my blog readers.

But I've been saying the same thing for years. I need, I want, I'm looking for, a more modern guy.

And I'm willing, I'm wanting, I'm waiting to date him

There's only one problem. I can't find him.

Where are these wonderful, mythical, open minded guys? How do I meet them?

There are thousands of single yeshiva boys at Mir, hundreds more at Chevron. In Gruss, the Israel branch of the YU kollel, there are three single guys. That's right, three. (And I can't even get to those ones. So if anyone has any leads...)

There are almost no "modern" guys in Israel. Not above the age of nineteen that is. They come to yeshiva here for a year or two, and then they go back to the States, to college. If they ever return, it's as one half of a young married couple.

I could move to New York, hunt them down in their home habitat. But I want to live in Israel, so dating guys in Chutz LeAretz just doesn't seem like such a smart move. Meanwhile I'm left with the guys who are here, in the same country as me.

I grew up in Israel, went through the Chareidi educational system, mixed in the Chareidi world. My friends married guys from "black Yeshivas"; their husbands are now suggesting friends from the same yeshivas. They tell me the boys are "open minded", but usually that means that they "don't object" to me learning to drive, or that they watch movies in Bein Hazmanim. To me open minded encompasses a lot more than that.

I don't know if modern, open minded, guys exist in Israel. Perhaps it's a brand peculiar to abroad. True, in Israel there is Dati Leumi society, but that comes with different ideals, beliefs, Hashkafas. I wouldn't fit in there. There's no Yeshiva University style middle ground here.

There are some individual families living in Anglo Ghettos in Ramat Beit Shemesh and Har Nof. But I don't know what happens to their sons, their students. I haven't managed to find them.

Meanwhile I keep trying, with the only type of boys I'm ever suggested; boys from Mir, and Chevron, and Ateret. Boys in suits, and big black hats.

So if you think I need a more modern guy, fine, great. Find me one.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Pesach Story

She screamed JAP, Jewish American Princess, from the flat suede pumps to the black taffeta rosette clipping back blonde strands of hair. She walked with poise, too; heading directly to the table in the centre of the room.

Raizl watched the girl pile a plate high with cakes, selecting slices from each tray, layers of chocolate and mousse. She stifled feelings of annoyance. That little girl was acting as if she owned the place. She could only be nine, or ten, years old. Yet she strode around like a little queen.

"She's only a child", Raizl told herself, but still the feelings came.

Hatred was too harsh a word. Raizl kept track of the girl, as she circled the hotel dining room, backwards and forwards between tables, fetching drinks and desserts, bearing bounty back to the table where her family must be sitting.

Resentment, perhaps. Yes, that was closer to the truth. Raizl resented the girl, with her perfect outfit and complete confidence. Raizl was a grown up now, a married woman, but still, she would never possess that self assurance. To have it, you had to be born with it, to it, to that life.

Raizl didn't belong here. Others thought she did. She managed to fool them. After years of trial and error, she'd learned. What to wear, what to say, where to go, who to know.

But then she saw that little girl, bred from the birth with everything, only a child, but already educated in all of societies standards. She saw her, and remembered what she was lacking, what she'd missed out on, what she'd never have. And she tried not to be jealous.
___________

She recognized her by the flower. This time it was brown velvet, matching the brown pleated jumper dress. Raizl could see only her back, since the girl stood right by the Mechitza, in the center of the front row. Raizl always chose seats in the rear, by the side.

The moment approached, that time that Raizl had been half dreading, half waiting for; sadness mixed with sweetness.

The reading of the Torah ended. Around her women streamed out of the makeshift Shul, murmuring words of apology as they slipped passed her, pushing forward the chairs in front, while Raizl stood firmly in place, avoiding their eyes, not wanting to see what she might find in their gazes- Pity perhaps? Or relief that they were not in her place?

A few women remained inside with her. They were all older than she was, with starched short Shaitels, and faces already creased with lines. She was used to being the youngest, by now, after all these years.

Then Raizl saw the girl, in her dress and flower. She was still in Shul, still standing in the same place, by the Mechitza. She hadn't gone with the others. She stood rigidly straight, a prettily dressed little girl, among the old ladies.

Worlds can shift, in seconds.

Raizl wanted to hug the girl, to cradle her close and tell her to be brave, to hold her hand and tell her she understood. Instead there was silence, aside for the rustlings of pages, and the sounds of unspoken memories. Yizkor had begun.
___________

It was blue today, a bright peacock blue that Raizl spotted between shoulders and raised plates. The blue of the lace flower set off the sky blue of the girl's sweater. She looked as fashionable as always, with not a hair out of place, and the same confident lift of shoulders that Raizl had been envying all vacation.

Raizl watched her carefully choose cakes, filling up first one and then another plate. When she picked them both up, she faltered for a moment, losing her balance, trying not to drop the dishes.

Raizl put down her napkin and pushed back her chair. She half walked, half ran, across the room, to the little girl, and stretched out a hand, to help, to clear the way.

The girl looked up at her, with clear eyes, and the solemn look that Raizl had thought, before, was condescendence, then her lips relaxed for a moment, formed a soft half smile. She gave a nod, of thanks.

Raizl helped the girl carry the food back to where her mother waited, feeding the baby, trying to keep the little kids distracted. Because the girl was the oldest, the big sister. She needed to help, now that Abba was gone, she had responsibilities.

She reminded Raizl of herself, so many years ago. They were both fighters.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I need friends

I say the words, silently, hear them echo in my mind. There's no cause for self pity, but I do have to face the facts.

I need friends, new friends.

I'm a fresh yet quintessential loner. My free-time options are being home alone, or being in town alone.

I've perfected the art of eating alone; buying a French crepe on Ben- Yehudah, spread with chocolate and nuts, and nibbling at it as I window shop. That's better than finding an empty table at the pizza place, watching the other people there, eves-dropping on their conversations, while biting and chewing down a necessary supper as fast as possible.

How did I get here, to this lonely place? I may not be a social butterfly, but I'm no sociopath either.

And I do have friends! I consider printing it in bold marker pen letters on a folded piece of cardboard, placing it by me as I eat alone. "I have friends." Just they are married you see. Almost all of them. They can't hang out any more.

I never bothered to make new friends, when the old ones cleared the ranks. Because I didn't need new friends, my current ones were great, so what if they were married? Soon I'd be married too and we could go shopping for Shaitels together. Besides, changed marital status is no reason to end a friendship.

And when do I even have the time, the opportunity, for meeting new girls? Every spare moment, every gram of physical and emotional energy, goes on meeting guys.

I sometimes bump into girls my age, at Shiurim and in Shul. Though I should call them women; they are all married, usually pushing a stroller, or holding a toddler by the hand. They won't go hitchhiking across Europe with me, or even pop out for a milkshake. They are no more use than my old friends.

Perhaps there are single girls out there, hiding in the crevices. Perhaps I should search for them, set out on a mission. Perhaps I should even move from suburban-family-land to central-singles -city, and start bonding with female roomies.

The truth is though, that once I discovered the exciting and exotic other sex, with all its quirks and complexities and endless differences, well, girls just seem boring after that. Too like me. All you end up doing, with girls, is talking about guys.

But guys aren't the solution either. The guys I date, they come and go. The other guys, the platonic friendship ones, they often end up being complicated, or even just akward when I'm dating someone else. In any case, I can't go to Europe with a guy, I can't go shopping with him, or swimming at the beach.

I need friends, new friends, girl friends.

But I don't know where to find them. And I'm not trying very hard. Because I don't want them. I want a new guy friend. A husband friend. A friend who's forever.