Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chapter 20: Separate Seating

She peered through the wooden slats. They were there, dozens of them; young, and single, and eligible. Karen had always liked the sound of their Yeshiva, the boys who went there were supposed to be smart, and also independent. She'd been trying for months, to be introduced to someone, anyone, from there.

Karen liked the look of one boy in particular. He slung his jacket casually over his shoulder, and his Kippah perched at an angle on his head, as if he'd thrown it on without caring where it landed. His hair wasn't cut as short as usual for a Yeshiva student, and flicked up and out, in little waves. Karen was sure he must be fun, relaxed; not uptight like the boys she dated. His friends gathered round him, followed him from buffet to bar to dance floor. He was a leader. She liked that. If only she could go out with him. If only this wedding wasn't separate. He was but a few meters from her. It could have been an ocean.

She pushed the Mechitza slightly aside, widened the gap between the two wooden stands. She could be seen now, from the other side, from the men's side. The boys continued talking. She tried smiling. Nobody glanced her way. Karen wondered how secular girls got boys to talk to them. Making eyes, it was called. How did they do that? Should she try looking into his eyes, from afar? For one brief second, their eyes met, Karen's blue with the nameless boy's dusky hazel. But he didn't smile, his face stayed blank, he looked away, away from her, back at the circle of grinning boys.

Karen felt dirty somehow. As if she'd done something wrong. As if she was cheap. What was she trying to do? Everyone knew no good yeshiva boy would talk to a girl, if it wasn't a Shidduch date, if it wasn't prearranged. And no good girl would even look at a boy, it lacked all modesty.

Matches were for others to make, adults, teachers, strangers. She could only pray.

She turned around. The women were spinning in tight circles now. Girls pushed through clasped arms; always trying to be the fastest; always trying to be further inwards, closer to the center, to the bride.

"Are you engaged?"

A skinny girl stood beside her, swathed in black taffeta embedded with crystal beads. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail though, frizzing at the front. She must be new to Shidduchim. She smiled as she asked the question, looking at Karen expectantly.

"No. I'm not" Karen said. The girl was a stranger.

"Oh, I thought that's why you were looking through the Mechitza."
Karen merely stared, shook her head.

"I thought that's the reason you were looking at the Yeshiva boys," The girl explained, "because one of them was your Chassan."

"No, I'm looking at the Yeshiva boys because I'm single." Karen said. "I'm single, and hence single Yeshiva boys are of interest to me."

She didn't care about the consequences, any longer. She was tired of this act.

10 comments:

  1. I am enjoying each of your installments!

    Just one point that I don't totally buy in this chapter, re: the girl asking Karen why she was looking through the Mechitza--even the frummest girl has at some point in her life or other had a crush on a boy and would understand (even if she wouldn't do it herself because she is too self-conscious) why a girl would be checking out the yeshiva boys....after all, why do you think teenage girls enjoy watching the dancing on Simchas Torah?

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  2. This post was great! I live in NY, and every wedding i go to the single girls are by the mechitza checking out the bochurim-noone thinks its wierd at all. also, why do you think so many single girls stand on the side by the chupa? so they can be seen!

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  3. "He slung his jacket casually over his shoulder, and his Kippah perched at an angle on his head, as if he'd thrown it on without caring where it landed."

    He doesn't wear a hat? :-O

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  4. Thanks everyone!

    I guess the girl in the conversation does sound extreme. I put it in because it really happened to me, at an engagement party here!

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  5. That's really weird! Was your response the same as Karen's? Also, was she asking it in a truly curious sort of way or in a catty sort of way? Because I can picture both....

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  6. You made my day - I always knew the girls were looking at us between dances.

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  7. I love the writing, but I have to disagree with one premise - that you can tell who is relaxed by the way he wears his yarmulka and holds his jacket. Speak to family physicians and therapists and you'll see that looks can be very deceiving. The popular guy, the leader, could be covering up severe anxiety and drowns himself in attention from his followers in order not to face his constant fears. Of course wealth and style are classic flags for anxiety and depression. Even if you actually meet the one who were outwardly attracted to there's no guarantee. As a friend of mine once said - there's a lot of guys who are great daters but horrible husbands, and others who are horrible daters but great husbands. I have no better advice than prayer and following your deep instincts.

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