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.


  1. I really like this post.
    It was sort of haunting in a way.

  2. Thanks Feivel, I'm glad somebody did :)

    I'm a bit worried people won't get this one. It's risky writing fiction in the first person!

  3. I see this is fiction, so I am addressing the narrator:

    Don't believe them. If you are the kind of person who worries about what people think before you're married, you will be the kind of person who worries about what other people think AFTER you're married too. I mean, it's possible to change, but it's unlikely.

    You really think your personality will change so much just because you get married?

  4. Um, I'm single, and I do what she does.

    I go to the shiurim I want to. I go to the weddings I want to. Of course, while I'm going to the function of my choice it casually occurs to me that maybe someone there will be THE shadchan. But these things don't turn out as expected.

    I'm supposed to do my hishtadlus. Hishtadlus in this case is making sure you look good when you're in public. And to quote Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, "Where hishtadlus ends, bitachon begins." The Eibishter is my shachan. And I'm not going to second guess Him.

  5. Oh, and I totally agree with Anonymous.

    Marriage isn't the cure-all for insecurities. Then one will hear whispers about children, the amount, the attire, the weight gained/lost, tichel preference, dinner choices, parenting style, and so forth.

    Maybe a Rabbi Twersky book is needed for us all.