Monday, August 30, 2010

Made To Order

Rivky had a long, detailed list. However, her multi-page “manifesto” as her dating mentor jokingly called it, was nothing compared to the extensive set of possibilities displayed on the computer screen in front of her. She had always wanted her prince charming to be tall, dark, and handsome, but this newest “shadchan” wanted to know her preference for shade of hair and eye color, specific height (down to quarter-inch intervals), shoulder width, nose size, ear spread, even pitch of speaking voice. Rivky was happy to note the option for a splendid singing voice, which she eagerly checked off. Her circle of friends was always talking about hoping for husbands who would lead beautiful zemiros at their future Shabbos tables, and she agreed that she needed this as one of her must-have, top priorities.

There were simply so many particular details to browse through! Rivky wasn’t an indecisive person, but she had to admit she was a little overwhelmed with all the decisions she had to make on the seemingly endless range of specifics being presented to her. There was much to consider aside from physical attributes and looks. She could specify if she wanted a kollelnik or working boy, his level of learning proficiency, what sort of secular education background he possessed, personal attitudes, hashkafa, mood tendencies, food and music preferences, and even what style of shoe he liked to wear!

Rivky knew that she wanted a husband who was a learner and an earner, but not the type of guy who just learned daf yomi for 45 minutes a day after davening. He needed to be a real masmid with a good learning head on his shoulders who could give the daf yomi shiur because he already knew shas almost ba’al peh. Her future husband would also be adept at his career and able to properly support his growing family in a comfortable, but not too extravagant fashion. He had to be sensitive, loving, giving, and willing to do anything for her because she was going to be his queen, presiding over his household in grandeur. Rivky already imagined the meals she would cook, perhaps with some hired help, in her magnificently decorated and supplied kitchen, served in her luxurious grand dining room, with all their beautiful, well-behaved children arranged around their table.

Despite having her “work” cut out for her, Rivky remained undaunted in the task at hand. This was going to be it, her absolutely perfect shidduch! No more pointless outings to hotel lobbies and long, aimless walks in the park, or taking hours to make herself up to please an ungrateful, unkempt, ill-mannered brute date after date. By this time next year, she will have settled into blissful married life with the beloved soul mate she always dreamed of.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rivky noticed another figure across the office at another computer station who was deeply involved in the same procedure she was tackling. Totally engrossed in her decision making, Rivky paid the young man no mind as he intensely went about his own check list examination.

Benjy was having the time of his life. Going through all the options, leaving no stone unturned in fulfilling all of his desires for an ezer k’negdo was more fun than any date he’d ever been on. No more worrying about pressing shadchanim to find out what dress size the girl was, how much she weighed, how tall she was, getting a picture, or what her mother and grandmother looked like. He was thrilled to find out he could even decide exactly what look and body type his shidduch would be.

Benjy wanted someone smart, but not too smart, who would be a good housekeeper, and could cook a delicious meal any day of the week, especially on Shabbos. She needed to be outgoing, helpful, sweet, and supportive, not to mention downright gorgeous. He envisioned a wife he could show off walking down the street and would also produce cute kids for his parents to shep nachas, while still staying in great shape after each pregnancy.

Taking a break from his constant mouse-clicking, Benjy began to daydream. He’d never have to get all dressed up, making sure his clothing was freshly dry cleaned, shave regularly, or fake being all gentlemanly ever again. His wife would love everything about him, even the “manly” things that his previous dates had found undesirable or repulsive. She’d fulfill every one of his desires, and thank him every day for choosing her to be his wife as she served him a freshly prepared, steaming hot dinner upon his arrival home each evening.

His future life partner would never demand every moment of his time, and always let him watch the game as well as hang out with his buddies whenever he wanted. She’d never make him do stuff he didn’t enjoy, like go shopping, clean the bathroom, or mow the lawn. Benjy just knew that his wife would make sure the house was spick and span every day, keep the kids quiet and in-line, and pick up his socks whenever he left them lying on the floor wherever he felt like tossing them after a hard day at the office.

More than anything, Benjy looked forward to his wife’s ageless, smooth-skinned, well-toned, beautiful appearance that would always make his heart flutter, no matter how old she became.

Rivky and Benjy had independently read about Dr. Otto von Schnitzelpusskrankengescheitmeier’s shidduchim services in their local Jewish newspaper. It was hard to believe that “Dr. Otto” could really deliver on his promise to provide the absolute perfect shidduch after only nine months of intensive research and cultivation, but his customer references and rabbinical haskamos spoke for themselves. True, he cost a pretty penny, but when Rivky considered that people had already been practically auctioning off the best bochurim for decades, and Benjy made a rough computation of how much he’d already spent on years of dating, both thought this was an investment worth their money. Just thinking about a guarantee to the end of their dating woes made each of them beyond excited.

But, Dr. Otto was no typical shadchan. Some might hesitate to even call him a real matchmaker of any sort. Dr. Otto was, by formal training, a bio-engineer of the highest caliber with multiple doctorates from the most prestigious universities across the world. After several decades of failing to strike it big in the medical industry where government bans on human cloning had stymied his research, Dr. Otto sought to fulfill a different need for his genius intellect and prowess in genetic manipulation. After just a few short years of privately funded experimentation he had solicited from a few fabulously wealthy entrepreneurs with single, aging children, Dr. Otto perfected his art. For the right price, he could manufacture a picture-perfect spouse in his advanced laboratory, the only one of its kind in the entire world.

Collecting, modifying and combining the specified genes took several weeks, while gestation in his patented artificial womb lasted for a few months, with the remaining time utilized to accelerate the growth process to the predetermined age and flash educate the “work in progress” to the customer’s requested intelligence/career level. At the scheduled due date, which was always approximately nine months after an order was placed, the impeccably customized shidduch candidate was decanted, double-checked against the electronic profile order, suitably dressed, then presented to the customer.

On average, it only took about four to five dates with his creation for a marriage proposal to occur. A reputable 99.8% of the ensuing unions were harmonious and without fault, much to Dr. Otto’s delight. The remaining 0.2% that ended in divorce or separation were due to unforeseen imperfections in the product, which was promptly recalled, recycled for parts and replaced within the year. Dr. Otto was known for never leaving any customer unsatisfied. He couldn’t stand for allowing anything less than perfect to leave his laboratory.

Rivky finished her shidduch qualification survey, submitted her results and waved to the secretary as she left the office. Moments later, Benjy concluded re-checking the last item on the list, saved his answers, and grabbed his hat and jacket off the coat rack as he headed out the door.

Nine months flew by. Although Rivky sometimes felt the days crawl ever so slowly, the sheer agony of counting off weeks on the calendar was counterbalanced by the light at the end of the tunnel that she would finally have her perfect chosson.

She soon found herself sitting across from “Shlomo” in a darkened hotel lounge. As she absentmindedly stirred her diet Coke, her towering, built up excitement began to dissipate, like the ice that was melting in her glass.

“I like long walks in the park and the latest Jewish music hits. What about you?” The rakishly handsome made-to-order young man implored.

“Well, I actually like those things too.”

“Perfect!” Shlomo practically clapped his hands together with enthusiasm. “For our next date, we’ll go on a walk in Central Park, where I will regale you with my encyclopedic knowledge of the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, followed by a trip to the local Judaica store to preview the latest CD releases.” He leaned forward and made an excited face “It’ll be a hoot!”

Rivky stopped herself before she began her next reply and began to consider just what was going on. After all that time spent checking off those little boxes on the computer screen, all the patient waiting, and after all that money… Rivky had to admit Shlomo was probably the biggest dud she’d ever gone out with. Something just wasn’t right about him, despite being absolutely perfect in every way that she had imagined. True, Shlomo was far better mannered, courteous, and certainly better looking than anyone Rivky had dated in the past, but she was beginning to think that he was nothing more than her list brought to life; a bunch of details given form in the flesh, but just as flat and uninteresting as the paper it was printed on.

As she sat there thinking, Shlomo adjusted his posture to be even more ramrod straight, held his hands clasped in his lap, and continued beaming the absolute goofiest grin in Rivky’s direction. Rivky half-smiled back unenthusiastically, which was her usual given sign for indicating that the date should be over, but Shlomo either didn’t notice, or had no clue what she was trying to communicate.

Nearby, Benjy was struggling with his own date as well.

“So, like, I looove cooking and cleaning. Nothing makes me happier than, like, making sure that my man is toootally comfy and taken care of.”

“That sounds great, Orli,” Benjy stifled a yawn with his hand. Leaning his head backward, Benjy finished the remainder of his drink in one gulp. He siged and roughly set the now-empty glass back on the wooden table with an overly audible clink.

“Oh, and I’ve gotta say that my favorite thing is ‘kicking it back’ with a cold beer and watching the game! Seeing those big, strong men smack into each other, throw the ball, hit a home run, then score a three pointer from downtown is just so interesting!” She flashed her blindingly white, perfectly straight teeth, which matched well with her flawlessly beautiful face.

“Uh… right,” he groaned. The idea of his wife throwing back a beer with the boys during the Jets game didn’t seem like so much fun to Benjy. He began to realize that he didn’t have much to say to “Orli.” She simply chirped back that she loved everything he did and would do anything he ever asked. Granted, she was smoking hot, but he felt like he was talking to a parakeet whenever they exchanged words. He never thought he’d ever choose personality over looks, but Orli’s gorgeous appearance hid a startlingly empty interior. To Benjy, it simply didn’t feel like he was talking to another person. He knew being married to the woman who fulfilled his entire list to the T was going to be great, but he at least wanted another human being to share a home with, not a zombified-robot-thing.

Shlomo was just not taking her hints seriously, and Rivky had no idea what to do. She had glanced at her watch several times, to which Shlomo asked if her watch was broken and offered to buy her a new one. She cleared her throat noisily and Shlomo produced lozenges from a coat pocket, suggesting she take one or two. She even tried her rudest tactic and began filing her nails right there at the table, very clearly ignoring anything further that Shlomo had to say. He definitely noticed she was distracted, but instead of realizing what she was conveying and ask if she wanted him to take her home, he began giving her tips for maintaining healthy cuticles.

Wishing she was somewhere else, someone nearby caught Rivky’s eye. It was that boy who was in Dr. Otto’s office with her nine months ago when she ordered Shlomo’s… creation. She guessed he was also on his first date with his own dream shidduch, and it even looked like it wasn’t quite working out for him, either. She had no clue who he was or what he was like, but their mutual interest in trying out Dr. Otto must have meant something.

Glancing past Orli, Benjy recognized the girl from that fateful day in Dr. Otto’s office. Surprisingly, she seemed to be staring intently in his direction, like she thought he was cute, or something. Meeting her gaze, he raised an eyebrow and stealthily inclined his head toward the exit, giving a subtle expression of invitation. In reply, she raised both eyebrows, smiled faintly, and carefully nodded twice.

“If you’ll please excuse me, I need to use the ladies’ room,” Rivky pushed her chair away from the table and started walking toward the door.

“But Rivky, the restroom is over there,” Shlomo said in his know-it-all voice, raising an arm to point the other way.

“I’m going out to have a smoke,” Benjy declared, abruptly standing up.

“I thought you said you never touched a cigarette?” Orli asked, quite puzzled.

“Yeah, well… um... See you later,” he casually announced over his shoulder, without looking back, while at the same time picking up the pace of his stride.

Benjy exited the lounge moments after Rivky, who was eagerly awaiting his arrival. She smiled up at him and he returned the first genuine grin he had displayed all night. Both released an exasperated sigh, happy to be away from their automaton-like dates.

“I’m Benjy,” he said after a moment of awkward silence.

“Rivky,” she offered, shyly looked down and softly kicked at the carpet. Benjy didn’t pick up the conversation, and after such a horrid night, Rivky was feeling kind of bold. “So, there’s a kosher Chinese restaurant a few blocks away…” She gestured to her right. “I happen to love Chinese food. It’s my absolute favorite…” She looked up and stared into his eyes. “Would you like to go out to dinner?”

“Actually, I hate Chinese food,” Benjy replied bluntly. “But there is a dairy Italian café two blocks over there,” he pointed in the opposite direction.

“I’m lactose-intolerant,” she admitted, somewhat embarrassed to confess such things to a total stranger. Rivky paused, taking a moment to think things over. After tonight’s disaster, she figured she may as well take a leap of faith. “But, I can probably order the fish or something.”

“Sounds good to me. Shall we?” He gestured with a wave, and they started walking down the sidewalk in unison.

Meanwhile, inside the hotel lounge…

“Hi! I’m Shlomo. How are you this fine evening?” Shlomo plunked himself down in Benjy’s empty seat.

Baruch HaShem!” She squealed with glee. “My name is Orli.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Don't I Know You From Somewhere?

Life goes on, summer is over, and I’m back at YU gearing up for the academic adventure that awaits me. It’s always fun seeing old friends as well as my rabbeim and teachers again at the start of the new school year. I recently encountered one such catching-up experience which was altogether new and every-so-slightly awkward.

I bumped into an acquaintance of mine (he’s one of those faces in the crowd whose name I also happen to know, but not much more than that) on the way to minyan. We cordially asked how the other was doing, asked about the current goings on, as well as plans for the upcoming term. Nothing totally out of the ordinary, for the most part; He got married recently, and I’m getting married soon-ish.

The one thing that stood out in my mind is that I seriously dated his wife for a few months, and he has no clue (presumably). I remember finding out they were engaged earlier in the spring, and even saw them around campus doing the cutesy engaged couple display that a lot of readers are probably familiar with. True, I was a little affected by the news (she and I had parted on good terms, though as many people can attest there is always that nagging voice at the back of one’s mind about a far-flung potential future), but quickly dismissed the celebratory information from my active thoughts and went back to my everyday life.

Now it turns out that they are living in the same building that we will be, albeit on a different floor.

I honestly harbor no feelings whatsoever for his new wife, especially since I am ever-so-happily preoccupied with the amazingly lovely ASoG, who is absolutely irreplaceable and incomparable. The thing that bothers me at the moment is what will be the general awkwardness of a) running into them at frequent intervals and b) socially interacting with them, such as going to one another for Shabbos (after I’m married as well, of course). I am pretty sure he has no clue about my dating history with his wife, and I caught myself just before I asked how she was doing. I’m sure that would have tipped off some sort of suspicion on his part – why would I care about, let alone even know his wife? Legitimately, I am always happy to hear that people I know are doing well, even ex-shidduch dates (the reverse is also true if I hear that someone I know has fallen on difficult times).

I recall reading a section about this phenomenon in a marriage book once, which basically said that this is one of the main reasons that guys (and girls too, though the book was geared more toward guys) should NOT discuss their dates with friends. The lesson imparted was: you never know who might end up marrying who. The author wrote about an awkward situation where someone went to his married friend’s house for Shabbos, and interacted in an overly familiar, inappropriate fashion with his friend’s wife. The guest joked around with her, took her engagement/wedding ring when she went to wash, and playfully refused to return it afterward, if I remember correctly. The author went on to issue a stern warning that these sorts of things can lead to more illicit behavior, and thus no one should know who their friends date, in order to avoid such precarious scenarios.

As an aside, I think this definitely precludes the concept of setting up a friend with someone you went out with, especially since those sorts of arrangements usually occur after the termination of a shidduch earlier on in the process. If I were to ever successfully negotiate such a match, I think it would be more of a funny “oh, don’t you remember,” story time sort of thing, rather than creating awkward interactions.

This case of mine is slightly more akin to the one presented in the book I read (which I think was Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover, by Rabbi Mordechai Dolinsky). While there have been girls I’ve gone out with who have gotten married, none were to friends/acquaintances, or were in any position to interact with me on any sort of regular basis.

I could also be worrying for no real reason at all, making a mountain of an almost molehill. It was only a momentary awkwardness during that brief conversation wherein I stopped myself before asking anything that could be viewed with suspicion. Odds are, ASoG and I (and I told her about this incident) may just see them in passing as we enter/exit our building, in Shenk Shul, or in a rare instance, at a Shabbos table which we were both invited to in a mutually exclusive fashion. Since I’m not really close friends, or even nominal friends with this former classmate, I doubt we’d really end up spending so much couples time together in the first place. In any case, I think I can rest assured that any major social awkwardness simply has very little chance of ever happening.

And I thought bumping into ex-dates on the local shuttle/at the YU library was awkward… Welcome to crazy world of being engaged, I guess.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cutsey Engagement Moment #1

I don't know if this will become a regular feature or not (and it might be interesting if it did), but I had to share this.

I have a 3-year-old cousin who recently met my fiancée for the first time when she and her parents came to my hometown for their annual summer vacation and our summer extended family get together. Her parents explained that I am going to get married when they introduced her to the future Mrs. Shades of Grey - hereafter called Another Shade of Grey / ASoG, per her request :)

Unprompted, this cute little cousin decided to call my bride-to-be "Shades of Grey's Kallah," and became her new best friend over the course of their stay with my family. No one ever specifically said to her the words "SoG's Kallah," yet she had the intuitive creativity to put it together. Her brilliance is only rivaled by her general cuteness.

In other news, sorry for the lack of updates - lots of engagement related things going on that have been keeping me busy. I hope to get back to more regular posting in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Insert Mazal Tov Here

Wow, it seems like shidduch-related bloggers are dropping like flies from navigating the airspace of dating woes and landing on the road to the chuppah in the bliss of newly-engaged-ness. First was Solely in Black and White, followed by Musing Maidel, though it seems she was unofficially engaged for some time before that.

SternGrad wrote a post no so long ago regarding her belief that she will recognize the person who is THE ONE when she goes out with him. She remarked, “Maybe I'm crazy, but I have this idea stuck in my head that when I meet the right person, I'm just going to *know.*”

Well, I can say from experience, that I didn’t *know* right away.

Yes, dear readers, you read that correctly. I did not *know* right away.

In other words, I am “off the market” and am engaged to the most wonderful, lovely, beautiful, young lady.

Please insert “Mazal Tov” here à_________


Caveat: This is going to ramble a bit, meandering here and there, but I hope it’ll keep the readers’ interest all the same. I figure some people caught on with the title of the last story – and yes, that was the first title that popped into my head when I wrote it the week after I got engaged, though the actual events don’t resemble the story one iota (except that I also have glasses).

Words cannot do justice to the feelings of what it means to be engaged and know you’ve found the right person. Everyone wants to you to tell them: how did you know, when did you know, how can I know? I don’t think I can simply write on behalf of all engaged folks out there, because the experience is largely individualistic.

For the record, the future Mrs. Grey (who happens to be quite fond of the color as well, coincidentally) knew long before I even suspected she might be the one. Chalk up another point that women (or at least one person in the relationship) know sooner than men where the relationship will finally end up.

We dated for several months, and discussed the possibility of getting engaged about midway in a very relaxed fashion. I will admit that I was initially in favor of delaying engagement until much later, trying to fit into a generic year-long process of dating plus engagement before marriage – I eventually came around to her point of view J So, while I am still very much in favor of dating longer before seriously considering getting engaged, I firmly believe that the time frame can vary from person to person.

A good friend of ours got engaged before we did, and then broke the engagement, primarily because they dated for too short of a time (a few weeks), got too excited about the idea of being engaged, and then spent the next several months trying to make something work that was never meant to be, with all the doubts, bouts of anxiety, and conflict that goes along with trying to patch up leaks on a sinking ship.

After having seen that engagement ended, as long as a few others involving people I know, my best piece of unqualified advice regarding knowing when to get engaged is: date long enough until you both are sure you could live with this person for the rest of your life. There is no reason to rush, no matter who, or what, is putting pressure on you, be it your mother, rebbe, shadchan, or biological clock. No one has the right to make this ultimate and hopefully permanent, lifelong decision for you, so assert your independence and make a decision with a clear mind after much consideration. Better to end a relationship or break an engagement than get divorced, especially if you’re the type of person that wants to have kids right away, because then you’ll be creating lasting damage for your offspring.

I apologize in advance, but I’m not going to elaborate on the proposal itself, other than to say it was well thought out, planned, and executed – and she had no clue it was coming when I popped the question. She knew a proposal might be inevitable at some point in the near future, but she had zero expectation that it would happen when it did. Yes, it was romantic, and she still gushes about all the effort I went through to make sure the plan came together as successfully as it did.

The reason I don’t want to talk about proposal details is to continue to preserve my anonymity. As soon as I start discussing all the insider’s info, people are going to start searching Only Simchas to find us (if we even happen to be there in the first place) or will have heard about the proposal story from either myself, my lovely fiancée, or one of our friends, and thus the cat will be out of the bag, out the window, down the street, and on the bus to Albuquerque with my lucky, lucky autographed glow-in-the-dark snorkel, never to be seen again.

If anyone got that last reference without Google, you get triple bonus points.

How long have we been engaged, well, that’s also a secret. I know some people suspect they know who I might be, so I’m not giving them any clues to figuring it out. You may notice a slacking off a posting in July and August, but that’s primarily because I ran out of pre-written posts that I had set on auto-upload, in addition to finishing up some remaining school work.

For those who are curious, the future Mrs. Grey has known about this blog for some time, well before we got engaged. She became quite the avid reader, and has spent a lot of her bored-in-class-time perusing all the archived posts. It’s been harder for her not to tell her friend(s) who have noticed her reading the blog and began reading on their own, that she knows who I am. Also, she doesn’t write comments, so no use thinking that that might be a clue as to who she might be. Yes, it was a little nerve-wracking telling her about the blog’s existence, especially since she knows one or two of my previous dates who inspired posts, and she has inspired a post or two herself. None of them were in any sort of negative light, but I was a little afraid (for no reason) to reveal this other side about me. I actually shared several of my stories with her before I told her about the blog. She really enjoyed them, so I figured it was time and she might get a kick out of the regular posts as well (which she did).

The wedding isn’t tomorrow, but it isn’t too far off into the future either. Plans have been coming along, and we’ve basically covered all the major areas, such as booking a hall, caterer, band, florist, photographer/videographer, had invitations printed, and found a hotel for the out of town guests. Some relatives/family friends have even already started booking their plane tickets. I’m surprised at how fast the process has gone along, even with the little bumps here and there. We have her dress, my suit, and even our fully furnished apartment on the YU side of The Heights (there will be a post about that process, trust me), which I will occupy by my lonesome until after the wedding.

As a side point, I don't know why, but the idea of being called a chosson at this point irks me. Simply because I'm not really a chosson yet, by any technical understanding, and certainly not by any halachic understanding. I firmly hold by the titles fiancé (for a man) and fiancée (for a woman) - bet you didn't know there were two different spellings, did ya? The future Mrs. Grey and I are engaged to be wed, but not actually married, so I won't refer to her as my kallah intentionally. I know, this sounds horribly nitpicky, but that's just how my mind works...

Oddly enough, according the Merriam Webster's online dictionary, the term "fiancé" actually originated 3 years after "fiancée," 1838 vs. 1835. Hmmm...

Anyway… I’ve hesitated in “announcing” the good news for a number of reasons. Primarily, I’m a little worried, perhaps unnecessarily, that people won’t find the blog interesting once I’ve run out of dating/shidduchim topics to write about. True, I still have several in-progress posts that have been aging for a bit, but at some point there just won’t be any inspiration for more dating-related posts. Sure, I can write about being engaged and all the zany things that has brought into my life (and I will write those posts), but that will segue into being married posts… and then I lose the vast majority of my readers. What still-struggling single person, guy or girl, wants to hear a married person’s insights into their daily routine?

Maybe I’m just full of myself and/or overly anxious and think that people only read this thing for my quirky insights into dating.

So where does that leave me, and this blog? I’m still here, not planning on going anywhere. The future Mrs. Grey loves reading my writing, so I have no intention of stopping. I personally enjoy this creative outlet a lot. Regardless of what happens with how the regular posts end up, I know I’ll still keep writing stories – especially those about dating – and I have a good handful of them still in various draft stages. I really like a few of them, so I look forward to posting each one in due time.

So… yup, I’m engaged. Who’da thunk that after less than a year of writing posts and stories about dating (and a few other topics) I’d have reached the end of one journey and find myself on the cusp of another? I certainly didn’t. Not that I have ever believed I’d reach the level of fame of Bad4 (and I know I never will), or even be linked on her blog (thanks again, by the way), but I had no real hopes for even achieving the level of interest that I’ve generated.

I hope to continue to keep y’all entertained and thinking with my future posts and stories. I know I always learn something when I start putting my thoughts into writing, so at least I can continue to compose thought-provoking posts, even if just for myself. If the readers aim to continue onward, I’ll we’ll be glad to have everyone on board.

I truly hope that everyone reading this who is still single will soon know the immense menuchas hanefesh of finding the right person, each in his/her proper time. Amen, ken yehi ratzon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Another Shade Of Grey

Yirmiyahu and Vered stepped out of the elevator and discreetly ran over to their usual spot on the fifth floor of the Gottesman Library. Thankfully, no one was occupying their favorite table, which was located in a nook on the left hand wall. Yirmiyahu gently set his sefer-laden backpack down in a vacant chair and began unloading the seforim he needed to finish researching his latest Kol HaMevaser article. He carefully put the empty knapsack on the carpeted floor next to his seat. Vered chose the seat opposite her boyfriend, keen on sneaking admiring peeks at his handsome features as he went about his work.

As soon as she plugged in her laptop, Vered passed her tongue over her lips and noticed how thirsty she was. Mentally kicking herself for forgetting her Environmental Club issued reusable metal water bottle, she pushed her chair away from the table and went to get a drink of water from the fountain. When she returned, she noticed Yirmiyahu was intently scribbling what appeared to be flowers on a piece of scrap paper that another student had absentmindedly left behind.

Momentarily suppressing her curiosity, Vered ignored Yirmiyahu’s artwork and flipped open her laptop to get back to her last paper of the semester, which also happened to be the final paper of her undergraduate career at Stern. She felt stupid even writing the darn thing, particularly in light of the fact that she had already graduated several days before. Steeling her resolve, she diligently began to type away. After a few minutes her mind began to wander to her favorite thing to think about, which was Yirmiyahu, of course.

Yirmiyahu was sweet enough to reschedule his bechina with Rav Schachter to accommodate attending Vered’s graduation ceremony. Now that showed dedication. He had had to skip out on the celebratory lunch afterward with her parents and siblings at Mr. Broadway to make sure he got back to YU in time without making Rav Schachter wait for him. That didn’t really matter, though, since he had sacrificed his night seder chevrusa earlier in the week to go out to dinner to the Prime Grill with Vered and her parents.

Later that night, she made sure to call him up to verbally gush their enthusiastic approval over the phone right before she passed out from exhaustion. Her mom had even said she could easily see him as a potential son-in-law, if things kept going in the right direction. Vered’s father, ever the tall, dark, and silent type, said in his usual reserved fashion that “the boy was nice.”

“You know…” Yirmiyahu began, interrupting her reminiscing, his voice trailed off as he continued drawing.

Vered stopped typing, folded her screen down a few inches and peered over it. “‘You know,’ what?”

“I was just thinking,” Yirmiyahu made a few more pencil strokes. “It’s going to be very hard to arrange our Hebrew initials on our bentscher.”

Vered raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, exactly?”

“Here,” he spun the paper around and pointed at his doodling with his pencil. “It’s because of our names.”

Vered looked down at the somewhat rough drawings, slightly confused “What’s the issue?”

“You see, my name is Yirmiyahu Hoshea, and you’re Vered Hadassa.”


He leaned closer over his side of the table and continued explaining while he indicated several details with the point of his extended pencil. “Well, my initials are a yud and a heh, and yours are a vav and a heh, which happens to spell out the Tetragramaton.” Vered stared more intently at the various designs, and noticed that each monogram-flower’s bud and leaves were carefully arranged so they didn’t quite line up or touch.

“I see it now,” she nodded and angled the paper slightly. “You’re right. The bentscher people are going to have their work cut out for them.” She passed the sheet across the tabletop and went back to typing. Suddenly, she stopped mid-word. “…Wait, did you say ‘our bentscher?’”

“That would be correct, Vered,” Yirmiyahu expectantly looked over the rim of his glasses at her.

“Wait a second-”

“Truthfully, it’ll be a bigger conundrum for the invitations, since people tend to throw those in the garbage at any rate,” his eyes shifted back downward. “Rav Schachter was just telling us in shiur that even putting bet-samech-daled in the corner is problematic according to some poskim.”

“Back up a moment,” Vered put her laptop in ‘sleep’ mode and closed the lid.

“Yes?” Yirmiyahu met her alert gaze.

Vered paused, eyebrows furrowed into a V on her forehead. “You said ‘our bentscher.’”

“Yup. Didn’t we establish that?”

“…What did you mean by that?”

“By what?” Yirmiyahu replied with a certain knowing innocence in his tone.

“When you said ‘our bentscher.’”

“I think this is what they call in those old cowboy movies, ‘the jig is up.’”


Yirmiyahu slid off his seat and crouched down next to his seemingly empty backpack. After a few seconds, he lifted his head and scuttled around the edge of the table.

Vered’s eyes widened. “Are you kneeling?”


“Is this what I think it is?” Her breathing quickened.


“Omigosh!” Vered’s voice stopped dead in her throat, and she pressed a hand to her collarbone.

“Is that a ‘yes?’” Yirmiyahu held out his left hand, palm up. Cradled within was a small black velvet box. He gingerly opened, and something inside sparkled brilliantly.

“Uh… whuzza… fuzza…” Vered stammered.

Yirmiyahu smiled his attractive boyish grin. “Yes or no will do.” Vered visibly struggled to say something. “If the cat won’t let go of your tongue, please feel free to nod.”

Vered nodded vigorously. Yirmiyahu stretched his hand out further, gesturing for her to accept the ring. Vered’s lips pursed shut, and she started hyperventilating through her nose.

Yirmiyahu chuckled. “You sound like the main attraction at a bullfight, dear. It isn’t very lady-like,” he joked. In one swift motion Vered snatched the jewelry box with one hand while she scooped up then flung his pencil at him with the other. It bounced off his chest and skittered across the table.

“That one’s going on Only Simchas,” a familiar female voice cooed.

“Well, I got it on video. Facebook, here we come!” Another one joined in. Vered’s two closest friends, Ahuva and Esther, emerged from behind a bookshelf, holding digital cameras.

“Girls, if you’ll please hug my fiancée for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.” Yirmiyahu’s smile grew ever broader. He stood up and took a step back to make room for the two squealing young women as they rushed in and wrapped their arms around Vered. It seemed like the entire floor stopped whatever it was doing and stared in their direction to see what all the ruckus was about.

“Quiet down, now! This is a library, for crying out loud!” The librarian called from the front desk, rapping his knuckles on the wooden countertop.

“I can’t believe it!” Vered announced, finally releasing her first spoken words after several minutes of star-struck silence. Esther and Ahuva gleefully screeched in reply.

The librarian tapped his little silver bell three times. “Don’t make me call security!” He angrily shook a fist in the air.

“Getting kicked out of the library wasn’t part of the plan, so can you guys turn it down a notch?” Yirmiyahu whispered to the girls, while he waved apologetically to the flustered librarian.

“Don’t forget these!” Esther and Ahuva said together, holding out a bouquet of bright red roses. Vered clutched the flowers to her chest and inhaled their sweet scent.

Yirmiyahu admired Vered for a moment. “We should probably be going now,” he made a flowing gesture with his arms. “After you,” he smiled.

Vered took two steps then stopped in her tracks as if a bolt of lightning had struck her. “Wait. You didn’t even ask me to marry you!” She exclaimed, turning to face him.

Taken aback, Yirmiyahu fumbled for a response. “Well, it was pretty clear what was going on when I-”

Vered didn’t let him finish the sentence and interjected with a raised hand, fingers splayed. “No way. Not cool.” Vered slipped the ring off and carefully sat it down on the table next to the roses.

“What?” Yirmiyahu asked in alarm. “Are you rejecting the proposal?”

“There wasn’t one to reject, dummy!” Vered retorted. “I’m not putting that back on until you do it right this time.”

Yirmiyahu smirked and lifted the ring aloft between his forefingers and thumb. “Vered will you-”

She crossed her arms over her chest, gave him a fiery look and cleared her throat. “On one knee.”

Yirmiyahu lowered himself onto one knee. “Vered, will you marry me?”

“YES!” She delicately picked up the ring, replaced it on her left ring finger, and once again cradled the bouquet in the crook of her arm.

Yirmiyahu laughed quietly to himself, “Come on, let’s go.” He started walking toward the front desk and Vered playfully skipped next to him.

Vered hesitated as Yirmiyahu stepped into the waiting elevator. “What about our stuff?” She craned her neck to look back at their table

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll pack up for you!” Esther called out, busily stacking up Yirmiyahu’s seforim.

“We’ll meet you there in a minute!” Ahuva added. Satisfied, Vered entered the elevator. The doors slid shut with a clank and she admired her new diamond ring all the way down to the lobby level. As soon as they arrived, Yirmiyahu set out moving quickly.

After a handful of steps, Vered stopped again. “Where are you taking me? Don’t we have some obligatory phone calls to make?!” She raised her hand to her ear, fingers bent in the shape of a phone.

“Nope,” Yirmiyahu turned around, walking slowly backward. “Everyone’s waiting for us in Rubin shul. Your family, my family, and everyone else you can think of, from your MMY roommates to crazy great-aunt Faygel.”

Vered paused, a grin spreading across her beautiful face, “You’re good.” Vered hopped through the security gate and beamed at her fiancé.

“I know,” he beamed back. A friend of Yirmiyahu’s noticed the pair and quickly held the door open for them.

Together, Yirmiyahu and Vered stepped into the shining sunlight.