Suri was beside herself with grief. She threw her cell phone across her bedroom, where it crashed into the wall. The back compartment popped off and the battery skittered somewhere under her bed. Yet another shadchan had told her the dreaded line she had grown to expect and hate at the same time:
“I’m so sorry dear. You’re just too old for what the boys are interested in these days.”
Merely thinking about that stuck up, know-it-all, tone of voice echoing in her head made Suri ball her hand into a fist and punch her pillow. She wished she could just gather up all these inconsiderate old ladies wearing ill-fitting black dresses, outrageously expensive, badly styled sheitels, topped off with enough makeup to make a clown envious, and wring all their necks one-by-one.
Who were they to tell her that she was “too old?” What right did they have to determine what the age limit was for eligibility, declaring, seemingly at random, that certain girls were “over-the-hill” and no longer acceptable for shidduchim? Why did they get to make the rules that decide when girls were “out of the game?”
A squeal emanating from the hallway interrupted Suri’s outraged ruminations. Chaya, Suri’s younger sister, abruptly poked her head into Suri’s room, smiling ear to ear.
“Guess what!?” Chaya asked, her eyes wide with excitement. Suri simply scowled in return, since she already knew what Chaya was going to say.
Chaya’s face contorted in confusion, “What does that mean?”
Suri sighed in frustration, rolled her eyes, and replied “What?”
“I just got a call from Mrs. Frumkelshtein! I have a date with that cute Mandelbaum boy from down the block.”
Suri’s eyes bulged out in shock, while an angry vein rose to the surface of her skin and began to pulsate on her forehead. “She gave you the Mandelbaum boy!? ARGH!” She exclaimed in frustration, as the remaining shreds of her dan lekaf zechus thoughts evaporated into thin air.
“Um, did I say something wrong?” Chaya clutched the door frame tightly, her voice apprehensive.
“No, no. Run along now,” Suri replied through gritted teeth and waved her off.
“‘Kay!” Chaya spun on her heel and skipped down the hallway.
This was unforgiveable. How in the world could that witch turn Suri down in favor of her own little sister? Where was the sensitivity, the decency? Especially considering the fact that she practically hung up on Suri and dialed Chaya’s number seconds later! Did that conceited old lady not realize what kind of abuse she was piling on top of the heartache she already caused? Suri wrung a pillow between her hands, so furious that she almost felt the steam jetting out her ears.
A soft knock announced a more welcome visitor. Looking up, Suri saw her mother hovering in the hall, barely allowing her face to appear in the space left by the door Chaya had left ajar.
“How are you, Suri?” She smiled slightly, raising her eyebrows as a request to enter. Suri nodded her head, and her mother gently closed the door behind her. “I’m sorry about Chaya’s impoliteness. You know she’s very young and still doesn’t quite understand how to handle delicate emotional situations.”
“Then why is she dating, Ema? Don’t you think going out to get married requires more than a little maturity?” Suri emphasized her point by holding up a hand and pretending to grasp a small object between her index finger and thumb.
“Well, we couldn’t really wait any longer, sweetheart. It was time for her to start.”
“Uh huh, right. That’s what doesn’t make any sense to me, why would Mrs. Frumkelshtein say I’m too old to cut it, then turn right around and call Chaya?”
Ema sat down on the edge of the bed, “That’s just the way boys are and always have been. They want the youngest, most attractive girls out there.”
“Ema, Chaya is a child!” Suri pouted. “She hasn’t even gone off to a seminary in Israel yet!”
“But that’s the new thing these days, you know,” Ema said. “Girls get married and kill two birds with one stone by having a double ‘shana aleph.’” She rested her jaw on an outstretched hand. “I think it’s kind of cute, actually.”
“Okay, that might make some sense.” To someone who’s utterly whacked out, Suri added silently. “But Chaya isn’t even close to that. She still plays Pokémon on her Gameboy and collects Beanie Babies!”
“Look, everyone is allowed to have a hobby or two. For example, you make sculptures and play the viola.”
“You’re mixing apples and oranges, Ema. My hobbies are entirely grown up and age-appropriate. They represent my artistic expression and serve as a means of personal and spiritual inspiration. Y’know, just the sort of thing a person of marriageable age should bring to the table,” Suri puffed out her chest a little, willing to let her ego have its way for a moment.
“But guys are also looking for the youthful, vivacious type – someone who can get out there and be competitive at the arcade or relate to a sports memorabilia obsession –which Chaya definitely personifies.”
Suri sighed. “Ema, you’re missing the point. There is no reason why a well put together, attractive young woman such as myself can’t get a decent suggestion, let alone one that would go out with me. I’m not a person that believes in the whole “size matters” shtick, but I honestly am slim and fit. What does Chaya have that I don’t!?”
“Well, honey, Chaya is four years younger than you, after all.”
“Ema! She’s fifteen!” Suri all-but-shouted.
“That’s right,” Ema nodded in agreement. “And she’s going to get her learner’s permit next month. She is a big girl now.”
“Ema, really?” Suri threw an incredulous look at her mother. “Come on-”
“My baby’s all grown up now,” Suri’s mother clasped her hands together next to her cheek. “Soon she’ll be a married woman and mother,” she sniffed back a tear.
“Yeah, yeah,” Suri sighed.
Ema suddenly bolted upright. “Wait-a-minute! If Chaya is going to be a mother, then that makes me a grandmother.” She looked like a deer caught in a truck’s headlights. “But I’m too young to be a grandmother! We’re still part of the younger couple’s minyan at shul!” She began to hyperventilate.
“Ema, really, I don’t think you have anything to worry about just yet,” Suri offered in a conciliatory tone.
Gripped by terror, Ema ignored Suri completely. “What are the kids going to call me? Grandma? Bubbe? Savta? Savti?” She paused just long enough to suck in a few gulps of air. “I-I never gave this any significant thought…!” She shook her head in an attempt to ward off her nerves. “Abba and I must discuss this right away!”
“What about me!?” Suri called after her, as Ema sprang from the bed and flew down the hall. The rapid pounding of her feet on the carpet faded into silence, and Suri was left alone yet again. “What about me?” She repeated mournfully to no one in particular.
“What about you, sweetums?” A manly voiced intoned from the doorway.
Suri’s head jerked up in surprise. “Oh! Abba, you can come in. I’m just sitting here all by my lonesome, stewing in my personal misery.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Abba sauntered in and gingerly closed the door. “What’s bothering you, Suri?”
“That insufferable shadchan called Chaya and gave her the boy that I was going to go out with. Can you believe it!?”
“My, she really is a nasty piece of work, that Mrs. Frumkelshtein,” Abba crossed his arms over his chest and leaned on the wall nearest the bed. “She hasn’t changed in decades, let me tell you.”
Suri lifted an eyebrow cautiously, “What, you mean to tell me she used to redt shidduchim for you and your friends?”
“Yup. The woman is ancient. I heard she once tried to redt a shidduch to Lincoln,” he chuckled.
Suri laughed along. “Abba, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t Jewish!”
“Oh I know, darling. It was the first name that got her. That woman is utterly ridiculous and always has been.”
“I’m glad to know I have someone on my side about this,” Suri smiled. “By the way, Ema was looking for you a moment ago.”
“Oh, I heard her dashing around in one of her freaked out moods again, so I hid in the linen closet until she went down the stairs. I can detect those coming a mile away by now,” he tapped his temple, reveling in his daughter’s giggles. “You’ll learn all about little incongruities like that when you’ve been married for twenty years.”
Suri’s mood took a downturn, “If I ever get married.”
“Aw, come on. Don’t worry about that just yet. You’ve got plenty of time before you get to join that old spinsters’ Mah Jong club at the shul.”
“They really have those things?”
“I just read about it in the weekly Jewish newspaper. However, I did notice they keep dropping the minimum age for admission.”
Suri hesitated for a moment before asking, “What is at now?”
“In the past month they’ve lowered it to twenty five,” he replied in a matter-of-fact voice.
Suri’s eyes widened in disbelief, “That means I have only six more years until I’m a spinster! This is a nightmare! I’ll never get married!” Suri wiped the first few tears streaming down her face with her palm. “At this rate, I may as well ask them if I can just join now and get it over with!” She began sobbing.
Sensing his gaff, Abba quickly plunked down next to his overwrought daughter and put an arm around her shoulder. Suri buried her face in his sweater and began soaking it tears. Swallowing hard, Abba wracked his brain for a moment.
“Ah, that’s what it was,” he jabbed a finger in the air emphatically.
“‘That’s what’ what was?” Suri asked, her voice muffled by argyle.
“I remembered the reason I came here to talk to you in the first place. There is a boy that wants to go out with you.”
Suri froze mid-sniffle. “Hold the phone, there’s a boy asking to go out with me?!”
“Yup,” Abba noticed the twinkle of hope in his eldest daughter’s eyes and smiled warmly. Suri pulled back from her father’s embrace and sat up straight, briefly rubbing her sleeve across her nose.
After composing herself, Suri asked, “So nu? Tell me some details!”
Her father raised a fist and coughed into it awkwardly. “Okay, but let me finish before you say anything.”
“Well, that sounds great already,” Suri interjected.
Abba held up both opened hands in front of defensively, “Please, just hear me out, and then comment.”
“Sure. Please go ahead.”
“Thank you.” He cleared his throat. “Mrs. Gold called this morning saying that her son really wanted to go out with you. She thinks it’s a good idea and wants to try and arrange the shidduch.”
Confused, Suri gave a thumbs up and flipped it over a few times to see if she could talk yet, and Abba nodded his permission. “You mean Dov, my friend Shira’s really handsome older brother?” She inquired expectantly.
“Not quite, he got engaged a week ago. It’s Izzy.”
Suri pursed her lips tightly, trying to find her train of thought. “Izzy. As in Shira’s little brother?”
Abba sensed her apprehension “…that’d be the one.” He too obviously began to glance around the room and started to whistle.
“Izzy, the one who’s only sixteen? Who’s only a grade above Chaya and always wears that kippa with the puffy paint Mets logo on it?”
“That would be him.”
“The same Izzy who just won the state science fair for his project on the ecology of compost heaps?”
“Now, that was really impressive, you’ve got to admit.”
“Little Izzy Gold, who scraped his knee on our driveway when he was learning to ride his bicycle?”
“Now sweetie, that wasn’t his fault. You know those bushes on our semi-circle driveway can be a bit misleading on that initial curve-”
“I’m having a bit of a hard time grasping this, if you can’t tell,” Suri declared. She closed her eyes, and after a calming breath looked at her father. “Did he have the usual list of obnoxiously invasive questions that I have to answer every single time, revealing each and every last secret about me?”
“Actually, that was the refreshing part, he only asked one.”
“Really, what was it?”
The door abruptly swung open with such force that it bounced off the wall, leaving a small dent. “Where’s your father!?” Ema demanded hysterically.
“Ah! Ema, he was just-” Suri felt a tug on her ankle and allowed her gaze to dip downward. Abba huddled beneath her bed, holding a finger to his lips. “Going to go grocery shopping, that’s right,” she concluded. She firmed her voice and added, “He said he’d be back in about an hour.”
“Well, at least he’s out doing something useful. The minute he gets back we have to have a serious talk about where we want Chaya’s children to go to high school.”
“Sure thing, Ema. I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to it,” Suri flashed a very unconvincing grin. Ema whirled around while shutting the door in the same coordinated motion. Abba crept out from under the bed, stood up, and stretched his back.
“That was a close one. Good cover, by the way,” he bent over and touched his toes a few times.
“Thanks. I don’t envy you that upcoming conversation, though.”
“Yeah, it’s okay. I’ll worry about it in an hour,” he glanced at his watch.
“Back on topic… so what’s the question that Izzy asked about me?”
Abba reached up and loosened his collar a bit. “Well…”
“Did he want to know if I wore sneakers when I work out?”
“If Ema uses a plastic table cover on Shabbos?”
Suri tried again, “What my dress size was?”
“Sort of…” Abba trailed off.
“What do you mean ‘sort of?’”
Clearly embarrassed, Abba dithered, linked his fingers together and stared at the ceiling. “Hmmm, it seems I need to change one of the light bulbs in your chandelier, I better get on that right away.”
“Abba. Please stop stalling. What did he ask?”
“He wanted to know your, um, cup size,” Abba recoiled as though preparing to be struck.
“WHAT?!” Suri thundered.
Abba started speaking a mile a minute. “That was the only question. He basically knows everything about you and us from your friendship with Shira and the dozens of shabbos meals we’ve spent at each other’s homes. He’s seen you in a natural setting, with friends and family, even when things went wrong like that time you spilled the whole chulent dish on your lap and that other time when it rained and your hair looked like a drowned terrier. That was the one thing he simply didn’t have a clue about, and I figured; ‘What’s the harm in asking?’ Especially since it’s such a simple, mostly innocuous inquiry in the first place, right? And-”
“I can’t believe that little twerp had the guts to ask that! His mind is so completely submerged in the gutter, just like every other hormone-driven, full-of-himself, egotistical, skirt-chasing guy out there! Why in the world would I even consider going out with someone as depraved as that!?”
“Honestly, Suri, I think you’re missing something here.”
“And just what is that Abba?”
“The boy is only sixteen. What else does he think about?”
Suri stopped mid-rant. “You actually have a point.”
“And besides that one semi-objectionable question – which I might add parenthetically, is a question that every guy has on his mind in the first place, even if he doesn’t actually ask it – you both have a lot in common,” Abba began counting on his fingers. “He plays the cello, makes Jewish-themed mosaics, is a serious straight A student, and wants to go into bio-research.” Abba put the last finger back down, “Well, I don’t know if you can include that one just yet, since he doesn’t have his high school diploma.”
Suri felt her indignation give way to an unusual burst of whimsy welling up within her. “What the heck, why not?”
“Really?” Abba flinched, clearly expecting a flat-out rejection. “I can call Mrs. Gold back and let her know it’s on?” He asked excitedly.
“Sure. Who knows, maybe he’ll turn out to be that magical, special someone,” Suri remarked half-sarcastically.
“I’ll get on it right away!” Abba jumped up and closed the door on his way out.
“This is going to be an interesting experience,” Suri thought aloud.
A moment later, Abba poked his head back in. “You know, my Aunt Gertrude is three years older than Uncle Shloime, and just look how happy they are!”
“Abba, I said ‘yes’ already!” Suri replied in exasperation.
“Okey-dokie, smokey-rokie!” Abba quipped as he disappeared from view.
Suri allowed herself a little smile at the humor of the entire situation, wondering if she had any idea what she had just agreed to. But then again, who knows what might happen, good or bad? It was worth a shot.