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All That Glitters

mishpacha image

T

 

 

op Five Stresses in My Life Right Now:

  1. I drafted a mazel tov text and am terrified my fingers will slip in my sleep and the text will accidentally blast out to my zillion contacts before it’s actually official.
  2. What if I forget his name? And people will be shrieking, “Mazel tov, to who?” and I’ll be like, “Um, right, let me get back to you, can you repeat the question, please?”
  3. What if he changes his mind tonight? What if I change my mind tonight?
  4. What if someone breaks into my house and steals my dress? Because even after three months of dating him, I still have nothing else to wear.
  5. My parents are going to insist on a mezhinka. I AM NOT PLAYING WITH BROOMSTICKS AT MY WEDDING TO REMIND THE WORLD THAT I WAS THE LAST TO GET MARRIED.

 

Okay, I’m deleting the text. I don’t know how to phrase it anyway. Hi everyone, I’m engaged, smiley-face emoji! Which seems anticlimactic, smiley-face emojis, like that’s all you get after a decade-plus in the shidduch trenches, especially since I suspected an engagement bracelet wasn’t in the works. Or — more like it — Guys, I don’t know how this happened but I think I’m engaged and I’m freaking out and I can’t even remember his name half the time because I’m too scared to say it out loud so don’t stress me out and ask me on the spot what his name is because things are going to get VERY awkward.

I hesitated, removed the “VERY” part, then reread the text, hyperventilated for five minutes, and deleted the entire thing.

I buried my head back in my pillow. Okay, I took care of problem number one. But my single friends — now what? They’re going to come to my vort dressed in black, holding signs, protesting my engagement to—

My heart started palpitating, and I licked my lips.

Okay. Fein. Efraim Fein, Teaneck-turned-Oreo, as his family called his flip to the black hat/white shirt world, now learning in Rabbi Goldstein’s kollel in Israel.

I’m getting engaged.

T

he house was quiet. My parents had retired at midnight; I was up, tossing and turning. My dress was ready, though, bought at a two-percent discount — the basement boutique’s version of a sale — and now safely in my closet.

I think.

Oh, shoot.

I climbed out from under my covers and tiptoed over to the closet, double-checked that the garment bag was still hanging inside, breathed a sigh of relief, and padded back into bed.

Efraim Fein. The guy whose  resume plopped into my inbox one day; the guy who extended his bein hazmanim ticket to continue going out. The guy whose parents are upstanding members of their Modern Orthodox community, and I knew they weren’t from our circles when the shidduch was suggested, and they didn’t demand a picture. The guy who’d told the shadchan after Date Three, when I was inclined to say no because our backgrounds were so different, that my thought process fascinated him, whatever that meant, and of course I asked all my brothers what it means if someone says he’s fascinated by your thought process, grilled the poor shadchan about that too, until I finally agreed to Date Four and just accepted the fact that I have a fascinating thought process.

I stared at the ceiling.

Well. No wonder I couldn’t sleep at nights.

Okay, I needed to talk to someone. I called Miri, my friend in Israel who’d gotten married a few years back. She knew I’d been going out seriously since I’d flown in for a two-week stretch in May  to continue dating.

“It’s happening,” I said simply, when she picked up, my voice wobbling a bit.

I heard a sharp inhalation of breath, and I knew she knew what I meant.

“Okay. Okay.” She was a cool cucumber, always was. “You’re allowed to tell me his name now?”

“I guess. His name is—”

And then I froze and my mind went blank and this crazy overwhelming feeling came over me and I started to cry and so did she.

 

***

A

nd then we both started shrieking, of course. And we talked for an hour and I hung up and I guess I did fall asleep because next thing I knew my alarm was ringing and I went through the morning in a trance-like state and he picked me up at three and we went to this area near the water and watched the glint of afternoon sun tossing prism-like colors over the continuous ripple of the waves, and then some things happened. My friends came to the l’chayim-vort genuinely excited, though they were all in black, bless those Brooklyn souls, except Shalva, who sported this pink-and-green geometric-print caftan, the words HOWDY, I’M FROM DALLAS metaphorically emblazoned on her forehead. And our parents talked over the next few days and we set a date and I drove him to the airport because he was returning to Israel and I was returning to normal routine except now I had two carats attached to my finger and a shopping list the size of a paper towel roll, and it feels crazy that over ten years of dating can culminate in such a short paragraph in the book of my life but honestly this is all too much to process right now and I think I need therapy.

“Elisheva, you don’t have time for therapy,” my mother said briskly, the first Sunday morning after my engagement. “You have a sheitel appointment early tomorrow, your boss will understand, and a gown appointment in the evening, and the Mikasa outlet and Wilhelm’s are running sales now and the makeup lady asked about practice runs. Also, find out what tallis he wants, with an atarah or without, maybe the nonslip version, and there are Yom Tov specials on chassan Shas…”

And so it began.

***

 

“T

he point isn’t the bracelet per se. It’s the principle of the matter.”

It was the second time that week that my mother was bringing up the topic: his parents hadn’t bought me a white-gold-diamond-chip bracelet, standard in our world but apparently not theirs. I’d brushed off her concerns the first time — I had enough bracelets of my own, I’d made a few since I’d gotten into a jewelry design kick four years ago — even though, to be honest, I did feel self-conscious watching people’s eyes travel to my wrist to examine the fake charm bracelet I’d bought from Ann Taylor years ago and kept only because I’d lost the receipt.

“Tante Leah asked me about it — Elisheva, it’s not the bracelet, you understand, it’s what it means—”

“It means nothing! I’m engaged — see?” I thrust my finger out and nearly died when I saw it was bare. “Wait. Oh, right.” I swooped the ring up from over the sink where I’d placed it when washing my hands and shoved it out again. “Okay, see now. Engaged! Ta-da.”

“Don’t be silly. He’s a fancy-schmancy engineer, she’s a doctor, it’s not about money. They don’t know the minhagim from our side of town, someone has to just mention to them—”

I blanched. “Mommy! You are not leaving anonymous messages on their answering machine!”

“Elisheva, don’t be ridiculous—”

“I’m not being ridiculous!” A vision floated through my brain, my mother dressed in army camouflage and a ski mask, tiptoeing through my in-laws’ garden to leave Post-it notes on their door along with a brochure from Feldman’s, and I nearly choked on my coffee. “Mommy! No anonymous notes on their door!”

“I’m calling the shadchan, Elisheva, she can navigate—”

“No calling the shadchan!”

“Elisheva. We’ll continue this conversation tonight—”

“No — fine. Fine!” I tossed my empty coffee cup into the garbage and stormed off to work, yelling behind me, “And we are not having a mezhinka dance, either!”

As I pulled into the parking lot at the special-needs school where I worked as an art therapist, I was in a full-blown frenzy, and to my embarrassment, I also found myself fighting back tears. I don’t have time for this. I really don’t have time for this, and I hate confrontation and I didn’t speak to my chassan in a week and this is all so ridiculous.

I’ll buy myself the stupid bracelet, make everyone happy.

 

***

 

I

completed the purchase after two hours navigating AliExpress; I’d debated designing a piece myself but didn’t trust my workmanship. I told my parents Efraim had the situation under control and notified my chassan of his imaginary purchase, too, in case anyone mentioned it.

“A white-gold diamond bracelet?” He sounded alarmed. “Is that, ah, the norm? My idea of expensive is the fifty-shekel pineapple in the makolet.”

“It was $14.99,” I assured him, “plus I got free shipping. Plus, your parents allegedly bought it. Just play along.” I briefly considered buying his father a black hat online, too, to make my parents really happy, but tossed that idea pretty quickly.

The package was delivered three weeks later.

 

***

 

I

’ll confess: With that bracelet on my wrist, I did feel like a more authentic kallah.

I wore it the first time to the grocery, to pick up fruit and vegetables for Shabbos, getting used to the feel of it. I stood straighter, bracelet gracing my wrist, as I selected cantaloupe as if I knew how to tell which were ripe, as I maneuvered my wagon down the aisles, as I collected the change the grocer dumped on the counter.

I FaceTimed Miri from my car.

“Shalom!” I called, and before she had a chance to say anything, I stuck my wrist out and waved dramatically, ensuring she caught a decent glimpse of the cubic zirconium chips.

“Hey!” Her face exploded over my screen. “How ya doing? What are you — oh my. Your bracelet! It’s gorgeous! Wait, let me see again.”

I switched to front-camera mode, pointing the phone at the bracelet to give her a better view.

“Stunning. So he ended up—”

“Nah, I bought it myself.” I switched back to selfie mode and told her what happened.

“You crazy girl!”

“I have it on good authority that I have a fascinating thought process.”

“Crazy, not fascinating. Remember Man with a Plan?”

“That was Shalva.” She’d called frantically from her car one Motzaei Shabbos three years ago after spotting a truck with a yeshivah-type guy driving down Forest Avenue with Man with a Plan painted across the side along with a phone number. We chased the truck halfway around town, until finally realizing the “Plan” side was smudged, and he was actually Yanky Schwartz, age 31, married with three kids, owner of Man with a Van moving business. A station wagon of middle-aged women trailed hot on our bumpers, probably making the same mistake we did, and a Camry full of seminary-age girls wearing too much makeup followed, too. Seriously, it was like a scene from the Pied Piper, except he was clean-shaven.

I was still chuckling as I hung up and put the car into drive. Man with a Plan; good times, good times.

Gosh, I’m glad it’s over.

On my wrist, the bracelet glinted.

(Originally featured in Calligraphy, Issue 757)

Tagged: Calligraphy