| Family Diary |

Ring Me: Chapter 25   

"If I wanted to say something, I literally had to interrupt her. And the instant I finished talking she took off again"

Shani Leiman with Zivia Reischer

Betzalel, or Tzali as he was called by his friends, was a good dater. He knew how to talk to a girl — how to make her feel comfortable, how to start the conversation, how to maintain the rhythm of give and take for an extended amount of time. This came with the territory; at 28, he’d dated well over 70 girls.

He called me, as he usually did, about an hour after his first date with Avigail.

“How did it go?” I asked.

There was a moment’s pause. “It was a little weird,” he admitted.

Avigail was a pretty typical girl — second-to-oldest of five, did well in school, went to a good seminary, finishing her degree as an OT. I didn’t know her so well, but I wouldn’t have expected anything “weird.”

“Can you tell me about that?”

“Well,” he said, “from the minute she got into the car, she didn’t stop talking. She talked and talked the entire date! I wanted to ask her if she preferred the Marriot or the Hilton, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. When I did get the chance to make a comment or ask a question, she launched into a 20-minute response.

“If I wanted to say something, I literally had to interrupt her. And the instant I finished talking she took off again. It was like she wanted me to know everything about her right now. She didn’t make any effort to learn anything about me.”

“Wow,” I said. “That sounds… intense.”

“I have no idea what that was all about,” Tzali said wearily, “but I’m totally drained. I need to go to sleep.” He paused, then added, “I don’t think I should see her again.”

“Tzali,” I said, “I hear that you’re tired. I’m going to let you go, but can I just say one quick thing?”

He was nothing if not a gentleman. “Sure.”

“Sometimes when people are very nervous or uncomfortable, they talk a lot. They just blab. It can happen to boys or girls. They open their mouths and talk and talk, relentlessly, as if they can’t stop. It looks really bad and can even seem like a middos issue, like they’re socially clueless or completely self-absorbed. But usually they’re great people, it’s just that they’re very, very nervous.”

He sighed. “I hear,” he said. “Let’s talk more tomorrow.”

I called Avigail. Instantly, I picked up on her chipper mood. She sounded alive and alert and was talking and laughing freely.

“The date was amaaaaazing!” she said when I asked. “It was as good as a first date can be. He seems like a really great guy!”


“Did the conversation flow well?”

“Well,” Avigail launched into a speech. “I mean, he did seem a little quiet. When we asked around about him we heard that he was pretty outgoing, like a camp-type guy, so I wasn’t expecting that. Maybe he was just nervous,” she continued, oblivious to the irony. “But anytime there was a pause in the conversation I tried to fill the silence so it wouldn’t become uncomfortable…. You know how first dates can be.”

“So would you say that you talked more, or Tzali talked more?”

“I think it was probably about even,” she responded right away. “What’s going on? Did he feel differently? He seemed like a real mensch and I would love to go out again.”

“Tzali said he needed to think it over,” I told her honestly. “He felt you did most of the talking and didn’t seem interested in him at all.”

“Whaaaaat?” Avigail exclaimed in what I was coming to recognize as her super-peppy, high-energy style. “That’s soooo awkward! I just thought he was shy or uncomfortable or something.”

The longer I spoke to Avigayil, the more apparent it became that her pace, her conversation style, and the way she moved deftly from one topic to the other, was vastly different from Tzali’s laid-back, more deliberate manner.

I could just imagine their date: in the slight pauses when Avigail finished talking, Tzali must have been about to say something when Avigail jumped right back in. What he considered an opening, she considered awkward silence. She jumped in to help him out, but she was really cutting him off. No wonder he thought it was weird!

I shared this thought with Avigayil and reminded her that when we’d met, she had described herself as very quick and somewhat intense, and had told me that she really wanted a more chilled, laid-back guy, to balance her out.

“A conversation is like playing catch,” I told Avigail. “You have the ball, you throw it to him. He gets a chance to talk, he throws it back to you. In general, the conversation ratio should be about 50-50, or maybe 60-40. If you hold on to the ball and don’t throw it, you’re not really playing the game anymore, the other person loses interest, and the game is over.”

I held my breath. People are usually sensitive, and this was fairly pointed criticism. Could she handle it?

Avigail was quiet for a few moments. Finally she said, “This is so embarrassing.”

“It’s okay, people make mistakes—”

“That’s not why it’s embarrassing,” she interrupted me. “It’s embarrassing because I’m 24 and this is for sure not the first time I’m doing this. I probably always do this. That’s probably why everyone says no to me. I’m ruining my own life!”

“Whoa, I didn’t say that—”

True to form, Avigail rallied immediately. “But this is great, now that I know what I’m doing wrong, I can fix it!”

I laughed aloud, I couldn’t help it. “Avigail,” I said, “I don’t know if you’ll end up marrying Tzali, but I’ll tell you one thing — your openness to advice and willingness to do honest self-reflection and adjustment mean you’re really set up for a great relationship, whoever you marry.”

The next day, when Tzali was well rested and could think straight again, I called him and explained that it was a mistake and I thought he could give Avigail another chance without the risk of being steamrollered in the conversation. They went out three more times, but ultimately decided they weren’t right for each other.

Although Avigail isn’t yet married, she reported that her life improved in other ways. “I realized that I function on a higher speed than a lot of people,” she confided, “and it sometimes causes me to lose out. I have sisters and coworkers who take more time to think and form opinions. When I give them that extra moment to react, I get to hear things I wouldn’t have heard otherwise.”

She reflected for a moment and then added, “It’s not only about building new relationships, like dating. It also helps make my existing relationships richer.”

Then, without pausing, she finished in true Avigail-style, “You saved my whole life. Thank you sooooo much!”

to be continued…


Shani Leiman is a teacher, shadchan, and dating coach. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 718)


Oops! We could not locate your form.