For those whose favorite genre is the romantic comedy, weddings represent the material manifestation of a wondrous cinematic fantasy. For me, however, they are a constant reminder of just how unorthodox an Orthodox Jew I am. The following conversation– had between myself and tonight’s bride, Annette– captures this divide quite well:
BRIDE: So, Miss Yaffa Fredrick, where have you been? Last I heard you were wandering around Europe.
ME: Well, sort of. I was studying at Oxford this year.
BRIDE: (pauses to think and readjust her veil) Hmm… never heard of it.
ME: (incredulously) Of Oxford?
BRIDE: Yes, where is it?
ME: In England.
BRIDE: Oh, Yaffa, up to your academic antics, are you?
ME: Antics? I guess so. As much as HIV/AIDS policy-making can be considered antics.
BRIDE: Um, wow, I don’t know what to say, except I think I need to give you a bracha (blessing) now. What would you like me to say?
ME: (not missing a beat) That I succeed in overcoming my materialistic obsession with Anthropologie dresses, and actually make a difference in sub-Saharan Africa– rather than hiding in my Ivory Tower and theorizing on it.
BRIDE: Um, ok, I had something different in mind. Tell me what you think of this: May you find the perfect husband in the coming year. May he be in awe of the One Above, may he be a serious learner (referring to Talmud and other texts of Jewish wisdom and angst), and may he be able to support you as a wife and mother… of hopefully many, many kinderlachen (children).
To say I responded with a hearty thank you would be as far from the truth as to compare Starbucks grande skinny vanilla lattes to McDonalds McCafe coffee. In actuality, I nodded, wished her a meek mazel tov, and then took my seat amongst the few lonely single girls– all notably two years my junior. Yes, at age 21, the single girls pool is quite small, and I am barely keeping myself afloat in it. Or so the random matchmaker who proceeded to sit beside me a few moments later informed me. Apparently I exude “single, not ready to mingle” vibes, and well, a girl my age “can’t afford to seem too full of herself.” She also gave me her card– which somehow, between the wedding hall and my Washington Heights residence– I seemed to have misplaced.