For those who are familiar with the original production of Fiddler on the Roof, you might remember a particular character by the name of Yenta. Dressed in schmatas (a Yiddish term used to denote rags that are to be used for cleaning purposes only) and sporting a rather large schnoz, she seeks to find each and every girl in her small Russian shtetl a husband.
As in any musical, she is the subject of the infamous number “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.” Yes, Yenta’s role as the town matchmaker becomes the focal point of one notable Broadway number. And as much as I hate to admit it, this is the only song in Fiddler to which I know all the lyrics.
My grandmother (not the who thinks I’m a lesbian, but the one who refers to me me as the “barren grandchild”) reminded me of this number during our weekly Friday phone call. “Nu, you’ve been back in New York three weeks. Where’s the husband-to-be? And when can I meet him?”
The irony in her question is that it insinuates that location has something to do with my single status. When I was a Wellesley student, I was in a secular convent incapable of forming relationships with my male counterparts beyond the nunnery walls. Now that I am in New York, well, there are plenty of opportunities to date, and perhaps eventually marry.
However, the truth is location is nothing but a pretext. And so I responded, “Oma, you asked me the same question when I was in college. Why qualify it now by locale?”
There was an awkward pause, and then she said, “Is your mother ok with you living with female roommates? Shouldn’t you get married and live with a man– and by man, I mean your husband?”
As any individual with an ounce of Jew in them will tell you, when in doubt, answer in the form of a question. My grandmother had no justifiable response, and so she turned the marital inquisition back to me. I, however, would not submit to another interrogation regarding my relationship status.
“Oma, seriously, why are you so concerned? I’m not even 22… and this is 2011. And I am a Wellesley woman who will potentially do great things. And if I don’t have a husband by 30, I’ll just adopt–”
“A cat, right? You joke about being a spinster, and young lady, you are very close to making your comedy a reality.” I decided then that I shouldn’t mention the new cat for which I was sitting.
I also determined to take the firmest stance I’ve had to take since my first high school friend married at 17. “Let me rephrase– I will look for a husband when I am in a viable financial situation to do so. Right now, I am living on a latte and a prayer and not a whole lot more.”
In typical Jewish grandmotherly guilt fashion, she responded, “Well you best keep praying because you are going to need all the prayers the prayer book has to offer.”
Despite her sass, I believe I won the debate. She may still be in search of the perfect Yid for one of her many granddaughters, but at least she is beginning to accept that said Yid will become a part of my life on my time table– not hers. To that, I say L’Chaim: