The other day I bumped in one of my former best friends. In high school, she and I sat in the back of our Jewish law class consuming vast amounts of cheerios and apple slices as our rabbi rambled on and on about the importance of a woman covering her hair when married. In a classic adolescent exchange, she supplied the food and I supplied the notes from each day’s lecture.
Then we graduated, and she married quickly, giving birth to her first baby boy while I was studying abroad in England. Saddened– and perhaps a bit dismayed– that I was not around for the birth of her first born, she decided to limit all contact with me. I forgave her and frankly understood. Without an educational setting to unite us, we didn’t really have a whole lot in common.
But then yesterday, there she was– with hubby and her now two baby boys. And I, confused as to how she had wandered into the least Orthodox Jewish friendly neighborhood of the city, was at a loss for words. She was therefore forced to make the first form of verbal communication.
“My Yaffa, you look so grown up!” Um, I look grown up? Which biddie here has a husband and two sons? And which biddie here is single and semi-directionless in terms of her future? But not wanting to exhibit my signature sarcasm, I politely thanked her and reciprocated the exclamation.
“So what are you up? Still single?” Well I very well knew I couldn’t answer either question honestly. This was the girl who asked what Oxford was when I said I studied there. And this was the very same girl who remarked at age 15, “A woman without a husband is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the jelly.”
I kept my answers brief. I worked in law and had no current suitors, but I was contemplating volunteering at a pet shop in the new year. Despite my brevity, I knew I had lost her. Law? Pet shop? Baby-less at 22? The only appropriate response was that I was a shonda, cherpah, and boosha- all Yiddish synonyms for embarrassment to the community. However, my high school amiga was too kind-hearted to verbalize her thoughts and so she remarked, “I would expect nothing less from you, Yaffa.”
With that we parted ways, and I spent the entire walk home contemplating what she meant. Did she predict I would be barren and broke right after college? Because honestly, I could have told you that was my future at age 10. Or did her comment imply that she thought I walk be an aspiring professional, always on the go and with a fondness for the feline species?
Regardless of her actual intentions, her words played on my mind. Even in high school I was far from conventional. I was the eccentric teenager who took photography classes at secular college during the summer time. I was the geek who built robots and launched rockets when I spent time with friends beyond the Orthodox bubble. Moses, I was the girl with friends beyond the Orthodox bubble.
Perhaps her comment was just a reiteration of a fact: I march to the beat of a different drummer. I take the path less traveled, and I order my peanut butter and jelly sandwich sans jelly. And frankly, after looking at her tired and worn expression, I wouldn’t have it any other way.