Only bad dates and shidduchim go out in the midday sun
There's a madness in the air and it's because my Mother's been to a Wizo coffee morning. I smell it in the inbound (there are rarely outbound) call.
"I saw Ethel Segalowitz and she asked after you". I know this means she asked if I was married yet. "She has a nephew". Now a lot of people have a nephew but I know that this one is single. Like Kraft sliced cheese. I imagine the conversation went something like this:
"Nebuch, such a beautiful girl. A shayna maidel, why can't she meet someone. A shame, a shame. I have a nephew in London. He's single, she's single, they'll meet. " As if the very shared singleton status means that we will both love Art Deco interiors or hill walking. Or each other. As if by speaking an idiomatic translation from Yiddish means that the shtetl lives on in suburbia.
I got burned at an early age on the whole shidduch thing, and it's made me wary. What happened was this. I'd been going out with someone who wasn't and my friend Paul got back from Yeshivah and gave me a hard time about it. He was a bit BT (and that's not a telecoms company) in that if-we-all-keep-shabbes way, and it was hard to get him to shut up. I agreed to go out for a drink with him, the Spaniards, Sunday night (it was the early nineties, when people still did that) and I wore great clothes: black and white check mini skirt, and black tights that said "love" going round my ankles and up towards my thighs.
So we drove past Hampstead, and Highgate, and made that fateful turn left into Seven Sisters Road and I asked where we're going and he said "a drink". Next thing I know we're drawing up outside a house in Stamford Hill and we're not driving a Volvo. And Paul's not answering my questions. Entering the hall of a shabby overfilled house, there are men in shtreimels queuing in the hall. Paul takes me through to the kitchen, and The Wife makes us tea. I'm half expecting to have to suck it through a sugar cube, no low-carb diet here.
"You're here to see My Husband?" she wails at me, and I say no, I just came out for a drink actually. She engages me in small talk, of the vegetable-kloibing kind as Paul slips out of the house, and my manners are just good enough that I don't feel that I can whisper "don't leave me here" through gritted teeth without appearing rude.
The Husband comes into the kitchen, and motions for me to follow him. The shtreimel-wearers in the hall are mesmerised by my inappropriate dress. And my legs. You don't see a lot of women's legs in Stamford Hill, even slightly chubby ones.
I follow him into a book-lined mittel-European tardis, and he asks me what I'm looking for. Nothing, I just came out for a drink, honestly. He asks me if I have any O'levels and I tell him I have a degree. "A clevur gurl". I tell him my degree is in Jewish Studies. "So you'll marry a Rabbi". I try and explain that I'm supposed to be at The Spaniards, but he grasps a tattered A to Z address book (like if you were going to keep a paper database of possible marriages you'd really do it in alphabetical order. "Her names begins with G, his name begins with G, it's a match!") and flicks through it.
"I personally know five men looking for someone your… shape". So that's what it comes down to: child bearing hips, not yichus. Desert not a degree. An unsophisticated Yiddisher merge-purge programme set to maximize the matches and gain a place in the world to come.
And the only way I could get out of there was to agree to meet a forty-six year old management accountant who lived with his parents in Edgware, but that's another story.
So when my Mother suggests meeting a lovely boy (are there any other kinds?) I say no, I'm washing my hair. For like the next hundred years.