There is nothing like a Jewish mother’s love. She loves so deeply that she wants her daughter’s life to be filled with love too—but, he must be Jewish.
I was sitting at work late one Tuesday afternoon and my mother called me, her voice filled with adrenaline. She had just come home from the grocery store, and apparently she tried to pick up a little more than milk and eggs.
My mother had just finished getting her groceries into her car and was amused as she watched a “good-looking” Jewish boy doing a juggling act with his. As he picked up three bags, two would drop to the ground.
A Shabbat candle went off in her head, she recalled to me later. The urge to help him was overwhelming.
She called out, “Fella!”
Miraculously, he knew that he was her intended, and had his bags not been weighing him down, he might have run the other way.
My mother shouted out across the parking lot, “Would you like a ride?”
The poor vulnerable soul replied, “Sure.”
She got into the car so that she could pull up to him because he couldn’t walk to her car. He put his groceries in the way back of her station wagon, and he sat down next to her.
As she drove him home she explained that she saw his Michigan t-shirt and it reminded her of her three daughters (who went to Big Ten universities) and “she felt bad for him.” She talked about her daughters, while scanning and assessing him to figure out his age, asking him questions about what he did, etc. She didn’t want to allocate him to the wrong daughter.
She learned that he was in graduate school for journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill program and she zeroed in on me. He talked about his studies and she told him I’m a reporter.
She scrambled telling him about my work as they approached his apartment and said, “I should have you meet my daughter!”
He laughed and said, “Right”—as if they were both joking. He got out of the car and got his bags and peeked his head back in the window and said, “Have her come and visit me at Medill.” He shook her hand, thanked her and went on his way.
Thankfully, my mother couldn’t follow through, as she often has successfully attempted to match my sisters in the past. When I say successfully, I mean she has succeeded in actually giving out our phone numbers to strange “good looking” Jewish boys.
With a mensch whispering in her ear from one shoulder and a yenta shouting at her from the other, the mensch won. She admitted that she didn’t want to look like she was doing him a favor just for him to meet her daughter—though that had been her intention.
“I turned out to be a decent person in the end,” she laughed. “I preferred he think there is some decency in this world and that I didn’t have ulterior motives.”
My mother has the warmest heart of anyone I know, and truly wants the best for her daughters. When she finished her story, she was genuinely disappointed in herself that she didn’t succeed with this one.
“It was a short ride,” she added.
I, however, was horrified and laughing at the same time.
My sisters and I have faced many matchmaker attempts from both of our parents. I know too that I am part of a sisterhood of women whose parents also subtly or not so subtly try to set them up.
In general, secular societal attitudes about women have markedly changed since our parents’ era, but some Jewish mothers are still sending a strong message: Why aren’t you married yet?
Whether they’re kidding or half-kidding or not kidding at all, it puts some of us in an awkward fix.
Some young Jewish women I know are happily entering into matrimony, others aren’t ready yet. For example, those who are pursuing multiple degrees or trying to navigate their careers throughout their twenties may not yet have marriage on the brain. Young professionals move for jobs. Ask any journalist, for instance, how many times they have to move cities and markets to move up the media ladder?
That being said, it’s sometimes hard to build a nest with someone else when a young woman is still trying to find her own roots.
How do you manage to balance your love lives, your friends, your families and your careers?
Some are able to do it all simultaneously. Others need a little more time.