My friend likes to remind me of this one whenever she feels like making fun of “how frum you were.”
For the record, I’m not ashamed. Until I was 20, I had barely spoken to a man who wasn’t related to me. I had been taught that making eye contact or appearing too interested in what a guy was saying was flirting. Our teachers warned us about the plague of young couples sharing Shabbos meals, because his wife talks to her husband, and they’re all talking and laughing together, and next thing you know everyone is jealous of everyone else’s spouse and marriages are in shambles.
Bad things happen when you talk to men you aren’t married or related to.
So when my modox friend Shana got engaged to her high-school boyfriend in seminary and decided to introduce him to her Bais Yaakov friends in the Central Bus Station on motzai Shabbos…
I mean, is there any clause in the previous sentences that isn’t treif? High-school boyfriend. Introduce to female friends. Central Bus Station. On motzai Shabbos no less. This was a terrible idea!
Seriously, I have Bais Yaakov friends whose husbands I could barely recognize on the street. Why would I need to know them? Why would you introduce them to other women?
Besides, we were equivocal about our feelings regarding this match. Obviously, no relationship involving a high-school boyfriend could last. We had it drilled into us that teenagers were incapable of making clear-headed decisions regarding members of the opposite gender, so anyone you crushed on in high school was, by definition, a Bad Idea. It made much more sense to wait until you were older and could pick a guy based on a paper shidduch resume and a few hours spent sipping drinks in a hotel lounge.
But, being good friends (and also feeling guilty about missing the vort) we showed up to that pit of tuma’ah, the Central Bus Station on motzai Shabbos.
In some ways it delivered on its reputation and in some it didn’t.
Sure, there were girls I recognized, wearing jeans under their skirts, hanging out with boys. But they were the girls from summer camp you expected to own a pair of jeans and a boyfriend. And honestly, they weren’t doing anything but eating pizza together. As scenes of horror go, it was fairly innocuous.
Besides, there I was as well, eating pizza with a guy. Granted, it was three of us and one of him, and he was appropriately engaged to Shana, but…
It was profoundly uncomfortable. Was I supposed to look at him when he spoke? Respond to him when I had something to say? Wouldn’t that be flirtatious? And then he might notice there were other women in the world and jealousy and relationship shambles would follow. That was a fact.
So we focused our attention on Shana instead, chatting with her about engagement and wedding plans, and her poor fiance got the cold shoulder. Sometimes, to be inclusive, we’d give him a sidelong glance. Eventually, he stood up and walked away, leaving us to it.
I felt relieved.
Shana felt embarrassed.
She and her husband still laugh at me for it.
(For the record, my husband and I hosted them for Shabbos recently. No spouse-swapping or other improprieties ensued. Another side point: All Shana’s sisters also married their high-school boyfriends and have remained married for, on average, a decade so far. So much for that theory.)