Then out of the corner of his eye he saw a plump red head tottering on stilettos flanked by her parents a plump man in a black fedora and an even plumper woman in a red wig walking in behind him.
Pity the poor guy who would have to meet her but then he heard the fat father calling his name. Was she his date? He wanted to bolt, to run away but before he could the father extended his hand .
“You must be the famous Asher Tumim I’m Moish Klein Pleased to meet you. ”
Asher’s stomach began to bounce again as . Moish quizzed him on the Talmudical tractate he was studying. That sort of questioning was standard. Rav Benzi had even mentioned it in his class. Asher couldn’t answer. It was as if all the Talmud he ever knew had been deleted from his brain.
What a great scene. “Sorry, “He averted Moish’s glace, certain that his date’s father thought him a dolt.
Instead, Moish winked and rubbed Asher’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry. I’ll faher you later. ”
Then Moish kissed Aliza on her forehead, and waved goodbye his wife following behind him.. Now Asher and Aliza were alone and Asher could have a good look at her. She was very round;, her stomach ,limbs even her hair were puffy and plump. Her face was pleasant, even pretty but she’d covered it with a thick coating of makeup, way and she’d circled her eyes with thick black eyeliner which extended outward as if she were Cleopatra. Ugh.
She wore a dark red circle skirt emphasizing her already huge hips and a black blouse studded with fake diamonds –he hated glittery clothes. And she stank, not in the way that a yeshiva guy stinks during nine days when you aren’t allowed to shower but like one of those potpourri sachets his mother left in the bathroom.
He took her to the farthest reaches of the lobby, each of them occupying a couch with a an oversized coffee table in between. The Arab waiter who took their orders seemed to snicker at them. It appeared that he was used to these nervous and overdressed youngsters, who never ordered more than a coke.
“I’ll have bottled water, “said Aliza. “I’m on a diet. “She giggled.
A smile played on Asher’s lips but no words came out.
She smiled back at him. It was his turn to talk he couldn’t think of anything to say so she jumped in.
” My cousin Ruvy Brecher is at your yeshiva” .” Asher frowned. It was an instinctive reaction.
“He was my chavrusa.” Asher actually disliked the guy. Ruvy was challenging, combative to the point of obnoxiousness, never willing to admit that anyone else could be right.
“Wow. How did you survive that? .”Aliza giggled and Asher laughed and from then on the conversation flowed. Aliza was a great talker and he found himself smiling at her, laughing at her jokes and enjoying her little insights. By the time Asher glanced at his watch it was nearly eleven. They had been together for three hours, more than twice the length of time that Rav Benzi said that one should spent on a first date.
Aliza was nice, really nice….if only she had another body.
As she got up to leave he snuck a look at her rear end just to make sure he was right. It was really large and it jiggled as she moved. What a shame. If she were fifty pounds lighter, he might have even proposed. It wasn’t as if he was prejudiced against all fat people. Some of his best friends were fat—Ezi for example, but a girl, a wife was different. He had to be attracted to his wife, even Rav Benzi conceded that. To see her as beautiful, so beautiful that no other woman could ever tempt him, not even in his thoughts.
As he walked through the dark streets to the light rail station his feelings turned to anger. Why hadn’t his mother figured this out? He had explicitly told her that he didn’t want a fat girl but his Mom was clueless. That’s how American parents were. His mind flashed back to the time in fourth grade when his rebbe actually read one his mother’s notes out loud.
“Dear Rav Kaplan may you be blessed with length of days….
We are so thankful that you are bringing our son may his light be illuminated to the Holy Torah. Please know that he wanted to go to school yesterday but he was incapacitated with a stomach virus. He’s better now and ready again to learn the Holy Writ.”
With Torah greetings and gratitude
His Rebbe thought the note was sweet but the entire class roared with laughter. After that Asher refused to take a note his mother wrote until he read and approved it. He knew that was obnoxious, even disrespectful but he had no choice. And now she was messing his life up again. The fact that she meant well but that didn’t change reality. She was still messing him up and now she was messing up someone else too.
Poor Aliza.. He could see that she was thrilled to be out with him, a normal guy, from a good yeshiva, not bad looking, not a nerd or a dork and now he’d have to let her down.
Molly stared at the kitchen clock. “Asher been gone for more than two hours . Do you think he really likes her?”
Nahum picked his head up from the open volume of the Talmud. “Maybe?’
“Oh my goodness,” Molly clasped her hands together against her neck. “Do you think this is really it. I mean it could happen?”
“Well maybe… but then again did you marry the first guy you ever dated.”
“Oh heavens no. I was only twelve. There were a bunch of us. We went skating but everyone quickly paired up except Mindy Roth, she the odd person so she swooped down and stole my date away..”
“Ugh” Nahum feigned a frown.’
“Yup. I was devastated. When my father came to pick me up I was in tears. He bought me a hot chocolate with whipped cream but it didn’t cheer me up. Thank G-d Asher doesn’t have to go through that. Just think, he’s twenty two . He missed out on all that drama.”
“Good “Nahum nodded.
“I didn’t even know that this kind of dating existed until I was in seminary. then Rebetzin Rosengarten gave a talk about it. She described it as a developd form of dating for civilized people, that is dating platonically without any messing around. I couldn’t believe that anyone dated this way until my roommates got engaged to a really nice guy whom she never held hands with . She told me that she’d never connected so deeply with anyone else before. She felt like she really knew her fiance on a soul level.”
“Are they still together?”
“Yeah. I think they live in LA and last I heard they had nine kids.”
Just then Asher walked in . He was smiling.
“So you liked her?”
“Yeah. She’s cute . She’s fun.”
“Great I’m so happy.” Molly and Asher started to hum the Jewish wedding song..
“Hey Mom and Dad not so fast.”
“Of course not You take your time. This is a huge step. Go out as much as many times as you need to “said Nahum. He patted Asher on the back….”
“Do you want the next date to be this week or after Shabbos,” asked Molly
“Mom, Dad, wait a minute. There’s not going to be a next date.”
“But didn’t you say you liked the girl,” said Nahum.
“Mom, Dad, She’s a nice girl but she’s not for me.”
“Why not? asked Molly.
Asher blushed . “Well for one thing , she’s a gootzeit.”
“A what?” Both parents stared at eachother their faces registering the immigrant’s puzzlement at the unfamiliar slang.
“”You know that looks come and go. Aliza could lose the weight . On the other hand you could end up with a skinny girl and then she could get fat. What would you do then? I don’t think weight is a criterion.”
“But Mom, I didn’t find her attractive”.
“Molly lay off, ” said Nahum. He had put his arm around Asher’s shoulder as Asher looked off into the distance.
“Please….give it one more chance. Her look may grow on you. You can’t rule her out after just one date, especially after you said you liked her personality.You know there are things she can wear to hold her in, to make her look thinner . I’ll tell the shadchan.”
“No, Mom Please don’t.” Asher’s voice was deep and firm. He turned around and went to his room leaving his parents alone.
“So this was it. The culmination of hours of phone calls, reams of notes”
“I guess we aren’t meant to become , Miriam Ehrman’s relatives” said Nahum.
“It’s my fault. ” Molly hung her head down like a rag doll.
“What? How could that be?”
“I’m weight obsessed. You know how I’m always watching my calories, weighing myself. He picked it up from me.”
“So you’re going to get fat now?”
Molly shook her head. “No but I’m just saying that maybe if I werent so insane with my weight he wouldn’t be running away from Aliza.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Nahum, Please speak to him. Tell him to give it one more try, Just one?”
“Okay, tomorrow” said Nahum. ”
Musical Chairs is a novel about a Jerusalem American BT family’s struggle to find a bride for their FFB yeshiva bochur son.
You can read Chapter 1 here,
Chapter 2a here,
Chapter 2b here,
Chapter 3a here,
Chapter 3b here
Chapter 3c here
Chapter 3d here