Memories are a funny thing. Sometimes, they just come out of nowhere and can be sparked by the most random of moments. This afternoon, after I brought DD2 home from gan and settled her into her crib for her afternoon nap, I decided to iron my hair. Its been a while since I’ve ironed my hair, but since I decided to treat myself to a new dye job, I’ve been making more of an effort. Granted, I cover my hair and so most people don’t even see the effort, but having straight hair makes me feel better about myself. And so, as I stood over the sink full of black and purple tresses, a memory popped into my head. A memory that I haven’t thought about in almost 18 years.
The Central/MTA blind dates is a rite of passage for Yeshiva University High School students. And it’s exactly what it sounds like, a date between a Central girl and an MTA boy. I heard about it when at Freshman orientation, and had been counting down the days until my Junior year. I vaguely remember my sister going out on her blind date and having a lot of fun, and I just couldn’t wait for my turn.
When it was finally time for the set ups, I was beyond excited. My parents didn’t let me date, but they were willing to make the exception for this one night. We were lucky, because of the Lichters. Jacob Lichter was an MTA Senior, and Rina Lichter was a Junior. I’ve known both of them since elementary school, and was confident that they would match me with someone good. When the sign up sheet went around, I wrote my name, along with almost all of my friends. There were a handful of girls who didn’t sign up, but for the most part, everyone wanted to go on the date. I knew a couple of MTA Seniors and, obviously, had a few guys I really would have liked to be set up with. But, I didn’t say anything to Rina, and just hoped that they would set me up with someone fun and nice.
I remember feeling excited when the list went out with the matches. Of course, I checked to see which girls were going out with the “cool” MTA boys. I wasn’t surprised that the “best boys” were going out with the popular girls in our grade. And, for the most part, no one was unhappy with their match.
I didn’t know the guy I was matched with, but he was from Brooklyn and some of the Brooklyn girls knew him. They all said nice things about him, save for his physical stature. I waved away his supposed shortness, it didn’t both me in the slightest. I remembered to thank Rina for the set up and I began the countdown to his phone call.
The week went by and nothing. No phone call. Those were the days before email and SMS, so guys had no choice but to actually speak to the girl on the phone before a date. Every day, more and more of my friends were coming into school with their exciting stories. Some were pairing up for their dates and had already made plans. Bowling on Saturday night, meeting in the City at J2 on a Sunday, movie night and Sabra pizza in Lawrence.
I kept waiting.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. No call.
I started to feel a little nervous when, Friday morning before the weekend dates were supposed to happen, I hadn’t heard from him. My friends at school kept asking me if he called, and I told them that he hadn’t but that I was sure he would.
I mean, why wouldn’t he call and set up a date? It was like, official. No one doesn’t go out on their Central/MTA blind date, especially if they signed up for it.
I was so naive. It wasn’t like a mandatory school trip to the Museum of Natural History.
But, I’m a romantic, and I kept waiting for his call.
After school on Friday, I came home and went through my wardrobe. I wasn’t sure where he was taking me, so I took out a couple of outfits that would fit any type of scenario. Pizza, movies, bowling. I set them up on the chair in my bedroom and then took my hot iron and went down to the first floor bathroom. My Mother was in the kitchen getting ready for Shabbos and my siblings were busy around the house. I locked myself into the bathroom and prepared for the 45 minutes of hair ironing. I really wanted my hair to look nice on our date.
I was humming to myself when he called. My Mom knocked on the bathroom door and mouthed my dates name. I could tell by her expression that she was hoping for a positive outcome. I followed her into the kitchen and picked up the phone, twisting the cord around my fingers with nerves.
The conversation was very short. I said hello. He said hello and identified himself. Then he told me that he wasn’t going to go out with me.
My heart sank. I fought the urge to beg, to beg him not to deny me of this experience. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t an ogre. I wasn’t a mean girl. I wasn’t ugly or obese. I wasn’t expecting us to get engaged or expecting us to be in a relationship.
I fought the urge to beg him to take me out. In my mind, I scream, “oh come on, don’t be like that! It won’t kill you to take me out. Just take me to TCBY for 15 minutes, it’s no big deal. Please, don’t deny me this moment!”
Then he said goodbye and hung up.
I fought back the tears. I could practically hear my Mom breathing behind me, wondering what was going to be. I hung up the phone and glanced at her. She didn’t need me to say much, the look on my face said it all.
“He doesn’t want to go out with me. I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, and returned to the bathroom.
I finished ironing my hair and then went up to my room, laid down on my bed, and cried. My Mom and older sister came up to make me feel better, but it really didn’t help. They said all the right things, that he was a loser, that it wasn’t a big deal, that it doesn’t mean anything bad about me. It didn’t really do much good. I was crushed.
I made it through the weekend but on Monday, back at school, it was utter torture. Everyone was talking about their date. There was a girl who slammed the car door on her date’s hand, ones that hit it off so well that they were now “dating,” girls who beat their dates at bowling and discovered they were sore losers, etc. People asked me how my date was and, facing my locker with shame, I mumbled that he cancelled. My real friends called him an asshole and a loser, and gave me a consoling hug. It didn’t make me feel much better. I just knew I had to get through the week, when all the talk would die down, and everyone would be over it.
Looking back, I now realize that that moment shaped the way I dated. I rarely declined a date when set up. I adopted a “why not” attitude and figured everyone deserved a chance, everyone had something to offer. I realized that I accepted dates because rejection is awful, and an hour at a coffee shop wouldn’t kill anyone. I tried to be a mensch on my dates, and tried hard to find something likeable in every guy. Even the one who left me at the sushi bar for over an hour, whom I thought had snuck out the back and left me alone (he just had stomach issues and was in the bathroom). I even managed to find something likeable about him.
If my future self could have spoken with my 15 year old self, I would have told me not to worry. That I would have a story to tell my husband, kids, and friends about my Central/MTA blind date.
And while it wasn’t the story I was hoping for, in the end, that seminal moment in my life, the pain of rejection that I had to live through, truly shaped the person I have become.
Did you go on the Central/MTA blind dates? Share your story in the comment section!
(Side note: I do not blame Jacob and Rina for my blind date not going out with me. They did the best they could, set me up with the person they thought would be best for me, and it just didn’t work out. It was obviously not their fault.)