Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My First Setup

Poor Dive. His well-meaning relations and friends keep trying to set him up with ugly, American-fat women with “lovely personalities,” and he wishes that they would just stop. His tale of woe reminded me of the first time someone tried to marry me off. It happened when I was barely fifteen.

My mother had a friend named Katherine. Katherine was from the Old Country, and she loved me. She would go on and on about my hair and how beautiful it was. Once for a school project I interviewed her and her husband on tape about how they escaped the Nazis and then the Soviets in Poland before they came to America. In the middle of the interview, she cried, “You haf beauuuuutiful hair. You washen?” When I had to play the tape for the class, pandemonium ensued. Everyone asked me if I washed my hair on a daily basis for the rest of the year.

Well, since I was so beautiful, Katherine was absolutely horrified when she learned that my mother had not yet arranged a marriage for me. Not wanting me to become a spinster (good thing she’s passed on—she’d be horrified to know that I’m still single), she had decided to take matters into her own hands. First, she invited me over to give me cooking lessons. Under her gruff tutelage, I learned to make tea cakes and other niceties for the table. I liked to bake, so these lessons were fun for me. “You haf tu cook to pleaze a man!” she’d say. I giggled, thinking to myself that I had tu cook to pleaze my belly.

Satisfied that I had the proper skills, she decided to start making inquiries (without telling my mother—or me—of course). When she had found an eligible man, she called my mother and asked her to send me to her house for coffee. I tromped on up the hill to her house, and when I got there, I noticed that she’d gotten out the good china and had set a table for two. “Oh! Are we having fancy coffee, Katherine?” I asked. Katherine smiled.

There was a knock on the door, and in walked a man in his late fifties, dressed in a suit and tie. He was also Polish, and he smiled at me approvingly. “Sit! Sit!” Katherine barked at me. I sat. So did the man. Katherine poured the coffee and set out the cakes. “She isth very good cook!” Katherine told the man.

“I didn’t make these,” I explained to the man. After Katherine had set us up, she left for the kitchen. This is weird, I thought, but didn’t make much of it. Apparently she wanted me to have coffee with the guy. Maybe he wanted to talk about college. We had a little chat, drank our coffee, and ate the cakes. The man kept smiling at me in a very strange way, but I just chatted away.

The snack done, I told Katherine that I had to go. “I have dancing lessons in an hour,” I explained. “See!” She said to the man, “She danz. She talented!” The man smiled again, and I said goodbye and tromped back down the hill to my house.

No sooner had I arrived home when the phone rang. My mother answered. It was Katherine. My mother listened to what she had to say, shot me a very quizzical look, and sternly explained to Katherine that she didn’t think it was a good idea. I could hear Katherine saying, “But they talken! They laughen! It ist a good match!” My mom’s face started to wrinkle and she was starting to laugh, but she kept her voice firm. “No, Katherine. I don’t think that she’s ready for that” and hung up the phone. Then she collapsed into peals of laughter.

“Katherine tried to set you up with a geezer!” She gasped. “That man! That man you met wants to marry you! You’re fifteen!” She barely got the words out.

“What????” I said. “Eeeew. She wanted me to marry him? He’s older than Daddy!” I felt funny.

My mom continued to laugh, “Oh my!” she’d say, wiping her eyes. “Oh dear! Oh hee hee hee!”

Katherine, on the other hand, thought my mother was insane and didn’t recover quickly from the slight. My mother decided that I wasn’t to go to Katherine’s without supervision. Eventually, however, Katherine tried again. This time she called my mother.

“I haf another man for yur daughter. He tall. He smart, he handsome, he young. He going to be doktor.”

“No, Katherine,” my mother said gently. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I know you mean well, but we don’t do things like that here.” And with that, Katherine gave up.

Katherine died when I was in college, and I couldn’t make it home for the funeral. My mother called me afterwards, very apologetic. “Oh, Honey. I think I blew it. You know that last guy Katherine wanted to set you up with? Well, I met him. He was young, tall, and handsome. He is in medical school. He’s really nice. He also has a girlfriend. I’m so sorry. Perhaps I should have listened to her.”

Oh well. I guess I shouldn’t complain about being single.


Conan Drumm said...

Sass, find that doctor, stalk him. Maybe he's single? It was meant to be. These 'old country' dames knew a thing or two.

dive said...

Yikes! That "American Fat" comment certainly got to a few of my slimmer US blogpals (as my email box attests).

And dammit! You missed your chance with the classic tall handsome doctor!
Er … It wasn't our Rich by any chance, was it?

zirelda said...

Never complain about being single. I was married and miserable. I'm now single and happier than I have ever been. Even in our present state of equality, marriage does not benefit a woman near as much as it benefits a man.

You go.

Terroni said...

I love that your mom called to apologize.
Too funny.

Conortje said...

What a wonderful story and what a character she was. This is sort of current as my office mate is trying to set up two friends of hers on a blind date. At least these two are of legal and similar ages :-)

Robyn said...

Sassy, that is a great story! At least you learned to bake, huh?

My sister fixed me up with an Australian guy once who was in the States to go to school. We had absolutely nothing in common, and we bored each other senseless, but I could have listened to him talk all day.

Medbh said...

Yeah, but I'm guessing in her day you were considered old at 30 with mothballs in your womb.

Old Knudsen said...

No one fixes me up with 15 year-old gurls, er I mean thats wrong!

The Swearing Lady said...


Of course, she'd get arrested for "grooming" in this day and age.

ali said...


Going slightly off subject here, Mom's will never be happy with the men we choose, if in fact, we choose. So you might as well be single. As I've explained before, I'm in a wonderful relationship that I've been in for 5 years. Although he's good looking, smart for a guy, and worships the ground I walk on, my mother still makes a point of mentioning daily that it would be just as easy to fall in love with a rich man.

She isn't joking.

Maria said...

Wow. I keep hearing Fiddler on the Roof songs in my head now....

And just think how different this blog would be if you had married the tea cake man.

You'd have a bunch of kids and spend all your time in the kitchen cooking and then dancing for your very elderly husband....

kimba said...

Single at 34, I went to live with my mum for five months while she recovered from surgery (cancer/tumour on the nerves around her elbow.. her funny bone.. painful)

Anyways - her and her friend hatched a plan. They wanted to set me up with the friend's 52 year old son, postal worker, grossly overweight and had never left home.. I am sorry - even if he was a great conversationalist.. y'know.... ??

Anonymous said...


My mom always found blonde men attractive, but she was convinced that they were all gay.

At one point I was dating a blonde man and when he left the room for a moment she said, "And he's not gay?" "No, but his mom is, if that makes you feel any better." Ironically her partner's name had the same name I do. How weird is that!


Sassy Sundry said...

Conan, will keep that in mind.

Yes, Dive. You do have an American readership, you know. We don't make comments about teeth (sorry). It wasn't Rich. The guy was blonde.

Zirelda, I've found that there are a lot of advantages of being single too.

Terroni, we've had continued laughs over that one. Whenever Katherine comes up, we talk about that.

Conortje, she was wonderful. I really, really loved her, and I'm sad she's not around anymore. Everyone could use a little matchmaker once in a while.

That's funny, Robyn. Isn't it strange that our loved ones don't seem to understand what we want at all?

Medbh, exactly. She really did mean well, even if she had completely missed the women's liberation movement.

Knudsen, do you talken and laughen with the fifteen-year-old set or something?

Sweary, I can just see the headlines and the photo. "Police Arrest Eighty-Year-Old Four-Foot-Ten Woman for Grooming." The look on her face would be priceless.

Ali, actually my mom has liked all but one of the boyfriends she's met. And that one she didn't like was a parents' nightmare.

Oh no, Maria! Now I have that going through my head. Crap. I guess at least by now I'd probably be a widow had I married the geezer?

Kimba, that's horrible. You do a good thing and you have to hang out with a disgruntled postal worker for it?

Proxima, I've heard many things, but I've never heard that all blonde men are gay. Weird.

Conan Drumm said...

Fiddler on the Roof? I hate that heavy shtetl music.

Rich said...

Not everyone has to get married. It's an old myth from an old period in history.

Sassy - will you marry me?