March 23, 2006
Then Came the Boyfriend
With Passover around the corner, singletons everywhere are faced with a tough choice. Do you bring the person you're dating to the family seder? Or do you simply wish him or her a "chag sameach" and go off to your separate family celebrations. At the beginning of relationships we all face the issue of the timeline: How soon is too soon for the inevitable family Shabbat dinner invitation? After you become an official couple does that mean that your significant other is now automatically invited to all family events?
For the next few weeks I'll be wrestling with these questions. Granted, I'm elated to be able to have such issues to deal with, instead of just wishing I had someone to invite. But in the end it comes down to this: Do I want my newly minted boyfriend to be the new guy at the seder table? The one everyone in the family will smile shyly at, not quite knowing if it's rude to bluntly ask, "Who are you?" The one my cousins will take turns asking me about, "Soooo, who is your friend?" "Is he your friend ... or your (put on a fake seductive look and say in a pseudo-musical term) friend?"
Now some might not struggle so much about this issue -- maybe their family seder is simply a glorified meal. A wha-bah-haggadah deal that lasts an hour or so and is done before anyone gets sleepy. If that were my family, I'd have no issues; I'd easily invite him: "Come, eat, you'll enjoy yourself."
But, you see, my family doesn't just "do" a seder -- we capital "D" capital "O", "DO" a seder. We sit, we talk, we laugh, we drink, we eat, we sing, we pound the table, we clap our hands, we bob our heads, we rock out.... We scare the neighbors!
So I suppose what I really need to ask myself is: Will he enjoy himself? Will he enjoy the sheer numbers we manage to squish around a large table, or will he be overwhelmed? Will he be captivated that it takes us nearly an hour to get through the first six pages? Will he be able to smile as we listen to the "Mah Nishtanah" for the eighth time and in the third language, or will he be wishing I hadn't invited him?
How will he react when my cousins start throwing little frogs around the table for the plagues? Will he join us in singing all of our nursery school favorites?
"One morning when pharaoh awoke in his bed...."
"...And it's dig, dig, dig, every day and every night.
And it's dig, dig, dig, when it's dark and when it's light...."
I wonder if he'll smile as we move on to eating dinner at nearly midnight, or if he'll whisper to me, "Are Tums kosher for Passover?" Will he have the patience to sit and watch as the kids barter with the afikomen (hidden matzah) they found, or will he inwardly be wishing the evening was over?
As we move into the early hours of the morning, will he still be awake? Will he join in with the singing or share a lai dai dai if he doesn't know the words or will he sit quietly imagining he was somewhere else? Will he realize the magnificence of my younger cousins, singing with such intensity and growing so loud that the shadows in the corners seek refuge? Or will he just hold a secret wish that he had brought some earplugs?
I wonder if he'll laugh when we sing our yearly ode to Mr. Potato Head; if he'll join in the chorus of "Chad Gadya." Will he pound his hands on the table watching the silverware rattle and the cups bounce? Or will he play the shy card and just sit?
Will he be able to enjoy my family as much as I do? Or will he be stunned into silence at the craziness that I come from?
I know that there is only one way to find out, only one way to gauge if he's a serious keeper, or just a trial run. So this year I'll be sitting next to my boyfriend (that is, if he actually agrees to come after reading this article!) I'll have a hand to hold under the table and a partner in crime to chant "Carey, Carey, Carey..." as my cousin stuffs an enormous amount of cardboard-esque shmura matzah into his mouth. Someone to start teaching our crazy sandpaper clapping "L'Shana Haba" tradition to, and someone to sit next to on our imaginary flight to Japan (don't ask).
If he's tired, with a raspy voice and a happily full belly at the end of the night, I'll be happy -- and if he's all set to do it again the next night, I'll know that I have a keeper.
Caroline Cobrin is a writer living in Van Nuys.