The grass is always greener on the other side. Or is it?
Below is a fictional illustration of this human foible – focusing on the perceived benefits in another person’s life while failing to appreciate your own.
A Tale Of Two Friends
Suri looked at the full-length, wall-to-wall mirror that some thoughtful contractor -who must have had daughters – had installed in the ladies’ room of the wedding hall. It was quite insightful of him to have done that, as if he knew all too well that the friends and close relatives of the chossan and kallah who were marching down to the chuppah needed a full head to toe view of them-self before they were put on public display.
Especially the single girls – who needed to make the best possible impressions on the ladies among the assembled guests who dabbled in shidduchum, or who had eligible sons in the parsha. And if you were an “older” single of 25 like she was – and your 20-year-old sister was the kallah, – it was extremely crucial that you look your best.
Most importantly, the smile you affixed on your face had to look genuine, not plastered on, and had to radiate confidence and joy.
In other words, Suri had to make sure that the sadness and sense of failure that permeated her inner core did not show. She had to look cheerful and gracious when the inevitable onslaught of “im yirtzeh Hashem by you” and “maybe you are too picky” comments, would assail her. By looking proud and assured, perhaps the pitying looks would not accompany these well-meaning, but nonetheless painful remarks.
Squaring her shoulders and holding her head high, Suri walked out of the room with a smile on her face that would have have made any actress proud.
Several hours later, a very tired and emotionally drained Suri gratefully entered her room, threw off her sweat-stained gown and collapsed in her bed. She had managed to keep her composure despite the fact that she silently “heard” the word nebach attached to every mazal tov she was greeted with.
The wedding of course, had been beautiful, her sister dazzling and her mother had been radiant with relief – one less single daughter to worry about.
Some of the guests, her mother had confided on the way home, had approached her with suggestions, and hopefully, a few would actually follow through on them. Suri had told her not to get too excited; that they were probably men whom people expected her to be grateful for the opportunity to date.
After hitting 24, well-meaning but clueless people, had tried to set her up with men who were totally inappropriate for her – the widely held belief in the community being that anything was better than nothing. Divorced men with kids who were in high school when she was born, and men with obvious physical and emotional challenges were being redt to her. And she was chastised as being “picky”!
Too wound up to sleep, Suri let her mind wander. She enviously thought of her best friend Miriam. Everything seemed to have fallen in her lap. She had been introduced to her future husband during her seminary year when both were Shabbat guests of the rav and rebbetzin who were their respective teachers.
Without out the slightest effort, Miriam had found her zivug and shortly after returning home, had gotten engaged. She was barely 19 when she married and 20 when she gave birth to her bochur Avi, who was joined in quick succession by a sister and brother. Suri loved her best friend and was truly happy that marriage and motherhood had come to her so effortlessly. Go figure, she had even had mazal with the genders of her kids – a boy and a girl back to back – and she was expecting again. Suri thought of her father’s cousin who had just had her fourth girl and the sliver of disappointment that her husband must have felt – as much as he embraced this new bracha in his family.
Miriam had never had to experience the horrible pressure and relentless stress that she herself was under. From being tastefully dressed, made up and coiffed every time she stepped out of the house – even just to mail a letter, “in case someone sees you,” her mother would admonish. Then there were the hours in front of the mirror spent getting ready for a date, knowing that all that effort would be a waste of time, trapped into making and listening to small talk ad nauseum because, though from the start she knew the guy wasn’t shaich, “you never know – sometimes when you meet it just clicks.”
What a luxury it would be to spend a motzei Shabbat in a robe doing laundry or telling your cute, cuddly children a bedtime story or shmoozing with her husband instead of trying to look interested as your date describes his company’s new acquisition.
Suri did not begrudge her dear friend’s good fortune; she only wished that a little of that good mazal had come her way as well. I would trade places with her in a blink, she sighed as she restlessly tossed and turned.
A few miles away, Suri’s friend Miriam was also tossing and turning in frustration, as she tried vainly to sleep. Five months pregnant with her fourth child, she was physically and mentally drained by the demands of her energetic brood. The thought of the next day’s chores caused her to groan in trepidation.
Five-year-old Avi had ripped his good Shabbat pants – again; four-year-old Esti had outgrown her shoes, and two-year-old Eli had flushed a toy down the toilet. Miriam knew she would have to delay her cherished dream of replacing her three-year-old sheitel, the one Eli had pulled off months ago during a temper tantrum and had tossed into the potty – that she had forgotten to empty. Not forgotten actually, but didn’t get around to, because after being up the previous all night with Eli who was teething, she had been just too tired.
And she still had to shop and cook and prepare enough food for Shabbat to satisfy the bottomless pits her husband’s talmidim had for stomachs. At least there would be no dishes after Shabbat – she was going to use disposable everything. Too bad the kids clothing weren’t disposable. She had at least three loads of laundry waiting for her after Havdalah. As usual, her husband would be at a melavah malka and her evening conversation would revolve around, “he hit me first” and “I don’t want to go to bed.”
Her thoughts turned to her best friend Suri. How luxurious it must be to live at home with one’s parents and have a lovely, quiet dinner waiting for you. Imagine being to eat your meals without having children quarrelling over their portions, or refusing to eat “yucky” chicken and dumping it on the floor.
How uplifting to work with adults all day as Suri did as an occupational therapist in a rehab center. She met so many interesting people on a daily basis. No diapers, no vomit, no frantic calls to the pediatrician. Suri’s life was carefree, with no responsibilities – beyond looking good.
And she had the money to do so. With her earnings Suri could and did buy good makeup, pretty clothes, had manicures and pedicures, ate out in restaurants, and went off on excursions with friends for the long weekend.
Miriam knew from Suri’s tales of dating fiascos and from her occasional tears of despair fed by a deep rooted of being left behind, that being single was not the pretty picture that she imagined, but Miriam guffawed that Suri was overly worried. Suri would get married – it was just a matter of time Miriam insisted (setting aside the fact that her father’s cousin – a real catch in her day – had turned 50 and had never married.)
No, Suri would get married eventually, and catch up to her friends. She would have younger children than others. So what.
In the meantime, she was having the time of her life. Miriam had never experienced that freedom.
Miriam did not begrudge her dear friend’s good fortune; she only wished that a little of that good mazal had come her way as well.
I would trade places with her in a blink, she sighed as she restlessly tossed and turned.
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