Dina's talk with Rachelli had been surprisingly cathartic. It was so neat how Rachelli just "got" her even though she barely knew her. Half the time Dina didn't even have to explain what she was feeling; Rachelli beat her to it. As she was describing Esty's engagement, Rachelli jumped in with a pretty accurate depiction of the amalgam of emotion -- the jealousy, the pain, the joy, the guilt, the longing. Dina found herself able to speak to her about everything. They spoke about how Dina's parents still treated her like a child, how their friends where having their third, fourth, and even fifth kids, how they tried their best to remember that Hashem had a special plan for them, and oh, how hard it was. Rachelli shared her struggles as well, and by the time they were halfway through the conversation, they felt like they had known each other for years.
It didn't seem the least bit strange that Rachelli, this girl that she had known for a total of 72 hours, give or take, had spilled her life story. Rachelli had related how she was originally from LA and how her mother had passed away when she was only 16. Rachelli dolefully went on to depict how her father had remarried soon after, and how she and her new stepmother just couldn't see eye to eye. Dina could hardly believe that there was someone Rachelli didn't get along with! But, there had been a lot of friction in the house, and Rachelli felt like she just needed to get out of there. At that point, not only was rocky relationship between Rachelli and her stepmother ruining Rachelli's life, it was damaging the tenuous relationship that had started to develop between her and the rest of the family. Finally, things came to a head, and in a long emotional talk with her father, they decided that it would be best if she went to live with her mother's sister and her family in a small town in the Midwest. Soon after she returned from seminary though, Rachelli had moved out to the East Coast and had been occupying this apartment for the past 6 years. Rachelli had a lot of family, some extremely nearby, so she had never been lonely even during the time periods that she had lived in the apartment alone. Rachelli expressed similar emotions to those that Dina had when she spoke of past roommates, how many of them had gotten engaged and moved on while she was stuck in the same spot for years.
It felt really good to be able to let it all out without worrying that they sounded like pessimists or whiners. They understood each other. Within the confines of their apartment, it was okay to drop the happy person persona they generally put on for the world at large. It didn't mean they were unhappy depressed people. It was an exercise in being human.
Towards the end of their conversation, which could have continued the entire night had there not been any interruptions, Dina's phone jangled loudly. As she reached over to silence it, she noticed that it was Shaindy. They'd been playing phone tag for a good part of the day.
"I think I need to get this. Do you mind? It's my friend who--" Dina asked apologetically.
Rachelli cut her off. "No need to explain. Dating sitch, am I right, or am I right? Take it, girlfriend. We can schmooze anytime. Good talk."
"Thanks, Rachelli. You're the best. I'll be in my room."
"Hey Shaindy!" Dina said as she hit the Talk button.
"Dina! OMG OMG, so glad I finally got you. I'm going insane! I don't know what to do. So I spoke to a lot of people and it seems like it isn't the biggest deal. His condition is stable and manageable, and he's perfectly normal, as long as he takes his meds. It's not like he's a girl and he might have to stop taking them during pregnancy, so there's no reason why he should relapse."
Shaindy paused to take a breath.
Dina wasn't sure what to say. She wanted to be a good friend, and she did not want to push Shaindy in either direction. That wasn't her place. She wasn't Shaindy's dating mentor. She was too nogaya b'davar.
"Ok, so then what's the issue?"
"The issue," Shaindy wailed, "is that I just don't know if I can handle it! I'm trying to be mature about it, but like, why me? Why can't I marry someone normal?"
"Hang on, tell me why he isn't normal. He seems way more 'normal' than some of the other guys you dated, and some of the guys I've went out with even."
"I don't know, I just don't know! He's taking medication for a mental illness!"
"And so? Some other people should be, but aren't. Which is the better scenario? The person who admits that he has a problem, and takes steps to fix it, or the one that ignores it? Listen, I'm not telling you what to do, I'm just saying that you should be fair. Be fair to him; be fair to yourself."
Shaindy was quiet for a moment. It seemed as if Dina had been temporarily able to halt the thunderstorm of emotion whirling through the phone line. Finally, Shaindy spoke. "Dina, that's the issue! How can I continue to see him, if I'm just not sure?"
"Isn't that what dating is all about? You continue to go out with someone if you see potential, or think there could be potential, until you realize that there isn't. Shaindy, you don't have to tell me, but think about this -- is there enough here so far that you think that this could work out, despite the fact that there is this one big thing that is bothering you? Or, since I know you can't see past this medication thing, let's try to make this a little easier for you. Pretend that the issue is something else. Pretend he's not on meds. Pretend he has a character trait that bugs you or maybe there's a question if you can get along with his family, whatever. The question is, do you think that you will be able to see past that when you get to know him better? Will the big picture of who he is shrink that troubling aspect by comparison? I'm not a rav or dating coach, but I really think that if the answer could be yes, then you should continue."
"Yeah?" Shaindy squeaked.
"Hey, I'm not telling you that you should. I said that if you think about what I said and you can see yourself moving forward in that situation, then you should give this one a chance."
"What about leading him on?"
"Same as with any other circumstances. Tell the shadchan that you're willing to continue, but that you have concerns. You can even discuss it with him, maybe he'll have something to say that will help you put it all in the right light."
"Wow, Dina. I knew there was a reason we were friends! You're such a wise woman."
"Aww thanks, Shay. But that's about all I've got. You've used up my wisdom for tonight, maybe for the week." Dina laughed.
"'K, let me know what happens. I'm going to go now." Dina yawned.
"You know I will," replied Shaindy. "Thanks so much for the listening ear and the advice. Good night high-powered-office-manager-friend."
Dina hung up and looked thoughtfully at her phone. Where had all that wisdom come from? she wondered. I guess that's what happens when you've been dating for as long as I have, she concluded. So much deep emotional conversation in one night. Maybe I should have become a social worker or a life coach! Well, all in a day's work! she laughed to herself. Speaking, or rather, thinking of work, Dina reflected, I had better get to sleep. Tomorrow Dina was meeting the two other employees that Mr. Greenberg had hired for their office. Another young married girl, Dina wondered how young this one might be, and a single girl a year or two younger than her.
As she was getting ready for bed, Dina's mind drifted to the meeting she had had earlier that day with young, married, Shira Thaler.