Being single can be disheartening, but probably not for the reasons coupled people think. It’s less about doing every little task by yourself or living in fear of dying alone and unloved. It’s more about absorbing society’s sneaky, sometimes blatant reminders that, as a single person, you don’t fully exist. You are a faded black and white photo while married people, or people on the marriage track, live in full glossy color.
Last week, this reminder came courtesy of an article on New York Magazine’s The Cut blog about the newest trend in bragging: “the stand-alone engagement ring photo op.”
This post is the second in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex, and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
I parked my car in a garage for the second day in a row, and the parking attendant recognized me. “Will you be parking here every day?” he asked. “I hope not!,” I said, thinking of the cost.
“I hope yes,” he replied, leering slightly. (Okay, the leering might just be the result of my own imagination.)
When I paid my ticket that night, I flashed my left hand, hoping the diamond on my finger would tell him what I wanted to but didn’t: back off. I’m engaged.
Growing up a Modern Orthodox woman in the US meant trying to balance the ideals of American beauty — basically, be beautiful and sexy and desirable— with the modesty Judaism preaches. I ended up inheriting a confusing mix of the two and would wear skirts and long sleeves, but wanted men to find me attractive nonetheless.
They stand for everything I find abhorrent: Inherited political and religious power. Ostentatious wealth. Idleness. Scandalous behavior. Nonetheless, I can’t resist the English royals at wedding time.
At least I come by this fascination honestly: My late mother was born and raised in Yorkshire, where her family lived for generations — going as far back as Jews were allowed to reside in England. (Jews had been banished for many centuries, another black mark on the monarchy.) I lived in London as a foreign correspondent. I crave really strong English tea. My dogs are named for Jane Austen characters.
So when the news broke that Prince William had finally asked his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton for her hand in marriage, I had the most wonderful flashbacks. There was the time in 1981 when my sister and I woke up in the middle of the night to turn on the TV and watch Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer proceed through the happy streets of London on their way to St. Paul’s Cathedral and a marriage that, we learned later, was doomed from the start. Whatever. It was a great and lavish spectacle.