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Lifelines: Every Possible Avenue

C. Saphir

Nothing in my parents’ marriage had quite prepared me for what my own shanah rishonah would look like.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Walking home from yeshivah, I felt that familiar pit — of what was it? dread? anxiety? doom? — in my kishkes. Would there be supper when I came home? Would Chedvah eat with me, or would she just sit there looking annoyed? Would Chedvah even be home, or would I have to track her down at one of her sisters’ houses? Would tonight’s conversation devolve into a fight, as it did practically every day? 

Nothing in my parents’ marriage had quite prepared me for what my own shanah rishonah would look like. Although my parents were polar opposites — my father was soft-spoken and bookish, my mother was loud, funny, and super-talented — I never saw them fighting. Oh, yes, they discussed things, they had long conversations in their room, but I never witnessed or sensed tension, friction, or disagreement between them. Throughout my childhood, I saw opposites being attracted to each other and working out their differences in a respectful and loving way. 

As a child growing up in this environment, I got to build healthy self-esteem, with a good balance of optimism and realism. I was always a leader in yeshivah, always popular. All my brothers were big camp guys, and I was no different. I was head of drama in camp, and I ran a big-brother program while in beis medrash. The quintessential all-around guy.

I was as prepared for marriage as a bochur could be, ready to give, ready to work, and ready to enjoy a respectful relationship. 

To no one’s surprise, I was the first of my friends to get engaged. My kallah, Chedvah, was upbeat and spunky, and we heard rave reports about her. 

She was overweight, but that didn’t bother me terribly. I had always been health conscious, and I reasoned that I’d be able to impart this value to her, and eventually she’d lose weight. I wouldn’t buy soda or junk, so she’d learn to drink water and snack on fruit. 

Like every chassan, I had some small question marks about my kallah during our engagement. When I brought up the subject of living a healthier lifestyle, she clammed up, even though I didn’t say a word about her weight.

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