When I was in eighth grade I tried out for the role of Yenta the Matchmaker in the school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. Prior to tryouts, I spent hours in my room practicing how to sound like a Jewish grandmother – the kind who “doesn’t want to bother anyone, she’ll just sit in the dark.”
Much to my disappointment, the part went to Cindy Berkowitz, who was the only other girl able to channel her inner Yenta and, perhaps not so coincidentally, was best friends with the girl who had already nabbed the part of Golde, the female lead.
Looking back, despite not landing that plum role, I’ve realized that all that practicing might have paid off after all, albeit not in the road-to-Broadway kind of way I had hoped for at the age of 12 or 13. Rather my attempt at playing Yenta the matchmaker seems to have turned me into a sort of friendship matchmaker, a skill that, unfortunately, has left me the odd-girl-out more than once in my life.
The first time my Yenta skills were put to the test was when I was 12.
I was friends with a girl who lived a few doors down from me; we’ll call her Laura. I also was friends with another girl, we’ll call Jennifer, who lived several towns over but who would spend summers with her relatives who lived in our neighborhood.
At first, I was caught in the middle. Laura wanted to play but I was busy with Jennifer or Jennifer wanted to get together but I was busy with Laura. They both felt hurt and left out and I didn’t know what to do. Finally my mom stepped in and suggested I bring the two of them together so that we could all play together.
I guess my mom hadn’t experienced the curse of the threes, as in, never put an odd number of girls or women together because someone will be left out. That person ended up being me.
It happened again in college.
Sara and I knew each other from the dorms and had become good friends. Leslie and I were both members of the same club. The only thing Sara and Leslie had in common was me, until I introduced them and we all decided to get an off-campus apartment together. I’m not quite sure how or when I became the third wheel but eventually, they became best friends and I was left looking for a new roommate.
But my most successful match, the one that would have Yenta herself kvelling (Yiddish for bursting with pride), is the most recent pairing between my friends Susan and Carla.
As Yenta would say, it was a perfect match, a fit like a glove.
Like many people, Susan and I met through our kids. She was fairly new to the area and we bonded instantly. Carla and I also met through our boys. Our friendship took a bit longer to develop but over the years we have grown closer. It never dawned on me to introduce the two of them, despite our boys all being about the same age. Then one day it just happened.
Once they met, it didn’t take long for all of us to realize just how much they had in common. And over the course of the past year, my two twosomes have morphed into a threesome. Whenever Susan and I talk about getting together, she suggests including Carla and the same thing happens when Carla and I talk about getting together.
Now, the threesome is more like a twosome with an invited guest, me. Or at least that’s how I feel.
I know this is my issue. Both Susan and Carla would be shocked and perhaps even a little confused by my feelings. And of course I would never say anything because even I feel a little silly feeling the way that I do. After all, this isn’t middle school, we are three grown women and there’s room in this friendship for all of us. Logically, I know that. Emotionally, well, that’s a different story.
The funny thing is, and I’ve done this each and every time, once the match is made I tend to drift away. No one asks me to leave the group, I just find myself disengaging bit by bit. I’m sure it’s some defense mechanism as in, “I’ll leave them before they leave me.”
The problem with being the drifter is that I end up being the loser. I’m the one left out. Of course, I’ve convinced myself that they have left me out but at least in the case with Susan and Carla, I don’t think that’s really the case.
Someone suggested, that bringing Susan and Carla together should make me feel good. After all, it’s not everyone who has such a gift, such a talent, such a skill. It’s not everyone who can make such a perfect match.
Yeah, it’s a good thing. And I’m a mature woman now; I can handle this.
So why do I still feel like the old Jewish grandmother, the one who will just sit in the dark so I shouldn’t bother anyone?