I went on one of those boat tours around the bottom of Manhattan last night, and, I must say, it was downright breathtaking to be so close to The Statue of Liberty. As I was staring up at it, I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like as an immigrant sailing to Ellis Island. Could you imagine? You just sailed across the Atlantic for weeks; you’re escaping a poverty-stricken, intolerant, un-free country, and then you see Lady Liberty off in the distance with her welcoming stare and giant torch of freedom. Between its loaded significance and aesthetic beauty, it nearly made me shed a tear. Truly sublime.
But that wasn’t the most memorable thing I saw on the cruise…
As we were approaching the statue, the tour guide suddenly got quiet. He realized that a young gentleman had just gotten down on one knee, and was proposing to his girlfriend. Soon, everyone on the deck fixated their attention to the couple, waiting for the young woman to give her answer. Say something! Give him a kiss! Put the ring on her finger! But neither of them did anything except stare at each other (well, the girl was crying hysterically). No kiss, no hug, no “Yes”, no ring-fingering. We all waited quietly for them to seal the deal so we could give applause. But still, nothing.
I quickly realized that perhaps we weren’t going to get the satisfaction of seeing their embrace. After all, they appeared to be Orthodox Jews. He was wearing a yarmulke (YAMA-KA for ya’ll gentiles) and she was wearing an ankle-length skirt. So, either they were Orthodox or my Jew-dar was out of wack.
Obviously, pre-marital sex is a no-no, but many Orthodox sects go as far as to ban pre-marital contact altogether. Before a woman is married, she can not be touched AT ALL by a man. If the yarmulke and long skirt weren’t enough to pigeonhole the couple as Orthodox, then the fact that they were staring at each other doing nothing was the honey on the challah.
The peanut gallery waited patiently. Finally someone yelled, “Did she say yes?” Yes, she did. She took the ring out of the box and put it on herself. (Remember, no touching) Everyone clapped. Mazel Tov! (No one actually said that)
Even after the applause, the witnesses watched to see when the intense make-out session would commence. It never happened. It was obvious that this lack of embrace was off-putting to everyone on board. COME ON YOU TWO, EVERY MOVIE NEEDS TO END WITH A KISS! Even Lady Liberty looked down and said, “I may look pure and lady-like, but this is America! Do you know how many guys have been up my robe? Do it already!”
In trying to conclude this post, I was thinking about the significance of an obviously-Jewish couple practicing their tradition openly at the foot of the greatest symbol of freedom in the world. Then, the significance of watching two incredibly suppressed people at the foot of the the greatest symbol of freedom in the world. Then I thought, screw all that. It was more like a sociological experiment. How do people react when a proposal doesn’t end with any kind of embrace whatsoever? It turns out they are dumbfounded for a few minutes, and then get back to whatever they were doing….
“On your left you’ll see Battery Park…”
The Diggles can be reached at RDiggles@GDPmagazine.com.