In my second year of high school an amazing thing happened, Rochester got its very own girl’s school and us yeshiva boys were ecstatic. We couldn’t believe our luck, there were actually going to be frum eligible teenage girls running around available for the taking, none of us knew what we were in for, but we figured it couldn’t be too bad.
The girls school was small, primarily made because one or two of the rabbis had high school age girls who they didn’t want to send away to school, but there was a dorm and it was conveniently located on the route to 7-11, one of the most common places for yeshiva guys to guy whenever they were bored, which was pretty often.
I myself was never a 7-11 guy, in fact I pretty much shunned the 7-11 practice as a futile attempt to do something without actually doing anything. Slurpees usually lost their juice in a few minutes and I secretly suspected that Big Gulps were watered down soda that cost way more than a two liter bottle anyway and you couldn’t drink the whole thing in one sitting. I suspect that the porno behind the counter held some allure for yeshiva guys trying to get a glimpse of them behind the Pakistani guy taking their folded up bills and change, but the porn magazines were always covered with slips of paper anyway, but suddenly the trip to 7-11 had some allure, because the Ora Academy dorm was right there, above Nahums Fine Clothing with the white shades always fluttering in the wind, with us always praying that we could get a glimpse if a gust suddenly came and threw up the shades as if God himself wanted us to gaze at the only frummies for miles in their birthday suits.
Just like trying to get a glimpse of boob through illegal channels that are mostly static, the Ora Girls were evasive; we never got to see them. We tried in vain, but our attempts proved futile, because we simply had no idea where they were. If they happened to be the JCC, we happened to not be allowed to go that day, if they happened to be going sledding, that too was made assur. Then somebody figured out that they hung around the Brighton Library and suddenly it was the awkward place to be, the sexual tension was palpable as yeshiva guys took computers situated across from Ora Girls as they became known and subsequently cows, even though I don’t recall that they were nearly as overweight as we suspected them to be. They actually took the Ora Cow joke to heart that one year I recall there was some sort of yearbook joke about it. Either way, we found ways to see them.
I myself coined the term Lecha Dodi Lookback while standing in one of the local orthodox shuls admiring the backsides of these young high school girls as we welcomed the shabbos queen in from her long week of idleness. I also figured out that if you waited a bit and pretended to be having a moment of serious kavannah you could see the fronts of them as they turned back around. The local shul where both yeshiva guys who were eating out at people’s houses and the girls davened became this tense game of staring without staring. I have written much on staring over the mechitza at girls and I think the mechitza at St. Regis in Rochester is where I got my start.
When you walk into shul, you must walk through the women’s section, they get a good glimpse of you, but you can’t really give much more than peripheral glimpses, you must pretend to not notice or care. The mechitza is one of those wooden affairs, the type that is carved out of wood with just enough to hold onto if there was a program and a Cossack tried to drag you away, but the wood is flimsy so it would eventually break. The problem with Regis, as the locals call it, is that it has a balcony as well, so if the girls decided to daven upstairs, which they started doing in later years – you had to strain your neck and risk being caught staring, if you wanted a good look.
The first time we got a good look at any of the high school girls was during one a bar mitzvah of one of the Rabbis sons, the entire yeshiva was invited and after a while all anyone had on their minds was the girl in the white dress. “Holy crap did you take a look at the girl in the white dress” she was hot by all standards and we couldn’t believe she actually lived in Rochester, she was one of the high school girls and it became this quest to scope her out wherever we went. Her brothers eventually wound up in yeshiva and I can remember several awkward conversations with people recalling the girl in the white dress and proclaiming her hotness to these people from her hometown who turned out to be her brothers (I withhold from more stories because I have no doubt that people who know who I am talking about will forward this on)
There wasn’t much in the form of kosher food in Rochester, years of community fighting, religious differences and the lacjk of a unified vaad hakasharus meant that the only one’s who got along with everyone was chabad (so odd considering that it has been the opposite in almost everywhere I have lived) so chabad decides they should do pizza night once a month on motzoi shabbos. So naturally I got a job serving pizza in exchange for pizza and so did other people, we would feel normal, almost like we were allowed out of our creaky old hospital building to pursue a social life.
I remember the first time it happened, the first time they decided to let the girls work the cash register and serve the pizza. We were bummed, we couldn’t go and I remember me calling up my father and asking him if the Rabbis thought we were going to get turned on by girls handing us change, he in turn told me that they did the same thing in Boro Park, instead of handing you your change, they slammed it down on the counter – to crush any desire you had to sleep with the cashier – then he used his famous words and told me it was Narashkeit, but rules were rules. I was angry for days after we were banned from going to get pizza because the girls were working there, I wanted to tell the rabbis that the girls working in the mall and at friendly’s (kosher ice cream) were way hotter and more likely to touch your hand when giving you change, but I didn’t want them to think twice about our mall privileges.
The Rabbis had it all wrong, they figured that since the Ora Girls were frum that we had the possibility in our minds, but in high school I wouldn’t have turned down any girl and neither would any of my fellow yeshiva guys have. There were rumors, but I doubt anyone ever hooked up with local non Jews, that was saved for college, but I guess the rabbis felt differently or wanted to feel differently.
One year one of the dorm councilors came up to me and asked me how I knew all the girls. I didn’t know any of them and had never talked to them in my life, but I was intrigued – she told me that she thought they all had crushes on me because I was the extreme sports guy, the guy doing bike and skateboard tricks outside their window. I was 16 and felt totally cool, it happened to be that the curb right under the blue awning for Nahums Fine Clothing had a great lip to jump off and it was at the bottom of a hill, for years I had been launching myself off of it, never did I realize the girls were swooning each time I did it, I wish I knew how to talk to girls, I wish I knew what I know back then, but I was utterly clueless. I had a girlfriend when I was 14, but that was a failed venture – it was all wrong and it felt too forced, kind of like shidduch dating actually, except this was more about 1st and 2nd base.
After high school my relationship with the high school girls changed drastically, I happened to move into my friends basement down the block from the dorm and suddenly I found myself having a secret relationship with one of them, so secret was this relationship that there were several times that my roommate and I transported her into my house in the trunk of my car parked into the garage (I may have been out of yeshiva, but I lived on the same block as the Rosh Yeshiva and pretty much everyone else involved in the yeshiva) That was my first real relationship, it was also the most relaxed and just plain old fun, marriage was not even on my radar, all I wanted to do was go to concerts, go biking and go to the woods – I long for simpler times and simpler relationships.