Oh, Like That Type?

Questioner: “So, what would be a great gift for your parents?”

Answerer: “A daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law.”

Questioner:  “I mean for hosting me for Shabbos.”

Answerer: “Oh. Um. Not sure.”

Three One-Thousand, Four One-Thousand

I’m picky.

There—I’ve said it.

After seven years of denial in the face of repeated accusation, I admit it: I have high standards. I don’t just want a nice guy with a job. I want a heckuva lot more for a lifelong commitment.

Once your 24 months of hormonal giddiness are over, you’re left with someone you’ve agreed to spend the rest of your life with, in union. Someone you’ve decided to partner with on this matter known as “life” til death do you part. Mortgages. Colicky babies. Influenza. Teenagers. Every Shabbos for the rest of your life. Who do you want to be there?

Examining my protests over the years, my reasons for ditching, dumping, and breaking up, I find the complaints fall into two major categories. “He’s boring” and “he’s a dead weight.” And I can readily invert those negatives to two positives that I think are the most important aspects of a marriage. That is, I think the spouse falls into two main roles:

The Companion.  Friends are people who you want to spend time with even when the mystery is gone. People whose opinions you trust, whose company you enjoy, whose views you want to hear even when you don’t agree with them. Someone whose company you seek out when the going is glum, because you know they can cheer you up or at least commiserate right. And it seems to me that this should describe someone you plan to hang out with for forever.

And The Partner.  A partner is someone you want at your side because you trust them to do their part and catch what you miss. Someone who makes you feel safe, knowing they have your back. Someone you don’t have to check on because you know they’ve got it covered. And this should describe someone with whom you plan to face the rest of your life.

The miracle of feminism tells me that I don’t have to compromise when I pick a mate. And, okay: that means I don’t get to a whole lot of seventh dates. But when I do, it means that it’s someone I like, respect, and trust.

Maybe I’m demanding. I’ve been told that I am. That I have unrealistic standards. Maybe I do. But somehow, I can’t help but think there may be someone out there who fits this description for me. That I can find someone to marry who doesn’t make me feel like I’m settling. To quote another Jewish girl from a less liberated time, “Why shouldn’t I want the best?” And why shouldn’t that guy I eventually choose know that I think he’s the best?

He should know that he’s someone whose views I respect, whose judgment I value, whose company I cherish, who abilities I respect, whose partnership I trust, and whose presence makes me feel safe. Not someone I settled for so I could call myself married, but someone I look forward to sharing the rest of my life with.

And if I’ve got to be picky to get that message across, well, so be it.

I Think I’ve Seen You Before

I’m not much of a dating website person. As I’ve noted in the past, whatever it takes to create a compelling profile, I ain’t got it. The few guys I’ve messaged never replied, and the guys who messaged me were less than compelling. I have actually had a conversation that went like this (note: he initiated):

Me: So what do you do?

Him: Oh, this and that.

Me: Like what? Just give me an example.

Him: Well, I’m flying to Colorado on business this week.

Me: Cool. What for?

Him: Oh, this and that.

Me: So you deal weed?

Him: What? What are you saying? Why would you think that? Can’t a guy fly to Colorado without being accused of dealing marijuana? What kind of girl are you?

Me: The kind that likes non-evasive answers.

My singles event experience (only one!) wasn’t much better. Not that there was anything wrong with the event. I just tend to get quieter in inverse proportion to the number of strangers in the room, and there were about two hundred of those. There’s also a distinct bias at these events against people who aren’t preschool teachers and social workers, and that doesn’t help my case. But most of all, there seems to be a bias in who shows up.

There are three types of people in the world: those that go to singles events, those that have gone to one or two and will never go again, and those that don’t go to singles events.

Every event is a mix of groups one and two, and as a result, you tend to see the same people over and over again. In some ways, this is nice: it’s like meeting old friends. Also, it narrows down the field you have to play. (It also increases the competition, as you all avoid eye contact and rush to corner the new blood.) At the same time, it narrows your world. “Is this it?” you wonder. “Are these 30 men all I have to choose from?” It gets depressing.

Whenever a new venue opens, everyone who goes to singles events perks up. “Hey, it’s a new event by a new organization!” they think. “Maybe there will be new people!” And they all rush off to sign up. And there always are new people. But there are always the old people too. “Seriously,” you think. “That socially awkward guy must go to every event. He doesn’t have a chance. He should just give up.” Then you realize that someone might be thinking something similar about you.

Dating websites, I hear, have the same dynamic. “You’ve got mostly the same people on Frumster and JDate,” a friend explained. “Like, 40% overlap. And then I joined ZivugZone thinking it would be new people, and it mostly wasn’t. They just had different usernames.”

Maybe it’s time for us to just admit it: there really just aren’t a whole lot of frum Jewish singles in the world. You’ve seen the selection. Now make a choice. You can settle for someone in marriage, or you can settle for being single. Or you can keep marching the singles circuit forever.

It’s Not Just Me

I bought a friend a copy of Lori Gottlieb’s book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Not because I believe in settling, but because I knew that she wanted to. She kept going out with all these guys who were perfect except… for one fatal flaw. And she’d wonder if she should stop caring about these things because she’s twenty-seven and is three children behind her classmates, and all she wants is to be married.

So yes, she’s definitely the target audience. I bought her the book.

“Guess what,” Gottlieb says. “There is no perfect man. Kind of how you’re not a perfect woman, so ditch that mile-long shopping list of pointless minutiae and find someone good enough. Then deal with it. Because at least you’ll be married.”

Well, Friend loved it. She kept reading passages aloud about how picky women are, their ridiculous demands, and how few things are really important in a marriage.

“You should read this when I’m done!” she enthused.

“Not a chance,” I replied. “You know I don’t want to settle.” You see, the premise of Lori’s book is that most of all, every woman wants to get married. It’s only a false sense of entitlement that prevents us from picking out the first non-psychotic y-x chromosome pair that strolls past.

And there are certainly many women, like Friend, who feel this way. Their goal is to Get Married. They just need to find someone suitable to do it with. Then they can relax into marital bliss and babies with an easy sigh, knowing they have secured the most important accessory of the rest of the their life.

There are even married people who agree with this. “I’m so glad I married young,” they smile blissfully. “I could not have handled being single this long.”

I usually gape at them in astonishment. Is this the well-adjusted, multi-interested, adventurous person I knew in high school who never had a bored moment in her life? Saying she couldn’t have handled being single? Then I decide that it must be like me saying I couldn’t have handled being married that young. We’re all happy with what life has handed us because we have no idea what the alternative is really like. That’s not a bad thing.

Still, it bugs me.

Because I’ve never felt that way.

I can see the appeal of a committed relationship and the joys of offspring (at least between years 1 and 12), but the tug of the institution of marriage itself has never been a desperate need that overrides my desire for independence or self-sufficiency. I’ve always felt rather alone in this way.

But the nice thing about Gottlieb’s book is the overwhelming negative reaction it’s gotten from lots of women. Some just don’t like being told that they’re picky. But some don’t like the idea of settling. Like me, they do not fear a future in which kindly relatives give them cats for their birthdays. At least, they don’t fear it more than they fear being institutionalize with someone they discover they have trouble respecting.

Now, I happen to agree with Gottlieb that disrespecting someone because they haven’t read Kafka or “aren’t romantic enough” is kind of dumb. But I would also like to point out that there are many happy marriages based on equally dumb points of attraction. A teacher in seminary bragged to us about a match she made between a rich, trophy-wife hunting man and a beautiful, gold-digging woman. “Maybe it seems shallow,” she laughed at her horrified, idealistic, not-yet-dating class. “But it works for them. So what does it matter?”

To which I say, exactly. And if you’d rather stay single than spend the rest of your life with someone who is ugly, or poor, unromantic, or disinterested in existential literature, well, that’s a deeply personal thing, and certainly your priority to make.

Just make sure that you are okay with that. Because otherwise you should probably settle.

Not me, though. I don’t believe in settling.

What’s Your No-Beer Answer?

I have a career problem. Not with the career. It’s great so far. But it wreaks havoc on my dating. Heck, its even bad for not dating. I was at circus school the other night and a happily married classmate asked me what I do.

“Scientist,” I said vaguely.

“Oh wow,” he looked stunned.

“You?” I asked, keeping it friendly.

“Well, now I don’t want to say,” he hesitates. “I’m just an intake nurse at the hospital.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, it’s not a smart.”

“So what? It’s a good job and you’re still way better at lion-taming than I am. That’s not going to change how I see you.”

The thing that bugged me about this exchange was that I’d given him my “beer” answer. I was trying to be non-intimidating. What’s a girl to do when her “beer” answer is also a “no-beer” answer?

Here’s how it goes. If a girl is in a bar and a guy comes over and asks what she does, she can give one of two answers: the “beer” answer, which will hopefully lead to further conversation and him offering to buy her a beer; or the “no beer” answer, which will make him suddenly recall urgent business elsewhere. This is purely theoretical for me, as I never get approached in bars, since I’m not generally in them. But the idea still holds: the turn-off answer, and the not-so-turnoff answer.

When I came across this idea, I asked my companions, a preschool teacher and a librarian, what their “no beer” answers would be. After some deep mulling, the preschool teacher answered “Early childhood development specialist.” The librarian didn’t miss a beat. “Librarian,” she said promptly.

Like the librarian, my beer and no-beer answers are essentially the same. Which I find troubling.  What on earth is a girl to answer if people back away slowly from the lite version? A lie?

…then again, it sure is fun to whip out the no-beer answer. “I’m a microneurobiologist specializing in intracellular organelle funambulism. But that’s boring. What do you do? Hey, is something wrong?”

More Classmate Statistics

A while ago I posted a breakdown of my high school class’s engagement record, complete with histogram. (Go on, click through. You know you want to see it again.)

In response, a reader sent me the statistics from her class. Talk about depressing. I don’t know how she gets out of bed in the morning (if there’s no date to prepare for).

Oh wait, she probably has school or a job or some other fulfilling aspect of her life. I forget that can exist.

Anyway, here are her numbers:

Graduation year – 2008

Stats taken  – 2013

Number in class – 76

Number taken – 53

Percent married – 70%

Not bad. The stats for my class were 74% gone by year five. I wonder if this is a standard for the Ultra-Orthodox community?

Does anyone else have statistics to contribute.

Just Because, Okay?

bad shoes

“I don’t want to go out with him again.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, I just don’t.”

“But he’s such a good, smart boy.”

“He’s annoying. Or boring. Or had a bad tie. I don’t know! He’s just not for me, okay?”

Sometimes, you just know it isn’t going to work. It’s called a gut feeling, and it’s usually right. It might be self-fulfilling-prophesy right, but it’s going to be right, so there’s no point in arguing.

Still, sometimes you need a reason. Either for the pushy parents or shadchan, or for your rational self. Why oh why don’t you want to go out with this lovely boy again?

And sometimes the reason is stupid, because you’re groping. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less right.

Dining with One

I like cooking.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I like eating good food presented well. And it’s a great pleasure to eat delicious, beautiful food that I made myself.

Moreover, I think I’m worth it. I, Bad4, deserve to eat well. So I do.

A (single) friend once told me that she lives on canned tuna and raw vegetables because “It doesn’t pay to cook for one.”

I told her that was the saddest thing I’d ever heard.

She got angry and told me she felt condescended at.

I snarked back that she shouldn’t demand respect from me when she wasn’t giving it to herself. She was a friend I admired and respected and enjoyed spending time with, and I couldn’t believe that she thought she wasn’t worth taking care of except incidentally while caring for a man.

We glared at each other for a while. She didn’t talk to me for three days. Then she came back and said it had nothing to do with any man—she was just too lazy to cook and she liked her tuna, so there.

I said I respected that, because everyone has a right to be lazy if it makes them happy, but I still thought she deserved good food, so she could come over for supper whenever she wanted. We grudgingly made up.  She came over for supper.

I see no shame in cooking for one, arranging a plate for one, and relishing it… alone. If you want to share, well, that’s what Instagram is for, right?

Which is why I was pleased to find that there’s an entire book of famous chefs reminiscing about their favorite one-person meals. And offended that the subtitle has the word “confession” in it. Can we please erase the stigma of not spending every moment with another person?

In The Muppets song “Me Party” there’s a line I love:

There are days when all this girl can see
Is a world that’s made for two

And it’s true. Our society assumes  a party of two. Everyone makes fun of teenage girls who can’t go to the bathroom alone. But how many grown adults have the guts to dine out alone?

I thought I did, and there are times when I have. But frequently I’ve resorted to reading a book to avoid figuring out what to do with my eyes. You can’t just stare at your food. That seems like bad manners. But looking around at the other patrons seems a little creepy. Sometimes, takeout just seems like a better option.

Which is why I loved this article about preferring to dine alone that an MF sent me.  Well, she sent me this article first, but there was a link, so that makes two people who proudly dine alone, and if you add me, well, three’s a crowd, and a horde is a type of crowd, so there are hordes of people who enjoy dining alone, so there.

New Year’s Post

I am not a big New Year’s reveler. My acknowledgment of the new calendar year usually consists of sticking my head under the pillow at midnight when the shouting wakes me up. I also accept the day off from work, albeit grudgingly. (Can’t I work on New Year’s and take off on one of my holidays? Answer: No.  The computer system couldn’t process that request. Neither could my boss.)

Anyway, I recently started using a feed reader, and every other blogger seems to have a New Year’s post. Resolutions or retrospectives or predictions or something like that. So now I feel like I need a New Year’s themed post.

Retrospective:

WordPress is kind enough to restropect on my blog for me. I have posted their stats for you.

Resolutions:

I don’t  do resolutions. I have better things to fail at. Besides, what does a shidduch blogger resolve to do? Get married this year? Thank you. I’ve been working on this for seven years. Why would I suddenly succeed now?

Maybe I could resolve to be a better dater. Try throwing out my list or just stop dumping guys because they aren’t worth giving up my hair for. But eh. No. A girl needs some standards. I’m sticking with my list.

So no resolutions. Great! Moving right along, let’s make some predictions.

Predictions:

I predict that 75% of the 19-year-olds who found this blog during a late-night, post-date googling session will be engaged by the end of the year. I predict that 75% of the long-time readers will not be—and I’m including the married readers in that number.

Not to disparage the 19-year-old readership. I think being single at 19 is more miserable than being single at 27. I’m just so used to it by now. All those raw emotions are covered with so much scar tissue. I no longer care about the things that got me ranting (and writing) at 19. I apologize to my readers: I just don’t have the passion any more. Maybe I should predict my retirement in the next year.

Starting Fresh:

Is there such a thing as starting fresh?

I once had a theory that one of the great harms in relationships comes from the “you always do this” mindset. That is “You have done this thing I don’t like several times in the past, therefore I assume you will do it again now, and I’m going to preempt that or overreact to innocent errors and statements as if you were repeating this past offense.”

So I did a thought experiment. What if you could treat your friends and relatives as completely fresh slates every day? Nothing they’ve done in the past will affect how you perceive them now.

And I realized that this kind of negates the whole point of a relationship. Knowing and understanding the other person, what they do, like, and think, and also what they probably need to work on.

Why am I rambling on this way? Fresh starts. Right. I don’t believe in those either. I am not a brand new person at the start of a new year. I’m the same old flawed me. And chances are good I’m going to continue making the same mistakes this year that I’ve made in the past. But I will take this “stop and think” moment to strike a deal with me: I’ll erase the “you always” mentality if I can prove that I actually don’t always.

Time to get cracking.

It’s 2014!

How to Tell if a Guy Isn’t Interested

1 – He has a car that he used to drive himself to a rented house on the shore, but makes you take a bus to him for the date.

2 – He takes you out to a restaurant… for coffee

3 – Where he sits sideways in his chair, facing away from you

4 – Possibly because he’s too holy to look at women, but more likely because this way he’s facing the waitress in her skinny jeans.

5 – Provides only distracted, monosyllabic answers to whatever you say

6 – Even after you stop saying anything.

 

Based on a true story. 

NEF Overload

There have definitely been times when I felt like the girl in the lower left of this photo. I mean, c’mon people! Leave me some single friends? Or at least space yourselves out so I don’t have to listen to all of you gush at once? Who am I supposed to complain to after hanging up from that?

I admit, I feel for her. I have never had to deal with 9 NEFs all at once trying to blind me with their rings. How fortunate am I! I never realized how good I’ve had it.

they're all engaged

Why I Don’t Speak to Shadchanim

…because, these days, sometimes I can’t help but sound like the crazy old lady I’m doomed to become.

I have not willingly sought out a shadchan in years, but for some reason they’ve been calling me these days. The following conversation was transcribed about 10 minutes ago. I admit, I was cranky. I was overtired, had half a cupcake for supper and I was trying, unsuccessfully, to make sense of the fees on my 401k. Not really the best time to get a phone call that goes like this:

Me: Hello?

Him: Hi, I’m a shadchan. Can you hold on?

Me: Sure, I guess.

Him: Thanks. [disappears for a few minutes] Hello, thanks for holding.

Me: Yeah, no problem.

Him: So I got your information from another shadchan and I have a few questions. Are you still 26?

Me: No, I’m 27 these days.

Him: And what do you do?

Me: My Job.

Him: I see. So are you looking for a more modern guy?

Me: I don’t know what that means.

Him: I mean do you want someone who is more modern.

Me: I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. Can you please explain this to me? Like, what’s your name?

Him: My name is My Name.  I’m trying to complete your profile so I can set you up.

Me: [In my head] I really don’t think that is going to happen, if you divide your guys into “more modern” and “less modern.” [out loud] I guess I’m looking for a YU type. Halachic Man, not yeshivish.

Him: Left wing YU or right wing?

Me: [sigh] I don’t know.

Him: Moderate, then.

Me: Sounds good. I’m all for moderate.

Him: And your parents? Are they the same as you?

Me: I… [to myself] Is this question objectively objectionable, or is it just me?

Him: I mean, are they to the left or to the right of you?

Me: [to myself] In family pictures, it’s one on either side. [aloud] I guess to the right?

Him: Hm. Okay. And you live OOT?

Me: Yes, I do.

Him: And your parents are there too?

Me: No, they’re IT.

Him: Oh, where IT?

Me: In Their Neighborhood.

Him: Is that Flatbush or Boro Park?

Me: Neither. Or either, if you prefer.

Him: I’ll put down Flatbush. And why aren’t you there?

Me: Because my job is here.

Him: Oh I see. And do you have relatives out in OOT?

Me: No.

Him: You board? Have an apartment?

Me: An apartment.

Him: And are you willing to relocate?

Me: No, not really. I like it here.

Him: [doubtfully] So I need to find a guy who is willing to relocate. Or maybe somebody local… Hm. I don’t know.

Me: [ticked off by the implication that no such people can be found] Tell you what, if he’s got a better job than me, I’ll consider moving.

Him: What’s your salary?

Me: Decent.

Him: Decent for a woman is not very much.

Me: Excuse me?

Him: Well you know, women get paid less out there.

Me: [snappishly] On average, when both the man and woman have the same job. But seeing as most of the last dozen guys I went out with were all unemployed or underemployed or employed in low-paying fields, it really seems unfair that they all expected me to relocate.  Seriously. Even the 35-year-old living with his parents because he can’t afford his own rent. I think he planned to house us both in their basement or something.

Him: Well, okay. I’m glad I have your information. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

Me: No fear. Thank you. Good night.

Him: Good night.

Sometimes, I think, you can gauge how likely you are to get a good match from a shadchan based on the sorts of questions they ask. I once had a conversation that went like this:

Him: [To wife] What do you think of NerdyGuy? I taught him in middle school. He’s single now, in Touro, studying accounting. Brilliant boy. So many ideas. He once brought in a kiddie pool for a carnival game and carried it all the way home on his head! Can you believe it?

Me: What’s wrong with that?

Him: Exactly!

Me: [sigh] Sounds like a great idea.

On Being Twenty-Seven

Twenty-seven is the best year of your youth. This is an absolute fact, according to the Huffington Post articles I’ve been getting from another 27-year-old friend, so I know it must be true.

Twenty-seven is when your career is skyrocketing, you’ve finally grown into yourself, you’re at your most beautiful (or handsome), your physical peak, your sharpest, your brightest, your most scintillating, and your greatest desirability. There’s a bit of a suicide bump at the end of 27, when people realize that this is it, it’s all downhill from here, to beer-gutted mediocrity and cat-ridden obscurity.

Clearly, Robert Herrick was speaking a universally acknowledged truth when he said:

That age is best which is the first,

When youth and blood are warmer;

But being spent, the worse and worst

Time still succeeds the former.

I can’t say my experience contradicts the venerable Huffington Post on this matter. Twenty-seven has treated me very well. In fact, it’s been a fantastic trip so far. Being asked to list what I’m grateful for at a Thanksgiving feast was a struggle; how could I narrow it down to a few key items, when everything in my life is so amazing? I almost feel a bit sorry for all those married people who never got to experience 27 with all the breezy freedom of being single. (To be fair, they probably reflect the sentiment back at me with a “what-do-you-know” comment about committed relationships. Ezehu ashir? Truce, my MFs. Truce.)

That said, twenty-seven doesn’t usually last for more than 365 days—366 if you’re lucky. And it’s all downhill from there. So if ever you’re going to have an optimized shot at avoiding a houseful of cats, twenty-seven is it. Not that your chances take a swan dive after, but this is the peak—or so they say. I mean, you’re probably just as desirable at 28 as you were at 26. Unless the drop-off is steeper? Does the Huffington Post has any of its deeply scientific articles analyzing this?

Well, let’s not worry or be stressed out about it. Let’s just finish off with a final, relaxing stanza from Mr. Herrick again:

Then be not coy, but use your time,

And while ye may, go marry:

For having lost but once your prime

You may forever tarry.

…You know, he never does say exactly how to manage it. In fact, Herrick sounds a whole lot like the MF who says “Well if you want someone to go on vacation with, get yourself a husband.” Gee thanks. Didn’t think of that one. I guess I’ll go out and propose to the first interested commenter on Trip Advisor.

Oh well. At least I’m still twenty-seven.

And it rocks.

Friday Repost: Why Are You Telling Me That?

I kind of laughed when I reread this exchange.

…She began listing all my sterling virtues, and, running short a bit earlier than she’d intended, fell back on plain ol’ information about me. “…and she had a blog,” she enthused to the mother.

“A blog…?” asked the mother uncertainly. “Um, isn’t that bad for shidduchim?”

As in, “are you bragging about that? Shouldn’t that be a turnoff? Hang on while I consult my manual for the appropriate reaction…”

Friday Repost: The Different Plane Spiel

Being married is a different plane of existence. It’s not like two people being single together. It’s about being there for each other, no matter what. It’s a higher calling. It’s a feeling like no other. It’s knowing there’s someone there for you no matter what, who has chosen to care for you forever and who will always have your back and hold your hair for you when you barf (niddah aside).

I can almost do it convincingly, no? Insert shining eyes and an earnest tone (it’s important to be earnest) and follow it up with “my husband has some friends…” No, I’ve never been married, but I’ve sat on the loveseat and listened to this speech from the couch many, many times.

…And don’t anyone dare to say “and may you be zocheh to give it one day yourself.” I should never be that cruel. Besides, honestly, I’m running out of people to give it to.

Trust Your (Young) Adults

I graduated bais yaakov high school with a head full of ideas about marriage that I trusted but didn’t believe. That is: I trusted the teachers who’d taught them to me. They were older and wiser and presumably had my best interest in mind. But many of the things they said didn’t pass the critical thinking test, so I struggled to believe them.

One day I found myself on an eighth date.  I liked the guy. Respected him. Enjoyed spending time with him. But I also knew that eight dates meant we were Serious and that freaked me out. I had no reason to break up with him, and no desire to marry him.

Luckily, the guy didn’t go to a bais yaakov. He pointed out that something big was missing in our relationship. We were, to put it mildly, stuck in the Friend Zone, and going nowhere fast. He broke us up. He was absolutely right and I was secretly relieved, but it took me a couple of years to come round to agreeing with him.

Trusting without believing gets us girls in trouble. We try to do what we’re told because it must be right, and yet, something inside is crying that it can’t be. But, ever trusting, we sometimes allow our elders and wisers to drive us into places we really shouldn’t be.

Back when I was 21, I had friends who were lucky enough to have breakdowns and wind up in therapy before they could be pushed into an inauspicious marriage. Now that I’m 27, I have friends who are divorced, because they didn’t manage it until after. 

I’m sure by now everyone has read Gital’s story in the Post about how she let the people trusted nudge her into a marriage she didn’t believe in with a sociopath simply because he came from the Feinstein family.

I told the matchmaker I wanted to stop seeing him, that we weren’t a fit…

My parents asked me to think about it because his parents were so insistent I had the wrong impression of him.

In Orthodox dating, you rely a lot on what other people tell you — what their impression is. So I gave him another chance.

I don’t want to sing any Disney-style “follow your heart” tunes here. But at some point, the yeshivish community has to believe they’ve instilled their children with the right values and a pinch of common sense, and trust them to navigate the world themselves. Until they do, girls will struggle to trust themselves. Bad decisions ensue.

For a while I thought I was the only girl naive enough to treat feeling of reluctance for a guy with repetitions of the mantra “love comes after marriage” — something oft repeated in high school, but without the sort of elaboration necessary for girls who have been segregated from boys their entire lives. But now I know the unhappily married and the happily divorced — sometimes with children in tow — who weren’t as lucky as I was.

The parents and teachers advising these girls into their relationships mean well. They want the best for them. None of them dream of creating a future divorcee, let alone an agunah. But they still view them as children, girls, unable to trust the inner compass they’ve been cultivating through years of schooling and upbringing. And the “girls” share this view, because it’s held by the people they trust the most.

This makes me sad.

And long term, it makes a lot of other people sad too.