This Blog is Back

Hello? Hello?

*taps mic*

Can anyone hear me? Is anyone out there?

This is Bad4. Just dropping in briefly. I have no place here; I’m still married. Kinda hoping to keep it that way.

But I recently ran into some great writing about shidduchim. I liked it enough that I wanted to share it with you all.

So, I’m handing over this blog. From now on, the posts will be by BaisYaakovMaidel. I hope you enjoy her stuff as much as I do.

And if you do, spread the word!

A Shtisel Moment

Did this story happen? Yes.

Did you change any details? Minimally.

***

“Look, he’s a very chashuve boy and he wants to do things differently.” 

I sat there listening to the shadchan’s chattery voice, digesting what he had just said. This very chashuve Brisker boy wanted to go on a beshow instead of the traditional yeshivish hotel-lobby date. He was 23 and I would be the first girl he was dating. 

“He’s just more comfortable with that right now… he doesn’t like the whole Manhattan zach, with all the billboards, you know…” the shadchan continued. Yes, I knew. 

“Alright, I’ll do it.”

Later that evening, my younger sister gave it to me. “You know, you’re a sucker. I would never. If he’s the type of guy that wants a beshow, I would just tell the shandcahn he’s not for me. And you should’ve done the same.”

I didn’t know how to explain to her what she was in for in 2-3 years when she would start shidduchim. That being a female in the yeshivish world sans rich father bumped you far down the list, no matter how pretty or thin or smart or kind “great personality” you were. The pickings were slim and I had to do what I had to do. Besides, I was dead-set on marrying a *true* ben-torah. Not only because I was primed to see that as the ultimate prize. But also because of all the subliminal messages I had gotten about how those were the *best* marriages. 

I could still hear my 11th grade teacher telling us about her husband that just passed away. 

“I heard people talking behind my back that he was a lo yutzlach, that he never had a job, and that’s why he sat and learned. But let me tell you, that man never looked at another woman in his life. I was all he ever saw.” She was so vulnerable at that moment; there was no way for us not to completely soak in her words. 

“The goyim might think they know love,” I recall thinking to myself, “but all their romance couldn’t hold a candle to the ahavah and teshukah a Torah-true couple would experience.” In order for this to happen, though, the husband had to take shmiras einayim very seriously. If he gazed at other women or elbows or clavicles or the outline of a bra-strap, he would lose his sensitivity to sexual stimuli and then he would forfeit that experience with his wife. Those modern boys, they didn’t know what they were missing. Tragic. I could hear Kelly Clarkson from one of my mid-winter trips to MACYs. “For a moment like this, some people wait a lifetime… for that one special kiss…” So stupid, those goyim. They’re lucky to get that kiss once in their lifetime, but we had cataclysmic fireworks every month. Why make a big deal out of a beshow? It was a small price to pay for a man who would forever find you sexual and alluring. 

~~~

He had a lean 6-foot frame, olive skin, dark hair, and slightly bushy brisker peyos. I couldn’t see his eyes because he was looking down at the table. We sat there for what seemed like a very long time saying nothing till he glanced up at me momentarily. It was a Shtisel moment; time stood still while our eyes locked and it felt as if all the light in the room was being funneled into our line of vision.  He had deep brown eyes that were reflecting every one of the 200 crystals on our balabatishe chandelier. A second later he ripped his eyes away like he just touched something hot and was about to get singed. I felt my cheeks burn. I wasn’t sure what to feel. Was he going to avoid looking at me the whole time? He did the eye-contact-then-break two more times. Suddenly, I felt very powerful. Was I radiating something he couldn’t handle? I found it all very endearing, this young man who couldn’t bear to look me in the eye.  “This is what they were talking about,” I started telling myself. “These are the special boys who don’t ever look at women. What did my sister know anyway.”  I knew that the only way a man could control his yetzer horah was through ameilus b’torah, so that was a check. 

We did end up speaking and making intermittent eye contact throughout the conversation. 

By the end of the evening we were both talking like normal people and smiling, but the topics remained superficial and boring. There was nothing to dislike about him, but also not much to like. We did a second beshow type of thing two days later. When it came time for the third date, my mother insisted that we go out. “Different things come out on a date,” she declared. “You see how he drives, how he interacts with other people.”

Chashuve Brisker Boy knew how to drive. We went to some water place and had a pleasant but boring date. I recall feeling one or two instances of involuntary attraction to him, just because he was a guy and had a nice, tall frame. But I wasn’t interested in seeing him again or being around him. 

“I’m afraid if we keep going out I might start liking him,” I told my older sister after I came home. 

“What do you mean ‘afraid’?” 

I didn’t want to tell her what I meant. I meant that there was bound to be some attraction that would develop if we kept going. After all, we did have that Shtisel moment. But intellectually, there was nothing drawing me to this guy.

“Look,” the shadchan told me the next day, “He’s a serious guy. If you want to get engaged, he’s ready. But if not, he’s going back to Israel. The zman starts in two days.”

“I don’t think it’s realistic for me to be ready after 3 dates.” After relaying the message to his family, the shadchan circled back to me and said, “This is what they suggested. He’s going to go back to Israel and if you decide you want to get engaged, he’ll fly back.” I thought it was bizarre. He wanted to get engaged to me but couldn’t miss the first few days of a zman for this life-altering decision? Did I matter only in the context of his learning? I gave the shadchan my ok. Anything to get that pressure off me. I hung up the phone and never called back. 

Brisker Boy lives in Israel today with his lovely mishpachah and I’m sort of friends with his sister.

66

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Schnitzel Boy

Do Bais Yaakov girls fall for the bad boys? Find out with Schnitzel Boy.

Did this story happen? Yes.

Did you change any details? Minimally.

~~~

“Can I get your number?”

“Huh?”

“Can I get your number? You’re leaving for your trip this week and I want to be able to call you.”

“Ummm, the reception is probably going to be spotty, but ok.”

I gave him my number. I didn’t care much for him and I was leaving for a 3-week trip in two days. He looked delighted after I wrote it down and I felt a faint sense of dread. 5 foot 11. Black hair, nice darkish skin. Lean. With a slight hunchback that annoyed me. It was our first date. A coffee shop or something like that. I should’ve known something was off when he asked for my number. But then again, the shadchan had surmised that I needed someone “out-of-the-box”. Sigh. Not that type of out-of-the-box.

His name was Shmuly and he was a rebound date from someone I actually liked, Tzvi. Tzvi was learning in Lakewood but taking college classes at Rutgers secretly on the side. Unlike most of the boys that milled into our living room, he was actually smart and intellectually curious. He and my brother shared a good friend who I secretly had a crush on as a teenager. Said friend was a few years older and long married with children. Tzvi was also kind and easygoing. The entire combination made for some decent chemistry and good conversations. I wasn’t thrilled about his 5’7″ frame and short beard, but these chisronos faded into the background the more we spoke. Plus, I understood that he needed the beard to cover up for Rutgers. Why and how we broke up deserves its own story, but I was upset for many days after. So when the same shadchan brought up Shmuly, I eagerly said yes, hopeful that seeing someone new would take my mind off Tzvi. But I found myself increasingly irritated during the 3 times he called me on my trip. We chatted about nothing and he sounded like a terribly bored bein-hazmanim bachur.

My mother heard good “information” about him, but by the second time she saw him, shortly after I returned from my trip, she decided she didn’t like him. A terrible liar and completely incapable of hiding her feelings, she had a scrunched up look on her face when she came to give me my cue to come down the stairs.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said, the way women say “nothing” when a man asks them what’s wrong.

I walked into the living room and there was Shmuly telling my father an ultra-boring dvar torah in the loudest voice I ever heard while my father nodded politely. My father was always the diplomat, always being dan l’chaf zechus, always giving people another chance. My mother has the intuition of a bloodhound and would unapologetically slap labels onto people that turned out to be embarrassingly accurate. The next day she spent a furious hour on the phone with his former mashgiach from Fallsburg.

“What were you talking to his mashgiach about?” I huffed. The second date wasn’t too special, but it also wasn’t awful and I learned that he had dreams of becoming a dayan. I could also tell that he really liked me and there were 4 more weeks of summer to kill. So why not go out again?

Hu lo adin” she said. [He’s not gentle.] “And his mashgiach confirmed it.”

Adin? What does that have to do with anything?” I mean, I understood why one abrasive personality was able to recognize another, but why was this so important to her?

“Do you want a man to ask you *permission* before he comes into your bed, or do you want him to just *show up*? He’s too rough.”

Ah. I understood. She was talking about sex. There was nothing in the world I wanted to do less than have a conversation with my mother about sex, failed euphemisms and all. So I told her that things weren’t so serious, and it was just a second date, and that I have to go do laundry. As I stuffed my collarbone-covering t-shirts into the machine, I started to wonder if there was some halacha about sex happening in the wife’s bed. I had read the kitzur, Ohel Rachel, and every single other sefer I could get my hands on and none of them ever mentioned that! Then my mind wandered to whether or not sex was allowed to happen in other places. Did it *have* to be in the bedroom? What if we were sitting on the couch and things started happening? Were we mechuyav to stop in the middle and go to the bedroom? Then it struck me that I wasn’t interested in Shmuly that way anyway, so why did I need to ponder this now.

Our third date started out in Lakewood, far away from my mother’s prying eyes. We drove to a hotel in Long Branch and ambled around the lobby and courtyard. The conversation turned to the Chazon Ish and Shmuly asked me, “You know why he never had kids, right?”

I shrugged. “Some people just don’t have kids.”

“Nah,” he said with that look like he’s about to tell me something juicy. “His wife was crazy. He wanted to divorce her. She said if you divorce me I’ll jump. So he stayed married. No kids ever. You get it, right?”

Well, that was a lot to chew on; he was referring to a couple not being allowed to sleep together if they decided to divorce. My high school teacher told us a mashal about a father who took his coat and cut it into small pieces to cover his cold children. “So too, the Gedolei Hador sometimes take suffering away from the generation and that’s why the Chazon Ish had no children.” The nimshal made no sense, but I never thought much about it. From there the conversation meandered to something about frum people having many children and at one point Shmuly bellowed “I was just telling my chavrusa that I’m only buying my wife maternity clothes. Why would she need regular clothes? One after the next!” He slapped his thigh and let out a hyena laugh that made a passerby look over his shoulder. I felt my cheeks burn angrily and told him it wasn’t funny. He caught himself and cleared his throat, pretending to be remorseful.

“Want to go down to the beach?” He said. I could tell what he was trying to distract me from his oopsie.

“Sure.”

It was 7 pm, a safe time to avoid most of the bikini-clad women. The boardwalk was rather empty, save for a few old men with sagging bellies and an innocuous woman in shorts walking her dog. The sky was pink, the air was clean, and for once I wasn’t sweating in my Linda Leal and tights. The conversation became a little more pleasant and then Shmuly asked if I wanted to go down to the beach. I said yes.

We started down the beach and then before I knew what was happening, Shmuly took off his shoes and socks and rolled his pants up to his knees. “Let’s go into the water!” It was getting more exciting by the moment. This sure beat a sip-setlzer-till-you-need-to-pee hotel lobby date. I slipped off my patent-leather sling-back mini-platforms [cringe, I have a picture somewhere if anyone really wants], kept my tights on of course, and we ran toward the water. The water was deliciously warm and it took every ounce of self-control not to sink right in. Given the knit sweater I was wearing, that was not an option, so I lifted my skirt a little and let the water reach mid-calf. Shmuly was knee-deep in the water laughing hysterically and splashing his face. “The shadchan told me you were out-of-the-box!” I didn’t really care how he interpreted what was happening. There was a sprinkle of pheromones in the air; he was desperate to escape his smelly dorm and I was sick of spending my life immersed in a sea of estrogen. We were just a boy and girl starving for company with the other sex, and all I noticed in that moment was his 5’11” frame and olive skin. He started to splash me and I laughed and splashed him back and maybe my sweater got wet and probably a nipple poked out and I’m sure he noticed and I didn’t care. We stayed in the water talking, laughing, and splashing each other until the sky went dark at which point we headed back to the car. We laughed the whole way there, ignoring the weird looks we got. He drove me home and I decided I would go out with him again. Before I got out of the car he said, “Hey, can you bring food next time?” I looked at him funny.

“You want me to bring food on our next date?”

“Yeah! It’ll be fun! We’ll have a picnic. I’m always starving.”

“Umm, ok. Bye”

I didn’t think much of it, headed out, and went to sleep that night feeling very guilty about the nipple.

We set a date for 3 days later. That afternoon, I made a stop at Shloime’s Bakery in Boro Park and bought some apple turnovers, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. I packed them up neatly in ziplocs and put them in a cute bag. I then made fresh strawberry smoothies, poured them into two giant coffee cups, and added them to the cute bag. Shmuly rang the doorbell and since it was the fourth date, I didn’t need to wait for my cue. After the perfunctory two minutes of schmoozing, on my own cue, I sauntered into the living room with my goodie bag. My parents didn’t notice it until we both got up to leave. My father smiled, thinking that things were going well between me and Shmuly, and my mother just stared at the bag impolitely and shrugged her shoulders.

“Let’s go to Prospect Park for our picnic,” Shmuly said. I said ok and we were off. We found a quiet spot with a nice bench and I proceeded to unpack my picnic bag. I handed Shmuly a smoothie and then motioned to the rest of the bag, “help yourself.”

It was a beautiful summer day and I just sat there for a few moments sipping my smoothie and staring ahead at nothing. I suddenly noticed that there was silence. I glanced at Shmuly. He was holding a cinnamon roll in his hand, staring ahead at nothing like I was a moment ago. But he looked upset.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I thought you were going to bring real food.”

“What do you mean real food?” I asked.

“You know, like schnitzel.”

I started to laugh. “You wanted me to bring schnitzel?”

I kept laughing and Shmuly started to turn legit red.

“I could have picked up stuff from the bakery myself,” he huffed, “I don’t need you for that.”

He was angry. At this point I was no longer laughing. I just looked at him, trying hard to process what was happening.

“You know, between the shopping, making the smoothies, and packing everything up, I spent at least an hour on the food. Preparing schnitzel takes longer than that and requires lots of babysitting over the stove. But also, you never specified anything about which type of food you wanted.”

As the last sentence came out of my mouth, I realized I had stooped too low. This was a guy who had not even taken me out to eat once. I felt my insides clench and I asked Shmuly if he could take me home.

He sulked the whole way home and I was fine with that since I had nothing to say to him. As we pulled up close to my house he looked at me, then at the tree right outside my house, and said, “You’re going to hang my heart out on that tree like all the other ones, eh? Heartbreaker.”

I didn’t know what he was saying. I was not a serial “rejector”, and I gave a fair chance to every boy who was not a sociopath. Why was he insulting me like that, calling me this goyishe term “heartbreaker”? The whole point of shidduch-dating was to avoid getting your heart in so it doesn’t break. Why did he think I was breaking hearts? I was just an intellectually curious aidel Bais Yaakov girl being fed a defective crop of boys who were deemed “brilliant” and “a baal middos” because their butt touched a kollel bench.

“Are we going to go out again?” Shmuly asked, still with an angry undertone.

“I’ll think about it,” I said, despite knowing the answer was no. My mother was right. And all my subconscious reasons for dating him started creeping to my forebrain. I missed Tzvi and I was desperate for some male company. But I would never consider marrying this man. Ever.

“Happy jerking off to the nipple,” I wished him in my head as I left the car.

Two weeks later Shmuly met my brother in shul. How did their conversation go, you might ask? My brother earnestly mentioned that I was “a special girl” to which Shumly responded, “I know a special place for special people…” and he then attempted to convince my brother to convince me to go out with him again. My brother and I laughed about the conversation over cholent the next Shabboss. Three months later Shmuly was engaged to my friend’s friend.

~~~

contact email: baisyaakovmaidel@gmail.com

The Rosh Yeshiva’s Son

What an honor to be sitting in Bad4’s seat.

Did this story happen? Yes.

Did you change any details? Only names. And while I don’t have magical powers to read minds, you can decide for yourself if I correctly read Chaim’s thoughts.

My writing is dedicated to those of you seeking expression, meaning, and healing. I hope you join me on this journey.

With love,

-BaisYaakovMaidel

~~~

I stuck my ear to the door hoping I would catch snippets of conversation. My mother was in the other room, chattering furiously on the phone. It had to be a call about shidduchim. Why else would she be speaking in such shrill tones and saying things like “she is so special” and “she is so talented”? The door handle creaked; I lurched for the chair and pretended to be busy on my phone. My mother emerged from the other room with an enormous smile.

“I’m working on a shidduch for you”

“Really?” I feigned surprise. “Who?”

“You won’t believe it, it’s the son of Rav K”.

This time, my surprise was not feigned. Rav K was a big, big rosh yeshiva. Like maybe a Gadol Hador. Yes, my father was a Rav too, but not like Rav K whose face regularly graced the middle section of Yated and Hamodia. Perhaps my tefillos were finally being answered. It had to be. I needed to wait this long because it was someone so super-special. I envisioned myself at our wedding. There would be so many chashuve rabbonim. Surely the pictures would make it to Hamodia and Yated; well, not pictures of me, but of the chosson, his father, and his proud shver. I was okay with that. After all, externals didn’t matter to me. The ikur was that he would be a true lamdan steeped in limud torah, and perhaps one day he would take over the yeshiva, which would be really chashuv, and I would be the wife of a chashuve rosh yeshiva, and maybe he would write s’forim, and we would be really famous… externals like having my picture in the newspaper didn’t matter. I would also have the special privilege of saving this chashuve yungerman from his alleged huge yetzer horah. After all, “kol hagadol m’chavero, yiztro gadol mimeno”. I was very excited about that one.

“Their minhag is to come see the girl the first time you go out”, my mother explained. I nodded my head obediently. “Chaim will come, with his father and mother.” I knew that some yeshivish people did this. “But it won’t be like the Z’s who just came to check you out without their son.” Well, this was slightly more palatable. The Z’s had come without their son first so see if I was worthy, aka to check out my dress size.

It was Tuesday; tonight was the big night. At 7:00 PM, Rav K, his rebbetzin, and their son Chaim would be coming to our humble home. I meticulously blew my hair and applied my makeup. I wasn’t sure how much eye makeup to apply. Surely I needed to look pretty. But maybe I should go easy on the eyeliner? Eyeshadow? Those were the things mentioned in the Navi, about b’nos yerushalayim who caused the churban. But the Navi never said anything about mascara, so I laid it on thick.

7:00 PM. I was ready. I was wearing my bronze suit; it was pretty but aidel. The skirt would amply cover my knee when I sat and the short jacket accentuated my waist. Was it tznius enough? Too late to wonder about that. The doorbell rang.

Shalom Aleichem, shalom aleichem.” I could hear the greetings float up the stairs as I nervously poked my head over the banister. I got a glimpse of the boy’s hat but not much more. I could hear several pairs of feet shuffle into the living room and polite conversation ensued. I sat there waiting for my cue to gracefully come down the stairs, but the conversation was getting more animated and I even caught a few chuckles. Every minute was torture. I needed to see my future gadol hador husband already!

The cue did finally come. My mother came to the bottom of the staircase and nodded her head. I started down the stairs, gripping the banister so hard and praying that I don’t trip over my heels. My heart always raced in that moment before I got my first glimpse at a boy sitting in our living room. Because in that first millisecond after my eyes captured the face my brain would involuntarily start firing and I would become completely overwhelmed by the rapid communication that was happening between my left and right brain. I was trained to evaluate a potential partner only with my left brain, with promises that the love and affection would follow. But my right brain refused to comply. My first impression of Chaim was that he looked like a really sweet bar mitzvah boy; he had big puppy blue-green eyes and a pleasant face. But he could have easily been mistaken for a 14-year old and I was well past the stage of finding that cute.

He looked so terribly nervous that I immediately concluded I was the first girl he was dating, an assumption that was later proven correct. I sat myself next to his mother who started talking to me as if to distract me from looking at her son. I don’t recall much of the conversation except something about her often staying over at a relative’s house in Flatbush which I found a little weird. I did manage to catch a glimpse of the Rosh Yeshiva who seemed to be reflecting an unusual amount of light from the chandelier; what hadras panim. He was the real deal. I was just wondering why his wife wasn’t emanating the same glow. Oh well.

It was finally time to go. We said our perfunctory goodbyes with our plastic smiles and headed out. There was a car waiting at the hydrant with a driver inside. “So this is how it works?” I thought. I didn’t like that he wasn’t driving. I was hoping that seeing him at the wheel would help convince me that he was actually over the age of 20. But as we pulled up to a nice-looking hotel in Manhattan 30 minutes later, I decided it wasn’t so terrible. A Rosh Yeshiva was important and busy. What’s wrong with having a chauffeur to display your chashivus to the world? I let it go and decided to give Chaim a fair chance.

We had a pleasant standard hotel-lobby-yeshivish date. He had nice eyes but I otherwise didn’t find him attractive or unattractive. I remember taking a bathroom break to fix my bubble gum pink lip gloss. When I came home, I wasn’t sure what to tell my parents so I said I would go out with him again. We had 2 more dates that were neither interesting nor miserable. Before the fourth date I decided I needed to make up my mind about whether I liked him or not, and I resolved to get the conversation to more meaningful places. Our date was in another hotel lobby this time and we sauntered about, both secretly wishing we could be in a more exciting place. “So why are you in college?” He asked and then promptly added, “My parents are fine with that by the way”.

“Wow”, I thought to myself. “Look how open-minded they are.” And then I caught myself. “How low will you stoop, thinking someone is open-minded for letting you go to Touro on Ave J…”

“Is it because you want to feel young?” Chaim asked. I stared at him blankly. I was 23 years old and probably looked like I was 16, something I was very self-conscious of at the time. What the hell was that supposed to mean? “It’s because I love science, “ I answered, a little too honestly. We then walked past a fancy grand piano and I asked him if I can play it. Apparently, he was unaware of Rav Falk’s section in Oz V’Hadar Levusha that delineated all the talents a woman should avoid showcasing in front of men and he responded with a gleeful yes. I played a little song and when I was finished, Chaim narrowed his eyes and stared at the big word painted just above the keyboard and under the music rack. He started to read it slowly, stumbling over the second part of the word, and then shrugged. “Never really learned how to read English well…” like he was telling me that today is Monday. My heart felt like it dropped from the top of the Empire State building down to the Manhattan sidewalk we just graced. He didn’t learn how to read English? And what was that visceral reaction I just had? Mistama my mind telling me “ad kan”. I was willing to forego a lot of gashmius and chitzoniyus to become the wife of a future Gadol. After all, I was ghostwriting divrei torah for a shul for years already without ever getting the credit. But I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my dignity enough to marry a man who couldn’t read English. Sigh. I knew in that moment that I could never marry this boy-man, green-puppy-eyes-bright-future and all. Ironically, as soon as the question of whether or not this man would be my husband was answered, I felt so relieved that the questions kept tumbling out of my mouth and it actually turned out to be a memorable evening.

BYM: “So what do you think the most important thing in a marriage is?”

Chaim: “You get married because you have to.”

BYM: “What do you mean?”

Chaim: “A man just has to.”

The look on his face said it all. He wanted sex. “Well”, I thought to myself, “at least he’s honest.” I decided to see how far I was able to push. Was there no other reason he wanted to get married?

BYM: “What do you mean “has to”?

Chaim: “That’s just the way of the world”.

Ok, he definitely means sex. I decided to try a different angle.

BYM: “Do you think a husband and wife need to have intellectual rapport?”

Chaim: “No”

BYM: “Don’t you think a marriage would be better if the husband and wife have an intellectual connection?”

Chaim: “My brother and sister-in-law learn a sefer together. It’s cute [dismissive hand wave] but that’s not what makes a marriage.”

BYM: “I think having some sort of intellectual connection is important.”

Chaim: “I don’t think so. And also, second marriages are not like first marriages. They don’t have the same connection and closeness. They’re ‘[dismissive hand wave again] whatever.”

“That came out of left field,” I thought to myself. I then remembered that his father was on his second marriage and his mother stayed in Flatbush a lot.

BYM: “Well, looks like we’ve come to a joint decision that we can tell the Shadchan.

Chaim: “Yes”

We then walked to the side of the hotel where the driver would be meeting us. With no decisions weighing on our minds, the freedom and relief we both felt in that moment made space for a tiny little spark between us that may have been ignited by a giant, very untznius, billboard nearby. I saw Chaim glance at the billboard; it was a scantily dressed woman holding a perfume bottle with a man behind her kissing her tilted neck. After a few moments he averted his eyes. Then looked at me. Then stared into space as if looking for the driver. I tried to strike up a new conversation to alleviate the awkwardness, but we were going to tell the shadchan it was a no, so was it appropriate to talk and enjoy each other’s company? We stood there silently. The little spark lingered for a few more moments until the driver pulled up. I could tell he felt it too. Perhaps in an alternate universe, on another planet, at a different time, we would have just fucked and then moved on.

~~~

contact email: baisyaakovmaidel@gmail.com

“Older” Girls at 22

So, by now you’ve probably all seen the widely excoriated article in which an old Flatbush rabbi states that girls expire at age 20.

“If we didn’t tell these boys that girls expire at 20, they wouldn’t be so reluctant to date 21-year-olds,” someone complained to me. “You think these guys know what a size 4 dress means? Or a size 6? They don’t. They just absorb what they’re told by people like this.”

Then she told me this great story about “older” girls.

This guy was redt a shidduch to a great girl. He was warned that she was an “older” single, already 22, but really wonderful in every way and he should at least give it a try.

With great trepidation, he drives up to her house. He’s really nervous, because, well, she’s old, and he doesn’t want to be shallow but…

He rings the doorbell and she opens the door, and his heart sinks. She’s just… so old looking. Not that maturity doesn’t have its benefits but…

Bravely, he wishes her a good evening.

“Oh, Chani will be right down,” the older woman said. And as she spoke, a young, beautiful woman floated down the stairs in a haze of chiffon.

He was smitten at first sight. Two months later, he proposed to her. Three children later, they still laugh about the time he thought he was going to take her mother out for coke at the Marriott.

NYC Taxi Driver Tells It Straight

Why do aidel maidels need to be so tznius? The mashal is often given to a precious diamond, which is kept hidden away in a safe, not exposed where anyone can see or steal it.

In the opening anecdote of Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt’s latest article, a NYC taxi driver explains the problem with this comparison:

 

We usually don’t take a car,” the yeshiva boy says to the driver, an older Irish man with a hearty laugh and a dapper straw hat. “But the lady was inappropriately attired (he winks at his date), in her heels I mean, so we had to — “

The yeshiva boy’s date cuts him off and leans forward to the driver, deciding to turn her frustrations into a joke: “Sir, he doesn’t really care about the heels. It’s my actual choice of attire that he finds inappropriate. My skirts are too short, it makes him nervous, he won’t even call me by my name, you know how religious boys are…”

The driver turns the corner. “That’s the problem with religion, it’s sexist,” he says, looking at her in his mirror. “I know because my parents were religious Catholics. It’s all a bunch of sexist garbage.”

The boy and girl laugh nervously over the profanity, and the girl says slowly, “Well, I don’t think religion itself is sexist, it’s just that chauvinists still exist…” She casts the boy a look.

The boy turns back to the driver: “But don’t you agree, sir, that if you have the most precious diamond in the world, you keep it wrapped up? You don’t take it to the streets to show the entire world?”

The girl gasps silently — she is taken backwards in time, back to the apologetics they taught in 7th grade, again and again, bas melech, kol kvoda pnima, a princess’s honor is all inside, a divine jewel to be kept hidden…

But before she can respond, the driver presses the brakes. He turns around and faces the yeshiva boy, and says slowly, his voice shaking with rage: “Listen to me, boy. This is not an object you’re talking about. This is a living, breathing human being.”

 

What he is saying is: when you lock someone away like a diamond, you are treating them like property, not a person.

This is how objectification works:  By preventing other humans from meeting your “diamond,” you prevent other humans from acknowledging their humanity. The other humans only know about them from descriptions. This, essentially, turns them into objects defined by their description.

Not making sense? I’ll be less abstract:

If men learn about women strictly from a photo proffered by a shadchan, then they will accept and reject women based on the simplest algorithm: appearances. Which objectifies women. So, by keeping women hidden from men, you objectify them. You do not protect them.

I can’t believe I blogged about shidduchim for seven years and never realized this.

But there you go: that is the root problem. The reason why shidduch dating is so offensive.

There’s another, similar, point to be made about sexualization. Arguably, there is nothing overtly (or possibly even covertly) sexual about a woman’s knees. However, if a gentleman glances at your knees, blushes, looks away, and refuses to look at you anymore, then your knees have just been sexualized. And you have just been turned into an object. A sexual object. Something that can’t be looked at without creating sexual thoughts, because everything about you — and especially your knobbly knees — are sexual.

In the opening story, the boy (and yes, he’s a boy not a man or even a guy) decided that Avital’s skirt was too short to be seen in public. He begins making decisions for her about how she ought to appear in public, on the theory that she’s not a person, she’s a diamond. Bam! Objectified! Sexualized!

So you see why Avital was a little upset.

By the way, I’m awed by her presence of mind and her guts in telling that smug bochur how it is. She’s my new rebbe. I’m a total fan. Go read her article.

Also, thank you NYC for having awesome taxicab drivers.

 

 

Solve All Your Problems in One Man

So this is a true story.

A woman moved to Ofakim. She had a job, she found an apartment, she went to shul, she got invited out for a meal.

At the meal, her hostess kindly inquired how she was adjusting, and she chatted a bit about some of the challenges of moving to a small, hot town in the south of Israel when you grew up in Milwaukee.

But every time she’d mention something, her host would interject, “Nu? All she needs is a good shidduch and everything will be fine.”

So, think, “Ulpan is great, but I still have trouble with some of the technical jargon for my job.”

“Nu? All she needs is a good shidduch and everything will be fine.”

“Not having Sundays is challenging. When do you do laundry and groceries?”

“Nu! What’s the problem? You need a good shidduch!”

“Last night the cats yowled under my window for 7 hours straight and I didn’t get any sleep.”

“What’s the problem? You need to get married!”

Doubtless, he thought he was being adorable. In fact, he was being annoying and condescending, minimizing everything she said by claiming life would be perfect if only she had a man.

Personally, I applaud her for making a big and brave move on her own — yes, all alone without a man — and I’m confident she’ll be able to handle everything her new town throws her way — on her own. 

And if she had a guy to do the laundry, well, that would just be icing.

Congrats to NEF #21

Okay, I made that number up. I don’t know what number she is. But she deserves a special public congratulations, because according to her high school teacher, she wasn’t ever supposed to get engaged.

You know how bais yaakov teachers roll. It’s all “Do what I say or you’ll never get married!” Heck, I had a Tefillah teacher in 12th grade who told us she got a shidduch call about a girl who didn’t pay attention in Tefillah class and, well, “I just couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her.”

I can’t think of anything nice to say about that teacher.

So, moving right along. NEF #21 really wanted to go to Michlala in Israel to study for a year. But her teacher told her that if she didn’t go to a bais yaakov seminary, nobody would ever want to date her.

NEF thought about that a bit. She realized that, in fact, people who study in Michlala do not comprise the entirety of the “shidduch crisis” pool. Moreover, if she went to a bais yaakov seminary, she’d probably wind up dating the wrong kind of people. The type who think like her teacher, perhaps. So she went to Michlala, learned a lot, had a great year, and now, guess what? She’s engaged!

Thank You, Avigail

Good4 just handed me an article from the January 28, 2015 Ami magazine. It’s written by Avigail Rabin and the pull quote, in a bright aquamarine, is “I get the impression that I’m supposed to walk around in a wooden barrel, indoors, devoid of jewelry, until I am married.”

Naturally, I was intrigued. It took me about 45 seconds to devour the entire forum article, which was brilliant. While all rights belong to Ami, here are the first two paragraphs:

I don’t consider myself “a single.” I am very much the same person I was in fourth grade, in twelfth grade, at the age of 21, and last year. Me. Me who has not yet met Mr. Right, who is presumably out there somewhere, wondering where in the world I am and when I’ll be showing up. Why am I sharing this with absolute strangers? Because I’ve read so many perspectives on me and my supposed life and feelings on these pages and others by parents, shadchanim, mental health professionals, and even other singles, and not one of them has expressed my viewpoint. So here it is.

Last week I went shopping and came home with a beautiful Shabbos outfit. I teach a full day, tutor after school, and while I try to save responsibly for the future, I do occasionally shop. My mother said, “Wow, that looks amazing on you! Why don’t you put it aside for your sheva brochos?” Never mind that my last date was (a) uninspiring and (b) seven weeks ago. The same week I told a coworker I had just booked a flight to Eretz Yisroel for midwinter vacation. She replied, “Don’t go now; put it off and the first bein hazmanim that you’re married!” Then last summer, when I bought myself some really nice earrings in Florida with one of my als0-waiting friends, my grandmother, shaking her head in disappointment, wondered, “What’s the chasan going to buy you?”

Avigail, I officially love you. If you can write like this twice a week, and are so inclined, you can have my URL.

Dating Games

So, I remember that time a guy brought a pack of cards on a date. It was from a board game, but the point was to ask people things you would never otherwise ask them. Like, personal questions. Sometimes nosy. The second one that came up for me was, “What’s the most embarrassing thing in your bathroom?”

“Uh…” I said. I could think of a lot of things in my bathroom that would be embarrassing to talk about on a first date.

Needless to say, that game didn’t do much for our date, which died in the water.

I’ve had a card game like that (The Ungame) be more successful later on in the dating, like, once you’ve actually got to a point where you feel comfortable discussing, at least, the contents of your kitchen, if not your bathroom.

Anyway, SYAS has entered the dating card game game.

Some of the essential questions it covers: “What do you think of a woman earning more than her partner?” & “What would you do if you had to entertain a 5-year-old for a day?”  & “Do you prefer meat, dairy, or pareve?” (What?) Well hey. If you don’t get any mileage out of the questions, you might get some out of making fun of the game.

Ungame - Jewish version