Discussing Dates

Every now and then I log in to my gmail and/or gchat and find a friend morose because of shidduchim. Sometimes it’s because they have no date, sometimes it’s because they have a date, and sometimes it’s because they’ve had a date. And then there are the times it’s because they or someone else no longer wants to date.

Half the time it’s something like “My parents are mad at me for saying no to this guy after four dates because I don’t have a good reason to say no; I just can’t think of any good reason to say yes, which I think there should be by the fourth date.”

The other half of the time it’s something like “My friend just said no to a guy for a really dumb reason; I think she should have given him another chance. I hope she’s not ruining her life.”

There’s something that seems wrong about all this to me – after all, if you’re not going on the date, you don’t really know what happened, and you’re hardly capable of judging the wisdom of a “yes” or “no” answer. And yet at the same time, the reason these people know is because their friends tell them (or they tell their parents) for advice and assistance in deciding to say “yes” or “no.”

Shidduch dating is a pretty muddling experience. You go on a date with someone who sounds right. You know that perfect isn’t likely to happen, and you should be happy with almost perfect. But where does “almost” end and “not really” begin? No idea. You know there shouldn’t be any love at first sight, but at which point should the feelings begin to spark? No idea. You know you’re going to have to accept certain hashkafic and background differences, but which ones? No idea. Then you meet this other person and have to figure out if they’re almost perfect enough, if you like them enough, and if their goals are alike enough within the space of about 8 jam-packed dates. It’s enough to make a girl chew down her manicure.

So people recruit their friends and family, who have greater and more varied experience, to help them decide. I once thought this was a drop obscene. I mean, dating gets pretty personal. People tell each other things they don’t really want broadcasted publicly. So what right do you have to pass it along to other people? Which is why dating my first guy was a truly miserable experience. I had no idea whether I could reasonably say no if after the second date I had neither anything positive nor negative to say about him. Luckily, he said he thought it was mutual. Phew. After that I slowly started hashing over some the parts that troubled me out loud to my parents. “He tormented the busboy. It bothered me so much I actually told him to stop, and he made some snide comment about it still being better here than Mexico. Am I allowed to conclude that he’s a jerk?” “Is saying ‘whatever’ to something I’ve said on a first date inconsiderate or just rude?” “Is he just a bit too laid back if he’s 27 and still has no idea what he’d do to earn a living if he had to?”

I still don’t discuss the particulars of dates with friends, but I know for many—particularly those out-of-town singles crammed into attics and basements around NYC independent of any parents—it’s a staple of evening conversation. First they all dress the dater up, choosing her shoes and critiquing her makeup. Then they send her off and eagerly count the hours until her return. After which, of course, they want to know how it went. A friend of mine in such an attic would always hint about the dating news flying about up there. Someone had broken up yet again after the 5th date. Another person couldn’t get set up with anyone normal because of some background issues. And then someone else had gone out with a guy for a month and liked him fine, but didn’t “feel” anything; should they break up? That was the hot topic for a full week. (They broke up. She was engaged 4 months later.)

Deciding to break up is a very difficult decision. Nobody wants to be accused of being “too picky,” and yet neither does anyone want to be stuck in a decidedly unloving relationship for life. Friends are supposed to help, but they don’t really know enough to do the job well. Besides, they don’t either want the responsibility of their friends’ future happiness on their conscience. So how do they discuss dating?

Very carefully, I gather.

I called an expert date-discussing friend of mine, who, it seems, always knows the particulars of her friends’ dates to find out how a pro does it.

She said a friend has to understand that she’s not really being asked her opinion. She’s merely being used as a sounding board. Her entire purpose is to grunt “mhmm” occasionally and ask leading questions when the dater pauses for lack of direction. If she has enough information to form an opinion, she can inject a smidgen of it into her leading questions, but nothing more than that. “It’s not your life,” she explains. “It’s not really your business.” If you think she’s wrong, keep it to yourself.

Or grumble about it on g-chat.

23 thoughts on “Discussing Dates

  1. A very soundly written posting. Just one little thing that shouted out to me in it–“Then you meet this other person and have to figure out if they’re almost perfect enough, if you like them enough, and if their goals are alike enough within the space of about 8 jam-packed dates.” Why 8? I have no idea where that number came from or why it is given such “magical” properties. Having it hang over your head can only add to dating anxiety. Setting a timer may work for TV quiz shows but it’s wholly artificial when it comes to dating.

  2. i think the reason why ppl discuss their dates is 1) they want validation on their feelings and 2) sometimes they dont want to take responsibility for ending a relationship.

  3. within the space of about 8 jam-packed dates.

    Huh?
    It takes as long as it takes (within reason, of course).

  4. First they all dress the dater up, choosing her shoes and critiquing her makeup. Then they send her off and eagerly count the hours until her return. After which, of course, they want to know how it went

    😆
    Am I the only one who is envisioning Cinderella and her mice?

  5. This is one of my main peeves with the ladies. Guys, as general rule, do not sit around dissecting each and every date with all their friends. For some reason, girls think it’s ok.

    It’s not.

  6. It is a source of great irritation to my roommate that I refuse to tell her all the details about my dates. She hates that I won’t come home after a date and tell her all the details of who he is, where he’s from, what he’s doing, where we went, what I did or didn’t like about him, etc.

    If I need advice or input, I have a couple of people I’ll talk to, but I still don’t give out identifying information about the guy.

  7. LWY- “Guys, as general rule, do not sit around dissecting each and every date with all their friends”
    I don’t know about that- I definatly know that the guys do schmooze about their dates, at least the ones I’m thinking of.
    If you don’t do it- kol hakavod. Girls shouldn’t do it either- at least not if it doesn’t have a tachlis to it.

  8. I would agree with LWY.

    Guys may talk about dating or dates that they’ve been on in the past.
    In general they do not talk about specific dates with specific people or dates that they have just been on.

    of course this is just my experience (hamevin yavin;^), there is not telling what kind of uncouth y-chromosomed fish there are out there in the proverbial shidduch sea.

  9. Clarification for NMF- guys will talk about their dates – but not in the sense of trying to analyze each and every aspect of it, but for the story/entertainment value.

    Girls on the other hand share their dating life with friends in order to get their prospective and analysis on things.

    I think this is a general error by girls. I agree if a guy torments a busboy is rude to people – this is probably very telling of him. On the other hand, not every syllable hat comes out of his mouth needs to be broken down.

    As for how long to date – why would you put a set number 6, 8 or whatever, or even set amount of time? You should go out until you feel comfortable getting engaged.

    Lastly, as for “feeling something” there is a nice piece in last weeks Jewish Press, the Rosie Einhorn column (usually above the Im Yirtzeh Hashem column) that I think really hits this issue on the head. For some lucky people, they feel it right away. For others it is more confusing. Many times people go out for 3 dates and enjoy the conversation, like the other person – but don’t feel anything or just can’t picture themselves married to their date. Not for any particular reason – but just can’t see it. IMHO, those are the sort of people that you should try and spend more time with. You like them, can’t find anything wrong – so why not give it a longer time. I was like this with my wife and it took her traveling away for 2 weeks and us talking on the phone until I realized I was looking forward to her coming back! Had we ended it after 4 dates – where we enjoyed each other’s company but really didn’t see us married . . . It may not be very yeshivish to date someone for a longer period of time – but no-one can accuse you of not putting in proper hishtadlus. Where does it end? Well as they say in the legal field – after a “reasonable” time period. (In other words – there is no set time and you need to take into consideration all of the facts and circumstances.)

  10. First they all dress the dater up, choosing her shoes and critiquing her makeup. Then they send her off and eagerly count the hours until her return. After which, of course, they want to know how it went 😆
    Am I the only one who is envisioning Cinderella and her mice?

    I thought the exact same thing.

    For the record, that kinda stops when you get a little older.

  11. I only discuss dates, after the fact. I use my experience to drive home a point, tell a story, or maybe explain my perspective.

    It’s pointless to discuss a date with friends if you’re looking for answers. I love my friends; some of them are very similar to me, others very differen, but there is always enough variables to make their opinions kinda…well…worthless.

  12. Wahoo! Thank you!

    Hey, I understand the futility of discussing dates, as everyone has their own idea of what should happen during dating, and when it’s not the same as yours, this can result in an incredibly frustrating sharing experience. But it’s really hard to not discuss things — especially when you live with friends as opposed to at home. My friends who live at home are much less likely to talk about it with anyone more than their parents and maybe one or two friends. And for a lot of people, it’s important to be able to air their thoughts and doubts, even if they’re not necessarily looking for an opinion. Just by voicing them out loud they can figure things out for themselves.

  13. For those of us who prefer to keep things quiet — how on earth *do* you decide whether to continue dating or not?
    Or am I the only one who’s perpetually tormented by indecisiveness?

  14. 8 was just chosen because that’s the typical number after which people (in this community) tend to make their decision.

    Anon – you’re not alone. I’m always very relieved when the guy ends it.

    PS: Though I don’t really discuss dating much with friends, I’ve never heard anyone pick apart every sentence the guy says. If they get hung up on a sentence, it’s usually something that stands out as particularly wrong or hurtful.

  15. I almost never discuss my dates (much to the annoyance of my family and friends). Unless something just really odd happened, I just tell everyone I had a nice time. I stopped dissecting every date a long time ago.

  16. 8 was just chosen because that’s the typical number after which people (in this community) tend to make their decision.

    8, 10, 12…whatever. It wasn’t the number, it was the use of A number.

  17. No heart palpitations G but I agree with you. Any number that becomes “the” number should be suspect. The choice of number is highly arbitrary and I’m sure adds more than a little to the angst of trying to make a decision.

  18. Totally true. In my case it took the amount of hours in the dates to increased rather than the number of dates.

  19. I don’t know that people should be saying that girls “shouldn’t” discuss their dates because guys don’t. Girls and guys process information and their feelings differently, regardless of background. It’s not that different in friendship. Girls will sit around talking for hours, while guys are perfectly happy to just hang out, play basketball, or whatever. If there is a tachlis, in other words the girl needs a sounding board to work out her feelings out loud, why not? One size doesn’t fit all.

  20. Thanks for the post. My friend was dating a guy for 4 months (very not typical for her or for our community) and hemmed and hawwed on the phone with me for hours each night about everything she liked and disliked about him, and she seemed on the verge of calling it off, but she didn’t so as not to be called picky. Long story short, she is now very happily married to him, and I am happy I didn’t convince her otherwise! Also, why in the world do I have to know all her husband’s faults? Every dater should realize that your date may be your potential husband…

  21. Great points in your post!
    I agree that people should be very careful about what they share about their dates. As ST has mentioned, your date may end your potential husband, and you many not want all your friends to know everything.
    Also – imagine trying to talk your friend out of a relationship because it sounds like it’s bad news and they end up married. Your friend may no longer feel particularly comfortable around you, and then you’re always nervous about whether your friend told her husband that you tried to talk her out of him…

  22. It’s not necessarily true that boys don’t dissect their dates. Once, my brother and I went on a date on the exact same day. When we went back home, we had a kind of 2nd date, and told each other how it went.
    It was sooo funny!!!
    Th epoint is, that he analyzed the situation a LOT more than I did, that’s for sure!

  23. Pingback: Friday Repost: Talking About Dating | Bad for Shidduchim

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