Recently, a former classmate (FW) called to ask me if I’d be interested in a guy who is a good yeshiva guy, but because of his background, knows Things, and has trouble finding bais yaakov maidels he can converse with.
At this point, I know exactly what’s going to happen, so my response is not exactly enthusiastic.
“What kind of Things?” I ask
“Um… like…” FW begins, but Things are apparently so foreign to her that she can’t think of any likely topics. “Current events?” she finally says, doubtfully.
I take down the info, let the parents do cursory research, and go put on some makeup. I’m ready to be pleasant, cheerful, and open-minded, but I know that if he’s a minor-league BT then he does not want a bais yaakov maidel who knows Things – or at least, not this particular one. My only question is, will it take him one date or two to figure it out?
Let’s consider the nature of knowing Things for a moment. For simplicity’s sake, let’s take the topic of current events. It helped, at one point, to know a bit about Haiti. There are a couple of ways one could know about Haiti. The high school method of learning is the reading route – newspapers, books, etc. Grown ups, on the other hand, may have the opportunity to, say, meet Haitians, or get involved with NGOs in the region or relief efforts.
But the average minor-league BT finds the nature of this latter method to be somewhat alarming. It is a Rule that one cannot be in personal contact with the Outside World and remain frum (or become frumer) – the mlBT being the sole exception to this rule, of course.
Additionally, even reading-based knowledge acquisition can be suspect. Theology (and mythology [avodas zara]), biographies of notorious figures, or even East of Eden (let alone Swearing: A Social History), can set off alarm bells in the cautious YM’s mind.
So, very slowly it will dawn on YM why his dates don’t know Things. Because aidelness can only be stretched so far beyond the boundaries of the Jewish community before it snaps.
In fact, I suspect that if YM would examine his own store of knowledge, he would find that the bulk of Things were added before he went to Israel, and it’s only been lightly padded since, mostly by NYTimes.com.
The kind of girl YM needs is very similar. She can still speak knowledgably about old Spielberg films, Monet’s brushstroke technique, and the headhunter culture in Papua New Guinea, but it’s mostly out of her pre-Israel, non-bais yaakov past. Now she studies occupational therapy in Maalot and socks her earnings away in her kollel fund.
Alternatively, there are those who still learn solely by the reading method (select material, of course), and maybe a few who pull off a circus-worthy balancing act, but I don’t know too many (any?) of those.
I am 98% sure that YM does not want a Things-knowing bais yaakov maidel, but he doesn’t know it yet. I tell myself that I’m not wasting my time; I’m helping a confused young man reexamine his priorities.
I go on the date; I try not to scandalize. I tell FW that I had a pleasant time (it’s always true); that I’d be willing to go out again (also true – I have no objection to him). But, to FW’s surprise (not my own), YM is on the fence. He needs “to think about it.” For a full 24 hours. Or more. And in the end he says “No.” Reason? G’wan. Guess.
Another job well done.