Deserving a Date

I recently reposted  about people equating your accomplishments with your deserving to get married. It’s been bubbling in my mind ever since a friend sent me an article entitled ‘Why the Smartest People Have the Toughest Time Dating.’ I assume it was follow-up to a conversation in which she’d said something like “Well if you’re going to blacklist an entire population for dating, I can see why it would be engineers.” For which I duly clonked her over the head with a campus newspaper.

The reason I was thinking about this article was because item #1 is “Smart people feel they’re entitled to love because of their achievements.”  (#1 is that you’ve spent too much time becoming accomplished and not enough practicing socializing, so you don’t know how.)

Now, if we change love/date to love/marriage…

Now, to be honest, it never occurred to me that I deserved the love/marriage thing. Or that I needed to. I mean, isn’t that what happens? You’re old enough, you’re physically and mentally capable, you want to, so you get married. Right?  (I guess that’s “deserving” simply by existing.)

Except, we’re told, 10% of chronologically, physically, and mentally capable young women aren’t going to get married (and we’ll believe it for the sake of argument), so what did I ever do to make it into the lucky 90%?

Somehow, even I am not convinced that baking a delicious cake or constructing a cute Purim costume automatically makes me more deserving. And when you boil any accomplishment down, it’s just another Purim costume. Being able to solve differential equations in his head is an accomplishment I can admire, but it hasn’t gotten my classmate a girlfriend yet. On the other end of the spectrum, Maureen Dowd is a great writer, but she can’t get herself hitched either.

So I was wondering, is there anything alone that makes a person deserve to get married?

Thought experiment time! (I had to throw this in so I can put myself in the same sentence as Schrodinger and Galileo.)

Let’s split the human persona into three categories: the external (looks, fitness, charm, physical appeal); the internal (character, personality, ‘clicking’); and the extensive (efficacy, accomplishments, charisma).

(Yes, I know this is turning into a massively eggheaded post and a clear demonstration, according to cited article, of why I’m not married yet, but… yeah.)

So, would you marry someone if they excelled in only one of those categories, but was a complete null in both others?

EG: would you take a repulsive jerk if (s)he was rich and successful? Or a good-looking jerk who can’t even tie his/her shoes? What about someone with great morals and personality but a complete loser in every other way? And so on. (There being 3! permutations, I leave you to consider the other 50%.)

…so, (if you’ve come to the same conclusion I have), how does one deserve love/marriage?


29 thoughts on “Deserving a Date

  1. Interesting question but it’s tough when you look at it from a strictly physical point of view as opposed to a spiritual one. It’s hard for one to really change their personality just for the sake of getting married it may be practically impossible.Certainly appearances can change more quickly than character.

  2. “So, would you marry someone if they excelled in only one of those categories, but was a complete null in both others?”

    At least anecdotally the answer is yes if it is the money category being looked at. A commenter on one of my shidduch postings referenced an old Yiddish saying: “There are no ugly daughters of rich fathers.” It applies to the males as well. If you look at the children of the very wealthy or look at those who, themselves, are earning megabucks, there are very, very few singles. And having the money does not necessarily confer a desirable personality, great looks or stellar achievements. I would also suspect that any unmarried people in this money class, particularly if they are over their 20s, are single by choice at that point rather than because they couldn’t make a shidduch because of a lack in the other two categories.

    How does the old song go? “Money makes the world go round.”

  3. Bad4 – you are limiting the range significantly. Each one of the factors has a number of different parts, you can’t just limit it to 3!. From the areas you listed you are already at 10!. Lets say there was a lot of ‘clicking’ but much else, or he had a excess of charm but nothing else would make the thought experiment more extreme which is where thought experiments live 🙂

    feivelbensishael – In the end of the day computers come from electrical signals, but understanding electrical signals doesn’t mean you are going to be able to use youtube. Marriage has a number of other areas, and while everything ultimately comes down to middos it is not the only thing to take into consideration.

    Jewish Wedding Music – What do you mean in this case by the term spiritual? And as a side point, character can change just as fast as looks but we don’t put enough effort into it so it doesn’t. Lets assume it takes 10 years of consistent work to change a middah (that is an overestimate), looks don’t change so drastically in 10 years generally.

  4. I have thought about whether or not I deserve love/marriage, specifically when I got dumped two days after Yom Kippur. Also when my mother told me that the reason I’m not married yet is that I don’t make it to shacharis with a minyan often enough. I don’t have any deep insight into what makes a person deserve love/marriage, the way I see it good people deserve good things.

    Honestly I don’t think I would marry anyone who didn’t have the external and internal qualities I’m looking for, I’m not sure about the extensive. In spite of the fact that I really really want a Lamborghini Reventon, I would not marry the richest girl in the world, if she didn’t have the other qualities I’m looking for. The one trade off I think I would make is intelligence for looks, as long as I like the girl’s personality and we understand each other, I’d rather her be pretty than smart. Shallow, I know, but it’s the truth.

  5. I know an incredibly wealthy woman who is single in her 50’s. Her sister married “down,” and knows it.

    Maureen Dowd is a farbissiner anteh-semit. Did you read her Op-Ed from this morning? Whining all the time how the Jewish woman can’t get no respect. If she’s single, no sympathy here.

    I always find it disturbing that polls and statistics are brought forth to prove female unmarriageability. We might as well throw away our siddurim.

    This world was set up that we pair off. It’s not about deserving. It’s about the rules of the universe. But I would argue that not being a jackass helps.

  6. Bad4 – I think you got the math wrong (now I know this is going to be a clear demonstration why I’m not married yet).
    This isn’t a permutation; its a combination. So, there are only 3 combinations, not 6. If there are three distinct options and you wish to choose one of them, there are three total choices you can make, not 6.

  7. I agree with Princess Lea – it’s not a matter of deserving at all (at least from our point of view). It’s a matter of what Hakadosh Baruch Hu decides is right for an individual at a given time.

  8. I think that the quality most desirable in a marriage partner is their ability to “give” to others – to put the needs of their spouse ahead of, or at least on par with their own.

    This quality is paramount regardless of all those other important and non-important criteria such as: hashkafa, yarmulke type, amount of learning, family wealth, color of tablecloths etc.

  9. Noone deserves to get married just like noone doesn’t deserve to get married. It really is just luck to find someone who wants you that you also want.

  10. I don’t think that “deserving” is the right term. Clearly, as many have stated, the actuality of getting married is entirely in G-d’s control, along with our own hishtadlus. But we, as humans, don’t “deserve” anything. Chana wrote an excellent post about this (which was in the larger context of the YU Gay panel back in December), which can be found here: I think my response there (which I have copied and pasted with slight modifications) applies here as well:

    “Having just finished a semester with Rabbi Angel where we discussed Kohelet, I feel an urge to mention a few points: Kohelet is totally against the whole idea of “deserving.” As it says in Kohelet 7:13-15 – the world can be a very twisted place from the human perspective (which is what the megillah is all about; viewing the world from a human, non-navi vantage). Life in our world ISN’T fair, righteous people can suffer and wicked people can prosper (I’m not going to define either of those terms here). We, as humans can’t begin to fathom what any of it means, because we AREN’T G-d, and that is G-d’s response to Iyov in ch.38, and we have no right to charge Him with doing something wrong, because He is utterly beyond us.

    A person can clammer all day about G-d not being fair, but Kohelet is quite clear – lots of things in our limited human perspective are unfair, but that’s reality. It doesn’t make it any easier, but we can’t take G-d to task. He has his reasons.

    The central point of Kohelet is exactly as Chana said: every single thing we have in life is “matat Elokim” a gift from G-d (see 2:24, 3:13, and others). We don’t deserve anything we have, even the good things that one might think are a reward for righteous behavior have not necessarily been bestowed for that reason.

    Kohelet, in speaking for all of mankind (not just Jews), really puts us in our place regarding the belief that we deserve anything. It’s a difficult concept to swallow, but Kohelet is right. ”

    Granted, this may sound a bit harsh (and I wrote it in response to a few readers there who were very adamant in their misguided views), but the basic point is still applicable here as well.

  11. Love the thought experiment!!! Philosophy FTW!

    Princess Lea, by “rules of the universe”, do you mean Laws of Nature? Because in an evolutionary sense everyone is instilled with the instinct to increase our fitness by reproducing and passing on our genes. The method in which our society has determined it socially acceptable to do so is by first marrying or “pairing off” and then reproducing. I don’t think it is (biological) Law of Nature that we, as human beings, have an innate desire to find a life-partner. This may be a result of our socialization but not at all a result of biology.

    From a religious view, i do not think God decides when the time is right for use to marry or necessarily picks one person for us to marry. Rather, he places opportunities before us and it is our obligation as free individuals to act upon them. We choose who and when we want to marry….Oy i am getting my self in trouble with extremely complicated issues so i won’t press this further.

    On the topic of ‘deserving’…hmmm thats a tough one. Do we ever deserve anything? Is there any reward that we should necessarily receive because of our actions ? Deserves seems to be an awfully strong notion and not applicable to marriage because marriage isnt a reward. I think thats something that we as young women often forget. Marriage or the perfect husband is a prize that we get. Marriage is an opportunity to live more fully and express ourselves as lovers, mothers,etc. Dating is the process in finding a person with whom we can express ourselves and accomplish our goals. If we are honest with ourselves and our potential hopefully we can find someone who wants the same things we do.

    This was awfully long and scattered comment…eek

  12. Yes, Bad4’s math is somewhat misleading. Obviously there are only N ways of choosing one quality out of N available ones; I assume that she meant that there are 6 ways of choosing some qualities out of the three available. But this is still wrong; there are actually 2N different possibilities, or, if we ignore the perfect and the egregious, 2N – 2. Now, it is true that 2N – 2 = N! for the particular case of N = 3 (and N = 2), but this is not the case for any other (nonzero) integer value of N.

    And while we’re on this topic, anyone finished with his or her homework and still hungry for more, see:צדקה-in-polynomial-time/

  13. Chaim – google the title. That should do the trick.

    Yes, my statistics are off. I apologize. It was a hastily added, last-minute parenthetical comment that did not pass through our rigorous fact-checking department… I always regret those, but somehow they’re hard to resist.

    About changing appearances – plastic surgery, accutane, bottled tan, electrolysis, hair dye/cut, growing a beard, makeup… changing appearances is pretty easy. I think changing character is harder. There are some tendencies that are innate to a personality. You can’t make yourself outgoing, although you can behave in an outgoing fashion.

    Yeah, I don’t think one *deserves* marriage either. But I was curious to see what the response would be. Logically, we know that we don’t “deserve” good things, but emotionally we still might feel that way. You know – I’ve been a good person, doesn’t that count for anything? A little like Salieri in Amadeus.

    Oh, and I don’t read Dowd. She gets on my nerves. Jewish women don’t get any respect? Has she met a Jewish mother recently? Those forces of nature are probably single-handedly responsible for 30% of the PhD professors in my university.

  14. “So, would you marry someone if they excelled in only one of those categories, but was a complete null in both others?”
    The problem with this question is that very few people fit this description – unless you talk about idiot savants. A rich jerk is supposed to have only ‘extensive’ merits – but has he? If he is successful he MUST have some traits what’ve helped him to make money. Tenacity? Persistence? Ambition? Those are fairly ‘internal’.

    What you mean to say, obviously, is to ask whether excellence in one of those Great Three can compensate for very poor ‘performance’ in the other two. This is a question of personal taste. Some are unhappy if they can’t hold intellectual discussions with their spouses, but couldn’t care less if he/she earns significantly less. Some are content with pretty shallow conversations as long as he/she are kind-hearted and bring home the bacon. Thus, it’s not a question of deserving but of meeting somebody whose needs are best fulfilled by your capabilities and who is least affected by your shortcomings and faults. A matter of chance- if you are a non-believer. I think differently.

    As for ‘smart people have difficulty to get dates’ this is a matter of statistics. If you are smarter than most of the population AND your preference is to have intellectual compatibility in a relationship, you are just going to meet fewer people who are suitable. I would be more interested in research on smart people’s marriages – how do they last(and satisfy) in comparison to those of the rest of the population.

  15. “I assume that she meant that there are 6 ways of choosing SOME qualities out of the three available.”

    If you are taking her to task then it is only fair that you be treated the same way. I assume that you meant some but not all, because “some qualities out of the three available” can mean all three.

  16. wellspring – it’s a thought experiment. The point was to isolate a single trait that would make someone “deserve” to be married. So yes, we’re talking complete null. Idiot savant. Brainless beauty. Whatever it takes.

  17. Shira – I would prefer to use a more spiritual rather than evolutionary perception. The need for “love” is not an evolutionary impulse; I don’t think the standard animal in the wild makes a point of conversation and shared goals before pairing off. “I like the standard available in greenery, can’t stand fleas, and try to avoid hungry predators as often as possible. And you?”

    Therefore, our higher need, whatever fulfills our internal wants in a spouse, which differs from person to person. Supposedly men are not complete until they reclaim their lost rib. And women, overflowing with completion, long to share it with others.

    bad4 – you should see what M. Dowd writes. The usual feminist claptrap: the kosel ladies section is teeny tiny, men say “thanks for not making me a woman” in davening, all the old complaints of those who seek only negativity.

  18. Bad4: OK, let me try it…

    *getting into thought-experiment mode, feeling decidedly Einstein-esque*

    *taking a Ken doll from the old toy shelf, endowing him with a voice, but no personality/education/career whatsoever*

    *making said Ken doll kneel before me and propose*

    Now, HAVE I got it right? If so, let me proceed to the final stage of the experiment:

    *returning the Ken doll to the toy shelf, where it belongs*

    Now, I suppose, I’ve got to try it with the other factors and reach the same conclusion most people will reach: There. Is. No. Single. Factor. Determining. Marriageability.

  19. Wellspring – sometimes they’re that simple. Don’t steal my credit. Heck, all Schroedinger concluded was that you don’t know if a cat in a box is dead unless you can see it. How profound is that? 😉

  20. I know, and the only use I ever found for the Schroedinger’s experiment was the inspiration for some clever quips it gave to people like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 🙂 I do think he has done disservice to the reputation of thought experimets – a pity when you think how much less we would’ve known without them. (I read a convincing explaination that Isaac Newton made one to discover gravitation: It was NOT a real apple tree, he just imagined a tree so huge that it reaches the sky – and the moon as a fruit hunging from it.)

  21. bad4
    I had copied and pasted the title into google, the only reference is to your post. There’s a Huffington post on smart people and dating ….

  22. Anonymous (3:59 AM) wrote:

    ““I assume that she meant that there are 6 ways of choosing SOME qualities out of the three available.”

    If you are taking her to task then it is only fair that you be treated the same way. I assume that you meant some but not all, because “some qualities out of the three available” can mean all three.”

    You seem to have missed the fact that I explicitly acknowledged that in my comment:

    “there are actually 2N different possibilities, or, if we ignore the perfect and the egregious, 2N – 2”

  23. Funny, because i think along these lines all the time. Only simpler.

    I just think, “wow, that weirdo/shallow moron/selfish twit, etc. managed to get married? And these cute normal girls are sitting home waiting for the phone to ring?”

    Hey, people. It happens.

    There are plenty of smart, attractive, socially adept people waiting for their “basherts”

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