Lists and Short Lists

Recently I was at a neighbor’s house and found an Artscroll (or Feldheim, what’s the difference?) volume entitled something startling like “The ultimate guide to shidduchim” lying on their coffee table.

“Oh that’s an amazing book!” glowed the neighbor’s just post-seminary daughter.

“Oh yeah?” I asked. “So why are you single?”

She gave a theatrical sigh. “I guess Hashem hasn’t sent me my bashert yet.”

I skimmed the book. I don’t really remember it much except that it was tediously serious. It really was a 400-page guide to dating. And that it advised you to make a list.

I have never in all my dating career (okay, it’s not the longest) had a list. The idea of being able to check a guy off against a list of traits to decide whether or not to go out with him again is laughable. It’s just never come down to that. And also, should it really be that academic? “Hm, he checks off 9 out of 10, I guess I’ll take him. Too bad his pert little nose drives me batty. I should have listed ‘Roman nose’ as item 11.”

But this book suggested making an entire exercise of it. Here’s the basic outline (as I remember it):

You make up your list. Presumably there are twenty or so items on this list. (The mind boggles.)

Then you start crossing off items one at a time until you only have a handful. This forces you to prioritize and realize what is truly important to you.

This brought back a flood of fond memories. Specifically of a high school shabbaton game. You were dealt a hand of cards with things ranging from “good health” t0 “being happy with what you have.” In each round you had to give away one card. The idea was to make you think about your priorities.

It probably did. Mostly what I remember was sitting there trying to decide if I’d rather live long, be healthy, or be happy. On the one hand, I didn’t want to be a healthy old grump. But neither did I want to be a very happy terminally ill gomer…

But, back to dating: I don’t think I have more than five items on any list I could make up, anyway. Not that smallness in numbers makes them any less hefty. Requiring someone to “be a mentch” or be religiously and generally compatible with oneself is really quite demanding, when you think about it. If you want to eliminate most of the world there’s no need to start adding specifications about his nose.

And the funny thing is that some people have told me that my problem is that I have so few items. After all, there are a gazillion mentchen out there, can I please narrow it down by preferred tie color or something? If I don’t have a clear idea of who I want to marry, how will I recognize him when I meet him?

An excellent question. I’ll let you know the answer when I find out.

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19 thoughts on “Lists and Short Lists

  1. So then you do have a ‘list’ just not a written one.

    That book was talking about what you said- priorities. Sometimes, ‘lesser’ daters than you and others out there can’t prioritize. If you think you can have it all, that book says, well, you can’t.

    I don’t think a ‘list’ is such a bad thing. And, if you know so many true mentchen- please let me know about them- I have friends. Because a true mentch is hard to find.

  2. I had a list… if I remember right it comprised seven items. B”H my wife met all of them.
    My wife had a list, I am pretty sure I met all of her’s as well but you would have to ask her.
    Most the people I dated had lists, unfortunately “Not a B”T” happened to top a great many of them. While my Rabbanim would never offer up that information and typically successfully side stepped the question if and when posed to them, it eventually comes out… you know, “what meet my parents… well my father(z”l) sure, we can get together with him… oh you want to meet my mother… probably not going to happen… no she does not keep kosher… no she will not set foot in a kosher restaurant… no she will not come to the wedding if its performed by a Rabbi…” It typically came crashing down right about there. Yup still a little bit of bitterness. Though my mother did reneg on the not comming to the wedding part, much to my wife’s chagrin but I will let her(my wife) tell that awful tale in her own time.

    So I guess I would have to say that whether lists are a good thing or a bad thing, would depend on what is one them. Though ultimately I think that we all have(or had) them, it was just a matter of whether we were conscious of it. An exercise to make one conscious of the choices they are making(if the person would be honest with themselves) is probably a good thing.

    Oh, and there are not a gazillion mentchen out there… just a general observation. Halavai, we would be in the days of the geula if there were.

  3. Having a list is not problematic. Rather it depends what is on the list. eg, must wear designer clothes, must have shoulder length brown wavy hair (these have been gleaned from guys’ lists). I did the exercise of making a list of everything I could think of that I wanted, and then divided the list up into things that I feel I need in order to have a successful relationship and the rest which was mainly fantasy derived from popular culture. But when I go out with someone I’m not marking him off against the list. I just want to see if I enjoy being with him.

    BTW, wanting a religiously compatible mensch is the ikar and not at all demanding, especially not when you think who your Shadchan is.

  4. You don’t know until you go out with someone whether or not/ how many qualifications they meet on your “list”, and by that point it shouldnt matter anyways. I love how everyone judges based on preconceived notions. (that was written in the sarcasm font that should exist)

    And Anin, please. who’s looking for shoulder length brown wavy hair? I want shoulder length BLONDE wavy hair. Sheesh, girls just dont get us guys.

  5. If I am correct, the name of that book is Shidduch Secrets. I came across it as well and I thought that there was one point that the authors made that I don’t remember noticing in the plethora of other ‘shidduchim for dummies’ type of books that abound. It was that when someone lists characteristics they would like to see in their ideal mate, that list may contain items which are mutually incompatible. For example if a person says they want someone who is very driven to succeed and be very laid back in nature, it will probably be close to impossible to see both of these traits in the same person. There are other similar pairs of self-contradicting ideas. When the list-compiler really analyzes his/her own list, they will see which items do not go together and choose the one that is more important. That’s where the prioritizing comes in. There is no way someone will get a person who will have all the qualities they are looking for. If they find someone with most of the first five it should be evident that they will be happier with that person than one who has #7, #12 & #18 in descending order of importance. Another point that the authors of this book made is that you should prioritize traits that you don’t want because, a shadchan can find you a date with many of the qualities you want but also has some you don’t want even more.(of course, you may not have made those known to them) Then they will question how serious you are since you are rejecting a suitor with many of the qualities you are seeking. Hatzlacha Rabbah to you Bad4 and all your friends who are on the journey to get to ‘the other side’. Of course we will miss your blog tremendously and look forward to the advent of Good4 Marriage!

  6. As time goes on I am finding that there are more and more mentchen in the world, though they may not fit whatever definition you have come up with for a mentch.

    Re: Lists – The fact that you didn’t get hitched to the first guy you met means that you have some sort of list, even if you can’t specify its member items.

  7. Someone who has on his list “must wear designer clothes” is not someone serious for building a bayis neeman etc with.

    I agree with Bad4 – the “list” such as it is, incluses obvious basics such as is he/she a mensch, do we have compatible religious outlooks and goals, and can we get along? This is typically not written down b/c it’s so self-evident (or is it? Ida know.)

    These books are all silly. They either state the obvious (“dress nicely”) or are completely wrong. Their primary purpose, IMHO, is to serve as fare for laughs during after-dinner discussion. The publishers/authors/marketers/whomever seem to be taking advantage of people who feel down on themselves or people who feel bad for singles (some of whom actually do not feel bad for themselves and are quite relaxed about the whole thing). Are we so far gone (or are there so many yutzes in the shidduch velt walking around) that we need this kind of mass produced advice? Cheshbon HaNefesh is great across the board, but these books just make me annoyed.

  8. Are the lists to help you pin down what it is you’re looking for, or to help other people know whom to set you up with? And should the answer to that question affect the items on your list?

  9. I agreen with Anin. The concept of a list is not problematic, it’s how a “list” is used. The “Shidduch Secrets Book” and others usally explain the concept of a list as narrowing down what you NEED vs. what you WANT from a spouse. If you’re the type of person that is very family oriented and like to visit your far-flung relatives on a regular basis, then it is probably important that the people you go out with have that trait as well, or are at least willing to accept that fact and go with the flow (IE be flexible about it). If you really, really want a husband who is committed to learning very regularly, than that should be a priority since it affects how the relationship and home is run – but also keep in mind that regular ba’al habatim can also be very serious in learning (such as leading his shul’s amud yomi chabura).

    The whole nose thing, or specific physical appearance (dark hair, no glasses, not balding, above 6 feet tall, or from the guy’s perspective, a certain dress size, hair color, etc) do not belong on a list at all. You may have a preference for a particular look, but definitely having a general sense of physical attraction is much more important. That’s why these books ask questions like: “Do you find the person attractive?” and not “is he/she the spitting image of your mental fantasy spouse?” Also, the books lists ask things like “do you have similar goals and values?” instead of “does he/she also like your favorite sports team and think that Chinese is the end-all when it comes to food choices?” It’s nice if a person has similar interests or hobbies and preferences in food, etc – but those aren’t as important as knowing what direction they want their life to take and what setting they want to live in and raise kids.

    I think lists are important for understanding the nuances of what you, personally, must have in a spouse. They are core values and ideas that define who you are and without them you’d be repressing some essential part of what makes you “you.” For example: If you really need a welcoming set of in-laws, who will adopt you as one of their own, don’t pursue a relationship with someone whose parents disown them after they get married and maybe drop by for the occasional yom tov or simcha – it isn’t fair to you to deny that aspect of your personality (and there are always exceptions – each case must be considered on its own merit).

  10. just through reading your writings, i can tell you have a list.
    but if you don’t want to be honest with yourself, that’s your problem that you’ve got to deal with.

  11. I never wrote out a list. People are not groceries or laundry and should not be reduced to a list. That is not to say that certain qualities do not enter into the equation, but it is wrong to score a person based on how many check marks can be ticked on a list. It is more important to find yourself compatible with the person, which means that you share core values and can talk to each other easily, than to find check, check, check.

  12. I would be curious to know if most people who swear by lists are younger and/ or single. Back in the last century people did not write up lists, resumes, or profiles, and still got married with fewer divorces.

  13. A guy can have designer clothes on his list? I don’t think I ever came across one of those. I seem to be milling with the “desires low maintenance” dates, to my detriment. They flee, while I’m hollering, “This look only took ten minutes! Okay, maybe 15!”

    I have yet to look into one of those books, and I find lists pointless. For those who didn’t get engaged three minutes after seminary, one’s priorities change over time. Why bother to type it up and laminate it if it’ll need editing soon enough?

  14. Yep, the designer clothes story is true. Apparently, (or at least in his own opinion) this guy was such a looker and rich, so he was only willing to go out with a woman who wears designer clothes. Mercifully, it never got as far as a date so I couldn’t say if his self-opinion was inflated or not.

    I don’t understand people (methinks mainly guys) who have ridiculous demands. Do they not realize that they come across as being incredibly shallow and undesirable? I have heard stories from shadchanim about guys who want a religious Claudia Schiffer who plays piano with one hand, whilst whipping up a wicked soufflet with the other.

  15. I guess I’m a bit late to the party, but I feel like most people here really misunderstand the idea of a “list”. I can only tell you my own experience, which is this: I made such a list about six months after a difficult, painful breakup and about four months before I started going out with my husband. It helped me realize some important things: what was missing in my previous relationship, what was there but ultimately unimportant, what kind of relationship did I want to have, why, etc.
    I don’t think I referred to the list once when I actually started dating my husband – in fact, I think today was the first time I looked at it since we met (we have been married almost a year and a half now, b”h). But writing it helped put me in a much better frame of mind for dating. If you are already self-aware enough to be in that frame of mind, more power to you. But the fact that some people have a million ridiculous qualities on their “lists” doesn’t make the list a bad idea to begin with; it just means those people’s priorities are messed up, or that maybe they’re not mature enough to build a relationship.

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