That’s the Point

A Friend has a friend who was having some marital issues in her first year – namely, finding some of her husband’s behaviors annoying. This young married woman – actually, Girl – discussed it with pretty much everyone under the sun except her husband, and they all (or at least, my friend) strongly suggested she actually tell her husband when he was bugging her. Girl would nod and then move on to the next party to tell them her issues and hear the same advice.

A couple of weeks later Girl approached Friend wreathed in smiles. She’d discussed her issue with a respected rebbetzin and the rebbetzin had spoken to her about the importance of communication, dispelled her notions of the imperturbable perfect wife, and urged her to respectfully broach the subject with her husband. Which she did, and lo! He was wondrously apologetic and immediately mended his ways.

Friend congratulated Girl, turned around, and indulged in a big rolling of eyes.

Sometimes it isn’t what is said but who says it that matters.

I was reminded of this recently when Good4 came home all excited. She and couple of classmates with Older Single sisters had been hanging with the ol’ high school principal. Naturally, they mentioned their terrible guilt at their impending marriages before their older sisters. (Because aren’t we all convinced we’re going to get married to the next guy?)

The principal frowned at their hesitation. “They had five years to get married,” she pointed out. “That’s plenty of time. Don’t let them hold you up.”

Not exactly sympathetic or charitable, but apparently it did the trick. Good4 was more cheerful about the prospect of passing her old spinster of a sister than ever before. That little line did more than any reassurance I could provide. Somehow, hearing it from a respected teacher was more effective than hearing it from the party involved.

It ain’t what, it’s who.

Hey, whatever.

23 thoughts on “That’s the Point

  1. I’m sorry, but that principal’s answer just sounds cruel to me. Essentially she’s saying, “Well, they’ve had their chance.” It’s not nearly that simple.

    I “celebrated” two younger siblings weddings in the last year and no one except someone who’s experienced it themselves can know how difficult that can be.

  2. Maybe that’s your issue – you shouldn’t be “celebrating” your younger siblings weddings, you should be CELEBRATING. Do you really believe that a younger sibling should have to wait to start dating because their older sibling is still unmarried? Where does it end? What if the oldest in a large family doesn’t get married chas vishalom, are the rest of the siblings doomed to be 40 years old and still not dating?

  3. lol. keep in mind that it may very well take those girls five (or more!) years also. all this was hypothetical. the principal really should have been more considerate of everyone’s emotions, and also more realistic. but, honestly, who expects that from teen-marriage-brainwasher-numero-uno? going back to your previous post, let her pay the bills.

  4. nope, i’m with FF. it’s a pain in the neck and takes a lot of time to get used to. i survived, but it’s a credit to the community (and family) i’m from that happens to legitimize single individuals and their contribution to society, and delegitimize marriage of the insolvent.

  5. So you’re saying that if I have an older brother or sister who has been dating for 5 years I shouldn’t be dating?

  6. One has to apply common sense to the issue. If there are two sisters just a year or two apart, it makes sense to not push the younger one out at 18 and maybe not even at 19. But I think that it would create resentment in the younger one to not allow her to date at 20 simply because her older sister is still not married. I do know of a number of cases in which the younger sister married before the older one. Did the older one feel bad? Probably? But be realistic: keeping her young sister from marrying even after she’s turned 20 won’t help her prospects. In some cases, the older sister married in her late 20’s and sometimes not at all. What is the net gain of having the younger one not marry either?

  7. This reminds me of the interaction between Lady Catherin and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. The formidable lady exclaims:

    “All!—What, all five out at once? Very odd!—And you only the second.—The younger ones out before the elder are married!—Your younger sisters must be very young?”

    Elizabeth replies: “Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, Ma’am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters, that they should not have their share of society and amusement because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early.—The last born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth, as the first. And to be kept back on such a motive!—I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind.”

  8. People shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss or condemn the feelings of others before they have been put in the same situation.

  9. I am not disagreeing that the pain is justified, just saying that it is not a reason to hold the younger siblings back.

  10. These are they types of dilemmas that come up when a person’s readiness for dating & marriage is determined almost solely by age, not by maturity, financial independence, and desire to find a life partner.

  11. Tesyaa, financial independence does not seem to be a criterion at all! It seems that a younger kallah is a greater status symbol for her parents. And how is a girl just 19 or sometimes even still 18 marrying a yeshiva boy of 21 or even 22 supposed to be financially independent? It’s virtually impossible. But a delay until one finishes college is not considered acceptable in RW circles. On the contrary, some girls only begin degree programs after marriage. Then they have the fun of juggling marriage, sometimes a part time job, and often a baby or two, while going to school. You know who is expected to foot the bills for living expenses and childcare in those circumstances.

  12. So you’re saying that if I have an older brother or sister who has been dating for 5 years I shouldn’t be dating?

    No, no, date, please!

  13. The principal wasn’t being callous to the feelings of the older sisters so much as assuaging the feelings of the younger ones.

    In this particular situation, I’ve often reassured Good4 that I don’t care if she dates or marries before me, but she persisted in feeling guilty about it. If she needs to hear from a principal that she has a right to date, who am I to protest?

  14. I think what frumfeminist meant (or maybe I’m reading too much into her comment) is not that the younger siblings shouldn’t date, but that the principal was being dismissive of the older singles and implying that they had plenty of time to “get with the program” (so to speak) and if they haven’t managed to get themselves married by now, that’s their fault/choice/tough luck. Which is unkind, even if that wasn’t the point of her statement.

  15. Makes me think of a discussion i was having last night; is getting married an accomplishment? If yes, then “they’ve had 5 years to get with the program”. If however we believe that there is a Divine Hand running the world, then where does that comment leave our belief?
    IMHO the comment was callous. Each situation is totally different and each individual and family has to make their own decisions based on the feelings of all parties involved. There is no set age or amount of dating time at which you can say at that point older sibling has to give in. I’ve been in both positions and both involve alot of soul searching careful respect and sensitivity and a whole lot of emotion

  16. I don’t think that pricipal meant that they had 5 years to get with the program, rather that they can’t expect their sisters to wait forever.

    If you believe that Hashem determines when someone gets married, and it is neither a race, nor an accomplishment, while it is hard to watch other people get married while you don’t see an end in sight, then the point is not really who gets married first.

  17. I happen to agree with the principal, though not in the way she said it. I don’t believe in holding girls back- one girl may have it destined that she marry at 19, even if her sister is 23. What does one sister have to do with the other? They are different, I should hope they are not vying for the same boy and eventual husband, so I really do not understand why they are held back. If anything, I have seen so many younger sisters marry and then suddenly, the older sister gets engaged. Its like a segulah or something, haha.

    I do feel for the older sisters, as it must be excruciatingly hard to be at a lchaim, vort, wedding of a baby sister and get pitying glances and “Iyh by you”. I know. But what about the sister? What if, the hypothetical older sister does not marry until 25? And then the sister waits till 21.. so then she is, “starting late”.

  18. I’m an “older single” with a much younger sister married with a baby (she’s in her mid twenties, I’m approaching my mid thirties), so I think I’m qualified to comment…of course, the principal is “right”–it’s not fair to hold the younger sister back, especially as you don’t have a specific end date in sight. But, like the first commenter, I *do* object to the callous and dismissive way the woman put it. While I’m sure that wasn’t the way she intended it to sound, it does come across as criticism of the older siblings for just hanging around and not getting it together enough in time for the younger sisters.

  19. haha this coming from the same principal who has students go on fake dates with one another in their senior year

  20. In the secular world this wouldn’t even come up. Since there is no standard right age to marry, no one thinks of the elder sibling as a nebech or a failure just because he or she is not married.

    We need to stop thinking of marriage as a marker of age maturity and status.

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