Same Page of the Rulebook

There are so many Rules for how to live life and date. No problem with that – in general, they’re helpful. Except when they’re not. Like when they conflict.

Take the general rule that you should always arrive five minutes early. Or be ready five minutes early. I’m always ready five minutes before a date, but my dates, for their part, rarely seem to operate on the Five-Before rule. They either lurk outside waiting until the clock strikes before they push the bell, or they show up somewhat later.

“He’s late,” my mother might observe.

“No,” I answer. “He’s probably operating by the Five-Late Rule. That the guy should show up five minutes late, because the girl is never ready on time.” I’ve  even heard of the Fifteen-Late Rule, but I hope nobody actually does that. So not appreciated.

Then there are the dinner-date Rules. Like the What to Eat rules. I’ve always wondered: if a guy takes you out for falafel, does it mean he knows the rules and is purposely ignoring it for kicks, or is he ignorant? I don’t know, so just in case I don’t lick my fingers.

(I must observe: it’s amazing how much different eating a burger feels when you’re across the table from a guy you barely know. When I was quite small I was sometimes told I had a big mouth. I discovered, when faced with a giant hamburger, that the mouth hasn’t kept up its growth. I just couldn’t take a bite without making what felt like a pretty silly face. To my utter shame, I found myself eating the burger with a knife and fork. What must he have thought… the mind blushes. No wonder we didn’t last long.)

What about the Rules for ordering? When I go out for dinner and the guy says “I’m not really hungry” and orders the cheapest thing on the menu, I wonder, “Does he know the rule that the girl orders something of comparable or lesser value than her date, so as not to put him out of pocket?” Then I shrug, figuring that if he does, and went ahead and ordered a $6 side as his entrée, he deserves a spank in the wallet. So I order whatever looks good, short of the house steak.

Humans have this compulsive need to make rules, starting from when they’re little kids inventing a game. (“No, you have to count to five before you move, and then over there you can only throw the ball to someone behind you, unless I’m standing over there…”) In theory, the rules are supposed to simplify things. (Kids don’t discover this until later.) You’re supposed to know exactly where you stand when you play by the Rules.

However, general knowledge of the Rules varies across the orthodox Jewish community and as a result, messages become garbled, daters befuddled.

Let’s do something!

I would like to recommend a comprehensive community education movement. It’s important for our young men and women to know how to conduct themselves during this most important of interviews: the date.

Do not stand idle on the blush of your brethren!

We’ll create an organization with a name that includes Irgun and Zecher in it; hire married women and kollel yungermen on a part-time, flexible basis; and start offering lectures, mini-courses, and guest speakers for high schools and conventions.

Together we can change the world!

A special panel of experts (advised by rabbanim whose signatures will appear on the bottom of our fliers) will examine current conflicting Rules and decide on which to keep or modify and which to throw out. They will also compose new Rules as they deem necessary.

Don’t just stand there!

Your donation will go toward printing handy little Qik-Ref booklets that fit into handbags and pockets for discreet reference under the table or in the bathroom, as necessary.

Who is with me?

38 thoughts on “Same Page of the Rulebook

  1. I hate the rules. I try to break as many as I can. If I need to take you out 2 times just to get you to stop following the rules so I can actually get to know **the real you** then you’ve just wasted a bunch of my time. In fact, I very often won’t let it go passed the 2 dates and then basically we never dated.

    I can’t imagine why you’d order a burger if you have to eat it w/ a fork and knife. There are other things on the menu….

  2. You mean rules like… no eating foods with tomato-based liquids right before going out?

    I don’t (didn’t) hate all the rules. The five-minute (before) rule made lots of sense, leaving me plenty of time to flip out while waiting at least six minutes for my date to come. And ‘no really heavy questions on the first date’ always made a lot of sense to me. And anyhow, without any rules to break, how is one supposed to establish themselves as quirky and original?

    My favorite rule broken – wearing flats. (Not that exciting but oh what a relief!)
    My worst rule broken – calling (his) parents, on speaker, to get directions. Just kinda awkward for me.

  3. Hate all the rules. Disregard them completely…I don’t think I ever came more than a minute late to a date, and that time I was driving in the pouring rain and hit crazy traffic. I ended up being 15 mins late, but I called ahead. And she still wasn’t ready 8-|

  4. I’ll donate a rule: guys, come on time. If you will be late (even just a few minutes!)call. Girls: be ready on time.

  5. i’ve paid. i think i drive as often as i am driven. i’ve also planned a date around an errand i needed to run and made him come (sounds worse than what actually happened, as the errand was to an eatery, but whatever). what else…denim, sneakers, what-have-you- many times. the only thing i haven’t done yet, but would really love to, is, when the guy consciously calls a date for a mealtime with no intention of shelling out for a meal, instead of withdrawing and fuming internally, tell him i’m starving and going to get myself a sandwich and does he want one also. life is just too short.

  6. The first time I ate out with a girl, I ordered a spaghetti dish. When I got it I said, “You know I’m not supposed to order spaghetti on a date?” She said, “Yea, so why did you?.” I answered, “because I like spaghetti.” She laughed and after 8 dates……. she broke it off.

    I’m glad I didn’t listen to the rules because it was good food and my wife can take her down any day.

  7. I would love to go on a few dates, and one of the key focuses of the date is to just put out all these “rules” upfront, and consciously decide with my date to break them, and see if that would facilitate getting to actually know a real person across from me. Whatdya think, Bad4?

  8. I was just complaining last night that there should be classes for teaching dating etiquette.

    My Bible professor in college had a great metaphor for making sure everyone was on the same page. He stood up on the first day of class and announced that he realizes everyone brings their own baggage and outlook (he used more diplomatic language) to the material, but in order for us to be at all productive (not to mention civil) we had to lay down some ground rules. We should think of class as a game of Monopoly – there are official game rules printed on the box, but no one really knows what they are and no one follows them. Before you can play a game everyone has to agree on the house rules, i.e. what happens when you land on free parking? roll boxcars? pass go? We don’t have to agree with all the rules but we do have to agree to uphold them in order to keep the game going.

    I do realize that this metaphor breaks down slightly when applied to dating. Some of the rules are just so arbitrary and serve no larger purpose beyond their own performance. But I think the principle still holds – a minimally invasive set of commonly shared guidelines just makes it so much easier to move past the silliness and get directly to the matter at hand.

    …but not too directly. Apparently a lot of guys think it appropriate that a first conversation involve grilling me about potential career prospects and sensitive hashkafic and political issues. Bringing me back full circle to the general need to dating instruction…

  9. As soon as you mentioned the “five minutes early rule” I thought to myself: “five minutes early?” what about “five minutes late?” I was therefore very happy to see that you did acknowledge this minhag shortly thereafter.

    I would say that people should just be up front about what rules they hold by, but doing so would sometimes sabotage the rules themselves. If I tell you that I intent to be a bit late on purpose, then you know that you have extra time. It is a catch twenty two.

    Maybe the solution is for people to be generally more chilled out about these types of things?

    Side point: What should a bochur do if he really is not hungry? Should he order something big and more expensive and then be unable to eat it? Should he tell the girl, “listen, I’m not hungry, but I wan’t you to order whatever you want, and please don’t take this order as a hint to buy something cheap!” ???

  10. I ordered steak at every steak house that my husband and I went to when we dated. I didn’t care about the rules of salad or chicken only….(although some say girls should never order salad bec. boys don’t like it…)I ordered what I wanted. Also my husband did take a drink of orange juice when my father offered him on the second date (gasp!)-my family could not care less about the rules and luckily for me neither did my husband or his family care.

  11. Sara – The reason guys do that (broach sensitive topics at the first conversation)is that is how they establish a connection when they are nervous. Or they think that they can get a real sense of who you are by how you think about these questions.

    All- Many of the rules are very practical. Don’t order spaghetti because you will probably end up having a stain on your shirt the entire evening. Arrive on time because she will probably be waiting. If she keeps you waiting don’t mention it. These are to make her feel comfortable with you. Not as a rule, but wise advice. Please don’t order an expensive meal on the first or second date. If you just went to someplace expensive (concert) and he asks if you want to go out to get something to eat to be able to talk, please say yes, but get something less expensive [and eat a more substantial meal when you get home](mainly true for the first few dates). Not quite sure why not following good advice makes someone original.

  12. Would your rules have minhag ashkenaz and sefard? Out of town and NY? Different rules for pre 20s and post 30s? The possibilities abound! Would that I were young and had these rules so that ….

    Anyway, the point is intriguing but don’t you think there are enough written rules already.

  13. I don’t understand why anyone goes to a restaurant for a date….it’s stupid and expensive, and doesn’t really help to break the ice at all…

    Both of our mothers asked where we were planning to go (obviously, his before he left and mine when he picked me up…and we had no idea) and told us that we should be going to a restaurant, but I just yelled as we were leaving that restaurants are stupid. Then I figured maybe he was hungry and wanted to go to a restaurant, so I told him if that’s what he wanted to do it was fine with me. He said his mother had said the same thing, but he didn’t like restaurants, either, so if I didn’t care, we could skip it. Yay! (The first time we went to a restaurant was to get me a much-needed boost of caffeine to get rid of my withdrawal symptoms, and he got french fries (because why not?) and we split them. French fries and coffeee…we were engaged already, though. And I think that was the only time we ate at any kind of restaurant.)

    But seriously, why go to restaurants for a routine date? It’s expensive and doesn’t help anything…maybe go to a bookstore and talk about the different books you see and what you like to read…THAT’S interesting..

  14. People talk about going to book stores, or museums, and other culture type places…
    what are you meant to do if you have been educated with a hashkafa where those types of secular things are frowned upon?
    I think that’s why people end up doing nothing in lounges, or eating in restaurants. Everything else is chukas hagoyim/untznius/assur.

  15. Dear L’ll Sis and other Uncomfortable Singles,

    Ditch the rules. They mess everyone up. Instead, respect the other person.

    Often we’re afraid that calling it as we see it will insult the other. So we pretend “it” isn’t there. Instead of quietly telling a co-worker he has bad breath, we avoid him. But which is more of an insult? Telling him – or believing he’s too brittle to handle it?

    If I were a girl and my date ordered a side dish as his main, I’d point out the truth of what’s going on instead of ignoring it or making assumptions about his motives.

    With a confident, friendly smile, I might say something like “Help me out here. You know, when you order French fries and you say you’re not hungry, it leaves me a bit uncomfortable and wondering what to do…”

    This is the respectful approach and it also makes everyone more comfortable.

    I know many people will recoil, unable to see themselves saying something like this. It does take practice. More importantly, it takes genuine respect.

    My point is that we create all sorts of problems for ourselves and others when we (1) Dance around and avoid the dead cat on the table and (2) Assume we know the other person’s motivations.

    Wise and Knowing Elder Brother
    from the Stately House of Shidduchim

  16. I almost always went out to eat on the first date, although the last girl I went out with (and am currently engaged to) I went to starbucks instead, but that was more because I wasn’t hungry and I knew she loved starbucks. It serves a double purpose- first of all, eating generally gives you more to discuss; and secondly, if the date turns out to be a dud, at least I got a good steak out of it 🙂

  17. I’m sorry, Tzafnas. I was actually trying to be sarcastic (hard online), and even considered not posting that comment (about breaking rules making you original) because I thought I’d be misunderstood. And then I realized that half the fun of being able to post (semi-)anonymously online is that you don’t really have to spell or grammar or comprehensability check. I happen to agree with you – the rules do make sense, and happen to think it’s silly to break them just to make a point. I think best4 put it, well, best. The rules are there because they’re practical and try to create a respectful environment, but sometimes you have to re-evaluate if that’s what they’re really doing. If you think the rules aren’t accomplishing said goal, then go ahead and do what you think is best.

  18. Best4 – so you think if I asked a date why he ordered the $6 side he might honestly say “I’m cheap”? More likely he’ll say he’s just not hungry and tell me to order what I want. But if he really is cheap, he’ll still resent my house steak.

  19. I wouldn’t take advantage of someone that way, especially if he’s cheap, because that would bother him even more. Not sure if that makes sense…
    ‘Course I’m talking about the $50 house steak. Not the $19.99 version.

  20. If he is taking you to a restaurant where the house steak is $50 but is too cheap to get more than a side dish, it serves him right. All it means is he’s trying to give a Prime Grill impression for Subsational price.

  21. I was going to comment, but Best4 said it best:

    Ditch the rules. They mess everyone up. Instead, respect the other person.

    Amen. His examples show why that will help the couple not only date, but be married – because they can actually communicate with one another directly rather than dance around/walk on eggshells.

  22. Thank you, Bz, shatzileh and Ezzie.


    Don’t ask him WHY he ordered only a $6 side.

    Do OBSERVE the uncomfortable feeling and the dilemma it creates. In a friendly, confident way. No whining, censuring or implied judgment in your tone. Just point it out and be quiet, waiting to hear a reply. (In sales, we teach people how to be comfortable with silence.)

    When you assume you know someone’s motivation, you act as if you’re correct. And what if you’re not? Aren’t people often wrong when they assume your motives?

    Much more practical to focus on only that which you DO know sure: His order puts you in a quandary. Just share it, shut up and see how he responds.

    Of course, if you aren’t feeling uncomfortable then just order what you want. 😉

    Duke of Shidduchimshire

  23. Well, I don’t think ordering the most expensive thing on the menu is the way to go in any case. But if a guy takes you to an expensive place, and you order from the “middle” of the menu, price-wise, then if he really resents it, he has some growing up to do, in my opinion. And, if he actually said “I’m not really hungry”, then he really needs to wake up and smell the coffee. I mean resenting people for taking you at your word is kind of stupid, no?

  24. Ah, the rules. They seemed so important to me when I was in yeshiva. Then one day I stacked plates…in front of a Shadchan. Uh oh!! I was put into a little box and left to sequester in the basement for years. Except not really…I made it out alive and well.

    Hasn’t any guy on a date ever told you “it’s ok, you can use your fingers to eat that hamburger.” I wouldn’t expect someone to use a knife and fork for hamburgers/pizza and the like for the rest of their life once they’re married, so why not just say during a date and say “it’s ok, use your fingers for that,” or, “you can order the bolognase if you want, I know it’s your favourite” and the like.

    Am I too naive if I hold this view?

  25. I think it’s totally okay to use your fingers to eat a burger. It just happened to be that in this case the burger was too large to fit in my mouth without making like a snake and dislocating my jaw. I was almost as uncomfortable about him thinking I was the type to use a fork and knife on a burger as I was about trying to take a bite. It was a tough decision, but good breeding won out. Is that so terrible?

  26. I recently took out a girl during dinner time. I thought someone here had posted something about her possibly being hungry so I asked her and she was. I appreciate this rules post because it got me thinking a little more…

  27. Henoch – glad to be of service. I know we’ve hashed the dinner-time date thing to death at one point or another, but I can’t seem to dig up the posts where the discussion occurred. Generally, if you schedule a date during dinner time you should either tell the girl where you’re going or go out to eat.
    Otherwise, one of two things occurs:
    1 – she doesn’t eat, expecting to eat, and is hungry and grumpy through the date.
    2 – she eats a little to hedge her bets, you take her out to eat, she orders a $20 entree and can only eat half of it, you leave feeling like you wasted your money and wondering if she’s anorexic or something.

  28. As your comment above demonstrated rules aren’t meant to be prohibitive or restrictive but rather they are a means of establishing coordination. Think of a world where no rules existed? What would people wear on first dates?! Pandemonium and chaos would surely result. 🙂

  29. I know this post thread is basically done but I have a question for the rules committee.

    Given a scenario of Sunday night looking for parking in the city how long do you have before going to an overpriced garage? 🙂

  30. It’s the same thing as with going to an expensive restaurant and expecting your date to just order an appetizer to save money. You spend a short time looking, and after that you go to the expensive parking lot. If you don’t want to spend the money, don’t go there (unless it’s reasonably economical to take a car service / taxi.)

  31. Yeah. If you’re going to Manhattan, just factor garage into the price. If you find a spot you’ll feel lucky.

  32. No rules, just advice:

    No matter what happens, be a doormat for your date. This means bend over backwards for her on the date. Treat her like a queen, even if you don’t like her (just don’t go out with her again). Her happiness is your priority.

    Maintain a positive attitude and smile, no matter what happens.

    Communicate and talk things out in the open.

    Do not leave your common sense at home. Bring it and use it on the date.

    Be a gentleman (mentsch)

    Be yourself.

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