Inspired by this article on arranged marriages, sent to me by Ella.
Hypothetical session with my future therapist:
Therapist: So, what’s bothering us today?
Me: Everything. I have youth, health, energy, income…
Therapist: And how does that make you feel?
Me: Terrible! I have nobody to share it with!
Therapist: You’re upset because you are socially limited? It’s quite common among nerds of your profession. Can I recommend Second Life?
Me: No. That’s not the problem. I have friends. I think. At least, people who occasionally seek my company. But they’re all female.
Therapist: Why do you think that is?
Me: Because I’m an orthodox Jew, obviously. I don’t want male friends. I mean I want a male BFF and I haven’t got one.
Therapist: Why do you think that is?
Me: Beats me… You know, it wasn’t always this complicated.
Me: Isn’t there some clause in the Torah wherein you can sell off your pre-bas-mitzvah daughter as a maid to someone who’ll marry her into the family when she’s old enough? My father used to joke about doing that. Sometimes I wish he had.
Therapist: Would that make you happy?
Me: Well, it would certainly have simplified life. And simplicity is beautiful and happy, right? … … … … … okay, maybe there are some simple situations that aren’t so happy. Like dying of thirst in the Sahara, or being locked in an iron maiden. But it would simplify the most complicated thing currently in my life.
Therapist: You mean your dating issues?
Me: I don’t think I have dating issues. I have getting-married issues.
Therapist: Which you think could be solved with an arranged marriage.
Me: Well, it would solve it, that’s for sure. And it worked, back in the day.
Therapist: Tell me about it.
Me: I mean with an arranged marriage you had zero expectations. You married for money or title or connections, and that’s all you expected. If he didn’t beat you up, drink and gamble away his income, or leave his estate to his mistress it was all bonus points. Nowadays that’s just the baseline of what we demand from men. Along with tall, dark, strong, handsome, smart, mysterious, rich, kind, romantic, and endowed with common sense, a good mother, and taste in ties. And if a guy is only tall-dark-strong-handsome—smart-mysterious-rich-kind-romantic but not endowed with common sense or a good mother or decent taste in ties we figure we can just wait: there are other guys out there and we have no desperate economic need pressing us into marriage. And it’s exactly the same from the guys, only their list is different.
Therapist: Take a deep breath there. Want a drink? Okay, let’s take a break and free associate. What do you think of when I say “marriage”?
Me: Yemenite childhood marriages. Imagine growing up and playing hide and seek with your husband. Never having to wonder when you’ll get married. That’s security.
Therapist: Oookay. What about when I say “love”?
Me: You know that story about the guy who paid 16 cows for a bride worth only 8?
Therapist: Um, dating?
Me: You know that half-hour they give chassidish couples to see each other and make sure they’re not completely revolted by each other?
Therapist: Okay, let’s try some inkblots. What do you see here?
Me: Perfect symmetry. It’s like two halves of a whole came together…
Therapist: Yes, but what do you see?
Me: It’s black. Just silhouettes. The two halves got together without seeing anything but the barest outlines. No dating, no getting to know the intricate details of their shapes and all the differences it would expose—
Therapist: Right. Let’s try pictures. What do you think is happening in this picture of a little girl alone on a swing?
Me: Waiting for her husband to get a band-aid put on his knee or bring the lemonade his mother made.
Therapist: Never mind. Let’s try some positive imagery. Lie back and think of a peaceful scene.
Therapist: What do you see?
Me: Rolling hills. And in the distance, a gleaming lake.
Therapist: Is it any place you’ve been?
Me: Yeah. Yavniel. In the Galil. Did you know that the Breslovers there were arranging marriages between 13 & 14-year-olds until very recently? Happy couples, able to adapt to each other in their formative years… or so they assured me.
Therapist: Oh look! Our 50-minute hour is up! Next week same time?