Discovering a New Specie

Let’s face it. In the orthodox world, we don’t get to meet the other gender too much. So when we’re growing up we get all our information from books and from our siblings (who we know perfectly well aren’t normal specimens, because if the rest of the world was like them why haven’t we self-destructed yet?)

Then comes dating. A short, intense, and gruesome period of being chained to within a ten foot radius of one of those creatures. The result? Only mildly enlightening. Again, you are full of hope that you just met the exception, not the rule. Generalizations are brutal and cathartic (“boys are stupidheads”) and not even believed by the speaker after a week of chocolate, long nights of sleep, and being set up with a better guy.

Then comes marriage! You’ve finally found the perfect representative of the opposite specie. And you are living together in close quarters and mutual trust. The sort of position any naturalist would love to be in. But you’re not swapping with them, because this is amazing. It’s charming. It’s entertaining. It’s like finally meeting the star of a novel or movie.

Here, right here, is a Woman! And she’s just like you heard. Chatters a lot. Wrings her hands over what to wear. Whirls about the kitchen with the best of intentions but dubious results. Fills most of the bathroom with little tubs, bottles, and jars with uses beyond your comprehension. Finds a subtextual insult in all your well-meaning phrases.

Alternatively: here is Man. He leaves the toilet seat up. Scatters used socks across the bedroom. Presents you with flowers with such an earnest expression and thinks it’s the flowers you like. Believes everything tastes better deep fried. Has feelings as fragile as your own, though he’d be insulted if you pointed it out.

Or whatever. The generalizations are different every time. Leave a man in an apartment with a woman for three months and he believes that he’s ready to write the field guide on the female specie. And the same in reverse.

The single friend must learn to control her eyes, preventing them from rolling, while listening to the NMF (both male and female) spew bright-eyed, enthusiastic generalizations about how women are so mercurial and men are so hairy (I quote from real life) based on (one hopes) experience with only one member of the species.

Fear not, my friends. This too shall pass. Well, maybe not, but it’ll slow. Until they have sons and daughters and a whole new set from which to draw their observations.

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17 thoughts on “Discovering a New Specie

  1. all of the cliches you mentioned aren’t particular to the orthodox world at all thus your thesis is a bit skewed.

  2. If this is new to NMFs, I think they missed out on reading Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

    I’m glad I don’t ever leave the toilet seat up (but I know that females think there is no problem leaving the seat down with the cover up. That’s wrong as well!).

    I’m glad I don’t leave socks scattered anywhere. I’m plagued with meticulous cleanliness.

    I dislike deep-fired food.

    I must not be Man.

    But wait, I sometimes have feelings as fragile as a female so there’s hope…

  3. Sounds to me that some people are judging and generalizing NMFs the same way NMFs are judging and generalizing their Newly Married Spouses.
    (True, the sample size is greater, but not by much.)

  4. Haha! Lawschool drunk! I’m cracking up here!

    And in general I’d like to share my thoughts on the beggining of your post, Badforshidduchim. I have to admit, it would be nice if interaction between the genders were more encouraged in the Orthodox world. Most say it would never work. But I once heard of a small town in the US that didn’t have enough Jewish kids to make separate classes, so there it was: Jewish Bais Yaakov girls and Yeshivish boys learning together, in unison (k-8th grade, I believe). I kid you not. I heard first hand what a success it was! I don’t know if this would work on a larger scale, I mean it could have just been that these select few just happened to be a good bunch of kids. But, hey, why not give it a try? I would give anything to know how to act around a guy normally…in public. But since that was forbidden, I had to learn how to do it secretively. So to this day, whenever I see a boy my automatic reaction is “must not speak in public!” So sad. Eh, practice makes perfect, right? 😉

  5. FeistyFrummy – I wonder if you’re thinking of my hometown, cuz that’s what we have and what I grew up with. Granted, the fact that the being togetherness didn’t continue into high school stunted my ongoing interaction with frum girls, but I think there was definitely some success in what you make mention of.

    Lawschooldrunk – I’m also a big beleiver of the always put the seat AND lid down prior to flushing. Who wants to disperse toilet bowl germs all over the bathroom (and nearby toothbrushes)!? ASoG leaves the seat down, lid up and I always put both down.

    I also take some issue with the sock scattering (see my numerous posts about socks and shidduchim), but I definitely acknowledge not being a typical guy.

  6. Feisty Frummy- Most real out of town communities are like that, I went to Yeshiva (post HS) in a town like that and the kids from that system mostly came out great.

  7. I sometimes wish I went to a school like the one feisty and SOG mention. I know of too many guys who were socially inept when they started dating because of an all-male schooling background and a societal outlook of ‘g-d forbid talking to a girl unless suggested by a biased matchmaker.’

    Oooooh, there should be a conversation piece posted by bad4 on all sorts of house/dorm etiquette issues/pet peeves and have a female/male perspective conversation (unless there was one posted of which I am ignorant).

    Bad4, I commiserate with you. It amazes me as well how people become experts after marriage in such a short period of time. The “best” is when my friend who only shidduch dated ONE girl in his life (he married her; he was her 35th guy though!) starts preaching to me about dating. I don’t roll my eyes. I just give him the well-practiced and used fake smile with an occasional nod- because you know that telling them they are not experts will be ineffective at best, and detrimental at worst.

    And thank you for using the word ‘mercurial.’ I have not heard that word in a long time. I have to re-introduce it to my vocabulary.

  8. My husband of three months just told me that one of his single friends (single, never had a date friend) was spouting some girl facts. My husband was laughing at his total ignorance. My husband being such an expert, of course…

  9. My goodness, people. All I did was list a few stereotypes. The actual generalizations heard from NMFs are somewhat different and will not be listed because I value my life.

  10. I have nothing to add on the subject of gender differences. However, at the risk of having to eat my words, I’m surprised that nobody has commented on what appears to be a mistaken use of the word “specie.” My understanding is that this is a technical word used only in reference to coins, and the correct term is the usual “species.” For a blog with such impeccable English and grammar, I’m hesitant to raise this point as I assume that I must be missing something, but for the love of the English language, I can’t refrain.

  11. so bad4, it seems what many people took from your post is that you would be pro co-ed yeshivot (such as what the modern orthodox world has). are you pro such schools? why or why not?
    as an aside, i see many of the people here are lamenting the fact that no co-ed yeshivot exist. but they do my dears. your run of the mill modern orthodox schools are co-ed. for brooklyners that would mean yeshiva of flatbush, magen david etc. for out of towners that would be rambams and the such.

  12. feistyfrummy- how about just use common sense and act like a decent human being. that’s how i interact with females(on a limited basis of course). i hope i haven’t been doing it wrong. to misquote MLKJ: “people should be judged by the content of their character and not the smoothness of their words”. i don’t think the frum world has issues because the boys/girls don’t know how to be real smooth when speaking to the opposite gender. if a guy says ridiculous things to you it’s because he’s immature/weird, not because he’s not a smooth talker. and if he’s just stuttering a bit from nerves then i hope you give him a pass – he’ll probably get over it soon enough.

  13. Bad4 fun post. Feisty, my wife went to a coed school. The boys were “yuchy” and one would never think of them seriously. From my cousin the girls were “ugh”. I’m not so sure how much self respecting boys would interact with their classmates. Perhaps it is different today, but when I was growing up interacting in elementary school was not verboten but it may have been unpalatable.

    High school, on the other hand, was different. But, in my day, interacting in high school was not limited to co-ed schools. It certainly was not encouraged but if you didn’t live in the neighborhood of the school one “got away” with a lot more. Furthermore, the interaction was not limited to the “modern orthodox.’ (though that term was not yet invented)

    Finally, the people who wrote “You Just Don’t Understand” and “Men are From Mars…” were generalizing as well. I think Bad4’s points are well taken and sharply observed.

  14. Guyinla: Well-put!

    I went to a co-ed elementary school and a city college with a large (co-ed, of course) frum population, and lived in a modern neighborhood. Plenty of socially inept people of both genders in that setting as well.

  15. Social ineptitude is not confined to RW frum circles. I really think it in poor taste to discuss one’s husband with friends. Doesn’t anyone keep personal information personal any more? In any case, I wouldn’t generalize about all males based on what I see in one example of my husband. I now can add a son for observation, as well, but I know that he is not your typical guy in his habits and inclinations. Husbands can be sloppy or fastidiously neat –think of th contrast in “The Odd Couple.” Which one would a wife find more maddening? That depends on the woman, of course.

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