Deadline Approacheth

There’s a bit of a double standard in the yeshivish/ultra-orthodox community. It is perfectly acceptable for a boy to leave home at the tender age of 13 and never truly return for the perpetuity of his life. Yes, he visits for the occasional holiday or weekend, where he wallows pleasantly in the adoring ministrations of a family that rarely has to put up with him. This lasts  until they bore, he becomes the fish-like guest, his special privileges evaporate, and he begins to chafe under the parental regime. At this point, he toddles back to his dorm or apartment with a sigh of relief: family, like prune juice, is best taken in small doses.

Girls, on the other hand, are expected to happily marinate in the home juices until Prince Charming carries them across a threshold of their very own. And if that doesn’t occur before their locks become dusted with snow and their posture stroked by osteoporosis, well, there’s no finer place for a girl to be than in the bosom of her loving family.

When I was in high school I had an exceptionally dedicated and brilliant teacher who happened to be single at the age of 28. A friend once mentioned knowing where she lived because this friend’s father was friendly with the teacher’s father.

“Yes, but that’s where her family lives, not where she lives,” I pointed out. The friend gave me a “Duh” look and said, “She lives there too. Where else would she live?”

I was appalled. Here I thought of this teacher as a mature, independent adult, and she was probably still sleeping in a pink bedroom, eating her mother’s dinner, and shouting “Wha-at!” down the stairs when her father called her. Just like me. I went home and informed my parents that if I was still single at 28 I was moving out.

“Yes dear,” they said. “Wash the dishes after dinner and clean your room tonight. It’s a pigsty and if I can’t see the floor I’m not letting the cleaning lady in to vacuum it. How did you do on that chumash test you hardly studied for? And you only think I don’t see you sneaking a cookie out of the kitchen. Bring it back right now.”

“Maybe I’ll move out at 27,” I sulked, nibbling the cookie.

“Eat over the table or sweep the floor – your choice.”

“Twenty-six.”

When I turned 21 I lowered the age to 25. My parents, now somewhat touchier about the topic since I had failed to be swept away by my first suitor (or second or fifth), told me not to say things like that; they were irrelevant.

“If it’s irrelevant, than what’s the big deal?”

“You’re right, what’s the big deal?”

“So I can move out at 25, right?”

“Let’s not discuss it.”

The truth is, not all women are expected to live at home forever. Women from OOT are allowed to move to NYC and cram themselves into attics and apartments. This is considered a necessary evil for the sake of shidduchim. However, if you have had the dubious fortune of being born and bred in the tri-state conurbation, moving out of your parents’ house is Something Strange that will provide your neighbors with conversation during the 23 hours when they are not observing their machsom lefi.

Why? I don’t know. But I imagine I’ll find out. After all, I’m already 24.5 years old.

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21 thoughts on “Deadline Approacheth

  1. Just speaking as an OOT who had to move out for college reasons (not for shidduch ones) it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Just devil’s advocate a bit. But I assume you do get to an age where you want to move out- and that probably is normal.

  2. Well, that’s a big difference between the US and Israel.

    In Israel, the frum girls who don’t move out have no reason to feel uncomfortable – that’s because practically everybody (I refer to the non-religious population as well) live with their parents even into their thirties. Oh, some people do move out, but at least 50% of twenty somethings prefer mom’s cooking, free laundry services, and no need to pay rent.

    Then again, that might be because of the Israeli habit of spoiling your kids rotten. I lived at home till my marriage at the age of 24.5, and mostly enjoyed every minute of it. What can beat mom serving your meals to you in your room (so you can eat in peace before the computer) and coming to your rescue when the mess in your room becomes overwhelming?

    Now, now, don’t be so judgmental. I did help my parents with many things, including money. But still, Israel is a very child-focused society, even if the child is actually an adult. And that might have a lot to do (well, that and the crazy housing prices) with the young Israelis’ willingness to live under their parents’ roof long after they have reached legal adulthood.

  3. NMF: That’s because you lived in the attic of a cranky old woman and did her dishes to mollify her.

    Wellspring: There’s no stigma to living at home here either. I think staying at home has some large, character-building advantages. But I, personally, enjoy independence. And if my mother ever tried to serve me meals in my room or clean up my floor I’d be seriously horrified. I haven’t even let her pack me lunch in years.

  4. I am an “in towner” and moved out of my parents house right after college, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I am very close with my family, and my parents are the non overbearing type – I never ever felt stifled at home- my parents gave me tons of freedom. I loved living at home, and I would love it if I moved back, but living on my own and being independent is a great experience and taught me so much about myself. I would rather have learned all that about myself before getting married. I’m a big advocate for living on your own before marriage- I think it is difficult if the first time you have to food shop, cook, clean, be responsible etc, you have to do it for two people. Don’t get me wrong- I did all of those things when I was living at home, I cooked dinner for my whole family plenty of times- but not every single day for months, and at the end of the day if I wasn’t in the mood to make dinner, my mom was there.

    I highly recommend living on your own. It’s fun and a great experience. Why wait for marriage to be independent?

  5. My mother moved out for most of high school and went to live with an aunt in NY while she attended Bais Yaakov. Her parents lived OOT and there wasn’t an appropriate high school there. And she got married shortly after she graduated high school (as was quite common in those years).

    My dad moved out shortly after his father started charging him rent 🙂

  6. Maybe it is because I am the youngest, but living at home rocks.

    With all siblings wed, I am the Master of the House, Keeper of the Zoo. Family opinion is often based on mine, and I get amazing meals that are better than anything takeout, a laundress, and while I do pitch in some purchases, my father is firm that wardrobe should be financed by the parents of the single girl.

    I’m not in a rush to spend my income on rent and food. That is moldering away pleasantly in my bank account, although my mutual fund is picking up a bit. That money is for my future house.

    Frankly, I can’t find a downside to living with the folks except sibling visits and my room being trashed by an enterprising 3 year old.

  7. I think I may have mentioned this once or twice. I’m a huge proponent of living on your own before you get married. There is just nothing like having that responsibility. I think parents who spoil their adult children who are still living with them are doing their children a huge disservice.

  8. I moved out 2 months after I graduated from YU. I used to only spend Shabosim at home during the school year and went to work in the summer so I wasn’t in the home a lot. After graduation my mom wanted to know about my where abouts (which as a parent now I understand a little better) so I took the opportunity to split and apartment in Teaneck (YU Married dorm west) with a friend. The downside is that as the only single people we were looked at strangely since we didn’t really fit in. On the plus-side, I ended up with a better looking roomate, and eventually my roomate did as well. I will not deny that there is a double standard, and I wonder how I will react in 6 years when my oldest turns 18 (shudder).

  9. SaraK – It is not that I am unaware of the responsibility, or unable to cope; if I had married at 19, I would not have had an opportunity to live on my own yet still manage. One adapts rather quickly to new surroundings and expectations; I enjoy and appreciate my current status, and feel no need to drain my energies and finances prematurely.

    But, after all, I am merely spoiled.

  10. Nothing compares to living alone, or with roommates, to help someone gain insight and mature. It’s a growing process that makes for a more rounded person, and ultimately, a more rounded spouse and parent. But you have to be emotionally ready to even want to make the choice, and you have to be ready to give up on all childlike egocentric needs, such as being the sole recepient of others’ care and attention without having to or wanting to give much back. Nothing wrong with those egocentric needs, either, as long as they happen in the right developmental phase. Which should be well over if someone is typing in here and reading this blog. 😉

  11. One more point – thirteen year old boys shouldn’t be so easily shipped off to yeshiva. Rabbi Moshe Tendler has spoken years ago (and having bumped into him last night, he has the same opinion) that no rebbe is better than a child’s own father and mother at that age. After hearing this, my parents kept my brother at home, where he became one of the first students in a “trailer” yeshiva (which is now a huge enterprise) and “blossomed” (Can I use “blossomed” for a boy?)

    Cherut – “childlike” “egocentric” “sole recipient” (Who says there aren’t other people in parents’ lives?) Very pleasant terms. I didn’t want to resort to name-calling, nor will I now, but having met plenty of individuals who moved out and others who have not, I don’t find a higher rate of maturity, selflessness, or good parenting amongst the former rather than the latter.

    I want to make my future spouse’s life a little easier with the mortgage by providing a nest egg. I help my mother not work herself to death in terms of her grandchildren.

    Considering how leaving home is supposed to make you more “rounded,” I find such stereotypes to be rather narrow.

  12. If you enjoy independence, why are you waiting for 25 like it’s some magic number? You probably should have made the move a few years ago already.

  13. tesyaa, I think it depends a lot on the person in question. Some people, the kind that take their parents for granted and allow them to serve everything on a silver platter (food, laundry, errands, money, etc), need to move out as soon as possible to gain those skills of independent living. And there are other people (who shop, cook, do laundry, and generally know how to run the household) that can gain those skills of independent living while still living under their parents roof. A good rule of thumb (though definitely not foolproof) to differentiate between the first kind and the second kind is to measure their bank balance while they work and live under their parents roof. One will indicate disciplined savings while having the reduced expenses (no rent, fewer utilities, etc), while the other will not indicate it.

    And it also depends on the parents. I won’t present any stereotypes (like parents national origin, etc), but everyone knows what I mean if I were to say there exist stifling parents that don’t quite encourage independence and even actively discourage it.

    However, there does come a point at which it is simply wrong (some say “weird”, some say harmful, whatever) for an older single person to remain in their parents house regardless of their level of responsibility and their skills of independent living.

  14. Mark, all I was saying is that if one has decided the magic age is 25 (I realize that Bad4 is tongue in cheek, but anyway), there’s not much difference between 24.5 and 25. Why wait the extra 6 months? Sometimes you just have to go for it.

  15. @Princess Lea: you are taking my comment way too personally. Also, childlike, et. al. are not insults but rather clinical terms. What you chose to read into them is your own issue. Surprising as it may be, mine was a general comment to a general issue posted in a well-written, mature blog and had NOTHING to do with you. I rather keep my personal opinions about people who post to myself.

  16. don’t move just to make a point. Move because there’s something you really don’t like at your folks house, or something you really do like about living somewhere else.

  17. Bad 4,
    I’m going through something similar right now. I’m the same age and am now sincerely looking to move out. I have mixed feelings on so many levels but I do think that the older I get, the harder it is at home. It is difficult to live, as an adult, with a job, with your parents, even when you have a good relationship with your parents, as I do.

  18. Cherut – Wow. I chose to read into “childlike and egotistical” an insult. The fact is general statements can still be insulting. I was not taking it personally, I was taking it generally, on behalf of the single gals at home who were classified, rather clinically, as being immature.

    There are other ways to diplomatically phrase disapproval with a lifestyle.

  19. Pingback: High and Dry: Life Without a Shower « Bad for Shidduchim

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