It’s Not You

This is a heartening article for all single  women (and possibly even men) who sometimes feel not “full-blown self-loathing, more a hollowness that [hits] in the chest at certain times”. It is SOML, aside from the happy ending part. But I’m not 39 yet, so I guess it’s still heartening. (Except that I’d rather not wait until I’m 39. But aside from that…)

I’m tempted to quote bits, but it is hard to avoid quoting the entire thing. But here goes:

“My solace came from the place where single women usually find it: my other single friends. We would gather on weekend nights, swapping funny and tragic stories of our dismal dating lives, reassuring one another of our collective beauty, intelligence and kindness, marveling at the idiocy of men who failed to see this in our friends.

“Mostly, we would try to make sense of it all. Were our married friends really so much more desirable than we were? Once in a while someone would declare that married women were actually miserable, that it was they who envied us. But this theory never got too far — we knew our married friends wouldn’t switch places with us, no matter how much they complained about their husbands.”

“Like single women everywhere, I had bought into the idea that the problem must be me, that there was some essential flaw — arrogance, low self-esteem, fear of commitment — that needed to be fixed. I needed to be fixed.”

“A lot of good things happened during my period of constructing Sara 2.0. I went to artists’ colonies, taught storytelling to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, adopted a rescue dog, learned to do a handstand — all under the banner of “Learning to Love My Single Life.” And I made sure everyone knew my life was super-duper awesome with or without a man — my adorable apartment! my fulfilling career! my amazing friends! But I also knew I couldn’t play that card too often, lest the Greek chorus conclude that my well-oiled life left no room for love.”

Read the rest over at the NYTimes blog.


17 thoughts on “It’s Not You

  1. For every pot there’s a lid…isn’t that really the point?
    Perhaps the real issue is knowing when you have found yours – b’hatzlacha rabba in the search.


  2. For some, the right man is elusive…for others, there are definite issues and resolving them can help.
    I’m married and try to set people up, but I am amazed at how often singles behave like…bums. Men AND women. I call to leave messages, hi, I have a guy who’d like to date you, never hear back. Like, how hard is it to call me back and say, “No, thanks” – it’s as if they are doing me a favor. People won’t agree to date someone for a silly reason – and yes, sometimes I don’t agree with the reason but it is not “silly” – like, I think a woman is entitled to say she is not comfortable if a guy is only 5″5, even if I’m the same height and would do it. But other reasons are dumb and bad! How about the single woman who will only date guys who make 6 figures? So if you are single, it pays to go get some real therapy – not from some loser frum social worker but a real shrink – who can help tell you if you have issues or not. You may not, and just be searching for true love and waiting for luck. Or you may be ruining your own chances and being mean to other people who wanted to help you.

  3. I have had both good and bad experiences with singles, but maybe, if you are in the habit of using phrases like “loser frum social worker”, some people are not calling you back because they are comfortable dealing with you? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that there are different tiers of mental health professionals, but it seems that you are not being as tactful as you could be.

  4. baila chana – whoo boy.

    I do concede that not all singles are menshlach, but being decent has nothing to do with a shrink. I am not sure if you were stating that all people who are single needs shrinks, but that’s how it came off.

    As for “loser frum social worker” – I happen to have a family member who would fall into that category, and I can assure you that the work she does is serious, necessary, professional, and has helped many families.

    It is very noble of you to try to set people up, and it is not polite for them not to call you back or acknowledge your efforts. But I have experienced it when someone redds me “insulting” shidduchim – I don’t mean because the guy isn’t raking it in. It just happened to me – it should be good enough for me, but not for their own daughters. In those cases I would not dignify that sort of behavior with a response.

    It is assumed that because I am “of a certain age,” I don’t have to be discerning at all when it comes to dates. Frankly, this is my future, and I should have a say. I usually go out with anyone redd to me, so it’s not like I’m rejecting dates left and right.

    While you insist you are trying to help, and you find all of your efforts to be suitable, not all ideas are feasible or meant to be. You have decided to set people up, and you get that schar for the trying whether it works out or not.

  5. Princess Lea:

    I agree with you on most points, but why not dignify the “insulting” suggestion with an answer? Then you can explain why it is not for you, so the would-be shadchan will be more on-target next time. There may be things you find objectionable (lack of education, lack of fitness, lack of height, a minor physical handicap, some family issue, a medical history) that would be fine with someone else. No one means to insult you (I hope!) or thinks that after a certain age, you should just be grateful for any suggestion; odds are, they just don’t know you well enough to realize that you’d find the suggestion insulting.

  6. Anon:

    I am more insulted specifically by this particular suggestion because the one redding it knows my family since the dawn of time, sharing the same background, etc, etc, and they have a fleet of marriageable granddaughters who aren’t going out with this guy, but I should. She is not an official shadchan, just a family friend, and she knows exactly what I am looking for. She even said to me that other families took in-laws with issues and it worked out fine. My response? “You first.”

  7. Anon: Just as an example: a shadchan recently suggested a guy to me with the following issues: recently divorced, on medication for mental illness (and she came right out and told me she could see just by the way he talked he had very recognizable symptoms of a certain disorder), and unemployed for the past couple of years with no current prospects. I politely (because she really is a nice lady) told her that it just sounded like he had too many issues for me, but she didn’t really want to accept that, telling me he is a “nice” person and that the right girl wouldn’t have a problem with his issues.

    She certainly didn’t mean to insult me, but why should I feel the need to go into detail explaining exactly why I am not interested?

  8. Lea and Anonymous:

    Ouch! “With issues” does sound unpromising, and certainly if you know she, herself, would never consider it… and who’d imagine anyone would want a guy whose mental illness sounds like it is not even being masked by the medication?

    I sit corrected.

    But in general, just remember that what is a deal-breaker for some people, may not be for others. And most people mean well. That having said, I firmly believe that no one “should have to go into detail explaining” why they are saying no. If I suggest a shidduch for someone (and I often do), a “no thank you” suffices. More than that is not my business. (And after the couple has gone out, I definitely do not want to hear a laundry list of what he/she did wrong – please, just stick with “no thank you”!)

  9. Anon:

    I don’t laundry list – I just say, “Oh, he’s nice, but he’s not for me,” no matter the heinousness of his crimes. 😀

    I am aware that deal breakers differ, but if this woman was a complete stranger I would not be as offended as if it was this close family friend with matching backgrounds.

  10. Lea:

    I hear that, but there are peole who know me well, who assume I’d turn down (or be offended by the suggestion of) certain situations for my kids (who have no issues), and they’re mistaken. So try to just figure it’s the reverse here. Maybe she wouldn’t consider these boys for her own girls for other reasons (height, where they want to live, etc.) and she doesn’t feel she’s offering you “damaged goods.”

    Or maybe she is just nasty and insensitive, but hey, it’s aseres yimei tshuva, so I’m trying to suggest you give her the benefit of the doubt! : )

  11. Anon: Thanks for the effort – she actually apologized, but the next day her husband starts harassing me, AGAIN, why won’t go out with this guy. Do the two of them ever talk?

  12. Lea:

    I feel so bad that I am laughing at your misfortune, but I am! I guess they don’t talk, or he somehow doesn’t realize how offensive he is being. I ljust ove when people tell me, “you are making a BIG mistake in not picking up on this girl I am pushing for your son (whom I’ve never met)”. I am always amazed at people who feel you owe them an explanation for not picking up on their suggestion.

  13. If you don’t present the laundry list of complaints about what specifically went wrong on the first date, how does the shadchan ever re-tune her selections?

  14. To Anon and Princess Lea:
    Just because I say in a blog comment what I really think does not mean I go around being tactless in real life. I don’t call singles and say, “Hi, I have a great guy for you! He’s a loser frum social worker, want to date him?” And I guess b/c I am a real shrink and know people who got BAD advice from frum social workers who lack a real serious degree, I am biased. Some social workers might be doing good….
    That said, there are two issues here. One, what is an insulting suggestion? Last week I asked my mom info about her friend’s daughter, I thought of her for a co-worker of mine. My mom asked me about the guy. I said he is great, but he is from a complex family situation and he is very overweight. my mom said, Well, I don’t think she’d go out with a guy who was very overweight. I ignored my mom’s advice, figuring if he said yes, she could always say “no thanks.” So I asked him if he wanted to date her. He said, Oh, we went out last year a few times, but in the end I decided she was not for me. Had I listened to my mom on this and other things, and not risked insulting the girl, I may have prevented her from meeting people that she was perfectly fine with dating. I mean, just because you are overweight you aren’t worthy of getting married? And I have overweight friends who married lovely people. One person might be “insulted” if a guy’s parents are divorced, another won’t be insulted if the guy himself is divorced….I think it is okay to ask, Would you like to meet him? and the single can say, “No thank you.”
    Issue two: ignoring suggestions. NO WAY IS THIS OKAY. Sorry, singles out there, if this is straight-in-your-face not tactless: that is NASTY and shows you have issues and need therapy. Someone calls with a suggestion: if they know you, then they care about you and meant well, so the least you can do is appreciate their intention and maybe even their effort and call back and say, “No thank you.” If it is someone you don’t know well, why risk them bad-mouthing you, do you want them to go around saying you are being obnoxious? Why risk them never suggesting another person who may be suitable? Are you SO busy being single that you can’t give the person a two-minute phone call to say, “Thank you for thinking of me, the suggestion you had is not for me, but it was nice of you to try.” I am not asking for reasons, excuses, etc. JUST A CIVIL RESPONSE. If I call up to ask a single if they wish to date a two-headed man, the answer can be NO. But I deserve to hear the no, whether or not you are insulted. And yes, I WAS SINGLE. For a long time. And I thanked every person politely, even when their suggestions were CRAZY!!!! (Like: A guy 18 years older than me when I was 22. Is that semi-normal??? Would anyone with decent mental health marry someone 18 years older than them when they were 22???) I said, “Thanks for thinking of me, but he is not for me.” There, did that cost me money? Who is defending a single who won’t bother to make a two-second phone call to thank someone and say no thanks. Bad4, please weigh in on my side here, or I fear I will lose it.

  15. I think that after a date you can say, “Thank you for setting me up, I appreciate your efforts, the guy was not for me.” You don’t have to say why, unless you feel there was something objectively important for the shadchan to know, i.e. “This guy wore a kipa sruga, I am looking for a black hat guy.” What’s the point in saying, He wasn’t smart enough, or nice enough? The shadchan isn’t likley to know if the next guy is really smart or nice anyway, and will only remember that you said mean things about a guy she thought was a good catch.
    I never told a shadchan why not. Only once, when I said no, and the shadchan was pushy, why why why… did I say something: I said, “Have you met this guy?” she said, no, it was her co-worker’s son. I said, “I think you should meet him before you consider setting him up again.” He was a guy who was really off, and came across as strange. But even then, I didn’t say, “Actually, I was creeped out being alone with him in a car, he had that serial killer look about him.”

  16. Al: There is a difference between telling me “In the future, please only set me up with guys who are at least moderately handsome” and “this guy was so unattractive I was emabarassed to be seen with him” (as someone told me). Or, “He was very nice, but I’d prefer someone more outgoing” rather than “He was boring.”

    Baila Chana:I am in complete agreement that every suggestion deserves a response. Was just wondering if perhaps you are more blunt than people are comfortable with.

    Rachelli: Well said!

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