Fishing Local Seas

In Bellwether, Connie Willis mocks fads in dating. One of the dating fads subject to her acerbic scrutiny is that of “geographic compatibility.”

Let me state it now: I understand the desire to date someone within driving distance. I know of one person in San Fran who found a great guy via an online dating site. Unfortunately, he was located in Sydney. Her company had no Australian base, his had no American base, and neither was quite willing to uproot their entire lives for someone they’d barely seen off the webcam. Sometimes, our globe is deceptively villageish. It’s still really quite large.

But in Bellwether, the daters are looking for someone within the right neighborhoods. They aren’t willing to hop on a train to date. They want someone they can meet at the corner coffee shop for a quick bite.

I rolled my eyes at the exaggeration in Bellwether. Satire is no good if you’re going to depart from reality that way. Then I got set up with a guy who objected only to my geographic location.

My geography at the time was absolutely prime. I was in Brooklyn, center of the Jewish universe. If you’re a nice frum girl and you want to date, there’s no better place to be. So when I heard that a guy was reluctant to date me because it was too far to travel, I wondered where he could possible be from. Here are excerpts from my email exchange with the would-be shadchan.

Would-Be Shadchan: “…But the Brooklyn trip sort of made him wimp out (he recently had had a short-lived, schlep-a-thon, dating experience with a girl living in Brooklyn).”

Me: “When guys schlep in to town for me I wind up feeling guilty, so where’s this fellow coming from? If it’s Washington Heights, then he can go jump in the river.  If it’s Georgia, then I hear his complaint.”

WBS: “In defense of [this gentleman], it is very time consuming to borrow a car, drive to Brooklyn, go on a decent length date, then drive back and expect to get enough sleep to be totally functional for seder/shiur or teaching. He’s also an OOTer, so I can understand how even the simplest trip to midtown can be a schlep, let alone a lengthy excursion to Brooklyn. Heck, even though [I’ve] done the drive many times, [I] still finds it annoying. No offense to you or any Brooklynite.”

Me: “Defense met with a raised eyebrow and a very skeptical look. According to that theory of distance, nobody would date anyone outside their own neighborhood. Yet, guys drive from Queens, Long Island, and New Jersey to date girls in Brooklyn all the time without complaining. And the reverse, of course. “Far” is defined as “Baltimore.” Just FYI. ”

WBS: “Point taken. Maybe it’s more due to the very common YU guys date Stern girls mentality, which just requires a convenient hop onto an intercampus shuttle, colloquially called the ‘shidduch shuttle’.”

Okay, so who is nuts? Is it me, or is it this guy?

Or is it simply a result of availability: since there are plenty of fish in the Bronx River, why drag yourself down t0 the mouth of the East River?

More on that tomorrow.

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25 thoughts on “Fishing Local Seas

  1. I can certainly relate to this out of towner’s experience. I don’t travel that much in the New York area out of my neighborhood not because I’m lazy but because I grew up never having to travel more than twenty minutes to go anywhere (on a typical day I traveled only five minutes to any place).
    For me, traveling more than twenty minutes transforms from a “commute” to a “trip” and is particularly emotionally draining. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose my current job is because I don’t have to leave my neighborhood.
    I realize that in the New York area the reality is to travel to get places but do you really expect me to form a relationship with someone when every time I meet them I get stressed out?

  2. I live in Bk and what I don’t get is why can’t you take the train and meet in the middle? This isn’t the 1950’s, a girl can take the train by herself. Also, NYC from one end to another is a real schlep, not something most people have the spare time for, and usually only warranted for Bronx Zoo and Coney Island visits.

  3. I’m an OOT, and I have no problems traveling around New York. I live in the Heights and I don’t mind taking the subway down to Brooklyn where the girl I’m currently dating lives, and you meet in the middle when you plan to go to some place in particular. Frankly, the subway time is good time to do other stuff, and Brooklyn (at least Flatbush/Boro Park) is a very straight shot from WH. If anyone expects me to get a car, you got another thing coming before you’ll see me driving in NY.

    It only starts to be untenable if the girl lives out in long island, and I straight up had to remind shadchanim that no I did not want to date a girl living in Montreal, Toronto, Baltimore or others that are so far away it’s not even worth it. If I can’t get there in under 2 hours, it’s not practical until someone changes places.

  4. Ridiculous. On his part, not yours…he very obviously has no interest in putting any effort into dating, which means he would be a boring dater anyways.

    On a related topic, I know someone who is exactly the opposite of “Bellwether” dating – he won’t date anyone from within our neighborhood, in fear that he will have to say no and it will be awkward next time he sees her in the street/in shul. Granted, he wouldn’t recognize any of the girls mentioned (even if he did go out with them, he wouldn’t recognize them afterwards), but that’s not the point.

    And, for when he inevitably reads this, all I have to say is “Choooo choooo”.

  5. Since I work in the city, meeting a guy there is simple, and leaves me burdened with less guilt that he had to shlep out to my house. I find that whole thing of waiting to make my entrance rather tedious and affectatious.

    But for a guy to whine about a drive is so unmanly. Manly men love driving all night to see their woman.

  6. This is the example of why I think “OOT”ers have a much more open mind about who they date in the first place and a much healthier approach to dating. If you’re forced to travel a bit to date, it forces you to put much more effort into. If you won’t move more than an easy car pickup or subway trip to go on a date, then you don’t care as much about trying to make it work.

  7. I should add that I would travel from Queens to Monsey without a car to date, often late at night when buses weren’t running almost at all and subways were scarce – and it would take about 2-2.5 hours each way, for a date that was maybe 3 (I was in yeshiva and college at the time).

    When she could she’d stay at friends in Manhattan, but even that was a good 1-1.5 hours each way.

    That girl and I now have been married 7.5 years.

  8. To Say Nothing of The Dog was, I think, the best of all Connie. It was the only one of her books that had me laughing out loud on public transportation. The rest were miserable.

    Is Bellwether at all cheerful?

  9. Bellwether is funny, in a dry sort of sarcastic way, not really the tongue in cheek of To Say Nothing of the Dog.

    As far as this guy, it sounds like he is just looking for an excuse to say no, that for some reason he isn’t really interested in dating unless it’s made so super easy and convenient for him that he really doesn’t have an excuse to say no. If he is so unmotivated to go on a date, I doubt he really willing to invest himself into a real, actual relationship.

  10. @MCP:
    In defense of the guy (although he sounds like he really needs to get his act together), maybe he has other reasons for not wanting to date them and that’s just a convenient excuse (which could presumably be compromised should anyone in his neighborhood actually be relevant).

  11. I have to side with the guy (perhaps). It could just be the same thing that happens to me all the time. If I get redt 20 girls a week, usually 3 will seem like good ideas, 10 will seem decent, and 7 for sure no’s (totally random numbers). So I usually date the 3 first and then when it comes to the 10 “decents” they all seem the same. Usually there is nothing one of these girls has that peaks my interest more than the other 9 so I usually base it on location. It could be the same with him. If he has ten other girls living in The Heights who all seem about as good an idea as you, why should he come to you?

  12. Note, I should add. If he thought you were great idea and he was just too lazy then he’s wrong. But as mentioned above, it could just be an excuse for a reason he didn’t want to say.

  13. This is the example of why I think “OOT”ers have a much more open mind about who they date in the first place and a much healthier approach to dating.

    I’m confused as to what that has to do with an OOTer living in NY not wanting to drive to Brooklyn to date a girl. Did I miss something?

  14. Bloop, he most definitely needs to get his act together…while you are right that this completely hypothetical guy has some excuses for many of the girls in his neighborhood, in certain instances his only excuse is a fear of the confrontation that will arise should the dating derail. I’m just saying that I think he should buy a ticket before the train leaves the station, you don’t want to get stuck regretting it when you see the caboose puling away.

  15. Random Shadchan – Walk to bus, bus to subway, subway to Port Authority just in time for bus to Suffern or similar. And from there I’d have to get picked up. It was EXHAUSTING.

  16. Ezzie: Sounds like you’d have to time everything really well… and not live too far from Suffern!

    Real subtle, MCP!

  17. Newsflash: If two women are suggested, and with all things being equal, I’d MUCH rather date the woman who is a 20 minute drive from me than the one who is an hour away with the potential of an extra hour -and-a-half of traffic that makes me want to rip my head off and leaves me drained before I’ve even met my date.

    Princess Lea wrote, “Manly men love driving all night to see their woman.” Puhleeeese. Devil’s advocate: you are not my “woman” if I’ve never met you are or have only spent 10 hours with you. Instead, you are a perfect stranger. Next, you’ll expect me to pull some John Cusack high fidelity routine.

  18. Ezzie –
    Many non-Manhattan dwelling girls nowadays won’t even CONSIDER a guy who won’t rent/borrow a car to date them.
    There’s a whole post in THAT too…..

  19. I know that this isn’t done in your world, but this is why I speak with the potential on the phone first. So many times, you know from the phone that there is no point in going out. So I don’t and save everyone a lot of time. Everyone is coming down on the guy, but shidduch dates are tiring, and after a while it all sounds like much of a muchness. I agree that the guy should make an effort, the question is how much?

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