I recall once sitting in the women’s section of a bais-midrash-and-shul and watching the boys learn below. They bent over their books, they consulted with each other, they consulted with even more others, they flipped through books to point things out, but for the most part it was a quiet operation. Still, I’ve heard it can get pretty heated, with arms waving, more books being opened, and crowds gathering, taking sides, and putting money on the winner.
Okay, maybe not that.
But anyway, I’ve always believed this scene of heated Talmudic debate, because it basically describes Also4 when he and I are home at the same time. And I’ve always wondered: is this some magical affect that I have on yeshiva boys? Or is it yeshiva guys in general who have a proclivity to boisterous debate?
I have not dated too many serious learners. In general, friends and family assume I’m slightly off the bais yaakov derech, so they set me up with the “weak” boys — the ones with the jobs and the hobbies and sometimes [lowered voice] the college degrees.
But I’ve been out with a few. And they all went like Shabbos lunch with Also4. We disagreed on everything, even when we agreed. We argued just for the sake of arguing. We wrinkled our noses at each other, insisted the other misunderstood, and were positive that the person sitting opposite each of us was clueless.
Yes, I’ve had superlatively heated debates on dates.
I remember the first time this happened. I came home from the Marriott utterly distraught. “He said YU is wrong. How could he say that? Then he said modern science is right. Then he sneered at me for being religious.” Apparently, it’s okay to try to make your date look dumb by playing devil’s advocate and seeing what happens. I had been under the impression that exchanging dissonant ideas wasn’t a bad way to spend a first date, but after that date I changed my mind.
Civilized debate, to my mind, goes like this:
Gentleman: I think A. [sips tea with pinkie sticking out]
Gentlewoman: Oh really? I happen to think B, myself. [helps self to a crumpet]
Gentleman: Oh dear. You do know that A is supported by fact X, don’t you? [nibbles on a biscuit]
Gentlewoman: No, I didn’t, but I do know fact Y.
Gentleman: Hm. But are you aware of fact Z? [deep, satisfied draught of tea]
Gentlewoman: Yes, and it is countered, to my mind, by fact C. [dabs mouth with lace-edged handkerchief]
Gentleman: Interesting. Well, I suppose I can see you might choose to believe B. What do you think of the weather?
Gentlewoman: Oh! Unseasonably warm, don’t you think?
[Conversation turns to meteorologics]
I mean, let’s face it: how many arguments have you seen where one party actually convinces the other? On a point of law, perhaps. But as soon as you leave black-n-white territory, you leave most of your chances of making a conversion. Disrespecting your debating partner, however, is a fantastic way to ensure that he or she pays no attention to you whatsoever.
Debate with my Yeshiva Guy went like this:
Yeshiva Guy: A is fact.
Me: Actually, I’ve got reason to believe B.
Yeshiva Guy: [snort] Seriously? B? You do know fact Z, right?
Me: No, but, what about Y?
Yeshiva Guy: [waving hand] Y! Please. Everyone knows what Y really is. And how about Z?
Me: But I think that’s countered by C. [sits back and crosses arms]
Yeshiva Guy: Oh, I see. You’re one of those people.
[Subtext: How did I get set up with you? My mother didn’t do enough research! Boy am I going to complain loudly when I get home.]
For the record, yeshiva guys: this is not how a good date goes.
This has happened to me with no less than three oreos; four if you count the Chofetz Chaim boy who showed up in a regimental blue shirt and spoke earnestly about going forth and doing good rabbinical missionary work in foreign nations like Indiana.
However, I am willing to assume a little bit of the responsibility here. Maybe Talmudic Lawyers aren’t schooled in tea-table debate, but I’m the one disagreeing in the first place. I have discovered that many women never disagree with their dates at all! They nod, smile, and at their most contentious, gently question. “Oh! You really think X is the best explanation for G? Well, I don’t know about these things, but I always thought sort of Yish. But what do I know.” Then they go home and tell the shadchan that they’re not interested, while the bewildered boy asks for a second date.
Possibly, this is an important tool missing from my toolchest, when it comes to getting second dates with men who have bi-chromatic wardrobes.
But then again, honestly, who wants to go out again with a guy who thinks X? That’s crazy when you know Y!