Congrats to NEF #21

Okay, I made that number up. I don’t know what number she is. But she deserves a special public congratulations, because according to her high school teacher, she wasn’t ever supposed to get engaged.

You know how bais yaakov teachers roll. It’s all “Do what I say or you’ll never get married!” Heck, I had a Tefillah teacher in 12th grade who told us she got a shidduch call about a girl who didn’t pay attention in Tefillah class and, well, “I just couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her.”

I can’t think of anything nice to say about that teacher.

So, moving right along. NEF #21 really wanted to go to Michlala in Israel to study for a year. But her teacher told her that if she didn’t go to a bais yaakov seminary, nobody would ever want to date her.

NEF thought about that a bit. She realized that, in fact, people who study in Michlala do not comprise the entirety of the “shidduch crisis” pool. Moreover, if she went to a bais yaakov seminary, she’d probably wind up dating the wrong kind of people. The type who think like her teacher, perhaps. So she went to Michlala, learned a lot, had a great year, and now, guess what? She’s engaged!

A Sincere Apology

I owe you guys an apology.

If you’re reading this, then you’re awesome. You keep coming back, trusting me to put up fresh, interesting content, and  I have been letting you down recently. And, unfortunately, I am about to let you down even more.

A couple of years ago I tried writing a VBA program  to  simulate the dating process. When I ran my code, it got caught in an infinite loop. Taking this as a stamp of realism, I abandoned the virtual dating code and went back to reality’s dating code.  I was living in the infinite loop, going out with new guys every few months on an endless reel of first and second dates.

Well, recently, a software developer offered to help me drop out of the loop.

And I accepted.

This makes me an NEF, the butt of my own jokes, and no longer suitable to author this blog. With this post, I tender my resignation, effective immediately. Reposts will continue regularly until they reach today’s date. I sincerely apologize to everyone who is disappointed or inconvenienced in any way and wish you all the best.

PS: Since you are doubtless wondering: Blogging is both bad and good for shidduchim. Sometimes for the same shidduch.

PPS: And sometimes 42 really is the answer.

Friday Repost: Telling Me You’re Engaged

Maybe guys find creative ways to propose, but sometimes, it seems like my friends find creative ways to tell me they’re engaged.

Like the OnlySimchas Post

And the Ice Cream Invitation and the Incidentally While Studying

I assume they’re trying to be nonchalant, because honestly, it’s just an engagement. Or maybe they are afraid I will be upset. I usually am. It’s not that I’m jealous of my friend for getting engaged. It’s more like I’m jealous of their fiances, these men they didn’t know a few months ago, but who are stealing this amazing person from under my nose and (invariably) whisking them off to some foreign city where I’ll see them maybe twice in the next decade. (Why does the husband always call the city of abode? Like, always.)

Anyway, for the record, I don’t plan to tell anyone that I’m getting engaged. That way, when my grandmother calls up and says “I had to find out from someone who saw it on this website, JustSimchas?!” I can answer “I don’t know how the website knew. I didn’t tell a soul except the one who proposed.”

Proposals

“I love when there’s a story!” a friend said, upon hearing that another friend is engaged to her first, last, but not only date.

And it’s true. Everyone loves when there’s a story. “So, how did he propose?” In a restaurant over a candlelit dinner? In a park under a blooming cherry tree? On the megatron at a Yankees game? Or at terminal velocity 12,000 feet above earth? With a dozen roses? With a diamond ring? With a robotic dinosaur? With a dance troupe as backup?

Whether it’s classic or modern, whether the first hormone inspired is oxytocin or adrenaline, something as life-changing as a proposal, we feel, ought to take more than a sentence to describe. Not that I have ever met an NEF capable of describing their proposal, however mundane it may be, in one sentence. “So we were in Pizza Time. And I sort of was expecting something, you know? But he was so casual about it…”

MF#8 once vociferously disagreed with the idea of a big proposal. She seemed to be saying that the guy just feels compelled to keep up with his friends and provide the girl with a Story, while the girl takes it as an overwhelming expression of love and adoration and might inadvisably accept when she shouldn’t.

I read somewhere that while almost all megatron proposals are accepted on the spot (the whole stadium is watching), many acceptances are recanted after in private. So I’m not really worried about women being influenced in their acceptance by the presence of a brass marching band (or a monkey grinding an organ). I do agree, though, that a proposal shouldn’t be big for sake of being big. It is capital-L Lame to start the most important consensual relationship of your life with something calculated mostly to impress your friends.

After all, a Story doesn’t have to include things physically large and acoustically bold. There is the classically understated option.  My sister-in-law was quite fond of relating how Best4 proposed to her. If I recall correctly, he looked at her and said, “Shall we?” to which she replied, “Sure, why not.” Now there, you see, is a proposal highlighting how very in-tune they already were with each other. When guys say “Shall we?” to me, they generally mean “May I take you home now?” not “May I marry you.” Yet somehow she understood his meaning. Isn’t that sweet? (Unless she didn’t, and was just too embarrassed to back out after…)

Dipping into the backlog, I find surprisingly few posts about proposals. I mean, this is a blog about aspiring to proposals. You’d think they’d get more coverage. But here you go: all I’ve ever written on proposals.

When Everyone’s an Expert

People who get within sniffing distance of marriage are notable for their sudden transformation into SMEs (subject matter experts).  It is amazing, really, how only a taste of marriage can turn someone into a fount of information on the subject. Here are some of the courses available through the Marriage Department at TMI U.

The Meaning of Commitment 101

Taught by a newly ringed NEF, the meaning of commitment covers what it means to declare yourself dedicated to someone for life, no matter what. Lectures range between 5 and 15 minutes and may include an earnest entreaty not to be afraid to commit yourself; after all, it’s probably going to work out great for this NEF.

How to Just Take a Leap of Faith – Seminar

Taught by an NEF, this quick disposition covers the meaning of faith, as well as the necessary prerequisites for it. There is brief coverage of the technique of leaping, as well as some evidence provided that leaps of faith pay off. Really. Things turn out fine. They do.

These impromptu speeches by NEFs bother me the least of all the near-marriage lectures, because I know they’re mostly talking to themselves. They’re nervous, and they’re trying to assure themselves that they weren’t stupid, accepting a ring from a stranger in return for a promise to remain dedicated to them for life.

Sometimes I bait them, proposing more and more dire marriage situations, just to watch them brace themselves to remain committed, yea, e’en in such dire straits.

What bugs me more is when people who have very little experience will marriage become experts on the subject. For example:

The Simplicity of Shalom Bayis – Lecture

Presented by an NMF of about three months, this lecture covers how simple shalom bayis is to maintain. All you have to do is listen to the other person and be willing to compromise. Honestly, what’s the big deal?

How Bad Decisions Messed up Someone Else’s Marriage, a Case Study

Presented by an MF of one year, this analysis of the rocky marriage of a 3-year-old couple will dissect poor decisions they made that led to their current situation. The lecturer will detail how she and her still-honeymooning husband would never make dumb mistakes like that.

Just from sitting around in my armchair watching, I suspect it takes a year before a couple really feels comfortable enough to start taking advantage of each other. Then you have another year before they start getting fed up with each other. So you won’t be seeing any cracks until year three, unless the situation is really bad. Oddly, that’s around when MFs stop dispensing the free marriage counseling.

Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m just explaining my own theory (available in lecture series upon request), and why I’d never take serious marriage advice from anyone who hasn’t been doing it for at least five years. Ten preferred.

Otherwise, you might as well purchase my other lecture series:

Why My Kids Are Going to be Fantastic

In this course I will espouse that raising great kids is simple: all you have to do is understand what each child needs and provide it. What’s the big deal? 

Six Reasons I Like Engaged People

Lots of people hate on NEFs. They’re flighty, they’re distant, and they don’t shut up about being engaged. But really folks. Look on the bright side. Engaged people are great! For starters, they make you feel wonderful about yourself.

I mean, just for starters, you are a supremely good person for refraining from hitting them over the head. You know, like when they go into teenage angsty detail of their troubles — like that their future mother-in-law suggested that the menfolk wear matching bowties at the wedding — with the same level of apparent trauma that they formerly reserved for being reprimanded by their boss, getting dumped by a great guy, or crashing their car.

And they’re so easy to save! The sanity of an NEF hangs in the balance at all times. If you prevent that balance from tipping, you are her hero. Like when she calls you up at a quarter to five desperate because she has absolutely got to get somewhere and try on a dress tonight  or something bad is going to happen (I spaced out for that part). Honestly: the library books aren’t due yet. The bike can wait another day for its tune up. And alternatives to working late are always appreciated. It’s not a big deal! But her fulsome (and slightly embarrassing) thanks make you feel like you just stepped out of a telephone booth in a cape and tights. In a cape and garishly colored opaque tights that probably wouldn’t pass muster at a bais yaakov.

And then they’re entertaining! Sometimes it’s just observationally, as in, “This woman used to be so level-headed, but a double-shot of oxytocin has completely unbalanced her.” Or when she insists that she’s really totally normal and her NEFness is all in your head, “Yes dear, you’re totally normal. This is us sublimating our jealousy into the more socially acceptable gentle mockery.”

Also, the whole bridal industry is set up to cater to nutty NEFs. They love them and encourage them. It’s amusing to be escorted through David’s Bridal by a woman purposefully stroking your NEF’s Eness:

“You don’t have to worry about a thing, I’ll take care of everything today.”

“So have you known Him long? How did you meet?”

“This dress is like a visual love letter.”

Did she just SAY that?

It’s generally not nice — or even desirable — to mock your friends. But once your friend is infected by e. Bridus, she’s not really the person you befriended anyway. So it’s open season.

And finally, contemplation and meditation is always a worthy pastime, and NEFs offer you fodder for that as well. After all, if an NEF can get so completely dramatic about something they won’t remember in five years, you have to wonder: are you overreacting about anything in your life? What looms overly large now, but really isn’t significant in the grander scheme of things?

Consider, also, the NEF as a warning on the instability of the human psyche. You think someone is rational and self-aware. Then, next thing, they’re gushing about how sparkly their ring is (sounding rather like your 9-year-old niece), and having meltdowns over bowtie ideas (2-year-old nephew).

Makes me think I’d like to elope.

The ANEF

I really and truly don’t get the whole unofficial engagement thing. Either you’re going to marry a guy, or you’re not, and if you both know that you are, then why pretend it’s not certain?

I also don’t get  NMF #17, who bought a ticket home for her l’chaim three weeks in advance, but didn’t get engaged until the chosen date. Hello? That seems quite a length of time to be in suspense.

And I’m not buying the excuse that she wanted her parents around when it happened. I mean, they obviously knew why she was coming home.  So  she was already engaged, just not admitting it. And if everyone knows, why not admit it? …

…we can go ’round and ’round this loop forever. I will close it off by throwing up my arms and declaring people illogical and slightly cooky. Besides, I’d like to point out, unofficially engaged people are very nearly engaged, which means they’re only one proposal short of losing their senses altogether. One must be forgiving if they seem less than lucid. They’re obviously practicing.

One cheerful byproduct of this unofficial nonsense:  it does lead to a delightful expansion of the vocabulary. Because, as a LeahR points out, we now have a young person in a heretofore unidentified state: that of being not-quite-engaged. So, they are not SFs (single friends), nor are they NEFs (newly-engaged friends). They are, she suggests, ANEFs (almost newly-engaged friends; pronounced “Ay-Neff”).  They begin to exhibit some of the broader symptoms (being busy most evenings, not returning phone calls, smiling to themselves at odd moments in the conversation), but they don’t yet have anything sparkly on their hand to really trigger an episode. 

If you’re lucky, you are let in on the secret by the ANEF, as part of their strategic preparation for their engagement (see link for details). If you’re not in the top tier of informed friends (like I was with NEF #17), then you’ll just have to infer it from their erratic behavior. (Hm… flying home shortly after starting a new job with no vacation allowance built up… odd that. She must really miss her mother’s cooking… or maybe something else?)

Either way, it’s essential to identify when you have an ANEF on your hands. It will prevent untold frustration and sleepless nights wondering if aliens abducted your friend and left one of their own in her body.

New Rule: Don’t Rely on Single Friends

I propose the 3-month rule for making plans with single friends. Beyond that, their priorities can get fuzzied by a gentleman caller who may have called more than the usual amount of times.

There was the time a few of us had loads of fun at the Rennaissance Faire, so we decided to go again next year. We all whipped out our phones and entered the appointment.

Well, within 9months one had gotten married and moved to Israel, and the other was married and in Connecticut.

Then there was the time I made a bet on a matter that could only be proven at the end of the year. Again, Friend and I marked it in our phones. But before I could win (or lose) the prized pie of pizza, the phone was lost down the drain and the owner had left to Israel, met a gentleman, married him, and moved to Houston.

So I probably shouldn’t have gotten excited about the idea of an annual kayaking trip with a NMF#17. Granted, you don’t often find nice Jewish girls willing to spend a week paddling down a river and camping in the woods. There is no reason to suppose that someone wouldn’t come along and snap up such a rare gem on sight. But I can’t help but feel a teeny drop let down about it.

When you get down to it, every single woman’s goal seems to be to get married. And she will prioritize that well above any of her other single friends. So, it’s important, when dealing with single friends, to never plan more than nine months out. This way, you will never get stood up, or jilted for a man.

Mazal Tov NEF#17

For finally just doing it and getting officially engaged (must have been unofficial for a few weeks, by my estimation).  I will try to like your significant other of choice, even though he’s stolen my camping partner.  It was great freezing, dripping, scorching, splashing, and belting it out in the woods with you.

…by the way, some relationship experts recommend that you keep the mystery alive by vacationing separately. Just sayin’.

Another One Bites the Dust

I would like to dedicate this post to a fine young woman who is no longer with us. Charmingly cynical, you could always count on her for epigrams worthy of a demotivational poster.  Her daily uniform was a worn out, floor-sweeping denim skirt. She probably had jewelry just the way she probably had ankles. You rarely saw either.

And then she went and got engaged.

Some other creature is wearing her skin, now. Someone who smiles a lot; who wears dresses and heels and sparkly things framing her face. Someone who admits to bursting into tears at emotional moments (wait, did she say emotional moments?) and worst of all—yes, this is the most ominous of all—confesses to a desire to be nice to everyone.

Dear Friend (if you are, indeed, the same person): you are a lesson to us all. Nobody is immune. No matter how hard core, deeply baked, or hard boiled you are, in a moment of weakness (like a proposal) your defenses can be broached and you be reduced to a shy, giggling, mirror-checking, hair-flipping, makeup-fixing, dress-tugging girl.

Mazal tov, NEF#16.

What is this Thing Called Chemistry?

No, I’m not talking about the physical science. I’m talking about dating terminology. Walking the Grey Line, a commenter, used it once to mean “I can’t stand her looks.” And I went: “Ooooh. Is that what it means?”

I’ve always wondered. I’ve never used the “no chemistry” excuse to break up because I have no idea what it means.

If you ask google to define “chemistry” it gives you lots of stuff related to things you can’t see but for some reason are supposed to care about anyway. Only one definition relates to relationships: “How two people interact” with the sample sentence “The chemistry of that relationship was wrong from the start.”

Yep, definitely sounds like some of my dates.

But seriously, that’s a very benign definition. It could easily mean that you just weren’t talking on the same wavelength. You know those people? You think you understand them and give an intelligent answer. They give a brief pause and an even briefer confused microexpression before answering, and you know you completely got the wrong end of the stick.

So nope, that can’t be what “chemistry” means. Because you often hear daters use the phrase like so: “We went out four times but… there was no chemistry.” It doesn’t take four dates to realize that you and the other person don’t understand each other.

So, step two: when google fails, ask a real, live, human being. Like maybe one of those people who talk so readily about lack of chemistry.

“So, Mr./Miss Dater. You say that you went on a date on August the 23rd of the year 2009 CE and there was no chemistry. How would you define ‘chemistry’?”

Be prepared to see someone act out “prevaricate” and “obfuscate” and a few other fun words you don’t often get to use. You may not come out knowing what “chemistry” is, but you’ll get the vague notion that it has something to do with feelings, relationships, attraction…

Ah, attraction. This is similar to Walking the Grey Line’s definition. Not Attracted = No Chemistry.

But people are attractive for various reasons. One could say that the popular girl in a class is attractive to all the girls who flock around her. It’s a friendly attraction, and bears no resemblance to anything related to Bore’s atomic model (er, did I spell his name wrong?) or compressed nitrogen or  bubbling test tubes.

Here’s my hypothesis: when people say “chemistry” they really mean “biochemistry.” And by that I mean not atoms or molecules so much as amino acids and proteins… or hormones.

Upon various occasions I have suggested to young women that “no chemistry” means “not falling in love.”  My hypothesis is always greeted with loud guffaws, be they bais yaakov maidels or more modern. “Love?” snicker the more modern ones. The BY types just look affronted.

Love? That’s for cheesy novels and Disney animations. A goyish concept. It’s not about love. It’s all about ezer kinegdo, don’t you know? You fall in love after marriage. Of course, you don’t want to marry someone who revolts you but really, you don’t know what love is until after you’re married. Everyone knows that. Love? You think “no chemistry” means “not falling in love”? How could it? Love is a passing infatuation. Not a Jewish concept. Really, you have such strange ideas that you could be one of those blogger people.

Okay, I get it. I said the “L” word. Wash out my mouth with soap; I won’t make that mistake again, except when I turn up the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack to “Do You Love Me?” There’s an intriguingly ambiguous song. After years of sharing everything, does love matter? (Are we self-conscious about wanting it because we believe the answer is “no”?) What is ‘love’ anyway? Is it hormones? It is something deeper? Is this a confusing case of using one word for two distinct concepts?

Maybe… maybe Orthodox Judaism has contributed a distinction in usage to the English language. “Love” is only to be used on long-standing relationships – your parents, grandparents, siblings, kinfauna, and best friends forever. To use it on anyone else is to invite censure. “Chemistry” is to be used for short-term bursts of hormone-driven attraction.

You can’t be in love with your spouse until you’ve been married a while, but you can have some Nobel-Prize caliber chemistry going until then.

Or biochemistry. Try that one on the shadchan. “He’s a great guy, and we had a great time, but… the biochemistry isn’t there.”

Dropping Out of the Shidduch Race

Here’s another solution to the shidduch crisis (since polygamy didn’t go over so well): Enforced Association with SMFs (Soon to be Married Friends).

SMFs, unlike NEFs, are the most desperately unhappy people on the planet. Not to say that they’re sad – but they definitely lack ebullient good cheer.

It’s hard to characterize the SMF because their state of mind manifests in so many diverse ways. In general, they are nervous. But some are quietly nervous, biting their nails in the corner and gaining weight or losing weight or managing both at the same time (which just heightens their distress because that gown has got to fit). But if you ever get one of these quietly nervous people alone, beware! There is much that is troubling them. You will only hear about half of it – something to keep in mind when you hesitate to swear off marriage forever.

Some are hyperactively nervous. These people spend the week before their wedding on an apparent permanent high. They’re everywhere, apparently enjoying themselves at the top of their lungs. Get them into a car alone and you just might get treated to the sight (and sound) of them equally loudly tearing their hair out. However these people behave, you can bet they feel the exact opposite. Just get them onto the subject of their FMiL (future mother-in-law) and see how effusively they praise her.

Some seem calm and act calm – they claim their only worry is whether they’ll be able to hide their organic chemistry flashcards under their bouquet throughout the reception. Or for the less academically inclined, if the champagne-colored gowns their family picked up in Brooklyn will match the champagne-colored gowns their future in-laws picked up in LA. These people are powder kegs. If one too many things go wrong on any given day, they will dissolve into a helpless, weeping, complete basket case. If they’re not the weepy type, they might spend the evening shouting over the phone at you while dabbing at their inexplicably drippy nose.

A note to friends: SMFs need to be handled very delicately and with an excess of low-fat ice cream.

Once an SMF finishes explaining to you the reason for her distress, she will give advice. Usually the advice is not an outright “Don’t do this to yourself; stay single” but often it seems to amount to that.

“Elope – weddings are horrible!”

“Marry an orphan – you don’t want to have to deal with an MiL.”

“Don’t have anything to do with your wedding plans; just show up that night and smile at everything.”

“It’s not just that your wedding day is like Yom Kippur – the entire month before is atonement for everything you ever did in your whole life!”

“The reason parents act like this when you get engaged is because they don’t want you to have any second thoughts about moving out.”

“If you get yourself put into an induced coma the month before your wedding it will save you a lot of agony.”

If every single girl was paired up as a Siamese twin with an SMF for around 3 weeks, I think we can guarantee that about half of them would withdraw from the shidduch pool due to weak stomach. Badabing!—more men to go around for the rest of us.