NYC Taxi Driver Tells It Straight

Why do aidel maidels need to be so tznius? The mashal is often given to a precious diamond, which is kept hidden away in a safe, not exposed where anyone can see or steal it.

In the opening anecdote of Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt’s latest article, a NYC taxi driver explains the problem with this comparison:

 

We usually don’t take a car,” the yeshiva boy says to the driver, an older Irish man with a hearty laugh and a dapper straw hat. “But the lady was inappropriately attired (he winks at his date), in her heels I mean, so we had to — “

The yeshiva boy’s date cuts him off and leans forward to the driver, deciding to turn her frustrations into a joke: “Sir, he doesn’t really care about the heels. It’s my actual choice of attire that he finds inappropriate. My skirts are too short, it makes him nervous, he won’t even call me by my name, you know how religious boys are…”

The driver turns the corner. “That’s the problem with religion, it’s sexist,” he says, looking at her in his mirror. “I know because my parents were religious Catholics. It’s all a bunch of sexist garbage.”

The boy and girl laugh nervously over the profanity, and the girl says slowly, “Well, I don’t think religion itself is sexist, it’s just that chauvinists still exist…” She casts the boy a look.

The boy turns back to the driver: “But don’t you agree, sir, that if you have the most precious diamond in the world, you keep it wrapped up? You don’t take it to the streets to show the entire world?”

The girl gasps silently — she is taken backwards in time, back to the apologetics they taught in 7th grade, again and again, bas melech, kol kvoda pnima, a princess’s honor is all inside, a divine jewel to be kept hidden…

But before she can respond, the driver presses the brakes. He turns around and faces the yeshiva boy, and says slowly, his voice shaking with rage: “Listen to me, boy. This is not an object you’re talking about. This is a living, breathing human being.”

 

What he is saying is: when you lock someone away like a diamond, you are treating them like property, not a person.

This is how objectification works:  By preventing other humans from meeting your “diamond,” you prevent other humans from acknowledging their humanity. The other humans only know about them from descriptions. This, essentially, turns them into objects defined by their description.

Not making sense? I’ll be less abstract:

If men learn about women strictly from a photo proffered by a shadchan, then they will accept and reject women based on the simplest algorithm: appearances. Which objectifies women. So, by keeping women hidden from men, you objectify them. You do not protect them.

I can’t believe I blogged about shidduchim for seven years and never realized this.

But there you go: that is the root problem. The reason why shidduch dating is so offensive.

There’s another, similar, point to be made about sexualization. Arguably, there is nothing overtly (or possibly even covertly) sexual about a woman’s knees. However, if a gentleman glances at your knees, blushes, looks away, and refuses to look at you anymore, then your knees have just been sexualized. And you have just been turned into an object. A sexual object. Something that can’t be looked at without creating sexual thoughts, because everything about you — and especially your knobbly knees — are sexual.

In the opening story, the boy (and yes, he’s a boy not a man or even a guy) decided that Avital’s skirt was too short to be seen in public. He begins making decisions for her about how she ought to appear in public, on the theory that she’s not a person, she’s a diamond. Bam! Objectified! Sexualized!

So you see why Avital was a little upset.

By the way, I’m awed by her presence of mind and her guts in telling that smug bochur how it is. She’s my new rebbe. I’m a total fan. Go read her article.

Also, thank you NYC for having awesome taxicab drivers.

 

 

Solve All Your Problems in One Man

So this is a true story.

A woman moved to Ofakim. She had a job, she found an apartment, she went to shul, she got invited out for a meal.

At the meal, her hostess kindly inquired how she was adjusting, and she chatted a bit about some of the challenges of moving to a small, hot town in the south of Israel when you grew up in Milwaukee.

But every time she’d mention something, her host would interject, “Nu? All she needs is a good shidduch and everything will be fine.”

So, think, “Ulpan is great, but I still have trouble with some of the technical jargon for my job.”

“Nu? All she needs is a good shidduch and everything will be fine.”

“Not having Sundays is challenging. When do you do laundry and groceries?”

“Nu! What’s the problem? You need a good shidduch!”

“Last night the cats yowled under my window for 7 hours straight and I didn’t get any sleep.”

“What’s the problem? You need to get married!”

Doubtless, he thought he was being adorable. In fact, he was being annoying and condescending, minimizing everything she said by claiming life would be perfect if only she had a man.

Personally, I applaud her for making a big and brave move on her own — yes, all alone without a man — and I’m confident she’ll be able to handle everything her new town throws her way — on her own. 

And if she had a guy to do the laundry, well, that would just be icing.

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!

Thank You, Avigail

Good4 just handed me an article from the January 28, 2015 Ami magazine. It’s written by Avigail Rabin and the pull quote, in a bright aquamarine, is “I get the impression that I’m supposed to walk around in a wooden barrel, indoors, devoid of jewelry, until I am married.”

Naturally, I was intrigued. It took me about 45 seconds to devour the entire forum article, which was brilliant. While all rights belong to Ami, here are the first two paragraphs:

I don’t consider myself “a single.” I am very much the same person I was in fourth grade, in twelfth grade, at the age of 21, and last year. Me. Me who has not yet met Mr. Right, who is presumably out there somewhere, wondering where in the world I am and when I’ll be showing up. Why am I sharing this with absolute strangers? Because I’ve read so many perspectives on me and my supposed life and feelings on these pages and others by parents, shadchanim, mental health professionals, and even other singles, and not one of them has expressed my viewpoint. So here it is.

Last week I went shopping and came home with a beautiful Shabbos outfit. I teach a full day, tutor after school, and while I try to save responsibly for the future, I do occasionally shop. My mother said, “Wow, that looks amazing on you! Why don’t you put it aside for your sheva brochos?” Never mind that my last date was (a) uninspiring and (b) seven weeks ago. The same week I told a coworker I had just booked a flight to Eretz Yisroel for midwinter vacation. She replied, “Don’t go now; put it off and the first bein hazmanim that you’re married!” Then last summer, when I bought myself some really nice earrings in Florida with one of my als0-waiting friends, my grandmother, shaking her head in disappointment, wondered, “What’s the chasan going to buy you?”

Avigail, I officially love you. If you can write like this twice a week, and are so inclined, you can have my URL.

Oh, Like That Type?

Questioner: “So, what would be a great gift for your parents?”

Answerer: “A daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law.”

Questioner:  “I mean for hosting me for Shabbos.”

Answerer: “Oh. Um. Not sure.”

Three One-Thousand, Four One-Thousand

I’m picky.

There—I’ve said it.

After seven years of denial in the face of repeated accusation, I admit it: I have high standards. I don’t just want a nice guy with a job. I want a heckuva lot more for a lifelong commitment.

Once your 24 months of hormonal giddiness are over, you’re left with someone you’ve agreed to spend the rest of your life with, in union. Someone you’ve decided to partner with on this matter known as “life” til death do you part. Mortgages. Colicky babies. Influenza. Teenagers. Every Shabbos for the rest of your life. Who do you want to be there?

Examining my protests over the years, my reasons for ditching, dumping, and breaking up, I find the complaints fall into two major categories. “He’s boring” and “he’s a dead weight.” And I can readily invert those negatives to two positives that I think are the most important aspects of a marriage. That is, I think the spouse falls into two main roles:

The Companion.  Friends are people who you want to spend time with even when the mystery is gone. People whose opinions you trust, whose company you enjoy, whose views you want to hear even when you don’t agree with them. Someone whose company you seek out when the going is glum, because you know they can cheer you up or at least commiserate right. And it seems to me that this should describe someone you plan to hang out with for forever.

And The Partner.  A partner is someone you want at your side because you trust them to do their part and catch what you miss. Someone who makes you feel safe, knowing they have your back. Someone you don’t have to check on because you know they’ve got it covered. And this should describe someone with whom you plan to face the rest of your life.

The miracle of feminism tells me that I don’t have to compromise when I pick a mate. And, okay: that means I don’t get to a whole lot of seventh dates. But when I do, it means that it’s someone I like, respect, and trust.

Maybe I’m demanding. I’ve been told that I am. That I have unrealistic standards. Maybe I do. But somehow, I can’t help but think there may be someone out there who fits this description for me. That I can find someone to marry who doesn’t make me feel like I’m settling. To quote another Jewish girl from a less liberated time, “Why shouldn’t I want the best?” And why shouldn’t that guy I eventually choose know that I think he’s the best?

He should know that he’s someone whose views I respect, whose judgment I value, whose company I cherish, who abilities I respect, whose partnership I trust, and whose presence makes me feel safe. Not someone I settled for so I could call myself married, but someone I look forward to sharing the rest of my life with.

And if I’ve got to be picky to get that message across, well, so be it.

I Think I’ve Seen You Before

I’m not much of a dating website person. As I’ve noted in the past, whatever it takes to create a compelling profile, I ain’t got it. The few guys I’ve messaged never replied, and the guys who messaged me were less than compelling. I have actually had a conversation that went like this (note: he initiated):

Me: So what do you do?

Him: Oh, this and that.

Me: Like what? Just give me an example.

Him: Well, I’m flying to Colorado on business this week.

Me: Cool. What for?

Him: Oh, this and that.

Me: So you deal weed?

Him: What? What are you saying? Why would you think that? Can’t a guy fly to Colorado without being accused of dealing marijuana? What kind of girl are you?

Me: The kind that likes non-evasive answers.

My singles event experience (only one!) wasn’t much better. Not that there was anything wrong with the event. I just tend to get quieter in inverse proportion to the number of strangers in the room, and there were about two hundred of those. There’s also a distinct bias at these events against people who aren’t preschool teachers and social workers, and that doesn’t help my case. But most of all, there seems to be a bias in who shows up.

There are three types of people in the world: those that go to singles events, those that have gone to one or two and will never go again, and those that don’t go to singles events.

Every event is a mix of groups one and two, and as a result, you tend to see the same people over and over again. In some ways, this is nice: it’s like meeting old friends. Also, it narrows down the field you have to play. (It also increases the competition, as you all avoid eye contact and rush to corner the new blood.) At the same time, it narrows your world. “Is this it?” you wonder. “Are these 30 men all I have to choose from?” It gets depressing.

Whenever a new venue opens, everyone who goes to singles events perks up. “Hey, it’s a new event by a new organization!” they think. “Maybe there will be new people!” And they all rush off to sign up. And there always are new people. But there are always the old people too. “Seriously,” you think. “That socially awkward guy must go to every event. He doesn’t have a chance. He should just give up.” Then you realize that someone might be thinking something similar about you.

Dating websites, I hear, have the same dynamic. “You’ve got mostly the same people on Frumster and JDate,” a friend explained. “Like, 40% overlap. And then I joined ZivugZone thinking it would be new people, and it mostly wasn’t. They just had different usernames.”

Maybe it’s time for us to just admit it: there really just aren’t a whole lot of frum Jewish singles in the world. You’ve seen the selection. Now make a choice. You can settle for someone in marriage, or you can settle for being single. Or you can keep marching the singles circuit forever.

It’s Not Just Me

I bought a friend a copy of Lori Gottlieb’s book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Not because I believe in settling, but because I knew that she wanted to. She kept going out with all these guys who were perfect except… for one fatal flaw. And she’d wonder if she should stop caring about these things because she’s twenty-seven and is three children behind her classmates, and all she wants is to be married.

So yes, she’s definitely the target audience. I bought her the book.

“Guess what,” Gottlieb says. “There is no perfect man. Kind of how you’re not a perfect woman, so ditch that mile-long shopping list of pointless minutiae and find someone good enough. Then deal with it. Because at least you’ll be married.”

Well, Friend loved it. She kept reading passages aloud about how picky women are, their ridiculous demands, and how few things are really important in a marriage.

“You should read this when I’m done!” she enthused.

“Not a chance,” I replied. “You know I don’t want to settle.” You see, the premise of Lori’s book is that most of all, every woman wants to get married. It’s only a false sense of entitlement that prevents us from picking out the first non-psychotic y-x chromosome pair that strolls past.

And there are certainly many women, like Friend, who feel this way. Their goal is to Get Married. They just need to find someone suitable to do it with. Then they can relax into marital bliss and babies with an easy sigh, knowing they have secured the most important accessory of the rest of the their life.

There are even married people who agree with this. “I’m so glad I married young,” they smile blissfully. “I could not have handled being single this long.”

I usually gape at them in astonishment. Is this the well-adjusted, multi-interested, adventurous person I knew in high school who never had a bored moment in her life? Saying she couldn’t have handled being single? Then I decide that it must be like me saying I couldn’t have handled being married that young. We’re all happy with what life has handed us because we have no idea what the alternative is really like. That’s not a bad thing.

Still, it bugs me.

Because I’ve never felt that way.

I can see the appeal of a committed relationship and the joys of offspring (at least between years 1 and 12), but the tug of the institution of marriage itself has never been a desperate need that overrides my desire for independence or self-sufficiency. I’ve always felt rather alone in this way.

But the nice thing about Gottlieb’s book is the overwhelming negative reaction it’s gotten from lots of women. Some just don’t like being told that they’re picky. But some don’t like the idea of settling. Like me, they do not fear a future in which kindly relatives give them cats for their birthdays. At least, they don’t fear it more than they fear being institutionalize with someone they discover they have trouble respecting.

Now, I happen to agree with Gottlieb that disrespecting someone because they haven’t read Kafka or “aren’t romantic enough” is kind of dumb. But I would also like to point out that there are many happy marriages based on equally dumb points of attraction. A teacher in seminary bragged to us about a match she made between a rich, trophy-wife hunting man and a beautiful, gold-digging woman. “Maybe it seems shallow,” she laughed at her horrified, idealistic, not-yet-dating class. “But it works for them. So what does it matter?”

To which I say, exactly. And if you’d rather stay single than spend the rest of your life with someone who is ugly, or poor, unromantic, or disinterested in existential literature, well, that’s a deeply personal thing, and certainly your priority to make.

Just make sure that you are okay with that. Because otherwise you should probably settle.

Not me, though. I don’t believe in settling.

What’s Your No-Beer Answer?

I have a career problem. Not with the career. It’s great so far. But it wreaks havoc on my dating. Heck, its even bad for not dating. I was at circus school the other night and a happily married classmate asked me what I do.

“Scientist,” I said vaguely.

“Oh wow,” he looked stunned.

“You?” I asked, keeping it friendly.

“Well, now I don’t want to say,” he hesitates. “I’m just an intake nurse at the hospital.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, it’s not a smart.”

“So what? It’s a good job and you’re still way better at lion-taming than I am. That’s not going to change how I see you.”

The thing that bugged me about this exchange was that I’d given him my “beer” answer. I was trying to be non-intimidating. What’s a girl to do when her “beer” answer is also a “no-beer” answer?

Here’s how it goes. If a girl is in a bar and a guy comes over and asks what she does, she can give one of two answers: the “beer” answer, which will hopefully lead to further conversation and him offering to buy her a beer; or the “no beer” answer, which will make him suddenly recall urgent business elsewhere. This is purely theoretical for me, as I never get approached in bars, since I’m not generally in them. But the idea still holds: the turn-off answer, and the not-so-turnoff answer.

When I came across this idea, I asked my companions, a preschool teacher and a librarian, what their “no beer” answers would be. After some deep mulling, the preschool teacher answered “Early childhood development specialist.” The librarian didn’t miss a beat. “Librarian,” she said promptly.

Like the librarian, my beer and no-beer answers are essentially the same. Which I find troubling.  What on earth is a girl to answer if people back away slowly from the lite version? A lie?

…then again, it sure is fun to whip out the no-beer answer. “I’m a microneurobiologist specializing in intracellular organelle funambulism. But that’s boring. What do you do? Hey, is something wrong?”

More Classmate Statistics

A while ago I posted a breakdown of my high school class’s engagement record, complete with histogram. (Go on, click through. You know you want to see it again.)

In response, a reader sent me the statistics from her class. Talk about depressing. I don’t know how she gets out of bed in the morning (if there’s no date to prepare for).

Oh wait, she probably has school or a job or some other fulfilling aspect of her life. I forget that can exist.

Anyway, here are her numbers:

Graduation year – 2008

Stats taken  – 2013

Number in class – 76

Number taken – 53

Percent married – 70%

Not bad. The stats for my class were 74% gone by year five. I wonder if this is a standard for the Ultra-Orthodox community?

Does anyone else have statistics to contribute.

Just Because, Okay?

bad shoes

“I don’t want to go out with him again.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, I just don’t.”

“But he’s such a good, smart boy.”

“He’s annoying. Or boring. Or had a bad tie. I don’t know! He’s just not for me, okay?”

Sometimes, you just know it isn’t going to work. It’s called a gut feeling, and it’s usually right. It might be self-fulfilling-prophesy right, but it’s going to be right, so there’s no point in arguing.

Still, sometimes you need a reason. Either for the pushy parents or shadchan, or for your rational self. Why oh why don’t you want to go out with this lovely boy again?

And sometimes the reason is stupid, because you’re groping. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less right.

Dining with One

I like cooking.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I like eating good food presented well. And it’s a great pleasure to eat delicious, beautiful food that I made myself.

Moreover, I think I’m worth it. I, Bad4, deserve to eat well. So I do.

A (single) friend once told me that she lives on canned tuna and raw vegetables because “It doesn’t pay to cook for one.”

I told her that was the saddest thing I’d ever heard.

She got angry and told me she felt condescended at.

I snarked back that she shouldn’t demand respect from me when she wasn’t giving it to herself. She was a friend I admired and respected and enjoyed spending time with, and I couldn’t believe that she thought she wasn’t worth taking care of except incidentally while caring for a man.

We glared at each other for a while. She didn’t talk to me for three days. Then she came back and said it had nothing to do with any man—she was just too lazy to cook and she liked her tuna, so there.

I said I respected that, because everyone has a right to be lazy if it makes them happy, but I still thought she deserved good food, so she could come over for supper whenever she wanted. We grudgingly made up.  She came over for supper.

I see no shame in cooking for one, arranging a plate for one, and relishing it… alone. If you want to share, well, that’s what Instagram is for, right?

Which is why I was pleased to find that there’s an entire book of famous chefs reminiscing about their favorite one-person meals. And offended that the subtitle has the word “confession” in it. Can we please erase the stigma of not spending every moment with another person?

In The Muppets song “Me Party” there’s a line I love:

There are days when all this girl can see
Is a world that’s made for two

And it’s true. Our society assumes  a party of two. Everyone makes fun of teenage girls who can’t go to the bathroom alone. But how many grown adults have the guts to dine out alone?

I thought I did, and there are times when I have. But frequently I’ve resorted to reading a book to avoid figuring out what to do with my eyes. You can’t just stare at your food. That seems like bad manners. But looking around at the other patrons seems a little creepy. Sometimes, takeout just seems like a better option.

Which is why I loved this article about preferring to dine alone that an MF sent me.  Well, she sent me this article first, but there was a link, so that makes two people who proudly dine alone, and if you add me, well, three’s a crowd, and a horde is a type of crowd, so there are hordes of people who enjoy dining alone, so there.

New Year’s Post

I am not a big New Year’s reveler. My acknowledgment of the new calendar year usually consists of sticking my head under the pillow at midnight when the shouting wakes me up. I also accept the day off from work, albeit grudgingly. (Can’t I work on New Year’s and take off on one of my holidays? Answer: No.  The computer system couldn’t process that request. Neither could my boss.)

Anyway, I recently started using a feed reader, and every other blogger seems to have a New Year’s post. Resolutions or retrospectives or predictions or something like that. So now I feel like I need a New Year’s themed post.

Retrospective:

WordPress is kind enough to restropect on my blog for me. I have posted their stats for you.

Resolutions:

I don’t  do resolutions. I have better things to fail at. Besides, what does a shidduch blogger resolve to do? Get married this year? Thank you. I’ve been working on this for seven years. Why would I suddenly succeed now?

Maybe I could resolve to be a better dater. Try throwing out my list or just stop dumping guys because they aren’t worth giving up my hair for. But eh. No. A girl needs some standards. I’m sticking with my list.

So no resolutions. Great! Moving right along, let’s make some predictions.

Predictions:

I predict that 75% of the 19-year-olds who found this blog during a late-night, post-date googling session will be engaged by the end of the year. I predict that 75% of the long-time readers will not be—and I’m including the married readers in that number.

Not to disparage the 19-year-old readership. I think being single at 19 is more miserable than being single at 27. I’m just so used to it by now. All those raw emotions are covered with so much scar tissue. I no longer care about the things that got me ranting (and writing) at 19. I apologize to my readers: I just don’t have the passion any more. Maybe I should predict my retirement in the next year.

Starting Fresh:

Is there such a thing as starting fresh?

I once had a theory that one of the great harms in relationships comes from the “you always do this” mindset. That is “You have done this thing I don’t like several times in the past, therefore I assume you will do it again now, and I’m going to preempt that or overreact to innocent errors and statements as if you were repeating this past offense.”

So I did a thought experiment. What if you could treat your friends and relatives as completely fresh slates every day? Nothing they’ve done in the past will affect how you perceive them now.

And I realized that this kind of negates the whole point of a relationship. Knowing and understanding the other person, what they do, like, and think, and also what they probably need to work on.

Why am I rambling on this way? Fresh starts. Right. I don’t believe in those either. I am not a brand new person at the start of a new year. I’m the same old flawed me. And chances are good I’m going to continue making the same mistakes this year that I’ve made in the past. But I will take this “stop and think” moment to strike a deal with me: I’ll erase the “you always” mentality if I can prove that I actually don’t always.

Time to get cracking.

It’s 2014!