Thursday Link: Queer Marital Harmony for the Straight Couple

I don’t think the Atlantic means its articles to be taken as factual. They’re more like talking points, something to think about, ideas to toss around.

With that prologue, I’m linking to The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss,” an article about what homosexual family structures can teach hetero couples about division of labor.

Plus, it offers some tantalizing statistics. Like, did you know that having a woman in a relationship correlates to it breaking up? Turns out more women than men request divorce in hetero unions, and more lesbian than gay couples split up. So if you want your marriage to last, marry a man.

The research cited can also suggest what each gender values. Lesbian couples are called out for creating a perfect equality in their relationship, down to the last penny spent, and who carries the next baby. What this tells me is that women see a power structure in everything, and they strive to mitigate any effect it could have on their relationship.

Gay couples are more chilled. They also split the housework — admitting that they do more now than they did in prior hetero marriages. But there’s also a higher likelihood of one man becoming a house-husband (even though there are apparently more power tensions related to income in gay unions). So, although men hang a lot of self-esteem on their bacon-bringing abilities, they still value house-spousing enough to sacrifice for it.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Anyway, go ahead and take a read, then drop a comment below — in that order, please.

Thursday Link: Reasons to Marry Young?

This is an interesting article about why to get married young. It’s interesting because a couple of the reasons she lists for getting married sound like classic reasons for not getting married, and vice versa. Just for example:

On paper, our unmarried peers looked more carefree. But many of them also relied on their parents to supplement their income, drove home for long weekends and holidays, or stayed on their parents’ health insurance and cellphone plans (even though they had decent jobs!). I put David on my health insurance. We bought our own family cellphone plan and Netflix account. When we visited our parents once a year, we paid for the plane tickets and still did our own laundry. We loved our parents and siblings, but marriage made us realize that we were now a separate family unit.

Wait, I could have sworn that people who marry before they have an income rely on their parents for help. I have personally seen friends head off to their parents’ with the sum total of their household laundry. And in-laws are just one more family to make you feel guilty for not visiting–if anything, you now have twice as many demands on your holiday weekends.

The plane ticket mention makes me laugh. I once went out with a guy who said his parents decided against going to Israel for Pesach because they’d have to pay for too many tickets: their own, their unmarried law-school son’s, their two daughters’,  their two sons-in-law’s, not to mention a grandkid or two.

“Oh,” was my reaction, as I struggled to find something to say besides “Don’t any of your siblings pay for their own lives?” Marriage, at least to Orthodox Jews, doesn’t mean becoming a separate family unit.

That said, she does reiterate what they told me in high school (and at work):

Sometimes people delay marriage because they are searching for the perfect soul mate. But that view has it backward. Your spouse becomes your soul mate after you’ve made those vows to each other in front of God and the people who matter to you.

I am not sure that “I married young and love it” is exactly a compelling argument, but that could be because I’m one of those on-paper free siblings who are bribed back to visit my parents with the promise of a free washing machine.

HT Kansasian

I’m HOW Old?

In spite of the fact that I am a “rachmana litzlan!” situation, being single over 25, I still enjoy having a birthday. It’s just fun to say “It’s my birthday today!” and watch everyone react like something special happened just because I was born.

Which is why I decided to have more of them.

I already have two: Hebrew and Gregorian. But there are so many more calendars out there! And I can have a birthday on every one!

I was born in the Chinese year of the tiger (“Rrroawrrr!”), which makes me ferocious and domineering on the outside, but noble on the inside. (Hey, I’ll take it.) I can be generous and selfish, short-tempered and driven, and I hate to fail.

And so on.

Like all such descriptions, most of it can stick with a little effort, and some of it really doesn’t, but it’s nice to be described as a tiger either way.

I am compatible in marriage with horses, dogs, and dragons. If that’s you, please apply by email.

There is however, one problem with the Chinese calendar: it’s shorter than the Gregorian/Hebrew. According to the Chinese calendar, I’m turning 28 this year (in October), instead of 27. Forget being a “rachmanus;” that makes me the kind of pathetic sight that drives you to cover your children’s eyes as you pass, lest it be catchy. Maybe having more birthdays wasn’t such a grand idea after all.

So I moved on to the Muslim calendar. Sadly, there are fewer apps online to translate your Gregorian birthday to the Hijri calendar (and none for your Hebrew birthday… odd that), and they only claim to estimate within a day’s error. This year, my Hijri birthday is only a day after my Gregorian (+/- a day), which is disappointing if you’re trying to proliferate birthdays. And wouldn’t you know it: due to it being shorter than a solar calendar year, I’m turning 28 in Muslim years too!

I’m not really sure how to take this news. On the one hand, I’m older and wiser in Chinese and Muslim company. I can command more respect (Probably? Maybe? Possibly?). On the other hand, both cultures would surely agree with their Hebrew counterparts that being single at 28 is more of a tragedy than any amount of wisdom could counterbalance.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that the grass is not really greener elsewhere. Don’t be dissatisfied with your solar calendars – they endow you with youth. If you go searching farther afield, you’ll only age faster, and not get any more respect for it.

…Oh hey wait! I just an an awesome idea! I’m going to calculate my age in Martian years!

…And never mind. That makes me only 14. I can’t even be a legal independent. I guess I’m stuck with what I’ve got.

Wednesday Controversy: Must We Have Offspring to be Fulfilled?

This is excerpted from How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. It is in no way an endorsement of the book or its ideas (many of which I disagree with), nor a recommendation that you go out and read it (it’s sort of PG-13). I didn’t know it was some kind of feminist manifesto when I picked it up; I thought it was the manual nobody gave me at high school graduation. It wasn’t (and I still haven’t got my copy), but it was still a good read.

I found this excerpt interesting, coming from a mother. It states aloud some things I’ve suspected for years, watching many of my friends become mothers. Since it’s been quite a while since someone overtly told me that I don’t know anything about anything, I think it’s time to stir up some mud:

[Having children] is the easy option for women.

Because if you have children, at least people won’t keep asking you when you’re going to have children.  For some reason, the world really wants to know when women are having children. It is oddly panicked by women who are being a bit relaxed about it: “But your body clock!” it is apt to shout.

And if a woman should say she doesn’t want to have children at all, the world is apt to go a bit peculiar:

“Oooh, don’t speak too soon,” it will say—as if knowing whether you’re the kind of person who desires to make a whole other human being in your guts and then base the rest of your life around its welfare is a breezy “Hey—whatever” decision.

…It’s not simply that a baby puts a whole personful of problems into the world. It takes a useful person out of the world as well. Minimum. Often two. Before I had my kids I was politically informed, signing petitions, recycling everything down to watch batteries. It was compost heap here, dinner from scratch there, public transport everywhere. I rang my mother regularly. I was smugly, bustingly, low-level good.

Six week into being poleaxed by a newborn colicky baby, and I would have happily shot the world’s last panda in the face if it made the baby cry for 60 seconds less. Nothing got recycled; the kitchen was a mess. My mother could have died and I would have neither known nor cared.

Every day I gave thanks that both my husband and I were just essentially useless art critics.

“Imagine if you and I had been hot-shot geneticists, working on a cure for cancer,” I used to say gloomily.

“And we were so exhausted that we had to simply give up the project. Lizzie’s colic would be responsible for the death of billions.”

…We think of non-mothers as rangy lone wolves—rattling around, as dangerous as teenage boys. We make women feel that their narrative has ground to a halt in their thirties if they don’t “finish things” properly and have children.

Men and women alike have convinced themselves of a dragging belief: that somehow, women are incomplete without children. As if a woman somehow remains a child herself until she has own children. That there are lessons motherhood can teach you that simply can’t be replicated elsewhere—and every other attempt at this wisdom and self-realization is a poor and shoddy second. Like mothers graduate from Harvard, but the best the childless [woman] can manage is a high school equivalency diploma…

…No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence and were the poorer and crippled by it…

…It’s worth remembering it’s not of vital use to you as woman. Yes you could learn thousands of interesting things about love, strength, faith, fear, human relationships, genetic loyalty, and the effects of apricots on an immature digestive system.

But I don’t think there’s a single lesson that motherhood has to offer that couldn’t be learned elsewhere.

While motherhood is an incredible vocation, [a mother] has no more inherent worth than a childless woman simply being who she is, to the utmost of her capabilities. To think otherwise betrays the belief that being a thinking, creative, productive, and fulfilled woman is, somehow, not enough. That no action will ever be the equal of giving birth.

Let me tell you, however momentous being a mother has been for me, I’ve walked around exhibitions of Coco Chanel’s life work, and it looked a lot more impressive, to be honest. I think it’s important to confess this. If you’re insanely talented and not at all broody, why not just go and have more fun?

Besides, she concludes, single aunts make great short-order babysitters.

Thursday Link (early): Men Can’t Have It All Either

Never thought I’d be linking to Esquire, but thanks to O (and her sources) I am.

There’s lots of chatter about how women are 40% of household breadwinners (15% of those are married), and how they still can’t have it all, and never will have it all, etc.

But it takes a fearless magazine like Esquire to point out that men don’t have it all either… Truth is, I’m not exactly sure how this infograph shows that, but I love the graphics, so I’m linking to it anyway.

I also like the article attached to the infograph.

Designer Bride – II

Continued from previous post reviewing ‘How to Create the Perfect Wife’ by Wendy Moore: Designer Bride I

If you know what kind of life you want, and you know what kind of spouse it will take to make it happen, why shouldn’t you insist on exactly what you need? Such hubris led our hero Thomas Day to attempt to create the woman he could not find. He adopted a 12-year-old orphan and raised her himself, inculcating her with his doctrines.

Sadly, it did not work.

At the age of 14 she rebelled against the heavy burden of housework he put on her. Also, she wasn’t enjoying being pricked by pins and shot at with a pistol to develop her stoicism.  It seems that even meek, grateful orphans have their limits. So he banished her to boarding school.

Lesson 1: You can’t force people to fit your mold.

Day went back to dating women of his social class who were out of his league. One had to be dumped because she was too attached to her earrings. Another returned his proposal-by-contract with a point-by-point rebuttal, saying things like “Equality is essential for a happy marriage,” and “I couldn’t imagine being subservient to a husband in all things.” Yet a third suggested that she’d marry him if he became socially presentable, like by brushing his hair and wearing clothes that fit and weren’t rumpled. (Lesson 2: The most deficient are the most demanding.)

In despair, he went back to his orphan, who was finished school. He gave her strict orders on exactly how to dress for his proposal. But something small was off (record doesn’t say what, but friends agree it was a trifle), and he banished her forever, furious at her disobedience.

Lesson 3: You can’t demand perfection in your spouse. They’re only human.

Unbelievably, lesson 4 is that every pot, no matter how dented and warped, has a lid. There was a woman who wanted to marry Mr. Day. And she did. It was a rocky marriage though, between Thomas Day and Esther Milnes. A marriage full of his tests and trials. A marriage full of verbal spats. A marriage from which Esther stormed off at least twice, moving out of the cottage in the woods and in with her mother-in-law. See lessons 1 & 3.

Which brings us to lesson 5: If you’re pretty sure that the reason you’re single is all the fault of the opposite sex, the fault is probably in you.

Continued in next post: Designer Bride III

HT Kansasian

Designer Bride – I

I just finished a great book called How to Create the Perfect Wife. It’s a non-fictional account of Thomas Day, a Georgian-era gentleman, and his attempt to, well, create for himself the perfect wife.

Thomas Day knew exactly the sort of life he wanted to lead. He wanted to retire from the shallow, frivolous contemporary society and live in a small cottage in the woods. He would spend his day reading philosophy, writing poetry, dispensing charity, and trying to make the world a better place. And he knew exactly the sort of woman he needed as a life partner.

She had to be smart and educated in all the same interests as he, but not so ambitious as to write her own novels or poems. She had to have simple tastes and spurn the frippery of the times. She’d wear her hair loose and unstyled. Her neckline would be high, her sleeves long. She would not own earrings or, preferably, any jewelry. She would be strong and capable, willing to endure his difficult life of privation and philanthropy. She would not engage in trivial pursuits like music and dancing, and she must have plump white arms.

Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, what kind of guy dictates the way his wife does her hair or what she does her spare time? Oh wait…

I once met a guy whose first criteria for a potential date was “doesn’t have Facebook.” His second was “will only cover her hair with a scarf or hat.” It only got more detailed from there. Another guy had a list of acceptable college degrees for his wife-to-be. I asked what he’d think if I found him the right girl, but she came with her own list, like how many times a week he has to learn, and maybe something against the way he asks random girls like me to call him by his nickname. His response was that if their lists didn’t match, clearly they weren’t meant for each other.

This is how many of us date. We have a dating pool of perhaps a few hundred candidates, but we still reel off detailed criteria down to how many years he should want to learn and what he can do bein hazmanim. And heaven forbid he should show up in a pink tie.

But if you know what kind of life you want, and you know what kind of spouse it will take to make it happen, why shouldn’t you insist on exactly what you need? Such hubris led our hero Thomas Day to attempt to create the woman he could not find.

Continued in the next post: Designer Bride II and Designer Bride III

HT to the Kansasian

Jewish Matching Now on Broadway

Sort of. Fill the Void is playing at

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (1886 Broadway at 63rd Street, [212] 757-2280) and Landmark Sunshine Cinema
(143 E. Houston St. [212] 260-7289.

I have found a peculiarly deep divide between the Jewish and secular movie reviews (the former being breathless the latter being “meh”), but seeing as we’re mostly the former, it’s probably worth a look-see.

Thanks, BA.

Call Me Picky Please

I was explaining to a college classmate that I only date other Orthodox Jews. “So,” I concluded, “I’m going to be single for a while.”

He chuckled. “Maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on them.”

I stared. Then I smiled. I mean, he’d just called me picky. Can you think of a higher compliment? To be told that the only reason you’re still single is that you’re too picky.

I’ve told friends to stop being so picky. Generally, what I mean is “Pal, you’re gorgeous, brilliant, gracious, and witty. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a guy who isn’t tall, dark, handsome, rich, brilliant, and of course, a Torah scholar.”

It seems to me that we all have a list of traits we want, most of which don’t usually seem to come together in the same package. If half my friends seem to have unrealistic expectations, perhaps I do too. But honestly, most of the time the breakup is mutual. I don’t think I’ve left a string of broken hearts behind me.

Still, it’s nice that someone thinks I could have.

Thursday Link: Sheng Nu Like You

Thanks Essay for this link.

Somehow, in spite of the fact that there are 30 million more men in China than women, there are still loads of single women nearing 30. (Take that, NASI 10% statistics.) It’s a global epidemic!

On the bright side, now I know the truth: I’m not over the hill. I’m sheng nu. As the Chinese gov’t puts it:

These girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realise that as women age, they are worth less and less. So by the time they get their MA or PhD, they are already old – like yellowed pearls.

Ouch.