Dating Games

So, I remember that time a guy brought a pack of cards on a date. It was from a board game, but the point was to ask people things you would never otherwise ask them. Like, personal questions. Sometimes nosy. The second one that came up for me was, “What’s the most embarrassing thing in your bathroom?”

“Uh…” I said. I could think of a lot of things in my bathroom that would be embarrassing to talk about on a first date.

Needless to say, that game didn’t do much for our date, which died in the water.

I’ve had a card game like that (The Ungame) be more successful later on in the dating, like, once you’ve actually got to a point where you feel comfortable discussing, at least, the contents of your kitchen, if not your bathroom.

Anyway, SYAS has entered the dating card game game.

Some of the essential questions it covers: “What do you think of a woman earning more than her partner?” & “What would you do if you had to entertain a 5-year-old for a day?”  & “Do you prefer meat, dairy, or pareve?” (What?) Well hey. If you don’t get any mileage out of the questions, you might get some out of making fun of the game.

Ungame - Jewish version


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?”

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.

So Many Options! Just Choose One.

beak up with five technologies]


Don’t get me wrong. Breaking up via text message is a little bit cowardly. But it’s better than breaking up via absenteeism.

Gentlemen, I’m curious: has a woman ever broken up with you simply by not returning you calls? That seems like the closest equivalent to break-up via non-calling, but I somehow can’t imagine it actually happening. Am I wrong?

I was recently charmed to be witness to the following: Girl went out with Guy. Guy never called back. After a week of waiting, Girl decides he’s not calling. Spends a month being peeved at him, gets over it.

Girl and Guy wind up at a Shabbos table together. Girl is charming (as usual). Guy shoots her a text after Shabbos trying to get back together again.

Girl: “Why now?”

Guy: “I guess you were just more pretty and fun than you were on the date.”

Girl: “Well the way you ‘broke up’ with me told me something about you, and I’m no longer interested.”


No, not her comment. I mean the bridge. There is a reason why human beings strive to retain harmonious relationships with the people around them. It just makes life so much more pleasant. Also, you never know when you might decide to ask one of them out. Again.

The Unenhanced Date

behind the scenes feature


HT SA for the ‘toon.


NEF#8 showed up to her surprise shower wearing a terry-cloth zip-up hoodie, denim skirt, and flats.

When she found out that her groom-to-be was in the kitchen, she quickly changed that to zip-up hoodie, denim skirt, and 3-inch heels.

“He’s never seen me not in heels!” she explained.

“Didn’t you go mini-golfing?”

“I wore stilettos!”

“You know he’s not going to call off the wedding just because he sees you in flats.”

“No, but–you’ll understand when you’re engaged.”

Well, maybe.

“Oh please,” scoffed NMF#20. “I wore makeup maybe twice when we were dating.”

“She doesn’t need it,” her husband offered from the couch.

“Oh gosh no,” disagreed another friend. “I don’t even take out the garbage until I’ve checked my makeup.”

Murmurs of agreement.

“You know,” I commented, “The story of Yaakov and Leah is actually an allegory for what every man feels when he sees his wife unenhanced for the first time.”

“Um, what?” called the one in the heels.

“So what are you supposed to do, be ugly on a date?” asked the friend in the makeup.

“No, but if he’s gone out with you a whole bunch of times, you can probably risk going natural,” pointed out she who doesn’t need makeup.

“Yeah, probably,” I agreed. I haven’t gone on a date without makeup in years. But hey. I agree. In theory.

Trust Your (Young) Adults

I graduated bais yaakov high school with a head full of ideas about marriage that I trusted but didn’t believe. That is: I trusted the teachers who’d taught them to me. They were older and wiser and presumably had my best interest in mind. But many of the things they said didn’t pass the critical thinking test, so I struggled to believe them.

One day I found myself on an eighth date.  I liked the guy. Respected him. Enjoyed spending time with him. But I also knew that eight dates meant we were Serious and that freaked me out. I had no reason to break up with him, and no desire to marry him.

Luckily, the guy didn’t go to a bais yaakov. He pointed out that something big was missing in our relationship. We were, to put it mildly, stuck in the Friend Zone, and going nowhere fast. He broke us up. He was absolutely right and I was secretly relieved, but it took me a couple of years to come round to agreeing with him.

Trusting without believing gets us girls in trouble. We try to do what we’re told because it must be right, and yet, something inside is crying that it can’t be. But, ever trusting, we sometimes allow our elders and wisers to drive us into places we really shouldn’t be.

Back when I was 21, I had friends who were lucky enough to have breakdowns and wind up in therapy before they could be pushed into an inauspicious marriage. Now that I’m 27, I have friends who are divorced, because they didn’t manage it until after. 

I’m sure by now everyone has read Gital’s story in the Post about how she let the people trusted nudge her into a marriage she didn’t believe in with a sociopath simply because he came from the Feinstein family.

I told the matchmaker I wanted to stop seeing him, that we weren’t a fit…

My parents asked me to think about it because his parents were so insistent I had the wrong impression of him.

In Orthodox dating, you rely a lot on what other people tell you — what their impression is. So I gave him another chance.

I don’t want to sing any Disney-style “follow your heart” tunes here. But at some point, the yeshivish community has to believe they’ve instilled their children with the right values and a pinch of common sense, and trust them to navigate the world themselves. Until they do, girls will struggle to trust themselves. Bad decisions ensue.

For a while I thought I was the only girl naive enough to treat feeling of reluctance for a guy with repetitions of the mantra “love comes after marriage” — something oft repeated in high school, but without the sort of elaboration necessary for girls who have been segregated from boys their entire lives. But now I know the unhappily married and the happily divorced — sometimes with children in tow — who weren’t as lucky as I was.

The parents and teachers advising these girls into their relationships mean well. They want the best for them. None of them dream of creating a future divorcee, let alone an agunah. But they still view them as children, girls, unable to trust the inner compass they’ve been cultivating through years of schooling and upbringing. And the “girls” share this view, because it’s held by the people they trust the most.

This makes me sad.

And long term, it makes a lot of other people sad too.

Choices, Choices

Kid in a candy shop
My “Dear Abby” account received the following question the other day:

“Do you have a method for deciding who to go out with, when you’ve received 3 suggestions at the same time, each of which is roughly in your ballpark but nothing that makes you jump in excitement…all in equal balance so as to cancel out any clear advantage one has over another?”

Excellent question! Yes, I do. Or maybe I don’t, but the decision is usually made for me. The algorithm goes like this:

Were any of them suggested by an aunt? He could be a one-legged leper with a closet full of dead wives, but if an aunt suggested him, we’re going out. Because my shoulder socket can only take so much torque.

(To be fair, no aunt has ever suggested a one-legged leper.)

Does one of them have a more aggressive shadchan? In the past, I have said “Yes” to one guy, and then gone out with two more before him because their shadchanim were so pushy. It was easier to go out with them than deal with the twice-a-week phone calls and emails.

“So this other boy, are you still going out with him?”

“Um, well, we actually haven’t set up a date yet.”

“Well let me know when you’re done with him.”

“That’s what you said two days ago.”

“And you never got back to me!”

Luckily, they were both 1nDs, so there was no overlap.

If neither of these decision-makers take the difficult task off my hands, it will depend on whether I actually want to date. Like, in general.

If I’m just coming off a dating streak, I probably don’t. I want a break to spend my Sundays doing things I want to spend my Sundays doing. It’s depressing to realize that it’s been a month since you’ve been out on your bike, and you have nothing to show for it except four more guys you won’t be seeing again.

If it’s been a while, I probably do. At this point I may be doing Tai Chi in the park Sunday morning, and instead of being Zen I’m wondering why my well of men has dried up. Is this it? Have I dated them all?

With that in mind, I consider the following:

Is one of them only temporarily available? Sometimes, you’ve okay’d someone ages ago, but he’s always busy when you’re free, and you’re busy when he’s free. If a guy has limited availability and I want to date, then I will give him precedence. If not, then not.

Is one of them local?  If a guy is far away, I know he’s going to arrive for our first date searching for a reason to break up. If I don’t want to date, I will pick him first. Otherwise, I’ll go with someone closer.

If no decision has been made at this point, then who cares? Hang both profiles on the wall and throw darts. If your aim  is anything like mine, you’ll wind up hitting the Chofetz Chaim portrait. And you can’t turn down a date with the Butcher of Radin, can you?

How Can Women End Dates Politely?

I got the vibe that he wasn’t really excited about our date.

To be fair, I wasn’t all that thrilled about it either. Maybe I was projecting. But the feeling I was having, based on his foot-dragging approach to setting up a date (“Well, email me when you’re next in the area”, “Queens? Hm. That’s far. Will you be in Staten Island maybe?”) was that he wasn’t exactly thrilled to be seeing me. Which is why I told my parents to expect me back in no more than two hours max.

And which is why I was really surprised to find myself still talking to him three hours later.

Conversation had slowed, although it had been good enough. I was game for a second date. But I also wanted to end the first. It was feeling dragged out. And I had work the next day.

I thought about how my dates ended dates. Usually they straighten up, look me in the eye, and say in a firm tone, “Well, shall we go?”

I tried to imagine how my current date would take it if I tried that now. Somehow, all I could come up with was “startled” with a tinge of “affronted.”

So with an inward sigh, I went about all the indirect (and inefficient) feminine ways of ending a date.

I shifted restlessly. I stifled a yawn and apologized, saying I’d been up early that morning—to get to work, you know. I let silences drag. I observed how empty the place was getting—everyone was going home. And slowly… oh so slowly… it took about fifteen minutes, but he asked, “Would you like me to take you home?”

Was I being too obvious?

When he declined a second date, I felt guilty. Was it because he really wasn’t interested, or was it because he’d taken my heavy-handed hinting to mean that I wasn’t interested?

Then I laughed at myself for feeling guilty. I’d been so sure it would be a 1nD from the start. Stupid girly guilt over everything. He probably hadn’t read into it at all.

Someone please tell me:

When the guy says “Well, shall we go?” after three hours, it’s not necessarily a sign of disinterest. When a girl desires to be taken home at 10:30pm on a workday, does the guy take it personally?

Speedy Shadchaning

Has anyone else felt a little pressured by their shadchan to make contact with the other party immediately regardless of the expedience for seeing the person any time soon?

I have recently had three shadchanim insist on putting me in immediate contact with the Gentleman, even though I pointed out that I could see him in person in two or three weeks when I was visiting New York.

“So? You’ll talk on the phone.”

Twice? Three times? Before we even meet? It seems a bit unfair to make two people with 2D impressions of each other carry on a conversation-only courtship for two weeks, when, simply by introducing them a week or two later, you could obviate the need.

And then he’s going to suggest a Skype call. I know he will. Guys love webcamming, for some reason. I don’t know why, since they’re generally pretty awful at it.  I’ll put a nice sweater over my pajamas, sweep on some makeup, and spend 15 minutes putzing about with the camera position and lighting. will look okay. (Nobody actually looks good on a webcam.)  But I know the guy will do none of the above.

I once Google Hung Out with a guy who appeared to use his iPad for the calls. He’d position it on the table below him, providing a foreshortened view of his chest and underchin. The overall impression was that I was communicating with a large sofa cushion topped with a small head. It wasn’t thrilling. But the  turnoff was the way his eyes kept straying off the tablet screen,  above to his desktop screen. I’d never have known he was keeping tabs on his Facebook feed while chatting if we’d just done a phone call.

But webcam tips are for another post. My point is that we didn’t know about each other for the past 27 years of our lives. Will it really hurt so much if we don’t know each other for another two weeks?

While I appreciate a shadchan’s enthusiasm for throwing a promising couple together, I do wish they could rein it in for just long enough to let our calendars swing into sync. So we could avoid multiple cold calls and those horrifying webcam dates. Trust me: this is good for the relationship.

Literature Review of Dating Economics

Harryer sent me this lovely literature review masquerading as a web article. It covers all the research ever done regarding why I can’t get a second date. Well, maybe not all. Heck, I hope not all. I mean, this is a key human interaction here. It would be pretty sad if it were less researched than how to successfully market painful shoes.

The first model introduced is the one where everyone has a number between 1 and 10 on their foreheads, and everyone is trying to get a partner with the highest number possible. After a few interactions, you figure out if you’re a 4 or an 8, and match yourself up accordingly.

Like all the pat economic theories of yesteryear, this suffers from oversimplification. Life in the market is a little bit muddled because it’s not actually a market. Maybe it was, back in days of arranged marriages, when the whole town would sit down and rate its singles and assign them numbers based on wealth and lineage. But in real life, most people aren’t so simply satisfied. They may try to distill their desire into a shopping list, but there’s still that something else — “spark,” or “chemistry,” or “chein” — that isn’t so easily quantified.

What does this sort of study tell us that’s useful?

“[I]ntelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women’s choices as men’s.

The study claimed that men did, however, show a preference for more intelligent women – up to a point. Men preferred smarter women, but avoided women who they perceived as more intelligent than themselves.  The same pattern emerged for career ambition.”

There you go, women. You can be smart — downright brilliant, actually. Just not more brilliant than your date.

The next experiment cited was from Dan Ariely. He says that by trying not to offend on first dates, you’re just being boring, and that will kill your chance at a second date.  Instead, he recommends being daring and broaching controversial and personal topics.

“In an experiment he ran with online daters, subjects were forced to eschew safe topics in their messages and only throw out probing, personally revealing questions like “How many lovers have you had?”

The result? Both sides were more satisfied with the outcome.”

I would like to note that she does not note what “satisfied” means. Maybe they were satisfied that they had a really solid reason for not ever seeing this person again. Is that a success or a failure?

I have no trouble throwing out atypical ideas on first dates, because they’re just ideas and I have them so why not? They’re fun to play with. I’m not certain that this gets me many second date, though.

In fact, on my 1nD with Mr#40, I said I thought nicotine patches afforded the opportunity to see what makes smoking pleasurable without risking one’s lungs. (Assuming half the joy does not involve sticking something in your mouth. The use of pacifiers, lollypops, and bonbons as comforting tools suggest there may be.) Surprisingly, Mr.#40 did not take this well.

My parents, I should mention, do not agree with Dr. Ariely. When I come home from a first date and can’t tell them how many siblings my date has, they wonder what we did the whole time. And when I say we discussed the dangers of getting addicted to nicotine patches, they put their heads in their hands and cry a little bit. But I never cited a scientist at them before. Next time I’ll just say, “But Ariely says it’s better this way!”

This is why it’s great to live in a scientific era. It used to be that you were single because there was something wrong with you. But now we have studies to show that you’re merely doing it a little bit wrong. And if you aren’t 66% more married after implementing the advice of science, well, just keep up with the latest research. Soon enough they’ll find the cure — even for you.


Shoes, Glorious Shoes

I was over at an MF, and we got to talking about guys who are “bad at dating.”

“It’s usually the little things, like as small as just telling you where they plan to take you on a first date. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to a lounge, but if you’re not, it really does! I can’t count how many times I walked around Central Park in 3-inch heels. And I went bowling in heels, too.”

“They let you bowl in heels?”

“I don’t remember if they let, exactly. But I wasn’t going to put my feet in those bowling shoes without socks! That’s disgusting! If I’d have known I’d have brought a pair. And I would have gone ice skating in my heels too if it was possible. I mean, seriously. Why am I handing in a pair of 4-inch stilettos at the skate rental? That’s just weird! There’s something wrong with that situation. And then me trying to skate in a fit-and-flair dress that I bought for sitting in a lounge looking pretty. If you’re going to do something unusual, you tell the girl.”

This rant, mind you, from someone who’s been married four years. I guess her bunions still remember.


Friday Repost: Talking About Dating

This one is kind of long, and very young.

These days, I have no trouble telling friends “Can’t make it out shopping with you; I have a date.” To which they generally respond, “Oooh, to who?” As if I’m going to give them a name. I do give them a description, though. “Fishing guide, Silver Spring, 5’12”, 28-years-old.” This is usually about as much as I know anyway.

After the date, they’ll generally ask “So, how was Mr. Fishing Guide?” And I’ll say, “A little fishy. I think he wasn’t 5’12” – more like 6′. Lots of big fish stories. Would see again.” This strikes me as utterly reasonable, but somehow I don’t think I would have liked it five years ago.


So Distracted… By Work

I love my job! I can’t imagine how society functioned before everyone had jobs. One day, I shall have to pull out a few Jane Austen novels and peruse them just to find out: what excuse do you come up with for letting a relationship tail off when you haven’t got a job?

I’m thinking of the guy with whom I had a great pre-date telephone conversation. Or at least, I thought it was great, and pre-date.
“I’d love to drive in for a date,” the guy said at the end of the call. “But I’m really busy with work these days. Let me be in touch when I find the time to come in.”

Odd thing, that. The shadchan had assured me he was unemployed. I guess he was busy hunting for a job? I should mention that this happened two months ago. I haven’t heard from him since. Phew! Unemployment sure does swallow your time!

And what about the guy who was everything (in theory) that a Dater could want? Granted, she wasn’t especially attracted to him, but that could come with time. She wasn’t going to throw out a great guy like this on a technicality. He was steady, he was sensible, he had a good job he loved, he was responsible…

Darnit about the job! Turns out he loved that job more than he loved her. They went out a few times, spoke on the phone, exchanged a few emails, and then…

“Sorry this was so short. I’m really busy with work. I’ll email you something longer when I have more time.”

That was the last she heard of him.

Sometimes, late at night, she wonders if she should have done something when he disappeared. Called the cops and reported a missing beau, probably buried under a toppled pile of documents in the back of a government office… What with the sequester, they might have cut the cleaning crew, and nobody would ever find his body now until they cut the A/C in the fall and it started smelling.

When someone starts using work as an excuse for falling out of touch, it means the relationship is dead—they just haven’t acknowledged the body yet. They’re like the girlfriend who propped her dead BF in his lazyboy, turned the TV to NASCAR, and placed a beer in his hand. Unable to admit that they’d crossed the point where gravity was exerting an inexorable tug on their bond, they waffle along until they drift so far apart they don’t even realize they’ve broken up.

I’ve done it. I’ve even used work as an excuse. And I hate that lack of closure. I guess it’s closure enough that neither of us pursued closure. But if I could go back, I’d ditch the cowardice, be a (wo)man, step up to the plate, and say, “Let’s break up.”

That’s what a friend of mine had to do.

Things were thrumming along between the two of them—they went out twice a week, texted several times a day, and spoke almost every night. Until Pesach.

“sry,” he texted after their week apart. “been bsy w/wrk.”

A few days later she called to ask if they were “okay.”

“Yes, of course we’re okay,” he said, a little distracted. They spoke about the weather for a half-hour and hung up. Two days later he texted that maybe they needed some time apart to think about “things.” Unwilling to watch their relationship die, slowly, writhing on the hot pavement, she did what he should have done. She talked him though a breakup. Via text message.

Then she sat down on her living room floor and cried for two weeks straight.

Single Due to Demographic Genetics

Back in my younger days, I once came across a dating profile where the guy put “slim” first on his list of “looking for.” It was also underlined. I immediately threw it out. In the high-minded idealism of youth I disdained such blatant shallowness, such unabashed superficiality, such emphasis on the thin cosmetic veneer of our physical interface with the world.

Also, I was fairly certain I wasn’t pretty enough for someone like that.

Back in said youth, it was rare to come across a profile where physical traits were mentioned, let alone emphasized. Yes, we all know why people ask for pictures. And sure, I heard about guys who added an addendum for the shadchan detailing their preferences. Oh the Shabbos afternoons, comforting the girls who accidentally saw the “for the shadchan only” entry on a SYAS profile! “He wants a buxom wife, only he didn’t say it quite so nicely,” or “He requested ‘plump and proud.’ Seriously?! I’m not proud—I’m on a diet!”  But none of these were purposely stated to the female party herself.

Recently, as I date older and older guys, I’ve noticed a shift. Now I get profiles where “Looking for” begins with the usual “Kind, caring, sweet, nurturing” but then moves on to “petite blond with blue eyes, who I can carry across the threshold of our first apartment. Giggling a must.”

Actually, the last profile I got skipped the “kind, caring, sweet, nurturing” and went straight to “pretty, well-dressed, outgoing, shorter than me.”

Far from offensive, I find these profiles to be a relief. Usually I give anyone who sounds reasonable a fair shot. But thanks to these profiles, I now know that I don’t have a fair shot. We can debate how sweet I am, but factually I am not blond, not petite, not outgoing, and I have never in my life giggled.

So I quickly return an email to the would-be matchmaker explaining that while I am shorter than the  5’6” gentleman, I haven’t got a single pair of dress shoes with heels less than 2” high. Thanks for thinking of me, but I guess not this time.

People will protest that I’m aiding and abetting in a  typical older-single tactic: eliminating options rather than being open  to them. “If everything else is right, he won’t mind that you have bouncy hair instead of swingy hair.” After all, everyone’s hair looks the same after the wedding anyway. You can get a blond sheitel, blue contacts, wear ballet flats, and learn to giggle. If everything else is right.

First off, it’s unlikely that everything else will be right. And you’ll never be given a chance to find out if you don’t pass the Looks Test.

And let’s not downgrade the importance of that test!

Maybe the guy really has issues with brunettes. They just look so much smarter and more bookish than blonds. Have you ever seen a blond librarian? And what color is the hair of all the evil women in the movies? Hm? Dark, maybe?  And let’s not start with redheads. Oy vey. Since when is red a Jewish hair color? It’s downright prust. And it smacks of intermarriage. Where do you think Dovid Hamelech got his hair color from? I bet you it wasn’t the Jewish side of the family.

Maybe curly hair horrifies him. Why can’t it just go straight? Pick a direction and go with it! None of this zigging and zagging like a target dodging potshots. There’s something inherently dishonest about curly hair. Have you ever seen a truly aidel maidel with kinky locks? Do you know what“kinky” is a synonym for? Q.E.D.

Brown eyes are boring. Grey are depressing. Green are weird. And hazel eyes? What the heck are hazel eyes anyway? That’s just another way of saying you’ve never been decisive about your eye color. If you can’t decide something as simple as that, how are you ever going to choose a baby name?  Stick with blue: it’s heavenly. It’s pure. It’s good and right and true. And you get a little dizzy gazing into blue eyes. That’s a good thing.

Or maybe none of the above apply. Maybe these guys just aren’t attracted to anyone they can’t keep in the china cabinet. It’s a handicap, and you should pity them not judge them. You think they want to be single? It’s not easy being so limited!

Anyhow, the way I figure it, if a guy puts that requirement in black and white on his profile, he wants the girl to see it and he wants her to self-eliminate. He’s being kind, saving everyone a lot of wasted time and money getting together, having a pleasant time, and then racking their brains to come up with a plausible reason to break up so they can get back to blissfully date-free Sundays.

Or maybe I’m just looking for ways to eliminate options rather than be open to them.  Am I getting to be one of those older singles?  Maybe, under “Looking for” on my profile I should put “Six-foot tall, broad-shouldered man with commanding but gentle personality, a uniform, and a secret second job as a spy.” It will help drive away the riffraff. And then I can enjoy those blissful, date-free Sundays.

Yeshiva in the Marriott

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!

On the Subject of Being Interesting

I hate to be the hobby police here, because I don’t really have much by way of “hobbies” in the traditional sense, but gentlemen:

“Talking to friends” is not a hobby. That’s how normal people socialize. “Going to the gym” is not actually a hobby either, unless you’re training for something special or bodybuilding.

This is the section where you can sound mildly more interesting than all the other nice, smart, professional boys out there. Please make some kind of effort!

Boring or Shy?

Once upon a time I went out with a nice guy. Slightly boring, but truly nice. On our last date he was just starting to get interesting. Opening up, I suppose, as we became more comfortable with each other. Seeing that he had the potential to be both nice and intriguing, I decided to go out again. He did not.

A few weeks later a friend of a friend was at a Shabbos meal with him where he mentioned that he’d recently gone out with a whole string of truly boring women, and where were the interesting ones hiding?

Well thank you, Mr. Fascinating. happen to not think I’m boring. I enjoy my company very much, e’en, yea, constantly day and night.

I suspect most people feel this way about themselves. Even the guy who assured me that he was the least exciting, adventurous, and well-rounded individual I would ever meet seemed to think his company was still charming. (It wasn’t bad, to be honest. If you don’t get bored of someone being flippant to mocking about anything exciting, adventurous, and non-academic.) And yet, within two dates we think we can come to the conclusion that someone else is boring. Or at least, more boring than ourselves.

I wonder which is the more realistic issue. Do we have an inflated sense of our own interestingness? Or are we too quick to judge the slow-to-warm as boring? Do we have skewed criteria for interestingness?

Before anyone jumps in and says “What’s so important about being interesting anyway, you’re looking for a spouse not an entertainer,” obviously, you need to want to spend time with said future spouse. If they bore you, you’re never going to hang around for the proposal. Interesting need not mean he’s raising funds to build schoolhouses in Mozambique. He could just have a quirky sense of humor or be really into shuffleboard. (Which, let’s face it, is fascinating. I mean, who on earth can be really into shuffleboard? I want to know more about such a person!)

Shy people, like me and my date with the boring dates, are at an especial disadvantage in shidduch dating, where a 4th date can have the deeper meaning of meaning you want to get deeper. You have three shots at being interesting enough for a Fourth Date. And if you don’t cut it, you’ll hear through the grapevine how boring you were.

The crazy part is that two shy people don’t necessarily a mismatch make. Take, as an example, this true story about two young women who moved into an apartment in the Heights together. Neither had ever met before, but had mutual friends who vouched for the sanity of the other. Although both were lots of fun when cozily ensconced in their social circles, they were both introverts, a little insecure, and were not great at breaking ice.

“We literally did not talk to each other for like, two months,” one of them said. “Well, we said stuff like ‘Is this yours?’ and ‘Maybe we should move the couch here?’ but that was it.”

It took several meals with mutual friends before the two started chatting, and even longer before they began intertwining their social calendars. Then they discovered that they liked the same music, had complementary preferences in housework, and both wanted to take a flower-arranging course. Before a year was out they were finishing each other’s sentences. And now they’re so tight they’ve been known to impersonate a married couple ironically.

So, shy people: even if the person opposite you isn’t obviously shy, consider that maybe they just might be slow to warm. And then: shy people of the world unite! (Okay, couldn’t resist that one.)