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

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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.”

Burn.

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.