Reason #24 for Getting Married

I found another white hair!

I’ve always had one white hair for as long as I can recall. In seventh grade a friend found it, announced it, and yanked it.

“Hey!” I protested. “That’s my hair.”

“If you pull one out three more grow back,” another friend protested.

“That’s scientifically improbable,” I paused from my indignation to point out.

It grew back. Only one hair. And it’s been there, smack in the middle of the front of my head ever since.

Well, yesterday, while gooping mousse into my hair, I found another one. It’s underneath, in a bottom layer of hair, so not easily seen. But it’s there.

Dear God. One hair, then two, then next thing you know they’re springing up all over and it’s the hairdresser’s every two weeks so you can maintain that illusion of youth while dating increasingly salt-and-peppered men. Oh for a ageless wig to pop over it all!

 

I Scrubbed My Brain, But the Stain is Still There

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that a guy called a friend to ask about me, but insisted on remaining anonymous.

He wasn’t completely anonymous, though. Based on his questions, I pegged him as dead-on yeshivish. And based on his area code, he was apparently from Monsey.

And I have a problem with yeshivish guys from Monsey.

Someone who self-described as “yeshivish” solicited a friend on a (admittedly skeezy) Jewish dating website.

Now, whenever I hear about a possible match with a yeshivish guy from Monsey, I wonder: could that be him?

I know this soliciting sleazebag is about 31 years old. I know he still lives with his parents. While that’s not enough to identify a secret skank beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s enough to cast a shadow on a very small population subset.

Is that good enough reason to refuse to go out with 31-year-old yeshivish men from Monsey who live with their parents?

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.

Thursday Link: Neverending Shidduch Stories

A shidduch story that never ends… sounds like mine!

HT to Double-Sh for this link. It brings me back to my school days, where I survived sitting in class mostly by distracting myself with “buzz stories.” A “buzz story” is one in which one storyteller begins, takes the story to a precarious point, and then goes “buzz!” whereupon the next storyteller has to extricate the protagonist from whatever mess he or she has been placed in. In class, obviously, this took the form of passing notes.

I am glad to say that I was never involved in any stories about dating. But that gaping hole in the universe has been filled by a group of ambitious young ladies (I assume they’re young; their “older single” is initially a downy-feathered 23).

The story itself is over here. I got about two pages in, smiling the entire way. It seems surprisingly well-coordinated. The secret to that is the planning thread over here. Hm. We probably should have had something like that in high school. It might have saved some of our tales from the graveyard of Ludicrous.

Anyway, hop on over and take a look-see. Let me know what happens if you get beyond 2 pages. 

Your Clock is NOT Ticking

You know they say your (female) fertility starts sliding at 30 and dives off a cliff at 35? Well here’s news from The Atlantic:

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.

In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.

– Jean Twenge

So what are the facts?

Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century—but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture. One study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), examined the chances of pregnancy among 770 European women.

It found that with sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of 35-to-39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86 percent of 27-to-34-year-olds. Another study, released this March in Fertility and Sterility and led by Kenneth Rothman of Boston University, followed 2,820 Danish women as they tried to get pregnant. Among women having sex during their fertile times, 78 percent of 35-to-40-year-olds got pregnant within a year, compared with 84 percent of 20-to-34-year-olds. [Bolding mine]

A study headed by Anne Steiner, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the results of which were presented in June, found that among 38- and 39-year-olds who had been pregnant before, 80 percent of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within six months (although that percentage was lower among other races and among the overweight). “In our data, we’re not seeing huge drops until age 40,” she told me.

Twenge finishes by referring us to the this Saturday Night Live clip (warning: it’s Saturday Night Live), in which four actresses complain about being pressured to have babies.

Eleven years later, these four women have eight children among them, all but one born when they were older than 35. It’s good to be right.

Back of the Class

I am very lucky: my high school class has an excellent archivist. So when there was a sudden and unexpected flurry of engagements this year, I was able to request the data.

Here’s what I wanted to know: how many of us are still single?

There were 66 students in my graduating high school class. Of those, 59 are married or engaged. For those who don’t care to reach for their calculator, that’s 89%. Which is to say, 10.6% are still single.

Well, we all know the 10% statistic. So, as a member of the 10% of my high school class, I think I can officially give up.

Yes, I know, it’s a statistic, not a rule. Of course it’s not a rule! I have a friend who is the last in her class still single. Although, granted, at a class size of 15, that may not be a significant variance from 10%. I don’t know – I haven’t got the time to figure it out.

It should probably be disheartening to think that I’m now a statistic. But the truth is, everyone’s a statistic. If you’re not in the 10% single then you’re in the 90% married. Honestly, what’s the difference? We can all be distilled into numbers one way or another.

So I kept adding columns to my spreadsheet. This time I was curious about rate of marriage. Is it sort of bell-shaped, or is there a tail? That’s really what set off my quest in the first place.

And so, I present to you, a case study of a Bais Yaakov High School, marriage rate, sample size 66.
Marriage Histogram

 

As you can see, there’s a slow start, as most of the sample was in Israel, and had a delayed start entering the marriage pool. But those who stayed in New York City lost no time at all in engaging themselves to the local male populace.

Once the Israel-seminarians returned, they too threw themselves into the marriage market, marrying an astonishing 18 of themselves off in the first year alone! This rapid rate of pairing slowed only marginally for the next two years, before dropping precipitously.  This may be due to the fact that a grand total of 71% of them were now paired off and busily reproducing themselves. The remaining 29% were slower and more circumspect. However, eventually another 20% of them also found a mate. These pairings were slower, more gradual, and illustrate undramatically on the histogram above.

You may be wondering: yes, there is a rapid marriage rate. But what about the divorce rate?

Well, I reassure you, the class currently stands at zero divorces, which is a rate of 0%.

Thursday Link: Freezing Fertility

I admit, this article came as a bit of a shock. I always assumed, in a sort of vague way, that if I wasn’t married at 30 I’d freeze some eggs. I figured I’d do more research when the time came.

Well, it turns out that freezing eggs is over $9,000 a pop, and has at most a 50% chance of success. (Is that per egg or per batch, I wonder?) This information had on me the reverse effect the article intended.

But trot over and read it for yourself. And then let me know: would freezing your eggs be a relief or an additional stress?

 

HT to Kansasian

Thursday Link: There’s Nothing New on Earth

Whatever shtus we’ve got, someone out there has it worse, as demonstrated by this paper sent to me by Beth:

 

Marriage Institutions and Sibling Competition: Evidence from South Asia
Tom Vogl

NBER Working Paper No. 18319
Issued in August 2012
NBER Program(s):   CH   LS

Using data from South Asia, this paper examines how arranged marriage
cultivates rivalry among sisters. During marriage search, parents with
multiple daughters reduce the reservation quality for an older
daughter’s groom, rushing her marriage to allow sufficient time to
marry off her younger sisters. Relative to younger brothers, younger
sisters increase a girl’s marriage risk; relative to younger singleton
sisters, younger twin sisters have the same effect. These effects
intensify in marriage markets with lower sex ratios or greater
parental involvement in marriage arrangements. In contrast, older
sisters delay a girl’s marriage. Because girls leave school when they
marry and face limited earnings opportunities when they reach
adulthood, the number of sisters has well-being consequences over the
lifecycle. Younger sisters cause earlier school-leaving, lower
literacy, a match to a husband with less education and a less-skilled
occupation, and (marginally) lower adult economic status. Data from a
broader set of countries indicate that these cross-sister pressures on
marriage age are common throughout the developing world, although the
schooling costs vary by setting.

Chanukah Parties

There wasn’t a chance to publish this on Chanukah, so it went into the drafts and I forgot about it until now. So, here you are.

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There’s nothing like a family Chanukah party to remind you about how single you are.

It always starts the same way. Hug and kiss the grandmother while being asked when you will be arriving late due to husband and kids. Smile and say you hope sometime soon.

Then the cousins with the husbands and kids arrive. There are the usual greetings. “Hello, I haven’t seen you in so long, what are you up to these days?”

Don’t be fooled. They are not under the impression that you change your life every year. They just can’t remember what you were doing from last Chanukah party. If you’re feeling merciful, you give them the full rundown, “Still teaching pig-latin to orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.” If you’re feeling cruel, you just say, “Oh, same as last year.” Then wait for their smile to go forced as they ask “And that is what?”

You meet about 18 different cousins and have the identical conversation with each of them. You coo at their babies. You call them cute. You comment on how much or how little hair they have and how smiley they are/aren’t. This is the easy part. The hard part is when you sit down with your latkes and try to find yourself someone your age and single to talk to.

You look around.

You look around some more.

And then you realize that you are the last remaining grandchild within your decade to be unpaired.

So you resign yourself to finding a favorite cousin who happens to be married. But alas. It’s like the bodysnatchers got them. Your favorite cousin is no longer there.

Conversation is about getting children into preschool in Lakewood. It’s about where the cheapest, best-quality diapers are. If it’s a Lakewood table, they’ll cover who is receiving what benefits from the government and how they  deal with all the full-fat milk that food stamps requires them to buy. If it’s a Five Towns table, they’re most likely covering children’s clothing sales.

The most you can really contribute to these conversations is “I heard that…” or “My friend says…” You have conversation via proxy experience. If you really make an effort, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. You are not you: you are the sum total of the related experiences of others that you have accumulated in your grey matter.  Thank God you have married friends on food stamps.

Well, sort of. I mean, obviously it would be better if they weren’t. But since the government is so generous, your friend benefits, and you benefit, and your table at the Chanukah party benefits because they don’t have that awkward single sitting there quietly swirling the sour cream on her plate. It’s like a great ripple of joy emanating from Washington D.C.

Uncle Sam’s Chanukah gelt.

Happy Holiday, all.

Daydream

“You know that awkward feeling you get when a woman is going on about the shidduch travails of her 21-year-old daughter, and you realize that you probably shouldn’t mention that you’re 25?”

Thus questioned a friend, caught in  a waiting room with a distressed mother.

“Yes,” I agreed. And immediately my mind drifted into snarky mode, and I started imagining what I might say in that situation, if I had been there, and if I wasn’t a sweet, mild-mannered aidel maidel.

I would lean forward, nodding gravely. I would agree that it’s very difficult for a girl to get a date. “And it only gets worse,” I’d assure her. “When I was 22, they started setting me up with all rejects–the guys who’d already been rejected by every girl in the tri-state area, and for good reason. It’s a boy’s world and a young girl’s world. Unless an older girl has connections, she can’t get a date with anyone less than neurotic.”

Or maybe I could take a more comforting tack. “It’s not so bad,” I could tell her. “I’m friends with many normal, beautiful, successful, well-adjusted women who are–” [lower my voice] “Thirty or even older who have great lives, even without husbands. They live together in crowded apartments and talk about dating at least once a day, but I don’t think too many of them cry themselves to sleep at night. Not too many. And they have such great careers. They go on exciting vacations. They bike and run for tzedakah organizations to get out their frustration. Sometimes, I think my married friends are secretly jealous. Who wants to be pregnant anyway? It looks so uncomfortable.”

Or I could be holy: “Maybe it’s just not meant to be. Not everyone has the same tafkid in life, you know. Maybe Hashem is saving her for something grander than marriage.”

Or I could…

My mind wanders, imagining the most obnoxious ways to comfort a woman who thinks single and 21 is a tragedy. But of course I could never say it. After all, she really believes it.

So, what do you tell someone who thinks her daughter is suffering at 21? What can you tell someone to convince them that life is not over if you’re still single at 23?

 

 

Quote of the Weekend: Status Discrimination Starts Early

I’m used to my grandmother calling 70-year-old spinsters “girls,” but it’s a bit unnerving when the younger generation displays the same prejudices.

Conversation on the school playground:

Preschool teacher: “Shua, don’t push Joey on the swing. We have a rule: no kids pushing kids on swings. You could get hurt.”

Shua: “Then you can’t push anyone either. You’re a kid.”

Teacher: “Aw, that’s so nice. Do I really look that young?”

Shua: “No, but you’re not married, so you’re a kid.”

OUCH!

I’ve never liked this business of being a girl until marriage. I think it’s demeaning. (Some opinions claim that you’re still just a married girl until you have children. It just never ends, does it?)

Of course,  being single will be something to hide as long as you get discriminated against for it. Another teacher once told me that she gets her paychecks 6 months late, while the married teachers get theirs only 3 months late. It’s assumed that her need to pay rent or feed herself is not as urgent. To which I say: have you ever tried paying rent in a singles community? Kollel community basements can be pretty cheap by comparison.

Living in the Now?

Sometimes, I really hate feminism for making us all have to work, instead of staying home, cultivating hobbies, and making dinner every night.

Then, sometimes I really love it for making it possible for us to spend our time productively, even if we’re single.

It is a female habit to analyze every change in one’s life against the effect it will have on a hypothetical future family. How will I handle kids and this job? How will  I support a learner on this income? If I get electrolysis, will it all be undone by pregnancy hormones? If I get a job in finance, what will I do if my future husband wants to live in Kansas City? Do I really want to get promoted if it means working longer hours that will keep me from being at home when my kids get off the bus from school? And on and on.

A few days ago, eating tuna out of a can on a business trip in Manitoba, similar thoughts crossed my mind. And suddenly I realized: that’s a really stupid way to approach life.  Imagine if I’d done that 6 years ago. Where would I be right now? Definitely not in Manitoba. Imagine all the things I’d have missed out, hugging the metropolitan area, working part time, living a family-oriented life with no family to orient around.

You can always rearrange your career later, if necessary. Why downgrade ahead of time in anticipation of what might never be?

So, my resolution for the next six years is not to worry about the hypothetical. I’ll just live my life based on my current life, which is one situation I know I can count on being in (for nine months at least).

New Rule: Don’t Rely on Single Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Repost: Operation Marry Off Bad4

I can finally remember this weekend without any signs of PTSD. It was the weekend my parents introduced me to nearly a dozen women in the hopes that one might marry me off. I don’t know where they get their hopes from, but I guess hope is not a bad thing. If it keeps them busy and happy, I’ll put up with it. But I’d rather factor polynomials in my head.

Pesach Special

Credit for this Pesach special goes to O and her sources. The puns are mine if unattributed.

The Pesach seder is a wonderful thing. The emphasis on text is strong, and the text doesn’t afford many opportunities to dwell on your marital status to the tune that, say, Ma Yedidus does, with its infamous  “Uleshadech Habanos” line. So you might have thought you’d be freed from having to hear about it.

Well, tis not so. Even Pesach has its segulos for getting married. The Washington Post reports:

Syrian Jews, however, see that wine very differently. The seder leader reciting the plagues empties the wine from a ceremonial cup into a vessel held by the oldest single woman at the seder table, in hopes of bringing her good luck in finding a husband, Sarina Roffe explained. …

She remembers the last time she was that young woman. “I was 18,” said Roffe, of Brooklyn, N.Y. By the time Passover rolled around the next year, she was engaged.

See? It works!

But just in case, here’s an afikomen present  you may want to request, courtesy of Macys:

Singles CoutureAnd, to quote O: “It brings new meaning to wearing your heart on your sleeve.”

One heart, lightly used, please claim.

The Paragon

If you’ve dated long enough, you probably have one. I mean The Man Against Who All Others Are Measured. (For men, it’s The Woman Against Who All Others Are Measured. But we’ll take this from the female perspective because that’s the one with which I’m most familiar.)

It was probably when you were young. You went out with what seemed like just another man. Only you dated for longer than usual. Three dates turned into four turned into five turned into six. You really liked him. You enjoyed his company. You shared his values. You could really begin to see a life with him.

Then, out of nowhere, he dumped you. For murky reasons you couldn’t understand.  “I don’t think this will work.” Or,  “I’m not feeling that spark.” Or, “I’m not ready yet.”  Or, most inexplicable of all: “I just don’t think you’re the one.”

You were devastated. Bewildered. Hurt. And worst of all: wronged. Because he was wrong. You went so well together. You were meant for each other. The more time passes, the more convinced of this you become. His blemishes faded with time or acquired the glowing charm of eccentricity, while all his best traits shone with an ever stronger light. And nobody – absolutely nobody – measures up to him.

You go out with other men. Lots of other men. They’re not as tall, not as bright, not as nice, not as funny, not as handsome, not as successful, not as promising, not as courteous or gallant or sartorially sophisticated. You go out with them once, and then, just to be sure, you go out with them again. But no, they’re still not as tall, bright, nice, funny, handsome, successful, promising, courteous, gallant, or well-dressed. Truth is, they’re not even your type. Not what you’re looking for. You know what you’re looking for. Because once, long ago, you found it.

You let them walk you to your door. You let yourself in. You tramp slowly up to your room and slump on the edge of your bed. And you think about Him. The Paragon. The Man Against Who All Others Are Measured.

You tell yourself that one day he will realize his mistake. He’s been dating for a few years. You know this, because you keep tabs on him. Sometimes you even walk down his block. Just in case he’s looking. You know that soon it will dawn on him, and he’ll realize what he gave up. He’ll secretly ask someone to suggest that you go out again. You’ll say, “With him? We’ve been out already.” You’ll consider it, nonchalantly. And you’ll say, “Oh sure, why not.” And wedding bells will ring.

But until then… you kick off your heels and peel off your tights and go to sleep without taking your makeup off.

Travel the World, Meet New People, and…

Some are born shadchanim. Some achieve shadchanus. And some have shadchanus thrust upon them.

There are people who set up other people for a living. It is well known that they spend all their waking moments picking pink slips out of a pillbox hat and matching them to blue slips from a black Borsalino. There are also people who make a point of matching up singles. They meet singles and then meet other singles, and try to pair the two up. They create “shidduch circles” where they swap names with their friends. And so on.

And then…

And then there are the people who once set up their niece with the very nice boy down the block. Nothing much ever came of it, but the neighbor mentioned it to your aunt. And when your father said he was desperately seeking someone to set up his daughter, the aunt mentioned her to your father. And your father mentioned it to you, in the fashion of mentioning that strongly recommends follow-up action. And you, convinced that you’re going to see a professional shadchan of the first order, dress up, print crisp copies of your shidduch profile, and deposit yourself on her doorstep.

When does she sadly apologize for not being a shadchan? It varies. Sometimes it’s over the phone, so you have the option of discovering prior engagements that forces you to take an indeterminate rain check.

Sometimes it’s not until you ring her doorbell, and then you sit through the next half-hour being exceedingly engaging, because you know you’re wasting your time (and hers), but you don’t want it to show.

Sometimes it’s not until after the interview, when you realize that you just bared your soul to someone who was just being nice. She couldn’t bear to turn you away before. It wouldn’t have been nice to turn you down cold, considering your position as a rapidly aging single female. So she didn’t mention that she doesn’t actually know any boys (except the nice one down the block, but he’s married now to a very fine girl from Monsey). Now she can’t bear to see you leave with your hopes raised, so she breaks the news, very apologetically.

It’s not her fault. She just gave you an hour of her precious time too. And she’ll probably feel guilty for a whole day for not knowing who to set you up with. She might even call her friend to ask if her nephew is still single, only to find out that he’s learning at a yeshiva in Sydney for the next two years.

No, if anyone is responsible for the absurdity of the situation, it is that whole chain of people who are so desperate on your behalf that they conjure shadchanim out of the air where none exist, and pass them on, figuring, “It can’t hurt to meet people.”

Well, you can never tell.

It just takes the right person.

You need to be seen, you know.

Sometimes, chatting amiably to strange Women in Black, I wonder who failed to mention that the woman wasn’t actually a shadchan. Letsee… this woman is my mother’s, friend’s, friend’s… cousin? Sister-in-law? Something like that. So, it might have been the sister-in-law. Or the friend, or the other friend, or my mother.

I have to admire the number of links in the chain. Aren’t there only supposed to be three degrees of separation between orthodox Jews? And yet, here I am, discussing my  ideal mate with someone five degrees away; far enough for a serious game of broken telephone to take place.

My central nervous system generates glib answers to questions I’ve heard dozens of times before. Meanwhile, the back of my brain is wryly observing that in most aspects of my life, the opportunity to meet new people would be considered an exciting benefit. Really, why would this be any different?

I cross my ankles, sit up straighter, and try to enjoy the benefits of being single.