NYC Taxi Driver Tells It Straight

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Not making sense? I’ll be less abstract:

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

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

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

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

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

So you see why Avital was a little upset.

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

Also, thank you NYC for having awesome taxicab drivers.

 

 

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It’s Not Just Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, it bugs me.

Because I’ve never felt that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are We Dating Yet?

A while ago I wrote about not-quite dates, and how much of a turnoff I consider them. Well, this article is by a guy, and he also decries the “not-yet-a-date.” He says that it kills the romance by placing you immediately in the friend zone. Instead of getting flirted at, you’re held at arm’s distance, because the woman has no clue what’s up and whether she should consider you differently.

Sincerely Sparkling

You know all those guys who say they want a girl with a “sparkling personality”? I’ve always wondered what that meant. Okay, maybe I haven’t.  While I can’t define it exactly, I know it when I see it. For example, I know I don’t sparkle, twinkle, or coruscate in any way. Whereas the classmate who got engaged twice within six months of high school graduation kind of did. And I’m nothing like her. (Heck, I haven’t gotten engaged once in seven years!)  So my SOP has always been to chuck those “sparkling personality” profiles as non-starters.

Shadchan: Why don’t you want to go out with him?

Me: He’s looking for a sparkler. I’m more a roman candle.

Well, I was at the Shabbos table of a couple, and The Wife was explaining how she knew that her Husband was The One for her. “I wanted a guy with fire in his eyes!” she gushed. “That enthusiasm! And he had it.”

“She just sparkled,” Husband gazed back adoringly. “She was what I was always looking for.”

My friend and companion leaned over the chulent and whispered in my ear, “Aren’t they such a cute couple?”

“Yes,” I whispered back. “But should it change it any that they’re grandparents?!”

“No!” she hissed. “They’re still an adorable couple.”

I suppose they were both still sparkling and flaming together. Whatever.

So I’m moving on to another word. In my old age, I’ve seen a large number of shidduch profiles. And do you know what every single guy puts on his “looking for” list? “Kind” or “caring” and “sincere.” Always sincere. What the heck does that mean? Sincere about what? Who isn’t sincere, aside from a sociopath? Even those disgustingly kind people who are nice to you only because they think you’re desperately lonely are, at least, sincere in their intentions. (Which are based on ameliorating their feelings more than yours, but hey, they really and sincerely mean well.) So can someone please describe to me an insincere woman? Or sincere one. Either will do.

Now I Get It

One dull evening, my flatmates and I decided to sign up for ZivugZone. Separately, we sat at our laptops uploading photos and writing descriptive paragraphs. Then we microwaved some popcorn and waited.

It didn’t take too long. The messages started arriving. For one of my flatmates, about three a night. For me — every couple of days. Not that it mattered. The guys who messaged us had depressingly boring profiles. Not one bothered to upload a photo. Their messages were invariably “Hi. Wanna talk?” And their description went “I’m a nice guy looking for a pretty girl.”

This was pretty standard for the site, we discovered, scrolling through the options.  I wondered: are the women this bad too?

So I created a male profile. I wanted to see if the female profiles were as bad as the male. And yeah: I wanted to scope the competition.

And boy was there competition. Everyone had a photo. And some of those photos were gorgeous. I despaired as I scrolled through a smorgasbord of pictures clearly taken at weddings, their subjects posing in perfectly ironed hair and impeccable makeup. I didn’t even bother to read their names or descriptive paragraphs.  I just went “Pretty — really pretty — gorgeous — whoa! — Shnasty — Ooh, look at her I should give up now…” I felt like such a guy.

Then a photo caught my eye. It was different. The clothes and hair weren’t elaborate – -she was wearing a zip-up sweatshirt and denim skirt. She was standing in the midground, facing a log cabin, peering flirtatiously over her shoulder at the camera. She wasn’t just pretty — she was cute.   I stopped and read her description. She said she was a fun girl who enjoyed traveling and playing in the sunshine. Okay, it wasn’t quite like that, but that’s the impression it gave. She sounded like every man’s dream. I practically asked her out. Then I remembered that I’m not really a man — just posing as one.

Then I realized something even more embarrassing:  the girl in the picture was my flatmate.

I double-checked the name. “Goldy S.” Yep. That was my flatmate.

Amy Webb says your descriptive paragraph should be less than 99 words and include “sunshine,” “smile,” and “girl” in it. And Goldy’s sure as heck did. So I decided to do an experiment. I copy-pasted her paragraph wholesale into my profile and waited for the messages to roll in.

They didn’t.

“Can I use a photo of you too?” I asked next. I thought a good next step would be to pair her photo with a humdrum, non-sunshiny paragraph and see what happened.

No,” she replied, possibly not wanting to go into competition with herself.

So I left it at that. I never completed the experiment.

Well, someone went and took the experiment all the way!

“[Comedian Alli Reed] created the fake OKCupid profile, ‘aaroncarterfan,’ using a picture of her best friend who is a model, ‘hoping to prove that there exists an online dating profile so loathsome that no man would message it,’ despite how attractive the picture is.”

Full Article Here

She wrote that she’s very good at convincing people that she’s pregnant, and that she enjoys knocking the coffee cups out of the hands of homeless people because “it is sooooooo funny.”

She got 150 messages in 24 hours.

So there you go, ladies. It’s all about the picture.

Well, maybe not all. You should probably still have a 99-word sunshiny paragraph, rather than a list of your vices. But if you want anyone to even glance at that paragraph, you’re going to need a pretty darn good photo.

So get snapping.

Amy Webb on TED

I posted about Amy’s book about how to date before. Here’s her TED talk below. (Thanks, Doc.) It’s fun.

Amy believes that you should make a list and stick to it. It worked for her: she found a guy who checked her list and married him.
I made a list like hers once. I used it once to eliminate a guy who really was a bad idea (in retrospect). I forget where I put that list, though. And obviously, it hasn’t done more than eliminate men yet.

Conversely, we have Goldy Krantz saying that you should chuck your list, because the guy she married didn’t check hers at all, and the only reason she went out with him was because he sort of drifted into her life slowly, via the “friend” route.  This one sounds easy: Just date everyone. Well, I do that too. Still single. This method doesn’t eliminate men, which is to say it sure does waste a lot of Sundays. Hasn’t panned out for me either.

I suspect the real truth is actually both of them, which is to say, whatever works for you. Or maybe a third way, which I don’t know about yet, because I’m still single.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of Amy’s, so watch her TED talk. It’s only 20 minutes.