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.

 

 

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.

NEF Overload

There have definitely been times when I felt like the girl in the lower left of this photo. I mean, c’mon people! Leave me some single friends? Or at least space yourselves out so I don’t have to listen to all of you gush at once? Who am I supposed to complain to after hanging up from that?

I admit, I feel for her. I have never had to deal with 9 NEFs all at once trying to blind me with their rings. How fortunate am I! I never realized how good I’ve had it.

they're all engaged

Jewish Mud Runs?

Chai Lifeline has probably done more for the health of the Jewish community than any (non-existent?) health awareness drives. Granted, we still eat too much chulent Thursday night. (Any chulent Thursday night is too much, imho.) But many people are choosing to pair their charitable efforts with a push at fitness, raising money and racing at the same time.

Right now would-be contributors have a choice between running a marathon and a Lake Tahoe bicycle century.  This is not, I think, enough options. I mean, it’s all lower body! It’s great for a Jew to be able to leave an area fast, but honestly. Maybe we’re a stiff-necked people because we don’t exercise our shoulders enough?

Which is why mud runs are such a great idea. Yes, you’re running. But only between obstacles. Mud runs require a well-rounded fitness level, so you can crawl through tunnels, climb ropes, nets, and walls, scramble over hills of straw or tires, swing across monkey bars, and swim under buoys.  Sounds like fun, right?

Alas, few of them are on Sunday.

Which got me thinking: wouldn’t this make the most amazing chol Hamoed event?

You know, a thematic mud run: Escape from Egypt!

Participants would start out scrambling over a field of straw. They have to haul an oversized brick up a mountain, slide down into a pit of cement, and scramble out via cargo net over bullrushes. (Yes, I’m mixing things. Don’t quibble.)

From here maybe you’ll have to climb a pyramid, dodge Egyptians trying to hit you with (padded) sticks (the children of runners can take this part), and swing hand-over-hand across a row of staffs. (That one needs work.)

Maybe from here you’ll have to duck into a dark tent and scrabble in the sand for some gold. (Find a token and you’re eligible for four cups of win at the finish! Okay, maybe that’s not such a great idea. You come up with a better one.)

You should probably have to catch a goat at some point, but to keep PETA away, we may have to go with a lasso/ring toss type of thing.  Then: can you get through Egypt’s border defenses without breaking your matzah? Think tunnels, cliffs, barbed wire, moats… If you have issues with gebrokts, maybe you’ll want to wrap your matzah in a garbage bag.

Demonstrate your emunah by wading into the Red Sea — and if it splits for you, consider that an automatic win.  For the rest, consider swimming.

Think you’re done? Uh uh. You have to do a little dance with tambourines first while singing Az Yashir. Then off you go, dashing across the hot desert to a water station… which is salty. (Hey, complain to God, not me. …wait, I sounded like Moshe there, didn’t I?)

Dash up a flaming mountain to retrieve your stone tablets, and please don’t comment that it looks like the brick you hauled up there earlier in the race. This is all metaphor, and we don’t have any other slaves to haul things up and down hills for us.

But whoever is playing God up there isn’t giving you your tablets unless you first recite what’s supposed to be written on it. (Go on: can you? Can you? Okay, just sing the Mah Nishtana and get out of here you shameful Jew.)

Anyway, if you make it back to your encampment, you can get your crowns. All finishers receive complementary sticks of marror.

It needs a little work, but I think there’s something there.

Anyone want to produce it, please, please?

I’m HOW Old?

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

Which is why I decided to have more of them.

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

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

And so on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday Controversy: Must We Have Offspring to be Fulfilled?

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

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

[Having children] is the easy option for women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designer Bride – II

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

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

Sadly, it did not work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued in next post: Designer Bride III

HT Kansasian

Designer Bride – I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HT to the Kansasian

Call Me Picky Please

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Link: Soulmate Math

Enpey sent me today’s link ages ago.  It’s a rather bizarre xkcd post about soulmates. It takes a few leaps of logic that don’t strike me as very logical. All in the name of proving that the whole soulmate idea is kinda ridiculous.  Too bad the agenda is too obvious to permit the post to be credible.

I didn’t post it because I wanted to do the math for frum Jews. Calculate how many Jews there are in the world. Where they live. How likely you are to meet them. How many you’d have to meet to find your soulmate.

But somehow, more interesting things kept getting in the way – like trying a new carrot ginger soup recipe, or attending a kayaking club meeting.

But a quick google right now brings up an estimate of 1.6-1.8 million Orthodox Jews worldwide. Maybe 500,000 of those are chasidim. Probably an equal number are modern orthodox, yeshivish, heimish, Mizrachi, or some other group you’d be able to share a life with in a million years. So take off 1 million.

There are about 550k in Israel and 120k in the rest of the world outside the USA. Let’s assume that most of those are in countries that don’t speak your language and who you’d be highly unlikely to communicate with. Nix another 600,ooo.

Let’s say about a third of the population is too young for you and a third too old for you. Divide by three.  That leaves 133,333 people that you’d have to date to find your soulmate.

If you have 15 years or so for dating (on the assumption that when you hit 35, if you don’t add “froze my eggs” to your profile, you won’t get any more dates), that would be 8,889 guys per year.  If you freeze your eggs or find open-minded guys, that’s 5,333 guys per year.

Wow. I am so behind.

Don’t Drown!

Here’s a post for the folks in the Northeast who are sitting at home watching the rain whip their windows.

You know, one thing I’ve missed since high school graduation is snow days. Somehow, when you work, you’re expected to be there no matter what. Now y’all have a rain day and I’m jealous.

Anyway, for those of you who are getting bored sitting around watching trees fall down, or sump-pumping out your basement, here’s an article about politics and dating. (For those of you without electricity, this is not for you. Go play Settlers or something.)

Apparently, some people think that members of the opposite party are so inherently different, it’s like they’re another specie. No inbreeding, please. Seems a little extreme to me. I recall one election where my parents came home and compared poll choices and were horrified.

“You voted for her? What were you thinking?”

“Are you kidding? I can’t believe you voted for him.”

They both stared, shook their heads, and then thanked the good Lord that they’d canceled out the other’s vote.

They’re still married.

HT to O