Congrats to NEF #21

Okay, I made that number up. I don’t know what number she is. But she deserves a special public congratulations, because according to her high school teacher, she wasn’t ever supposed to get engaged.

You know how bais yaakov teachers roll. It’s all “Do what I say or you’ll never get married!” Heck, I had a Tefillah teacher in 12th grade who told us she got a shidduch call about a girl who didn’t pay attention in Tefillah class and, well, “I just couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her.”

I can’t think of anything nice to say about that teacher.

So, moving right along. NEF #21 really wanted to go to Michlala in Israel to study for a year. But her teacher told her that if she didn’t go to a bais yaakov seminary, nobody would ever want to date her.

NEF thought about that a bit. She realized that, in fact, people who study in Michlala do not comprise the entirety of the “shidduch crisis” pool. Moreover, if she went to a bais yaakov seminary, she’d probably wind up dating the wrong kind of people. The type who think like her teacher, perhaps. So she went to Michlala, learned a lot, had a great year, and now, guess what? She’s engaged!

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I Think I’ve Seen You Before

I’m not much of a dating website person. As I’ve noted in the past, whatever it takes to create a compelling profile, I ain’t got it. The few guys I’ve messaged never replied, and the guys who messaged me were less than compelling. I have actually had a conversation that went like this (note: he initiated):

Me: So what do you do?

Him: Oh, this and that.

Me: Like what? Just give me an example.

Him: Well, I’m flying to Colorado on business this week.

Me: Cool. What for?

Him: Oh, this and that.

Me: So you deal weed?

Him: What? What are you saying? Why would you think that? Can’t a guy fly to Colorado without being accused of dealing marijuana? What kind of girl are you?

Me: The kind that likes non-evasive answers.

My singles event experience (only one!) wasn’t much better. Not that there was anything wrong with the event. I just tend to get quieter in inverse proportion to the number of strangers in the room, and there were about two hundred of those. There’s also a distinct bias at these events against people who aren’t preschool teachers and social workers, and that doesn’t help my case. But most of all, there seems to be a bias in who shows up.

There are three types of people in the world: those that go to singles events, those that have gone to one or two and will never go again, and those that don’t go to singles events.

Every event is a mix of groups one and two, and as a result, you tend to see the same people over and over again. In some ways, this is nice: it’s like meeting old friends. Also, it narrows down the field you have to play. (It also increases the competition, as you all avoid eye contact and rush to corner the new blood.) At the same time, it narrows your world. “Is this it?” you wonder. “Are these 30 men all I have to choose from?” It gets depressing.

Whenever a new venue opens, everyone who goes to singles events perks up. “Hey, it’s a new event by a new organization!” they think. “Maybe there will be new people!” And they all rush off to sign up. And there always are new people. But there are always the old people too. “Seriously,” you think. “That socially awkward guy must go to every event. He doesn’t have a chance. He should just give up.” Then you realize that someone might be thinking something similar about you.

Dating websites, I hear, have the same dynamic. “You’ve got mostly the same people on Frumster and JDate,” a friend explained. “Like, 40% overlap. And then I joined ZivugZone thinking it would be new people, and it mostly wasn’t. They just had different usernames.”

Maybe it’s time for us to just admit it: there really just aren’t a whole lot of frum Jewish singles in the world. You’ve seen the selection. Now make a choice. You can settle for someone in marriage, or you can settle for being single. Or you can keep marching the singles circuit forever.

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.

More Classmate Statistics

A while ago I posted a breakdown of my high school class’s engagement record, complete with histogram. (Go on, click through. You know you want to see it again.)

In response, a reader sent me the statistics from her class. Talk about depressing. I don’t know how she gets out of bed in the morning (if there’s no date to prepare for).

Oh wait, she probably has school or a job or some other fulfilling aspect of her life. I forget that can exist.

Anyway, here are her numbers:

Graduation year – 2008

Stats taken  – 2013

Number in class – 76

Number taken – 53

Percent married – 70%

Not bad. The stats for my class were 74% gone by year five. I wonder if this is a standard for the Ultra-Orthodox community?

Does anyone else have statistics to contribute.

Marry Younger, My Son, Marry Younger

This isn’t new, but I was hoping I’d feel capable of providing a comment other than “oy” when I posted it. After sitting on it for a few weeks, I’m just going to go with “oy.” (It’s such a perfect, general purpose word of despair.)

A kol korei signed by a whole bunch of big names calls for boys to marry by the age of 22.5 (yes, highly specific it is). Boys being the right word, given their age. The actual words in the text are “bochurim” and “girls.” (In the Hebrew it’s “bochurim” and “banot.” Why did I title this post “my son”? It should be “my bochur.” Am I being an angry feminist for thinking that the females should be given the honor of being referred to as “bachurot” or something equivalent?)

I suppose, from some perspectives, it makes little difference whether you’re in yeshiva at 23 or in kollel. Certainly, there are plenty of people who marry at 22 and manage pretty well. It might even get some young men ahead of things; instead of discovering they have three starving children and need a job at 30, they can do it at 25. And, most obviously, looking for a wife at the age of 20 doesn’t mean you’ll find one. Honestly, I don’t know why this bothers me at all.

…Oh wait. Could it be maybe that this is a rather crazy controlling reaction to an alleged shidduch crisis? (I mean, must we control our children down to the 0.5 year they marry? Really?)

 

HT to the Overland Parker

Dear Sir: This May Be Why You’re Not Married Yet

It’s very convenient, not to mention traditional, to let your parents take care of your shidduch research for you. However, before you do, you should make sure you’re on the same page as them about what you’re looking for.

I’m copy-pasting this from an email  I got from a friend we’ll call Sfati. Here’s a quick introduction:

A couple of months ago her mother asked Sfati if she knew any single girls who would work for the son of a sister of a friend (exhale) who was working on a Ph.D in medieval Jewish history at NYU, with the goal of becoming a professor. Sfati says, “Gee whiz! I have a friend who just started a PhD in renaissance Jewish history at Columbia. I think she wants to be a professor too! They should have something to talk about.”

“Send her info!” Sfati’s mother encouraged.

So Sfati emails her friend, who responds with a standard shidduch profile containing no content of interest: some basics about her family and schooling, but nothing about who she is and what she’s looking for. Sfati wrote back, asking her friend to compose a more descriptive paragraph, which she then appended to the document and forwarded to her mother, who forwarded it to the mother of the boy.

“She’s a real Hungarian mother,” Sfati’s mother warned her. “Always perfectly put together, you know?”

“That bodes ill,” Sfati frowned. “I mean, my friend isn’t a shlump, but she’s not a dressed-up doll either.”

A couple of weeks later, Sfati received a phone call from this Hungarian Mom. The transcripts go like such:

Mother: So is she funny? Her resume was a little funny.
Me: (Oh, no. So much for my great idea.) No–her resume was a standard resume and I asked her for more information–I put that on there.
Mother: But she wrote it, right?
Me: Yes.
Mother: Cause my son would think it’s a little funny. [Note her son does not appear to have read it.] Is she funny?
Me: No, she’s not funny. I mean, she is very intelligent. She’s doing her PhD in History, which is not something most Bais Yaakov girls from Boro Park do, so she’s obviously very intelligent, but no, she’s not funny.
Mother: Ok. Is she Litvish? Because I get the impression from her resume that her family is Litvish, and that’s not going to work. We’re Chassidish. I mean, my son is not going to wear a shtreimel or anything, but he’s going to wear a bekeshe or something.
Me: (don’t think there will be much of a difference between your families no matter what what you wear) I actually don’t know. I never saw her father or brothers.
Mother: Ok. Sometimes people who are very smart, they kind of don’t have friends. I mean, my son is very smart, but he–did she fit in, did she have friends?
Me: Yes, definitely. I was part of her chevra (deliberately using a frum word to be establish myself as part of her in-group, as much as I can be while living in Overland Park, KS). She had a lot of friends.
Mother: Does she have good middos?
Me: Yes. She is very smart, so she understands people, and can be sensitive to their feelings.
Mother: Ok. How does she look?
Me: She has dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes, big eyes…
Mother: Is she thin or is she chubby?
Me: (she is chubby but somehow I don’t think this is a good thing to say) She’s not thin but she’s not chubby either.
Mother: Is she big?
Me: Well, she’s not big. I don’t know exactly how tall she is–
Mother: She’s 5’3, it says so on her resume.
Me: Ok. Well, she’s not big–
Mother: So she’s full.
Me: Yes, she’s full.
Mother: (with a tone of finality) Well, that won’t work.  My son, he never asks if the girl is beautiful or what she looks like, but he needs someone who is skinny. He’s very skinny, my son.
Me: Oh. Well–do you want to know more about her, just in case?
Mother: What I would really love to do is see a picture of her.
Me: (Hoping this won’t be another strike) Well, she’s on Facebook.
Mother: Oh, really? (thankfully, doesn’t seem to be bothered) Ok, under her name?
Me: Yes. Do you have any more questions?
Mother: Does she have a stable family?
Me: Well, I never really went over to her house. I met her mother once and she seemed very nice, and she herself is very emotionally stable.
Mother: Ok. Well, thank you. I’ll look at her picture on Facebook. Thank you.
Me: Thank you, bye.

 

Does Age Matter?

I happen to agree with the message of the video. People who get hung up on slight differences in age are, quite frankly (imho) stupid. (Sorry, friend who won’t date someone even a few months younger.) But then again, is it different than getting hung up on hair color or something like that? Dunno.

Anyway, the fact that it needs saying is kind of embarassing.

Oh, and the rest of it. (Is it assur for Orthodox Jewish men to powder their noses for the camera?)