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.

 

 

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

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.

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.

 

Friday Repost: Why Are You Telling Me That?

I kind of laughed when I reread this exchange.

…She began listing all my sterling virtues, and, running short a bit earlier than she’d intended, fell back on plain ol’ information about me. “…and she had a blog,” she enthused to the mother.

“A blog…?” asked the mother uncertainly. “Um, isn’t that bad for shidduchim?”

As in, “are you bragging about that? Shouldn’t that be a turnoff? Hang on while I consult my manual for the appropriate reaction…”

A Big Yasher Kochachen!

While writing yesterday’s post, I realized what thankless job being a shidduch reference is. So I’d like to take a moment to thank the friends who keep picking up the phone on my behalf, year after year, to answer questions for random kooks and strangers, who ask things nobody but me would know and which invariably get my dander up when I hear about them.

Thank you guys!

And if I get persnickety, it’s not at you. It’s at them. You’re a great friend, and I hope you can stop this thankless task someday soon.