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.



Fast, Nutty Engagement Trick

Apparently well-known in Israel (a friend of mine said it didn’t work for her):

Take a piece of paper and write the single’s davening name on it with the mother and father’s davening name on it and hang it on an almond tree the day before Tu B’Shvat. Example: the single’s Hebrew (or Yiddish) name ben/bat the mother’s name and the father’s name on a slip of paper. It is important that the names be correct. Be sure to enclose it inside of a plastic baggy for protection from the winter weather and secure it on an Almond (Shkaydia) tree before the start of Tu B’Shvat. The names must be hanging on the tree from the beginning of Tu B’Shvat all through Tu B’Shvat. Motzi Tu B’Shvat remove the names from the tree and give them (or mail them) to the respective singles as soon as possible. Many times a parent, friend or neighbor is the one who initiates putting the slip of paper (petuch) on the tree for the unsuspecting single. The single must be willing to either sleep with the petuchim under their pillows or wear them pinned inside of their clothing or inside of a pocket for that year or until they marry.

Part 2 of 2: The View from the Top of the Stairs

 Part 1: Whose Date is this Anyway?

Anyway, we left me standing at the top of the stairs slipping into my heels, eavesdropping as my parents lead my date to the dining room, where they’ve put out some food he won’t touch and offer him a drink he won’t drink. I strain my ears, but can’t hear anything.

Apparently guys know that the girls are hanging over the railing listening in, because when I mentioned something on our date related to something I didn’t know he had discussed with my parents, he cracked a follow-up joke. I remained utterly confused until he said, “Didn’t you hear what I told your parents?”

“Um, no.”


So there I am, not quite hanging over the railing but good enough, and hearing only distant murmurs. I count to ten twice and move to go down.

Where are you going?” my sister hisses.

“Down,” I whisper back.

“Not yet!!!” she replies fiercely, putting out a hand to detain me. A real bully, this one. I could scuffle with her, but that would send some exceedingly interesting noises floating down into the dining room. I didn’t want his first question on our date to be, “So what was that scream I heard right before you came down?”

“What scream?”

“It was pretty short – cut off in a little gurgle.”

“Are you feeling OK? Maybe we should go back.”

“Ha ha. Just kidding. So, where should we go?”

(Just a PS: guys, if you’re going to make me choose a destination, let me know before we leave the house, so I can ask my parents; they eat out a lot more than I do.)

So I stand quietly at the top of the stairs straining my ears, still not hearing much. After a few more minutes, I’m beyond impatient. What’s the point of all this nonsense and pretend? I’m ready; I’m going down.

“If they’re talking, I want to hear,” I tell my sister, and head downstairs. After all, it’s my date. I should be at it.

Does anyone else find it all a drop weird to wait before making a fashionably late entrance? Or is nobody else ready to roll until five minutes after he shows up anyway?

It turns out the mini-date does have some use. After the date, I mentioned something the guy told me to my parents. My father raised an eyebrow—it didn’t quite jive with the story he got during his five minute grill. A word to the wise guy—keep your story consistent. Liars, distorters of the truth, and tale-tellers fail to impress. For Bob’s sake—don’t get caught at it on the first date.Give the same information on both first dates, because you bet there’s going to be some comparison of notes.

Part 1 of 2: Whose Date is This Anyway?

“He’s here,” announces my sister. I don’t know exactly why she’s in my room—not her stated reason anyway. Her actual reason is because my room has the best view overlooking the street, and she’s date-watching.

“He’s early!” I frown, checking my watch. I tend to have these things timed down to the minute, and I hadn’t put on my jacket or switched my wallet and keys into my Shobbos coat yet. I join her at the window. I manage to spot a beat up blue sedan parking in front of the neighbor’s house before my sister yanks me down. “He might see you!” she hisses. “Go turn off the light.”

“I’m getting dressed—d’you mind?” I ask.

“You don’t need the light to put on your blazer,” she points out. I obediently turn off the light.

“He’s just going to sit there for the next seven minutes anyway,” I say. When she asks why, I explain that there’s still two minutes until 7pm, and guys are supposed to come 5 minutes late.

“Why?” she asks, all naïve youth.

“Because they know girls need extra time to futz in the mirror because nothing is ever quite right,” I explain.

“But you know he’s coming late…” she ponders, “So you can schedule in five extra minutes of futzing.”

“Basically. But then there’s a need for an extra five minutes because once you plan in the extra five minutes it’s not extra any more.” That is the ostensible excuse for the girl coming down five minutes after the guy walks through the door.

She turns back to the window and is startled to see that indeed, Mr. Date is making a call on his cell phone. “That’s crazy, Bad4!” She declares. “These rules are crazy.” I just smile.

At exactly four minutes after 7, Mr. Date strolls out of his car and meanders up the walk to our house. I scoop up my coat and shoes and head down the first flight of stairs to the second floor. It’s hard to walk quietly on wood stairs in high heels, so I prefer to be positioned where I can make my grand entrance with the least prelude of clatter.

And now begins the silent struggle. Not completely silent. More like a hissed or whispered struggle between me and my sister over when I go down.

Earlier that day my father put in a request that I not do my “foot tapping” thing when I come down. Meaning, coming down and leaning quietly against the dining room entranceway waiting for them to finish torturing themselves and the poor guy so we can go on our date. I stand because I can’t sit when I’m impatient, but I never realized that my body language was screaming “Can we get out of here please?!”

“I’m just trying to spare you extra moments of agony,” I explain. “I’m the one going on the date. No reason you should spend more time sitting around with nothing to say.”

“I have plenty to say!” my father protests.

“Are you changing your shirt?” my mother calls from her room, where she’s applying a smidgeon of makeup.

“Why can’t I go on a date without the entire house going on a date too?” I complain.

A Persian friend of mine once asked me, “Did you ever have a guy meet your family?”

“Besides the usual first date stuff?”

“What? I mean ask to meet your parents.”

“They do when they come to pick me up.”

“No, I mean come in to talk to them.”

We continued talking past each other for another 5 lines or so before I realized that her dates never went through this “mini-date the parents” business. I explained that my parents small-talk the guy before we even get a chance to dislike each other. She thought that was weird. “You Ashkenazim,” she said in that superior way Sephardim have when talking about their strange Northern European brethren.

Part 2: View from the Top of the Stairs

Essential Shidduch Statistics: Fat Potential

In the mental health supplement of the Jewish Press there was, of course, an article about shidduchim. That alone is enough to garner comment. Shidduchim is now a matter of mental health? Meaning, attempting to get married can drive someone aroundthe loop? Aren’t we taking this just a drop too seriously?

The columnist wrote that it’s a multi-level problem. Since men can pick and choose what girls to date while the girls are all uniformly desperate, the men develop shallow criteria to weed out the applicants. This leads to women developing eating disorders.

OK, it’s sad. But I couldn’t help but laugh at the following. He said that men sometimes request photographs of the girl’s mother and even grandmother to calculate the girl’s “fat potential.” The “fat potential” of a girl is an estimation of how much weight she’ll gain after pregnancy.

The very idea is ridiculous. I know girls with rake-thin mothers who have gained 70 pounds post-pregnancy. And there are girls with overweight moms who look thinner after birth than they did before. But I decided to calculate my own “fat potential” (FP).

Fat Potential

I examined my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother on one side of the family. Then I switched to the other and examined them. I tried to use pictures of my grandmothers from their middle age, since weight gain is part of the aging process (you eat less, sleep less, and weigh more.) Then I checked out my aunts on both sides of the family.

I decided to be scientific about it, and I rated them all on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being quite corpulent, and 1 being so thin they don’t cast a shadow.

Using statistical analysis, the range of my fat potential was considerable. My great grandmother was rather corpulent, and my grandmother was always plump. I have a couple of chubby aunts as well. On the other hand, I have aunts who never gained a pound despite having five or six children. My mother is no earthshaker herself; she sometimes fits into my clothes.

Calculating the mean, median, and mode is more complicated, since one of my aunts recently lost a large percentage of her weight, so perhaps that lowers my FP. On the other hand, while there are fewer fat relatives, they have numbers further from the mean than the thin relatives, which raises my “fat potential”.

Sum total though, on a scale of 1-5, my FP = 2.6. I wonder how that affects my shidduch desirability? Should I list it on my resume? Maybe I should set up a website that calculates fat potentials for all young, single girls – we can establish an international standard. No more will young men have to embarrass themselves by asking for photos of a girl’s relatives; the FP number will tell all.

I’ve always wanted to contribute something significant to the world.

Unfortunately, based on my own numbers, I suspect that fat potential has little scientific basis. Yes, people tend to weigh about the same as their parents, but that probably has more to do with the fact that they eat the same foods and have the same exercising habits.

But my real answer to men who worry that their wives will get fat after they have children? Don’t ask your wives to have children. Maybe have them yourself. Or don’t get married. Instead, maybe get a life.

Question of the Week:

You can’t even take your mind off shidduchim when you go to the bathroom.

In the ladies’ room at a wedding, a second cousin once removed accosts me with the question:

“What are you looking for?”

Confused, I answered, “What? I haven’t lost anything.”

Should They Tell?

Letter to Rebbetzin Yungreis this past week in the Jewish Press: A woman writes in that her son developed/showed signs of bipolar when he was 19. The parents kept it so hushed up that even his siblings don’t know. They got him medicated, and now nobody would guess he wasn’t 100% healthy. Question: are they required to release the information for shidduch purposes? The letter writer says yes, it’s only right. Her husband says absolutely not: it will shoot holes in their son’s chances of  ever getting married. They don’t know what to do.

Seeing myself as a potential date of such a young man – after all, how do I know what my date is hiding? – how do I feel about the subject? Well personally, I wouldn’t consider bipolar disorder to be a huge strike against someone. It’s not like it’s chronic depression or diabetes or a family history of cardiac arrest by age 35. However, it is something I’d appreciate knowing before the engagement. Not necessarily before the first date, but certainly by around the 4th or 5th.

There was a recent incident of a local woman whose husband never told her that he was on medication for depression. Even after they were married, he kept it secret. (How he expected a marriage with such a huge lie in the foundation to last, I have no idea.) Anyway, after a year, he suddenly decided that he didn’t need to take his meds anymore. And he relapses and became terribly depressed and the marriage ended in divorce, with her in custody of an infant.

That is a very messy end, but it’s hard to see how it could be otherwise. When someone hides such a fundamental piece of information from you, how do you know that you can ever trust them again?