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!

Back of the Class

I am very lucky: my high school class has an excellent archivist. So when there was a sudden and unexpected flurry of engagements this year, I was able to request the data.

Here’s what I wanted to know: how many of us are still single?

There were 66 students in my graduating high school class. Of those, 59 are married or engaged. For those who don’t care to reach for their calculator, that’s 89%. Which is to say, 10.6% are still single.

Well, we all know the 10% statistic. So, as a member of the 10% of my high school class, I think I can officially give up.

Yes, I know, it’s a statistic, not a rule. Of course it’s not a rule! I have a friend who is the last in her class still single. Although, granted, at a class size of 15, that may not be a significant variance from 10%. I don’t know – I haven’t got the time to figure it out.

It should probably be disheartening to think that I’m now a statistic. But the truth is, everyone’s a statistic. If you’re not in the 10% single then you’re in the 90% married. Honestly, what’s the difference? We can all be distilled into numbers one way or another.

So I kept adding columns to my spreadsheet. This time I was curious about rate of marriage. Is it sort of bell-shaped, or is there a tail? That’s really what set off my quest in the first place.

And so, I present to you, a case study of a Bais Yaakov High School, marriage rate, sample size 66.
Marriage Histogram

 

As you can see, there’s a slow start, as most of the sample was in Israel, and had a delayed start entering the marriage pool. But those who stayed in New York City lost no time at all in engaging themselves to the local male populace.

Once the Israel-seminarians returned, they too threw themselves into the marriage market, marrying an astonishing 18 of themselves off in the first year alone! This rapid rate of pairing slowed only marginally for the next two years, before dropping precipitously.  This may be due to the fact that a grand total of 71% of them were now paired off and busily reproducing themselves. The remaining 29% were slower and more circumspect. However, eventually another 20% of them also found a mate. These pairings were slower, more gradual, and illustrate undramatically on the histogram above.

You may be wondering: yes, there is a rapid marriage rate. But what about the divorce rate?

Well, I reassure you, the class currently stands at zero divorces, which is a rate of 0%.

“I Just Wish I Was Dating”

The bais Yaakov high-school graduate is suddenly handed a dizzying range of control over her life: what to wear Monday through Friday, how late to stay out at night, what ice cream to have for supper, what subjects to study in college.

Giddy on independence and control, the young single woman sees nothing but promise ahead—a life crafted to her desires, perfect by her own design. She has it planned out, step by step, from volunteer summer job this year to the influential career down the line. She knows exactly what it takes, and she knows that she’ll get there.

Except for one thing. The marriage factor. She’s not really sure where it fits in, though she’d be happy to adjust for it at any point. But neither does she know how to make it happen. And while she’s confident that she’ll achieve it, she really wishes she could see, just a little more clearly, how.

The phrase “career-path” is well-known. The phrase “marriage-path”—not so much. Even though we exercise reduced control over our employment, there are tried and true techniques for job hunting and ladder climbing. We know that if we keep at it, we’ll eventually meet with some success.

Not so with dating. Network at weddings, harass shadchanim—there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get to sit across from a nervous young man and sip coke.

It’s disconcerting. Disheartening. Disgruntling. The most frustrating part of being orthodox, female, and single isn’t being single—it’s not being able to do anything about it. Men, at least, have their lists to occupy them, to maintain that façade of control. But women… well, how else to explain our inexplicable attachment to those SYAS accounts?

But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. With all the control we have over our lives, it’s easy to forget that we don’t make our own fate. Not to start quoting “kochi vi’otzem yadi” at you (or anyone—I’m talking about myself here… oh God I just sounded like a high school teacher twice in one sentence), but sometimes you need to ram into that wall to force you to stop, breath, and refocus. My dating status is out of my control, and so is everything else. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, and stop backseat driving for God.

 

 

 

The Final Word in Halacha

Some people took issue with my Da’as Torah post, because it seemed to suggest that men are prone to handing their minds over to their rabbeim for safekeeping. This is hardly my position on the matter. As a woman, I tend to hear bad-date stories from women, hence most of my posts are from the female perspective “OMG can you believe this guy?” However, having attended a bais yaakov, I know perfectly well how far off the deep end women can dive.

One gentleman learned this himself on a date with a nice aidel girl. Conversation flowed until they had a hashkafic disagreement on a matter of ba’al tashchis. Suddenly, she withdrew and wouldn’t answer him with more than a grunt. After some monologuing at her, he gave up and dropped her off at home. He wasn’t sure what went wrong, but he had a feeling that she hadn’t been rendered speechless by awe and admiration.

“I think it’s a no,” he told the shadchan. “She went mute at 7:49pm.”

The shadchan did the post-mortem and came back with the results:

“While she was dating you,  and there was a potential for marriage, there was toeles to your conversation. But once she decided that she didn’t want to marry you, she had no heter  to speak to men, so she stopped.”

I have to say, I’m impressed by the strength of conviction  of this young lady, and I just hope she doesn’t work in social services or any sector where pleasant but unnecessary conversation is part of the job. Either way, she’s now happily married to a man she can talk to as much as she pleases.

 

Above Love

What intrigued me most about this conversation was my coworker’s perspective on the question: does marriage need love?

When I was in the bais yaakov system, they repeatedly informed us that love comes after marriage. You pick out someone you’ll be compatible with in terms of personality and hashkafa, and then you fall in love with them afterwards.

I took this on faith, the same way I took most everything on which I had no other perspective, and sallied forth to look for someone compatible to marry.

We all know that yeshiva educations are lacking in many ways. Science, math, history, and basically any secular study. Well, I have found another gaping hole in the education of our young men. It dawned on me slowly, but about a year or so into my dating career it crystallized: nobody had told any of my gentleman callers that love came after marriage. My dates wanted to fall giddily in love before they proposed, and when they didn’t, they told the shadchan “no.”

The one who left me most confused was the guy who was clearly smitten on date one, but failed to ever be smitten again, and after four dates gave the shadchan a garbled excuse for why he didn’t want to go out again, but which even the shadchan admitted boiled down to “Not sure what happened but let’s not keep trying.” I was puzzled. Didn’t he realize that his crush was a shallow, ephemeral rush of hormones created by a combination of lighting and angles and gazing into eyes and as easily gained or lost as the conditions permitted?

But eventually I came around. I realized that love was clearly an important thing, and by not insisting on it, I was short-selling myself. I decided that I too would require my dates to be conceivably loveable in order for us to go out again.

I wish I could say that this changed my dating life. That I started a career as a dating diva, turning down guys because they were too hairy, or skinny, or big-footed. That wasn’t what happened. What happened was that, instead of the guy saying “no” after date two while I dithered “Well, if he’s interested”—instead, we both said “no” after date two, and my ego came out much the less bruised for it.

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed that phase of my dating career. There was such certainty in it. I never felt guilty about turning down a guy whose company I didn’t mind but who didn’t have a bat’s chance at the optometrist of interesting me romantically. Nor did I feel very bad when one of those guys turned me down. “I wasn’t so into him anyway,” I’d shrug.

There was some cognitive dissonance. I mean, who is into anyone after spending 4-8 hours with them in a formal setting? Do I have a single friend in my life that I fell in love with at first sight? Or even second sight? (Actually, some of my oldest friends are people that I hated at first sight.) Dating like this was some kind of absurd parody, and it was never going to land me a mate. Why was I even trying?

Worst of all was the fear lurking just below the surface: was I in the right, or was this the highway to picky older singlehood? If Mr. Perfect showed up, would I turn him down for failing to make my heart flutter?  Absurd from one perspective, reasonable from another, and completely theoretical from every which way. Mr. Perfect never showed, or else he never agreed to a third date, so I didn’t need to face down my theories with my beliefs.

I coasted along until a late-night conversation with a friend.

“You’re not a guy,” she informed me. “You can think with your head. You pick someone reasonable and you try to make him fall in love with you.”

“You make it sound so easy,” I groused.

“I know, I shouldn’t talk. I don’t have guys falling at my feet either. And I haven’t met any that I’d want to. But if I found a half-normal Sephardi guy to marry, I would do it in a second, love optional.”

With that, I was back in mega-uncertainty mode. Not that it mattered, since I didn’t date anyone half-normal for quite a while, but lacking a principle to live by was troublesome.

And now, here was the lab tech, telling me the same thing as my bais yaakov teachers: pick someone likable for whatever accessories they have, and let love follow after marriage.

Wrong? Right? Indifferent? Say it below.

Friday Repost: Insensitive Sensitivity

Don’t you hate it when people are sensitive to you? It reminds me of the time in 9th grade when the teacher was always going on about how friendless we all feel in a new school and we should all do a “neck exercise” to turn and look for someone else who needs our friendship.

Well, after that little speech, I viewed any overtures of friendship with suspicion. Why was Ms. Popular suddenly dropping by my desk to say hello? Did she think I had no friends? What a snub!

Sensitivity is like that. People are trying to be nice to you, and all it does is highlight that they perceive an inadequacy in your life. I read a complaint about the “Happy Holidays” greeting. “We all know that it just means ‘Merry Christmas to all of you poor losers who don’t celebrate Christmas’,” the blogger whinged. In other words, once again, sensitivity is taken the wrong way.

Let’s face it: sensitivity is insensitive! Especially when done sensitively. It suggests that you simply aren’t equipped to handle one aspect of your life, and everyone else is required to tiptoe around you to prevent a meltdown.

I believe that the best solution to this is that everyone just stop being sensitive. Usually the other person won’t notice, because they’re not sensitive on the same items as you think they are. And if they are? They’ll just deal with it the way they deal with all the things you’re not sensitive about (like not being sensitive) – by growing a thicker skin.

All these musings, of course, wer inspired by a post inspired by someone being sensitive about my being single. And back then I was only 21.