Yeshiva in the Marriott

I recall once sitting in the women’s section of a bais-midrash-and-shul and watching the boys learn below. They bent over their books, they consulted with each other, they consulted with even more others, they flipped through books to point things out, but for the most part it was a quiet operation. Still, I’ve heard it can get pretty heated, with arms waving, more books being opened, and crowds gathering, taking sides, and putting money on the winner.

Okay, maybe not that.

But anyway, I’ve always believed this scene of heated Talmudic debate, because it basically describes Also4 when he and I are home at the same time. And I’ve always wondered: is this some magical affect that I have on yeshiva boys? Or is it yeshiva guys in general who have a proclivity to boisterous debate?

I have not dated too many serious learners. In general, friends and family assume I’m slightly off the bais yaakov derech, so they set me up with the “weak” boys — the ones with the jobs and the hobbies and sometimes [lowered voice] the college degrees.

But I’ve been out with a few. And they all went like Shabbos lunch with Also4. We disagreed on everything, even when we agreed. We argued just for the sake of arguing. We wrinkled our noses at each other, insisted the other misunderstood, and were positive that the person sitting opposite each of us was clueless.

Yes, I’ve had superlatively heated debates on dates.

I remember the first time this happened. I came home from the Marriott utterly distraught. “He said YU is wrong. How could he say that? Then he said modern science is right. Then he sneered at me for being religious.” Apparently, it’s okay to try to make your date look dumb by playing devil’s advocate and seeing what happens. I had been under the impression that exchanging dissonant ideas wasn’t a bad way to spend a first date, but after that date I changed my mind.

Civilized debate, to my mind, goes like this:

Gentleman: I think A. [sips tea with pinkie sticking out]

Gentlewoman: Oh really? I happen to think B, myself. [helps self to a crumpet]

Gentleman: Oh dear. You do know that A is supported by fact X, don’t you? [nibbles on a biscuit]

Gentlewoman: No, I didn’t, but I do know fact Y.

Gentleman: Hm. But are you aware of fact Z? [deep, satisfied draught of tea]

Gentlewoman: Yes, and it is countered, to my mind, by fact C. [dabs mouth with lace-edged handkerchief]

Gentleman: Interesting. Well, I suppose I can see you might choose to believe B. What do you think of the weather?

Gentlewoman: Oh! Unseasonably warm, don’t you think?

[Conversation turns to meteorologics]

I mean, let’s face it: how many arguments have you seen where one party actually convinces the other? On a point of law, perhaps. But as soon as you leave black-n-white territory, you leave most of your chances of making a conversion.  Disrespecting your debating partner, however, is a fantastic way to ensure that he or she pays no attention to you whatsoever.

Debate with my Yeshiva Guy went like this:

Yeshiva Guy: A is fact.

Me: Actually, I’ve got reason to believe B.

Yeshiva Guy: [snort] Seriously? B? You do know fact Z, right?

Me: No, but, what about Y?

Yeshiva Guy: [waving hand] Y! Please. Everyone knows what Y really is. And how about Z?

Me: But I think that’s countered by C. [sits back and crosses arms]

Yeshiva Guy: Oh, I see. You’re one of those people.

[Subtext: How did I get set up with you? My mother didn’t do enough research! Boy am I going to complain loudly when I get home.]

For the record, yeshiva guys: this is not how a good date goes.

This has happened to me with no less than three oreos; four if you count the Chofetz Chaim boy who showed up in a regimental blue shirt and spoke earnestly about going forth and doing good rabbinical missionary work in foreign nations like Indiana.

However, I am willing to assume a little bit of the responsibility here. Maybe Talmudic Lawyers aren’t schooled in tea-table debate, but I’m the one disagreeing in the first place. I have discovered that many women never disagree with their dates at all! They nod, smile, and at their most contentious, gently question. “Oh! You really think X is the best explanation for G? Well, I don’t know about these things, but I always thought sort of Yish. But what do I know.” Then they go home and tell the shadchan that they’re not interested, while the bewildered boy asks for a second date.

Possibly, this is an important tool missing from my toolchest, when it comes to getting second dates with men who have bi-chromatic wardrobes.

But then again, honestly, who wants to go out again with a guy who thinks X? That’s crazy when you know Y!

How DO These Guys Find These Places?

Winding up in a hotel lounge or a Starbucks is never a shock. Standard fall-back go-to place. When in doubt, get a drink.

What surprises me is when otherwise apparently sheltered yeshiva-type guys take you to a trendy little thematic lounge in SoHo or some cute little coffee shop in TriBeCa. Where do they find these places? Have they randomly searched it up online, or are these things passed along word of mouth from guy-to-guy-to-guy-to-guy…? (That would mean that an initial single black hat would turn into a trickle into a stream, but so far I’ve never seen another pair in these places. It’s not the Marriott lounge yet over there.)

Well, turns out I’m not the only curious one. Josh wants YOU to fill out his market research survey. It’s only about a minute long, it’s multiple choice, and really isn’t painful.

Then come back here and tell us: where’s the best dating spot you’ve ever been?

Quote of the Weekend

A newly landed yeshiva bochur is  being explained the ins and outs of dating. He is informed that there are no hotel lounges in all of Brooklyn excepting the Brooklyn Marriott. He doesn’t seem very clear on what exactly the Marriott is.

“So, what is it?”

“There’s a lounge where you can get a drink and sit down.”

“And it’s for dating?”

“Not officially, but unofficially that’s one of its biggest uses.”

“And when they built it, they called it the Marry-It on purpose?”

Dating Games (& More Shidduch Musical)

It was an astoundingly crowded evening at the Brooklyn Marriott. I was the one facing the door, so I got to count the couples as they crossed the threshold. I’m afraid I wasn’t the most scintillating conversationalist – I kept interrupting with “Eight! Here’s the eighth couple. Oh, ah, what were you saying?”

When the ninth couple walked through, I remembered the tale of the guy who claimed to have collected a minyan at such a venue and suggested that my date could chap a ma’ariv when the tenth couple came.

“And what will you be doing while we’re davening?” he asked.

“Oh, we’ll hang out, talk, compare you guys behind your backs, maybe switch places if we think it would work better…”

He looked at me and I looked at him as the same thought occurred to both of us.

“We’ll all switch places!” I declared. “And see if you even know the difference when you come back.”

He loved the idea so much that I think if a tenth couple had arrived he would have collected a minyan. Sadly, we remained only nine in the lounge, and the plan was never executed. Disappointing, I know. I apologize, but there was nothing I could do about it. I did offer a brief prayer for a tenth man, but God must have been listening to the miserable-looking maidel in the opposite corner instead because that couple upped and left shortly after.

So why mention it? Well firstly, I’d like to encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar position to give it a spin and let me know how it goes.

But the second and more important reason is that it fills a gap in the Shidduch Musical (scroll down right side bar for the current program). For two years now I’ve been grappling with the difficulty of the necessary Lounge Dance. Where does it come in? What is it about? And most importantly, how do we avoid mixed dancing?

Well the solution has arrived! So you see I got something out of that date aside from a drink and good conversation. In the Lounge Scene, all the men will troop out to Ma’ariv wearing bemused expressions, uncertain if they’re racking up Holiness Points for going to pray or losing Decency Points for abandoning their dates. As soon as they leave the girls shyly slide out of their chairs and congregate in the center. Soon enough they begin asking where they got that cute handbag, what number date everyone is up to, and naturally, comparing their dates. Eventually the sentences become rythmic and soon you have the whole pack of them moving in song and dance. It culminates with a lot of leaping about on couches and tap dancing on table tops when suddenly the men return. Room freezes. Pause. Mad scramble for seats – any seat. The men sit down and after an awkward pause one of each couple breaks the silence with, “So tell me about your siblings.”

(An aside here: don’t you love the way musicals handle the fact that everyone is acting amazingly unnatural during the musical part? Some just finish the song and everyone disperses like nothing happened. Others make it integral, like it’s totally normal for people to burst into song and dance at random moments of their lives. And some go a step further, bringing in third parties who eye the ensemble with astonishment and back away slowly. And suddenly you realize that, yeah, this should look weird, why doesn’t it? I should have been a film/theater major. Then I could have written a paper about it. Oh well. Where were we?)

Right – so that’s the scene. Now here’s an even harder part: the song. Do I see a raise of hands for song writers?