What’s Your No-Beer Answer?

I have a career problem. Not with the career. It’s great so far. But it wreaks havoc on my dating. Heck, its even bad for not dating. I was at circus school the other night and a happily married classmate asked me what I do.

“Scientist,” I said vaguely.

“Oh wow,” he looked stunned.

“You?” I asked, keeping it friendly.

“Well, now I don’t want to say,” he hesitates. “I’m just an intake nurse at the hospital.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, it’s not a smart.”

“So what? It’s a good job and you’re still way better at lion-taming than I am. That’s not going to change how I see you.”

The thing that bugged me about this exchange was that I’d given him my “beer” answer. I was trying to be non-intimidating. What’s a girl to do when her “beer” answer is also a “no-beer” answer?

Here’s how it goes. If a girl is in a bar and a guy comes over and asks what she does, she can give one of two answers: the “beer” answer, which will hopefully lead to further conversation and him offering to buy her a beer; or the “no beer” answer, which will make him suddenly recall urgent business elsewhere. This is purely theoretical for me, as I never get approached in bars, since I’m not generally in them. But the idea still holds: the turn-off answer, and the not-so-turnoff answer.

When I came across this idea, I asked my companions, a preschool teacher and a librarian, what their “no beer” answers would be. After some deep mulling, the preschool teacher answered “Early childhood development specialist.” The librarian didn’t miss a beat. “Librarian,” she said promptly.

Like the librarian, my beer and no-beer answers are essentially the same. Which I find troubling.  What on earth is a girl to answer if people back away slowly from the lite version? A lie?

…then again, it sure is fun to whip out the no-beer answer. “I’m a microneurobiologist specializing in intracellular organelle funambulism. But that’s boring. What do you do? Hey, is something wrong?”

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On Being Muddled

A hat tip to the Curious Jew for sending me to this post by Fudge. It captures the enervated malaise of an Unmarried Person taking stock of his/her life.

It’s not that I’ve ever thought I was a crummy human being because I wasn’t married. I’m good at lots of things, even if getting myself married isn’t one of them. Rather, it’s about that detached, confused state that a single person so easily slips into. Where do I belong? What should I be doing?

It’s so simple, or at least so defined when you have a family. Family first. Husband and children. The important parties are there to give their input. But for single people, it’s all a tangled muddle of loops of hope fading off into a million uncertain futures.   Maybe half the desire to get married stems from a desire for definition and clarity in life. To just know what you should be focusing on.

An example of this that frequently arises in my life is the Career Question. Everyone knows that your chances of bumping into the right guy are higher in the tri-state area than out of it. But career progress in a job can often lead to OOT. (Which is not unwelcome. Who wouldn’t want to live outside the tristate area if they had the option?) However, if one moves OOT for a job, one is being Career Oriented and Independent, which is anathema in a (n ultra-orthodox) woman and bad for dating in general. Also, there’s nobody to go out with. Whereas if one stays in NYC then one is being family oriented sans the family – and how pathetic and depressing is that?

(It gets even more muddled if the OOT job is more family friendly than the IT job. It loops, cancels out, and leaves you stranded someplace, pathetic, but not entirely sure why. Well, you know why. It’s because you’re single.)

Fudge’s solution is to get direction in life from something else. Slot yourself into the grand scheme of things without a spouse. Find meaning in life as an individual.

The idea is inspiring. It sounds wonderful.

…except, yeah. It still doesn’t help. I’ve never really had a grand personal ambition. I try to do well in my education, employment, and hobbies. But I’ve always taken a more passive approach to Big Meaningful Missions. I take them as they land in my inbox. It’s given me some interesting tasks in life, but nothing near steady employment. So choosing Fudge’s route is going to require a full-blown mid-life crisis. Why am I here? Why do I exist?

But even so. Let’s just say I’ve found meaning in expressing my love for God by bringing spirituality to knock hockey. Does that mean I can move to Thailand now? Stop paying the SYAS tax? Channel my spare cash into trust funds for the kinfauna? This approach may help me figure out how to spend my spare time, but it doesn’t answer the big question of what should be important right now.

And so I remain, befuddledly yours,

A Uxorially Challenged Person

Too Comfy Being Single

People have two lives. There’s the outer one that’s evident to all observers. This mostly consists of a blank face and your actions. Then there’s the inner life. This is where the thoughts that drive the actions occur. Any given action could have a myriad of thought processes behind it. The mysterious part is that nobody really knows why you do anything unless you tell them.

‘Course, that’s never stopped anyone from speculating, assuming, and concluding about your motives.

Thus we have people observing SIR and lamenting that she’s getting too comfortable being single.

I don’t know what SIR’s been doing to incriminate herself, but I can imagine by extrapolating from my friends and myself.

The fact is, we’re single. And while I’m single – while I’ve got nobody else to think about – I’m going to enjoy my independence. While I’m free from the burden of humongous bills, I’m going to splurge every now and then. While I have no family to care for, I’m going to advance my career.

Does that mean I’m not ready to settle down and look after a spouse? No. Does it mean I’m not saving for the future and can’t tighten the belt for necessary expenditures? Seriously, no. And does that mean I don’t plan to look after my children when I’ve got ’em? No, not that either.

Is that wrong? Would you be happier to know that I spend my evenings in my room tearfully reciting Tehillim, instead of being outside in the fresh air building a soapbox derby racer? Would you like a ticker on my forehead so you can see how I weigh so many decisions against the belated Prince who just isn’t showing up?

Because the fact is, I am not comfortable being single. As a single, I have to hedge all my bets. Everything I do and every decision I make occurs under the shadow of my single status. Should I take that job and move there or risk unemployment but stay here? Should I try to find work with a company with awesome flextime options or go for the one with the better pay? Should I be buying something large and non-transportable when I might be married and across the continent in a half a year? Hey, Prince Charming, can you show up already and save me from living two lives at once?

Let’s face it. I’m a prisoner to the status I’m hoping to change. As long as I’m dating, part of my life belongs to a guy I haven’t met yet. And it’s a lot harder to  accommodate a guy you haven’t met, because you have to accommodate him in so many possible variations. Trust me: when he finally shows up, fitting him in will be a comparative breeze.

Me: O-oh! So you’re the permutation that wants to study toucans in their native habitat! Glad to meet you. See, I’ve got this alternative transportation fund I’ve been thinking of in terms of snowmobiles, but now I know to label it the Outrigger Canoe Fund. You’ve really taken a load off my mind. What took you so long?

Him: Delays out of Galeao Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport. Also, my toucans were breeding and I didn’t want to miss the mating rituals.

But even prisoners have fun. People, being people, always make the best of their situation. That’s why I’m out with the girlfriends tonight, and that’s why I bought those gorgeous boots I don’t technically need (yet), and that’s why, if you don’t need that wheel, I’ll take it for my soapbox racer. It’s the perfect size.

But Nooo Doctors

When I was little, one of my mother’s favorite picture books was But No Elephants. It was not my favorite. Too much of it stretched my childish credulity about how people act.A salesman with a car full of animals sells a granny-type, Tildy, a beaver as a pet. The beaver is useful; she appreciates him. The guy keeps coming back selling her more useful pets, like a woodpecker, etc. And each time she grudgingly agrees to take the pet with the stipulation, “But no elephants.”

That’s where I began not understanding. Yes, elephants take up more space and eat more, but they’re also stronger and have those wonderful trunks. Every animal has its pros and cons; why wouldn’t she even consider the elephant?

When it comes to shidduchim, there are some things that people just won’t accept, because all they can think of are the cons. Which is why the average Mr./Miss Premed has serious issues getting a date. Everyone assumes that Doctor Mommy is somehow an oxymoron, or that it’s impossible for a frum person to make it through medical school spiritually healthy.

I’ve got a neighbor who’s a pediatrician. He works from 8 am to 10 am and from 4 pm to 6 pm, because that’s when most kids discover that they’re sick. The rest of the day he learns. There’s a female pediatrician who zips around all the male-run private practices doing annual checkups for the squeamish teenage girls. How’s that for flexible hours? And hospitals do run on shifts. Once you get over the killer interning/residency years, it’s easy street in terms of choosing hours. (OK, sort of.) My point being: there are many types of doctors out there, and a physician has some leeway in choosing when he or she works.

Just for reference, your average physical therapist also works 9-5. They can only go into that much touted “private practice” business when they’ve built up a clientele, and even then, they’re not really choosing their own hours; their clients choose for them. And for most clients, weekend and post-5pm on weekdays is when it’s convenient.

So how do premed students go about getting married? Well one Miss PreMed tells people she’s “going into the medical field.” People automatically assume “physical therapy,” because that’s so much more appropriate than doctor. Heck, dissecting a dead and defenseless guy or taking off one’s shirt in class to look at back muscles is all in a day’s work for an aidel maidel—and that’s just Gross Anatomy class.

Of course her real goal comes out eventually over the diet coke. And that’s when things get interesting. One guy, upon hearing that his date intended to go—pardon my language—to medical school [rinse out mouth with soap], got wide-eyed and said,

“Um, I just remembered, this isn’t such a good night for a date. Let’s go.”

Gotta give him credit. This guy’s got finesse.

“Why a doctor? Why not a nurse?” Some feel the need to ask. “That’s also helping people.”

Aw c’mon, folks. Some people are meant to be in charge. They’re too smart to spend their life changing bedpans.

“I asked my rav and he said it’s OK for me,” Miss Premed complained. Being exceedingly bright and capable, she feels confident that she’ll be able to balance family and schoolwork, but if not, she knows her priorities, and it’s not the degree. Why doesn’t anyone give her a chance?

Oh yes, and it’s essentially the same thing with lawyers.