Designer Bride – II

Continued from previous post reviewing ‘How to Create the Perfect Wife’ by Wendy Moore: Designer Bride I

If you know what kind of life you want, and you know what kind of spouse it will take to make it happen, why shouldn’t you insist on exactly what you need? Such hubris led our hero Thomas Day to attempt to create the woman he could not find. He adopted a 12-year-old orphan and raised her himself, inculcating her with his doctrines.

Sadly, it did not work.

At the age of 14 she rebelled against the heavy burden of housework he put on her. Also, she wasn’t enjoying being pricked by pins and shot at with a pistol to develop her stoicism.  It seems that even meek, grateful orphans have their limits. So he banished her to boarding school.

Lesson 1: You can’t force people to fit your mold.

Day went back to dating women of his social class who were out of his league. One had to be dumped because she was too attached to her earrings. Another returned his proposal-by-contract with a point-by-point rebuttal, saying things like “Equality is essential for a happy marriage,” and “I couldn’t imagine being subservient to a husband in all things.” Yet a third suggested that she’d marry him if he became socially presentable, like by brushing his hair and wearing clothes that fit and weren’t rumpled. (Lesson 2: The most deficient are the most demanding.)

In despair, he went back to his orphan, who was finished school. He gave her strict orders on exactly how to dress for his proposal. But something small was off (record doesn’t say what, but friends agree it was a trifle), and he banished her forever, furious at her disobedience.

Lesson 3: You can’t demand perfection in your spouse. They’re only human.

Unbelievably, lesson 4 is that every pot, no matter how dented and warped, has a lid. There was a woman who wanted to marry Mr. Day. And she did. It was a rocky marriage though, between Thomas Day and Esther Milnes. A marriage full of his tests and trials. A marriage full of verbal spats. A marriage from which Esther stormed off at least twice, moving out of the cottage in the woods and in with her mother-in-law. See lessons 1 & 3.

Which brings us to lesson 5: If you’re pretty sure that the reason you’re single is all the fault of the opposite sex, the fault is probably in you.

Continued in next post: Designer Bride III

HT Kansasian

Designer Bride – I

I just finished a great book called How to Create the Perfect Wife. It’s a non-fictional account of Thomas Day, a Georgian-era gentleman, and his attempt to, well, create for himself the perfect wife.

Thomas Day knew exactly the sort of life he wanted to lead. He wanted to retire from the shallow, frivolous contemporary society and live in a small cottage in the woods. He would spend his day reading philosophy, writing poetry, dispensing charity, and trying to make the world a better place. And he knew exactly the sort of woman he needed as a life partner.

She had to be smart and educated in all the same interests as he, but not so ambitious as to write her own novels or poems. She had to have simple tastes and spurn the frippery of the times. She’d wear her hair loose and unstyled. Her neckline would be high, her sleeves long. She would not own earrings or, preferably, any jewelry. She would be strong and capable, willing to endure his difficult life of privation and philanthropy. She would not engage in trivial pursuits like music and dancing, and she must have plump white arms.

Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, what kind of guy dictates the way his wife does her hair or what she does her spare time? Oh wait…

I once met a guy whose first criteria for a potential date was “doesn’t have Facebook.” His second was “will only cover her hair with a scarf or hat.” It only got more detailed from there. Another guy had a list of acceptable college degrees for his wife-to-be. I asked what he’d think if I found him the right girl, but she came with her own list, like how many times a week he has to learn, and maybe something against the way he asks random girls like me to call him by his nickname. His response was that if their lists didn’t match, clearly they weren’t meant for each other.

This is how many of us date. We have a dating pool of perhaps a few hundred candidates, but we still reel off detailed criteria down to how many years he should want to learn and what he can do bein hazmanim. And heaven forbid he should show up in a pink tie.

But if you know what kind of life you want, and you know what kind of spouse it will take to make it happen, why shouldn’t you insist on exactly what you need? Such hubris led our hero Thomas Day to attempt to create the woman he could not find.

Continued in the next post: Designer Bride II and Designer Bride III

HT to the Kansasian

The Memo

Here is where I reveal myself to be a narrow-minded misnaged. I expose myself because I have a feeling that there are many more like me out there, and I’m trying to help the naive newcomers who don’t seem to have a feel for the topography.

To: All BTs who want to date smart and interesting centrist Orthodox women but who include a photo of themselves wearing a bekesher with their profile

Subject: How you are narrowing your dating pool

A conversation I had not so long ago while perusing a fellow’s profile:

Me: He looks really interesting—look, he’s been to Cambodia with the Peace Corps after he became religious. But what’s up with the bekesher in the photo? Think it’s Purim?

Father: No, it looks like a wedding. And you see he mentions Chabad further down.

Me: Yeah—he became religious through them and he likes their ideas. But what’s that got to do with the wrap-around tapestry?

Father: It seems he’s got chassidish leanings. Maybe he’s not for you.

A conversation I had not so long ago with a friend:

Me: So why don’t you want to go out with him?

Her: Well, he’s gone a little weird. He started wearing a bekesher. Tsupwithat?

Another conversation with another friend:

Her: You’d like him. He’s really into lots of stuff. Plays seven instruments. Invented a new golf shot. But… he wears a bekesher. I don’t know why. He’s totally normal otherwise.

Look, I get it. You became frum in college through the campus Chabad, and you have a soft spot for the sect. (We all do.  They’re the indispensable if adorably odd sibling.) But do you sit on your hat before you wear it? Do you grow a bushy beard? Do you walk around with your shirt untucked? No. So why the 16th-century Polish costume?

A bekesher doesn’t just represent chassidus, an ultra-orthodox sect. It represents the irrational part of chassidus—the part where they can’t tell the difference between an anachronism and a custom. Or, it sometimes seems, between an anachronism and a Torah commandment.

It makes the average over-educated woman uneasy. She begins to wonder about your BT motivations. She wonders at your opaque rational processes. She wonders if you’ve finished your BTing, or if you’re still travelling across sects, and might wake up in Satmer one day. Or maybe Bat Ayin. Or someplace else she’d rather (in her admittedly narrow-minded way) not be.

So, if you’re trying to weed us out, you’re doing a great job. Just keep posting those bekesher pics.

But if you want to broaden your dating circles, and you can’t figure out why otherwise intelligent and charming women are making the unintelligent choice of not dating you, take this suggestion: shock her with the bekesher on your Shabbos sheva brachos.

The Best Kind of Shopping (1 of 2)

If I had grown up in a world without internet shopping, I’d walk around in rags.

I hate shopping. It’s one long nuisance from beginning to end. First, you’re carrying something. Either it’s a jacket or a handbag. Either way, your hands aren’t completely free, and that bothers me like almost nothing else. I’m the girl who still uses a backpack to tote things around because it’s completely hands-free.

It’s not like I live in a world where I need my hands free to punch attackers or clamber up walls at a moment’s notice. I just like them available to do what they need to do – like flip through racks or hold up two things for comparison. Hands are handy tools, but only if they’re not being used as storage racks – a task just as ably done by an otherwise useless back or waist.

When you shop online, you don’t have to touch anything but the mouse, leaving one hand free for a mug of steaming hot chocolate or a fork full of pancake and dripping with syrup.

Then there are the racks themselves. Do they offer a MFA in store organization? Some stores organize by brand. Some by the dressiness of clothing. And some use a bizarre logic that designates some items “contemporary” and others “misses.” I’ve never understood where a contemporary miss is supposed to look, or why there’s no “vintage” or “ma’am’s” section.

Online, you can shop for exactly what you need. Orange top, ¾ sleeves?  Just check off the boxes and see what comes up. Want to know if there are any skirts that will cover your knees? The length is listed with the skirt, so all you need to know are you own personal measurements – something you’ve undoubtedly saved to an email in your inbox.

Oh, there are always surprises when it arrives in the mail, but as long as you’re within driving distance of a brick and mortar store, returns are no hassle at all. And the act of breezing in and out of the store without flipping a single hanger gives me immense joy.

Not walking into a store means fewer unexpected expenditures. You know, like when you dash into Marshalls to grab a spatula and somehow find yourself at the dressing room, with an ancient crone trying to decide whether to give you a number 5, because you’re carrying five items, or a 2, because the immersion blender, boots, and box of Jelly Bellies aren’t going to be tried on. (Spatula? Oh right, the spatula. Have to remember to get the spatula on the way out.)

And let’s not forget the greatest advantage of all. Online shopping can be done from a supine position in one’s overnight wear without the necessity of braving elements of any sort.

It’s just so comfortable. More than any kind of store shopping.

Or so I thought. Until I found a store where supine was a standard shopping position (prone wasn’t discouraged either).

To be continued in part 2

 

Another One Bites the Dust

I would like to dedicate this post to a fine young woman who is no longer with us. Charmingly cynical, you could always count on her for epigrams worthy of a demotivational poster.  Her daily uniform was a worn out, floor-sweeping denim skirt. She probably had jewelry just the way she probably had ankles. You rarely saw either.

And then she went and got engaged.

Some other creature is wearing her skin, now. Someone who smiles a lot; who wears dresses and heels and sparkly things framing her face. Someone who admits to bursting into tears at emotional moments (wait, did she say emotional moments?) and worst of all—yes, this is the most ominous of all—confesses to a desire to be nice to everyone.

Dear Friend (if you are, indeed, the same person): you are a lesson to us all. Nobody is immune. No matter how hard core, deeply baked, or hard boiled you are, in a moment of weakness (like a proposal) your defenses can be broached and you be reduced to a shy, giggling, mirror-checking, hair-flipping, makeup-fixing, dress-tugging girl.

Mazal tov, NEF#16.