Call Me Picky Please

I was explaining to a college classmate that I only date other Orthodox Jews. “So,” I concluded, “I’m going to be single for a while.”

He chuckled. “Maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on them.”

I stared. Then I smiled. I mean, he’d just called me picky. Can you think of a higher compliment? To be told that the only reason you’re still single is that you’re too picky.

I’ve told friends to stop being so picky. Generally, what I mean is “Pal, you’re gorgeous, brilliant, gracious, and witty. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a guy who isn’t tall, dark, handsome, rich, brilliant, and of course, a Torah scholar.”

It seems to me that we all have a list of traits we want, most of which don’t usually seem to come together in the same package. If half my friends seem to have unrealistic expectations, perhaps I do too. But honestly, most of the time the breakup is mutual. I don’t think I’ve left a string of broken hearts behind me.

Still, it’s nice that someone thinks I could have.

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Are Responsible People Missing Something?

This morning I opened my inbox to several shidduch suggestions. There was the 29-year-old guy from Australia who worked in Argentina then Germany then moved to Israel where he plans to live and learn for many years to come. Not so bad, just not for me.

Then there was the 30-year-old guy in California who has four college degrees plus various technical certificates who wants to go to medical school–but not ’til next year. Until then he’s learning. Oookay. He won’t finish paying back his student loans until he’s dead.

Then there’s the 31-year-old guy with the Harvard Business School degree who is learning while dabbling in stocks on the side. There’s a waste of a degree.

How did guys cop out of life before learning became a Thing?

When I complained to my flatmate, she pointed out that 30 is a really lousy time to have a job. “Who in their right mind gets a job when they’re young? It’s the best years of your life! Why would you waste it working all day? Get a job when you’re 80 and can’t do anything else anyway!” she ranted. She might have been upset about doing lesson plans on Sunday.

I hear her point.

Do these underemployed guys know something we don’t know? Who the heck needs a 401k anyway? By the time we retire we’ll either be in a welfare state or the world will have collapsed. Right? Wrong? Why the heck don’t so many 30-year-old men have jobs?!

Postscript: [added 2/19/2013]

Since it is apparently unclear who this post is targeting, I will add the following anecdote.

Yesterday, someone told me, “I went to college, I got a degree, I did the Real World job thing, and I didn’t like it. So I went back to school for a masters in dance therapy. It’s a lot of fun and I’m looking for a position in a hospital working with sick kids.”

This was a non-Jewish woman. She did Real Life, she didn’t like it, but she didn’t have the option of retiring to live on her independent income. So she considered carefully and switched careers.

Jewish men, however, do have an alternative. And that is to retire from Real Life to Learn. When I see a guy with a degree in something boring who is learning, my radar goes on. If he’s got a year of work experience, it starts blipping.  If I’m on a date and he makes a face while saying, “I guess I have to get a job now,” well, that pretty much says it.  And if he’s got a year of experience, then got another degree, then worked briefly again, then decided to learn… Seriously, am I the only one who sees this as a sign?

Don’t get me wrong, Jewish women do this too. I often hear singles claiming they just want to be housewives. Run a finger over their windowsill — does it come away clean? Is there nary a dish in their sink? Do they spend their recreational time over the stove? Do they adore children and want to spend all day with them? Rarely. They just don’t want to work. Since learning is not an option, they just have to hope for a rich husband instead.*

Hm… maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’m just jealous.

*Before someone jumps down my throat about disparaging housewives: I think it’s a wonderful thing to have a homemaker. And there are women who genuinely want to be there for their husband and kids. But when a woman says, wistfully, “I would make a great housewife” shortly after hating on her job, I suspect her motives.

“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.

 

 

 

Turning Down Dates

For the third time in my life, I found myself explaining to a colleague why I won’t date a non-Jew. It was my fourth time running through it (once I had to do it on behalf of another orthodox girl in college whose identity I still don’t know), so I condensed it into one convincing but diplomatic line. Nothing against his friend who sounds like a great guy—this is just how it is. But I was beginning to note a pattern.

Non-Jewish men with strong values dig orthodox women.

Yes, ladies. There are guys out there who think you are hot stuff. Your aidelkeit catches their eye and they like what they see.

Okay, I’m laughing. I mean, I’m not exactly the prototype aidel bais Yaakov maidel. Not for lack of trying—I really gave it a shot once. But it just didn’t take. Still, compared to my colleagues, I’m the picture of sweetness and modesty. Also, I’m nice, friendly, kind, thoughtful, considerate, generous, and good with kids.

Oh wait, this isn’t my shidduch profile. Scratch that.

Anyway, this little discovery was a boost to my self-esteem. In addition to the demographic of men over the age of 50, it turns out I am also of interest to non-Jewish men with strong family values. At this rate of discovery, I might find a Jewish demographic to date by the time I’m 30. Hey, they must be out there.

Has anyone else had to field feelers from non-Jewish colleagues?

Repost: Why You Went to College

This is funny. But true. A friend of mine visited a shadchan who confided that she prides herself on never giving advice. But for this friend, she felt that she just had to break her rule.

You see, Friend was not in college. Friend had a decent job and an active social life, and Friend was enjoying this. She felt no particular rush – after all, she was only six months post-seminary. She couldn’t be expected to know what she wanted to do with life yet, and why pay for expensive college courses while she figured it out?

“You have to be studying something,” the shadchan said. “The mothers always ask. It could be anything – it doesn’t have to be college. Take a course. But you need to be studying something or They won’t like it.”