Hanging Out on the Boardwalk is Good For Shidduchim

Thanks, Relarela (or should I call you NEF #17 now?) for this post on why it’s important to Be Seen: because you never know who will make your shidduch.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that phrase and rolled my eyes at it. But apparently it’s true. Because you won’t believe who set up Chava and Mordy

Courting Flea

For the Courtship Customs series...

I was reading a fascinating article in a 1998 National Geographic about the human ecosystem. That is: the ecosystem that thrives on the human surface.  It detailed our sometimes cozy relationship with bedbugs, head and body lice, follicle mites, scabies mites, dust mites, crab lice, fleas, as well as ticks, leeches, mosquitoes, various fungi from athlete’s foot to ringworm, and the fascinating botfly. It provided statistics such as that a square inch of exposed skin can host a hundred bacteria, while an armpit might have millions. I don’t recommend that you read it if you are susceptible to delusory parisitosis, which the article credits with causing both suicide and homicide.

There was, however, a paragraph about how, in the past, these creatures have represented intimacy to the point of being used in courtship:

European lovers of the 17th century sometimes wrote seduction poems about a girlfriend’s fleas. John Donne once petulantly complained that a flea, having bitten both girl and boy alike, “swells with one blood made of two/And alas this is more than we would do.”  A few gallant French lovers actually plucked a flea from their lady love and kept it as a pet in a tiny gold cage around their neck, where it could feed daily on their own blood. In Siberia, according to one story, an explorer was disconcerted to find that young women visiting his hut tossed lice at him; it turned out to be their way of expressing amorous intentions.

Clearly, this would not be a successful dating strategy today; for one thing, the human flea itself has almost vanished from modern homes. […]

Thank goodness for that! And aren’t you glad you don’t live in Siberia?

To Each Their Own

Visited a museum this weekend. One item that piqued my interest was the mention of a courtship dance performed by northwestern American Indian men. It involved wooden wands decorated with buckskin fringes; beyond that no details were provided. Alas, YouTube has none either, but you can guess what it may look like from related footage. I think it would be fun if our guys had to dress up in fringes and eagle-feather bustles to court us, don’t you?

Of course, in the next room over it discussed the Wedding Trade. And you thought we had it down to an irritating science, what with who gets the sheitel and who gets the bechar and who pays for the band and who gets the couple for the first Pesach. Well, among the Wasco, Walla Walla, and Paiute, it’s something like this:

The boy’s family gives the horses. The girl’s family gives food. The boy’s family provides skins, the girl’s family, baskets. And there are gifts of clothing and jewelry and wampum and goodness knows what else, each required by one of the sides. The description, given by soundbyte, went on for about 5 minutes.

Just in case you thought we were unique and particularly obsessive.

There was a section with period actors and actresses, so I strolled into a woman’s kitchen as she was doing her dishes. “Goodness!” she exclaimed to her neighbor who was keeping her company. “Why she’s the first woman I’ve seen all day who’s dressed appropriately!”  I agreed that it was scandalous how some of these other visitors dressed, but perhaps it was understandable considering the difficulty of obtaining or making fabric out on the frontier. Well, naturally we got to talking, and she asked me, point blank, without any of that smothering sensitivity one expects in frummer areas, if I was a spinster.

I guess it’s obvious enough, if not exactly written on my forehead.

I admitted  that I was indeed a spinster.

Seeing my somewhat abashed expression, she hastened to assure me that being a spinster was nothing bad – it was being a productive member of society, earning your own keep, so you didn’t need a husband. And heaven knew they could use a spinster out there – she pulled her Montgomery Ward catalog off the shelf to show me how much yarn costs, and we agreed that I could certainly undercut the company by using local sheep and alpacas.

She thought if there were more independent women around, why, women might just get the vote! Not that her husband would let her vote – he thinks women are feebleminded –

Seeing the expression on my face (mostly embarrassment for her husband, actually), she hastened to assure me that he was a good, law-abiding man – obeys the rule of thumb, and never switches her with anything thicker than that digit.

I said I thought I was going to look into that spinster gig very seriously after all.