Three One-Thousand, Four One-Thousand

I’m picky.

There—I’ve said it.

After seven years of denial in the face of repeated accusation, I admit it: I have high standards. I don’t just want a nice guy with a job. I want a heckuva lot more for a lifelong commitment.

Once your 24 months of hormonal giddiness are over, you’re left with someone you’ve agreed to spend the rest of your life with, in union. Someone you’ve decided to partner with on this matter known as “life” til death do you part. Mortgages. Colicky babies. Influenza. Teenagers. Every Shabbos for the rest of your life. Who do you want to be there?

Examining my protests over the years, my reasons for ditching, dumping, and breaking up, I find the complaints fall into two major categories. “He’s boring” and “he’s a dead weight.” And I can readily invert those negatives to two positives that I think are the most important aspects of a marriage. That is, I think the spouse falls into two main roles:

The Companion.  Friends are people who you want to spend time with even when the mystery is gone. People whose opinions you trust, whose company you enjoy, whose views you want to hear even when you don’t agree with them. Someone whose company you seek out when the going is glum, because you know they can cheer you up or at least commiserate right. And it seems to me that this should describe someone you plan to hang out with for forever.

And The Partner.  A partner is someone you want at your side because you trust them to do their part and catch what you miss. Someone who makes you feel safe, knowing they have your back. Someone you don’t have to check on because you know they’ve got it covered. And this should describe someone with whom you plan to face the rest of your life.

The miracle of feminism tells me that I don’t have to compromise when I pick a mate. And, okay: that means I don’t get to a whole lot of seventh dates. But when I do, it means that it’s someone I like, respect, and trust.

Maybe I’m demanding. I’ve been told that I am. That I have unrealistic standards. Maybe I do. But somehow, I can’t help but think there may be someone out there who fits this description for me. That I can find someone to marry who doesn’t make me feel like I’m settling. To quote another Jewish girl from a less liberated time, “Why shouldn’t I want the best?” And why shouldn’t that guy I eventually choose know that I think he’s the best?

He should know that he’s someone whose views I respect, whose judgment I value, whose company I cherish, who abilities I respect, whose partnership I trust, and whose presence makes me feel safe. Not someone I settled for so I could call myself married, but someone I look forward to sharing the rest of my life with.

And if I’ve got to be picky to get that message across, well, so be it.

Dear Bad4: What’s Progress?

I’m not a dating guru. If I knew so much about dating, I’d probably be married by now.

Which is not to say that married people know lots about dating. Some of them seem to just fall into it accidentally. Going out with three people and getting married does not, actually, qualify you to give dating advice. Then again, neither does going out 100 times and never getting past the first “where do we stand” conversation. In fact, the only person I’d trust to give me dating advice is someone who’s been married multiple times. And obviously, they’re doing something wrong too.

Still, we all need dating advice at times, and really, who else is there to turn to except our fellow daters? So I’m going to crowdsource this one. Here’s the question – tell me your answers. I’ll save mine for whenever I get the chance to write it.

Dear Bad4,

I just broke up with a guy I really liked. In a long, late-night conversation he said he wasn’t sure where he stood in life and where he wanted to go and he just didn’t think we were making progress. What does that mean? Because all the guys I break up with say the same thing. We go out for months and then they say that we’re just not making progress. What kind of progress are we supposed to be making when we can’t progress to second base?

Sincerely,

Golden Gal

 

Thursday Link: Dating Detox

Sorry TJG, but your post made me laugh. Ten whole days without dating! Withdrawal symptoms, keep back!

I think my longest dateless streak was 11 months. It was a lovely 11 months spent with girlfriends in an exotic location known as Too-OOT, and overall, it was terrifyingly pleasant. We didn’t judge each other because there was no need; we simply did stuff and ate stuff, listened to stuff and talked about stuff in each others company. Yes, TJG, not dating is really quite nice.

Sometimes I wish I could not-date someone until I marry him.

 

A Tale of Two DOA Dates

Not a promising date, but at least the food was good. My date, at least, was an honest, straightforward guy. He knew this was a waste of time, and he was going to put in the bare minimum in terms of time. He didn’t linger over his sandwich, polishing it off and all but licking his fingers as he stared at my half-eaten bagel, daintily nibbled because it was stuffed too much to eat politely on a date.

A silly hang-up, I can’t help but consider in retrospect. I could have stuffed the entire thing down my throat in one go without affecting the outcome of the date (and nor did I want to), so why bother with manners? Breeding, I suppose. (Score one, Mother Dearest.)

“Dessert?” he looked at the questioning waiter, somewhat puzzled. “Oh, no. You don’t want dessert, do you?” he turned to me.

Well, when you put it that way…

Okay, fine. It would not be very nice of me to cadge dessert off a OnD date. But why do I always have to be nice?! The chocolate cake looked really gooey and creamy. I could totally have gone for it.

He got out of the car and walked me to the front walk, gave a shrug, and went to back his car. Mentally dusting off his hands and thinking, “Well, that’s done with.”

“At least I got a bagel out of it,” I summarized to my parents. “No chocolate cake, though. Could really use that chocolate cake now…”

 **************

Not a promising date, but at least the company was good. He was entirely engaged in the conversation, apparently interested in the exchange of ideas. He lingered over his bagel, finishing long after I did. “Are you sure you don’t want anything else? Dessert?” he asked several times. “Let me know if you want anything.” And I was terribly impressed by how naturally he took to gallantry. He didn’t leap forward to grab the door as if recently primed by his mother. He just managed to be in the right place at the right time, and if he wasn’t he let it slide.

“It was very nice meeting you,” he assured me gravely as he dropped me off. “Same here,” I told him quite honestly. Neither of us mentioned meeting again, because we knew it wouldn’t happen.

…but I did sort of wish I knew someone who might work for him. Really, such a decent guy.

Where I’ve Been & What I’ve Learned

It’s been busy the past couple of weeks, and that wasn’t helped by the power outages. Although, to be fair, I wasn’t in a position to appreciate their magnitude, since I was camping. Headlamp light and water from a mountain spring. Civilization is crumbling? How fascinating. Tell me about it.

Now, I am under no illusions that I am entirely unique. Therefore, I’d like to pass on words of wisdom for anyone who might have thought to try what I just did today: drive directly from a wilderness jaunt to some light dating. My advice: don’t do it. You will discover too late that all those bottles and jars in your bathroom that you figured you could live without for a week are actually profoundly essential.  Assuming you can wash the eau de campfire out of your hair, you still face a dire situation. You may find, for the first time in your life, that you wish that a bathroom had hot-air blowing hand dryers instead of paper towels. But if you surmount that hurdle, there’s yet another, greater obstacle to overcome. And no, my friends. Your car mirror is no substitute for a bathroom mirror when it comes to putting on makeup, even when you have 200 lumens of Coleman’s brightest to help out. And seriously, who thought that a mirror in a compact was going to be any help whatsoever? It’s just shtick.

Anyway, greetings from Starbucks, a bastion of wi-fi and other mainstays of civilization. I’ll see you again when the grid goes back up.

Where Have All the Posts Gone?

I have always envied those really great writers who seem capable of banging out n0vels about things they know nothing about. Floridians who write about surviving the Klondike gold rush, or Californians writing about being a woman in modern Pakistan, or the NJ housewife writing murder mysteries placed in Communist China.

How do they do that? I wonder. How can they capture the experience so well when they’ve never experienced it? Of course, I’ve never experienced it either, so I don’t really know. But it seems very realistic.

Myself, I’ve always been stuck writing about things I know, like learning to drive with your parents in the backseat, or solving Laplace transforms. (That last one went over like week-old sushi in creative writing class.) Being a single dater in the Orthodox Jewish universe was one of those things.

Was.

Because I’m not any more.

No, please. Don’t engage me. I stopped being a player in the dating scene when I moved out of town.

There are about four single males in this city, and we managed to size each other up in a couple of months. There were some good efforts at setting me up with a dentist in St. Louis and a firefighter in Boston, which fizzled after less-than-fascinating phone conversations in which the gentlemen made it clear that if I wanted a date, I’d have to go to them. (Did I just call them gentlemen? Misnomer. I’m a whole lot more in-town than St. Louis. Seriously–the nerve!)

Those were the enterprising shadchanim. The ones who said, “He wants to live OOT, she wants to live OOT, let’s bring them together!”

Some didn’t even try. Paraphrased quotes from emails:

Shadchan: “I received your resume [Call it a profile! – editor’s note] and I deal with the type of boy you’re looking for. I heard you’re moving back to New York soon, is that true?”

Me: “Maybe in a year or so. But I visit regularly.”

Shadchan: “Well, email me when you do move back, and I’ll see if any are still available.”

AnotherShadchan: “I received your resume [It’s not a resume! – editor’s note] earlier this week and noticed that you live in OOT. When will you be moving here?”

Me: [to self] “When? When? Does anyone else see an objectionable assumption there?” [in email] “Maybe in a year, but I visit regularly.”

AnotherShadchan: “Because, you know, it’s so hard to get boys to travel even to Philadelphia, let alone to Baltimore. It’s just a hopeless cause.”

Me: “Thanks, I guess.”

YetaThirdShadchan: “I have your shidduch resume [It’s not a farshtinkener resume! It’s a profile! – editor’s note], and I have an idea of a great guy for you. Are you willing to relocate?”

Me: [dismayed] “For the first date?”

So, since I’ve moved to this lovely town, I’ve dated (as in, met in person) a grand total of two people. This is not a sufficient quantity to sustain a dating blog. Hence, a drop-off in quantity of posts.

Want more BadforShidduchim? Send dates. Venturesome fellows, not afraid to feel the dirt beneath their tires or ask directions from someone drinking beer on a couch on their front porch watching the cows come home.

Seriously, guys. You need to get out more.

Or you could just make yourself available when I’m in the tri-state area. Is this asking too much?

So Travel!

If you won the lottery, what would you do?

If you had a month of vacation and unlimited funds, what would you do?

When you retire, what do you plan to do?

Lots of people put something about traveling into their answers. Travel – something about it entices the human mind. We love to see new places, observe different people, experience alternate communities, and enjoy the diversity of everything available if you put a little distance between you and your stomping grounds.

So travel!

No, honestly.

I’ve traveled twice for dates. It’s expensive, no kidding there. And from the dating perspective, both were a complete waste of time. But I got to visit a town I’ve never been to, and another that I’ve not been to enough. I got to see long-lost friends and relatives. I got to do some touring. I smelled the air of a foreign city. I biked the streets of a different town. I watched the natives of a different culture (yeah, it was one of those cities). It really wasn’t bad.

Granted, my current locale is sorely lacking in high-end tourist attractions. But we’ve got plenty of local color. (Much of it rust. Er, umber.) And on average, we are 4 degrees and 2% humidity cooler than New York City.

Tempted yet?

Well, there are plenty of young ladies stranded in more exotic locations. Places you’d love to visit anyway, like Miami or LA. So don’t grumble and skip over them to the next Flatbush girl on your list. Take a vacation. Go travel.

 

Thursday Link (Early): Dating Feedback

WotWentWrong exists because, it seems, I’m not the only person who goes on perfectly amiable dates and doesn’t get another one after. Sometimes you just wonder, why?

Not that I’d ever wonder to the point of asking, though. Not directly, and not through some third-party website. Heck, I rarely bother to ask the shadchan.

Still, the idea is there. This website has set itself up as a shadchan for the masses, ready to relay messages back and forth between parties, ranging from, “Let’s step this up a notch” to “If you would eat your soup instead of shoveling it, dinner dates with you would be much more enticing.” Except they promise to be more polite.

Good idea? Not? Who knows. I’ll never use it because I tend to have a shadchan involved. Would you?

PS: Do you think these guys set this up just so they could read people’s absurd, broken-hearted emails to each other?

Things Not to Say to a Friend You See on a Date

Who set you up with him?

Soooo…. should I plan for a wedding in the future? [wink wink nudge nudge]

Oh well, we all have to eat a few lemons.

Don’t take this the wrong way but, next time you go out? Let me do your make-up.

Your tag is sticking out.

He brought you here? He took me to Abigael’s on our first date.

Bisha’ah tova umutzlachas

You can never tell – my first date with my husband was terrible.

Today’s Post is Looping Out There

Someone recently informed me that my blog doesn’t qualify as a tech blog. Just to dispel the notions that my blog is inadequate in any way, I sat down to write a VBA program that would simulate dating in a safe, Microsoft environment.

Well, talk about too much success. My simulation was so accurate that it got caught in an infinite loop. It’s still dating in the background as I type. I think I’ll leave it there  just in case, in a few days or so, it finally calls the Wedding() subroutine.

I’m Not as Pathetic as You Are…

One really nice thing about being OOT: it’s no longer your fault that you don’t have dates.

Oh, obviously it is. I mean, you’re OOT instead of IT, which is a terrible mistake on your part which you should remedy immediately by packing your bags and moving into a closet somewhere in the tri-state area.

But if you’re dateless in IT, you begin to wonder. Why is the whole world going out…except me? Why does my friend have a new date every night but I have to wait for midterms before I’ll even hear about a guy? Is there something I’m not doing or something my parents aren’t doing? Something somebody isn’t doing?

So you languish alone at home on long evenings reading your favorite shidduch blog and feeling sorry for yourself because nobody tries to set you up, and those who do try it with guys who don’t want to go out with you.

But OOT it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. Nobody is setting you up because there’s nobody to go out with. It’s that simple. Any deficiency shifts to the location, which simply lacks a male population sufficient to support your dating habits.

Me? I’m fine. But this town is kinda short of singles…

It was a good theory, anyway, until a spat of engagement among local single people went and ruined it. Now everyone is getting engaged and I haven’t even been set up yet!

Oh well. C’est la vie.

It’s a Bad Sign When…

Just as you move into a neighborhood you have the following conversation with another single you meet:

Her: Hi, what brings you here?

Me: I’m moving in. I have a job nearby.

Her: So, you’re single? What are you looking for?

Me: A guy, preferably. You?

Her: A nice normal yeshivish guy with a black hat and a job.

Me: Hm. Sounds like my entire list of exes, give or take a few “normals.”

Her: Well there are none around here, in case you were hoping. That’s why I’m moving to New York City next week.

Me: Ah. Well.

This Explains My Dating Life

Why doesn’t anyone set me up with an art student? Huh? Huh? Aren’t there any male Jewish journalists out there? I’d even consider a lawyer. Instead, I keep getting geeks. Something’s not working here, my dear shadchanim. And The Atlantic thinks it knows why.

Why? Because I made a mistake. It was an innocent mistake. I didn’t know what the consequences would be when I made it. But I signed up for the wrong course of study and now I’m doomed forever more. My degree has made me aromantic.

…in fact, I’ve calculated that it’s reduced my chances by 87.352%, using a baseline for calculation the number of men I went out with before I started college, controlled for their plans/careers, compared to the number of men I went out with subsequently, also controlled for their career paths… I’ll post a link to the Excel spreadsheets for anyone who wants to calculate their plunging desirability post-STEM studies.

Dating [Calculus]

People often do calculus in their heads, projecting from a point, sometimes with or without the line.

The simplest example I can think of comes not from a date, but from a college bake sale. A bunch of students volunteered to bring in baked goods, but one student’s big plans flopped and the cake was kind of… crusty. The committee leader immediately projected a line: “Kim can’t bake.” And for all the future, as far as the committee leader was concerned, Kim was useless for all things baking.

On a more common, interpersonal level, one commonly hears complaints that starts “You always…” and end with something like “leave your dishes in the sink” or “take my stuff without asking.” Often, a proper examination of the facts reveals only two datapoints for the accusation. Good enough for P&G, but not for my high school math teacher.

Snap judgments are a necessary cognitive shortcut. We can’t always wait to collect three data points on a person before coming to any conclusions about them. Instead, we have to recognize behaviors, make connections, and come to conclusions.

In short, when a person does something (guy comes late for a job interview), that’s a datapoint. We then find the generalized equation for that  behavior based on our experience or mass wisdom (people who come late to job interviews) and take the derivative from that point (if he can’t come on time for an important interview, when will he come on time?).  It happens at job interviews, it happens at chance meetings, and it happens on shidduch dates.

It’s always easiest to become indignant when you’re on the receiving end. (“Okay so I arrived late! There was a tractor-trailer jackknifed across three lanes!”) I took it rather hard when a date informed our shadchan that I was “anti-bais Yaakov.” All I’d done was tell him a rather traumatic story from 12thgrade to illustrate what I thought was a weakness in the system.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t criticize the senate,” I complained. “He would have thought I was an anarchist.” And heaven knows what he might have thought if I’d told a good Israeli taxi-driver story. Probably that I’m full of sinas chinam.

But, bitterness aside, I can see how he reached that conclusion. It’s just calculus.

Point: Bad4 says something critical about a bais Yaakov high school.

Line: The last person who told me something like that was virulently anti-orthodox, off-the-derech, etc.

Derivative: Bad4 is covertly anti-establishment.

But I’m not one to criticize. I do it too. I’ll come home after a date with a vaguely negative impression. When I try to pin down where it comes from, I’ll have a hard time. What it boils down to is:

Point: Guy shows up without a plan for the date.

Line: Many of my dates who did this exhibited lack of drive or maturity.

Derivative: I’m dating yet another “boy.”

Ah, but didn’t this guy mention successfully launching a startup? That doesn’t sound so clueless. People aren’t mass-produced plastic figurines. You can’t assume that because this one appears to be a little green soldier, he’s got his feet glued to a plastic oval.

Which is why I’ve got a dating motto: When in doubt, go out (again). Because derivatives are for finding the instantaneous rate of change, not for making predictions. And whatever P&G might think, two points don’t make a line. Especially when you’re dealing with people—imperfect but self-correcting wonderful and awful human beings.

The Price of Being Single

By price, I mean cost.

I was recently contemplating traveling out of town to date a guy who, for good reasons, couldn’t travel in. I ran an estimate on the cost of the trip and gave a low whistle. It was a huge amount to spend on a first date. And this guy spent this kind of money every time he went out with a woman in New York City.

It seemed an unsustainable sum. At that kind of rate, you need a full-time job to support your dating habit. How do guys do it?

Single women often think of marriage as expensive. There’s all the clothing you need, the household supplies, the rent, etc. Financially, it’s a less cozy state of existence. But for guys it’s the exact opposite. Finally, they can stop renting cars, driving hours on end, paying for restaurant meals and museum tickets and overpriced java… Marriage is so relaxing.

Guys, you have my sympathy.

Dating Scared

Personally, I don’t think I’m picky. The only times I ever turn  a fellow down for further dating is when something about him makes me want to hit him over the head with a mallet.

I should take the moment to explain that I am not a violent person. I do not enjoy watching violence. I do not enjoy taking part in it. Once, in an exercise class, the instructor suggested we imagine someone we hated in front of us to strengthen our punches. Her suggestion froze me completely. I just couldn’t bring myself to punch the person I was imagining. Sit down with her and explain, perhaps, why she was so completely detestable, with constructive aims, but punch her? I couldn’t do it. So when I feel like playing whack-a-mole with my dates, it’s a pretty serious matter. It means that, as a pair, we are definitely not marriage material.

But in the spirit of back-of-the-mag Wired articles, where the idea is more important than its likeliness, I present my take on the “picky single” phenomenon.

Mazlow defined the eternal discontent of mankind in a neat pyramid. At the bottom are basic survival needs, like food, clothing, shelter, safety. If a person doesn’t have these, his need to acquire them will consume his thoughts. He will find it nearly impossible to consider higher, more ephemeral needs when he’s trying to keep his navel from sticking to his spine. And as long as a person is at the base of the pyramid, simple things will bring him great joy: an apple, a sweatshirt, not being chased out of Grand Central during a snowstorm.

But once these basic needs are met with ease, a person is no longer content with his food and shelter. He becomes restless once again. He needs friends, he needs family, he needs people to love and who love him in return. He needs relationships. And once relationships are secured, he is still not satisfied. He needs fulfillment; something that gives his existence a higher purpose. Joy is no longer nested in an apple, and consequently, it is more difficult to procure.

So, one might posit, the more comfortable a person is, the greater his needs, and the more difficult they are to fulfill.

I think this is part of the reason for the alleged “picky single” phenomenon noted by the writer in this post.

Once, marriage was an essential institution for a number of reasons. But now, with men and women fulfilling their more basic needs (eg: for support) independently, marriage has moved up the pyramid.

Women are no longer satisfied with a kind man who will bring home the dough, play with her children, and use his belt strictly for holding up his pants. Men are not interested in a pipe-, slippers-, and child-bearing 1950s housewife. Nor are we satisfied with the contented, role-based marriages that go with these stereotypes. We seek a meeting of the minds—someone who will understand us, not merely sympathize; someone who will be an active partner in all aspects of life; someone we can love forever.

And yes, that’s demanding. And maybe it means we’re not marrying a lot of people with whom we could conceivably be contented. But we think it’s worth it, because we’re at the level of comfort where we can no longer be happy with anything else.

The author of the column presented her theory that singles are afraid of divorce and afraid of their own imperfections. I think that’s a more negative slant on my theory. We worry that we are not good enough to sustain the kind of relationship we want to have, and we worry equally about our partner. It makes dating a nerve-wracking experience. One vacillates between anxiety that the other person is not quite right to anxiety that one is not quite good enough. In between, one grows anxious that this ideal is unachievable, that one is too picky, and that one is doomed forever…

Does that make us commitment-phobic? Maybe. As one commenter said, singles aren’t afraid to commit—we’re just waiting for the right person. In other words, we’re afraid to commit to the wrong person.

Overheard: BBM and Dating

“You know BlackBerry Messenger? They have these groups now. It totally rocks. You can message a whole group of people at one time. So instead of having to answer your sister and brother and mother and father and sister-in-law when they each ask how your date went, you can just message them all “TAKE ME HOME” from the bathroom and never have to discuss it again. It’s great.”

Commitment Shy

A few weeks ago, while flipping through the Jewish Press checking out all the more interesting columns, I came across one that introduced the idea of singles being scared to commit. The authoress proposed to enlighten the readership as to why modern older singles are so scared in her next column.

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to find out. I’m all for new insight into what makes me tick. But the next weekend, to my dismay, the column wasn’t there. My mother informed me that it only comes out once a month.

It turned out it wasn’t all that bad. For lack of anyone to tell me about my fear of commitment, I had to formulate a theory on my own. Unfortunately, like many of my theories, it takes time to arrange on paper. So while I edit and rewrite, tear up pages and write them again, what are your thoughts on the matter?

Are we commitment-shy? If so, why? If not, why might it appear so?

For the Peanut Gallery: Offensive Defensiveness

This came up over Shabbos:

You’re on a date and your partner is grilling you aggressively. (“What are you learning? Who do you learn with? How much do you cover?” or “What are you studying? Why? What do you plan to do with it?”) You’re pretty sure it stems from lack of experience and nervousness. You’d like to gently deflect the questions and change the course of the conversation to something lighter and friendlier without offending the other party or making them think you have something to hide.

What do you do?

Link: Don’t Rush Into It

A good friend of mine got engaged after six dates. They went on six to keep their parents from freaking out. She actually knew she was getting engaged after three.

“What’s the rush?” I asked.

“When you know you know,” she said.

I suppose. Except there’s so much you don’t know.

Not that I’m a big fan of dating someone until you get cold feet either. Too much dating can do more harm then good. (Just get married already!)

And then there’s a third option: dating forever. Thank you Stupid Inventor for sending me this link to a story about a couple of newlyweds who are too arthritic to even hug properly. They dated for 30 years. Her advice? Get to know a person, be forgiving… and, apparently, keep him chasing you.