I’m HOW Old?

In spite of the fact that I am a “rachmana litzlan!” situation, being single over 25, I still enjoy having a birthday. It’s just fun to say “It’s my birthday today!” and watch everyone react like something special happened just because I was born.

Which is why I decided to have more of them.

I already have two: Hebrew and Gregorian. But there are so many more calendars out there! And I can have a birthday on every one!

I was born in the Chinese year of the tiger (“Rrroawrrr!”), which makes me ferocious and domineering on the outside, but noble on the inside. (Hey, I’ll take it.) I can be generous and selfish, short-tempered and driven, and I hate to fail.

And so on.

Like all such descriptions, most of it can stick with a little effort, and some of it really doesn’t, but it’s nice to be described as a tiger either way.

I am compatible in marriage with horses, dogs, and dragons. If that’s you, please apply by email.

There is however, one problem with the Chinese calendar: it’s shorter than the Gregorian/Hebrew. According to the Chinese calendar, I’m turning 28 this year (in October), instead of 27. Forget being a “rachmanus;” that makes me the kind of pathetic sight that drives you to cover your children’s eyes as you pass, lest it be catchy. Maybe having more birthdays wasn’t such a grand idea after all.

So I moved on to the Muslim calendar. Sadly, there are fewer apps online to translate your Gregorian birthday to the Hijri calendar (and none for your Hebrew birthday… odd that), and they only claim to estimate within a day’s error. This year, my Hijri birthday is only a day after my Gregorian (+/- a day), which is disappointing if you’re trying to proliferate birthdays. And wouldn’t you know it: due to it being shorter than a solar calendar year, I’m turning 28 in Muslim years too!

I’m not really sure how to take this news. On the one hand, I’m older and wiser in Chinese and Muslim company. I can command more respect (Probably? Maybe? Possibly?). On the other hand, both cultures would surely agree with their Hebrew counterparts that being single at 28 is more of a tragedy than any amount of wisdom could counterbalance.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that the grass is not really greener elsewhere. Don’t be dissatisfied with your solar calendars – they endow you with youth. If you go searching farther afield, you’ll only age faster, and not get any more respect for it.

…Oh hey wait! I just an an awesome idea! I’m going to calculate my age in Martian years!

…And never mind. That makes me only 14. I can’t even be a legal independent. I guess I’m stuck with what I’ve got.

Your Clock is NOT Ticking

You know they say your (female) fertility starts sliding at 30 and dives off a cliff at 35? Well here’s news from The Atlantic:

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.

In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.

– Jean Twenge

So what are the facts?

Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century—but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture. One study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), examined the chances of pregnancy among 770 European women.

It found that with sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of 35-to-39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86 percent of 27-to-34-year-olds. Another study, released this March in Fertility and Sterility and led by Kenneth Rothman of Boston University, followed 2,820 Danish women as they tried to get pregnant. Among women having sex during their fertile times, 78 percent of 35-to-40-year-olds got pregnant within a year, compared with 84 percent of 20-to-34-year-olds. [Bolding mine]

A study headed by Anne Steiner, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the results of which were presented in June, found that among 38- and 39-year-olds who had been pregnant before, 80 percent of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within six months (although that percentage was lower among other races and among the overweight). “In our data, we’re not seeing huge drops until age 40,” she told me.

Twenge finishes by referring us to the this Saturday Night Live clip (warning: it’s Saturday Night Live), in which four actresses complain about being pressured to have babies.

Eleven years later, these four women have eight children among them, all but one born when they were older than 35. It’s good to be right.

The View from the Top of the Hill

When I was a young lass, I wasn’t ready to settle down. But my elders cautioned me: “Marry young. By the time you’re ready to settle down all the good ones will be taken.”

Obedient as I was, I dated from the tender age of 20. I went out with all sorts: normal, humdrum, typical, boring. I went out with the clueless and the obnoxious. I came home with questions like, “Is it okay for him to mock other people if he’s motivated by showing off to me?” and “Is it bad that I’m bothered when a guy has apparently not thought about our date before he arrived?” I dated infrequently, maybe 3-4 times a year, usually during finals, when the last thing I wanted to do was saddle myself with additional responsibilities.

Twenty-five, they warned me, was the top of the hill. From twenty-six on, it was a downward spiral to old maidhood at 35, pitying glances from bais Yaakov girls, and chesed Shabbos invitations because, nebach, I have nowhere to go.

Well, I’ve been 26 for months now, and I have to say, it’s been fantastic. Four guys in five months, most of them truly wonderful people who I respect and enjoyed dating. If this is what the other side of the hill looks like, it’s the best kept secret of dating. Bring it on!

Link: All the Single Ladies – Someone Else’s Thoughts

Part 2 of Link: All the Single Ladies

O sent me this very long article and completely ruined my plans to be asleep before 11. Thanks O. I thought you were my friend. (Warning: article rated PG-13)

It starts out with the usual discussion of the fall of men and sociological observation that if a woman wants to marry a man who is both taller and more successful than herself, she’s in trouble. There’s some blah-de-blah about the plight of women on college campuses (including a rather confusing note suggesting that it’s not nearly as promiscuous out there as everyone claims, this article included) and a dark prophesy that the deterioration of family in the black community presages the future of the white community.

Then it delves into the single female experience. Really, Bolick (the authoress) points out, being single isn’t so bad. We should enjoy it while we can.

“Back when I believed my mother had a happy marriage—and she did for quite a long time, really—she surprised me by confiding that one of the most blissful moments of her life had been when she was 21, driving down the highway in her VW Beetle, with nowhere to go except wherever she wanted to be. “I had my own car, my own job, all the clothes I wanted,” she remembered wistfully. Why couldn’t she have had more of that?”

I don’t completely agree here. I mean yes, being single is nice. In the morning when I cruise to my own job in my own car admiring the beautiful sunrise that is clearly there just for me I enjoy a moment of complete happiness and satisfaction. Life is awesome. Absolutely awesome.

But surely you have moments  like that even after your first kid. If you don’t, then why do we all drive ourselves crazy to get married?

Bolick notes that some of our self-pity is induced by society’s view of single women as crazy cat ladies, obsessed shoe-shoppers, and weird loners:

“The single woman is very rarely seen for who she is—whatever that might be—by others, or even by the single woman herself, so thoroughly do most of us internalize the stigmas that surround our status.”

In other words, stop identifying yourself as a Single Orthodox Female. Just be a Person.

She goes on to point out that the modern marriage is inherently selfish, and a couple contributes far less to the community than a single.

“Some even believe that the pair bond, far from strengthening communities (which is both the prevailing view of social science and a central tenet of social conservatism), weakens them, the idea being that a married couple becomes too consumed with its own tiny nation of two to pay much heed to anyone else. In 2006, the sociologists Naomi Gerstel and Natalia Sarkisian published a paper concluding that unlike singles, married couples spend less time keeping in touch with and visiting their friends and extended family, and are less likely to provide them with emotional and practical support.”

“More concretely, there’s what my brother terms our “immigrant bucket brigade”—my peer group’s habit of jumping to the ready to help each other with matters practical and emotional. This isn’t to say that my married friends aren’t as supportive—some of my best friends are married!—it’s just that, with families of their own, they can’t be as available.”

She points out that women can often compensate for lack of men by forming close, inter-familial bonds. African-American single moms do it, and single women who live in the same buildings do it, so why can’t white single moms by choice do it?

“Could we have a modernization of the Mosuo, Ryan mused, with several women and their children living together—perhaps in one of the nation’s many foreclosed and abandoned McMansions—bonding, sharing expenses, having a higher quality of life? “In every society where women have power—whether humans or primates—the key is female bonding,” he added.”

*Cough cough*

Haven’t I been calling for a Spinster C0lony for years now? Okay, year. But let’s face it. Girls rock. We look after each other. We band and bond together. We can do anything together. Chut hameshulash and all that. Yet we make ourselves miserable waiting for a man before starting a family… Okay, I’ll put the soapbox away. And I’ll continue this tomorrow with my final thought.

Part 2 of Link: All the Single Ladies

No Flare Up

It was at the bottom of my bottom drawer – the one with my Chai Lifeline running t-shirt, lifeguard whistle, and assorted activewear. I  tossed it down there long ago when the drawer was designated for things I use infrequently.

It’s a silver matchbox holder and tray. It was given to me in Israel, as an entirely unnecessary thank you gift from the family I helped out on Thursday afternoons. The mother said she knew I didn’t need it yet. But she figured that one day I would be married and lighting candles and I should use it then. She also offered herself as a shidduch reference, by way of expediting the process.

I brought it out for the first time Friday evening. It felt odd. That is, it felt odd because it didn’t feel odd.

If my life was a novel, striking that match would have brought on a wave of self-pity and maybe the bursting into of tears. Instead, I observed that it was really quite pretty, but a little tarnished from sitting in that bottom drawer so long. Then I lit up.

Life is pretty full at the moment. There are intense ups and downs, tons to do at home and at work, and new struggles to overcome. Being single is really the easiest thing to deal with. I mean, I’ve been doing it my whole life. I can do it almost without thinking.

And secretly, in the back of my mind, I pack away remembrance of every high and low, for withdrawal on that day when I have to support a partner going through the same things.

The theory in most workplaces is that the best way to learn is to be thrown in the deep end. This way you know what questions to ask. Instead of “What is buoyancy?” you’re asking “Is there a significant introduction of drag from underwater arm recovery?”

But an important secret to success is to engage in directed study as soon as you hear that you’re going to be working in a pool. You read about water, maybe stick your head in a full sink, read swimmer biographies, and check out some books on hydrodynamics. On that first day you spend less time flailing around and more time trying out all the things you’ve heard about.

So, maybe I’m not getting experience on the ground, but that just gives me more time to do advanced reading and practices.

To paraphrase the unemployed:

I’m not single. I’m in transition.

No Guys Left to Date (or, Robbing the Freezer)

I have noticed a disturbing trend.

Back when I first started dating at age 20, the average age of the guys I was redt was around 27. (The range was an astounding 29 down to a low of 26.)

To my relief, the age dropped gradually, so at one point I was actually dating people approximately my age.

But the slope didn’t flatten out there. Now I’m consistently considering guys who are younger than me (3 suggestions in the past month).


Does anyone else see a pattern?

Add to this the fact that I’m also getting a lot of double-redts. Meaning, when people think of someone perfect for me and it turns out we’ve already dated (3 in the past two weeks).

Have I run through all possible guys already?  The thought is terrifying. Then again, it could be liberating. Maybe it’s time to abandon New York and move to Ethiopia, or some place where there’s a population of men I haven’t yet dated.

I’m Twenty-Four!

I’m going to repeat that because I have a hard time dealing with it.

I’m twenty-four.

I’m twenty-four.

Okay, let’s practice. Ask me how old I am.

Twenty-thr… four. Twenty-four. I’m twenty-four.

OMG! I’m twenty-freakin’four. Pardon my language.

Okay, so I’m a little dazed. I happen to think 24 is an amazing age – in the abstract. But it’s kinda getting… older. I mean, it’s just one year to 25 from there, and that’s a quarter century, and more than a quarter my expected lifespan, and also officially the top of the hill, in terms of shidduch aging.

I’m twenty-four. Holy cow. I remember thinking a neighbor was an old maid at twenty-three. And now I’m older and still single. (She’s married.) . I think I might be entering the freak-out stage of shidduchim.

Cripes. I’m already twenty-four. No wonder my little sister is worried.

Forever 21?

A bar mitzvah in the paternal side of the family this weekend means traveling to the city most occupied by the paternal end of the family. Perhaps the paternal end of the family looked upon this as ripe opportunity to set me up with an eligible local bachelor. Or perhaps sending me an invitation merely reminded them that they’d been meaning to set me up with said bachelor for a while now.

At any rate, they did the shadchan-thing, and I was bcc’d on the email sent to the bachelor-in-question’s father.

The first half of the email was occupied with descriptions of my parents  so laudatory that even a teenager would have been proud to be related. For a brief moment I basked in the glow of such wonderful forebears. Then I eagerly rushed to the paragraphs at the bottom covering myself. Hey, I can always use an ego boost.

After a glowing introduction, which I thoroughly enjoyed (though it sounded vaguely familiar), the paragraph got down to the essentials. For starters, I was 21 years old.

Um, wait?

I’m going to be 23 in August.

I continued reading, and a sneaking suspicion snuck up behind me and started reading over my shoulder. Height as 5 feet 4.5 inches? That decimal point… The list of things I enjoy, that turn of phrase describing my goals in life… Yep, there was no doubt about it: this had all come straight off my shidduch dossier.

Not that I minded. I hadn’t seen this branch of the paternal end in years, so what else would they have to work with? But clearly, if people were going to be using my crib sheet as, well, a crib sheet, I was going to have to do some maintenance.

It’s not that I don’t update the thing. I’ve changed the references as more friends have gotten married and others have drifted away. I’ve updated my education as I acquire it and my employment as it changes. I guess it never occurred to me to scroll to the top and change my stats. I mean, my name hasn’t changed, my height hasn’t changed, and, um, what else is up there again? I guess my age. It changes. But not that often – only every 12 months. Why would I remember to change it?

I resolve to update my dossier next time I’m near it (I conveniently keep it on the family computer hard drive, which is now about 100 miles away). But then I think about the ramifications. I scroll back down the email to the list of my accomplishments. To do it all by the age of 23 – meh. No biggie. But by 21? Now that is impressive.

Hm. Maybe I’ll leave it for now.