Thursday Link: Things Not to Say to a Single Woman

I enjoy it whenever someone reminds the world that being single and female is honestly not the worst thing that can happen, because it’s really not.

Of course you don’t have to say things to insinuate it. I was recently at a classmate’s wedding. You know, the one who officially makes me the 10-percent forever single. I met a truckload of long-lost classmates, all wearing black, all busy working in some sort of therapy (occupation, speech, physical, mental). Somehow a few of us wound up in conversation with an even older (married) woman in black who spoke about her single days, crammed in an attic with other singles, living on leftovers from their dates.

“We had such good food every night, and we didn’t appreciate it,” she sighed. “When you’re single you just don’t appreciate these things.”

I was immediately jealous that her dates were so generous with the food. Mine, although usually employed, rarely spring for dinner. (And I, with the unfeminine ability to devour an entire entree and then peek at the dessert menu, rarely have leftovers to bring home.)

“I appreciate it!” I protested. “Sometimes the food is the best part of the date!

I immediately felt an uncomfortable shift, and when I glanced at my classmates they were gaping, rather. Had I taken the conversation into awkward territory? Had I done the  equivalent of declaring that “I love chemo! You lose so much weight!”?

The conversation broke up after that, although I suppose it would have broken up faster if I’d just nodded and smiled: “Yes, singles don’t appreciate the goodness they have.” 

For the record: We do! At least, I do. I appreciate everything about being single – my parents would say too much. And when a fellow takes me out to eat, I definitely appreciate that too.

It’s always nice to hear someone make singlehood sound like the good old days. It sure beat when they make it sound like a terminal illness. Which brings me to the link: Things you really shouldn’t say to single women. (Link goes to Huffington Post.)


Thursday Link: Neverending Shidduch Stories

A shidduch story that never ends… sounds like mine!

HT to Double-Sh for this link. It brings me back to my school days, where I survived sitting in class mostly by distracting myself with “buzz stories.” A “buzz story” is one in which one storyteller begins, takes the story to a precarious point, and then goes “buzz!” whereupon the next storyteller has to extricate the protagonist from whatever mess he or she has been placed in. In class, obviously, this took the form of passing notes.

I am glad to say that I was never involved in any stories about dating. But that gaping hole in the universe has been filled by a group of ambitious young ladies (I assume they’re young; their “older single” is initially a downy-feathered 23).

The story itself is over here. I got about two pages in, smiling the entire way. It seems surprisingly well-coordinated. The secret to that is the planning thread over here. Hm. We probably should have had something like that in high school. It might have saved some of our tales from the graveyard of Ludicrous.

Anyway, hop on over and take a look-see. Let me know what happens if you get beyond 2 pages. 

Back of the Class

I am very lucky: my high school class has an excellent archivist. So when there was a sudden and unexpected flurry of engagements this year, I was able to request the data.

Here’s what I wanted to know: how many of us are still single?

There were 66 students in my graduating high school class. Of those, 59 are married or engaged. For those who don’t care to reach for their calculator, that’s 89%. Which is to say, 10.6% are still single.

Well, we all know the 10% statistic. So, as a member of the 10% of my high school class, I think I can officially give up.

Yes, I know, it’s a statistic, not a rule. Of course it’s not a rule! I have a friend who is the last in her class still single. Although, granted, at a class size of 15, that may not be a significant variance from 10%. I don’t know – I haven’t got the time to figure it out.

It should probably be disheartening to think that I’m now a statistic. But the truth is, everyone’s a statistic. If you’re not in the 10% single then you’re in the 90% married. Honestly, what’s the difference? We can all be distilled into numbers one way or another.

So I kept adding columns to my spreadsheet. This time I was curious about rate of marriage. Is it sort of bell-shaped, or is there a tail? That’s really what set off my quest in the first place.

And so, I present to you, a case study of a Bais Yaakov High School, marriage rate, sample size 66.
Marriage Histogram


As you can see, there’s a slow start, as most of the sample was in Israel, and had a delayed start entering the marriage pool. But those who stayed in New York City lost no time at all in engaging themselves to the local male populace.

Once the Israel-seminarians returned, they too threw themselves into the marriage market, marrying an astonishing 18 of themselves off in the first year alone! This rapid rate of pairing slowed only marginally for the next two years, before dropping precipitously.  This may be due to the fact that a grand total of 71% of them were now paired off and busily reproducing themselves. The remaining 29% were slower and more circumspect. However, eventually another 20% of them also found a mate. These pairings were slower, more gradual, and illustrate undramatically on the histogram above.

You may be wondering: yes, there is a rapid marriage rate. But what about the divorce rate?

Well, I reassure you, the class currently stands at zero divorces, which is a rate of 0%.

The Shidduch Threat (1 of 2)

A few weeks ago I came across an article by a speaker who gave a seminar on basic Jewish beliefs at a Bais Yaakov. She received enthusiastic and excellent questions from the students.

Curious, she asked them why they had never asked their regular teachers these questions. The students glanced at each other and said, “Well, those teachers get calls about shidduchim. We don’t want them to think that we have emunah issues.”

The article went on to do some lamenting, but I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I was transported back to my high school days.

Are these students paranoid? Or are their fears well founded?

Actually, their fears might be planted.

Like tweenage babysitters threatening their charges with monsters if they get out of bed, some teachers threaten their students with bad shidduch references for similar misdemeanors.

I will begin this narrative by explaining that I was never a teacher’s student. I’m not an auditory learner and I struggle with audiobooks, meetings, and lectures. In fact, I don’t even bother attending shiurim anymore, as I cannot seem to sit and listen with any manner of grace. This has ruined my frum cred in the eyes of the pious, but I consider it more respectful to the speaker.

Another problem I had in high school was the tendency of teachers to repeat everything three times. I learned that I could fall into a consciousness cycle wherein I paid attention for 20 out of every 60 seconds and still catch everything of importance.

The problem then became: what to do with the other 40 seconds?

Well, my default was to cross my arms on my desk, slide them forward, and rest my chin on my forearms. This way my head wasn’t in the objectionable Napping Position, but it was close enough to be comfortable.

“I feel sorry for your teachers,” my father interrupted a dvar Torah once to inform me, after I slid into position. “You look so painfully bored.”

It always did seem to make my teachers unhappy. I never really understood why. I got great grades on tests and I could usually parrot back whatever they’d been talking about when they called on me unexpectedly. What more could they want?

“Active engagement,” one teacher informed me after her first test. She explained that my grades made my disengagement inexcusable. Apparently, if you’re a poor student it’s okay to slouch and not take notes. But if you’re a good student you’re expected to sit straight and alert, scribble non-stop, and wave your hand in the air like you’re auditioning for the part of Hermione Granger. This teacher tried to engage me in standard bais yaakov style: by ordering me to be engaged.

With the help of some friends, I tried to simulate the appearance of engagement. That is: we filled the other 40 seconds with busy scribbling: epistolary novelettes, underground class magazines, cryptography, and a comic strip series about a group of superhero students who fought to rid the world of tyrannical, narrow-minded, and unreasonable educators. Except with the most eagle-eyed teachers, it seemed to help.

Part 2 tomorrow

Protean Me

I recently ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since high school. The only way I recognized her was from her voice. She’d gotten married, changed her hair, her weight, her dress… Granted, I had almost never seen her out of a ponytail and uniform before, but seriously, this was drastic change.

It got me thinking: how much had I changed since high school?

And it’s hard to think of change without trying to categorize it: good change, or bad change? The idea is that if you identify bad change you can attempt to reverse it.

But there I ran into a problem. So much of what goes for “good” or “bad” is based in something very ephemeral. A while ago BoSD posted about meeting a high school teacher in the grocery. She knew the teacher would disapprove of her mascara, but she’d been ordered to never leave the house without it by a woman she knows. So basically, in high school, eye makeup is the invention of the devil, but for women of marriageable age it’s one of life’s necessities. Is wearing it bad or good or neutral? This subjective nature of rightness baffled me.

There was another thing that stymied me. Namely, of the ways that I appear different than in high school, how many are actual changes, and how much is giving up on changing? In high school they operate very much on a “chitzonius mi’oreres es hapenimiyus” theory. It mostly didn’t work for me. I tried many things in high school based on the promise that they would eventually cease to be objectionable, and they mostly fell by the wayside after graduation when I discovered that they were as objectionable as ever. So, did I change, or did I just cease to try to change?

So I gave up on trying to quantify my personal evolution. Maybe I should stick with the standard-issue cheshbon hanefesh and see if I’m happy with who I am now, without comparing to someone I may have once been.