Please Don’t Engage Me

Sorry ‘bout being late today. It’s been a busy week. I usually have some posts “in the galleys” for busy weeks, but last week was busy too. And don’t you dare look at me like that; it’s term paper season. Being “busy” doesn’t always mean being “busy.” No, I am not on the brink of engagement.

It seems like a “girl” in shidduchim can’t make any changes to her routine or appearance without being accused of serious dating. A friend of mine told me that at her friend’s l’chaim, someone said, “I thought there was something going on… she’s lost so much weight!” To which friend replied, “Nice try, but she lost half of it before she met him.”

At the beginning of last year I had a job on Mondays and Wednesdays, 9-5. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Touro College days, I dressed down, in a way that was probably bad for shidduchim. Then, about halfway through the year I switched to a job that had morning hours, Monday through Thursday. And suddenly I was showing up in Touro College dressed up instead of down. It is absolutely disgusting how many people said things along the lines of, “Is there something I should know about?” or otherwise hinted that it was just a matter of time before they heard from me at a strange hour of the night. Irritated, I borrowed a costume jewelry bracelet that was silver and set with a few dozen rhinestone diamonds, which, if you don’t know, is the symbol of engagement among local young ladies. It raised a few eyebrows and made a few people, in their own words, “wonder,” but nobody congratulated me. Oh well.

Then there was the time I briefly took up a tutoring job and had to get home at certain hours and be unavailable shortly after. “No it is not for a date,” I had to specify, because otherwise the rumor-mill would have my wedding date settled on by the end of the week.

Many people figure they can plot dating patterns based on frequency of “doing” hair, niceness of dress, new additions of clothing to the wardrobe, and lack of availability in the evening. When these patterns persist or increase over time, they believe they can confidently expect an engagement. Unfortunately, these are all rather superficial signs, and easily read into when there’s nothing to read.

Commenter mickey mouse has her own methodology for predicting engagements. She points out that after a certain period of dating, you begin to hear with greater frequency things like “I was discussing that with someone and…” or “Somebody told me…”

I have learned the hard way that you never ever ask “Who told you that?” no matter how outrageous it is. Not unless you want to watch a friend blush, squirm, and eventually, lie. (Because “Oh I don’t remember I heard it somewhere” is still a lie.)

But, says mickey mouse, you know an engagement is impending when the pattern changes to “we.” Meaning, “We were just discussing that yesterday!” More subtle than dress patterns, and possibly more accurate; we should probably do a serious study to test it out (and by “we” I mean the general population involved with dating couples, and not me and some significant male).

Considering how briefly I think before I speak, the “we” pattern will probably be a fair predictor for me, so please don’t monitor my clothing or availability because you are just going to be disappointed. And someone agrees with me.

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It’s Officially Unofficial!

Another friend has officially joined the dark side, and Bad4 is officially confused about the official part of it.

I’ve never understood this “not officially engaged until tomorrow night” business. Either you’re engaged or you’re not. If he proposed and you accepted, then you’re engaged. If he didn’t propose and you didn’t accept, then you’re not. And if he didn’t propose but you both know he’s going to propose and that you’re going to accept, that makes you, apparently, unofficially engaged, and also, in my opinion, quite weird. Why not get it over with already?

How do you end up in that sort of situation anyway? He calls up and says, “I’m going to propose tomorrow at 4 pm,” and if she doesn’t say, “I’m going to refuse you tomorrow at 4 pm” then they go ahead and tell everyone that they’re “getting engaged”? But you can’t say mazal tov yet, because they’re not engaged. So what’s the point? I guess so you can be parked outside their house when you get the call on your cell phone, “I’m engaged!” so you can run in to their l’chaim shrieking, “Ohmigoshohmogosh! You’re engaged?!!? Mazal tov! When did it happen? I had no idea!”

I used to not understand this “unofficial” business at all, but I think I have a handle on it now. I’ve been getting a lot of this “when you get engaged, you better tell me” business. Ironically, the more you tell people that you’re not getting engaged, the more firmly they believe that you’re a hop skip jump from a diamond ring, and the more urgently they press upon you the importance of letting them know ASAP – preferably before it happens. In fact, while trying to notify people that Friend #7 is now “officially” engaged, I had at least two conversations that went roughly like this:

Me: Guess who’s got herself engaged?

Her: You?

Me: No! Would I go and do something like that? Friend #7 is engaged to Guy #7 from Location #7! How cool is that?

So when I run down the list of people who absolutely must know the minute I get engaged, it makes me want to crawl into bed and not go out. First there’s your parents, because heaven knows they’ve been waiting long enough for the opportunity to hang up the phone, slap each other five, and go, “Ye-ah! Finally she’s someone else’s problem!” Then there’s your grandparents because you can’t have them find out second hand – that’s just rude. And any siblings who are married need to be informed as well.

Then either you or your parents need to call the aunts and uncles who would be insulted to find out from anyone else, even though you know they’re going to wrinkled their foreheads and wonder, “Someone proposed to her? Well, every pot has a lid. Can’t wait to meet this guy.” But before them come your close friends who you really want to tell because you’ve been dying to tell them about this super-awesome guy you’ve been dating for weeks, but couldn’t. And then there are the good friends who absolutely cannot find out from OnlySimchas first, or you can kiss your bridal shower goodbye. And a handful of friends you need to call because they’d want to hear it from you, for some reason. In summary, getting engaged sounds like a headache of obligations.

This “unofficial” engagement takes care of all that. The first tiers of people to find out are of course the parents and grandparents. They surreptitiously spread the information to immediate relatives so they can be strategically nearby when it becomes “official.” Meanwhile, since no secret stays a secret once more than one person knows it, it somehow gets leaked to a single loudmouth friend. Because it’s a leak, nobody feels insulted that they weren’t told directly, because of course no friends are being told directly, because it isn’t official. And of course they only spread it among the upper tier of friends, who are all primed to be available the minute you call them. But you don’t need to call them. Because along with the information that you’re “unofficially engaged” comes the release time for the official engagement. As soon as the clock strikes, your name is on OnlySimchas and friends are calling each other, and everyone understands that they’re not hearing second-hand because nobody has yet heard first hand. So when you finally get around to calling, nobody minds that you’re the fifth person to tell them that you’re engaged. How efficient is that?

It works very well, but it’s still silly. If and when I get proposed to, I’m going to give my answer and go home and go to bed. My parents will sleep better if I don’t tell them until the next morning, and I can do all my phone-calling over a leisure breakfast. Nobody will be insulted because everyone will be insulted. It’ll work great! I think.