NYC Taxi Driver Tells It Straight

Why do aidel maidels need to be so tznius? The mashal is often given to a precious diamond, which is kept hidden away in a safe, not exposed where anyone can see or steal it.

In the opening anecdote of Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt’s latest article, a NYC taxi driver explains the problem with this comparison:

 

We usually don’t take a car,” the yeshiva boy says to the driver, an older Irish man with a hearty laugh and a dapper straw hat. “But the lady was inappropriately attired (he winks at his date), in her heels I mean, so we had to — “

The yeshiva boy’s date cuts him off and leans forward to the driver, deciding to turn her frustrations into a joke: “Sir, he doesn’t really care about the heels. It’s my actual choice of attire that he finds inappropriate. My skirts are too short, it makes him nervous, he won’t even call me by my name, you know how religious boys are…”

The driver turns the corner. “That’s the problem with religion, it’s sexist,” he says, looking at her in his mirror. “I know because my parents were religious Catholics. It’s all a bunch of sexist garbage.”

The boy and girl laugh nervously over the profanity, and the girl says slowly, “Well, I don’t think religion itself is sexist, it’s just that chauvinists still exist…” She casts the boy a look.

The boy turns back to the driver: “But don’t you agree, sir, that if you have the most precious diamond in the world, you keep it wrapped up? You don’t take it to the streets to show the entire world?”

The girl gasps silently — she is taken backwards in time, back to the apologetics they taught in 7th grade, again and again, bas melech, kol kvoda pnima, a princess’s honor is all inside, a divine jewel to be kept hidden…

But before she can respond, the driver presses the brakes. He turns around and faces the yeshiva boy, and says slowly, his voice shaking with rage: “Listen to me, boy. This is not an object you’re talking about. This is a living, breathing human being.”

 

What he is saying is: when you lock someone away like a diamond, you are treating them like property, not a person.

This is how objectification works:  By preventing other humans from meeting your “diamond,” you prevent other humans from acknowledging their humanity. The other humans only know about them from descriptions. This, essentially, turns them into objects defined by their description.

Not making sense? I’ll be less abstract:

If men learn about women strictly from a photo proffered by a shadchan, then they will accept and reject women based on the simplest algorithm: appearances. Which objectifies women. So, by keeping women hidden from men, you objectify them. You do not protect them.

I can’t believe I blogged about shidduchim for seven years and never realized this.

But there you go: that is the root problem. The reason why shidduch dating is so offensive.

There’s another, similar, point to be made about sexualization. Arguably, there is nothing overtly (or possibly even covertly) sexual about a woman’s knees. However, if a gentleman glances at your knees, blushes, looks away, and refuses to look at you anymore, then your knees have just been sexualized. And you have just been turned into an object. A sexual object. Something that can’t be looked at without creating sexual thoughts, because everything about you — and especially your knobbly knees — are sexual.

In the opening story, the boy (and yes, he’s a boy not a man or even a guy) decided that Avital’s skirt was too short to be seen in public. He begins making decisions for her about how she ought to appear in public, on the theory that she’s not a person, she’s a diamond. Bam! Objectified! Sexualized!

So you see why Avital was a little upset.

By the way, I’m awed by her presence of mind and her guts in telling that smug bochur how it is. She’s my new rebbe. I’m a total fan. Go read her article.

Also, thank you NYC for having awesome taxicab drivers.

 

 

Single Due to Demographic Genetics

Back in my younger days, I once came across a dating profile where the guy put “slim” first on his list of “looking for.” It was also underlined. I immediately threw it out. In the high-minded idealism of youth I disdained such blatant shallowness, such unabashed superficiality, such emphasis on the thin cosmetic veneer of our physical interface with the world.

Also, I was fairly certain I wasn’t pretty enough for someone like that.

Back in said youth, it was rare to come across a profile where physical traits were mentioned, let alone emphasized. Yes, we all know why people ask for pictures. And sure, I heard about guys who added an addendum for the shadchan detailing their preferences. Oh the Shabbos afternoons, comforting the girls who accidentally saw the “for the shadchan only” entry on a SYAS profile! “He wants a buxom wife, only he didn’t say it quite so nicely,” or “He requested ‘plump and proud.’ Seriously?! I’m not proud—I’m on a diet!”  But none of these were purposely stated to the female party herself.

Recently, as I date older and older guys, I’ve noticed a shift. Now I get profiles where “Looking for” begins with the usual “Kind, caring, sweet, nurturing” but then moves on to “petite blond with blue eyes, who I can carry across the threshold of our first apartment. Giggling a must.”

Actually, the last profile I got skipped the “kind, caring, sweet, nurturing” and went straight to “pretty, well-dressed, outgoing, shorter than me.”

Far from offensive, I find these profiles to be a relief. Usually I give anyone who sounds reasonable a fair shot. But thanks to these profiles, I now know that I don’t have a fair shot. We can debate how sweet I am, but factually I am not blond, not petite, not outgoing, and I have never in my life giggled.

So I quickly return an email to the would-be matchmaker explaining that while I am shorter than the  5’6” gentleman, I haven’t got a single pair of dress shoes with heels less than 2” high. Thanks for thinking of me, but I guess not this time.

People will protest that I’m aiding and abetting in a  typical older-single tactic: eliminating options rather than being open  to them. “If everything else is right, he won’t mind that you have bouncy hair instead of swingy hair.” After all, everyone’s hair looks the same after the wedding anyway. You can get a blond sheitel, blue contacts, wear ballet flats, and learn to giggle. If everything else is right.

First off, it’s unlikely that everything else will be right. And you’ll never be given a chance to find out if you don’t pass the Looks Test.

And let’s not downgrade the importance of that test!

Maybe the guy really has issues with brunettes. They just look so much smarter and more bookish than blonds. Have you ever seen a blond librarian? And what color is the hair of all the evil women in the movies? Hm? Dark, maybe?  And let’s not start with redheads. Oy vey. Since when is red a Jewish hair color? It’s downright prust. And it smacks of intermarriage. Where do you think Dovid Hamelech got his hair color from? I bet you it wasn’t the Jewish side of the family.

Maybe curly hair horrifies him. Why can’t it just go straight? Pick a direction and go with it! None of this zigging and zagging like a target dodging potshots. There’s something inherently dishonest about curly hair. Have you ever seen a truly aidel maidel with kinky locks? Do you know what“kinky” is a synonym for? Q.E.D.

Brown eyes are boring. Grey are depressing. Green are weird. And hazel eyes? What the heck are hazel eyes anyway? That’s just another way of saying you’ve never been decisive about your eye color. If you can’t decide something as simple as that, how are you ever going to choose a baby name?  Stick with blue: it’s heavenly. It’s pure. It’s good and right and true. And you get a little dizzy gazing into blue eyes. That’s a good thing.

Or maybe none of the above apply. Maybe these guys just aren’t attracted to anyone they can’t keep in the china cabinet. It’s a handicap, and you should pity them not judge them. You think they want to be single? It’s not easy being so limited!

Anyhow, the way I figure it, if a guy puts that requirement in black and white on his profile, he wants the girl to see it and he wants her to self-eliminate. He’s being kind, saving everyone a lot of wasted time and money getting together, having a pleasant time, and then racking their brains to come up with a plausible reason to break up so they can get back to blissfully date-free Sundays.

Or maybe I’m just looking for ways to eliminate options rather than be open to them.  Am I getting to be one of those older singles?  Maybe, under “Looking for” on my profile I should put “Six-foot tall, broad-shouldered man with commanding but gentle personality, a uniform, and a secret second job as a spy.” It will help drive away the riffraff. And then I can enjoy those blissful, date-free Sundays.

Objectification of Me

I’ve written a large amount about the business of requesting photos of one’s potential date.

(Say Shidduch! and A Glance at Looks and Visual Incentive and Visually Unreasonable.)

And why not? It comes up on a regular basis. Like just last week. My mother’s sister’s friend has a neighbor who knows a guy who really seems my type, but he wants a photo.

“Then we want one too,” my mother gave the rote response.

“Well, I don’t have any of him, and I’ve never seen him, but I heard he was written up in the Washington Post; I’m sure you could get that photo.”

Odd how she doesn’t hesitate to ask for my photo (which is readily googlable) but tries sending us to a long-lost newspaper when we return the request.

It occurred to me that even if we swapped photos and he sounded interesting and everything was in order – I still didn’t want to go out with him.

And no, it’s not because I think he’s a shallow jerk, though I admit that his character will be forever tarnished by his request. It’s because a casual, fun date has just been turned into a beauty pageant.

It’s like this:

We all know that looks count on a date, which is why we put in our best efforts to look less scruffy for the occasion. But once we’re done primping, shaving, mascara-ing, and tweezing our nose hairs (not all the same person), we get on the with evening. (At least I do.) We no longer worry if our eyebrows are in line. We just get to know the other person.

But when a guy asks for a photo he’s saying that not just anyone will do. There’s a baseline beauty requirement you must meet to avoid wasting his precious time. So you send the most stunning photo of you ever taken and lo! he looks and sees that it is good.

So you go out.

And then what? You’re super-worried. Because you know that in real life, away from a professional makeup artist and the flattering lights of a professional photographer, you’re just not drop-dead gorgeous. And you know he’s looking at you and going “Where’s the girl from the photo?” So you’re super-self-conscious, and this makes you dumber. By the end of the evening not only have you failed to be eye candy, but you’re also a ditz. Unless he’s looking for a bimbo, you’ll probably never see him again.

And then, to be fair: I’d probably be looking at him the same way. “This is the dude who thinks he can request a photo beforehand? Phew – it’s amazing there’s enough room in this car for me and his ego and his hairy ears!”

The whole business is one gigantic turnoff. Guys, don’t do it.