Dating Boys, Part 2 of 2: Warning Signs

Continued from Dating Boys, part 1 of 2: How to be a Boy

I go out with a lot of nerdy types. I also go out with a lot of boys. There is a direct correlation here. Nerdy people are often a little detached from reality and not exactly on top of social standards. I like to think that I’m tolerant and understanding. I have, upon occasion, firmly told a fellow that I want him to plan the date. But usually all that does is treat a single symptom. If you are a nerd of this type or know one, please read these two posts carefully. Unless, of course, you actually do want to marry a virago, in which case, keep doing what you’re doing, and please add your preference to your shidduch profile. It will save the rest of us the frustration of going out with you.

Like I said, I’ve gone out with a number of guys who exhibited these symptoms. But it wasn’t until recently that I had the little revelation that brought me to the “Mama’s Boy” classification. I had that epiphany on a slushy street corner in Brooklyn, snow drifting down gently, my toes soggy and numb, listening to my date explain why we shouldn’t go into the Starbucks two feet away from us.

Maybe it was my fault. When he’d asked where to go, I’d given my standard suggestion of a walk in the park. But since it was winter, I suggested we end the walk someplace where we could find a hot drink. I thought I had skillfully left him an opening to take charge of the date again by finding some cute boutique coffee shop for us.

Just in case, though, I googled up some local Starbucks shops.

Prospect Park was beautiful in snow drifts and flurries. I tried not to let it bother me that he let me choose the direction at every fork. It seemed to be because he had little interest in, well, anything. But maybe he was just being courteous. Conversation was pleasant, but my feet were soon frigid. I was wearing my pretty boots instead of my warm ones.

I suggested we head someplace warm, and he obligingly followed as I chose a fork that went to a park exit. There I stopped. He stopped.

“Where to?” I asked.

“Dunno,” he answered. Sparing you the back and forth: he hadn’t looked up any local coffee shops. Forget the boutique shop, he didn’t even know where the nearest Starbucks was. Luckily, I did. I didn’t want to rub in my lack of faith in him, though, so I just pointed in a direction that I knew would prove fruitful and said, “Why don’t we walk that way and see what we find?”

Wouldn’t you know, we came across a Starbucks in only a few blocks. I waited for him to suggest we go inside.

He didn’t.

My toes were sending Mayday signals that were increasingly urgent. I said, “Shall we go in?”

He peered in the window. “The line is too long.”

He was right. Every single person in Brooklyn had chosen to drop into this particular Starbucks on this particular afternoon. The line was at least a half-hour long, probably longer. But that wasn’t the point.

“My feet are cold,” I reminded him.

“Let’s walk a little further and see if there’s another,” he suggested.

His first original suggestion for the date, and it was wrong. I told my toes to hang in there. There was another Starbucks six blocks down. Their response was faint and pitiful, but they faithfully kicked into gear again.

And that was when all my illusions about him came crashing down.

You see, I’d heard wonderful things about him before we went out. About his dedication to the old lady across the street. His packaging food for Tomchei Shabbos. His helping Russian immigrant children with their Hebrew studies.

But standing out there on the slushy street corner, my toes crystallizing in my thin (but pretty!) boots, I realized that he hadn’t done any of these things. He had yet to demonstrate the thoughtfulness and initiative it would take to dream up even part of one of them. It must have been his mother. I could imagine her, a bustling woman who told her boy to do nice things like clear the table after a kiddush, who he promptly obeyed.

Well, she could keep him.


Dating Boys, Part 1 of 2: How to be a Boy

There are two types of women who might be considered “aggressive.” Well, maybe more than two, but this isn’t about the taxonomy of the female genus. So let’s stick with a two-species model.

The first is a genuinely bossy woman. She is convinced that she knows the best way to do everything, and she is not shy about telling – or even enforcing – her opinion on others.

Then there’s an ambitious woman. She has a strong drive to achieve, and enjoys the feeling of accomplishment it gives her. But, something I’ve noticed: many of these women are nowhere near as aggressive in their personal lives, and can be quite passive when away from their job, hobby, or academic environs.

I was thinking about this because a specimen 2 type (S2T) called me up the other day rather distraught. She’d had a phone call with a guy, which was unusual in her Brooklyn-Bais Yaakov circles, but no matter.

After the introductory platitudes, the conversation went something like this:

Him: So, where are we going?

Her: I don’t know, what are the choices?

Him: I don’t know, I’m not from around here.

Her: Well what did you have in mind?

Him: Oh, I don’t know. Whatever you want.

Her: So, like… a lounge in Manhattan would be fine?

Him: Will you meet me there or do we go by train?

Her: Wait, aren’t you going to pick me up?

Him: Yes. Sure I could.

Her: So we’ll drive.

Him: I don’t have a car.

Her: What about borrowing?

Him: I don’t drive.

Her: You don’t drive?

Him: I don’t have a driver’s license.

Her: Really? Are you getting one?

Him: No. Why?

Her: Because, well. Um.

This conversation struck her as wrong on several levels. For those who don’t instinctively understand why, I’ll go into now in detail.

But first, a quick statement about the pre-date phone call. As a bais Yaakov maidel, the phone call is not mandatory in my circles. I was always very glad of that, because carrying on a telephone conversation with someone I’ve never met strikes me as rather awkward. I have trouble enough with people I know. However, I could respect a guy who wanted to call. I thought it showed confidence and an old-fashioned gentlemanliness – very much something out of the more courteous days of our parents.

Now I realize that all too often, it is directly from the days of our parents. Because sometimes what it means is that a guy is taking orders from his mother. With S2T’s guy, it was pretty obvious that this applied.

Here are his main errors:

1 – Plan the date. Plan. The. Date. You are the guy. You must come with at least one idea for the date. You want to give a girl options? Fine. You want to have backup or hear her feedback? Fine. But plan something. We are not comfortable spending your money without any idea of what your price range is. I regularly threaten that the next guy who pulls this on me is going to wind up paying for my sirloin at Prime Grill. But I never have done that. It would be like taking money from a little boy. A little boy who thinks he’s old enough to date.

So I always suggest a walk in the park. It’s cheap, it’s local, and it’s usually pleasant.

2 – Know the local customs. The average Brooklyn girl needs picking up. Car preferred. Yeah, it’s a large demand to make, but it stems from the same old-fashioned concern. Her parents want to know that she’s in good hands, and they want to see you first so they can give a description to the cops if it turns out she isn’t. If you don’t have a car, borrow. You can rent. You can hail a taxi or hire a driver.

The S2T was flummoxed because in her high-achieving world, one doesn’t tackle a task blind. One learns how to perform in the best manner possible before starting. If she were a guy, she’d get a license just for the sake of dating. Why didn’t he show her that courtesy?

S2T’s question wasn’t “Is this guy a total loser?” To her, that seemed self-evident. She wanted to know if it’s okay to call it off after the phone call. I said I always give a guy a second shot, so my advice would be to work something out with him: walk to a local restaurant or take the train somewhere. He might just be young, naïve. He might improve on acquaintance.

That’s what I tell her, but I know he won’t. Because I’ve gone out with these guys before. They are not men. They are boys. Mama’s boys. They think marriage is swapping one mother for another. They will wind up marrying a Type 1 Specimen who will wipe their noses for them in public, and they will not understand why.

If you want a woman who will respect you, respect her. Date with courtesy.

Continued in Dating Boys, Part 2 of 2: Warning Signs.