Dear Sir: This May Be Why You’re Not Married Yet

It’s very convenient, not to mention traditional, to let your parents take care of your shidduch research for you. However, before you do, you should make sure you’re on the same page as them about what you’re looking for.

I’m copy-pasting this from an email  I got from a friend we’ll call Sfati. Here’s a quick introduction:

A couple of months ago her mother asked Sfati if she knew any single girls who would work for the son of a sister of a friend (exhale) who was working on a Ph.D in medieval Jewish history at NYU, with the goal of becoming a professor. Sfati says, “Gee whiz! I have a friend who just started a PhD in renaissance Jewish history at Columbia. I think she wants to be a professor too! They should have something to talk about.”

“Send her info!” Sfati’s mother encouraged.

So Sfati emails her friend, who responds with a standard shidduch profile containing no content of interest: some basics about her family and schooling, but nothing about who she is and what she’s looking for. Sfati wrote back, asking her friend to compose a more descriptive paragraph, which she then appended to the document and forwarded to her mother, who forwarded it to the mother of the boy.

“She’s a real Hungarian mother,” Sfati’s mother warned her. “Always perfectly put together, you know?”

“That bodes ill,” Sfati frowned. “I mean, my friend isn’t a shlump, but she’s not a dressed-up doll either.”

A couple of weeks later, Sfati received a phone call from this Hungarian Mom. The transcripts go like such:

Mother: So is she funny? Her resume was a little funny.
Me: (Oh, no. So much for my great idea.) No–her resume was a standard resume and I asked her for more information–I put that on there.
Mother: But she wrote it, right?
Me: Yes.
Mother: Cause my son would think it’s a little funny. [Note her son does not appear to have read it.] Is she funny?
Me: No, she’s not funny. I mean, she is very intelligent. She’s doing her PhD in History, which is not something most Bais Yaakov girls from Boro Park do, so she’s obviously very intelligent, but no, she’s not funny.
Mother: Ok. Is she Litvish? Because I get the impression from her resume that her family is Litvish, and that’s not going to work. We’re Chassidish. I mean, my son is not going to wear a shtreimel or anything, but he’s going to wear a bekeshe or something.
Me: (don’t think there will be much of a difference between your families no matter what what you wear) I actually don’t know. I never saw her father or brothers.
Mother: Ok. Sometimes people who are very smart, they kind of don’t have friends. I mean, my son is very smart, but he–did she fit in, did she have friends?
Me: Yes, definitely. I was part of her chevra (deliberately using a frum word to be establish myself as part of her in-group, as much as I can be while living in Overland Park, KS). She had a lot of friends.
Mother: Does she have good middos?
Me: Yes. She is very smart, so she understands people, and can be sensitive to their feelings.
Mother: Ok. How does she look?
Me: She has dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes, big eyes…
Mother: Is she thin or is she chubby?
Me: (she is chubby but somehow I don’t think this is a good thing to say) She’s not thin but she’s not chubby either.
Mother: Is she big?
Me: Well, she’s not big. I don’t know exactly how tall she is–
Mother: She’s 5’3, it says so on her resume.
Me: Ok. Well, she’s not big–
Mother: So she’s full.
Me: Yes, she’s full.
Mother: (with a tone of finality) Well, that won’t work.  My son, he never asks if the girl is beautiful or what she looks like, but he needs someone who is skinny. He’s very skinny, my son.
Me: Oh. Well–do you want to know more about her, just in case?
Mother: What I would really love to do is see a picture of her.
Me: (Hoping this won’t be another strike) Well, she’s on Facebook.
Mother: Oh, really? (thankfully, doesn’t seem to be bothered) Ok, under her name?
Me: Yes. Do you have any more questions?
Mother: Does she have a stable family?
Me: Well, I never really went over to her house. I met her mother once and she seemed very nice, and she herself is very emotionally stable.
Mother: Ok. Well, thank you. I’ll look at her picture on Facebook. Thank you.
Me: Thank you, bye.



Conversation on the Couch

Good4: I wish I could set you up with Single Dude!

Me: Why?

Good4: Well he’s perfect for you. He’s studying architecture, he’s gingy, and he’s geeky and a little awkward in a cute way.

Me: Sounds right up my alley. Why can’t you set us up?

Good4: Well, he’s only a year older than me.

Me: So why don’t you go out with him?

Good4: Well, he’s in college, he’s a redhead, and he’s geeky and awkward.

Me: Oh.

What Most of My ‘Suggestions’ Sound Like

Don’t you love the way people always have the perfect guy for you… and don’t know a thing about him? I sometimes feel like certain people just automatically think “smart, offbeat – hey, let’s set him up with Bad4!” That might be enough for them, but it’s not really enough for me.

Person: I have a guy for you, Bad4.

Me: So tell me about him.

P: Well, he’s really smart.

Me: Really. How?

Now, I ask this because experience has taught me that “really smart” can be roughly translated as “ability to talk about things I don’t understand.” The exact smartness level indicated is then a relative variable dependent upon the knowledge base of the speaker. For the average special ed teacher, for example, “smart” can mean “he took Intro to Physics and won’t let anybody forget it.”

P: At the bar mitzvah where he met my brother, he was talking about how the band could save money by turning the vibrations from their music into electricity.

M: Hm.

I say “Hm” because I’m not exactly impressed yet. What kind of obsessive geek subjects a captive audience to his hair-brained electricity-saving scheme? And if he were really smart, he would have spent the bar mitzvah sketching the final blueprint on a napkin and avoiding red wine so his shirt would still be white for his meeting with the venture capitalists the next day.

The truth is, I’m sorry to say, too many people with science and math degrees are just big-mouthed show-offs. I’ve heard solid C-students brag about impressing girls at the bar by telling them that their glass of beer is really just a triple integral. If these girls had taken the multivariable calculus course they’d know that this brilliant line about beer glasses is the most basic piece of information you can come out with – liking “cells are the building blocks of life” from bio class.  But they haven’t, so they think these guys are uber-clever.

P: (sees I’m unimpressed) He’s getting a PhD at Cooper Union.

Me: Hm!

On the one hand, “Cooper Union” is a pretty decent indication of smartness. On the other…

Me: Cooper doesn’t have a PhD program.

P: Well, he’s doing something advanced in anthropology there.

Uh oh.

Me: They don’t have an anthropology department.

P: Well, it’s something like that. I’ll find out for you. So do you want to go out with him?

Me: Um… Well… you haven’t really told me anything about him.

P: Well, what else would you want to know?

Me: Is he a mentch? Does he learn? What does he want to be when he grows up? Where’s he from?

P: Oh, I’m not sure. But that’s research stuff – you can find out after he’s looked into you.

Me: Then what exactly are you asking me here? Would I be willing to consider a guy who is smart and who may or may not be pursuing an advanced degree possibly in anthropology or else in Cooper Union? Yes. I’d also consider a guy of average intelligence pursuing a degree in advanced vocal arts at the Julliard School. That’s not make-it-or-break-it information.

P: Okay. I’ll get back to you then.

P is never heard from again. Possibly it’s because I’m being a difficult, unreasonable single. Or maybe she couldn’t find him again.

Question of the Weekend

Flint and Sam go out

Meteorologist Sam Sparks and Inventor Flint Lockwood on a date (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Sony Pictures Animation.)

“People don’t set up accountants with accountants. They don’t set up teachers with teachers or PTs with PTs. So why do they think they have to set up engineers with engineers?”

~ MF #1

Why Single People Should Learn Sign Language

Ah, weddings. Don’t we all love weddings? I love friends’ weddings, anyway. Relatives weddings are another story. Not that I’m not happy for the couple and all that, but there’s always that double check on your appearance to make sure you’re not going to embarrass the nuclear family in the presence of the extended family. “Oh no you’re not wearing that little black suit. Wear the other little black suit.”

As a single person, it gets worse. Because not only do you have to worry about offending the family eyes, but there are also those other people who you must see, and while you’re at it, must impress. In other words:“Before you walk out the door let me see if you’re presentable because I hear there’s a shadchan at table 29, and table 32 is going to have the mother of someone who was mentioned as a potential match, and why aren’t you wearing a necklace?”

Because I never remember a blasted necklace. Last time I wore a necklace to a wedding, a friend fainted from the shock and they had to bring her around with water. Her makeup smeared, and I decided I wasn’t going to do that again—too much fallout. But seriously, I’m not trying to antagonize anyone. I forgot.

Anyway, I shrugged off the “shadchan at table 29 business” this wedding, because the shadchanim who were supposed to be at Blushing Bride’s vort never materialized. I went confidently and benecklaced.

I guess I underestimated how much my parents had cranked up the Marry Off Bad4 project. Or else it was the fact that my aunt, finally disposed of her own young old maid, decided to do something on behalf of my mother’s. So she actually briefed the shadchan on table 29 and told the mother on 32 to look out for me.

Luckily, we arrived just in time for the chupah, so the only embarrassment I had to suffer was failing to recognize a great aunt I’d only met twice in my life 3 years ago. Question: when someone asks “Do you know who I am?” and you suspect you do but aren’t sure, is it better to hazard a guess and risk being wrong, or should you just say “no clue”?

Anyway, after the chupah I chatted up all my cousins for a polite amount of time, and then we went off to find the sinks. Naturally, it was on my way back in after washing that my mother caught my eye and started beckoning. I’m sure I made an incredible impression on the Woman in Black by just shaking my head and continuing to my table. But I came back a couple of minutes later, being a good and obedient daughter. They were positioned directly behind the band, which was playing at decibels to match the ritzyness of the wedding, which was considerable.


My mother didn’t even notice that I was trying to communicate with her. But being used to raising her voice to command the attention of rioting children, she was better able to convey to me, “THIS IS MRS. MADEASHIDDUCH! SHE MADE SOMEONE OR ANOTHER’S SHIDDUCH! I WANT YOU TO MEET HER!”

I smile politely at Mrs. Madeashidduch, being otherwise struck dumb. Not because I was awed by the fact that she’d successfully matched two people up, or even that I wasn’t sure what to say next, but simply because when you know a person is only going to catch every third word that you say, you have to choose your words carefully. In the end, I said nothing, letting my mother shriek about how astoundingly wantable I was. (Which is why, naturally, she’s so eager to get rid of me.)

I finally escaped back to my table, but my mother finds me there; she hasn’t forgotten the shadchan at table 29. I sigh and follow her to table 29.

“SO WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?” asks the table 29 shadchan.

“SOMEPLACE QUIET ENOUGH TO TALK!” I respond, lungs beginning to ache. She seems to agree, though, and we move off to the corner farthest from the band where we can talk at only 2/3 capacity.

So what are you looking for?” she asks again.

These bands have got to get quieter. I’m willing to bet that most Orthodox Jews lose more hearing between the ages of 18 and 25 and 45 and 55 then at any other point in their lives, just from attending weddings. I was rather disturbed to find that I couldn’t hear myself bentch unless I shouted. I kept waiting, as I bellowed through Nodeh Lichah, for the music to stop abruptly and me to be left shouting into the silence like in that practical joke 5th graders adore so much. I was also horrified by the ringing audible in my ears every time I stepped more than fifty feet away from the dance floor. But most awful is the way the music disrupts the brisk matchmaking business going on along the sidelines, as Women in Black discuss and talk to Girls in Black. Some consideration, please! We’re trying to get married—do you mind?

All this would be less of a problem if singles and shadchanim all knew Sign Language. We could all go deaf without knowing it, and still be able to ask and answer, “So, what are you looking for?”

If anyone knows how to sign “What are you looking for?” please let me know. And if there are signs for “earner, learner, learner-earner, earner-learner,” please let me know too. I’d like to collaborate on a YouTube video for the edification of the frum populace. With all the shidduch initiatives going on, I think this is one worth pursuing. Girls are there, shadchanim are there, why not bring them together in productive communication, instead of this screaming inefficiency? Post below if you would like to participate.