When Everyone’s an Expert

People who get within sniffing distance of marriage are notable for their sudden transformation into SMEs (subject matter experts).  It is amazing, really, how only a taste of marriage can turn someone into a fount of information on the subject. Here are some of the courses available through the Marriage Department at TMI U.

The Meaning of Commitment 101

Taught by a newly ringed NEF, the meaning of commitment covers what it means to declare yourself dedicated to someone for life, no matter what. Lectures range between 5 and 15 minutes and may include an earnest entreaty not to be afraid to commit yourself; after all, it’s probably going to work out great for this NEF.

How to Just Take a Leap of Faith – Seminar

Taught by an NEF, this quick disposition covers the meaning of faith, as well as the necessary prerequisites for it. There is brief coverage of the technique of leaping, as well as some evidence provided that leaps of faith pay off. Really. Things turn out fine. They do.

These impromptu speeches by NEFs bother me the least of all the near-marriage lectures, because I know they’re mostly talking to themselves. They’re nervous, and they’re trying to assure themselves that they weren’t stupid, accepting a ring from a stranger in return for a promise to remain dedicated to them for life.

Sometimes I bait them, proposing more and more dire marriage situations, just to watch them brace themselves to remain committed, yea, e’en in such dire straits.

What bugs me more is when people who have very little experience will marriage become experts on the subject. For example:

The Simplicity of Shalom Bayis – Lecture

Presented by an NMF of about three months, this lecture covers how simple shalom bayis is to maintain. All you have to do is listen to the other person and be willing to compromise. Honestly, what’s the big deal?

How Bad Decisions Messed up Someone Else’s Marriage, a Case Study

Presented by an MF of one year, this analysis of the rocky marriage of a 3-year-old couple will dissect poor decisions they made that led to their current situation. The lecturer will detail how she and her still-honeymooning husband would never make dumb mistakes like that.

Just from sitting around in my armchair watching, I suspect it takes a year before a couple really feels comfortable enough to start taking advantage of each other. Then you have another year before they start getting fed up with each other. So you won’t be seeing any cracks until year three, unless the situation is really bad. Oddly, that’s around when MFs stop dispensing the free marriage counseling.

Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m just explaining my own theory (available in lecture series upon request), and why I’d never take serious marriage advice from anyone who hasn’t been doing it for at least five years. Ten preferred.

Otherwise, you might as well purchase my other lecture series:

Why My Kids Are Going to be Fantastic

In this course I will espouse that raising great kids is simple: all you have to do is understand what each child needs and provide it. What’s the big deal? 

I Can Be Annoying Too

Texts I should not have received from MFs:

“I love my husband so much. Don’t you sometimes think you’re missing this?”

“My baby is so beautiful. Don’t you wish you had one?”

“That man will buy me anything – the whole world if I let him.”

Texts I will not send:

“Girls night out. Didn’t get back ’til 2. So. Much. Fun!”

“Ice cream for dinner. Just didn’t feel like cooking, you know?”

“Hosted a bunch of girlfriends for the weekend. One long slumber party. Wish you coulda been there!”

“We’re all going camping. Are you coming?”

Trip to Israel in Summary

Excerpt from Conversation 1:

Mr. Shidduchim: Good bye! Have fun! Love you! Send my best to the relatives! And if you come back engaged I won’t be too upset.

Bad4 Shidduchim: Don’t hold your breath, please. I love you too.

***

My Luggage Contents:

“When you pack for England, you pack things for yourself for when you’re in England. When you pack for Israel, you pack stuff for everyone in the entire country of Israel.”

 

Contents of Large Suitcase #1 ( 100%)

  • For kinfauna (entertainment – 35%)
  • For kinfauna (clothes – 60.5%)
  • For me (3.5 oz deodorant – 0.5%)
  • For Also4 (electronics – 4%)

Contents of Large Suitcase #2 (100%)

  • For kinfauna (30%)
  • For Best4 (10%)
  • For assorted relatives, friends, neighbors, and random strangers who heard I was going to Israel (60%)
  • For me (0.0%)

Contents of Carry-on Suitcase (100%)

  • For me (95%)
  • For kinfauna (5%)

Personal Item (Knapsack – 100%)

  • For me (100%)
***

Excerpt from Conversation 2:

Passport Control Guy: Why are you coming to Israel?

Me: To visit my kinfauna. And friends. And brother and sister-in-law.

PCG: They live here?

Me: Yep.

PCG: They made aliya?

Me: Yep.

PCG: Why haven’t you made aliya yet?

***

Excerpts from Many Conversations:

Friend 1: You can wear a tichel to work in Israel.

Friend 2: If you make aliyah, they pay for your education.

Friend 3: You don’t have to waste your vacation days on chagim over here.

Relative 1: Why would you want to live anywhere else?

Relative 2: I bet we could find you a job if you came here.

***

Excerpt from Conversation 3:

Truck Driver: Why are you here?

Me: Visiting my brother.

Truck Driver: He moved here?

Me: Yup.

Truck Driver: He moved from the United States to Israel? Why?

Me: Um…

My Contribution to the Community

I have a great idea for an invention. (Listen up all relevant parties; yes I mean you.)

It started when Good4 and I were sprawled on my bed with our heads stuck out the window, enjoying a spring breeze. A young wife was shoving her way up the block, pushing a double stroller in front of her. She was practically 45-degrees with the ground in her effort to keep the heavy thing moving. And this was on level ground.

“When I have a double stroller, remind me to stand straight when I push,” Good4 said. “It looks so awful.”

“Not as awful as her husband strolling along behind, hands in pockets,” I observed. “But you know, she’s doing that because it’s heavy.”

“Yeah I know, but still.”

“You’d be like Black Beauty in the bearing rein if you insisted on standing straight. And that was outlawed as cruelty to animals.”

“Still. It looks terrible.”

I recalled that conversation a few months later while pushing a friend’s single stroller up a steep Israeli hill. I tried standing straight, but the darn thing (not to mention the kid) was heavy. I gave in to physics.

While I was pushing (and sweating), I thought about uphill bicycling.

Bicycle commuters are not always enthused about the exercise opportunities of their transit medium. That’s why they invented these motors you can attach to your bike. The smaller ones just kick in on hills to make it easier to pedal up. You still have to pedal somewhat, but it’s a whole lot easier.

I think we need something like that for double strollers. A small motor you can kick on that will make it easier to move those things.

It would have to have the following criteria:

(1) It has to be removable. For chagim and for locations with eruvim.

(2) It has to be small enough that we don’t wind up with motor-vehicle classification issues. It has to be legal for sidewalks.

(3) It has to be strong enough that a small woman, laboring under the weight of a large sheitel, could push a double stroller uphills without compromising her posture.

Someone, please invent this before I have my first kid.

Paranoia

I was sitting and chatting with a bunch of pregnant women.

Said pregnant women being my MFs, of course. We were yakking about such wonderful bits of nature like morning sickness and stretch marks and I almost said, “Gosh I wish I was pregnant.”

The statement would have been meant to be ironic, considering the the subject matter. But I bit it off at the tip of my tongue because what if they took it to be a hint that I found the conversation insensitive? Or as a piece of self-pity? I was so terrified of this that I choked it back and instead introduced the comparison of shea butter versus cocoa butter.

And a minute later one of the MFs said, “I bet you wish you were pregnant, Bad4.” And everyone laughed.

I heart my friends. Why was I worried?

The MF as a Reference

So, Good4 is working up her shidduch profile, in specific the list of references at the bottom. The Mater wants to narrow down the list so she chucks out one on the basis that she’s single while the other one is married. “The single one knows me better,” pointed out Good4. The Mater says that the married one is better.

I. Don’t. Get. It.

I really don’t. I know I’ve been through this before when I was picking out my own references. What on earth is wrong with single people? They’re the ones I keep in touch with, for goodness’s sake. I recently checked the bottom of my profile and discovered, listed there, an MF who probably doesn’t deserve the F in her title. Since she got married we’ve seen each other a grand total of once. I went to her for Shabbos – it was a miserable affair – on condition that she’d come to me in return, which she never did.

(Yes, I have MFs over with their husbands. It’s not nearly as awkward as you’d think. I do have a father, you know, and when guys don’t know each other they just swap divrei Torah and bingo! instant socializing. Not nearly as awkward as sharing a table with just your MF and her husband.)

I shot her a couple of emails, tried to organize a couple of get-togethers, and then gave up. We never really had much in common anyway, and heaven knows what she’s telling all those callers. So I took her off.

And therein lays the issue with using MFs as references. You may still have friendly feelings toward them, but they’re not really up-to-date. They’re off in MF-land where you’re just a blip on the horizon. They check up on you once every few months… and they are intimately acquainted with your dating life vis-à-vis reference calls. How absurd is that?

Or, as MF#1 put it, when she found herself fielding shidduch-calls shortly after we returned from seminary (she was the only MF I had): “I don’t know any of this stuff about you! Why am I getting these calls?”

And, as I put it: “Cuz you’re married and They won’t let me put anyone else on the list.”

So, why are MFs preferred? Can anyone explain this to me?

Too Comfy Being Single

People have two lives. There’s the outer one that’s evident to all observers. This mostly consists of a blank face and your actions. Then there’s the inner life. This is where the thoughts that drive the actions occur. Any given action could have a myriad of thought processes behind it. The mysterious part is that nobody really knows why you do anything unless you tell them.

‘Course, that’s never stopped anyone from speculating, assuming, and concluding about your motives.

Thus we have people observing SIR and lamenting that she’s getting too comfortable being single.

I don’t know what SIR’s been doing to incriminate herself, but I can imagine by extrapolating from my friends and myself.

The fact is, we’re single. And while I’m single – while I’ve got nobody else to think about – I’m going to enjoy my independence. While I’m free from the burden of humongous bills, I’m going to splurge every now and then. While I have no family to care for, I’m going to advance my career.

Does that mean I’m not ready to settle down and look after a spouse? No. Does it mean I’m not saving for the future and can’t tighten the belt for necessary expenditures? Seriously, no. And does that mean I don’t plan to look after my children when I’ve got ’em? No, not that either.

Is that wrong? Would you be happier to know that I spend my evenings in my room tearfully reciting Tehillim, instead of being outside in the fresh air building a soapbox derby racer? Would you like a ticker on my forehead so you can see how I weigh so many decisions against the belated Prince who just isn’t showing up?

Because the fact is, I am not comfortable being single. As a single, I have to hedge all my bets. Everything I do and every decision I make occurs under the shadow of my single status. Should I take that job and move there or risk unemployment but stay here? Should I try to find work with a company with awesome flextime options or go for the one with the better pay? Should I be buying something large and non-transportable when I might be married and across the continent in a half a year? Hey, Prince Charming, can you show up already and save me from living two lives at once?

Let’s face it. I’m a prisoner to the status I’m hoping to change. As long as I’m dating, part of my life belongs to a guy I haven’t met yet. And it’s a lot harder to  accommodate a guy you haven’t met, because you have to accommodate him in so many possible variations. Trust me: when he finally shows up, fitting him in will be a comparative breeze.

Me: O-oh! So you’re the permutation that wants to study toucans in their native habitat! Glad to meet you. See, I’ve got this alternative transportation fund I’ve been thinking of in terms of snowmobiles, but now I know to label it the Outrigger Canoe Fund. You’ve really taken a load off my mind. What took you so long?

Him: Delays out of Galeao Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport. Also, my toucans were breeding and I didn’t want to miss the mating rituals.

But even prisoners have fun. People, being people, always make the best of their situation. That’s why I’m out with the girlfriends tonight, and that’s why I bought those gorgeous boots I don’t technically need (yet), and that’s why, if you don’t need that wheel, I’ll take it for my soapbox racer. It’s the perfect size.

Backstabbing References

There’s a personality of folk who have very narrow definitions of acceptability. I’m not talking about any particular religious subset, as you can find people with narrow definitions of “us” almost everywhere. But life gets really fun when you step outside their line in the sand… and they’re playing at your shadchan.

Take the aidel knaidel Friend who decided to attend Brooklyn College instead of, say, Touro, Stern, or one of the various fake options. She knew it was a controversial step, but she didn’t realize how much until a former high school classmate called up with a shidduch idea. It was for a cousin of hers who was finishing a degree in the University of Southern Mississippi.

“I was like, does he have a chavrusa down there?” Friend related. “And she was like, ‘I don’t know, does it matter?’ So I go online and do some googling and I can’t even turn up any Reform shuls down there, let alone an orthodox one. There isn’t even a Chabad in Mississippi. So I’m like, ‘Why is he down there?’ and she’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ So I’m like, ‘Well find out and get back to me, okay?’ And she never did.”

‘Course it works the other way. Like the guy from Lawrence who decided to go to YU and whose aunt decided he had flipped out and kept trying to set him up with girls from Borough Park. Talk about confused.

Oh, it’s always fun when people try to set you up with the wrong sort of guy (“is he wearing torn cut-offs in that photo or is it my imagination?”) but it can get downright scary when such people are in your reference list. Thus found out the Friend who kept hearing that people were looking into her but never getting a date.

“Oh well, I guess it was never meant to be,” she assured herself while going on with her dateless life.

Until she received a worried phone call from Reference #4. “Friend,” Ref#4 said urgently, “What have you been up to?!”

“Oh the usual,” Friend answered. “Shopping, working, studying… why?”

“Not that,” Ref#4 dismissed, “I mean why do people think you’re modern?”

“What?”

“I keep getting shidduch calls from women who all say that they’ve heard that you’re very modern and they’re worried that you’re not right for their boys.”

Friend mulled that over in a shocked silence for a few moments. Granted, there had been the day she’d worn pink paisley rain boots, and one of her new skirts didn’t have a pleat it in anywhere, and she worked in downtown Manhattan and she’d been seen walking out of the Avenue J library with a DVD but… Seriously?

She passed a sleepless night performing a cheshbon hanefesh. Maybe her high school teachers wouldn’t cite her as a role model, but she wasn’t modern. (Whatever that meant: she knew she didn’t fit her own definition of it.) Morning found her quite decided: it wasn’t her fault. Someone was spreading rumors.

It was like living inside  a serialized Jewish novel. Her shidduch chances were being destroyed by a malignant gossip-mongerer. Someone was out to get her. Her life would be ruined by vicious slander and she’d be an old spinster one day visiting the nursing home for companionship when an ancient crone would come beg her for forgiveness before she died, admitting that she (the old crone) had been the one to tell everyone that she (Friend) was modern.

The most obvious place to start looking was her references list. So she started at the top, making friendly phone calls, discussing oh, life, the universe, and everything, and also all the mothers who had been calling about her recently…

It was Ref#3 who said, “Yes, and they were all planning to learn. I told them you weren’t interested.”

Whoa. Culprit identified!

“Um, what gave you that idea?”

“You did. Remember that conversation we had two months ago when you said that you weren’t interested in kollel learners?”

“Yeah, but I meant long-term learners. Not guys keeping regular sedarim and maybe learning a year or two after marriage.”

They worked out the little misunderstanding to the best that they could and Friend moved Ref#3 to the bottom of the list. So much for the malignant gossiper. Why does melodrama only happen in novels?