Marrying Debt

When MF #5 got married to an Ivy League-educated gentleman who planned to learn in kollel, I overheard her mother complaining.

“When we did our research we didn’t know to ask about student loans! She’s just starting out, and already she’s $20,000 in debt!”

“It could be worse,” her conversant comforted her. “I know a dentist who married a doctor. $300,000, and they think they got off easy.”

“Well at least they have good jobs. My future son-in-law is learning, and long-term he wants to teach. They’ll be living in a basement the rest of their lives.”

That was the first time I thought about debt as a factor in marriage. I am debt-averse to an extreme. Not everyone sees things my way, though.

“Take out student loans,” Done4 urged me when I was in college. “They’re the cheapest loans you’ll ever get in your life.”

“You’re still paying interest and committing future earnings,” I pointed out. “Earnings you can’t guarantee that you’ll have.”

The idea that my careful financial life might be thrown over by someone who thought education was a stage in life to pass through, like puberty, with no bearing on his future, was scary. And it was unbelievable how many guys I dated said they were only in college because their mother said so, and they didn’t want to do whatever they were getting a degree in, and kollel sounded nice, actually, yeah.

Sure it does. So does being back in the womb. But do you belong there?

So I wasn’t rolling my eyes when credit scores showed up as something people want to know before you go (out together). It’s a great way to get an idea of your partner’s fiscal responsibility. Or at least open the discussion about it.

 

Advertisements

Not Something to Sniff At

I suppose I should weigh in on this Jewish Press article that has so many people in a tizzy. (Thanks Mother for alerting me; thanks O and everyone else for producing it.)

The article, in brief, is about a mother of a short-term learner who went to an event for hopeful wives of long-term learners, and was affronted by how little glitz she saw in the room. The aidels were barely wearing makeup, most had not chemically straightened their hair, and none seemed to have a nose job or stomach staple. Really, how did they expect to get married?

She goes on to describe how her life changed once she put her own proboscis under the knife, including her switch from single to married status.

Well, you can imagine the resultant horror among the JP readership. She lopped off her nose? Our European ancestors, in the alte heim, were persecuted for that nose! And she just ditches it because it became inconvenient?  The very idea!

Moreover, that nose she discards so carelessly was once considered quite regal. It was good enough for Caesar. It was good enough for Augustus and Octavius. It was even good enough for Caligula, who had no compunctions about taking a knife—or even a sword—to anything he didn’t like. And he left his nose untouched, thank you very much.

Caligula's Schnozz

Caligula's Sniffer

But it’s the betrayal that bothers me the most. I don’t know how you feel about it, but my nose has been with me since birth, through thick and thin. It’s the first thing to greet me when I gaze into the mirror in the morning. It has always let me know when my mother was baking, so that I could sneak into the kitchen for a sample. It warned me when the water in camp was sulfuric. It keeps tabs on the milk in the fridge, alerts me when the veggies I forgot in the crisper pass over to the other side, and lets me know when someone has made a fresh pot of coffee in the office.

We’ve grown from these experiences together (although not always at matching rates). I consider my nose an old friend. What kind of person is so cavalier about excising such a loyal companion? If this is how easily she lops off a friend who has been at her side (so to speak) for her entire life, imagine how she treats friends of lesser duration when they become inconvenient. I’m so relieved we didn’t go to school together.

Besides, there is more to a nose than its mere physiognomy. How it is treated, presented, and carried, indeed, the very attitude of its bearer toward it, will create the overall effect of the nose much more than its actual topography. A charming, graceful, feminine woman can carry off a beak of less delicacy than herself. The trick is not to walk around with your head hanging in shame, as if your nose is weighing your face down. Carry it with pride! Pride for your heritage, pride for its regal cast, and pride because it’s a part of you—and you’re worth being proud of. However, I will concede, that if a woman is still single at 23 she should probably go to charm school to learn a more demur carriage and delicate bearing.

Cleopatra's Beak

Cleopatra's Beak

Another technique is to remove the focus from your nose entirely by being so lively and flirtatious that nobody can spare the time to focus on your schnozz. There is an ancient Egyptian saying: “She who can flirt with the pros can rock any nose.” It dates back to Cleopatra, who, according to legend, was well endowed in the nasal way. And yet she was a talented seductress, seducing no less than J. Caesar himself, who had no shortage of beautiful women chasing him.

How did she do that? Legend relates that when Caesar came to town, Cleo didn’t wait for an invitation. She had herself rolled into a rug and delivered to Julius as a gift. When he unrolled the rug, out she popped, batting her eyelashes, patting down her hair, and asking to hear in person about how he tamed those Gauls.

I recommend that the self-consciously benosed maidel try something similar for her next date. Instead of shyly sidling nose-first into the dining room where your date is making polite small-talk with your parents, wrap yourself in the living room rug and roll in with a bang! Leap out and announce, “I’m he-ere!” Ask him something flattering and personal. Start the date like this and do you think he’ll even glance at your nose for a second? I sincerely doubt it.

JP's unairbrushed schnozz

JP's unairbrushed schnozz

There is one more non-surgical treatment for an unbeautiful nose. Think of the many famous people who have had unartistic sniffers. Due to rhinophyma, JP Morgan’s nasal organ was a different shape and color every day. Yet he was well beloved by his two wives, four children, and the ever-insolvent US government. And consider one of the more famous big schnozzes of the silver screen: Barbra Streisand. Although her nose was the subject of public criticism, she married twice. From this we can derive a very simple solution to the nosily impaired—one simple step that will have men beating a path to your door: become rich and famous. Because, it is well known, you cannot be both rich and ugly at the same time.

And that is the real way to solve the shidduch crisis.

Beautiful Barb as God Bequeathed Her

Beautiful Barb as God Bequeathed Her

Just Being Polite, Impolitely

Ezzie’s post on the economics of dating reminded me of one particularly obvious courtesy date.

The guy had come in from OOT, and it was assume (that is, I assumed) that we would go out twice (at least) while he was in town.

The first time he was clearly aiming to impress. Prime Grill? Are you kidding? I didn’t know where to look on the menu. Finally I decided to aim for middle top and went for some kind of fancy chicken. Then he asked me which appetizer I wanted. Who orders appetizers? Guys on first dates with girls they’ve never met, apparently. The appetizer was an amazing concoction of avocado that was almost too pretty to eat.

It wasn’t a bad date. Not amazing either, but not bad. I would have thought that a second date was in order in any case, but it became apparently quickly that this guy had already made up his mind. The second date was strictly to be polite.

Date two involved a wintry walk along the Hudson punctuated only by a brief stop in a trendy coffee shop. “Let’s sit down and drink,” I suggested, when he made to leave the store, cup in hand.

“Can’t,” he explained. “They charge you an extra 75 cents to sit down.”

“Oh, well then,” I said. I laced both hands around the warm cup, turned up my collar, and followed him outside.

Well, at least he had his eyes on the economics of things.

Above Love

What intrigued me most about this conversation was my coworker’s perspective on the question: does marriage need love?

When I was in the bais yaakov system, they repeatedly informed us that love comes after marriage. You pick out someone you’ll be compatible with in terms of personality and hashkafa, and then you fall in love with them afterwards.

I took this on faith, the same way I took most everything on which I had no other perspective, and sallied forth to look for someone compatible to marry.

We all know that yeshiva educations are lacking in many ways. Science, math, history, and basically any secular study. Well, I have found another gaping hole in the education of our young men. It dawned on me slowly, but about a year or so into my dating career it crystallized: nobody had told any of my gentleman callers that love came after marriage. My dates wanted to fall giddily in love before they proposed, and when they didn’t, they told the shadchan “no.”

The one who left me most confused was the guy who was clearly smitten on date one, but failed to ever be smitten again, and after four dates gave the shadchan a garbled excuse for why he didn’t want to go out again, but which even the shadchan admitted boiled down to “Not sure what happened but let’s not keep trying.” I was puzzled. Didn’t he realize that his crush was a shallow, ephemeral rush of hormones created by a combination of lighting and angles and gazing into eyes and as easily gained or lost as the conditions permitted?

But eventually I came around. I realized that love was clearly an important thing, and by not insisting on it, I was short-selling myself. I decided that I too would require my dates to be conceivably loveable in order for us to go out again.

I wish I could say that this changed my dating life. That I started a career as a dating diva, turning down guys because they were too hairy, or skinny, or big-footed. That wasn’t what happened. What happened was that, instead of the guy saying “no” after date two while I dithered “Well, if he’s interested”—instead, we both said “no” after date two, and my ego came out much the less bruised for it.

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed that phase of my dating career. There was such certainty in it. I never felt guilty about turning down a guy whose company I didn’t mind but who didn’t have a bat’s chance at the optometrist of interesting me romantically. Nor did I feel very bad when one of those guys turned me down. “I wasn’t so into him anyway,” I’d shrug.

There was some cognitive dissonance. I mean, who is into anyone after spending 4-8 hours with them in a formal setting? Do I have a single friend in my life that I fell in love with at first sight? Or even second sight? (Actually, some of my oldest friends are people that I hated at first sight.) Dating like this was some kind of absurd parody, and it was never going to land me a mate. Why was I even trying?

Worst of all was the fear lurking just below the surface: was I in the right, or was this the highway to picky older singlehood? If Mr. Perfect showed up, would I turn him down for failing to make my heart flutter?  Absurd from one perspective, reasonable from another, and completely theoretical from every which way. Mr. Perfect never showed, or else he never agreed to a third date, so I didn’t need to face down my theories with my beliefs.

I coasted along until a late-night conversation with a friend.

“You’re not a guy,” she informed me. “You can think with your head. You pick someone reasonable and you try to make him fall in love with you.”

“You make it sound so easy,” I groused.

“I know, I shouldn’t talk. I don’t have guys falling at my feet either. And I haven’t met any that I’d want to. But if I found a half-normal Sephardi guy to marry, I would do it in a second, love optional.”

With that, I was back in mega-uncertainty mode. Not that it mattered, since I didn’t date anyone half-normal for quite a while, but lacking a principle to live by was troublesome.

And now, here was the lab tech, telling me the same thing as my bais yaakov teachers: pick someone likable for whatever accessories they have, and let love follow after marriage.

Wrong? Right? Indifferent? Say it below.

Quote of the Week: Marry for…

“…you know, this job is only to keep me busy during the day,” the lab tech said, rummaging around for pipette.

“Really?” I said.

“Yep. My wife is a professional. She earns the bucks.”

“Good for her.”

“That’s why I married her.”

“For her job?”

“Yep. Listen to me, Bad4. You want to be happy, marry for money.”

“Marry for money,” I echoed in disbelief.

“Marry for money. Because even if the person drives you crazy—well, at least you can enjoy yourself, you know?”

“So your wife drives you crazy?”

“Oh, no. I love her, Bad4. Love her to pieces. But I didn’t when we got married. It grew, afterwards. Love can come later. It did, Bad4. We’ve been married fifteen years. Take my advice: marry for money.”

I’ll follow up on this one tomorrow.

There’s a Price on My Head

The thing I like the most about this NASI game changer is that it puts a price on my singleness. Marrying me is worth $8,000.

That is, there’s an $8,000 bounty offered to any man or woman who can successfully eliminate me from the shidduch pool. So, according to NASI, that’s the value of my (uncovered) head.

Now, I’m all for paying a shadchan and so on, and I understand that I’m a tough case, so $3,000 won’t cut it. But $8,000 is a whole lot to give away to a stranger. It’s like a dowry, but minus being able to use it on your household after.

I would rather offer the money to my husband-to-be, as a bribe for him to present himself a little sooner rather than later. He is very welcome to $8,000 from my account (prenup agreement requiring marriage of >5yrs), which, of course, he can use to pay off the sheitel mortgage.

After all, if we’re going to put a price on my hair and I’m going to be paying the bounty, why shouldn’t I call the shots on who it goes to and when and how?

 

The Price of Being Single

By price, I mean cost.

I was recently contemplating traveling out of town to date a guy who, for good reasons, couldn’t travel in. I ran an estimate on the cost of the trip and gave a low whistle. It was a huge amount to spend on a first date. And this guy spent this kind of money every time he went out with a woman in New York City.

It seemed an unsustainable sum. At that kind of rate, you need a full-time job to support your dating habit. How do guys do it?

Single women often think of marriage as expensive. There’s all the clothing you need, the household supplies, the rent, etc. Financially, it’s a less cozy state of existence. But for guys it’s the exact opposite. Finally, they can stop renting cars, driving hours on end, paying for restaurant meals and museum tickets and overpriced java… Marriage is so relaxing.

Guys, you have my sympathy.