Bas Melech was once single. And her greatest comforter in her sorrow was… the NMFs in her life. Repeatedly they assured her that being married was difficult, rough, and frequently unpleasant, and that she was enjoying the best years of her life being single.
For finally tying the knot, even if it took an ultimatum.
We are sorry to lose you, but glad you’re hitched, and hope you have a lovely rest of your life, which is not to say we don’t plan to be involved in it (sorry if you thought this was escape).
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?
It’s very sad when a good friend, with whom you’re used to having physical proximity, goes and gets married. Suddenly, they’re not there to talk to in the evenings any more. They’re not conked out on your couch Shabbos afternoon, or borrowing your toothpaste because they forgot to buy (yet again), or making you laugh at your loathed boss at midnight over cold leftover couscous. Instead, they’re off with some guy that they’ve chosen over you. And you’re all alone in an empty apartment with an ugly Craigslist couch that looks pathetically empty.
“She was the first to break my heart by getting married,” reminisced the bride’s former flatmate about a long-married friend. “There’s been a long string of them since.”
Let’s face it. In the orthodox world, we don’t get to meet the other gender too much. So when we’re growing up we get all our information from books and from our siblings (who we know perfectly well aren’t normal specimens, because if the rest of the world was like them why haven’t we self-destructed yet?)
Then comes dating. A short, intense, and gruesome period of being chained to within a ten foot radius of one of those creatures. The result? Only mildly enlightening. Again, you are full of hope that you just met the exception, not the rule. Generalizations are brutal and cathartic (“boys are stupidheads”) and not even believed by the speaker after a week of chocolate, long nights of sleep, and being set up with a better guy.
Then comes marriage! You’ve finally found the perfect representative of the opposite specie. And you are living together in close quarters and mutual trust. The sort of position any naturalist would love to be in. But you’re not swapping with them, because this is amazing. It’s charming. It’s entertaining. It’s like finally meeting the star of a novel or movie.
Here, right here, is a Woman! And she’s just like you heard. Chatters a lot. Wrings her hands over what to wear. Whirls about the kitchen with the best of intentions but dubious results. Fills most of the bathroom with little tubs, bottles, and jars with uses beyond your comprehension. Finds a subtextual insult in all your well-meaning phrases.
Alternatively: here is Man. He leaves the toilet seat up. Scatters used socks across the bedroom. Presents you with flowers with such an earnest expression and thinks it’s the flowers you like. Believes everything tastes better deep fried. Has feelings as fragile as your own, though he’d be insulted if you pointed it out.
Or whatever. The generalizations are different every time. Leave a man in an apartment with a woman for three months and he believes that he’s ready to write the field guide on the female specie. And the same in reverse.
The single friend must learn to control her eyes, preventing them from rolling, while listening to the NMF (both male and female) spew bright-eyed, enthusiastic generalizations about how women are so mercurial and men are so hairy (I quote from real life) based on (one hopes) experience with only one member of the species.
Fear not, my friends. This too shall pass. Well, maybe not, but it’ll slow. Until they have sons and daughters and a whole new set from which to draw their observations.
It’s so old, I was only up to NMF#8. Who is by now an MF and has probably stopped doing the Twist.
For those of us who are still single, there’s always the hokey pokey.
SMFs, unlike NEFs, are the most desperately unhappy people on the planet. Not to say that they’re sad – but they definitely lack ebullient good cheer.
It’s hard to characterize the SMF because their state of mind manifests in so many diverse ways. In general, they are nervous. But some are quietly nervous, biting their nails in the corner and gaining weight or losing weight or managing both at the same time (which just heightens their distress because that gown has got to fit). But if you ever get one of these quietly nervous people alone, beware! There is much that is troubling them. You will only hear about half of it – something to keep in mind when you hesitate to swear off marriage forever.
Some are hyperactively nervous. These people spend the week before their wedding on an apparent permanent high. They’re everywhere, apparently enjoying themselves at the top of their lungs. Get them into a car alone and you just might get treated to the sight (and sound) of them equally loudly tearing their hair out. However these people behave, you can bet they feel the exact opposite. Just get them onto the subject of their FMiL (future mother-in-law) and see how effusively they praise her.
Some seem calm and act calm – they claim their only worry is whether they’ll be able to hide their organic chemistry flashcards under their bouquet throughout the reception. Or for the less academically inclined, if the champagne-colored gowns their family picked up in Brooklyn will match the champagne-colored gowns their future in-laws picked up in LA. These people are powder kegs. If one too many things go wrong on any given day, they will dissolve into a helpless, weeping, complete basket case. If they’re not the weepy type, they might spend the evening shouting over the phone at you while dabbing at their inexplicably drippy nose.
A note to friends: SMFs need to be handled very delicately and with an excess of low-fat ice cream.
Once an SMF finishes explaining to you the reason for her distress, she will give advice. Usually the advice is not an outright “Don’t do this to yourself; stay single” but often it seems to amount to that.
“Elope – weddings are horrible!”
“Marry an orphan – you don’t want to have to deal with an MiL.”
“Don’t have anything to do with your wedding plans; just show up that night and smile at everything.”
“It’s not just that your wedding day is like Yom Kippur – the entire month before is atonement for everything you ever did in your whole life!”
“The reason parents act like this when you get engaged is because they don’t want you to have any second thoughts about moving out.”
“If you get yourself put into an induced coma the month before your wedding it will save you a lot of agony.”
If every single girl was paired up as a Siamese twin with an SMF for around 3 weeks, I think we can guarantee that about half of them would withdraw from the shidduch pool due to weak stomach. Badabing!—more men to go around for the rest of us.