Encounter on OOT Avenue

Walking through residential OOT with an OOT friend. We approach a corner and wait for a car to make the turn before crossing. The car contains two guys; the one in the passenger seat hangs out the window, smiles, and says, “Good morning, howarya?”

“Good morning, howareyou?” replies my friend.

“Really?” I ask, incredulous.


“Whattaya mean what? He was flirting with you.”

“No he wasn’t, he was just being friendly and saying good morning.”

“Where I come from, getting all friendly like that is hitting on a girl.”

“Where you come from, the only guys who ever say good morning are the sleazy ones loitering on street corners who croon, ‘Good morning honey’ at you. ”

“Okay, so?”

“This isn’t where you’re from. People are just nice here.”

I was skeptical.

Naturally, she brought it up as a humorous point with some neighbors in shul when we arrived. They laughed. At me. “Of course he was just being friendly. People say ‘good morning’ around here.  It’s normal.”

I’m still not convinced. I mean, lots of people drive past without hanging out the window and saying good morning. Am I paranoid?


So Travel!

If you won the lottery, what would you do?

If you had a month of vacation and unlimited funds, what would you do?

When you retire, what do you plan to do?

Lots of people put something about traveling into their answers. Travel – something about it entices the human mind. We love to see new places, observe different people, experience alternate communities, and enjoy the diversity of everything available if you put a little distance between you and your stomping grounds.

So travel!

No, honestly.

I’ve traveled twice for dates. It’s expensive, no kidding there. And from the dating perspective, both were a complete waste of time. But I got to visit a town I’ve never been to, and another that I’ve not been to enough. I got to see long-lost friends and relatives. I got to do some touring. I smelled the air of a foreign city. I biked the streets of a different town. I watched the natives of a different culture (yeah, it was one of those cities). It really wasn’t bad.

Granted, my current locale is sorely lacking in high-end tourist attractions. But we’ve got plenty of local color. (Much of it rust. Er, umber.) And on average, we are 4 degrees and 2% humidity cooler than New York City.

Tempted yet?

Well, there are plenty of young ladies stranded in more exotic locations. Places you’d love to visit anyway, like Miami or LA. So don’t grumble and skip over them to the next Flatbush girl on your list. Take a vacation. Go travel.


The New Midterms

When I was in college, I would inevitably received a rash of redts during the most inconvenient times of the year: midterms and finals. When I graduated I worried that I would no longer receive any matches.

For a while it looked that way. Although I was driving in to New York City every 5 weeks, I inevitably spent those long weekends with friends and family, not with dates.

Then, with a long stretch of no major Jewish or secular holidays, I decided to just hang out in OOT for a few months, sans pilgrimage to the Big Apple. I booked a plane ticket for Pesach and planned to let my car grow fat on so little exercise as a daily commute.

Naturally, my phone started ringing off the hook. As did my Facebook account and SYAS profile. Three separate women who I’ve never even heard of called me up to say they had a guy for me. An old classmate sent me a FB message with the same content. And a rash of pre-accepted matches landed in my SYAS inbox. Naturally (and uncreatively), every one of these guys is located in New York. (Except for the Baltimorian being redt to me to for the third time.)

This is even worse than finals.

When you get set up during finals, you can play a scheduling game, where you space your dates conveniently between your finals. But when you’re planning to be OOT for four months, there’s really no two ways about it. Nobody can sustain a 4-month telephone relationship, so either you’re dating or you’re not.

And I’m not.

So what do you tell a shadchan when you’re in this position? Where were you two months ago? Come back in two more? Is he willing to travel?

Beats me.

And, it just occurred to me, it gets worse.

Because come Pesach time, all the eligible bachelors born and bred in this area of the USA are going to be heading home for the holiday. All the  shadchanim within 2.5 hours of my new town will be ringing my cellphone to set me up with them… and I’ll be in New York.

Probably dateless.

C’est la vie.

It’s a Bad Sign When…

Just as you move into a neighborhood you have the following conversation with another single you meet:

Her: Hi, what brings you here?

Me: I’m moving in. I have a job nearby.

Her: So, you’re single? What are you looking for?

Me: A guy, preferably. You?

Her: A nice normal yeshivish guy with a black hat and a job.

Me: Hm. Sounds like my entire list of exes, give or take a few “normals.”

Her: Well there are none around here, in case you were hoping. That’s why I’m moving to New York City next week.

Me: Ah. Well.

Living Out of Town

“A guy moved here last year for a great job with a great company. He stayed here about three months before he packed it in and left. He said that if he stayed, he would probably never go on another date again.”

I guess three months was long enough to go out with the 6 single women in town.

People: if more singles lived out of town, more singles could live out of town.

Be brave.

Be bold.

Leave the tri-state area.

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.

Deadline Approacheth

There’s a bit of a double standard in the yeshivish/ultra-orthodox community. It is perfectly acceptable for a boy to leave home at the tender age of 13 and never truly return for the perpetuity of his life. Yes, he visits for the occasional holiday or weekend, where he wallows pleasantly in the adoring ministrations of a family that rarely has to put up with him. This lasts  until they bore, he becomes the fish-like guest, his special privileges evaporate, and he begins to chafe under the parental regime. At this point, he toddles back to his dorm or apartment with a sigh of relief: family, like prune juice, is best taken in small doses.

Girls, on the other hand, are expected to happily marinate in the home juices until Prince Charming carries them across a threshold of their very own. And if that doesn’t occur before their locks become dusted with snow and their posture stroked by osteoporosis, well, there’s no finer place for a girl to be than in the bosom of her loving family.

When I was in high school I had an exceptionally dedicated and brilliant teacher who happened to be single at the age of 28. A friend once mentioned knowing where she lived because this friend’s father was friendly with the teacher’s father.

“Yes, but that’s where her family lives, not where she lives,” I pointed out. The friend gave me a “Duh” look and said, “She lives there too. Where else would she live?”

I was appalled. Here I thought of this teacher as a mature, independent adult, and she was probably still sleeping in a pink bedroom, eating her mother’s dinner, and shouting “Wha-at!” down the stairs when her father called her. Just like me. I went home and informed my parents that if I was still single at 28 I was moving out.

“Yes dear,” they said. “Wash the dishes after dinner and clean your room tonight. It’s a pigsty and if I can’t see the floor I’m not letting the cleaning lady in to vacuum it. How did you do on that chumash test you hardly studied for? And you only think I don’t see you sneaking a cookie out of the kitchen. Bring it back right now.”

“Maybe I’ll move out at 27,” I sulked, nibbling the cookie.

“Eat over the table or sweep the floor – your choice.”


When I turned 21 I lowered the age to 25. My parents, now somewhat touchier about the topic since I had failed to be swept away by my first suitor (or second or fifth), told me not to say things like that; they were irrelevant.

“If it’s irrelevant, than what’s the big deal?”

“You’re right, what’s the big deal?”

“So I can move out at 25, right?”

“Let’s not discuss it.”

The truth is, not all women are expected to live at home forever. Women from OOT are allowed to move to NYC and cram themselves into attics and apartments. This is considered a necessary evil for the sake of shidduchim. However, if you have had the dubious fortune of being born and bred in the tri-state conurbation, moving out of your parents’ house is Something Strange that will provide your neighbors with conversation during the 23 hours when they are not observing their machsom lefi.

Why? I don’t know. But I imagine I’ll find out. After all, I’m already 24.5 years old.

On Being Muddled

A hat tip to the Curious Jew for sending me to this post by Fudge. It captures the enervated malaise of an Unmarried Person taking stock of his/her life.

It’s not that I’ve ever thought I was a crummy human being because I wasn’t married. I’m good at lots of things, even if getting myself married isn’t one of them. Rather, it’s about that detached, confused state that a single person so easily slips into. Where do I belong? What should I be doing?

It’s so simple, or at least so defined when you have a family. Family first. Husband and children. The important parties are there to give their input. But for single people, it’s all a tangled muddle of loops of hope fading off into a million uncertain futures.   Maybe half the desire to get married stems from a desire for definition and clarity in life. To just know what you should be focusing on.

An example of this that frequently arises in my life is the Career Question. Everyone knows that your chances of bumping into the right guy are higher in the tri-state area than out of it. But career progress in a job can often lead to OOT. (Which is not unwelcome. Who wouldn’t want to live outside the tristate area if they had the option?) However, if one moves OOT for a job, one is being Career Oriented and Independent, which is anathema in a (n ultra-orthodox) woman and bad for dating in general. Also, there’s nobody to go out with. Whereas if one stays in NYC then one is being family oriented sans the family – and how pathetic and depressing is that?

(It gets even more muddled if the OOT job is more family friendly than the IT job. It loops, cancels out, and leaves you stranded someplace, pathetic, but not entirely sure why. Well, you know why. It’s because you’re single.)

Fudge’s solution is to get direction in life from something else. Slot yourself into the grand scheme of things without a spouse. Find meaning in life as an individual.

The idea is inspiring. It sounds wonderful.

…except, yeah. It still doesn’t help. I’ve never really had a grand personal ambition. I try to do well in my education, employment, and hobbies. But I’ve always taken a more passive approach to Big Meaningful Missions. I take them as they land in my inbox. It’s given me some interesting tasks in life, but nothing near steady employment. So choosing Fudge’s route is going to require a full-blown mid-life crisis. Why am I here? Why do I exist?

But even so. Let’s just say I’ve found meaning in expressing my love for God by bringing spirituality to knock hockey. Does that mean I can move to Thailand now? Stop paying the SYAS tax? Channel my spare cash into trust funds for the kinfauna? This approach may help me figure out how to spend my spare time, but it doesn’t answer the big question of what should be important right now.

And so I remain, befuddledly yours,

A Uxorially Challenged Person

Who [Hearts] 2-Shul Communities?

Question: does there exist, anywhere on the planet, a humanoid from a small, OOT community, who would ideally like to live in a small, OOT community?

I ask this because I have dated and befriended many OOTs in the past few years, and they all seem very attached to the in-town axis. Which is to say, greater NYC, Lakewood, Monsey. (Queens is not out of town, sorry folks.) Now, I know that often people think the whole world is better than the specific section that they grew up in, but c’mon. There are people from Flatbush who like it there. I can’t imagine why there aren’t any OOTers who like it out there.

I mean, seriously. Get the average OOTer to stop bashing New York for thirty seconds and ask them where they’d like to live and why they’re not living there. They either don’t know or they haven’t got a very convincing reason.

This suggests that they really do prefer New York. And by that I mean they are attached to something that only New York offers, which is, imho, just as good as loving New York. For eg: If your job/yeshiva only exists in NY, then you clearly don’t prefer OOT enough to switch careers/yeshivos. Your preference for the in-town offering is stronger than your preference for OOT.

Disaster Out of Town

This was originally written for publication in the TC South newspaper, but like everything I write, wasn’t quite sensitive enough for the audience. I present it here in all its harsh glory, wishing myself better luck next time.

When I first heard about Touro College South I worried. It seemed to me that if the college succeeded, it would be a disaster. Bringing kosher college to the wilds of “out of town” could only cripple the chances of its students. Because then they can’t come to New York anymore. And deep down—though they all protest otherwise—they all want to be in New York City. Because they have to be. Here’s the view from Brooklyn:

When an out-of-town girl leaves to seminary it is a huge event. Ostensibly, she is leaving for ten months of study in the Holy Land, but in reality, this is the last time she steps across her parents’ threshold as their child; after this, she is an adult, seeking her own way through life, far, far from home. For when she returns, she will aspire to higher education, and because she will want it in a religious environment (if she doesn’t yet, she will soon), she will tread the path many have tread before – heading to the big city to seek her fortune via wisdom acquired in either Touro or Stern.

And so, her pre-seminary goodbye is an emotional one. Her parents are tearful, because their little baby is all grown up (and because how will they ever get the rest of the family to take over her chores), while her younger siblings grimly look forward to the contest over who will claim her newly vacated room and what contents they think she won’t notice are missing when she returns—oh so briefly—in the summer.

After a year or two of spiritual study, our Wandering Jewess’s path leads where all roads lead for the young and ambitious – to New York City, capital of the world. There, she will cram herself into an attic or a basement or an apartment with too many other young ladies just like her, earn her rent and sustenance money by day working as an assistant teacher or secretary, and study by night to be a variety of therapist or social worker, and dream of the day when she will leave New York for more friendly environs.

If, like myself, you have the fortune of having been born and bred in Gotham, you have ample opportunity to host these young ladies for Shobbos, and hear about their lifestyle that so resembles that of a Mexican worker.

Why do they do it? One can’t help but ask. “For the environment,” they reply simply. They leave out so much. Because it can’t be just for a kosher undergraduate degree.

When they finish their bachelor degrees, they go on to get graduate degrees from Hunter, NYU, Columbia, Downstate… all non-Jewish NYC universities. Why don’t they go home to Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, and Philadelphia to finish their even-higher education? There must be another reason they’re here—a reason they won’t confess to, but is easily discovered by observing the out-of-town single in her non-native habitat.

There is one thing this young lady will do aside from work, study, eat, and sleep. There is only one other subject that occupies her thoughts and permeates her conversation. And it happens to be related to the largest advantage the New York Jewish community has over any other.

Dating. NYC is within driving distance of almost every major yeshiva and religious study program in the United States, and a whole lot of minor ones. When Single Men decide to settle down, they turn their eyes toward the nearest (and largest) concentration of religious single women in North America. And every eligible bachelorette wants to be there among the masses, jumping up and down shouting “Pick me!” when these young men scan the crowd, seeking their future bride.

That’s really why they come to New York. Touro is just an excuse. But with a Touro now in Miami, that pretext—at least for Miami residents—has been eliminated. No longer do they have a reason for living in high densities in New York apartments. No longer have they a reason for living on the same prairie as large herds of Single Men. How will they get married?

Do they?