A Big Yasher Kochachen!

While writing yesterday’s post, I realized what thankless job being a shidduch reference is. So I’d like to take a moment to thank the friends who keep picking up the phone on my behalf, year after year, to answer questions for random kooks and strangers, who ask things nobody but me would know and which invariably get my dander up when I hear about them.

Thank you guys!

And if I get persnickety, it’s not at you. It’s at them. You’re a great friend, and I hope you can stop this thankless task someday soon.

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Skulking Suitors

“Hey, got some questions for you,” a friend said. “A guy called last night and asked these, and I said I’d get back to him.”

“No problem,” I said, and provided the answers.

“By the way, who was he?”

“I promised not to tell.”

“What?”

“He told me who he was, but at the end of the conversation he made me promise not to tell you.”

“Why? What nosy, obnoxious questions could he have possibly asked that he doesn’t want me to know who he is?”

“Really nothing. He asked what your siblings do, why you live OOT—mostly things he’d know if he actually read your profile. And then the ones about whether you go to shiurim or have a rebbetzin or would be willing to Skype date.”

Then why won’t he tell me his name?

I am unable to come up with a good reason why someone would withhold their name in connection to their actions. Usually it means you’re embarrassed or afraid, or don’t want to take responsibility for it.

When a guy won’t put his name where his mouth is, I automatically assume he also writes anonymous letters to the Yated condemning everyone who doesn’t think the way he does. It’s not a promising start to our relationship.

Or wouldn’t be, if I knew who he was. That’s the point, right? I can’t hold it against him if I don’t know who he is.

In theory, at least.

This isn’t the first guy to try to hide his name from a potential date. Another friend of mine was playing reference for another friend of hers, when she got a call at 11pm from a guy who refused to identify himself.

“I could lie and give you a fake name, but I’m being honest and telling you that I won’t tell,” he explained proudly.

“Why won’t you tell?”

“Well, I don’t necessarily want it getting back to her, the kinds of things I’m asking about her.”

“Does that strike you as fair? That you show up on a date knowing highly personal information about her that she doesn’t know you know?”

“Well—“

“And do you really think she has so many guys looking into her at the same time that she won’t be able to figure out who you are?”

“Well—“

“And I will also mention that you called at 11pm, and the only reason I took your call was because I thought it was an emergency because who calls a stranger and a mother at 11pm on a work night?!”

“Well if you’re not going to tell her anything nice about me, I guess there’s no point in this call.”

That was actually what I told my friend, regarding my own non-identifying would-be suitor.

“You don’t need to bother calling back with answers to any of his questions. I’m not interested in a guy who won’t stand by his actions. You can tell him he’s officially nixed, whoever he is.”

Bad4 Hits the Phones

I recently had the privilege and fun of making some research calls on behalf of a friend. I volunteered for the job; I thought it would be fun. Instead, I discovered that I did not miss my calling in undercover spy work. Subtly extracting information from a suspecting subject is not my strong suite.

Below, “She” is the Single on behalf of whom I made the calls. Her line is the information that Single requested I get about the subject, Mr. Adam Adamson.  “Me,” my name, I call myself. My line is what I say to the reference on the phone. “Re” is the reference I was calling.  Her/his line is the gist of what I extracted. Me to She: what I relayed back to Single.

 

She: “How does he spend his free time?”

Me: “So…tell me about Adam Adamson.”

Re: “Well, he’s a great guy, a wonderful learner, just back from Israel. Always up for anything and always busy with something. You know, he always keeps busy on the side earning a little. Working in a store, delivering groceries, giving rides…”

Me to She: “He doesn’t waste a second. A masmid of life.”

 

She: “Find out what he plans to do with his life.”

Me: “…so, he seems like a pretty motivated guy. Where’s he heading?”

Re: “Well, right now he’s still learning and plans to do that for a while. After that, I haven’t heard.”

Me back to She: “Got none.”

 

She: “Find out if his family is normal.”

Me: “So, you know the Adamson family very well?”

Re: “Oh yes. A warm, wonderful, loving family.”

Me back to She: “Sounds a heckuvalot nicer than your family.”

 

She: “Find out if people like him.”

Me: “So how do you know Adam?”

Re: “He’s good friends with my son and he comes over often. Such a nice boy. He runs errands for us all the time. I’d set him up with my daughter, but he’s so close with my son that it would be weird.”

Me back to She: “His reference likes him. That’s good enough, right?”

 

She:  “Find out if he’s chilled or uptight.”

Me: “Er….” “Um….” “So.” “How is working with him?”

Re: “He’s great! He’s up for anything. But if he thinks something is over the top he can stop it without sounding disrespectful.”

Me to She: “I dunno what kind of camp he worked in, but it sounds like da bomb.”

 

She: “Find out if he’s a mensch.”

Me: “So, is he a mentsch?”

Re: “The definition of the world.”

Me to She: “This is harder than I thought.”

 

Me to She: “So? He sounds amazing. If he was five years older I’d date him myself. When are you going out?”

She to Me: “Not interested.”

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?

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?

But You Never Even Met Me!

Does anyone else find it mildly insulting to hear that someone is looking into you… and then never hear from them about a date?

I always wonder about those. Particularly about who was the last person to speak to them.

Not that I think someone is turning them off me with negative information. It’s quite possible they simply realized that we weren’t compatible. But still…