New Year’s Post

I am not a big New Year’s reveler. My acknowledgment of the new calendar year usually consists of sticking my head under the pillow at midnight when the shouting wakes me up. I also accept the day off from work, albeit grudgingly. (Can’t I work on New Year’s and take off on one of my holidays? Answer: No.  The computer system couldn’t process that request. Neither could my boss.)

Anyway, I recently started using a feed reader, and every other blogger seems to have a New Year’s post. Resolutions or retrospectives or predictions or something like that. So now I feel like I need a New Year’s themed post.

Retrospective:

WordPress is kind enough to restropect on my blog for me. I have posted their stats for you.

Resolutions:

I don’t  do resolutions. I have better things to fail at. Besides, what does a shidduch blogger resolve to do? Get married this year? Thank you. I’ve been working on this for seven years. Why would I suddenly succeed now?

Maybe I could resolve to be a better dater. Try throwing out my list or just stop dumping guys because they aren’t worth giving up my hair for. But eh. No. A girl needs some standards. I’m sticking with my list.

So no resolutions. Great! Moving right along, let’s make some predictions.

Predictions:

I predict that 75% of the 19-year-olds who found this blog during a late-night, post-date googling session will be engaged by the end of the year. I predict that 75% of the long-time readers will not be—and I’m including the married readers in that number.

Not to disparage the 19-year-old readership. I think being single at 19 is more miserable than being single at 27. I’m just so used to it by now. All those raw emotions are covered with so much scar tissue. I no longer care about the things that got me ranting (and writing) at 19. I apologize to my readers: I just don’t have the passion any more. Maybe I should predict my retirement in the next year.

Starting Fresh:

Is there such a thing as starting fresh?

I once had a theory that one of the great harms in relationships comes from the “you always do this” mindset. That is “You have done this thing I don’t like several times in the past, therefore I assume you will do it again now, and I’m going to preempt that or overreact to innocent errors and statements as if you were repeating this past offense.”

So I did a thought experiment. What if you could treat your friends and relatives as completely fresh slates every day? Nothing they’ve done in the past will affect how you perceive them now.

And I realized that this kind of negates the whole point of a relationship. Knowing and understanding the other person, what they do, like, and think, and also what they probably need to work on.

Why am I rambling on this way? Fresh starts. Right. I don’t believe in those either. I am not a brand new person at the start of a new year. I’m the same old flawed me. And chances are good I’m going to continue making the same mistakes this year that I’ve made in the past. But I will take this “stop and think” moment to strike a deal with me: I’ll erase the “you always” mentality if I can prove that I actually don’t always.

Time to get cracking.

It’s 2014!

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Chanukah Parties

There wasn’t a chance to publish this on Chanukah, so it went into the drafts and I forgot about it until now. So, here you are.

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There’s nothing like a family Chanukah party to remind you about how single you are.

It always starts the same way. Hug and kiss the grandmother while being asked when you will be arriving late due to husband and kids. Smile and say you hope sometime soon.

Then the cousins with the husbands and kids arrive. There are the usual greetings. “Hello, I haven’t seen you in so long, what are you up to these days?”

Don’t be fooled. They are not under the impression that you change your life every year. They just can’t remember what you were doing from last Chanukah party. If you’re feeling merciful, you give them the full rundown, “Still teaching pig-latin to orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.” If you’re feeling cruel, you just say, “Oh, same as last year.” Then wait for their smile to go forced as they ask “And that is what?”

You meet about 18 different cousins and have the identical conversation with each of them. You coo at their babies. You call them cute. You comment on how much or how little hair they have and how smiley they are/aren’t. This is the easy part. The hard part is when you sit down with your latkes and try to find yourself someone your age and single to talk to.

You look around.

You look around some more.

And then you realize that you are the last remaining grandchild within your decade to be unpaired.

So you resign yourself to finding a favorite cousin who happens to be married. But alas. It’s like the bodysnatchers got them. Your favorite cousin is no longer there.

Conversation is about getting children into preschool in Lakewood. It’s about where the cheapest, best-quality diapers are. If it’s a Lakewood table, they’ll cover who is receiving what benefits from the government and how they  deal with all the full-fat milk that food stamps requires them to buy. If it’s a Five Towns table, they’re most likely covering children’s clothing sales.

The most you can really contribute to these conversations is “I heard that…” or “My friend says…” You have conversation via proxy experience. If you really make an effort, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. You are not you: you are the sum total of the related experiences of others that you have accumulated in your grey matter.  Thank God you have married friends on food stamps.

Well, sort of. I mean, obviously it would be better if they weren’t. But since the government is so generous, your friend benefits, and you benefit, and your table at the Chanukah party benefits because they don’t have that awkward single sitting there quietly swirling the sour cream on her plate. It’s like a great ripple of joy emanating from Washington D.C.

Uncle Sam’s Chanukah gelt.

Happy Holiday, all.

Whose Side Are You On Anyway?

Most of the time, a shadchan is particularly invested in one of the parties being set up. They’re not actually setting up pants and skirts. They’re setting up a skirt with their favorite nephew. Or a pair of pants with the neighbor’s aging daughter, lo aleinu.

This manifests especially in the follow-up to the date. The shadchan will call their principal party anxious to hear that it went well. If the principal party is less than enthusiastic, the shadchan won’t push. (S)he’ll apologize instead, and hasten to break the news to the auxiliary party. If the principal party is interested, on the other hand, the shadchan may press a reluctant auxiliary party to try again.

Sometimes, like when a friend sets you up with her cousin, you are not sure into which party you fall. Other times, like when your uncle picks out the best bochur in the yeshiva for you, it’s rather more obvious.

And sometimes you wonder.

Like when your sister-in-law’s brother meets a guy at sheva brachos who he thinks you’d enjoy meeting. You have no reason to assume he’d have anything but the best of intentions and a discriminating eye. After all, you’re best friends with his sister and a sibling of his favorite brother-in-law.

Until you find yourself on the most tedious date of your life with a guy who keeps jerking around to peer over his shoulder (just in case something exciting is about to take place? Does he have insider information?) in between talking with his mouth full about how much he earns.

Was he different at sheva brachos?

Or maybe… maybe his connection to the sister-in-law’s brother is actually closer than you think. Maybe the sister-in-law’s brother is trying to marry this guy off, and for that reason is setting him up with everyone in sight.

Of course, you would never converse with a member of the opposite gender when not dating, so you never have the opportunity to shout “What were you thinking?” at the sister-in-law’s brother. Instead, you politely tell your sister-in-law that you don’t think the guy is for you, but to thank her brother for the thought—it was very considerate and much appreciated.

Yeah, there are dates like that.

The ones that leave you mentally asking the shadchan: Whose side are you on anyway?

Travel the World, Meet New People, and…

Some are born shadchanim. Some achieve shadchanus. And some have shadchanus thrust upon them.

There are people who set up other people for a living. It is well known that they spend all their waking moments picking pink slips out of a pillbox hat and matching them to blue slips from a black Borsalino. There are also people who make a point of matching up singles. They meet singles and then meet other singles, and try to pair the two up. They create “shidduch circles” where they swap names with their friends. And so on.

And then…

And then there are the people who once set up their niece with the very nice boy down the block. Nothing much ever came of it, but the neighbor mentioned it to your aunt. And when your father said he was desperately seeking someone to set up his daughter, the aunt mentioned her to your father. And your father mentioned it to you, in the fashion of mentioning that strongly recommends follow-up action. And you, convinced that you’re going to see a professional shadchan of the first order, dress up, print crisp copies of your shidduch profile, and deposit yourself on her doorstep.

When does she sadly apologize for not being a shadchan? It varies. Sometimes it’s over the phone, so you have the option of discovering prior engagements that forces you to take an indeterminate rain check.

Sometimes it’s not until you ring her doorbell, and then you sit through the next half-hour being exceedingly engaging, because you know you’re wasting your time (and hers), but you don’t want it to show.

Sometimes it’s not until after the interview, when you realize that you just bared your soul to someone who was just being nice. She couldn’t bear to turn you away before. It wouldn’t have been nice to turn you down cold, considering your position as a rapidly aging single female. So she didn’t mention that she doesn’t actually know any boys (except the nice one down the block, but he’s married now to a very fine girl from Monsey). Now she can’t bear to see you leave with your hopes raised, so she breaks the news, very apologetically.

It’s not her fault. She just gave you an hour of her precious time too. And she’ll probably feel guilty for a whole day for not knowing who to set you up with. She might even call her friend to ask if her nephew is still single, only to find out that he’s learning at a yeshiva in Sydney for the next two years.

No, if anyone is responsible for the absurdity of the situation, it is that whole chain of people who are so desperate on your behalf that they conjure shadchanim out of the air where none exist, and pass them on, figuring, “It can’t hurt to meet people.”

Well, you can never tell.

It just takes the right person.

You need to be seen, you know.

Sometimes, chatting amiably to strange Women in Black, I wonder who failed to mention that the woman wasn’t actually a shadchan. Letsee… this woman is my mother’s, friend’s, friend’s… cousin? Sister-in-law? Something like that. So, it might have been the sister-in-law. Or the friend, or the other friend, or my mother.

I have to admire the number of links in the chain. Aren’t there only supposed to be three degrees of separation between orthodox Jews? And yet, here I am, discussing my  ideal mate with someone five degrees away; far enough for a serious game of broken telephone to take place.

My central nervous system generates glib answers to questions I’ve heard dozens of times before. Meanwhile, the back of my brain is wryly observing that in most aspects of my life, the opportunity to meet new people would be considered an exciting benefit. Really, why would this be any different?

I cross my ankles, sit up straighter, and try to enjoy the benefits of being single.

Grandmothers

Sometimes I wonder if it’s at all possible to give a grandmother nachas while still single. It’s kinda frustrating. All the responses below are taken almost verbatim, although, to be fair to my grandmothers, they were not all from the same person in a single conversation.

Grandmother: Bad4, it’s so nice to see you. Nu, what’s happening? When do we get to hear some nachas from you?

Me: Gran! I graduated!

Grandmother: That’s great. What’s next, a nice young man?

Me: With honors. And I won an award too.

Grandmother: I don’t understand why such a smart girl like you can’t seem to find a shidduch. Maybe you scare off the boys?

Me: I’m moving to Lakewood to be near my awesome job for an international corporation.

Grandmother: That’s good. I hear there’s a yeshiva there. Maybe you’ll meet someone. You know what they say: shoneh makom shoneh mazal.

Me: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Good Advice

I was reading An Ideal Husband, by Oscar Wilde, last week, and came across this line of unmatched wisdom: “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

If good advice were meant to be passed on, I imagine isru chag would contain a flurry of advice-exchanging from “older” singles who have had the secret of their singleness revealed to them by wise relatives over the holiday.

One of the nice things about strangers is that they don’t give you advice. They just adapt to your “quirks” and get on with business. This is why some very flawed people have become very successful. Friends will sometimes share their insights, but only after agonizing over whether it’s really a fatal flaw, and then rehearsing their lecture in the shower. Relatives, I am sorry to say, rarely take showers before starting in on you.

Now, my relatives behaved this Pesach so I have little advice to pass along. I am only scarred by a few backhanded compliments (my favorite: “You sound so reasonable online”). However, on an annual basis I get an earful. I have become quite good at taking it. I can now listen to advice for a full five minutes before my eyes cross, my ears turn red, and steam starts dribbling out my nose. At this annual rate of tolerance growth, I will be more than ready to handle the censoriousness of my teenagers when I have them.

It’s not like it’s usually such great advice, I must note. People grasp at the simplest solutions. If you tell them “Former Date didn’t like my boots,” automatic reaction is “You should wear nicer boots on a date.” Yep, that should do it. One shopping trip and they’ll all be falling at my feet – and proposing to my footgear. I mean, seriously. If he’s going to be a shoe critic he can find himself dates by standing outside the outlet store of his choice.

I take it because I tell myself that the advice itself is a compliment. They really care. They think I’m not completely hopeless. No… what I mean is like this:

If you think Someone is absolutely wonderful, you naturally assume that everyone else will see this Someone as wonderful too. When it becomes obvious that scores of dates do not realize how absolutely wonderful Someone is, you begin puzzling over why. Could it be that so very many dates are blind? Or is Someone somehow obscuring his/her wonderfulness? You can’t help the amount of unperceptive people that Someone goes out with, but you can help Someone make his/her wonderfulness more obvious to these not-quite-perfect date.

So, by advising me on my boots, these well-meaning folks are just affirming that, in fact, they think I’m wonderful. Except for my boots. Those could use help. But everything else about me is just wonderful.

After all, there’s no point in advising a hopeless case, is there? Which means—can you imagine—they think there’s hope!

But… Wait… why didn’t anyone give me advice so far this Pesach?

Have they given up?

Forever 21?

A bar mitzvah in the paternal side of the family this weekend means traveling to the city most occupied by the paternal end of the family. Perhaps the paternal end of the family looked upon this as ripe opportunity to set me up with an eligible local bachelor. Or perhaps sending me an invitation merely reminded them that they’d been meaning to set me up with said bachelor for a while now.

At any rate, they did the shadchan-thing, and I was bcc’d on the email sent to the bachelor-in-question’s father.

The first half of the email was occupied with descriptions of my parents  so laudatory that even a teenager would have been proud to be related. For a brief moment I basked in the glow of such wonderful forebears. Then I eagerly rushed to the paragraphs at the bottom covering myself. Hey, I can always use an ego boost.

After a glowing introduction, which I thoroughly enjoyed (though it sounded vaguely familiar), the paragraph got down to the essentials. For starters, I was 21 years old.

Um, wait?

I’m going to be 23 in August.

I continued reading, and a sneaking suspicion snuck up behind me and started reading over my shoulder. Height as 5 feet 4.5 inches? That decimal point… The list of things I enjoy, that turn of phrase describing my goals in life… Yep, there was no doubt about it: this had all come straight off my shidduch dossier.

Not that I minded. I hadn’t seen this branch of the paternal end in years, so what else would they have to work with? But clearly, if people were going to be using my crib sheet as, well, a crib sheet, I was going to have to do some maintenance.

It’s not that I don’t update the thing. I’ve changed the references as more friends have gotten married and others have drifted away. I’ve updated my education as I acquire it and my employment as it changes. I guess it never occurred to me to scroll to the top and change my stats. I mean, my name hasn’t changed, my height hasn’t changed, and, um, what else is up there again? I guess my age. It changes. But not that often – only every 12 months. Why would I remember to change it?

I resolve to update my dossier next time I’m near it (I conveniently keep it on the family computer hard drive, which is now about 100 miles away). But then I think about the ramifications. I scroll back down the email to the list of my accomplishments. To do it all by the age of 23 – meh. No biggie. But by 21? Now that is impressive.

Hm. Maybe I’ll leave it for now.