What’s Your No-Beer Answer?

I have a career problem. Not with the career. It’s great so far. But it wreaks havoc on my dating. Heck, its even bad for not dating. I was at circus school the other night and a happily married classmate asked me what I do.

“Scientist,” I said vaguely.

“Oh wow,” he looked stunned.

“You?” I asked, keeping it friendly.

“Well, now I don’t want to say,” he hesitates. “I’m just an intake nurse at the hospital.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, it’s not a smart.”

“So what? It’s a good job and you’re still way better at lion-taming than I am. That’s not going to change how I see you.”

The thing that bugged me about this exchange was that I’d given him my “beer” answer. I was trying to be non-intimidating. What’s a girl to do when her “beer” answer is also a “no-beer” answer?

Here’s how it goes. If a girl is in a bar and a guy comes over and asks what she does, she can give one of two answers: the “beer” answer, which will hopefully lead to further conversation and him offering to buy her a beer; or the “no beer” answer, which will make him suddenly recall urgent business elsewhere. This is purely theoretical for me, as I never get approached in bars, since I’m not generally in them. But the idea still holds: the turn-off answer, and the not-so-turnoff answer.

When I came across this idea, I asked my companions, a preschool teacher and a librarian, what their “no beer” answers would be. After some deep mulling, the preschool teacher answered “Early childhood development specialist.” The librarian didn’t miss a beat. “Librarian,” she said promptly.

Like the librarian, my beer and no-beer answers are essentially the same. Which I find troubling.  What on earth is a girl to answer if people back away slowly from the lite version? A lie?

…then again, it sure is fun to whip out the no-beer answer. “I’m a microneurobiologist specializing in intracellular organelle funambulism. But that’s boring. What do you do? Hey, is something wrong?”

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Not a Good Wingwoman

I was at the mixed-orthodox shul with a friend who we shall call Morah. We were standing around, nibbling on our chulent, when Morah said, “There’s a guy eyeing us from across the room. Here he comes…”

“Hi!” Guy introduced himself brightly. “I’m new to the neighborhood and trying to meet people. I’m Guy, who are you?”

We surreptitiously checked his fingers for a ring, and, finding none, introduced ourselves in turn.

“I’m Morah and I’m a preschool teacher.”

Guy smiled at her and turned to me.

“I’m Bad4 and I’m a neurochemist.”

Guy made a 45-degree body turn back to Morah and smiled. “I also work with small children!”

They chatted about small children and classrooms for another 15 minutes while I finished my chulent and wandered off to get something to drink. Neither noticed me going.

“Well what was he supposed to say?” Morah defended Guy later. “He probably had no idea what a neurochemist does.”

“Most people don’t. That doesn’t stop them from saying ‘I guess you look at brains a lot, huh?’ or ‘so you blow up neurons?’ He didn’t even try.”

“Well it’s just that you intimidated him,” Morah soothed me, like I was a small child having a melt down. She’s good at that. Only that’s really not what I needed to hear.

A medically inclined friend of mine went to a singles event a few weeks ago, where she sat next to a lawyer and a preschool teacher at the speed dating section.

“It was set up that two guys would come sit down at a table with three girls and you’d do introductions,” she said. “So every time two guys would come sit down and we’d do the intros, who are you, what do you do, who are you, what do you. And we go ‘doctor, lawyer, preschool teacher.’ And they nod and smile and say that’s nice, and proceed to physically turn and talk to the preschool teacher.”

The lesson is, preschool teachers make rotten wingwomen.

There is clearly something about women who spend their entire day chasing small children that men just simply cannot resist. Why this is I couldn’t say, but women be warned: stay away from those preschool teachers when you’re trawling for men.

Or better yet—tell them you teach preschool too! Then you can snag the guy, go on a date, and get to know him. If things go well, you can tell him you’re applying for jobs as a scapula surgeon, to break him into the idea. If he can get over your alleged career change, you’re good to go. If he can’t… well, time to start applying for preschool jobs.

The Shidduch Threat (2 of 2)

Part 1 was yesterday

With one particular senior teacher, nothing I did made her happy–or content, or even resigned.

She could discern note-taking from novel-writing from across the classroom, and she had a zero-tolerance policy for such creative development. She would even stop at my desk to glare if I so much as doodled in the margins of my notes. Her lack of tolerance extended, insufferably, to my chin-on-hands pose. She demanded nothing less than a bolt-upright position, an alert expression, and eyes wide with inspiration.

Because she did try to inspire. It offended her that I wasn’t blown away by her teachings. Her subject was a fluffy one to begin with, and she frothed it up like full-fat whip cream. It was about as far from my style as goth is from business casual. I didn’t hold it against her–she couldn’t help that her subject didn’t suit me. What I loathed was that she didn’t return my understanding and tolerance. And she, like many teachers, did  not appreciate how painful it is to sit attentively in a wooden desk when you are dying of boredom.

I must not have been the only vacant expression in the classroom. I can’t flatter myself with the notion that she’d stop class on a weekly basis just to lecture to me. Because that’s exactly what she’d do. Quite regularly, she would take a break to remind us of the importance of her subject. She would insist (like every other teacher) that hers was the most important class we were taking.

And then, with barely a pause for breath, she would tell us about a shidduch call she received yesterday—just one of the many she got every week. They wanted to know about a former student of hers—and the girl had been such a great student that she was able to be quite enthusiastic.

But that wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the girl wasn’t such a great student. And then she didn’t know what to say. And she hated to give a bad impression, but what could she do? When she had no positive memories of the girl from class, she couldn’t make stuff up, could she?

While going on in this vein, she would march up and down the aisles where my posse sat, making eye contact with everyone. Depending on my mood, I would return her gaze with either my best Chrestomanci-vague expression (“Is this relevant to me?”) or a Charles-Morgan, Double-Barreled blank (“Words cannot convey my resentment and disdain”).

Somehow, she hoped to inspire us via threat. Like some modern version of slapping wrists with a ruler, or a grown-up version of the OD threatening to call the head counselor on you.

So: Students afraid to ask their teachers questions because of shidduchim? Really, I wonder how that could happen. Is it general community hysteria? Or might it be something else… something more insidious, perhaps?

The Shidduch Threat (1 of 2)

A few weeks ago I came across an article by a speaker who gave a seminar on basic Jewish beliefs at a Bais Yaakov. She received enthusiastic and excellent questions from the students.

Curious, she asked them why they had never asked their regular teachers these questions. The students glanced at each other and said, “Well, those teachers get calls about shidduchim. We don’t want them to think that we have emunah issues.”

The article went on to do some lamenting, but I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I was transported back to my high school days.

Are these students paranoid? Or are their fears well founded?

Actually, their fears might be planted.

Like tweenage babysitters threatening their charges with monsters if they get out of bed, some teachers threaten their students with bad shidduch references for similar misdemeanors.

I will begin this narrative by explaining that I was never a teacher’s student. I’m not an auditory learner and I struggle with audiobooks, meetings, and lectures. In fact, I don’t even bother attending shiurim anymore, as I cannot seem to sit and listen with any manner of grace. This has ruined my frum cred in the eyes of the pious, but I consider it more respectful to the speaker.

Another problem I had in high school was the tendency of teachers to repeat everything three times. I learned that I could fall into a consciousness cycle wherein I paid attention for 20 out of every 60 seconds and still catch everything of importance.

The problem then became: what to do with the other 40 seconds?

Well, my default was to cross my arms on my desk, slide them forward, and rest my chin on my forearms. This way my head wasn’t in the objectionable Napping Position, but it was close enough to be comfortable.

“I feel sorry for your teachers,” my father interrupted a dvar Torah once to inform me, after I slid into position. “You look so painfully bored.”

It always did seem to make my teachers unhappy. I never really understood why. I got great grades on tests and I could usually parrot back whatever they’d been talking about when they called on me unexpectedly. What more could they want?

“Active engagement,” one teacher informed me after her first test. She explained that my grades made my disengagement inexcusable. Apparently, if you’re a poor student it’s okay to slouch and not take notes. But if you’re a good student you’re expected to sit straight and alert, scribble non-stop, and wave your hand in the air like you’re auditioning for the part of Hermione Granger. This teacher tried to engage me in standard bais yaakov style: by ordering me to be engaged.

With the help of some friends, I tried to simulate the appearance of engagement. That is: we filled the other 40 seconds with busy scribbling: epistolary novelettes, underground class magazines, cryptography, and a comic strip series about a group of superhero students who fought to rid the world of tyrannical, narrow-minded, and unreasonable educators. Except with the most eagle-eyed teachers, it seemed to help.

Part 2 tomorrow

Question of the Weekend

Flint and Sam go out

Meteorologist Sam Sparks and Inventor Flint Lockwood on a date (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Sony Pictures Animation.)

“People don’t set up accountants with accountants. They don’t set up teachers with teachers or PTs with PTs. So why do they think they have to set up engineers with engineers?”

~ MF #1