Dating Boys, Part 1 of 2: How to be a Boy

There are two types of women who might be considered “aggressive.” Well, maybe more than two, but this isn’t about the taxonomy of the female genus. So let’s stick with a two-species model.

The first is a genuinely bossy woman. She is convinced that she knows the best way to do everything, and she is not shy about telling – or even enforcing – her opinion on others.

Then there’s an ambitious woman. She has a strong drive to achieve, and enjoys the feeling of accomplishment it gives her. But, something I’ve noticed: many of these women are nowhere near as aggressive in their personal lives, and can be quite passive when away from their job, hobby, or academic environs.

I was thinking about this because a specimen 2 type (S2T) called me up the other day rather distraught. She’d had a phone call with a guy, which was unusual in her Brooklyn-Bais Yaakov circles, but no matter.

After the introductory platitudes, the conversation went something like this:

Him: So, where are we going?

Her: I don’t know, what are the choices?

Him: I don’t know, I’m not from around here.

Her: Well what did you have in mind?

Him: Oh, I don’t know. Whatever you want.

Her: So, like… a lounge in Manhattan would be fine?

Him: Will you meet me there or do we go by train?

Her: Wait, aren’t you going to pick me up?

Him: Yes. Sure I could.

Her: So we’ll drive.

Him: I don’t have a car.

Her: What about borrowing?

Him: I don’t drive.

Her: You don’t drive?

Him: I don’t have a driver’s license.

Her: Really? Are you getting one?

Him: No. Why?

Her: Because, well. Um.

This conversation struck her as wrong on several levels. For those who don’t instinctively understand why, I’ll go into now in detail.

But first, a quick statement about the pre-date phone call. As a bais Yaakov maidel, the phone call is not mandatory in my circles. I was always very glad of that, because carrying on a telephone conversation with someone I’ve never met strikes me as rather awkward. I have trouble enough with people I know. However, I could respect a guy who wanted to call. I thought it showed confidence and an old-fashioned gentlemanliness – very much something out of the more courteous days of our parents.

Now I realize that all too often, it is directly from the days of our parents. Because sometimes what it means is that a guy is taking orders from his mother. With S2T’s guy, it was pretty obvious that this applied.

Here are his main errors:

1 – Plan the date. Plan. The. Date. You are the guy. You must come with at least one idea for the date. You want to give a girl options? Fine. You want to have backup or hear her feedback? Fine. But plan something. We are not comfortable spending your money without any idea of what your price range is. I regularly threaten that the next guy who pulls this on me is going to wind up paying for my sirloin at Prime Grill. But I never have done that. It would be like taking money from a little boy. A little boy who thinks he’s old enough to date.

So I always suggest a walk in the park. It’s cheap, it’s local, and it’s usually pleasant.

2 – Know the local customs. The average Brooklyn girl needs picking up. Car preferred. Yeah, it’s a large demand to make, but it stems from the same old-fashioned concern. Her parents want to know that she’s in good hands, and they want to see you first so they can give a description to the cops if it turns out she isn’t. If you don’t have a car, borrow. You can rent. You can hail a taxi or hire a driver.

The S2T was flummoxed because in her high-achieving world, one doesn’t tackle a task blind. One learns how to perform in the best manner possible before starting. If she were a guy, she’d get a license just for the sake of dating. Why didn’t he show her that courtesy?

S2T’s question wasn’t “Is this guy a total loser?” To her, that seemed self-evident. She wanted to know if it’s okay to call it off after the phone call. I said I always give a guy a second shot, so my advice would be to work something out with him: walk to a local restaurant or take the train somewhere. He might just be young, naïve. He might improve on acquaintance.

That’s what I tell her, but I know he won’t. Because I’ve gone out with these guys before. They are not men. They are boys. Mama’s boys. They think marriage is swapping one mother for another. They will wind up marrying a Type 1 Specimen who will wipe their noses for them in public, and they will not understand why.

If you want a woman who will respect you, respect her. Date with courtesy.

Continued in Dating Boys, Part 2 of 2: Warning Signs.

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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?