Thursday Link: Things Not to Say to a Single Woman

I enjoy it whenever someone reminds the world that being single and female is honestly not the worst thing that can happen, because it’s really not.

Of course you don’t have to say things to insinuate it. I was recently at a classmate’s wedding. You know, the one who officially makes me the 10-percent forever single. I met a truckload of long-lost classmates, all wearing black, all busy working in some sort of therapy (occupation, speech, physical, mental). Somehow a few of us wound up in conversation with an even older (married) woman in black who spoke about her single days, crammed in an attic with other singles, living on leftovers from their dates.

“We had such good food every night, and we didn’t appreciate it,” she sighed. “When you’re single you just don’t appreciate these things.”

I was immediately jealous that her dates were so generous with the food. Mine, although usually employed, rarely spring for dinner. (And I, with the unfeminine ability to devour an entire entree and then peek at the dessert menu, rarely have leftovers to bring home.)

“I appreciate it!” I protested. “Sometimes the food is the best part of the date!

I immediately felt an uncomfortable shift, and when I glanced at my classmates they were gaping, rather. Had I taken the conversation into awkward territory? Had I done the  equivalent of declaring that “I love chemo! You lose so much weight!”?

The conversation broke up after that, although I suppose it would have broken up faster if I’d just nodded and smiled: “Yes, singles don’t appreciate the goodness they have.” 

For the record: We do! At least, I do. I appreciate everything about being single – my parents would say too much. And when a fellow takes me out to eat, I definitely appreciate that too.

It’s always nice to hear someone make singlehood sound like the good old days. It sure beat when they make it sound like a terminal illness. Which brings me to the link: Things you really shouldn’t say to single women. (Link goes to Huffington Post.)

 

How to Recognize a Pants-Skirt Match: Tipoff #1

You’re told that you’re perfect for a guy, and then you’re given a list of qualifications you need, none of which describe you.

Example:

Woman in Black (WiB): I have a boy – I think he’d be perfect for Bad4!

Good4: Great! What’s he like?

WiB: He’s smart and funny.

Good4: That’s just what she needs. How old?

WiB: Thirty.

Good4: That’s in her range.

WiB: Perfect! Ask her if she’d be interested in a snorkel equipment manufacturer.

Good4: Sure, I’ll find out tonight.

WiB: The family is very well connected, if you know what I mean. She can dress well, right? And be very social with strangers?

Good4: We-ell, yes…

WiB:  Polite and diplomatic?

Good4: Um.

WiB:  Charming, outgoing?

Good4: So… why did you think this was perfect for Bad4?

You Can’t Win (Unless You’re Clued In)

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.803 Social Asperger’s Disorder
[The following is from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM IV]

(I) Qualitative impairment in social normalization, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(A) marked impairments in the use and comprehension of social conventions
(B) failure to develop career aspirations and dress preferences in lockstep with peers
(C) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share and duplicate the life experience of the peer group

(II) Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(A) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal for the demographic
(B) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, functional routines or rituals in opposition to non-functional social conventions
(C) persistent preoccupation with purpose, point, or utility of behaviors
(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of interaction with the given peer group.

(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)

(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

(VI) Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasively Weird Disorder or Antisocial Mania.”

Do you ever get the feeling that everyone else in society was issued a manual at birth, or maybe upon graduation, but somehow you were left out of the distribution list? I imagine this is how an Aspie feels when everyone is laughing at a well-turned bit of sarcasm. Which is why I decide to call it Social Asperger’s.

Every now and then the fog of incomprehension that often hovers between me and today’s yeshivish/ultra-orthodox Jewish norms lifts, and I see the light, and a big “Eureka!” pops out of my mouth. I bask in smugness at unraveling the mystery, when suddenly I realize: everyone else knew this all along.

I had one of these “aha” moments while rereading this post last week. In the post, I complain that I’m branded as “immature” and “unready for marriage” because I don’t have plans for a career yet. This struck me as unfair because my flexibility was what left room for a spouse in my life.

I laughed when I reread it because now I have the opposite problem. Having chosen a field, I’m considered too nerdy or smart to date anyone in any other field. Having launched a career, I’m now considered too career-oriented and geographically bound to date pretty much anyone.

Catch-22, right? You just can’t win. I mean, what kind of career would have satisfied these Women? Only one that’s more obviously transplant-able and non-ambitious. Like masseuse maybe?

Or – oh. I see.

OT, PT, SP, and SE.

Ooh. I get it. Now I get it.

Man, I am slow.

Friday Repost: Don’t Do It!

I don’t believe in doing things just because they’re “good for shidduchim.” Conversely, I don’t believe in not doing things because they’re “bad for shidduchim.”

Let’s face it: if you’re the type of person who runs around and around in revolving doors for the sheer joy of it, the Women in Black who find this behavior offensive are not going to be able to help you. Or maybe they will: by setting you up with an equally offensive gentleman – perhaps someone who slides down banisters in his Shabbos suit just because they’re there.

And finally, if you’re doomed (and “doom” has “fate” in its etymology, meaning it’s predestined) to be single forever, it doesn’t matter what you do, so you might as well enjoy yourself.

An early inspiration of mine was Miss Klein. I think she’s still single. I hope she’s thoroughly happy.

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.

Thursday Links

Frumanista meets a wannabe Woman in Black. Or shall we say a Woman in Gray? The basic assumption of this woman was that a Single woman in possession of a wedding place card must be in want of a seat next to a shachan. I think the most appropriate response would have been to sit down, lean over, and whisper, “I don’t know anything about diets myself, but my friend over there is a nutritionist and personal trainer.”

Someone here would like you to support professional standards in Jewish publications. Notably, that of giving credit where it is due, even when the credit goes to someone non-Jewish on the shminternet.  Go there, send an email, bake the cookies, and mail me samples.

Friday Repost: More Shadchanim

Personally, I think trying to discuss your ideals in marriage at a wedding is a recipe for disaster. (See this item about sign language.)

But sometimes, it’s just the people you’re talking to who are a disaster… Like this poor friend of mine, who I’m glad to say, has since married a guy who matched her description exactly, and the Women in Black’s not at all.

The Truth is They’re Out There

I’m talking about the Women in Black.

They warned me about them when I returned from seminary. These women would be watching me at weddings, on the street, at casual events… they’d be taking notes, and if they liked me, they would marry me off. My fate was in their hands.

I didn’t believe in them.

My argument was rudimentary: I didn’t see them, ergo they didn’t exist. None of them ever asked my name from me or any of my friends. I went to weddings, marched the streets, and attended events without once feeling their gaze penetrating the back of my Little Black Suit. So I discounted their existence.

Well I was wrong. They do exist. But I don’t merit their attention. That’s the sad fact.

I know they exist because a younger friend of mine recently entered shidduchim at a belated age. And she can’t seem to get away from the Women in Black. They’re the neighbor in her friend’s living room. They’re the woman who gives her a ride home from a wedding. They split a piece of seven-layer-cake with her at the kiddush.

She tells me with a startled delight about how she just asked this woman for a ride home from a wedding and in the car it turned out the woman was a shadchan and had asked for her information and thought she had a boy for her. She tells me about the woman she met in a living room who makes shidduchim and will certainly be on the lookout for her. She recites a veritable litany of “accidental” meetings with Women in Black. But oh – I know it’s not accident. No: when the Women in Black want to find you, they find you.

It’s depressing.

The only time I ever met a Woman in Black at a wedding was when one asked me the name of one of my friends. I thought it was a fluke. But no, it’s not them. They exist. It’s me. I don’t exist. Not on their radar, anyway. The Women in Black have seen me and they did not care to dwell on what they saw.

Yeah, that’s depressing.

And liberating. The Women in Black aren’t keeping tabs on me! Wahoo! No need for obsequious kowtowing to their standards! Let’s go running down Avenue J with pajama pants sticking out from under our denim skirts!

Sinister Secret Society

Welcome to the Secret Society. There are rules. There are regulations. There are expectations of how you will behave and comport yourself. We will tell you all about them after you take the oath.

Are you one of us?

Well of course you are. You’ve been waiting for this day. Talk about “na’aseh vinishma” – we know you’re in, so we can make demands.

Someone will tell you all you need to know.

Several someones.

You won’t know when. There will be no warning. But information will be imparted and you will know it. After which you are expected to behave accordingly.

Are you ready?

That was a rhetorical question.

Welcome to Shidduchim.

That old high school classmate who suggested you start ironing your hair daily? She was an agent. Listen and obey. That nosy neighbor who gave you the elevator eyes when you were taking out the garbage? She was an agent. Listen and obey. The former teacher who told you that story about the girl who dressed up on the day she happened to meet her future mother-in-law? She was an agent too. Listen and obey to climb in the order. Disobey and risk the shame of being an eternal novitiate.

Three women – two of them young – sit in a living room.

“You should at least iron your bangs,” says the older young one, flipping her perfectly straightened hair. “Now that you’re in shidduchim, you need to look nice for people.”

“I know,” says the youngest, self-consciously tugging a curly lock. “I just don’t have that time in the morning.”

“You’ll wake up a little earlier. It’s worth it. This is important.”

The older woman stands up and excuses herself. The straight-haired young woman nods after her. “My aunt? She’s a shadchan.”

The curly-haired one looked horrified. “And I was sitting here like this–!” her fingers flutter over her messy bun.

“Yes,” the other says. “But she’ll be at my wedding next week.”

“So I have another chance,” the first sighed in relief. The testing had begun. She would not fail again.

An Out of Mold Experience

My friend – let’s call her Shira – went to an out of town wedding. Since she is an ‘aging single,‘ (read: going on 24) her mother arranged for her to meet a garrison of shadchanim at the wedding. (Because what young lady can travel strictly for pleasure these days?)

So there they are, standing in the corner of the room, music blaring, people in black are dancing, waiters refilling the diet coke… and a jury of shadchanim is interrogating Shira.

“So what are you looking for?”

Argh. She begins describing the guy she thinks would fit her. He would have to be a a chareidi black hatter (apologies to the EndTheMadness readers: meaning he follows the Mishna Berura, has a rav, and attempts to conform to the norms to a certain extent), but not a full-time learner. She knew her lifestyle was too expensive for kollel.

Now, Shira is an aidle bais yaakov maidle. She attended a bais yaakov all her life, went to seminary like any good little girl, and lives in Flatbush. Like all such ‘fine’ young ladies, her father has always worked, but hopes his sons will learn. But while Shira can accept that a ‘lifetime learner’ is a wonderful and desirable trait in a husband, she is fully aware that she as and individual is not cut out for it.

Right.

Back to the wedding hall.

Shira howls over the music that she wants a chareidi black hatter who is capable of getting a job.

“So you want a learner,” shadchan #1 says.

“A lifetime learner or a ‘ten years and then become a rebbe’ learner?” shadchan #2 asks.

“Well of course he should learn his whole life, but he has to w*rk too,” Shira explains loudly.

“So you want a dayan or a rabbi who is in kollel now,” shadchan #3 understands.

“No! I mean, no kollel for me,” Shira shouts.

“Five years and then w*rking in Torah,” shadchan #1 says, in a moment of revelation.

“That’s not what – ” Shira protests.

“Give me a copy of your resume,” requests #2.

“Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” says #3 pleasantly.

And with that, the interview closed. Shira removed her powder-blue-suit-clad self to the street for some air and convinced herself not to scream.

Must we all fit a jelly mold for the sake of shidduchim?