Look, I really don’t think any of this is specific to the singles community. I just think that these things become really dangerous when you’re supposedly looking for someone to marry, or even be in a serious relationship with.
Scrutiny. How much are we doing it to each other? You meet someone new and automatically notice the unforgivable things about them. For so many really bad reasons, without a blink of an eye you could be deciding that you could never be with someone like “that.”
I know that there is no way I could ever pass this scrutiny. I mean, if I were to list all the imperfect things about me that one could notice immediately upon meeting me the first time, I am 100% a lost cause.
This is dangerous. It’s ironic because it’s actually a defence mechanism but what it protects people from is actually being open to people and being willing to get to know someone.
It does keep things really comfy and shallow though, don’t you think?
Photo by email@example.com on flickr.
Last night I put a shout-out asking for males to voice their opinions and ideas about dating since HaBitza could use a little more masculinity. Ami has decided to be the first to braved the waters.
Thank you Ami!
Even though I hold a Masters degree with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy, I claim not to be an expert in matters of marriage, as I have yet to experience it. I might only share my experience in the dating world.
I imagine that some men will be able to relate to what I am about to share here while others won’t. Women, perhaps – I’d be interested to hear what you think.
My experience is that when I don’t feel the pressure to marry and when I’m not TRYING, per se, then I’m more interested in intimacy. On the other hand, when I feel the pressure – a combination of social pressure and self-talk – I’m not really open to it. It’s not that I choose to close myself down, but rather, I close up automatically, naturally.
I think it has to do with the more male desire/need for freedom. So when I feel free, I’m ready to be vulnerable; but when I feel pushed… forget about it.
Photo by mikebaird on flickr.
I REALLY believe that singles events cannot be singles events. They need to be events for people to grow in some way (learn something, help someone, have fun…) in an environment that still helps people meet each other.
I also tend to believe that singles events should not be just for singles! It creates such awkwardness. If an event is cool and nice, why can’t other people come? It’s a big challenge to plan an event that isn’t focused on being single and isn’t even only for singles, but somehow still facilitate new people meeting but I believe that should be the goal.
Anyway, don’t you think that it should be easier for people to meet if there are married/coupled people there too? People that maybe want to help singles meet but also just want to be there for the event itself.
As I’m writing this, I feel like such a think tank – thinking and writing away but not actually trying to implement this myself. So I just want to mention that I fully appreciate the huge effort and amount of hard work that goes into planning an event, especially a single event. But at the same time, I hear so many complaints about singles events so obviously something has to change.
I’d like this to be a discussion because it’s a way for people who are planning events for singles to get more of a window into what we’re thinking and what we need and want.
So please, write here, what do you think could be the “dream singles event”? Or, the dream event where singles might meet…
Tell us what you think!
I’ve begun being in touch with a woman who is sincerely putting heart and soul (I’m not joking – you have to see how hard she’s working at it) into trying to help singles meet each other.
She is not being condescending. She talks about it and you can see that she is not looking down on singles but she sees there is a problem and wants to help.
And yet, it’s like pulling teeth trying to get people to bite her bait. She spends long phone conversations with people talking to them about the events she’s planning. And meanwhile, for all her good intentions, not to her face of course (or other people who are trying to help singles), the singles are hemming and hawing and complaining about singles events and “professionals” who are trying to help us.
It’s a really interesting thing, isn’t it?
I was just watching Pollyanna (so kill me) and Polly’s aunt forces her to go around town giving out charity – jars of jammed calf foot. Yum!
She is having the hardest time because people are angry with her for giving them something for free. She walks away from one old man she had given a jar to and says to the woman she’s with, “People really hate getting charity.”
Watch from 4:45 (is the sound totally off for you too?)
People don’t like being charity cases. People don’t like having people focus on what’s wrong with them. We really prefer if people don’t notice there is anything wrong with us at all. At the same time we’re hyper-conscious of what is “wrong” with us and we’re sure everyone else is focusing on that “wrong” thing too.
In our society being single is a big problem because we are instilled with the idea that as long as we haven’t succeeded in getting ourselves hooked, we don’t have concrete proof that we’re “OK.” So any help that comes our way can feel like the person helping is saying, “You’re screwed up so let me try to help unscrew you.”
This is such a delicate situation but we can use some help. So the question is, what help do we need and how should it be supplied?
What is the recipe for helping a group like singles who want to get married in the most positive way possible? I’ll start by giving #1:
1) Only help if you can honestly show that you have utmost respect for the people you’re trying to help.
I just wrote a blog post about feeling like a loser because of my singlehood. (I’m not sure I’ll ever post it, right now it’s going to stay a draft.) You must understand, I do not actually think we are all losers but I think the losery feeling prevails among many singles after a certain age (the age differs depending on your background and personality). The “I’m a loser” voice probably follows a lot of us around and it’s a shame because it’s destructive and it’s a lie and it’s a story we’re telling ourselves almost as if it is what we owe someone as payment for failing to get married until now.
Not to mention that all this negative energy is bound to have an affect on you and your life.
Think about it. Let’s say you’re a single person who is very uncomfortable with your singledom (or singlehood, whichever). You are often acutely aware of how really very losery you feel about your singlehood.
Now, if you think this about yourself, what must you think of everyone else in the same situation as yourself, in the same singles scene as you? How much of what we think about people is based on who they really are and how much is based on stories we tell ourselves like: “Being single in your 30s, 40s is _____”?
There was recently research done on the high density singles scenes like the Bitza in Katamon, Jerusalem, and it showed that people lower their chances of getting married by living in these bitzot (swamps).
Maybe being part of a community everyone is a part of out of default (you want to be married but you aren’t married so you’ll just have to live in the Bitza until you finally get married) isn’t exactly healthy.
How do you feel about your singlehood? How do you feel about other people’s singlehood. And be honest! (At least you can write anonymously here, as opposed to me.)
P.S. To be clear, I am not saying people should leave the Bitza. I believe it’s very important singles have a place to be where they are comfortable and relatively happy. I’m only saying we must be aware of the repercussions and try to counter the negative ones.
I’m writing this in further response to the question about singles and parents that went up earlier.
It’s sad but true. In most Jewish, especially religious families, you get more respect once you’re married.
- no one is looking at you strangely, trying to find the fatal flaw, the reason why you’re not married, with a worried look on their face.
- no one is tearing their hair out with guilt, saying “where did we go wrong with our wrongheaded daughter/son” and guilt tripping you into the middle of next year
- no one is putting you down about your height, weight, shoe size, beliefs, convictions, activities, drinking habits, eating habits, language, bad language, dress taste, etc. because they are convinced that if you just change one teeny thing (like your religious beliefs, for example, or your gender…just kidding) you would achieve the nirvana of marriage (which is when they go to work on you about having children)
- if someone is serving food at the table, you get bumped ahead if you’re married and left till last if you’re single (it’s true! it happens! please comment if you’ve experienced this! you are not alone!)
- your preference of who to sit next to at the table will always take second place to treatment of couples who of course must sit together…
- I won’t dwell on the PGBYs (figure it out, go on) at weddings, barmitzva’s and oddly also at britot (can’t think of anything I’d rather not be PGBY’d about…)
- And I certainly won’t dwell on being seated at the children’s table at simchas when you’re 32 years old…
So part of the problem in talking to parents about being single and dating, is that often they are doing one or more of the above. And sad but true, you are often being seen as a problem, a loose end that has to be tied up (preferably with another loose end), and you are not given respect as a person who, believe it or not, has a life. Which includes more than dating. My father A”H loved music – as do I. But he wasn’t able to sit and enjoy listening to opera with me (yes, weird tastes, I know) because he was too busy worrying about why I was not married, and how he could possibly fix it. What a waste.
If you feel this post sets the issue clearly – feel free to show it to your loved ones. Maybe we can change the world a little.
Someone decided to send me this absolutely depressing article (in Hebrew) about what it’s “really” like to live in the Bitza.
I actually think that the writer is clumping two things together – her personal experiences with people in general and the specific experience of living in the Bitza.
For example, she wrote that living in the Bitza means knowing that no one is really your friend.
Um, yikes. How do you choose your friends?! And, that is something that any married person could say as well, depending on who they choose as their friends.
She also said that living in the Bitza means not feeling connected to your Judaism anymore, it means going to synagogue though not actually praying, it means never giving anyone a real chance to become more than just friends…
To say that no one in the Bitza is a real friend is terrible. To say no one is sincerely religious is unfair. But at the same time there are some things that do feel true to me.
For example, she said that there is not a lot of depth in people’s interactions with each other. Sometimes I find that the get togethers and parties stay pretty on the surface but I wonder if people are having more meaningful interactions in smaller groups.
She said that when you talk to people in group settings, no one is looking you in the eye because they’re always checking what’s going on around them. This often seems to be the case.
She said that people wait until the last minute to decide on their Shabbat meal plans because they’re worried a better offer will come along. Well, I’ve seen and heard this quite a lot so I tend to believe it! I have seen myself almost start to do it although I try to stop myself.
All in all I think her article is depressing. Some of it seems to be about the Bitza and some of it seems to be about how she chooses to interact with people. But does it need to be as negative an experience as the picture she draws in her article? I really don’t think so. I can’t think that because then it gives us no hope of creating a positive, supportive community for ourselves!
I think that no matter what your personal status is, surrounding yourself with a good community can be challenging but it’s possible, it just takes effort.
Photo from Evelyn Saenz on flickr.
In Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s article, How to fix Orthodox dating, he shares a few thoughts regarding what he sees as problems and he writes a few tachles solutions.
The pros and cons of natural settings
One problem he mentioned is the lack of an environment where something can develop naturally. I can see what he means. When you have a separate seating wedding, you’re asking for trouble. I don’t get it… Has someone seen people acting terribly inappropriately at weddings, shiurim and concerts that they had to start being separate? I know a rabbi who says: OK, you want separate seating at your wedding? Fine, the couples can sit separately but the singles must sit together. Yeah, that’s an awesome approach to separate seating (not that I actually believe there is any awesome approach to separate seating besides not having it to begin with).
There might lack natural settings where people can get to know each other but at the same time, I’m living in Katamon, the Bitza, the epitome of natural settings. In singles communities like the Bitza, there are plenty of opportunities for natural developments but yet there is a lack of these developments for some reason. I have had a couple of guys tell me that they have choice over-load which makes me think that, sorry to be a bore, like almost everything in life, it’s a matter of balance. You want to have the opportunity to initiate a natural interaction with someone of the opposite sex but maybe when it becomes such a norm, it isn’t conducive to dating – let alone marriage – anymore.
The problem is that these Bitza-like communities are imperative to people’s sanity. Many singles will say that being single in a predominantly family-oriented community sucks, to say the least. Which makes me think that Vera is right (as she wrote in her article in Jpost on the topic of singles and the larger community) that it is a larger community “problem,” not just a problem for singles to contend with. Imagine if communities worked to assure that singles actually felt totally comfortable being part of the conventional communities… I wonder what would need to change in order for that to happen.
Feeling a lack of control because of too much third party involvement
Boteach wrote the following statement:
…in the religious world where dating is so often dependent on third parties making introductions, young men and women are at the mercy of others to meet a potential spouse.
I so agree. When people are going through a challenge in life and they feel like they have almost no control over it, it is a very disheartening and difficult experience. It is also not true. Read more…