Is the first date a lie (continued!)

I’m writing this entire blog post in continuation of Deena’s post on “Is the first date a lie?”, and partly in reply to a faithful commenter (consider yourself honoured…) who wrote:

“You don’t know right now whether or not you will cover your hair when married???????
That just seems like something a frum dating girl would have decided already.”

The issue is not what you know or don’t know. The issue is what you think you know but don’t really know, because you’re still in the theory of marriage, not in the real world of marriage.The distinction is subtle, but when it comes into play after getting married it can hit like a ton of bricks.

For example: a person can know, absolutely, before getting married that he/she wants a large family, as many as the Good L*rd gifts, but after the first two, three kids and many sleepless nights, tattered nerves etc. well does he/she still know that? A girl can be certain she wants to cover her hair, believes in it fully, but after marriage discovers that constant covering her hair gives her a constant (physical) headache? Or the reverse – a guy can be certain he doesn’t want his wife to wear a realistic looking wig – but when he sees the beautiful girl he married wearing a “shmatta” over her glorious blond/red/brown/expensive highlights  hair every day he might “know” things differently, especially if her hair starts falling out….yeah, it happens

Religious issues should be sorted out as much as possible before meeting, but it is always possible that even strongly held beliefs and ideas can change when held under the sharp light of reality.  Sometimes this is enough to break up a marriage – but the best partnerships often survive heavy-duty earthquakes of this kind.

When dating, people often make many announcements and declarations: “this is important to me, this should be important to you.”  But when you’re married, if you truly feel your spouse is your soulmate, your partner, your best friend, all these distinctions stretch a little.  They have to, because human beings are not set in stone.  But that, gentle readers, is the subject for the next blog site on issues within marriage…

Looks aren’t everything

Dear Yenta/Chick,

I have a terrible problem.  I’m a 35 year old single guy.  No-one will go out with me.  No-one will set me up.  They say I’m not serious.  They say I must be dumb.  When I ask why they won’t answer me.  Finally a girl told me the other day that it’s because I’m blond, blue-eyed, tall, lean (I work out), well-dressed (I enjoy wearing nice clothes – is there something wrong with that?), and girls just don’t go for that kind of thing these days.  I’m religious, I go to a regular shiur, study every day, and always try to work on myself, but no-one believes me.  My friend says it’s because I don’t wear glasses, don’t stoop, and when I grow a beard it doesn’t look scraggly enough.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m wondering whether to dye my hair, put on a creased suit and a black hat with crumbs in it, and gain a few pounds.  What should I do?

GL, Arizona

Yenta says:

No, no, you should stay exactly as you are… and sweetheart – why don’t you send me your phone number?  To my private e-mail,.. yes, it’s for Chick… featured in NYC and Jerusalem websites!

Well, we’re feeling mighty famous today! We’re being featured in two major websites. Check it out and feel free to spread the HaBitza word!

At (a NY based site): The art of Shabbat invitation hinting

At Jerusalem Blueprint (a Jerusalem based site): Dating rules in Jerusalem, by Rebecca Markowitz (Thanks Rebecca!)

Also, we’ve started a twitter account and a facebook fan page. Feel free to check those out as well as tell the whole entire world about them. :)

Matchmaker, may I plead the fifth?


Anyone who has been on more than one date in their life has probably experienced the following scenario: You agree to go out with someone and then, once you’re out with them, you find out something that even the matchmaker doesn’t  know. I’m not talking about when it’s malicious, like when the person lied about their age or having a few children tucked away somewhere in the world. I’m talking about when the person didn’t spill the beans about something just because it felt too personal and they preferred to go on a date and then, when/if it felt right, to tell their date their secret.

Being on the other side can definitely be a drag. You suddenly find out pieces of information which you need to process. You start asking yourself if this is something that is important to you. You’ll probably ask yourself if this changes anything as far as going on another date with the person.

Yeah, it’s a drag, but I think I understand where it’s coming from, especially since I can relate. It is so difficult to spill the beans to a matchmaker (whether it’s a friend or a professional) every time you’re being set up. It’s just too emotionally exhausting to have to explain yourself to people over and over again, especially when many of us wonder if the other person is really getting us anyway. This might be subconscious, the decision to withhold certain information, figuring, if something goes far enough (depending on the secret, it could be after one date, two dates or a month or two), then we’ll tell our date the information that’s important to know.

I wonder, what information is OK to withhold and what is unfair to keep secret? Religious issues, family issues, health issues… The list goes on and on of things we don’t feel comfortable talking about with just anyone. But maybe some things really are those that you only have to tell with time, when you feel you’re telling someone you can trust.

What information do you think is OK to keep private from a matchmaker?

Photo by laszlo-photo at flickr.

If only we were charedi

(Charedi, for those who don’t know, literally means fearful but the term refers to “ultra-Orthodox” Jews. You know, black clothes, black hat, people dressed more modestly and in general they are more stringent when it comes to keeping the Torah’s laws.)

Over Shabbat I was talking to my charedi brother in law (BIL). We were discussing dating, of course (when will people start getting sick of me bringing up this topic?), and I found that the way he spoke about dating in the more charedi world seemed so much more appealing to me, suddenly. I am not becoming charedi but I’m definitely willing to learn from them.

But before we see what he said, it’s important to realize that of course we won’t be able to directly implement what they do in our communities because the way they do things is based on how their communities are structured. So, for example, when it comes to dating, Mr. BIL was telling me how when he went out with a girl, he purposely didn’t talk about serious things like religion or topics connected to marriage. He just wanted to see if he enjoyed his time with the girl. They went out for around an hour the first time and then decided if they wanted to go out again a different time.

It’s genius, if you ask me. I have been very worried (admittedly, on a personal level as well as a communal one) about the focus that is given in the dati leumi/modern Orthodox/traditional communities to religion in dating. I feel like too much focus is put on things like sleeve length, head covering intentions, number of times of learning per week, “hashkafa,” etc. etc.

But there is a big difference between us and the charedi community. For the most part, they date within a relatively very small group, sticking to their specific chasidut. So on a date, you know how the girl dresses and her religious intentions, etc., before you even go out with her. In our community, since there is a pretty wide range of religious observance, you could theoretically be part of the same community but be quite different from each other as far as your observance.

That being said, I still think that letting go of having such a specific idea of how much your spouse is going to keep or not keep, might be one of the best things that ever happened to us. (Am I exaggerating?)

I spoke to some people about this over Shabbat, after my conversation with my BIL. I heard some very interesting comments. One guy and girl were both saying how over the years they’ve loosened up a lot about what they expect their spouse to be like religiously. They are open to a wider range of religious observances now. The guy said that anyhow, people are changing all the time and who says that if you marry someone exactly like you religiously, that in five years from now you’ll still match?

Later I spoke to another woman who said that she defines the characteristics that we’re looking for in a partner into two: the external ones, and core ones. When we’re younger we think that certain traits are core ones but once we get older we realize they aren’t. For example, we might think that specific religious observance or wanting to move to Israel are core. But, in fact, she was saying, this would mean the love is אהבה התלויה בדבר. That means, a love that is dependant on something, a thing. And, according to the source for that term, Pirkei Avot 5, mishna 20 (man, do I know how to google!), a love that is based on a “thing,” when the thing disappears, the love disappears.



A very silly example would be if two people “loved” each other because they both are into the same music or books.

On the other hand, once we get older, maybe we start understanding better what is a core part of ourselves and what is more external. That goes along with what the guy and girl had said earlier in the day, that they were more open to a wider range of religiosities (I’m quite sure that isn’t a word). To me it didn’t sound like they’re forcing themselves to give up on something that is still very important to them. Sounds more like, even though they are still religious and serious about being religious, they have more perspective on what is important in a life partner.

It still is complicated, of course. Where do you draw the line? How much do you push yourself? What if you really are very uncomfortable with the idea of being with a girl who only wears skirts or a girl who sometimes wears pants? Is that a problem or is that just your personal comfort level? We definitely need to take a good look at our list of criteria and see where we can loosen up in order to allow our besherts into our lives but the question is, where do we draw the line?

All that being said, I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to these people today. I thought people are being very rigid about who they’re willing to go out with religiously but, based on my extremely thorough scientific research this Shabbat (being facetious), maybe it’s not as bad as I thought. And maybe we really are all charedi afterall. : )

Photo by pasotrasposo at flickr.

Decisions, decisions

by Vera

How many marrieds do you know who never dated?  There is the occasional couple who say – we don’t know how, it just happened, we don’t remember who proposed, but here we are.  But it’s not exactly common.

The first  date is the first of the cascade of decisions which can lead to a decision to get married.  The first decision is to go out on a date.  The second decision is to go out again.  It cascades from there.  More simply put – no first decision, no cascade, no decision to get married.

By deciding to go on a first date you’re setting the apparatus of potential marriage in motion.  You’re putting yourself in a position where you will be required to make the next decision, and the next.  And as Anthony Robbins (self-help guru) says, the more decisions you make, the better you get at making them.

It’s all about me

Q.  I don’t know what to do – every time I go out with a guy, I find I take everything he says so personally.  If I order coffee and he says “I never drink coffee” I immediately think he thinks I’m being irresponsible with my health.  If he says he loves the colour blue, I start thinking he’s critical because I’m wearing black.  If he says “I usually go out earlier than this” I feel guilty because I couldn’t meet earlier.  I know this doesn’t make sense but don’t know how to stop. What should I do?

Yenta says:  Be more curious.  If you’re constantly doing internal audit during a date, you’ll never be able to relax enough to get to know the other person.  And do I have news for you – if you’re still doing this when you’re married, it won’t be pleasant (although it will be short).  Be more curious about who you’re with.  If someone says “I never drink coffee”, ask why.  Did they ever drink coffee.  Where did they hear it’s bad for you.  He loves the colour blue?  “Why?”, “what association does the colour blue have for you?” – take it outwards, not into your heart.  Why – It’s a short, brilliant question.  Even if someone says something you find offensive – not necessarily in a date situation – give yourself permission to ask “why”.  If you’re more focused outwards, on the person you’re with, than inwards on your own demons, you’re sure to enjoy life more, not to mention dating.

How do I feel when I’m with him

by Deena

We always focus on the question, “How do I feel about this person?” Here is a twist on the question (which actually I was told by Vera who was told by a friend):

How do I feel about myself when I’m with this person?

I really love this question. I’m not saying it’s the only question you should ask but asking yourself this, tells you a lot.

I’ve seen that with some people I feel very good about myself and with others I feel very nerdy, losery, not too intelligent, etc. I just feel more lowly.

Loves to stalk

Q.  I went on a date and it’s now three weeks later and he hasn’t called me and I’ve called him every day and he doesn’t pick up and I went to his house and he won’t open the door and I call his work and he puts me on voice mail – does that mean he’s not interested?  or is he just very shy? from QP, Jerusalem

Yenta says: Well, I don’t know… maybe… it’s time you should get a life? or a therapist? Oh, you are a therapist?  That explains a lot.

The Chick says: Wow, first I just need to say that you sound like a super healthy and balanced person. I’m very impressed. The way you persist and stalk… Maybe the problem is that you haven’t used all the modes of communication available to you. I assume you’ve tried text messaging. And what about email, snail mail, Morse Code, telegram?

I’m sorry to say this but without a little more effort, he’s just going to think that you aren’t trying hard enough. At this point he probably assumes you aren’t really interested in him.

So, put yourself out there! Stalk away! And I’m sure he’ll finally answer your bazillionth email/SMS/phone call.

Good luck! Can’t wait to hear you’ve made it to the chuppa!