6.15.2006

Moderately self-righteous rant, Part 2

[Part 1 here.]

Note: This post, which is sort of a continuation of the previous one, has also been sitting around in draft form for awhile. And I hereby warn you that this, too, might be moderately ranty.

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Not the Gadol Hador, a blogger who gets a lot of attention in certain Orthodox blogging circles, recently posted a different detailed response to the Atlanta Jewish Life Magazine article ("Meet the Metrodox," referenced in my previous post), based on his experiences living on the Upper West Side. To me, his most interesting comment was:
I donÂ’t think the UWS makes it harder to get married, rather I think a lot of the people who end up there are only there because they have some isssues. Hence my famous phrase, "YouÂ’re either there for 6 months or 6 years." In other words, if you are a normal, well balanced individual, you will find someone pretty quick and get hitched. Otherwise you will be there a long while. Almost everyone I knew there was there for 6 years or simiar.
I would qualify that by adding that "if you are a normal, well-balanced individual WHO WANTS TO AND IS EMOTIONALLY READY TO GET MARRIED, you will find someone pretty quick and get hitched." I think that some people move to the Upper West Side thinking that they want to find someone to marry ASAP (perhaps because that's what everyone else wants, or because that's what everyone expects them to want), but they actually don't.1

That non-readiness/desire for marriage is their main "issue," unless you count the other ridiculous things that I mentioned in Part 1, which I guess you should. I moved to the Upper West Side knowing that I did not want to marry ASAP, and I have not, and I don't consider my 2+ years here to be a failure in any sense of the word.2 If you think that your life is a total waste of time absent a spouse (not just that it might be nicer to get married), maybe you should find something worthwhile to do with your life. Suggestions include getting a job that you enjoy and/or that makes a difference in the world, making time to volunteer, getting in shape, or writing the great American novel.3 (I am fully aware that I might have a different opinion on this matter if I was 36 instead of 26. But since I am currently 26, I can only write from that perspective.)

Not the Godol Hador then wrote another post on the topic, after his first apparently caused some minor uproar among some bloggers. As I explained in Part 1, I disagree with this idea that Upper West Siders who remain single are single because they're "too picky." I just think that they're picky about, or looking for, the wrong things. I also disagree with Godol Hador that there's no such thing as "Mr. Perfect-for-us." Of course there is, as long as you understand "perfect for us" to mean someone with the good match of personality, temperament, values, etc., to yours. That doesn't mean that everything about that person is "perfect" (however you define perfect), or that they're identical to you in any way, just that their deep-seated, inner qualities work well with yours. (Again, I am in no real position to give advice on these matters. This is just my feeling.)

Attention Frumster Shoppers then responded to Not the Gadol Hador with a very nice post. His theory about the problem of the Upper West Side Orthodox singles scene being that there's just too much choice is not a bad one.

Not a New Yorker (of Upper West Side Story) chafes at the suggestion that anyone who is lives in/on the Upper West Side longer for six months has "issues," but her post supports that very point!

The dating experiences that she describes don't surprise me at all, especially (quoted from her blog):
  • Met some of the most neurotic people in the world. Men who date because they know they're supposed to, but they don't really want to, for whatever reason. These men say they're waiting for the perfect woman, but really I don't think they want to give up their independence and their responsibility-free life.
  • Met some men who think that their wife will be somehow be their mother.
I suddenly feel thirrepressiblele urge to comment on the second bullet point.

This goes against my blogging policy, but I will reveal that I once went on a first date with someone who, at 26, lived at home with his mother and had never lived anywhere else. When I asked if he had ever considered moving out, his answer was that moving out would require cooking and cleaning for himself and ensuring a bug-free environment, and the added independence that he would gain just "wasn't worth it" (his exact words!).

That was the biggest deal-breaker in the history of first dates I've been on, since anyone who, on principle, won't take care of his own basic needs4 at the age of 26 is not a fully-formed human being and needs to become one before he can effectively date. In short, dear reader, he was looking to marry his mother.5

I don't know her, but I feel like Not the New Yorker is meeting the wrong people (by going to the wrong places), is looking for the wrong things (superficial frumkeit issues), or has just had a run of bad luck. Easier said than fixed, I know. Maybe it's unfair of me to say that, as I am no more married than she and am certainly in no place to be giving dating advice. But at least I'm less miserable in the meantime, which I manage largely by avoiding the "sceney" places unless I have a specific reason to be there, because they sometimes make me feel like crap and I don't need that in my life. I don't like being automatically judged in the way that I have observed people in the "scene" judge other people.

That is not to say that I don't automatically judge people far too harshly, because if you catch me in the right mood, I will admit that I do. But I try to judge them on the things that come out of their mouths, not what goes into them or what they're wearing.6 And I'm working on not judging people that quickly about anything. I know from my own experience struggling with shmirat halashon (literally "the guarding of the tongue," but it means controlling what comes out of your mouth) that controlling one's speech is not easy, and I have failed more times that I wish to admit. However, I have confidence that someone who takes care of that aspect of him/herself probably has many other good qualities, where I have not seen the same correlation between what people wear, what they eat, or where they daven (pray) and the inner qualities that I look for.

Done with all moderate and non-moderate self-righteous ranting for the time being. Back to regularly-scheduled procrastinatory activities.

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1. I honestly think that's just ducky unless this non-desire to wed is constantly screwing with other people's emotional states--that is, if you're pretending that you want to get married and people date you with that assumption but you really don't.
I see no reason to wed at 21 or 23 or even, horrors!, 25 if you aren't ready. Maybe you should consider therapy if you think you
ought to be ready and aren't, or want to be ready and aren't, but otherwise, I think it's fine. I guess there's some point at which you have to get serious about getting married if you want to have biological children (men's fertility also decreases with age), but that point isn't 22 or 23. In my opinion.

2. When I tell people, as I sometimes do, that one of the reasons that I wanted to live on the Upper West Side was so I could spend more time with my grandma who lives in the neighborhood--which is God's honest truth--they think that I am covering for some more sinister and typical reason, like snagging some young hot eligible Orthodox man.

3. I have done none of these things, but you'll notice that I am also not complaining that life absent a spouse is a waste of time or worthless. I spend a lot of time with friends, both locally and "out of town," I spend time with my family when I can, I have a job that I really like, I blog, I take long walks in Central Park... Life is good. Baruch Hashem (in the non-cynical sense of the phrase).

4. Far be it from me to judge anyone for not cooking, since I rarely cook. However, you should at least be able to feed yourself, do your own laundry, and keep your habitation in a healthy state of cleanliness. (I don't mean uncluttered, again, since I am not one to comment on that. I mean not disgustingly gross, I mean so you would notice if your produce was rotting in your fridge or if your pantry was crawling with bugs or if the trash bag was leaking into the pail.)

5. This is not an economic issue for me or even an issue of the inherent dweeb factor of living at home with one's mother in our independence-valuing American culture. If he said that he lived at home because he was a student and couldn't afford to pay rent, and further inquiries revealed that he helped out at home by doing the grocery shopping, the dishes, or some of the cooking, my feelings would have been entirely different. Likewise if he had been 22 and not 26.

6. I said that I try, but I don't always succeed. Some questions that run through my head at times, which indicate that I am probably too judgmental about insignificant externalities: How can you wear uncomfortably high heels just to try to snag a man? Why is your hair shellacked that way? How can you go through life eating white bread and white rice when whole wheat and brown rice are so much tastier? How can you eat so much red meat? What do you mean, "Tofu is gross"? Tofu is great! Why do you cook witmayonnaisese? Why do you cook with margarine? And why, for the love of God, does your dessert not contain any chocolate?

4 comments:

notanewyorker said...

Hey, I just wanted to say thanks for the shout-out. I very much agree 100% with everything you said about Not the Godol's comments. And, I think we probably went out with the same 26 year old guy who lives with his mother (kidding)! Regardless of whether I'm meeting the wrong guys, or whether I've had a run of bad luck, I'm in the scene because I have found compelling, non-fake people (i.e., friends) there, and I tolerate the fakeness because it's only a small part of it. I love my shul, my park, etc. I fear that those who don't hang with the scene (i.e., avoid it at all costs), are missing out on positive socialization opportunities, and avoiding things makes them a bigger deal. What do you think?

ALG said...

You're welcome!

I have found very few compelling, non-fake people in the traditional Orthodox singles scene on the Upper West Side. Two, to be exact. That's not counting people I knew from before who, for some reason, decided to join the scene. I'm only talking about people that I *only* know from the scene.

That might be I don't really hang out in the scene. Most of my local New York friends are Reform, Conservative, or non-denominationally-affiliated Jews who daven at places like Kol Zimrah or Hadar. I have other friends who are Orthodox and daven at Ramath Orah, KOE, or Darkhei Noam. Darkhei Noam is it's own scene, so I don't go there as much as I used to. (I mostly go to KOE, which I really like because it is small, friendly, and mostly quiet during davening. The people who go there are almost universally very nice.)

So, no, I don't think I'm missing out on positive socialization opportunities, since I find those elsewhere. For people who don't have a network of diverse friends from high school and college, finding those opportunities elsewhere might be more difficult. If the alternative was staying home, I would probably go to OZ, etc. Fortunately, there are myriad other options.

I hear what you're saying about avoiding them making them a bigger deal, but I don't think it does for me. I'm just usually happier going elsewhere.

ALG said...

P.S. The presence of the scene doesn't keep me out of Central Park, but I don't usually hang out at the Great Lawn for more than 20-30 minutes on a given Shabbat, and I often take a nap or walk in Riverside Park instead. I'm also not the world's most social person, so missing out on a few opportunities to socialize is a good thing for me, not a bad thing. :)

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