Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How To Date in Space

Sparrow recommended the author Lois McMaster Bujold, and I requested from my library Cordelia's Honor. The book opens as Cordelia's environmental research base on a strange planet has been annihilated, and she ends up teaming up with a mutinied-against captain of the enemy. Her origins are from the more chilled-out Beta Colony (ergo her "nationality" is Betan) while he is of Barrayar, a militant and duty-bound planet and society.
Tromping towards another base, they have no choice but to get chatty about each other's cultures and dating practices. 
"They don't have arranged marriages on Beta Colony, do they?" 
She stared. "Certainly not! What a bizarre concept. Sounds almost like a civil rights violation. Heavens — you don't mean to say they do, on Barrayar?" 
"In my caste, almost always." 
"Doesn't anybody object?" 
"They're not forced. Arranged, by the parents, usually. It — seems to work. For many people." 
"Well, I suppose it's possible." 
"How, ah — how do you arrange yourselves? With no go-betweens it must be very awkward. I mean, to refuse someone to their face." 
Ha! An army veteran and captain of a battle cruiser is squeamish at the thought of breaking up with a girl. I don't think I could break up with anyone to their face. I would just say, "What the heck, let's get married. I guess I'll get used to you after a while." 

The two then tell over tales of their "friends," who had bad relationships with the cultures' system. 
"She was rather — socially inept. Everyone around her seemed to be finding soul mates, and the older she grew, the more panicky she got about being left out. Quite pathetically anxious.
"She finally fell for a man with the most astonishing talent for turning gold into lead. She couldn't use a word like love, or trust, or honor in his presence without eliciting clever mockery . . ." 
He eventually betrays her, turning her off from relationships, indefinitely. 
"So you see, I think your old Barrayarans may have been on to something after all. The inept — need rules, for their own protection.
Then it's his turn, about an 18 year old girl marrying a 20 year old boy; he's not home much because of his army work, and she gets bored and makes new "buddies." 
"He had built up a false picture in his mind, and having it suddenly shattered . . ." 
There are pros and cons to almost every situation. 

While some think that the shidduch system should be frog-marched out and shot, I happen to think it is fine in its proper form. Which rarely exists today. I can firmly state that what often masquerades as a "system" is actually a perversion of the original intention (certainly not how my grand-folks operated in the old country). 

As for people meeting on their own? All well and good, providing they are mature and ready for such relationships. I don't think it is a good idea for teenaged boys and girls to mingle, since commitment could occur way too soon, before they have had any responsibilities or understand the import of their actions. 

So when is the magic age when boys and girls should be thrown together? How does a community segue from segregation to integration? Not so simple, either. 

Each version has its own merits and pitfalls. Mayhap, with a little evolution, something will come along to integrate the two.  


FrumGeek said...

I think after coming back from Israel, at 19, is the age when the segregation should stop and it should be acceptable to see young men and women together.

FrumGeek said...

And yes, they both have problems, but both 'systems' can work, though if both or just one and which one should be used must be judged on an individual level.

Maya Resnikoff said...

First off- I just love how you've selected and shared this scene- I'm very, very fond of Bujold's work.

Secondly- I think that perhaps some socialization at younger ages could be helpful later on- maybe starting with very heavily supervised and limited situations, and building up to ones with more leeway, around the time that people are ready to start dating? I agree that there are advantages and weaknesses to both systems- but I guess I'm sufficiently outside the shidduch world myself that relying on it entirely/cutting off all social contact between the sexes just seems hard to see as beneficial.

Princess Lea said...

FG: It's not so easy to flip the switch on and off! And 19 year olds are still pretty young and not necessarily ready for dating (and I didn't go to Israel).

Maya: For most, there is still some socialization, just not so much in a public arena. Siblings bring friends over and everyone chats, that sort of thing. My parents generation had boys and girls socializing (although my folks met by middle-person). A balance will work itself out, I believe, with a little time.

iTripped said...

So glad you read this book! It's one of my all-time favorite series. Lois McMaster Bujold writes fantastic smart characters. Although her books are classified as sci-fi, there are so many great situations and quotes that are true to life. The series gets better as it evolves and there are many unconventional, quirky relationships. My favorite book from the series is A Civil Campaign- without a doubt one of the funniest books ever written. On a more serious side, there are a handful of courtships portrayed in the book, each with very different methods. What you can take away from reading Bujold's books is that there is no one "right way" to approach a relationship, because every individual is so completely unique.

The same thing can be said for the shidduch system- it works for some people, but it has been so corrupted that more often than not it just serves to frustrate and infuriate. If someone could come up with a good balance of the two systems that would be socially acceptable (which means proponents of the shidduch system cannot condemn anyone for stepping outside the boundaries, and people who despise the shidduch system completely have to stop writing it off as antiquated and ridiculous), there would be a lot less judging, and more matches being made.

Princess Lea said...

Ah, if only we could just be plain ol' less judgmental!

I have noticed that balanced rarely comes from one person, or through forced means; it evolves into being. Right now we are at the cusp of evolution, on shaky ground, but soon something will work out, mayhap by the time the next generation has to join this feeding frenzy.

I have heard both sides; people claiming that shidduch dating is nuts, others horrified at two people just "meeting." And then there is still the b'sho.

Yet I think that singles staying single for longer is not so terrible, considering how emotional maturity is gained at later ages than it used to be. When I look back, I know for sure I wasn't ready for marriage at 22.

In the end, what is bashert is bashert, no matter how a couple meets.