Friday, January 31, 2014

I'll Have What She's Having

"I want a boy who will learn for one or two years after marriage," she says carefully, "because-it-sets-a-different-tone-in-the-home." She recited that last bit as though she was reading it off an index card. "I think." 

My objection to this statement is not about learning—if one is making an educated decision, based on their personal beliefs and desires, followed through by level-headed financial planning, gesinteheit. My annoyance is that it is a catchphrase, parroted from someone else, who very possibly has sufficient funds to support a son or son-in-law for however long he may desire to learn following his chassanah.   

This girl (one of many) was repeating a statement, not even sure of what she was saying or what the ramifications are, not taking her own self into the equation. Generalities have no place in the individualized, specific cases of each unique marriage. 

Who knows what sort of aggravation to a young struggling couple that simple declaration provided? 

A gal wrote in to a local paper, feeling powerless in her single state, asking how to up her hishtadlus. She was told to go after what she wants, what she needs, what works for her, not anyone else. Then you will have success, she was told.

As for the "different tone"? Let us take a hypothetical: What if this gal married a fellow who is, say, working? With their combined incomes, they are able to thoroughly feather their nest before a money-draining baby comes along. "What sort of 'tone' would be in the house then?" Ma dryly commented. 

One of the fun things about being an "elderly" single is that a thriving savings account is a possibility. There is a couple I know that married "late"; the gal was 30, the fellow also in that ballpark. I would see them by public transportation, smiling cheerfully, as the two spent the commute chatting. 

Then I noticed I didn't see her anymore, only her hubbie. I wondered vaguely what circumstance had changed. One freezing winter morning, I spied her in the driver's seat of a sedan, dropping off her husband to spare him frostbite. In the back was a curly-haired moppet, merrily peering through the frosty window. The couple was conversing leisurely, mellow and at peace. 

Even though I have no idea what they were talking about (she could have been serenely calling him every name a sailor could think of), that seemingly calm, contented image is wedged into my brain. 

Stress is a killer. Financial stress is a big one. I know, for me, that gazing into a beloved's eyes, after the nonspecific phrases of "I'll follow you anywhere," gets old real fast. You have to look around the corner (haroeh es hanolad). It doesn't take much to destroy my nerves, and I've chosen to date in away that will preserve them as much as possible, which still leaves my spleen in pretty bad shape.   

Date for you. Not for the neighbor, not for your morah, not for your rosh yeshivah. Certainly not for a slogan. Date for you. It is your life, your actions you are responsible for. A marriage is about two people, and if you choose to include anyone else into it: Three's a crowd, never mind twenty. 


Sporadic Intelligence said...

I feel like such a hypocrite saying I agree with you all the way, because my husband is still learning.

But really, people need to think for themselves, and if you end up needing/wanting what everyone else wants then that's ok, just make sure it's your decision.

I try to talk to my students about this and they nod their head, and hear me, and tell me all the people they know who shouldn't have married learning boys, BUT they all still want to ;)

Princess Lea said...

I hope my post wasn't about learning vs. working! It was about choosing a learning lifestyle just because "everyone else is" or "you can't get married unless you marry a learning boy" or "the only way to be a good Jewess is to choose specifically this way."

I object that THAT. My sympathies to your husband for the Seahawks victory. :(

Kate said...

Brilliant. Brava!

Princess Lea said...