Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sell Me!

Ann Beattie sympathizes with the young generation, in that they are ordered to prove themselves via third-party recommendations ("The Incessant Selling of the Self"). 
Young people have been educated to believe that self-promotion is essential. Being excellent is only part of the scenario, and quick personal advancement is mandatory. Otherwise, all will be lost. All the talent, all the hope, all the achievement. Those things are not meant to speak for themselves: They’re kindling for the fire, and the fire must be breathed out of the mouths of young dragons that have no fear (with tongue piercings removed for job interviews).
How sad for everyone, that they’re expected to have their narrative — facts are to be spun into fiction; they’re prompted to make up a coherent story, though life itself is hardly that — while they’re still developing. Then they’re expected to be “adult” and to ask another adult to endorse them.
Oh, so it's not just us? 

"References" on profiles are a hot topic. It's all in how you select them, earnest young singles are warned. But some may be wolves in sheep's clothing, lurking in their guise as friend when they are truly foe. Shidduchim have been ruined
I don't think we can say words like "bashert" when someone you think well of can undo that which is heavenly ordained. Seems a little impossible, as Jews, I would think. 

A couple of Shabbosim ago I was struck by these pesukim in the haftorah. Yirmiyahu 17:5-8: 
Thus saith Hashem: Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from Hashem. For he shall be like a tamarisk in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in Hashem, and whose trust Hashem is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out its roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but its foliage shall be luxuriant; and shall not be anxious in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Those who I believe are mature, kind, and profess to like me, I have on my information. Once I was told by someone who tried a shidduch on my behalf that a reference managed to put her foot in her mouth, rendering the date a "no-go"; I casually replaced her.

But I did not bear her ill will that she "ruined" the means to my soulmate. If it was bashert, it would be bashert. I try to look upon people as messengers of Hashem's will, not as the means in themselves.

As for calling references regarding a potential date? If I choose not to go out, it's usually based on the basic information and some Facebook research. If that is insufficient means to form an opinion—well, if I do not know the reference in question: 
I’m skeptical about the benefit of soliciting so many opinions. Surely, the crowd should be discomfited, as so many inflated balloons increase the risk of more students’ eventually sinking from sky to field. People on the receiving end have become inured to hearing that everyone is the very best, the very brightest, and though the recommender does not care for poodles, even the person’s dog ...
Every guy is the "best." He's wonderful, he's charming, he's good-looking, he's chock-full of personality. You know how many times that description has actually rung my doorbell? Almost never.
There’s already been a cry about grade inflation. Letters of recommendation are an equal problem. If all the letters stopped, the burden might be shifted. What are the standards of those offering opportunities? Couldn’t they conduct interviews and form opinions based on the person and his or her work, rather than amassing letters by seemingly objective authorities that by now everyone takes less than seriously?   
To quote Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola, "It's Just a F***ing Date." No references. A meeting is the best gauge.    


Daniel Saunders said...

I dislike selling myself. I’m very bad at it. I like to give people a list of my weaknesses and flaws upfront and let them discover my strengths and virtues for themselves over time.

The Yirmiyahu quote is a favourite of mine, but I’m very bad at living up to it.

Princess Lea said...

I hate it too. I tend to self-deprecate, in general, to the point that my parents jab me and hiss, "Stop doing that!" They can't complain, though, since I learned it from them.

Ayin hara, baby.

Daniel Saunders said...

I don’t even believe in ayin hara! Perhaps my excuse is my interest in Kotzk hasidut. Pride and caring what other people think about you were the big sins in Kotzk. The Kotzker is quoted as saying, “I prefer those who commit transgressions in public and mitzvot in secret to those who perform mitzvot in public and transgressions in private.”

Daniel Saunders said...

Or it could just be shyness...

Princess Lea said...

The concept of ayin hara is complicated. I don't believe in the simplistic explanation, but going into further detail involves exhausting typing.

But I cannot ignore some ingrained concepts of my heritage, which is primarily, "Shut up."

Shyness is a crippling social condition, which is separate from the embarrassment that ensues from tooting one's own horn. Perhaps it is more . . . delicacy?

Daniel Saunders said...

Oh, I am shy in the 'crippling social condition' sense. I can disguise it online, but in person I often find it hard to talk to people at all. It's rooted in low self-esteem, one of the characteristics of which is difficulty believing I even have good points, hence difficulty selling myself.

Princess Lea said...

Shyness is about low-self esteem? I thought it was a social issue alone.

I suck at small talk, but that is a marker of introverts. Introversion is not shyness; it is just a preference for small crows and serious conversation, but there's a limit.

To quote Ricky Gervais, "I hate people." Ah.

Daniel Saunders said...

Maybe ‘rooted’ isn’t the right word (implying causation), but I’m pretty sure there is a correlation between shyness and low self-esteem, even if they don’t always go together. Certainly I have found in my case when my self-esteem and confidence rise, my shyness falls and I can do things I would not otherwise have dreamt of doing.

I’m lousy at small talk too, and am very much an introvert in a fairly extrovert family...

Princess Lea said...

We're introverts masquerading as extroverts.

Daniel Saunders said...

I'm afraid I don't understand, unless you mean being an introvert in an extrovert family. But I've never felt able to masquerade as an extrovert, in my family or elsewhere.

Chag sameach!