Thursday, March 12, 2015

Survivor Coupling

"Singles today are too picky," she huffed. "Us survivors, after the war, we met maybe one, two times, we got engaged, and it worked. All these categories, all these lists, no good, no good." 

I couldn't articulate my argument against the post-Holocaust marriage model until I read "Should You Fear the Pizzly Bear?" by
Coywolf, a coyote-wolf mix

Scientists have observed versions of this phenomenon — called flexible mate choice — in other animals. The Central American tungara frog, which selects mates based on croaks, is more likely to choose one from a different species when it also hears the cries of a predator frog. . . When times are tough, it’s better to mate with someone — even the wrong one — than with no one at all.
Here's a scenario: A teenager is wandering around a D.P. camp. Everything, everything that she knew had been ripped away. She has, perhaps, one friend, maybe two, to rely on, but no family. Or if she does have family, they may be elsewhere, trying to rebuild new lives in new places. 

Sounds like anxiety, if not abject terror, to me. What she, and every other person she is surrounded by, craves is the reliability and safety of a family unit. That motivation supersedes all. The nice boy she meets is also driven by that same focus.
Wedding in Bergen-Belsen DP Camp, 1948
Background (gone), finances (none), and personality (traumatized) is not even on the table. Survival is.    
By no means should we regard hybrids as an ecological panacea. The flexibility they can provide depends on the continued existence of at least two parental species, after all — hardly a given for many creatures. But the growing evidence of productive hybridization does seem to call for a reconsideration of how we think about species.
The post-Holocaust marriage model is not viable today purely because we are not post-Holocaust. The children from these "mixed marriages," hybrids themselves, are now classifying themselves again—chassidish, yeshivish, modern—some selecting labels willy-nilly, with none of these titles in their own lineage (Litvaks and Polish chassidim were mostly decimated during the war. Many who identify with yeshivishness and chassidus today are newcomers). 

Today life is not only stable, it is blessed, both in the levels of general lifestyle, as well as government-mandated religious freedom. Background, finances, and personality are back on the table, as they should be, and as it was before the war. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this explanation--I found myself recently trying to express this same idea but falling short. It's true, there are always exceptions, but for the most part it is very unusual. I recently went on a date with a very nice person who comes from a completely different background, and I just couldn't see it going anywhere once we made it past the small talk stage--it's not a matter of level of religiosity, rather that of different culture almost. The difference between somebody who went through the yeshiva/BY/seminary system and somebody who didn't is pretty big, even years past graduation. I know people will disagree and tell me I'm being picky or whatever, but I'm willing to bet most of them (if they are married) married somebody from a similar background.
Everybody has their priorities in what they are looking for in a spouse. I want somebody I can feel comfortable with, and feel I can be myself.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Marriage for romance is overrated. Marriage should be seen for what it is, a business partnership in which a man and woman pool assets, effort and time into raising a family. Love is a nice bonus but far better that the couple like each other.

Mr. Cohen said...

Princess Lea said...

Anon: "I want somebody I can feel comfortable with, and feel I can be myself."

YES. Yes yes yes yes yes.

I have tried, really, I have tried, but I never found that level of comfort, that ease, unless he was from my background as well. Being frum is insufficient, at times, in sharing the same outlook and vocabulary. On a good date one will feel like they found a beloved sweater she knows fits; on other dates, the bad sizing chafes and the fabric itches.

So many couples I know, even the ones who married "late," ended up with someone who had pretty similar backgrounds.

MGI: There is something between "business" and "love"; the business model was more for the agricultural era, love became a conversation during the industrial revolution, but those are not the only two absolutes. "The marriage of true minds," is another.

Mr C: In India, it is common for the bride not to have met her groom until the wedding, and I'm guessing she saw he was a little clueless. Her references dropped the ball on that one.

Monster said...

Marriage can be whatever two people make of it.

If all both people want is a business arrangement, then great! They're fine.

But most people want more then that. Most people need more then that. Most people need somebody to talk to, and that's where the idea of spending your life with such a person comes in.

Life used to be a lot harder back in the day.You didn't worry so much about emotional needs, because your lives and minds were very occupied with the physical. Fact is, as technology goes on and life physically became easier, the emotional became more and more important, because you had more time to deal with it.

Princess Lea said...

Exactly. My aunt who works in the mental health field says that Yiddish doesn't have words for all the issues she deals with now. They didn't exist back then, these emotional problems. Who had time?

Not only that, men's and women's lives were also, for the most part, quite separate; he had his life, she had hers.

Now couples spend a lot of time together, and while some could use those moments for a performance review, I would prefer someone I can have a conversation with.