Monday, July 30, 2018

Definition of "Shidduch System"

In the recent edition of The Jewish Action, there is an article entitled, "Does the Shidduch System Need an Upgrade"?

The author, an educator, finds it understandably distressing as multiple girls come to her and weep over their experiences "in the parsha." 

These eligible women tend to do the same thing: meet shadchanim and hope they set them up. The author (correctly, in my opinion) does not believe this to be the best option to find one's soulmate, especially considering these shadchanim don't really know their clientele. 

So she did an unofficial survey, and discovered that out of 256 couples, only 12.8% were set up by "official" shadchanim (that's 32 couples). 

She proposes that this current "shidduch system" requires an upgrade, such as co-ed Shabbos meals.

I agree wholeheartedly with the first part of the article; the latter . . . not so much.
(1) There is the false assumption that "shidduch system" = "professional" shadchan. It doesn't. That's a recent, and I mean very recent, development. 

"Shidduch system" = blind date. That's pretty much it. It's not dependent upon who's arranging the date. There is other protocol involved, which applied in a time where "saving face" was a concern, but that has fallen by the wayside as profiles became ubiquitous (once, a person would call up and sell the person they were suggesting; now they opt for an inadequate piece of paper). 

(2) The author references one girl's frustrations, noting that she comes from a family where "the shidduch system" is alien to them. 

I'm a firm believer that if someone tries to take up a method or lifestyle that is inherently foreign to them, there will be extreme difficulty in practicing it naturally. This girl would prefer to meet eligible fellows through a middleperson, however she believes that means going to shadchanim. 

But "professional" shadchanim, as I have learned, have limited abilities. I went to a few (at their request) who actually did have street cred. They never set me up. 

Those who grew up with the shidduch system (as I did) rarely interact with shadchanim. In my case, it was my aunt's best friend whose daughter is married to Han's cousin. My siblings were set up by a high school friend, an aunt, and Ma's friend's mother-in-law. Ma herself made a shidduch. Ta did too. 

While the author may have faith that co-ed meals might do the trick, my experience with them was not pleasant (why would the host break out the Johnnie Walker?) 

The shidduch system relies on Jewish Geography. It relies on community. It relies on each of us caring about our fellow human. The author does allude to this, but as a theory if it turned out that most people were set up by non-professionals: 
I may discover, for example, that the most likely person to set you up is a close mentor figure, such as a rabbi, a teacher or someone with whom you are a ben or bat bayit (responses to the “Other” category from our previous question intimated as much). Knowing that simple fact would vastly change the landscape of my students’ hishtadlut. It would mean that primarily I should counsel them to develop deep relationships with people they know and respect, and who may have access to potential dates. It would mean that getting to know someone deeply is more likely to get you married than meeting with fifty shadchanim in a superficial way.
You don't even have to know someone deeply. I didn't even know my shadchan before marriage. But she knew my family well, through my aunt; she knew our values, our background, and my aunt certainly knows me well. Based on that criteria, she put herself out there and made a call. 

But the average single doesn't really like that method, because they don't have control over it. Whereas by going to a shadchan, one has the illusion of control. But being frum means recognizing we aren't in control. 100 shadchanim will not guarantee a bashert.
It can be terrifying to redt. I tried to a few times in my single days, and they did not end well (and that was when no date actually took place). I currently had a thought about setting up a neighbor's friend with Han's friend, but I'm worrying if my instincts are totally off, and I'll just be guaranteeing two people to a miserable outing and they'll hate my guts forever. 

But on second thought, I think what truly upset me more about bad dates was the shadchan's dismissive attitude to my (polite) refusals. So I guess, based on my own harrowing journey, I should focus on simply being nice and listening. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Shoes of Prey

*I have not been paid or compensated at all for the following recommendation. I simply like to share good experiences, if it will assist anyone else.*

I'm not sure how I first came across Shoes of Prey, but I ordered enough pairs from them to be a huuuuuuge fan. 

Shoes of Prey are customizable shoes, with countless options for style, heel height, colors, fabrics, details, what have you, for a ridiculously reasonable price.
The best part: You don't like them? You can return them. Or have them redone. I made up three pairs with my mother-in-law for the wedding, but they didn't work for her so I simply returned them all. No problem. I didn't like how a color came out, so they redid it in another shade that I preferred.

I don't have to break my head to find a pair of shoes to match an outfit. And new options are constantly coming out. I'm still trying to figure out the catch, but five pairs later I haven't come across any.
In terms of comfort, I prefer flats, and while the toes are pleasant, my heels can get rubbed raw unless I wear band-aids. (They do provide with every shoe those heel guards, but that would make my shoe smaller which I don't want to do.)  

After creating an account, you can design shoes and save them for editing later. It's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Place for Mindfulness

My niece is always looking toward the next thing. She could be in middle of a really fun activity, but then begins to badger me with, "What are we doing next?" 

I get annoyed (reasonably, don't you think?) as she is pushing aside the pleasantness of the present by fretting about the future. She would benefit from some "mindfulness" training. 

Yet what if someone is in middle of a really unfun activity, like vacuuming or scrubbing the bathroom? Is "mindfulness" really to her advantage? Is "being in the moment" going to make her happier while pre-treating laundry? Wouldn't day-dreaming be more beneficial, if not more likely to provide a "Eureka!" moment? 

Ruth Whippman attacks the "mindfulness" movement by pointing out that it is a uniquely human ability to think outside the present. She is also irritated by the self-help movement that promotes it, as they seem to claim that there is no problem that cannot be rethought in a more glowing light, rather than finding a solution that problem.
However, I think "being in the moment" has its place. Like instructing my niece that she should flipping enjoy what she's doing now, or else we'll never do anything fun together ever again, got it, sweetie? *Cough*

Also, there is beauty in everyday life that can be overlooked when we don't pay attention. When doing a neutral activity, like taking a walk. There are interesting scenes to witness, as long as we aren't busy texting. 
Whereas, there are difficult times in life when floating through unreality is a lifesaver. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Theory of Relativity

"That's the thing about unhappiness. All it takes is for something worse to come along, and you realize it was happiness after all." —The Crown, "Dear Mrs. Kennedy"

Whilst single, I had attempted to keep the crabbiness at bay. I had my health. I had my income. I had my family. I had my shoes. But unhappiness would still encroach, the despair following each mis-redt suitor, every disappointing date. 

Then Ma got sick. That angst vanished as something worse came along, making me realize it was happiness after all. 

As I had mentioned, we did not advertise her condition; only when directly asked as to our current circumstances did we divulge the crappy state of things. Then I would be deluged with miserable tales of loved ones' torturous illnesses, and even Ma's situation was seen as a comparably preferable one. 

Sometimes I see these "inspiring" memes that if you woke up with two working eyes and two working hands and two working feet, then you should be overwhelmed with constant gratitude. However, that's not much help when one is in pain. I'd like to feel miserable without being made to feel guilty, thank you very much. 

Perhaps it's easier to think, "I'm where I'm supposed to be. I'm experiencing what I'm supposed to be experiencing." 

That is a form of gratitude too, I think. 

Here, Aliza Bulow poignantly describes the intertwining of bitachon and gratitude in the face of illness and death. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Hatred With a Basis is No Better

I was walking down the aisles in a relatively deserted store, when a frum woman answered her phone. 
"Look," she said briskly, "my two sisters-in-law aren't talking right now, so—" 
As soon as I heard that sentence, I bolted, even though I hadn't gotten what I needed yet. 
I personally can't handle hearing tales of fighting families. I'm a conflict avoider by nature; just dealing with customer service makes me break into a sweat.  
"Shalom" was Ma's mission. Even as kids, we weren't "allowed" to fight. None of that "let them work it out" stuff. Not. Allowed. Period. 
In shul this past week, the rabbi thundered about siblings fighting over their parents' yerusha, or neighbors not talking because of perceived slights.
"You are the ones holding back the geulah!" this usually smiling leader bellowed grimly.
"Sinas chinam" is usually translated as "baseless hatred." But does it follow that hatred with a good reason is permitted? Yes, your logic can be ironclad for an argument. But that doesn't make it right. "It is better to have an imperfect peace than a perfect controversy."
Hashem did not create the world on Emes, remember? He threw it to the ground. When Emes is taken out of the equation, that leaves Shalom on top.
We all have our reasons to be angry at someone. 
So what?  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I Stay Indoors All Summer

One summer evening, whilst Han and I were dating, I insisted that I would hop onto the subway and meet him near his work. After applying a fresh outfit and fresh Face, I wafted off to the station. 

I hate heat. I hate sweating. I make a point to moderate my body temperature in summer. I walked slowly into the station, figuring the air-conditioned train would arrive swiftly enough.

It did. However, I had taken out my cell and texted, "Getting on train" to Han, at which point it slid out of my hand as I attempted to tuck it into my bag, sailed between the platform and the train, and vanished. 

Oh, #@*%. 

The train rumbled off, revealing my phone unharmed but tantalizingly out of reach near the tracks. I bolted upstairs to the manned desk, and as I waited impatiently in line, a pleasant Australian tourist of a wise age asked me some transportation questions. 

I answered her, belying my shot nerves, and confessed my stupid butterfinger goof-up. "I feel like such an idiot," I professed.

Her eyes focused in brisk teacher-mode. "We grow from our mistakes," she said firmly. 

At that point it was my turn on line, and the woman at the desk said she'd send the item retrieval crew to my platform. I bolted, with only a vague goodbye to my tourist. I was adorably naive, thinking the NYC subway system would immediately dispatch a crew to rescue a cell phone.

I proceeded to wait another 90 frantic minutes for my saviors.  

I take being on time very seriously, and couldn't get over Han would be waiting for me while I was trapped in the bowels of the earth. He's actually very, very chill (unlike me), but my internal programming was wigging out.  

As I waited, I sweated, the only relief as each train barreled through, providing some air movement. My Face and stamina rapidly melted as I shvitzed and wheezed. 

I eventually begged use of a phone from a lovely Chassidish lady. I didn't know Han's number by heart, so I called my sister-in-law who had it, bawling into the phone her and Han's very heimishe names to emphasize to the phone owner that I was one of her people (which I'm sure she knew. I'm really lame).  

The crew eventually arrived, after being sent to the wrong line first. They were really nice, not calling me all the names I was calling myself. I tried to tip them but they refused. 

I FINALLY boarded the train, sighing in delight as the a/c slapped me in the face. Then I chanted to myself Han's number until I had it memorized. (He still doesn't know mine. The cleaning store lady was very disapproving.) 

After I rehydrated and disinfected my phone, I wondered about the tourist's words. How did I grow from this mistake? Hmm. 

In the meantime: Maeve Higgins hates the summer too

Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating: XIV

I finally finished The Mindy Project. *SPOILERS*

Mindy was strong-armed into giving the wedding toast by Tamra and Morgan's wedding. 
Mindy: I never thought Morgan and Tamra would work as a couple. Tamra is so beautiful and cool, and frankly far too talented to work in our practice for very long. 

Tamra: It's true! I've gotten several offers to leave!

Mindy: And Morgan is, shall we say, a bit of a fixer-upper.

Morgan (sniffling): That's the nicest thing anyone has said about me. 

Mindy: But what I didn't realize is how much people can change. And how much we can help each other change. Tamra stopped thinking she was better than everyone. And Morgan, you've really matured, too. I mean this is the man who finally moved out of his grandmother's house. 

Morgan: Oh my God! I forgot to invite Grandmother! 

Mindy: And maybe they weren't right for each other then, but somehow they are now. That's the funny thing about people changing. It happens so slowly, you know? You don't realize how much a person's changed until you look at them and they're not the person you thought they were.  

Fun fact: Han was actually mentioned to me for the (first) time when I was 21. But by the powers that be, a date did not come to fruition until I was 30. 

It never even occurred to me to think, "If only . . ." Because I wasn't who I am now. The person that I was at 21 was still unformed in many ways, still had much to learn, still was not where she should have been to appreciate the relationship she has now. 

Chances are, Han was the same way.  

I try to recall how young I was when I started to feel the angst of singlehood. 23? 24? When I look back, I laugh at my youthful stupidity. 

I hear from time to time about a young lass who "just wants to get married." Because her friends are, because she feels on the outside, because she wants to move on. 

But there are other ways of moving on. Like by changing. 

A comment was left on my last "Sane" post by an Anonymous: "I'm a totally different person than I was 15, 10, or even just 5 years ago. I've changed so much. I worry a lot about my future of course, but I recognize that my life circumstances have shaped me in a way nothing else would have."

Some of us achieve change by pursuing knowledge, self-awareness, and -improvement. Some of us have change thrust upon them by life circumstances. Yet some of us refuse to to change. Which is a shame.  

There is much conversation about those Gemeras regarding marriage. There is the "40 days before conception" one, and there is the "harder than splitting the Yam Suf" one. I've heard quite a few shiurim on the topic, and here's one interpretation: 

Everyone is born with a predetermined zivug. However, there is also the option of getting a different zivug based on the madreiga one is currently on. So if one brings oneself higher than one's mazal, one can achieve a more appropriate bashert. 

Which would you rather have? 

Opt for change we can believe in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

PL's Day Out

I've been waiting a long time for this: My sister asked for me to take her to Sephora!
Before, she relied on me for makeup, but she used up all her stock. I gleefully hustled her in. 

"OK, what first?" I asked, my enthusiasm bubbling over.

"I need more primer, Laura Mercier, I think." We went to the Laura Mercier display. "No, wait," she amended. "It was Benefit." Then she spied another brand. "Or was it Nars?" 

Oh dear. "Let's move on to what we know," I hastily intervened. 

"The Kat von D makeup," she said promptly. "It is the best. Amazing coverage, and lasts."  

"It is! But many don't realize it has to be bounced on with a damp makeup sponge. They try to apply with their hands or a brush but it'll go on too thick. Cool! They came out with a bunch of new shades. The other color was too dark for you." We settled on Light 43. 

"Mascara! Do you have lash primer? No. OK, so Iconic Overcurl and the Maximizer. Although I tried a sample of a different one and I think I like it. But be aware the Iconic Overcurl is awesome, it'll clump if you sleep in it on Friday night." 

In the basket it went, anyway. "Lipstick?" 

"I'm not so into matte. I like it more satin-y."

"Smashbox Be Legendary doesn't go on so matte yet it lasts." 

While we were there: "The primer! It was Smashbox!" 

"Are you sure?" 


Moving on. They didn't have any Smashbox lipstick in pink shades in this Sephora. Who else, then? 

"I'm not sure about other satin lipsticks that'll last . . ."

"Eh, I don't need it to last." Nars Audacious Lipstick in Claudia, then. 

"Back to primer. Maybe Hourglass? Oooh, you must get the Ambient Powder in Diffused Light! You'll friggin' GLOW. You dust it on all over after applying everything. Ah! Their Primer Serum. I definitely got you this once. Maybe." 

"Kinda pricey." 

"Yes. But if it doesn't work, re-turn-aaaaable!" I sang. 

"Then what do I have to lose?" she chucked it in to the basket. 


Then I painted her for a wedding that night, using also the eye palette I had insisted she get a few months back. 'Cause it has grays, which is perfect for blue eyes.
Not this dramatic.
Since she doesn't usually like as a dramatic eye as I do, I tentatively applied with a light hand. Three times she peered in the mirror and requested more dark in the crease. I was kvelling. 

When I moved to her lips, I brandished a lip pencil and lip brush

"Lip pencil? It's not the '90s anymore." 

"It's not for a look. You won't even see it. It's a guideline, so you can get the fullest lips possible." 

After I finished buffing, brushing, painting, and dusting, she looked fabbo, if I say so myself. And she felt fabbo. 

What a lame superpower I have. But I'll take it. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating: XIII

Han and I constantly agree on one thing: Whilst single, being single was the least difficult part. After all, in the cosmic scheme of painful circumstances, being single ranks sort of low.

What was difficult was people.

The community rises to the occasion for issues. Sick people get Bikur Cholim. Infertile couples get organizations to assist. Children flirting with the line have organizations too, which usually involve unconditional love.

Single people get "You're too picky."

In terms of the blame game, while there are those who can maneuver their feet into their mouths with acrobatic grace, it is not considered socially acceptable to hound ill individuals how their condition is "their fault." Some may thoughtlessly ask a childless couple, "How many children do you have?" 

Yet singles are special. For "their own good," they are castigated by all and sundry, stranger and friend, family and quasi-relative, as to what they are "doing wrong." 

I was upbraided by a relative that I was single because I didn't date online. I was told by a woman I had just met by a wedding that "Don't be hung up on looks," after I had simply told her my name.  I was told, repeatedly, to settle, settle, settle. Whatever that means.

Then, oh God, the shadchanim. These supposedly well-meaning but misguided folk believe that their self-proclaimed status gives them right to harass and terrorize. Polite "no thank you"s are meaningless in their sphere. Then their personal opinions about one's appearance. Yes, yes, I'm tall. Sadly, I can't shrink in the wash. And the makeup stays.

But what really gets my goat? 

The knowledge that if I had married at an appropriately youthful age, I would have been no different. I would have sat at my kitchen table with my husband, shaking my head forlornly at so-and-so's "pickiness."

Empathy is something we can all try to achieve, but it is still hard to understand the situation another is in. Yes, my heart twists for you, but um, not quite sure how it feels . . . 

Before Ma's illness and passing, my empathy was certainly of a different caliber. Now it has achieved a greater status, a comprehension, a meeting of minds. I now know what it means, the heaviness in the chest, the despair, as life as we know it vanishes, and a new reality begins. 

So I can say, one good thing that has come from my 10+ years of dating . . . I have achieved true empathy for all those that, when I was young and stupid, I blamed for their plight. 

It's an opportunity. See the pain of others.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


I don't really understand guacamole. There are too many foreign flavors. Cilantro? Lime? Raw onion? I prefer parsley, lemon, and my onions caramelized. 

I made it once for company in my single days. It was politely neglected. 

Yet for Han's sake, I decided to tackle it.

My one criteria was that the recipe call for dried cilantro. I abhor the stuff, and have no use for it after taking what I need. Lord Byron provided one.  
I halved the recipe, and based on Han's suggestions put in less onion (I prefer the milder shallot), and all the juice from one lime. I omit the red pepper flakes. My new delightful discovery is sun-dried tomatoes from Trader Joe's—that place is freakin' magical. Magical!  

Avocadoes soften freakishly fast at room temp, but stay inert in the fridge. So I buy them when they are very, very green, and take them out a day or two before I plan on making guac. 

Han has claimed this guac is just as good as store-bought. (Sing-song) naaaaaaiiiiiiled it!  

*Notes: I had rescued a sad avocado from my sister's fridge but didn't have any lime or shallot. I used lemon juice and scallion instead. Han still enjoyed. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

She Gotta Be She

I don't consider myself a feminist. If you think that women should get equal pay, that makes you a feminist. Can't I just be someone with a basic sense of "fair"?

My objections to feminism in its typical form is the aspiration to male heights. "We can do anything a man does!" 

But I don't want to be able to do things like a man. I want to do things like a woman, and since that comes natural to me, I'll be awesome at it. 

Take this mild example: Han, because he's male, may get some respect by customer service because he's male. I'm never going to get the male equivalent of respect because, duh, I'm not male. 

However, if I carefully apply my makeup and opt for a bold matte lipstick, then enter with a dignified bearing, I'll certainly get courteous service. 'Cause I'm doing it like a woman. That's what my Momma taught me. (Like I told Ta recently: "They call it 'war paint' for a reason.")
Amanda Hess muses on similar lines in "The Trouble With Hollywood's Gender Flips." Numerous films that initially had primarily male casts are being redone with women in the same roles. Three cheers for "equality."
. . . even when a Hollywood franchise is retooled around women, it still revolves around men — the story lines they wrote, the characters they created, the worlds they built. These reboots require women to relive men’s stories instead of fashioning their own. And they’re subtly expected to fix these old films, to neutralize their sexism and infuse them with feminism, to rebuild them into good movies with good politics, too. They have to do everything the men did, except backwards and with ideals. . . 
There is a slight moral miscalculation here: that in order for a film to be considered feminist, it has to show women fighting men, and not each other. But life pits women against one another, and eliding that is just as ridiculous as staging all intra-female conflicts in kiddie pools full of Jell-O — it ignores what women are actually like. . . 
It’s hard not to watch these female ensembles and yearn for the heights of “Bridesmaids,” or more recently, the coastal California social satire-murder mystery “Big Little Lies,” both of which lean into conflict between women instead of shying away. These stories acknowledge that women have problems that originate within and between themselves, not just in their relationships with men. In short, they let women be interesting. And when their feuding crews of women do team up, it feels earned instead of assumed. (Both stories were also originated by women.) Besides, comedy requires the upending of social expectation, and the funniest parts of these projects are the moments when the characters wrestle free of feminine demands — not by “acting like men,” but by acting out as women.
Big Little Lies was based on the engrossing book by Liane Moriarty (I read the book before they came out with the adaptation, which I have not yet seen). 

I, personally, do not feel resentful that men get to wear talleisim and have to daven three times a day. I have my own skills, my own talents, my own ways of serving God—because I'm a woman, not despite it.