Monday, May 29, 2023

Singlehood is Not the End of the World

When I was a kid, I was a sucker for romance. I just wanted everyone (characters in books, tv shows, movies) to pair off and ride into the sunset. 

But I've become a romance grinch—or, more accurately, a romance critic. I've become particular about my happily ever afters. 

I recently read a book (I shan't give the name, since I'm pretty much going to give everything away) and I was actually happy with the atypical ending. 

Our heroine, all of 22, has a boyfriend—who she cannot believe actually wants her. She's middle-class and bore the ire of high school bullies; he's a WASP who "summers." She finds out he cheated on her, and breaks up with him. She takes up with another man, albeit a lovely one, as a rebound. The boyfriend, however, wants her back, and even proposes. She struggles a bit with what to do, but declines his offer knowing that she can never trust him again. The rebound breaks up with her too, as a new development in his life requires it. 

Our heroine walks off into the sunset, alone. 

I was delighted. 

As the book drew towards the end, I was puzzled. Chick lit usually has neat, coupled endings, so I was wondering where this one was going. 

The character's mother repeatedly tells her that she's young, she doesn't have to settle down yet. She doesn't have to choose now just because someone wants her, and she thinks no one else will. 

For our heroine, I wanted her to be with the right guy for the right reasons. The rebound, while a nice chap, wasn't 

As Fay says in Jewish Matchmaking (I'm paraphrasing), "When I was 24, I thought it would be the end of the world to be single at 28. Now that I'm 28, I see . . . it's not the end of the world." 

From personal experience, I can say that it's worth it to wait for the right relationship, when you're in it for all the right reasons. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Younger is Not Better

"We will do our part for the shidduch crisis!" Han announces dramatically. "We spoke to our son! He is ready to start dating!" Han then plucks a babbling Anakin up from the floor, holding him aloft as Rafiki brandished Simba in the opening scene of The Lion King

Yeah, we're both kinda snarky about this so-called solution to the so-called "shidduch crisis" (snort). Sure, let's have a bunch of immature boys date for the express purpose of putting some rando girl "out of her misery." That'll end well. 

Hello? We aren't living in the shtetl anymore, when parents would arrange shidduchim with complete strangers and that would be that. No one is marrying blind, unless it involves a mail-order bride. 

L'havdil, take Indian Matchmaking! Sima Aunty (matchmaker extraordinaire) just cannot get with the times. Granted, this season made a point to make her appear more human, even helpful, at times, but her disapproval at her clients' expectations can get tiresome. "Kids today! They don't listen to their elders!" Well . . . um . . . I'm not going to marry someone based on a random shadchan's "perfect on paper" suggestion . . . 

If something isn't working, the go-to solution is usually "Well, back in my day . . ." Yes. That's how it worked then. Maybe. Generations aren't static.

OK, I married when I was a doddering decrepit, which I am not advocating. But looking back I see that I was not ready for marriage at 19. Definitely not. 

Divorce is no longer the taboo it used to be. An older woman, who divorced after her children married, said she knew it was a mistake during the week of sheva brachos. "But I couldn't hurt my parents," she explained, and stayed miserably wed for decades

There are too many stories I'm hearing of young couples who are either divorcing or choosing to stay married despite the difficulties. That's too much on young people. 

I'm not saying that if they waited until they were older they wouldn't necessarily have ended up divorcing. Yet youngsters shouldn't be making one of their biggest life decisions based on "I just don't want to be the last person in my class to get married." Let them see more, experience more, and perhaps develop a little radar for red flags.   

Again, a person can marry at 25+ and get divorced. But at least they weren't unexposed children when they made their choice.

Like Aleeza says (and I'm paraphrasing) "My job is not just to get you married. It's to get you stay married." 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Jewish Matchmaking: A Review

Jewish Matchmaking! Hella yeah, did I binge it. Then as the credits rolled, I exhaled: Thank. God

Why? Because we look good for flipping once! 

There has been some snark online, quibbling about details, but I don't care! 'Cause we look good!

Aleeza Ben Shalom was an excellent choice as a shadchan. She's not remotely like the stereotypes that I usually dealt with, who were more like Sima Aunty from Indian Matchmaking

What was refreshing about Aleeza was that she did not shame her clients for having criteria—even if that criteria was seemingly ridiculous. While I did once believe that standards have to "make sense," I've realized that the world is a big place, and shallow morons (both male and female) also manage to get married.  

The clientele are primarily reform, traditional, or "flexidox" (as Aleeza calls it) which I thought was refreshing. Being Jewish and marrying Jewish is important to people even if they aren't 100% practicing. And even those singles mentioned God, unlike the other examples I cited in my previous post. 

It's reality television, so of course that means there is definitely a scripted element. Let's be honest here: finding someone to go on the show, then finding someone who's willing to date the first someone on that show, is a big ask. As I watched these dates happen, all I kept thinking about was that these people are being followed by cameras along with a boom floating above. It's not remotely real life.

The one frum candidate, Fay, says on her IG account that she went on the show for the purposes of showing the Netflix world how we operate, not to actually meet someone.

People were whining online, "Oh, why didn't Fay keep dating Shaya? They were so great together!" Like, please.  It was all manufactured. You saw like 10 minutes, tops, of their interactions. Shaya is engaged now in real life, so there you go.

No one still seems to be together from the show, but I didn't expect them to be (although I was rooting for Stuart and Pamela). A matchmaker is not an all-knowing, all-powerful deity who can deliver your someone on a silver platter. She's an avenue of possibility, no more, no less, than others.    

Monday, May 8, 2023

Identity, Practice, and Belief

My brain can't handle most literature nowadays unless it's of the "fluffy" variety. Enter chick-lit! Even though I tend to be aggravated by formulaic premises, I don't have to concentrate so much when shrieking offspring launches themselves at my head. 

I was reading Mr. Perfect on Paper and I was sucked in by the overload of Jewish references. I can't figure out which denomination the heroine, Dara, belongs to—she drinks non-kosher wine at a restaurant, but she has impressive knowledge of obscure halacha (turns out the author was a rabbinical student). 

But despite the heavy Jewish details, there was something missing. 

Simultaneously, Han and I started watching Rough Diamonds. I was put off by the first episode, so didn't watch further, while Han got in too deep and was forced to hate-watch it. 

The chassidim depicted make it seem that they were simply born into this lifestyle, and that's the only reason why they live it. Their behavior becomes horribly despicable in their attempts to salvage the family business—despite the fact that chassidim don't usually keep their identity in their livelihoods (all they had to do was dabble elsewhere). They fashmear people, they steal, all without qualm. Um . . . 

Then I realized what's going on here. Judaism is presented as an identity. Nothing more. There's no spirituality. There's no mention of God. Bupkis.

Dara follows the rules, or rather which rules she wants to follow. But there's no feeling behind this practice except for "well, this is what my grandparents did." Not one mention of the Lord. It's just "We've survived for thousands of years so I guess this is what I gotta do." 

It made me think, in contrast, of Shtisel. There was a scene when Akiva, after falling out with his father, is offered to stay in the guest-house of a fellow artist, a rather nice frum girl. He's painting and painting, and then realizes what time it is. He's horrified to find out it's the afternoon—and he hadn't put on tefillin that day. He's so upset he gathers up his things and bolts. 

Akiva isn't home. No one is telling him what to do. He can do whatever he wants. But his religion is his priority. He hurries back to the milieu that will encourage him to observe it properly. 

It's not just an identity or practice. It's a belief. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

And They Don't Stop Coming

A few weeks ago, during Post-Pesach Recovery, I took Anakin out for a walk while Ben was (finally) back in school. The forecast had said sun and 66 degrees; it was already midday, but it was still cloudy, damp, and chilly. 

I had already put Anakin in thermals that morning, which I then topped with a fleece jacket. I then tucked around him his plush microfiber blanket. 

I debated whether to find his booties, but figured the blanket would be enough. He happily propped one foot on the stroller bar, his toes wiggling in the fresh air. He sighed contentedly. 

Of course, after emerging from a frantic supermarket, we were accosted by an unknown woman, perhaps 70 or so. 

"Look!" she cried dramatically. "He's lost his socks!" 

I invented passive-aggressive, lady. Two can play that game. 

"Why, so he did," I mildly replied.

She looked up sharply into my face, and laughed. Got me, it acknowledged. She continued on her way, but not without a parting shot over her shoulder, "I'm cold just looking at him!"  

In order to prevent anymore commentary, I tucked the blanket again around Anakin, who then kicked it off in annoyance. He wanted his feet free. 

I fretted a little on the way home, double-checking my logic to keep his toes exposed. Not 10 minutes later the sun suddenly exploded into view, sweltering us all. 

It's comments like these (she is not the first biddy to make a passive-aggressive comment about my children's lack of footwear) that invariably makes me recall my single days. 

Comments are diabolical. 

There I would be, dating. I was trying. I was analyzing. I was coming to conclusions on a regular basis on what I needed. And I would be satisfied with my decisions. (While being a nervous wreck who lost 5 lbs from anxiety alone—side perk!)

Then a complete stranger would mosey into my midst, and not knowing anything about me, nothing at all, would dismiss me for being "picky." Then it wouldn't be enough to simply deride me mentally, they also had to make some sort of verbal dig (can we go back to just judging people behind their backs? Please?). 

Those comments would send me into a free fall. 

Maybe I am being unreasonable? Maybe it is my fault? Maybe, maybe, maybe? 

There is a pattern to these "concerned citizens," in that their comments, they believe, are "for the greater good." But are they, really? There is also a distinct streak of glee in their voices when they told/tell me off, that joy of finding someone to belittle.

Logically, I knew that Anakin was perfectly fine in 55 degrees beneath his thermals, fleece, and microfiber (while wondering why hands are "allowed" to be exposed to the elements, while feet are not), but a comment from a rando still had me questioning if I was fussing sufficiently over my offspring.

Since comments are here to stay, perhaps it's time for me to grow a thicker skin. 

Easier said than done. 

Monday, April 24, 2023


I've FINALLY started reading Dara Horn's People Love Dead Jews (which should be on every curriculum everywhere) and she mentions Sholom Aleichem's Tevye the Milkman (also a "fun" read).

Her point is that Jewish-themed novels don't contain the typical "ephiphany" that other novels expect. For instance, Tevye experiences horrific hardship, but stays the same. "He endures," she says. 

After Ma died, my sister and I started talking. A lot. We were in this unfamiliar milieu, and we were stumbling through it together. We did have a number of epiphanies between us . . . and a number of conversational threads that go nowhere. 

One topic is the mistaken belief that hardship = betterment. Meaning, that if a person has gone through pain, then they "must" also be kinder, more empathetic, more generous. 

Or . . . that struggle merely strengthens their selfishness. 

Or . . . they simply stay the same. 

When Ma got sick, the one word on my mind was "endure." To get through it. To not fall apart, because I can't fall apart right now. There was no thought of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" (not true, btw) It was survival. I don't need to be stronger or better on the other side. I just need to be strong enough right now

I have known many Holocaust survivors in my time, and I think it is a mistake that they are always viewed in context of "the war." That they were the people they were because of "the war." That was certainly my childish perspective.

But they were people like any other. Maybe the war changed them. Maybe it didn't.

And, as Dara Horn says, there is something to be said for enduring. Jews endure. We stay the same, for the most part, over the centuries and persecutions. 

Enduring is enough.   

Monday, April 17, 2023

In Case You Needed Reminding—Cause I Did

Wow. It's been a while. But hey, Pesach prep is FUN, right? (Demented laughter.) In all seriousness, I do the bare minimum, no deep cleaning anything, and I'm all for being checked into a sanitarium to have pity on my poor nerves. 

So, let's get into whatever bugaboo is . . . bugging me now. 

I have cousins who live across the world. Not close cousins, second cousins, or something, maybe, but close enough that we're friends on social media. The mother is my relative, and she lives a lifestyle very different from mine.

Her feed is . . . stunning. Stylish. Glamorous. She's as slender as a rake. I don't think I've seen her wearing the same ensemble twice. She's constantly at bars with her friends for someone's birthday, her tanned arm raising a champagne glass. There are the magnificent views from a magnificent home, and I still don't know if it's her abode or an AirBNB. Her kids are beautiful and talented. 

Despite the fact that I've posted repeatedly that social media cannot be trusted, it's very hard to distrust what's right in front of you. I don't have an imagination—I can't write fiction—so I fall for it. That's why I don't follow anyone, usually, who claims to have a wonderful life—because I can't prove that they are human like the rest of us. 

But I have to follow my cousin, obviously, and I fell for it. 

Then one night, I was scrolling through her feed to find a specific photo to show my father. And then I saw it, a comment a friend of hers left on yet another gushy birthday post: 

"Happy Birthday! You've had a tough couple of years, so I wish you have a much better year to come." 

*Needle scratch*

Come say what now?

It's always disorienting as you mentally spin a 180. 

The bombardment of fabulosity still continues. But now I see it with a little more context. 

We are all human, and none of us live perfect lives.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Chosen

I'm slowly working my way through the final season of "Dead to Me." I'll try not to give any spoilers. I also don't remember the dialogue perfectly, so I'm taking license.

So there's the sweet, "what is the universe trying to teach me," patchouli oil Judy (in contrast to the tough, sarcastic, very un-zen Jen). Judy really wanted to have children, but none of her pregnancies took (in contrast to Jen, who has two boys). 

Judy is talking to an older woman, who's talking about her own kids. There are those that are good, but one who was sent on earth, she jokes, to make her life hell. "You don't choose your kids," she says. "They choose you." 

She asks Judy if she has any children, and she sadly replies no, that "She wasn't chosen." 

"Well," Florence shrugs, "maybe you were chosen for something else." 

That exchange got the pondering juices going. 

In the Jewish world, we may think that there is only one way to have meaning and purpose in our lives. Which is the accepted model of marriage and children. But what if someone marries late, or never marries, from no fault of their own? What if someone has children late, or never has children, from no fault of their own? 

Does that mean they have no purpose? They have no meaning? 

Of course not. 

It's at times like this that I think of that Shakespeare quote, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." There is so much we don't understand. We are so bound by our small human minds, thinking that there is only one way to do things, only one way to live, only one way to be of worth—but we are so much more than that. 

Sometimes I see advertisements for a dinner or something and they say about the honoree: "He/she is a devoted son/daughter, husband/wife, and father/mother." 

That's always annoyed me, because aren't we more than our relationships? We have value on our own two feet, with something to offer, especially when circumstances doesn't place us with family? 

Maybe, we are chosen for something else.  

Thursday, February 2, 2023

All Are Welcome

This article by Channah Cohen is on point

When I was single, I didn't fit. 

There was no place for me. I was a third wheel. My parents were invited out a lot for Shabbos meals, and we hosted in return, but my parents' contemporaries were in their 60s. I had a great time socializing with them—I've always gotten along better with the older cohort—but I wasn't supposed to be there, right? I was supposed to be in my newly-married apartment or starter house with two kids. 

We do say that in Judaism, the center is the home. A mommy, a totty, and children. That is also how we see others, as one half of a couple.

We are not quite sure what to do with the lone individual, who has no spouse, no children, who may or may not be tagging along with her mother or father. They are not in the same place as tuition, carpools, and frozen chicken nuggets

In my singlehood my accomplishments didn't matter, all that mattered was that I was single. Full stop. Nothing to see here. 

Mind you, once you do join the realm of nighttime feedings, it's not like anyone hands you a trophy. A mob of mothers don't rush you when you go to the park. You are just another someone, but a someone that can be categorized, as opposed to an indeterminate hmmm. 

But is our world any different than the world at large? Not really. Secular books and movies all have a similar theme, how being single is a shameful aberration, how a wedding invitation can strike such fear in singles' hearts that they pay an actor or escort to be their plus one. 

Society, in general, likes paired couples. They like people neatly matched up. They like rugrats running around and destroying store displays. (No, wait, they don't, then everyone tells you what a bad parent you are.)

So when the single woman in the article says she'll leave the community because she doesn't have a home, does she believe a home awaits her on the other side? What is this home? Is it that erroneous assumption that since the dating pool in the secular world is larger, she'll be able to score a man—and the accompanying home—with ease? Han has the most stunning co-worker who is single, and she's trying very very hard to find a man. It's not like the gentile world boasts a better rate for marriage and happiness than ours does. 

But our community has to do better. Yet when people say "things have to change"—well, easier said than done. Some behaviors are so ingrained that it's hard to undo them. To my horror, I found myself glancing at the stomach of a woman who had been married for a bit. I could have kicked myself for that automatic eye flick. 

I remember the time I was in a different area for yuntif, and attended shul. I was politely ignored by the other shul goers, no matter how I smiled and tried. But the girl ahead of me, an obvious BT in training (her clothing was way to casual for yuntif and she wasn't familiar with a siddur) was mobbed following davening, meal invitations being warmly offered from all sides. 

How come we can we warm and welcoming to BTs, but the FFB singles get short shrift? 

So we can be welcoming. We just have to widen our scope a little.  

Thursday, January 26, 2023

For the Commenters

A quick note to those who leave comments: I really appreciate your feedback! I apologize if I am not timely in my responses, as Ben and Anakin make flying leaps for the laptop whenever I attempt to fire it up. 

Thank you for your patience!